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Game of Thrones - The Iron Throne - Review - "The End of an Era"

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Game of Thrones is gone now like the Iron Throne itself. Whether you liked the ending or not, however, the show will live on – on DVD, Blu-ray, and multiple streaming outlets, no doubt – mainly because of how it has helped to change the face of entertainment and not just television. Game of Thrones demonstrated what could be accomplished with an increasingly huge budget but more importantly with a huge palette of story and characters even on a small screen. Game of Thrones raised our expectations and proved that huge productions paid off. While Netflix may have changed how we view television, it was the pirating of Game of Thrones that pushed HBO into the streaming business and encouraged the other networks to follow.

I expressed doubt at the end of last season that the story could be wrapped up in any satisfactory method in 6 episodes. I conceded that it might be possible if each of those episodes was a minimum of 2 hours – in essence 12 episodes. I knew we were in trouble when the first episode was only 54 minutes. I neither loved nor hated the ending. I won’t be signing any petitions. But the ending simply left me feeling depressed and without a sense of closure. That non-closure is clearly what they were going for, but knowing that there was more out there for Arya (Maise Williams), Jon (Kit Harington), and Sansa (Sophie Turner) wasn’t satisfying for me. Maybe I’ll write a little fan fiction sometime in the future, but for now, let’s take a closer look at the finale. Settle in. This is a long one.

“The Iron Throne” was both written and directed by showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. Are there lessons that we take away from this episode? Absolute power corrupts absolutely? The winners write the history? There are no happy endings? Violence, hatred, and revenge are never good answers? Love conquers nothing?

The episode begins with a very long sequence of Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) walking through King’s Landing. He’s passed by a burnt, shell-shocked soldier who is reminiscent of the famous photo of the Napalm Girl. He also passes a soldier sobbing in the rubble. It’s beautifully shot with silhouettes of skeletons everywhere. When he reaches the body of Nora and her child – with the wooden horse still recognizable – he tells Jon (Kit Harington) and Davos (Liam Cunningham) who have been following him that he’ll go on alone from there. Jon tries to tell him that it’s not safe, but Tyrion is past caring. He passes the fallen bell, and continues to the Red Keep.

Jon tries to stop Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) from senselessly killing Lannister soldiers who have surrendered. Jon tries to say that they are prisoners, and Davos asks how much more defeated Grey Worm wants them to be? Grey Worm says they are still breathing, and they are free men who chose to fight for Cersei. Clearly, Grey Worm has a problem with free men. Daenerys’ (Emilia Clarke) orders are just as troubling – kill everyone who followed Cersei.

When Jon tries to stop Grey Worm from slitting their throats, the Unsullied point their weapons at him. Davos, ever the peacemaker tries to get everyone to chill. Davos also advises Jon that they should speak with the Queen. Clearly, the Unsullied will not listen to Jon. The two reluctantly walk away as Grey Worm continues the senseless slaughter.

Tyrion continues his walk through the Red Keep. The map is symbolically shattered down the middle – the world has definitely been broken. He picks up a torch and keeps going, following the way he hoped his brother and sister had followed to freedom. He knows he will be punished for treason, but was it worth it? He finds the way in blocked, but manages to force his way in.

I hoped when he first saw Jaime’s (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) hand that maybe he’d finally left it, but then Tyrion finds his siblings dead in each other’s embrace. Dinklage is simply tremendous in this scene. It is also beautifully shot as a sunbeam falls over Jaime and Cersei (Lena Headey) – going out of the world as they came in it: together. And leaving their baby brother feeling like the monster he’s always been accused of being.

We get more time spent walking through the wreckage with Arya as she shadows Jon making his way through the celebrating Dothraki and Unsullied army. Where did her horse go? What was the point of her riding off on it? A lot more wasted time for nothing it seems. Did anyone else wonder how there were still so many Dothraki and Unsullied left after the battle with the Night King? Again, we get some beautiful long shots as Jon slowly makes his way up the stairs. Grey Worm has beaten him there and it’s clear that Grey Worm has no use for Jon. For his own part, Jon doesn’t look like he’s going to be happy to see Daenerys…

And then we get what could be one of the best shots of the entire series as Daenerys finally arrives to address her victors. As she comes through the wrecked gates, Drogon rises up behind her and it looks as if she has sprouted his wings. She truly is the Dragon Queen. Daenerys is clearly euphoric at her victory. She looks out at her troops and seems happy for the first time in a long while.

