Eammon Jacobs reviews the Game of Thrones finale…
The final episode of the entire series is finally here, and it’s hard not to reflect on the epic journey that the characters have been on to get where they are by the end. While the obvious question going into the finale is which of them will end up on the throne, it’s clear that the majority of it is acknowledging where they all began and how they’ll deal with everything they’ve going forward. Just before discussing the ins-and-outs of the episode, it’s fair to say that regardless of some questionable writing over the last couple of seasons and one incredibly controversial choice in the finale, it’s a worthy ending to a truly phenomenal series. So for the last time…
After the devastating ending to episode five, the finale opens with a chilling shot of Tyrion walking through King’s Landing seeing all the death and destruction left by Daenerys. Scorched survivors are few and far between amongst the thousands of incinerated innocents and it’s really hammered home for Jon, Tyrion and Davos just how far Dany’s gone off the deep end. While Jon is faced with the most difficult choice, the outstanding performance undoubtedly comes from Peter Dinklage. He’s perfectly heartbreaking given his conflicted feelings about his family and his place in a world that truly hates him. Whether it’s breaking down discovering Jaime and Cersei, forcing Jon to stop playing devil’s advocate for Daenerys or his speech at the end of the episode – Dinklage gave the best performance here.
But after she unleashed literal dragonfire across King’s Landing, it’s been expected that someone is going to have to kill Daenerys for the good of the realm. She’s become a dictator, her tyrannical speech in front of her forces says as much as the death and destruction she’s just wrought on the city. It makes perfect sense for Jon to kill her – she’s a true danger to the world. Although in a way – she achieved what she set out to do in breaking the wheel. When Drogon realises what’s happened to her, he breathes a torrent of fire that melts the Iron Throne to molten metal… That iconic symbol is no more. It’s a weird choice for her dragon-child to incinerate the throne rather than the man that killed her, but hey, poetic symbolism right? Although her death feels rushed considering how impactful it is, it’s pivotal to get the episode to where it needs to be; picking the new King.
All the figureheads of the most powerful houses assemble in the Dragon pit, but it happens after a time-jump of several weeks. Seeing these characters meet and talk is a rare moment of levity in one of the bleakest seasons of the show. But considering Jon just murdered Dany, the decision of who will lead feels disorientating at first before the dramatic tension kicks in. This is where the episode really has some issues.
While Tyrion makes excellent points for choosing his candidate for the throne, it sounds as if he’s going to pick Sansa. The way he discusses this person’s journey of hardship, leadership qualities and the stories they have all align with the Stark sister… Except it’s not, he goes for Bran. It’s the strangest decision. He has no experience with ruling, managing a city or a battle for that matter. After all this time of Bran not wanting to be involved in any other conflict aside from fighting the Night King, he suddenly goes along with the idea – mentioning that’s the only reason he’s in the South. It’s a complete 180 degree turn for a character arc, and not in a well written deserved way either. Sansa keeping the North independent as its own nation is somewhat of a consolation prize and seeing her crowned Queen of the North shows just how truly formidable she is. Even though she’s been difficult to like at times, she’s an enduring force of power that should have been seated at the head of Westeros.
While it was always teased to have a bittersweet conclusion – the choice of King doesn’t feel like a just ending for Game of Thrones. Isaac Hempstead-Wright’s incredibly cold performance inspires no one outside of the screen. Out of all the Stark children, he’s the least favourable as a ruler. It has always been an unpredictable show, but even in the most brutal moments it’s never been truly unlikable… This doesn’t seem fitting for the eight-season-long journey the fans have been on. Although it has to be said that seeing a wheelchair user in a powerful position like King is refreshing and shocking, which the series has prided itself on since the very beginning. It’s just a shame that the new King of Westeros is an uncharismatic psychic who has claimed to not ‘want’ anything for quite some time now. How disappointing.
As for Jon Snow, he’s forced into exile once again as Greyworm and the Unsullied won’t settle for anything less, especially since he just murdered their Queen. Narratively though, his ending makes perfect sense – it’s back to the Night’s Watch for him, serving alongside Tormund and Ghost, who he finally showed some affection for after heartlessly leaving him. It all ends where it begins. Aside from Arya of course, as she chooses to explore a mysterious land in the west past where the maps reach. It could hold some fascinating tales, and if Maisie Williams is still onboard, an Arya solo series is ripe for a spin-off.
While some fans may hate the choices made in this final season and some feel they’re fitting – it’s impossible to deny the technical achievements made throughout. The introduction lets the cinematography speak for itself, impeccably conveying the dramatic weight of the finale. There’s a haunting shot of Daenerys with Drogon’s wings perfectly framed behind her; how far the dragon queen has come. Ramin Djawadi’s score is ominous, beautiful, haunting and inspiring. While the writing may not always be up to scratch, the cinematography is consistently incredible with a truly rich soundtrack. Let’s remember it for the epic storytelling, and not the faults.
Although the choice it went with for King was a ridiculous one, the episode itself is genuinely fantastic. It harks back to the golden age of the show rich with conversational depth and visceral imagery. And so our watch has ended.