‘Game Of Thrones’ Season 8, Episode 6 Review: A Good Series Finale That Could Have Been So Much Better

Game Of Thrones is over. The world’s most popular show, based on one of my very favorite fantasy series ever written, has aired its last episode.

It was . . . pretty good, too. In 80 minutes, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss wrapped up a show that’s spanned eight seasons, two continents, seven Houses and hundreds of thousands of corpses, and they did a decent job at it, considering. There was no way this show was going to give us the perfect conclusion, not after it began rushing toward that conclusion. The first ten minutes of tonight’s series finale should have been the last ten minutes of this season’s finale, with another season in the offing detailing the fight of Jon Snow and the other rebel Lords and Ladies against the tyrant Dragon Queen.

Instead, it’s all over, with so much story left untold. In an ideal world, Season 7 should have been 10 episodes setting up the conflict with the Night King. Season 8 should have been another 10 episodes resolving that conflict and setting up the showdown with Cersei, as well as further establishing Daenerys as a dangerous, mentally unhinged conqeuror. And Season 9 should have been the evisceration of Cersei and King’s Landing and the fight against this new Queen of the Ashes, out to liberate all of humankind, through blood and fire.

What about all the other people,” Jon Snow asks his queen, “Who think they know what’s good?”

“They don’t get a choice,” Dany responds, thrusting a knife into her own heart in the process, though she doesn’t realize it until it’s too late. Jon Snow has executed conspirators, true, but he’s never been one to go out and save the world by taking away other peoples’ choice. That’s not freedom or liberation, and while Jon hasn’t ever really been much of a liberator, either, he’s always had a sense of right and wrong. Dany (and Grey Worm) have lost sight of that. Or, rather, Dany never quite realized that the means to an end still matter. To her, the ends were the only thing that held any meaning at all.

So much in this episode would have been truly great if we’d just gotten here more naturally. Jon’s resistance to Tyrion’s common sense discussion about Daenerys and the threat she poses the world might have made sense if Jon and Dany’s relationship had been even half as convincing as Jon and Ygritte’s. If he’d truly loved her, I could understand his unwillingness to hear Tyrion’s truths. But there’s nothing about Jon Snow’s character that would defend Daenerys in this situation. He clearly believed that what she did was wrong, that what she described in her speech to the Unsullied and Dothraki was abhorrent, the words of a self-deluded megalomaniac.

If the show had convinced me that he truly loved her with an undying passion, that his love would truly overshadow his reason, his duty, then okay. This scene would have felt earned. Instead I wanted to slap Jon in the face and shake him and tell him to stop being so bloody stupid!

In the end, because he’s Jon Snow, he does the right thing and kills Daenerys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons, Breaker of Chains and Liberator of King’s Landing (or at least mass murderer of that city) before she can liberate another population. He’s imprisoned for this, and we get a time-jump.

Weeks later, Tyrion is led out to face the gathered nobles of Westeros. Grey Worm and the Unsullied have kept the Imp and Jon Snow in chains ever since Daenerys was killed and taken away by Drogon, perhaps to Valyria.

Actually, that scene between Jon and Drogon was pretty intense and fascinating. I thought for sure that Drogon would try to burn Jon and that the fire would have no effect and Jon would very obviously be a Targaryen that Drogon would defer to. I’m glad that didn’t happen. Instead, Drogon melted the Iron Throne, as if even he acknowledged that it was the lust for power that led his mother to her demise. In the end, he still demurs to Jon, bowing before he flies away, Daenerys clutched gently in his talons.

In any case, weeks go by and the fate of the Seven Kingdoms must be decided, as well as the fate of Tyrion and Jon Snow.

This is the denouement we’ve all been wondering about. What happens when the final boss is dead, when the show has to wrap up its many threads? Well, let’s see . . .

Tyrion comes before a smattering of nobles – the Starks, of course, plus Davos (because he’s always around despite being a very minor knight) and Brienne of Tarth (her parents are dead?) and a grown Robin Arryn, plus Edmure Tully and Sam Tarly and various others, including a new Dornish prince whose name is never uttered.

They decide, at Tyrion’s urging, that Bran is made king and that from now on kings are chosen by the noble Houses rather than by birth, because kings’ sons are monsters more often than not. Everyone agrees, including Bran, and Bran The Broken is named king. “Why do you think I came all this way?” Bran (aka the Three-Eyed Raven) says.

Bran names Tyrion Hand, a fitting punishment for all his screw-ups according to the new king. This seems to convince Grey Worm. Grey Worm also agrees to Jon Snow being sent back to the Night’s Watch, and for some reason everyone adheres to this plan even though Grey Worm and the invading armies all leave and they could just have Jon come back to Winterfell a few months later.

Sansa is the only one who doesn’t bend the knee to her brother. She insists on the North maintaining its independence and Bran agrees (nepotism, that) and Sansa ultimately becomes Queen in the North, which she deserves.

Arya heads out West of Westeros on a crazy exploration adventure. She will eventually find the New World and carry over Westerosi germs that will wipe out half the indigenous population, making her an even more terrible mass murderer than Daenerys.

Actually this really felt like a spinoff moment to me. Arya The Explora, the new show from HBO about a crazy badass female assassin exploring uncharted lands, finding ancient treasures and getting into one wild high jinks after another.

In King’s Landing, a new council is formed with Tyrion as Hand, Sam as Grand Maester, Bronn as master of coin (because I guess Tyrion really did give him Highgarden even though that’s utterly ridiculous) and Brienne as commander of the King’s Guard (I think?) She does write down nice things about the previous commander, Jaime Lannister, who is actually dead, by the way, along with Cersei, and who “Died protecting his Queen” according to Brienne’s history. Very big of you, Brienne, but then your heart was always bigger even than your imposing stature.