She addresses them but not in the common tongue. It’s a good reminder of where she learned her approach to war – from Khal Drogo. Of course, by not using the common tongue, Jon has no idea what she is actually saying. They have given her the Seven Kingdoms, and she makes Grey Worm the commander of all her armies – the Queen’s Master of War. And that solidifies what kind of war she intends to wage. Tyrion arrives, and while he may not be able to speak it well, he certainly understands. Daenerys declares her armies liberators who freed the people of King’s Landing from a Tyrant. But who really is the Tyrant? There was no mercy shown – and all the people who were freed appear to have been freed from life itself!

Daenerys then declares that the war is not over… um…. What????? Wasn’t this supposed to be the Last War? She declares that they won’t stop until they’ve liberated the people all over the world. And who exactly do the people of Westeros need to be freed from? From Winterfell to Dorne? What??? Daenerys doesn’t seem to realize that she’s already broken the wheel. Arya, Jon, and Tyrion watch in horror at what they’ve helped to create. Daenerys happily drinks in the adulation.

Tyrion approaches to stand beside her. She immediately gets down to him freeing his brother and committing treason. Tyrion admits it and counters that she slaughtered a city. It’s very clear what the bigger crime is here. She looks at him surprised. Tyrion doesn’t beg for his life. He pulls off his pin of office and throws it down the steps. Daenerys’ face hardens and she has him taken away. Jon and Daenerys exchange looks. Her face hardens further as she sees the disapproval on his face.

As Daenerys leaves, Arya is suddenly be Jon’s side. He’s naturally shocked to see her. Arya tells him that she came to kill Cersei, but his Queen got there first. Jon maintains that she’s everyone’s Queen that, but Arya counters, “Try telling Sansa.” Jon knows the truth of it. Daenerys will kill Sansa if she doesn’t bend the knee – and she never will. He tells Arya to wait outside the gates for him. Arya – always the most sensible of the Stark children – warns him that Daenerys knows who he really is and she’ll always be a threat to him. And she knows a killer when she sees one…And truly, if anyone does…

Jon removes his armor and weapons and goes to see Tyrion, whose first question is whether Jon has brought any wine. Tyrion thanks Jon for coming to see him anyway and acknowledges that Daenerys doesn’t keep prisoners for long. He also points out that there’s a certain justice in having betrayed Varys – his closest friend – and watched him burn. Tyrion points out that Varys’ ashes can tell his ashes, “I told you…” Tyrion recalls that Jon has died and is the only man alive who can tell him what’s next. Jon finally acknowledges it and says that he’s not seen any life after death. Tyrion isn’t too bothered by facing oblivion – and lists his “crimes.” Jon denies that Tyrion betrayed Daenerys, but Tyrion insists that he chose his fate – the people of King’s Landing didn’t. Jon says he can’t justify what happened and he won’t try, but the war is over. Clearly, Jon did not understand a word of what Daenerys said.

Tyrion finally stands as he asks Jon if Daenerys sounded like she was done fighting. Jon points out that Tyrion has been by Daenerys counselling her until now. And again, Tyrion points out that he was wrong and Varys was right. He points out that it was vanity to think that he could guide Daenerys whose nature is fire and blood. Jon refuses to believe that people are destined to be one way or the other from birth – that makes him fire and blood too! Jon points out that Tyrion isn’t Tywin – no one is destined to be their father. Tyrion points out that both Tywin and Cersei were evil, yet with all the people they killed, Daenerys has killed more in a single day.

Jon tries desperately to justify what Daenerys did even after saying he couldn’t justify it. Tyrion insists that the battle was over the moment that the gates fell and the bell rang. Jon insists that it’s easy to judge when you are standing far from the battlefield. And Tyrion asks Jon if he would have done it – and we know the answer is no because we saw him try to stop Grey Worm. When Tyrion asks him, having been up on a dragon, if he would have burned the city down, Jon says he doesn’t know – but WE do – and so does Tyrion and he knows that Jon won’t say because he doesn’t want to betray her. Tyrion tells Jon that it matters more than anything what Jon would do.

