The Iron Throne is no more. Like, literally. Did you see that one coming? Suddenly those $30K replicas just became a lot more valuable. Oh, and the Game of Thrones finale? I have thoughts on that too!
Spoiler Note, one last time, just for the memories: This is our book reader’s recap, intended for those who have read the A Song of Ice and Fire series. The post and the comments section may contain spoilers from the novels, whether or not that material has appeared on the show yet. Because no, we are not all Unsullied now. If you have not read the books yet, we encourage you to check out our non-book-reader recap, by Oz of Thrones, which will be posted tomorrow!
Everything Tyrion, Davos, Jon and the late Varys were afraid of, has come to pass. The Queen’s Hand surveys the wreckage of King’s Landing and it’s not pretty. Dead kids, hollow silence, and scorched survivors wandering in a daze that reminds me (probably purposefully) of images of the aftermath of nuclear bombings. This is what their queen has done, and now they have to reckon with their role in this regime.
Tyrion heads off to the Red Keep to hunt for his siblings, while Jon runs into Grey Worm cleaning out more Lannister survivors. Which brings up an interesting question, one that comes up time and time again on Game of Thrones: can we judge Westeros (and Essos) by our moral code? Can we call it a war crime to execute the Lannister prisoners? Jon Snow certainly views it as such but Grey Worm sees no issue with following orders when these “free men” made terrible choices, as soldiers. It’s punishment for their personal actions, choices made- but then Grey Worm may be using all of this as justification for his grief and rage.
In the cellars of the devastated Red Keep, Tyrion finds the remains of Jaime and Cersei buried under stone and embracing even in death. He weeps for them.
Dany’s banner makes her presence known; she has staked her claim on the city, though we’re all left wondering where she found the cloth for that giant sigil and was she just carrying that around this whole time? Probably- she’s extra like that.
Arya stalks Jon on his way to see Dany. Maybe she’s adding another queen to her list since she was cheated out of Cersei?
Jon approaches, and we find Dany with Drogon rising up behind her, giving her the illusion of dragonwings- an incredible shot. Teeming with confidence, and surrounded by her legions of riders and Unsullied, Daenerys cheers on her men in Dothraki and Valyrian. Love or hate the dark!Dany turn, you have to admire the power of Emilia Clarke’s performance in this scene.
But Tyrion isn’t quite feeling Dany’s speech about liberating the world, because freeing the world by removing choice and bringing people fire and blood doesn’t work out very well. Tyrion admits to freeing Jaime, but counters with an accusation of his own: Daenerys slaughtered a city. He quits the Hand gig. She doesn’t have much of a retort for that other than “Take him.” Once again Tyrion is out of work and headed for the slammer.
Jon does not approve, but is distracted by realizing his little sister has shown up. I appreciate how relatively unfazed he is by Arya saying she’s there to kill Cersei. She reminds him that Dany will always see Jon as a threat, knowing his secret heritage.
Imprisoned, Tyrion has found a situation he finally can’t talk his way out of. Or can he? Guilty Jon visits him in his cell. Tyrion lays out his own sins, before eventually getting around to discussing Dany’s- her habits of annihilating anyone in her path. Tyrion’s powerful skills of persuasion get inside Jon’s head slowly over a long conversation. He knows what has to be done; he’s convincing himself as much as he is convincing Jon.
It’s interesting that Tyrion touches upon points that have come up in fandom discussion often in the past week since the battle of King’s Landing- the burning of the khals, the burning of the slavers of Astapor, the crucifixion of Meereenese nobles-and how people can accept and even embrace these acts as good, so long as the violence is aimed at a target one approves of. It’s an uncomfortable moral issue. Daenerys feels completely justified, and so when she reaches King’s Landing, she feels secure enough to blast it into oblivion for the greater good. As Tyrion explains it, it doesn’t seem mad- it’s a chosen behavior, but still a destructive one.
Tyrion works his magic well though; in the end it comes back to Jon being a man of the Watch. He shields the realms of men, and right now Daenerys is making frightening plans. He still hesitates though because Jon is a good person, as Tyrion demonstrates with his moral exercise, with the firepower example in the scene. Although whether a good person could do what Jon does later? That’s another thought. It will probably haunt Jon for the rest of his life.
Daenerys discovers the throne room in the Red Keep, and it’s exactly as it was in her vision in the House of the Undying, with snow falling on the Iron Throne. Yes it was a literal vision, not a metaphor. She touches it, and it’s a lovely moment. She’s finally there!
But Jon’s arrived. She reminisces about Viserys and his weirdo stories, but Jon interrupts cute story time to discuss the war crimes. Buzzkill. Dany debates the point, and Jon asks her to forgive Tyrion, but she won’t relent.
Jon softens and is in her arms. Here’s where Daenerys really stumbles; Jon wants a reason to accept her vision, and forget all the bad things. But she says all the wrong things, fails to read the room and makes it clear she has no intention of letting anyone but her decide what is right and good. She’s decided she’ll be the judge, jury and executioner, essentially, to put it in our terms.
As they embrace, Jon slides a knife into her. It’s over quickly.
Jon holds her, crying. Drogon flies in- sensing the loss of her? He’s like a dog who has lost his human, nudging her, trying to wake her, and it breaks even my heart. Rearing back, Drogon revs up his flamers, and Jon stands still, accepting his fate.
But the fire isn’t for him. Drogon turns it toward the throne. Blast after blast hits the Iron Throne until it’s no more. After all this fuss- the chair is melted away. Good.
Finished with the throne, Drogon scoops up Dany’s body and flies away with it, over the sea, until they’re gone.
