Everything has to end, and the end of Game of Thrones could not have been better in my opinion. The final episode, titled “The Iron Throne”, was filled with drama and satisfying, emotional endings to help etch the series in history as the greatest of all-time.
Episode: “The Iron Throne”
Runtime: 79 minutes
Original Air Date: May 19, 2019
Director: David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Plot (via HBO)
Best Moment: The End
Obviously, the best moment from the Game of Thrones series finale could have been a conflicted Jon Snow killing Daenerys Targaryen in a stunningly dramatic climax, but it’s hard to top the final scenes. After Bran “The Broken” was named the King of the Six Kingdoms with the North as an independent kingdom led by Sansa Stark, the last beats of the show continued to follow House Stark—including Jon, who has lived like a Stark as much as anyone—with a beautiful score accompanying it.
Arya was to journey west of Westeros, where no one knows. The writers could have made the Hero of Winterfell take Gendry Baratheon back up on his marriage proposal, but that’s still not her despite the Hound getting through to her about living a life of vengeance. Just like her direwolf Nymeria, Arya is an adventurer that should be going on another journey.
Sansa really grew into the Lady of Winterfell, and the North has always been a kingdom that wants to be independent—and was for thousands of years before the Targaryens conquered Westeros. After two King in the North scenes (for Robb and Jon), it was fitting that Sansa was named the first-ever Queen in the North by people that followed her lead and respected her.
Finally, while getting sent back to the Wall wasn’t the choice of the rightful king, Jon had the perfect ending to conclude Game of Thrones. The former Lord Commander was surprised to learn that there was still a Night’s Watch with The Long Night over and the White Walkers defeated for good, but there has to be someplace to send people for punishment. Jon met Ygritte beyond the Wall; he previously thought about just forgetting about the chaotic life south of the Wall (the politics, the killing, everything) before Sansa convinced him to win back Winterfell; and earlier this season, it was hinted that this could be his ending when he told Tormund he wished he could go with him to what the wildling called “The Real North”.
After Jon was unable to have a worthy goodbye with Ghost in “The Last of the Starks”, he had a heartwarming fist-pump moment with his loyal old direwolf. And as the main hero of the show looked back at the tunnel closing behind him, it looked like that might be the last time he sees south of the Wall. If he stays North, he can father children and do whatever he wants, so that might be what he does—or maybe he’ll see Tyrion again in ten years as they discussed in their final meeting. But whatever happens after Game of Thrones, Jon’s story and the entire “A Song of Fire and Ice” story ended on the right note.
“You are my queen, now and always.” – Jon Snow to Daenerys Targaryen
MVP: House Stark
Throughout the first handful of seasons, House Stark had it the worst of any family by far. Things eventually worked out for him, but Bran was pushed out of a tower and simply wanted to die for a time; Ned Stark (who would have been happy to see how things turned out for Bran, Arya, Sansa, and Jon) was beheaded in Episode 9; Robb, Catelyn, and Talisa were slaughtered at the Red Wedding; Arya was forced to fend for herself as a young girl; Sansa had to live with the people that murdered her family and went through two marriages she wanted no part of; and Jon was betrayed and killed by his own brothers of the Night’s Watch. Now, the North is independent, Bran is Protector of the Realm in the south, Sansa is Queen in the North, Jon is living out his life beyond the Wall, and Arya is leading a Stark conquest to the west. In the end, it was a time for wolves: House Stark basically rules every part of the world and exits Game of Thrones better off than any other family.
-Plenty of action took place throughout the first 72 episodes of Game of Thrones, and the final episode was set up for outstanding poetic drama. The highlight in terms of drama, of course, was Daenerys’ death—the lone significant death of the finale. Jon loved Daenerys and stuck with her as long as he could, and he was intensely conflicted from the start of the scene, to the moment he put a knife in the heart of his queen, to contemplating what he’d just done. The Targaryens have connections with their dragons, and Drogon knew something happened to his mother—the special effects of our last scene with the dragon and the destroyed Great Hall covered in snow as the backdrop was remarkable. Really, the visuals for the entire episode (like Drogon’s wings behind Daenerys as she walked to the stairs, and just the final shots for each of the characters) were arguably the best of the series, so David Benioff and D.B. Weiss did an exceptional job of directing their finale.
Specifically, the acting by Kit Harington and Emilia Clarke in Daenerys’ final scene was extraordinary. This was the scene that got Harington emotional during the final table read of the scripts for Season 8, and it’s easy to see why; Clarke said she took a five-hour walk after she first read it. And they both put the scene on screen masterfully.
When the Mother of Dragons said all the other people don’t get to choose what they think is good, you could see in Jon’s face that was not what he wanted to hear, but it looked like he might still be loyal to her when he said she’d be his queen now and always—until the sound of a knife. It wasn’t completely clear that Jon stabbed Daenerys at first (instead of the other way around, as Dany had reason to kill the rightful heir), but the honorable former King in the North actually went through with it then cradled Daenerys in a similar way to how he cradled Ygritte during her death earlier in the series. And in that final moment for Daenerys, you couldn’t help but feel bad for someone that was one of the heroes for years and started as a helpless young woman on the edge of the world.
When Drogon arrived, Jon easily could’ve been put to ashes; but instead, the last dragon finished his mother’s wishes of breaking the wheel—which she had just talked about again—by destroying the Iron Throne. The absence of the Iron Throne was part of leading to the new process of selecting a ruler; so while Dany obviously didn’t accomplish the goal the way she wanted to, ultimately, it was accomplished.
