Warning: Spoilers ahead for the Game of Thrones finale. If you don't want to know what happens, stop reading!
There’s a fitting (though hopefully unintended) irony that Game of Throne’s final throne decision rests on which of the surviving heroes holds the “best story”-as though showrunners Dan Weiss and David Benioff were asking, through their characters: please, help us end this.
Even playing along with the “best story” story, Bran’s story ranks rather low. Consider the story of a docile girl married off to the most powerful, most brutal family (twice), only to rally the entire North, fight off the Night King, and predict a mad Targaryen return. Or the bastard who came back from the dead to discover he is the rightful heir to the throne. Bran was pushed from a window and carried hundreds of miles by Hodor. Hell, even Hodor has a better story. Hodor!
Instead, Bran takes the throne. Everyone sails off on his or her own adventure. Everyone is essentially alone. The Starks, despite enduring war and cruel marriages decide to all live on different parts of the globe instead of finally enjoying peace together-why? We see not a single civilian or low-born the entire episode to suggest that things will be okay in the six kingdoms. Instead we witness weird, lip-service feudal reparations, reminding us that basically the villains won. And they shall wear black leather forever.
Here are some more grievances.
Jamie and Cersei
Perhaps if their dialogue had been reversed and Jamie was the one desperate to live and Cersei the stoic queen, comforting Jamie that they are, still, all that matters-maybe that would have been okay. Instead, we watch the most calculating villain on the show reduced to a sobbing heap of rubble. And the most redemptive character crawl back to his vice. (Actually, that last one does sound pretty George-R.R.-Martin-like).
Was it a bit glib that after mourning the remainder of his family, he gets a comic scene rearranging chairs? It also seems strange that after coming to a series-long conclusion that Jon Snow would make for the best king, he then makes the decisions that Bran will make for the best king. Clever man? If Tyrion had instead been murdered at the hands of Dany, it would have been an appropriate call-back to righteous Ned Stark’s beheading in Season 1. Maybe then Jon would see the royally evil parallels.
It would have been more fitting that the woman who spent the majority of the seasons being married around to powerful men finally have powerful men kneel before her. Sure, she gets the North, but she is utterly alone there. Her finale feels more sad than triumphant. Sansa would have been an appropriate throne choice. Or…
Just make Jon king. There's nothing wrong with an archetypal story, and if the Lord of Light brought John back to do nothing during the Night King battle and then make-out stab Dany only after she burned thousands of people, then he has a, well, interesting sense of humor. Or the Hound was right and the Lord of Light really is just a "c***."
Either way, we witnessed a rushed and bizarre regicide, followed by an imprisonment that was probably supposed to mirror Ned Stark but ended up mirroring nothing. Also what happened to all the letters Varys sent? Did Varys forget to hit “reply all” on his ravens? Does no one care that Jon is the rightful king? Not even Tyrion or the other houses? Have Jon burned by Drogon and survive like Season 1 Dany. Have him repeat his Night Watch vow to not father children, thus breaking the wheel. Don’t pull a Ned Stark and refuse the throne. Just take it, man. It’s okay to be a traditional protagonist. You’ve earned it, buddy.
Arya should have died in the battle of King’s Landing. Jon’s trust in Dany had to have recognizable consequences, and thousands of faceless peasants being flamed doesn’t quite feel as impactful, sadly. (Jon even needs extra betrayal convincing after witnessing the slaughter). Arya dying without being able to enact revenge is also tonally consistent with Martin’s universe. If Arya is to live, there might be at least some literary full-circling in having her stand by or advocate for her sister. Their relationship has come a long way from Arya throwing food at Sansa in Season 1. Even a more-lasting Arya and Jon reunion would have been nice. But sure, Arya taking the face of Westeros Ferdinand Magellan makes sense?
Bran is probably the character farthest from any throne claim (at one point in the story, literally). And that distance does not a fitting ascent make. King Bran feels less like a thought-out story decision than some strange writerly reparation for his uselessness in the battle against the Night King. Also how can Bran be King Bran if Bran isn’t even Bran? Best have three-eyed-raven Bran and Sam be the co-authors of A Song of Ice and Fire.
Sam becoming a maester is fitting. Sam not writing the final book that metatextually ties the entire story together-not so much. The other Sam did it!
Greyworm’s character tragedy-his misplaced loyalty, the loss of his lover, his war crimes-probably should have ended with death. Instead, he lives angry and unrectified. Given that he’s lost everything he cares for, why not just put him in the ground? Instead he sails off with all his bros in the largest non-sausage sausage fest to ever settle a Westerosian house.
Daenerys Targaryen had probably the most fitting and literary character arc outside of Ned Stark. Both suffer downfall-one for refusing the throne, one for wanting the throne a bit too much. The only more satisfying an end would have been Dany going out Julius-Caesar style: stabbed by literally everyone on set. (The fate that the Lord of Light rescinded for Jon Snow).
Otherwise, we probably should have gotten an entire season in place of the last episode. It’s difficult to have the most cataclysmic character decision and her deluded nuclear-winter Nazi speech during the last two episodes-or to have that decision followed by her death in just over an hour of screen time. Her fall, though appropriate, was much too sharp. And that final moment of regicide could have been better earned. And maybe more difficult. Turns out Night Kings and Mad Queens are pretty easy to kill. Easy narrative resolutions make for, as Tyrion would put it, not the best story.
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