“Winter is coming…”
So, a while ago when GOT was on TV and episodes were being released one at a time, I remember that I got to season 7 episode 5 and then decided that I wanted to wait it out until the end of the season so I could binge watch it in one go. I stayed away from any mention of GOT after that in case I heard any spoilers about the final episodes/season, and forgot about the show for years, occasionally thinking about finally completing the show. Due to the covid situation and being furloughed, obviously I have a lot of time on my hands, so I decided to finally do it. So I binge watched the entire series, and wanted to unpack my thoughts on the last season of the show. I had heard a lot of negative things about the end and have my own thoughts to throw into the hat…
***SEASON 7/8 REMINDER & OBVS SPOILERS***
At the end of season 7, Jon Snow heads to Dragonstone to meet Daenerys Targaryen and ask her permission to mine for dragonglass which would help the North to defeat the undead army, which has breached the wall and will shortly hit the North and the realm of men. They begin a romantic relationship and also get proof that the undead are real to take with them to attempt to meet with Cersei and her cronies and ask them to set aside their differences and fight together. They do so at great personal cost to Daenerys as one of her dragons is killed by the White Walkers and is turned. Cersei agrees for them to use her army. However unbeknownst to them, this is a lie. Cersei intends to let Jon’s allies, the Wildlings and Daenerys’ Unsullied army and Dothraki dudes fight it alone so that she can take them out when they are at their weakest. Jaime, her brother/lover, decides to do the honourable thing and heads North to help fight against the undead.
In season 8 they head North, regroup and prep to fight. Jon tells Daenerys that he has learned who his true parents are and that he is the true heir to the throne, but that he does not wish to pursue it. Bran Stark becomes the bait to the Ice King and awaits him at the Godswood in Winterfell. The fight itself is long and bloody. The snow makes it hard to see and the armies are pushed back to Winterfell. One of the remaining dragons on the human side is killed. The other is attacked on the ground and leaves Daenerys with only her swordsman Jorah to defend her. Both Jon and Daenerys attempts to kill the Ice King and are unsuccessful. Jon heads to the castle to attempt again and is prevented from getting any further by the dragon that was turned. The Ice King gets through to the inner part of the castle to the Godswood and kills Theon Greyjoy to get to Bran. As he pulls his sword to kill Bran, Arya Stark jumps on his back and kills him/it and the entire undead army explode. The humans celebrate their wins. It is clear that the North do not really trust Daenerys as their queen but Jon clearly loves her and has pledged to support her claim of the throne, but she is upset about the news that Jon had told her about his lineage and considers him a threat to her claim. The latter part of the season involves the remaining army heading south to Kings Landing to try to take the throne. Daenerys advisers try to tell her to be cautious about her strategy and consider the lives of the innocent citizen’s of Kings Landing, but ultimately she ignores them (particularly after Cersei has her aid/best friend Missendei beheaded). The army breaches the city, and are terrified by the dragon. Cersei stays waiting in the red tower visibly upset when the town falls and her soldiers announce their surrender. And then something in Daenerys snaps and she has her dragon burn down the city, including the citizens. Cersei and her bro – who Tirion Lannister helped escape from the Unsullied camp – die after being crushed. Jon speaks to Daenerys and it is clear that she will continue her path until others are similarly ‘liberated, to which Jon kills Daenerys to prevent further bloodshed. Her army leave. The lords of the houses agree Kings and Queens will no longer inherit their position through the bloodline, choosing Brandon Stark as their King. Tyrion is chosen as hand of King. Jon is sent to the wall to live out his days. THE END.
Soooooo there’s a lot to unpack here. Here are the things I don’t understand about the last season and the show in general I guess…
- Following the epic battle of the undead, the battle at Kings Landing seems extremely anticlimactic in comparison. I went from crying out of sadness of the dead, joy at the Ice King’s death along with the awesome ninja way that Arya killed him/it, only to feel medium and borderline apathetic about the remaining episodes of the season when every preceding episode in the show for YEARS had been well written and an epic rollercoaster. It felt like the season/story should have ended with the battle against the undead, but instead ended with a paltry battle in comparison.