-It’s a shame Daenerys was barely in the series finale, but as stated for previous episodes, not everything just goes perfectly in a show that reflects the real world when you put the magic aside. Things just didn’t work out for Daenerys—she didn’t even get to actually sit in the Iron Throne despite winning the Last War, which is also kind of heartbreaking.
Burning King’s Landing and its citizens was a bad act, but Dany did plenty of good in her life. It could be way off, but my theory is that while Drogon took her away, she was also taken away spiritually to live peacefully in the afterlife with Khal Drogo and her unborn son Rhaego (healthy in the afterlife). When Daenerys touched the Iron Throne in the finale, it was similar to the vision she had in the House of the Undying in Season 2 when she didn’t touch the Iron Throne, instead walking away to the screams of her baby dragons and finding a tent with Drogo and Rhaego inside. Maybe that’s where she ended up after death. Ultimately, Daenerys might have been bad, but she wasn’t evil. (Yes, Jon said there was nothing after he died, but he came back to life.)
-And while it was a shame Clarke was only in the first part of the episode, it was nice to see Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Lena Headey in the credits and in the episode as Tyrion found the bodies of his Lannister siblings. So all five principle characters (Tyrion, Jaime, Cersei, Daenerys, and Jon) were all in Game of Thrones through the final episode.
-That scene where Tyrion found Jaime and Cersei was tough to watch, and a sad “The Rains of Castamere” playing in the background made it even better. Peter Dinklage was crazy good in that moment and for the entire episode, as he was for the entire series.
-Tyrion’s first meeting with Jon, when the former Hand of the Queen attempted to convince the true heir to kill his queen, took us into Jon’s head and led us into the dramatic scene in the Great Hall. Then when things were turned around, with Jon as the prisoner, it was interesting to hear them discuss whether they did the right thing by killing Daenerys—and Tyrion said to ask him in ten years. Those two scenes were really great for a final episode.
-The meeting of the most important people in Westeros representing the top Houses in the land was excellent. It set up that Jon was being kept alive as a prisoner because thousands of northerners were ready to storm the city and cause much more bloodshed if their former king was harmed, but Grey Worm, the Unsullied, and the Dothraki wanted justice for their queen’s death. The tenseness was then cut with the hilarious moments of Sansa calmly telling her uncle Edmure to sit down and Sam getting laughed at for suggesting they let the people decide their own ruler instead of the noblemen deciding. Tyrion was right that Bran “The Broken” would be a good king, as the Three-Eyed Raven didn’t want anything but knew he should be king and traveled all that way for a reason.
-The Unsullied are following the lead of Grey Worm, who is taking the army to Naath, where he and Missandei planned to go before Queen Daenerys’ advisor’s death. It fit what Tyrion said about not anyone really being happy—though overall, the Starks were OK with how everything turned out.
-Set free and being accompanied north to Castle Black, Jon led the very emotional final Stark farewells with Sansa, Arya, and Bran. It’s difficult not to get chills thinking about it, and Sophie Turner and Maise Williams’ goodbyes (their characters still had much more emotion than Isaac Hempstead Wright as the Three-Eyed Raven) with Kit Harington felt legitimate and real. Sansa would lead the northerners at their home, Winterfell; Arya had her Needle and would be doing what she loved; and Bran would rule for the good of the realm. It was simply perfect.
-Brienne had her heart broken by Jaime, but it was really nice to see her fill out the Kingslayer’s pages in the Whitebook, which chronicles the accomplishments of Kingsguard members. In case you forgot, early in the series, King Joffrey taunted Jaime for having an empty page compared to other legendary members of the Kingsguard like Ser Arthur Dayne. Ser Brienne wrote of Jaime’s actions, including his bravery at the Battle of Winterfell, ending it with “Died protecting his Queen.” Again, it was perfect.
-Tyrion—again Hand of the King—setting up the first Small Council meeting was fantastic, and it was reminiscent of some of the earlier scenes in the show when those Small Council meetings were all about power. Bronn (Lord of Highgarden), Ser Davos, Brienne, and Maester Sam (good for him!) all create an interesting dynamic on King Bran’s Small Council. It was funny to find out Tyrion wasn’t mentioned in the “A Song of Ice and Fire” book, but the appearance of the creation and appearance of the book in general was awesome. While he said he didn’t want to be Hand for a third time, it was the ideal ending for Tyrion (he said he didn’t want to be Hand, but it’s clear he loved it based on his organizing of all the chairs to be perfect) to be doing what he does best—and it looks like he was even able to tell that “jackass and honeycomb” joke.
-Drogon was said to be heading east, so he was likely going back to the birthplace of himself and his two brothers in Essos. Daenerys was truly beloved across the Narrow Sea, so she should have been put to rest there—and again, would potentially join Drogo, Rhaego, and maybe Visierion and Rhaegal, in the afterlife.
-The final montage following Arya (embarking on her new journey), Sansa (officially named Queen in the North), and Jon (joining Tormund and Ghost to go back beyond the Wall), with the last version of the Stark theme (titled “The Last of the Starks”) was the best way the show could have ended.
-The first shot of the series was the gate opening as members of the Night’s Watch explored beyond the Wall. The last shot of the series was the gate closing behind Jon Snow. It was beautiful, and now our watch has ended.