Tyrion points out that everywhere Daenerys has gone, evil men have died, and they have cheered her for it. It seems that she is good and right. Daenerys believes her destiny is to build a better world for everyone. Tyrion points out that if you believed that, you’d kill everyone who stood between you and paradise. And Jon knows that at least one of those people is Sansa.

I loved how this scene was blocked. As Jon enters, Tyrion, the prisoner is seated on the floor. As the scene progresses, Tyrion stands, and eventually Jon sits. Jon is every bit as much a prisoner even now as he’s trapped by what he must do. Tyrion tells him that he knows Jon loves Daenerys, and he loves her too – though not as successfully. Tyrion believed in her with all his heart. Love is more powerful than reason – and Jaime is proof of that. Jon brings us back to Maester Aemon – his relative as it turns out – and the fact that “love is the death of duty.” Tyrion is momentarily really, really impressed that Jon just came up with that! Tyrion turns it around – sometimes duty is the death of love. And Jon has been on both sides of this equation already. Tyrion further reminds Jon of his past: “You are the shield that guards the realms of men.” Tyrion knows that Jon has always tried to do the right thing no matter the cost.

Tyrion knows he’s asking a terrible thing – but it’s also the right thing. They both know that Tyrion is not the last man that Daenerys will execute. And Jon is the biggest danger to her. Jon stands again and tells Tyrion that it’s Daenerys’ decision. She is the Queen. He tells Tyrion that he’s sorry. And then Tyrion plays his final card – they both know that neither Arya nor Sansa will ever bend the knee. Jon insists that they will, but Tyrion asks Jon why he thinks that Sansa told him the truth about Jon. Because she doesn’t want Daenerys to be Queen. Jon insists that Sansa doesn’t get to choose – and Tyrion counters that Jon does. And he has to choose now – Tyrion knows that soon it will be too late.

We get some more nice long shots of Jon walking to the throne room – with the snow falling around him. Clearly, killing the Night King didn’t stop winter from coming. It’s a brilliant shot as Drogon suddenly rises up out of the snow where he’s guarding the entrance. He smells Jon – beautiful shot! – and lets him pass. There’s a beautiful transition shot as Jon walks into the dark entrance and Daenerys emerges from the dark into the throne room.

The throne room is ruined, but the Iron Throne still stands. Daenerys is alone with it and we get more beautiful cinematography and a terrific score as she slowly and reverently walks up to it. Was anyone else waiting for her hand to stick to it when she touched it? Perhaps some steam should have risen. As she turns, clearly thinking about sitting, there’s another great shot of Jon just emerging from the entrance behind her. She smiles on seeing him.

She tells him about hearing stories of the Throne as a young girl and how she’d imagined it as being much bigger. It’s an interesting image – the huge pile of swords – that seems to mimic the huge piles of bodies she has climbed up to get there. Jon gets right down to business and brings up the Lannister prisoners who were being put to death on her orders. Daenerys insists that it was necessary. This entire scene is perhaps Kit Harington’s finest moment in the entire series. He asks Daenerys if she’s been down in the streets – has she seen the little children who were burned?!?! He’s clearly looking for any sign that proves Tyrion wrong.

Daenerys insists that she tried to make peace with Cersei – shifting the blame for all the dead on Cersei! She twists it to make is seem that only Cersei was the monster here. Jon brings up Tyrion. She maintains that he conspired against her with her enemies – and she reminds him of what he’s done in the past – even when it broke his heart. Jon asks her to forgive Tyrion and the rest – and she insists that you can’t hide behind small mercies. They can’t build a better world with those loyal to the old one. Jon insists that the world they build has to be one of mercy. Daenerys says that it will be.

She tells Jon that it’s not easy to see something that’s never been before: a good world. Jon wants to know how she knows – lets never forget that he knows nothing. She insists that she knows what is good and so does he. Jon asks about all the other people who think they know what is good – and she echoes Tyrion’s words when she says that they don’t get to choose.