- I don’t understand why Daenerys spent the entire season trying to convince people that she is not her father, nicknamed The Mad King, only to destroy that in a single moment. We were told “we are not our parents”. She spends seasons being calm, considered and cares deeply for people, releasing whole cities from slavery, listening to her advisers and considering her choices with great care, only to kill millions. Was it just the power going to her head? Was the love for people merely superficial? Was she so jealous about Jon’s claim to the throne and the peoples love for him that she decided to murder millions? She doesn’t seem angry with him at her last scene, if so. Does the fight against the undead and the toll upon her loved ones change her? Was Jorah the only thing stopping her from breaking point?
- Cersei waits in the tower until she is defeated. Instead of acting in her self interest and trying to survive – we are shown throughout the show that she is ruthless and will do anything for herself and Jaime to survive – she waits to die and is soon crushed by some falling bricks. Being the prevailing villain throughout for eight seasons, hated by all, it feels like a bit of a cop out to not have any one of her many enemies take her out. It literally could have been anyone, but it was a brick that did it… Even banishing her to the wall would have been a more satisfying plot, or having her die choking on a piece of toast or one of the wines she always drinks. But no… it. was. a. brick.
- The above feels particularly at odds with the fact Arya Stark had Cersei at the top of her assassination list throughout the show for the murder of Ned Stark. She held onto that for years, hunts down others who have wronged her and then last minute decides this is something she no longer wants…. it doesn’t make sense.
- There are a number of storylines that end up going nowhere and there is no real clarity:
- The Direwolves in the series always save the Starks’ and others lives throughout the season. Only two remain by the end. Ghost who was Jon’s wolfy, and Nymeria, who was Arya’s. The latter we seem to see in a moment where Arya is treking about and is narrowly killed by it and its doggy pals… but then the wolfy never comes back. In fact, the direwolves loyalty (and bravery and the large parts they have played throughout the show is never honoured or really mentioned.
- Why was Sam spared by the White Walkers and others not? I had a personal theory long ago that the Old Gods were at odds with the New Gods, and that the 7 New Gods represented the 7 sins, that they were a symbol for the sins that people were newly following which caused them to forget all about Old gods and the Godswoods. Gluttony, greed, wrath, etc. My theory was that you would only be spared if you were truly virtuous and prayed to the Old Gods, which seemed to make sense when they passed by Sam without killing him. But then the tree folk confirmed they created the Ice King to help them win a war against humans, the relevance of Old and New Gods and the reason for not killing only some people was lost. What was it all about?
- What is the real consequence of Arya double crossing the many faced god? It seems there is none to her.. it appears it was only a prolonged training montage for Arya, and that is all..
- Ser Ilyn Payne was on Arya’s assassinate list but he disappeared from it. He definitely did not redeem himself to her like The Hound did before he was struck from it, so why did she forget about it by the end? She certainly had not forgotten Cersei off her list…
- All the Sparrows were killed by Cersei. Why was there no retaliation, either from any remaining Sparrows or the people of the city who agreed to the King’s announcement earlier in the show that Crown and Church belonged together..?
- Ellaria Sand of House Martell was made to watch her daughter die to poison in a cell in Kings Landing but we never see what becomes of Ellaria. It seems that plot line, despite Cersei saying her children mean so much to her, goes nowhere.
- Additionally the armies of Dorne have pledged their support to Daenerys but then they are nowhere to be seen in the Great War nor beyond. We only see the new Prince of Dorne who is the only unrecognisable person in one of the final scenes where the lords and ladies vote their new King/Queen….
- Jon’s claim to the throne isn’t even brought up at the final lord/lady meeting.
- Neither that of Gendry’s claim to the throne.
- What happened to Daario Naharis? Or the nation’s that Daenerys freed? Why did they not send troops to save their Queen during the Great War? We all know how quickly news travels in the realm.
