Well. This is it. The last ever episode of Game of Thrones.
Sarah McDuling, Booktopia’s resident Game of Thrones lover and spoiler enthusiast, recaps Season 8 Episode 6, “The Iron Throne”.
If you’ve missed our previous recaps, you can find them below:
- Episode 1: Winterfell
- Episode 2: A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms
- Episode 3: The Long Night
- Episode 4: The Last of the Starks
- Episode 5: The Bells
HERE BE SPOILERS! You have been warned…
Well it’s over! It has taken me two days to gather my thoughts and write this recap. During that time my feelings have swung pretty wildly between pure euphoria over how great everything was and incandescent rage over how much greater it could have been – so apologies in advance for what is certain to be some confused ranting!
Words and phrases I will try to avoid in this recap:
- “It was so rushed!”
- Character arcs
- “If only we had been given more episodes”
- Pacing issues
Oh, who am I kidding? I’m going to end up saying all of those things, most likely multiple times, probably in ALL CAPS and accompanied by excessive exclamation points!!!!!
But before I start
nitpicking recapping, let me just say that despite its flaws I honestly and genuinely enjoyed watching the Game of Thrones finale. In many ways, it was a beautiful and thrilling and rather perfect conclusion to an amazing series. Of course, in many other ways it was … SO RUSHED! The pacing was bonkers! If only we had been given a 10 episode season so that the story had more breathing room, it could have been so much more satisfying! Instead, the character arcs are all bent out of shape because the plot has been stripped back to basics and hurled into warp speed! This whole season has felt like reading a Wikipedia synopsis instead of watching the actual show.
(Also Bran is the worst!)
Okay! Now that I’ve got that out of my system, let me again stress that loved this final episode. I even burst into several rounds of spontaneous applause and got a bit teary at key emotional moments. It might not have been perfect, but my God was it great television.
Let’s get down to business (to defeat… Daenerys)!
(You totally just sang that didn’t you?)
Tyrion is slowly walking through the atmospheric rubble of Kings Landing…
He is looking very grim faced and clearly devastated as he side steps dead children left and right. He runs into Davos and Jon and they all look pretty destroyed. Jon asks if anyone has spoken to Daenerys, which no-one has on account of her being pretty busy wreaking havoc and committing mass murder etc. Tyrion departs and heads straight for the Red Keep.
He walks down into the tunnels below the Red Keep where we last saw Jaime and Cersei exchange their final incestuous kiss. In what seems like a very fortuitous and rather melodramatic stroke of fortune, we see a golden hand poking out of the rubble. A weeping Tyrion proceeds to uncover the bodies of his dead brother and sister. I found this to be pretty upsetting, to be honest, but only because I’m still mad about how thoroughly Jaime’s character was assassinated by the writers.
Next we see Jon and Davos bump into Greyworm in the streets. Greyworm and his Unsullied pals are executing Lannister soldiers. Jon tries to intervene but he is outnumbered by the Unsullied and is forced to walk away while the soldiers are brutally put to death.
I mean okay, I get that there wasn’t much Jon could do in this situation but really? Heroes don’t walk away from that kind of thing. They fight against injustice, or die trying… right? I guess not.
Time for a Villainous Monologue!
The Unsullied and Dothraki are gathered like an evil horde of stormtroopers, awaiting a speech from their fearless leader,
Darth Vader Daenerys Targaryen. She emerges in a slick black outfit, looking villainous as hell and channelling some major Bran vibes (i.e. complete lack of human emotion). She then delivers a speech in which she reiterates that by destroying the city and murdering thousands of people, she has literally done exactly what she has repeatedly promised to do throughout the entire series (“I will kill the men in iron suits and tear down their stone houses” blahblahblah… I’m sure “burn all their innocent children to death” is buried somewhere in the fine print).
Tyrion shows up and we are treated to a pretty awesome moment when he takes off the pin Daenerys gave him when she named him Hand of the Queen and throws it away in disgust. Daenerys orders his arrest. Jon stands uselessly on the sidelines and watches as Tyrion is taken away. Daenerys marches off surrounded by a guard of Unsullied.
Return of the Night-Kingslayer
Arya uses her sneaky assassin skills to materialise beside Jon like a ninja. They have a brief discussion in which Jon inexplicably backs Daenerys as “everybody’s Queen” (sorry no, not my Queen! Long live Queen Sansa!!) and Arya righly points out that Sansa would disagree with him on that issue. She then uses her keen powers of observation to identify Daenerys as a killer.
“I know a killer when I see one,” says Arya Stark, trained assassin and celebrated hero of Winterfell.