Daenerys insists that this is their destiny, to build the new world together, to break the wheel together. Jon tells her that she is his Queen, now and always, and he kisses her. And as he kisses her, he kills her. Again, there’s not much to be said here except for the beautiful cinematography and wonderful performances of Harington and Clarke. Drogon’s grief is beautifully done – and it was poetic for him to destroy the throne. Did he spare Jon because Jon loved Daenerys? How did he not realize that Jon killed her? Did he spare Jon because Jon is a Targaryen too? Jon faces Drogon, prepared to die by fire – and perhaps wanting it.

For myself, this was a completely unsatisfactory ending to Daenerys’ story. Having Drogon fly off with her body – very King Kong, I thought, was poetic. And gives us that one final beautiful shot of Jon in the throne room. And then…. We simply skip a bunch of stuff. Why? I think this break is a large reason the show broke too.

We get an incredibly long shot of Tyrion’s face as he lies on the floor of his prison. We hear footsteps as Grey Worm and the Unsullied approach. Clearly, Tyrion thinks, this is it. It’s only as Tyrion is walking to what he expects is his execution, that we see that time has passed because his beard is quite a bit longer – though not his hair, so presumably not that long? Tyrion is taken to the Dragon Pit where another Council awaits. It would seem all the Great Houses are represented. I maintain that they are there because Varys wrote to them. But enough time has passed that it appears winter may now be over again.

Sansa takes charge. She wants to know where Jon is, and Grey Worm tells her that he’s their prisoner. She points out so is Tyrion, but they were both supposed to be brought. Grey Worm insists that they will decide what they do with their prisoners because this is their city now. You really have to wonder who is in charge because Grey Worm has never been up to the task. I’m sad that they also managed to destroy his character this season.

Sansa tells Grey Worm that the city is surrounded by her army – and they won’t stand for Jon to be harmed. It’s clear that not all those gathered are on the same page. Yara (Gemma Whelan) is still loyal to Daenerys – and clearly knows that Jon put a dagger in her Queen’s heart. We can only imagine that he simply confessed to it. Really, he could have just said that Daenerys flew off… but he didn’t. Yara is happy for the Unsullied to put Jon to death. I loved Arya telling Yara that is she said one more word about killing her brother, she’d slit her throat!

Ever the peace-maker, Ser Davos breaks them up. Davos tells them they’ve been cutting each other’s throats for long enough. He shows Grey Worm respect by addressing him by his actual name, and clarifying that he’s saying it properly. Davos offers to repay the debt they owe the Unsullied for saving the country in the war against the dead by giving them good land in the Reach. He offers to let Grey Worm create his own House with the Unsullied as his bannermen. It’s unclear how Grey Worm is going to be able to start a House… ahem… Davos wants to find a better way than war. Grey Worm, however, doesn’t want payment. He wants justice. Jon Snow cannot go free.

Tyrion tells Grey Worm that it’s not for him to decide. Grey Worm tells him that everyone has heard enough words from him. Tyrion agrees. But the only one who can choose Jon’s fate is their King or Queen. Ser Royce (Rupert Vansittart) points out that they don’t have either. Tyrion points out that they are the most powerful people in Westeros – they need to choose one. Grey Worm is happy to let them choose!

It’s utterly hysterical when Edmund Tully (Tobias Menzies) steps up and offers himself for the job! I loved seeing Tobias Menzies back and he’s terrific here, proving he does comedy as well as drama! You know you’re an idiot when even Robin Arryn (Lino Facioli) thinks you are! Clearly, Royce has had a salutary effect on him – and time. Facioli has certainly grown up! I loved Sansa cutting Edmund off and asking him “please sit” – with the unspoken before you embarrass yourself and others more! I also loved the others, including Sam (John Bradley), trying not to laugh.

This was a good scene, but it still feels like it could have been a great one. Sam gets up and asks why they should decide – why not let everyone? That would be democracy, Sam. I loved the look on all their faces as they tried to get their heads around it. Naturally, they all break out laughing with Edmund suggesting the dogs get a vote and Royce saying he’d ask his horse. Well, Sam. You tried.