- What happened to Meera Reed? She helped Bran survive, at great personal cost, but disappears.
- Where was Yara and her army during the Great War? She promised to help Daenerys should they fall, and we know Yara and her men were courageous, yet they never came in the hour of need.
- Additionally what happened to Yara’s justice towards her Uncle? Why was she not the one to avenge her father’s death? His death ended up being a pathetic tussle on the beach with Jaime Lannister. Seemed totally pointless.
- Cersei was told a premonition of her future by a magical lady witch person that she would have three children and that they would all be shrouded in black, implying that they would all die. In actuality she had four: Tommen, Marcella, Joffrey and a fourth child through Robert Baratheon which died very young. Anyways, numbers aside, this premonition obviously weighs on her as the seasons go by and she blames herself for her children’s deaths. However, something the TV show missed out which was in the books was the she was also told that when “your tears have drowned you, the valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you”. Valonqar translates to ‘Little Brother’, which would imply that it was predicted that Tyrion would kill her. That certainly would explain why Cersei is so convinced her whole life that Tyrion is a killer and hates him. She is suspicious and hateful of Tyrion throughout the show and the premonition would have helped explain their difficult relationship but weirdly the bit about the premonition was omitted from the show.
- A MAJOR plot hole, and something which really went amiss, I think, is that Bran is a warg…. He can see the past and the future. He is more than just a teller of stories, like Tyrion claims him to be (his reasoning for naming him King). He can also control people as we see through Hodor for seasons/years. He only, however uses his skills to tell people that Jon is on his way, and that Jon’s ancestry is that of Targaryen only for nothing to come of it. One of the biggest surprises for me in that last season is the moment where Bran meets the Ice King, who he has been pursued by for years, and he waits by the Godswood tree and does…. nothing… nothing… I half expected Bran to take over the Ice King’s body, take out the other Kings/Ice commanders and then take the Ice King’s own life, or alternatively use his mind power to pin him down while Jon – who had fought the Ice King on numerous occasions and looked to be the obvious character to do the deed – but it was Arya in the end. Now, I’m not saying I’m complaining that Arya did it. It was the happiest moment I felt in the whole last season and I sobbed happy tears but setting something up for seasons only for those things to be nothing leaves viewers feeling empty… He could have also warged into any person at any time and helped defeat them, preventing many deaths. He could have warged into Cersei. He could have warged into Daenerys and prevents millions of people dying. He could have warged into the undead dragon. But that ability wasn’t used. It wasn’t even really acknowledged all that much…. Oh Bran can just see stuff… like when Jon is coming home… and when Jon is going for a poo poo.. That last one I made up…
- The group of lords/ladies voting on their new King at the end of the season allow the North to have independence on Lady Stark’s request without even debating it. They have been 7 nations for thousands of years, they have just proven that they cannot survive a potential future White Walker threat without every nation working together… why accept that?
- Is the threat from the White Walkers really over? Earlier in the show it is mentioned that they came once before and were defeated, and then they came again. We just saw the Undead defeat a Dothraki army of experienced warriors in what, 15 seconds if that? Could they come once more in the future? Is that a concern? Or no? If not, why is there even a Wall anymore, or The Night Watch? Or was it just to make Jon commander of the watch again so he could watch over the Free folk as Mance once did?
There are so many unanswered questions I have that were not addressed, or not addressed well. It seems a shame to me that GOT could have been so well written only for the author/show writers/whoever to fumble it. That said at the end of the show Tyrion tells Jon that in discussion of what to do with Jon following him killing Queen Daenerys and their decision to send him to the wall to live out his days, that none of the lords and ladies came away feeling very happy about the ending and that he supposed that it meant it must have been a good compromise. Perhaps that is a little message to us watchers out there. We all watched patiently for years while GOT killed off all our beloved characters one by one, villains got away with things, and when it comes down to it are we happy with the ending? Well in a word, no….
But hey I guess it was a good compromise and I did, however, very much enjoy the journey. <3