Thoughts on Game of Thrones: The Iron Throne

So, that’s about it for Game of Thrones. Do I have thoughts? Of course I do!

Do I really have to say that there will be spoilers in here? I’d hope not, but as is traditional, here, have some spoiler space to cover you if you’ve not yet watched the show finale for Game of Thrones.

And yes, I know I should be writing up more Doctor Who. But, well, there was a season finale, and it seemed appropriate to watch it. Which I just did.

Now, I should point out before we start that while I’ve tried, tried and tried again to get on with George R.R Martin’s prose, I just cannot.

I find it essentially unlikeable. Your position may of course vary, but that means I’m coming at it strictly from the viewpoint of following the HBO TV series narrative. Yes, there are books, and I know the show diverged from them long ago, before overtaking them quite seriously. All I can say there to the book fans is that you’ll need some luck to see those stories now, in my estimation.

This season of Game of Thrones has had a lot of detractors, because of the focus of rather rapidly wrapping up complex narrative storylines in just a handful of episodes, even if some of them were rather longer than the norm. Or one of them that was so dark it was hard to tell what was going on, which rather masked the fact that really, not much was going on.

I get that, but actually, on balance, I felt that the season finale returned to that more narrative, heavily political style that actually captured my attention in the first place, and that led to a more satisfying episode… mostly.

So what were the highlights?

Tyrion gets what he doesn’t want: Peter Dinklage was exceptionally good in this episode, whether it’s wandering through the broken remains of King’s landing, waiting in his cell to die or arguing with Jon or the assembled council, all the while with his neck very much on the line. He was even good with the comedy timing when discussing brothels right at the very end.

That Ghost hug: C’mon, we all wanted to see it, and we were all pissed off when Jon didn’t give him a big hug in the previous episode. That was one big problem rectified.

King’s Landing still looked wrecked: There was a definite need to sell spectacle and terror in last week’s episode, but this time around it was all about the aftermath. For a setting that’s played such a central role throughout the series, seeing it in ruins (and still collapsing) had a lot of impact.

Cersei and Jaime stayed dead: When Tyrion started to climb down into the catacombs (something I did have one problem with, see below), I was worried that they might have pulled the old “ah, but you didn’t see them actually die, now did you?” trick out of mothballs. But no, Jaime and Cersei were, indeed dead. If a bit fresh and made up for people who got crushed to death…

Brienne writes the history: I wasn’t a big fan of the Brienne-gets-wowed-by-Jaime-and-sleeps-with-him part of the previous episodes, but seeing her quite literally put “history is written by the winners” into action with her updating of Jaime’s personal history got me right in the feels.

That’s not to say that there weren’t some structural and narrative problems, though:

The crushed Lannisters problem: Look, I’m quite good with Jaime and Cersei being dead, as stated above. But Tyrion stands in a room that’s merely missing its ceiling, where we saw the entire room collapse around them last week. We also saw that he had to scramble around fallen bricks underground to get there. And yet somehow, he’s in an open, albeit wrecked room when he finds them. There are even areas where there are no fallen bricks. Why didn’t the Lannisters just hide out there?

Daenerys died WAY too soon: Look, I get that somebody had to die. It wouldn’t be Game of Thrones if somebody didn’t die. I’m even fine with it being Daenerys, and with Jon being the one to do it, although I did harbour my suspicions about whether Tyrion was about to do it when he walked up to her and flung down his Hand’s badge. But putting it so early in the episode meant that it felt… well, a little bit Return of The King if you follow me, because everything else afterwards was basically just tying up loose ends.

Why did Grey Worm let Jon go? There was a pretty big narrative jump from Jon-stabs- Daenerys to the next scene. I’m not even convinced that if the unsullied found Jon that they wouldn’t have tried to do him in on the spot, but what baffles me even more is that after demanding JUSTICE, he rather meekly just decides… oh, well, OK, we’ll let him off with regicide, but only this once. That naughty scamp Jon Snow!

It really shouldn’t be possible, but somehow, the writers found a way to castrate Grey Worm TWICE.

Who the HELL was Varys writing to last episode? Sure, he was also trying to poison Daenerys. I get that. But he was also mustering support from… who, exactly? It’s not at all clear, and it was one of those details I was expecting to be at least given curt notice to.

Samwell is back as the butt of jokes: From nearly-but-not-quite-accidentally creating democracy, to the nod-nod-wink-wink name of the history that didn’t include Tyrion. John Bradley’s a fine actor, but he just wasn’t given great material here. Character development should be a thing, but Samwell Tarly wasn’t much removed from when we first met him.

Who gets on the council, and how? Sansa, sure. Samwell, sure, why not. But why is Arya there? Why Brienne? It’s never really laid out as to who and why and what’s going on, except that we jump from Tyrion being walked to his execution to talking his way into Broken Bran the King.

Why did the six kingdoms remain under Bran? Sansa’s in open rebellion, and she’s allowed to do it. If I’m, say, an Iron Islander, always fiercely independent previously, why on Westeros would I decide to go under one king again when it’s just become perfectly clear that I don’t have to? I honestly thought they were setting up the next level of political intrigue with that one, but instead it fell flat.

Everyone’s super-casual about Drogon: Hey, there’s this Dragon out there. Wild dragon. Kinda upset about the death of its mother. Melted the Iron Throne, laid waste to King’s Landing ALL BY ITSELF.

But, y’know, no big deal. It’s out there somewhere, under a somebody-else’s-problem-field. I’m sure it’ll be fine.

Arya failed to recruit Reepicheep: So after all her assassination training, all the business with taking on faces and being a skilled warrior, Arya decided to sail to the edge of the world for… reasons. Or, in her case, really not much of a reason at all. I at least figured she would have added Daenerys to her list as a result of the last episode’s final minutes, but instead she just shrugs it off and sails away from home.

We don’t need everyone to have a happy ending: This is Game of Thrones, not Game of The Happy Place Where Everybody Lives Happily Ever After. It felt rather like the showrunners decided that to please the fandom, they should give every “good” character (even though the show has excelled in “shades of grey” characters) a “happy” ending. Sometimes, more is less.

What happened to Ser Pounce: Hey, if Ghost can have his happy ending, why not Ser Pounce? Unless, of course, the plan is to have him star in one of the planned spin-off shows. I’d tune into the Adventures of Ser Pounce on a weekly basis, for sure!

Lead image: HBO

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