Edmund suggests that Tyrion wants the crown for himself. Tyrion points out that half the world hates him for following Daenerys and half the world hates him for betraying her. And we know that Tyrion has never wanted the crown. Davos asks who Tyrion would suggest. Tyrion tells them that he’s had nothing to do these “past few weeks.” It’s not months – but we still have no timeline – but that’s par for the course for this season.

Tyrion has considered their bloody history, and what unites people: armies, gold, flags, stories. There is a lot in this episode that pays homage to the “story world” of G.R.R. Martin. Tyrion tells them that there is nothing more powerful in the world than a good story. Certainly, that is what has united Game of Thrones fans – and perhaps torn them apart this season. The power of a good story is true in politics and in the entertainment world too.

Tyrion goes on to say that no one can stop a good story. An army can’t defeat it. Who has a better story than Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) the Broken. “The boy who fell from a high tower and lived. He knew he’d never walk again, so he learned to fly. He crossed beyond the wall and became the three-eyed raven. He is our memory. The keeper of all our stories.” As the keeper of the past, Bran is the best one to lead them into the future. Interestingly, it’s Sansa who objects and speaks for her brother. Bran can’t father children, and he has no interest in ruling.

Tyrion sees both of these as a positive. Sons of kings can be stupid and cruel. I loved him looking directly at Sansa as he says this and adds that Bran’s children will never torment them – as Joffrey did them both goes unspoken but clearly understood. Tyrion turns to Grey Worm and tells him that was the wheel their Queen wanted to break. From now on, rulers will be chosen – on that spot – by the Lords and Ladies of Westeros to serve the realm.

Tyrion addresses Bran directly, telling him that he knows he doesn’t want it and doesn’t care about power. He asks him if they choose him, will he accept the crown and lead the seven kingdoms to the best of his ability. Bran’s answer is simple: “Why do you think I came all this way?” Tyrion as the head of House Lannister is the first to say Aye and Sam of House Tarly is second, followed by House Tully, and all the others – including Davos who isn’t sure he gets a vote! Except Sansa.

She tells her brother that she loves him, but the northerners have seen too much to ever bend the knee. The North will remain an independent kingdom as it was for thousands of years. Bran acquiesces with a single nod. Arya smiles as both her siblings become King and Queen. Tyrion begins the cheer for Bran and then turns to leave – but Bran isn’t done with him.

Bran shocks – and dismays! – Tyrion by telling him that he will be his Hand. Tyrion tells him he doesn’t want it – to which Bran replies that he doesn’t want to be King. Yet here they are. Tyrion tells him that he doesn’t deserve it. That he thought he was wise, but he wasn’t. And really, knowing you aren’t wise makes you a whole lot wiser. It’s people who think they know it all who become complacent and never learn or question. Grey Worm is beside himself. Tyrion is a criminal and deserves justice! I loved how Bran snaps at Grey Worm that Tyrion just got it – meaning justice. He’s not going to be intimidated. He’s also right that the perfect punishment is for Tyrion to spend the rest of his life fixing his mistakes. Grey Worm doesn’t think it is enough.

It would seem that Tyrion’s first duty as Hand is to deliver Jon’s fate to him. Bran has decided to send Jon to the Night’s Watch because simply giving him to the Unsullied would start a war as would setting him free. Jon asks if there’s still a Night’s Watch – because now that the Night King has been defeated why should there be? Tyrion tells Jon the world will always need a home for bastards and broken men – that is an alternative to a jail. Tyrion reminds him – and us – of the tenets of the Night’s Watch: you shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. Tyrion points out that it’s a good compromise because no one is happy.

Jon asks Tyrion if what he did was right. It’s clear that he’s spent his time tormenting himself – and knowing Jon as we do, we can be positive that this will be a life sentence for him. Tyrion won’t let him carry the burden himself and tells Jon, “What WE did.” Jon says that it doesn’t feel right, and it’s clear that Tyrion feels the same as he asks Jon to ask him again in 10 years. Will the guilt fade or will they be proven right by the world that Bran creates? Dinklage and Harington are both terrific in this scene as well.