And now for something completely different: time has passed. Tyrion is brought into the Dragonpit by Grey Worm for a trial, and we learn Jon is imprisoned as well for the killing of Dany. Yara, Edmure Tully (yassss floppy trout!), Sansa, Arya, Bran, Samwell, Brienne, Gendry, Yohn Royce, Robin Arryn, and others represent the new leadership of Westeros.
They argue for a bit before Tyrion points out they need a king because duh, no one is in charge. This leads to a bit of funniness with Edmure (bless Tobias Menzies), then everyone laughing at the notion of democracy, and Tyrion taking on a new role: kingmaker. He presents a surprising candidate with a compelling speech: Bran the Broken.
Naturally Bran isn’t shocked, and it takes only a small amount of convincing to get everyone on board. Except for Sansa, because the North will not kneel. They’ll remain independent, thank you very much.
The group accepts a new notion of government: the nobles with gather to select their kings from now on, rather than following inheritance. That is how they’ll break the wheel. They’ll exercise choice. (Among the nobles, obviously the poor don’t get that).
All hail, Bran the Broken.
Oh, and Tyrion has to be the Hand of the King. He’ll never be free of this shit. HA HA.
Prison!Jon is looking mighty shaggy himself as he learns of his fate. King Bran has sentenced him to the Wall, so we’ve come full circle. They don’t exactly need a Night’s Watch anymore so this seems like a half-assed punishment but I can’t blame Bran for it.
Jon is still struggling with his actions, as he should be. Did he do the right thing? He doesn’t know. But he’s going to live, so he’ll have time to think about it. Heading to the docks, he comes across Grey Worm who gives him one last glower. We learn that that GW and his Unsullied are headed for the isle of Naath after all (I hear that Missandei/GW love theme playing, dammit. Quit playing games with my heart.)
Jon shares a goodbye with his family on the docks. Jon doesn’t begrudge Sansa for her choices. We learn that Arya isn’t going home; she’s headed west of Westeros, to learn what’s there. He apologizes to Bran for not being there, but the Three Eyed Raven knows Jon was exactly where he was supposed to be.
In the tower, clad in new Kingsguard armor, Brienne sits with the White Book. Flipping to the page for Jaime Lannister, she begins to thoroughly fill in the pages with all his brave deeds. Everything we’ve seen throughout the seasons. As she reaches the end, she pauses, and with tears in her eyes, notes, “Died protecting his Queen.”
Brienne closes the book on Jaime.
The new Small Council meets, and a new game begins. Tyrion straightens the chairs, juuuuuust right. Soon he’s joined by Bronn, Master of Coin and Lord of Highgarden. Davos, Master of Ships. Samwell, in maester’s robes, presents a book- Archmaester Ebrose (the fellow played by Jim Broadbent) has written A Song of Ice and Fire, with Sam’s help of course. “I don’t believe you’re mentioned,” Sam admits. Tyrion is not thrilled.
The players set to bickering over funds, brothels, ships and nonsense. It’s another day in Westeros. That is to say: life goes on.
Jon arrives at the Wall to find Tormund, a host of wildlings- and Ghost! (Yes, he gives him a patting. Are y’all happy now?)
Arya sets sail for her journey, as Sansa dresses for her big day. The final sequence is beautifully done, with the three of them- Jon, Sansa, and Arya- moving forward into their lives, accepting their destinies, at peace.
Arya sails with direwolf sails on her ship- her family goes with her wherever she goes. She will always be Arya of House Stark, she will never be No One.
Sansa is proclaimed Queen in the North, on a direwolf throne. She was born to wear a crown.
Jon ventures beyond the Wall, a wilding at heart, with his people.
The final sequence: A play on the opening sequence of the series, with the rangers venturing out beyond the Wall, we now have Jon doing so, with a much happier ending, I think. The music, the editing, the interplay of the three Starks’ endings- it all worked very well for me.
Drogon: It’s been a long time since Drogon showed this much personality and I wish they’d done it ages ago! I loved the bit with him sleeping in the snow, and his reaction to Dany’s death. He was a character, not just a weapon.
It’s over…. It’s going to take me a while to process it all. It was extremely intense, and I appreciate that they acknowledged the gravity of the actions for Tyrion and Jon but it also lent a heaviness to the episode.
A Song of Ice and Fire: We were expecting a book shout-out and there it was. I’m glad it wasn’t too hokey and sentimental, actually.
Costumes! They’re always great but golly darnit, the costumes were extra beautiful this week, with Sansa’s dresses, Gendry’s new duds, even the random lords at the Dragonpit looking so well dressed. I love the attention paid to detail.
The Iron Throne: I always thought they should get rid of the throne and embrace democracy but I didn’t know they’d literally torch the thing. DAMN!
Book reader verdict: Yes the book version will probably be better and more filled out. I doubt Grey Worm will be this present since he’s barely a character at all in the books, and that’s the tip of the iceberg. But I think Queen in the North, West of Westeros Explorer, and Back to the Wildlings Ways are pretty solid conclusions for the Stark kids, along with being King of the Whole Dang Enchilada.
Not bad for the kid who fell out the window. Congrats on the taking the prize, Bran. Not sure anyone would want it but it’s going to be a helluva ride. He can use “I’m going to go now” every time the Small Council meetings get boring.
And that’s a wrap, babes. Our watch has ended. Never fear- the Watchers on the Wall will continue as we always have, with the prequel series! But there will be another Long Night before that day arrives, and some of you may decide to step away.
It’s been a pleasure sharing this journey with you all, standing guard on the Wall.
Sue the Fury