When Jon was sent North to the Wall I said to my girlfriend, I hope he goes north of the Wall and lives with Tormund and Ghost. I mean, he obviously can’t keep his vow when it comes to never having sex, and this seemed like the right thing for Jon Snow, who was never really at home in the Seven (now Six) Kingdoms.

Lo and behold, that’s exactly what happens! We get a great moment between Jon and Ghost, who’s missing an ear but still makes Jon smile, a rare thing these days. Jon leaves with Tormund and the Wildlings, and heads into the wild north. We see a sprig of wild grass coming up from beneath the snow. Summer is coming.

Well again, I think the finale’s flaws were mainly born out of rush. All of this could have been earned; very little of it was. Dany’s transition from killing evil men to killing women and children was far too hurried to work properly, but given the right amount of time and TLC, it could have been one of TV’s most incredible character arcs.

I liked this episode, and at times I thought it was truly brilliant. Drogon emerging from that pile of snow, ruffling ice from his wings, was such a cool moment. The shots of King’s Landing in the snow and ash were unbelievably beautiful. There is no other show that is so visually evocative (something only matched by its gorgeous musical score).

But the lords and ladies of Westeros picked a new king in five minutes, when we’ve spent eight seasons fighting a bloody war over who would sit on the Iron Throne. And the Iron Throne itself may indeed be melted, but we still have a king ruling over the smallfolk, while the lords and ladies of Westeros laugh Samwell Tarly down when he suggests democracy.

Actually, thank god they went with the Magna Carta version instead of the Utopian Westeros Democracy, and thank god that we see the High Council bickering with one another as our parting shot from these characters. Meet the New Wheel, same as the Old Wheel. That’s good, and like so much of this episode felt right.

But I’m still not quite sure about Bran being named King. Yes, it makes perfect sense. The one person who wants it even less than Jon Snow, but has the wisdom and foresight to actually rule well. Jon would have been a terrible king – well meaning, but too blockheaded and emotional to ever rule with real justice. Bran is the better choice, but it still feels like it came out of left field.

I’m very glad Jon killed Daenerys and not Arya. Arya has already killed the Freys, Littlefinger and the Night King. She didn’t need another notch on her belt, and at least Jon loved Daenerys, making his deed all the more terrible. Jon Snow, Queenslayer, but also Aegon Targaryen, heir to the Iron Throne. His trek north ensures that the Targaryen line is truly dead. Any child he bears now will be a Wildling, far removed from the politics of the Six Kingdoms plus the North (which will need a name beyond “the North” soon).

Peter Dinklage was phenomenal in this episode. He’s really been the thread that ties this entire season together, and even though it seems like he just keeps making mistake after mistake, all of his mistakes are well-meaning. He learns, however slowly.

There are still loose threads, of course, including what Arya does out West. Drogon is another big wild card, still looming despite the show coming to an end. Bran thinks maybe he can find the erstwhile beast, but what then?

Perhaps a sequel show instead of just prequels? For my part, I want to write fan fiction detailing the war of Jon Snow and the rebels against the Tyrant Dragon Queen, who truly believes her war machine is one of liberation. (Daenerys would make a great Legend of Korra villain, actually, and actually that show would have probably done more justice to her character than this one).

Scattered Thoughts:

I’m seriously so happy about the Jon/Ghost reunion and the fact that Jon and Tormund are gonna go make trouble in the True North that I can almost forgive everything else.

Speaking of CGI creatures, Drogon has never been so alive, so emotionally real. Very impressive.

I hope Sansa gives Robin hell in some way now that she’s a queen. That creepy little kid should not be left off the hook so easily.

Sam really did come out with the damn book A Song Of Ice And Fire but at least he didn’t write it. There was worry that Sam would have been penning all of this and that he was secretly the George R.R. Martin of the series and that it would all end with him dipping his pen in the inkwell and writing ‘The End’ before shutting the vast tome. Fortunately this was more of a joke, and one at the expense of Tyrion’s vanity. I can live with it, if only because it very much feels like the show was teasing fans back.

This was a hell of a show, people. No matter the flaws in this season and last, no matter the various bad decisions over the years (changing Sansa and Littlefinger’s storylines so drastically remains one of the show’s gravest sins) it’s still one of the best TV shows ever made. At least this did wrap things up in a way that’s satisfying if imperfect. This wasn’t the sort of controversial non-ending we saw in The Sopranos or the equally controversial and confusing ending of Lost. This was an actual ending, with character arcs tied up and the story coming to a close. Sure, we can see that it all keeps spinning, all the politics and all the pettiness and all the rest, but at least every major character left standing was accounted for, at least to some degree.

Watching Jon ride off into the north was such a perfect way to finish the series. After all, the first episode/book opened with members of the Night’s Watch riding into the wilds north beyond the Wall.

Oh man, that shot of Daenerys walking with Drogon behind her, and the dragon spreads his wings and it looks like Dany has wings . . . that was brilliant. Lots of great shots like this tonight.

Why does a city of the dead need either ships or brothels?

I’m still puzzling over Drogon’s reaction, melting the Iron Throne, sparing Jon. I need to think about this more, and maybe you have some thoughts you can share as well.

I love how they made the Iron Throne look so puny here, and how Dany talks about the way Viserys told stories about how big and intimidating it was. I was just thinking of the artwork I’ve seen for how the Iron Throne is supposed to look.

I wish we had another season or two of this show to watch together and talk about.

As Emilia Clarke said quote “Our watch has ended now” and let’s fly away into the silver clouds.

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