Tyrion pauses to lay a comforting hand on Jon’s shoulder. I loved how the lighting and blocking mirrored the earlier scene when Jon came to see Tyrion. Jon says he doubts that they’ll ever see each other again. Tyrion reminds us of how Jon and Tyrion came to know each other in the first place when he tells Jon not to be so sure. A few years as Hand of the King would make anyone want to piss off the edge of the world. It’s a particularly interesting throwback as Tyrion accompanied Jon to the Wall in the first season to piss off the edge of the world as Ned rode south to become Hand of the King….

We get some more nice long shots of Jon leaving the Keep and heading to the docks. The Dothraki and the Unsullied are preparing to leave King’s Landing as well. Grey Worm gives Jon the stink eye as he passes and then gives the order to sail for the Isle of Naath. Apparently, he is following his last plans with Missandei.

Arya, Bran, and Sansa come to Jon on the docks. Sansa asks for Jon’s forgiveness, wishing that there had been a better way. It takes Jon a long time to come up with an answer – and it isn’t forgiveness. He tells her that the North is free because of her. She responds that they lost their King – which seems like a nasty thing to say as he gave up his crown for Daenerys. Jon responds that Ned Stark’s daughter is the best the North could have hoped for. She hugs him and he eventually hugs her back.

Jon is clearly much more affected by his good bye with Arya. The first thing he says to her is that she can come to see him at Castle Black. Arya tells him that she can’t, and we get the first smile from Jon in some time – always a rare animal! He tells her that no one will stop her because women aren’t allowed! He’s come to respect her as a fellow warrior. She tells him she’s not going back North – and Sansa doesn’t know about this either. Arya asks what’s west of Westeros? No one knows – it’s where all the maps stop, so that’s where she’s going! Jon smiles and asks if she’s got her Needle – and of course she does! Their good bye is touching and moving as Arya can’t stop the tears and Jon pulls her into a tight hug. This was one of the very few satisfactory endings for a character.

Jon kneels to his King and apologizes to Bran for not being there when he needed him. But Bran absolves him completely by telling Jon that he was exactly where he was supposed to be. Jon stands up with his burden much lightened. Jon has always done the honorable thing and Bran knows it. There’s more nice cinematography as the remaining Starks watch him go.

And then we get yet another rather satisfactory scene. Brienne is clearly the new Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, and as such, it is her duty to update The Book of Brothers. She turns to Jaime’s page and carefully writes his history. The story she tells paints him as a hero, finishing with “Died protecting his Queen.” It’s more of the episodes nod toward writing stories. The victors in war write the history and create the heroes. But it’s also a fitting end to Brienne and Jaime’s story. She brought out the best in him while Cersei brought out the worst.

Again, we get a long sequence where virtually nothing happens. Tyrion arrives in the small council chamber early and rearranges the chairs. It’s a nice throwback to Tyrion and Cersei moving the chairs around when Tywin was hand – and of course his Council comes in and moves everything around again. They aren’t going to fall neatly into place. But we get that from the meeting itself.

Sam presents Tyrion with a thick book: A Song of Ice and Fire! I’m still not sure how I feel about this. I did love the shout out to G.R.R. Martin and the books that gave us the show, but I didn’t love how it really slammed up against the fourth wall. It is hilarious when Sam says he helped with the title, and then Tyrion wants to know what’s said about him, and Sam has to confess that Tyrion isn’t really mentioned! Martin has made no secret that Tyrion is a favorite character of his.

Tyrion’s discomfort over the book – and Bronn’s (Jerome Flynn) amusement – is cut short by the arrival of the King. He is accompanied by his Lord Commander of the Kingsguard and his chair is now pushed by another member of the Kingsguard – Podrick (Daniel Portnam)! Bran points out that they are missing a Master of Whisperers and a Master of Laws and a Master of War. Varys and Jon could have easily filled two of those positions… but Tyrion assures Bran that suitable candidates will be brought forward shortly. Bran asks about Drogon. Sam starts to say that he was last spotted flying east, and Bronn cuts in to say the farther away the better! Bran uses it as an excuse to get out of the more mundane matters of state, saying that maybe he can find Drogon – better to be flying in his third-eye than sitting bored at a table, right? Brienne calls SER Podrick forward, and we see that Pod has had the happiest of endings…

The first order of business deals with Bronn – now Ser Bronn of the Blackwater, Lord of High Garden, Lord Paramount of the Reach, and Master of Coin! Tyrion asks if Bronn is satisfied that the Crown’s debt to him has been paid, and Bronn says in full – so it’s time for the Crown to start incurring a new debt by getting Bronn to finance its projects.

Davos is Master of Ships and needs money for a new armada and to repair the ports. I loved Davos correcting Bronn’s grammar and Bronn asking if he was now Master of Grammar too! It’s clear that Bronn is going to keep a careful eye on his coin! Bronn continues to interrupt Sam – Grand Maester!!!! Tyrion sets Sam the task of fixing the sewers and ensuring there is safe drinking water. Bronn’s first concern is rebuilding the brothels. Sam objects to the health concerns… and we slowly pull away from the day to day business of the realm… We finish with the story of Tyrion bringing a honeycomb and a jackass into a brothel – one of the first stories he mentions in the first episode…

Jon rides up to Castle Black and it looks empty and abandoned. He takes a deep breath as the gates open, however, and the first person he sees is… Tormund (Kristofer Hivju)! And the screen goes black.

I did like the final intercut montage of Jon, Sansa, and Arya. We see Jon suiting up with Longclaw, and Sansa’s blue dress is another nice call back to the blue dress we saw her wear in the first episode. Arya is still wearing the dagger that she killed the Night King with. Each prepares for their new lives. Sansa is crowned Queen in the North. And in the very first episode, she tells her mother that being Queen is the only thing that she ever wanted.

Arya walks the deck of her ship, adorned with the Stark wolf. Castle Black is full of the Free Folk – not Knights of the Watch. He’s reunited with Ghost and we get another rare smile from him as the two greet each other. Tormund and Jon ride out followed by the Free Folk. It seems clear that Bran never intended to give Jon a life sentence.

It also seems clear that Jon is going to be the King of the Free Folk, and we can hope that he will find another red-haired wildling to tempt him! I liked the way the Stark Wolf was interwoven with each of them – from Longclaw and Ghost, to the sails and figurehead on Arya’s ship, to Sansa’s crown and throne. It was Jon who saved the Dire Wolf pups in the first episode by reminding Ned that they were the symbol of his House. There were five for each of the Stark children – and then Jon found Ghost – Snow white and the runt of the litter, yet Ghost is the last and most loyal.

There’s also a beautiful cinematic symmetry that goes from the arch of swords welcoming Sansa as the new Queen to the prow of Arya’s ship to Jon riding out of the wall with his people. These should be the three spinoffs! The series ends as it began, with men of the Night’s Watch going out through the tunnel into the far north – but now that North has been made safe by Jon.

And so it ends. I know there are spin offs in the works, but this episode has not left me wanting more. If anything, this season only proves that you can’t guarantee lightening in a bottle. So many things can go wrong between the word on the page and the image on the screen. I’m sure something else will eventually come along to capture our imaginations, but that won’t take away from Game of Thrones. It had solid material to begin with and they assembled a team of magnificent actors – too many to name here, but shout outs for the performances in this episode of Peter Dinklage, Emilia Clarke, Kit Harington, Maise Williams, Sophie Turner, and Isaac Hempstead Wright.

I think that two things really prevented the show from coming to a satisfactory conclusion. Firstly, I don’t think anything could have lived up to the hype created during the ridiculously long time between seasons. Maybe this is another thing we can look to Netflix for - our desire for the quick satisfaction of binge watching - which also doesn't allow time to build expectation or investment in the outcome. Secondly, they didn’t give themselves enough time to finish a story of this magnitude. Inevitable comparisons will be made to Avengers: End Game, but that left me feeling “meh” too – for many of the same reasons. And let’s not forget that they have all those related universe movies to flesh out what happened in End Game – it’s NOT just a 3 hour movie…….

I will miss you Game of Thrones. But maybe not as much as I missed you after season 7. The finale was the most watched HBO show of all time. Will we see its like again? What did you think of the finale? Were you satisfied? What would you have liked to see? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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