(I wonder what tipped her off? Was it maybe all the hundreds of thousands of people Daenerys just killed?)
Jon and Tyrion have a Very Important Discussion…
Jon visits an imprisoned Tyrion so that the two of them can talk. They have a long chat which is ostensibly about the corruptive nature of power but is actually just a way for the showrunners to defend their bad writing.
I mean, honestly. Tyrion makes some valid points here as he explains to Jon why Daenerys was actually evil all along… we just failed to notice. Nothing that he says is untrue, per say. Yes, we cheered for Daenerys when she murdered the Slave Masters and the Dothraki Leaders. And yes, there was loads of foreshadowing that she was a power hungry tyrant in training, believing so strongly in her own messianic destiny that it made her set aside her morals and better judgement in pursuit of the almighty Iron Throne yadda yadda yadda.
I had a strange out-of-body experience during this scene because part of me loved it and felt like we really needed that speech from Tyrion to lend some much needed weight to the Mad Queen story line. On the other hand, it all felt a bit heavy handed and on the nose. It also only happened because Jon was trying to DEFEND Daenerys to Tyrion which is… nope. One of the first rules of good storytelling is never break a character to serve the plot. Jon Snow acts completely out of character in this scene (trying to defend Daenerys despite her spectaculous nose dive into homicidal villainy) purely because the writers wanted Tyrion to make that speech explaining everything to the audience. It’s clunky and messy, but it gets the job done. Jon leaves, convinced that Daenerys is evil and must be stopped.
Shakespeare couldn’t have done it better (no scratch that, he definitely could have).
And now it’s time for the tragic death scene of Daenerys Targaryen. I cannot deny, this was really beautifully done. With snow (or possibly ash?) falling gently all around them, Jon and Daenerys meet on the steps before the Iron Throne. Jon questions his beloved queen/girlfriend/aunt as to the wisdom of her recent rampage of destruction and death. Daenerys doubles down and tries to justify herself.
I have to say, Emilia Clarke was phenomenal in this scene. Her expression manages to convey both genuine regret and straight up power-mad delusion at the same time. You can see how completely Daenerys believes that she is right, but at the same time you can see that she truly loves Jon and doesn’t want to cause him pain. She doesn’t want to execute Tyrion either, but it is necessary in her mind. She also seems to truly regret the innocent lives that were lost in her quest to “liberate” Kings Landing. And literally ALL OF THIS is conveyed solely via Emilia Clarke’s expression because God knows it’s not in the actual script!
After vowing that Daenerys will always be his Queen, our favourite aunt/nephew power couple share a passionate final kiss, ending abruptly as Jon stabs Daenerys in the heart. She dies fairly instantly and very beautifully, leaving Jon to clutch her dead body and weep.
That was heavy.
Drogon comes through with a solid policy proposal (i.e. he murders the Iron Throne)
Arriving on the scene to find his mother dead, Drogon responds by melting the Iron Throne with dragon fire. I can only assume he identified the throne as the reason his mother was lying dead on the floor with a dagger in her heart? I mean, metaphorically speaking he is 100% correct but still… it seems like a pretty impressive exercise in abstract thinking for a dragon?
(Or perhaps he thought the throne was literally the murderer? It is made out of a thousand swords, after all. You could see how someone might get mortally wounded in close proximity to such a pointy piece of furniture, I guess?)
In a touching and visually breathtaking scene, Drogon gently picks up his dead mother’s body and flies away.
And now for a clumsy time lapse!
We return some time later to find that Tyrion has grown a full on caveman beard. We find out that, for unfathomable reasons, both Tyrion and Jon have been left languishing in prison for weeks (or months?). During this time it seems a lot of HIGHLY INTERESTING things have happened, such as Greyworm and the Unsullied claiming King’s Landing for themselves, Sansa mobilising an army of Northern Houses and marching South to attack King’s Landing, and Yara Greyjoy reclaiming the Salt Throne and seizing control of the Iron Islands, the new Prince of Dorne being a person who exists, Robin Arryn growing up to be handsome, and countless other fascinating plot developments that we will never get to see play out on screen.
After a ridiculous conversation in which Sam almost invents democracy, Tyrion uses his newly rediscovered talents to make a stirring speech. (We haven’t had a any good public speaking from Tyrion in AGES!)
Still, even as eloquent as Tyrion may be, there is simply no way to suggest that a robotic non person like Bran “I’ve got to go now” Stark should be crowned King of Westeros. That’s right. King Bran of the Vacant Stare and the Monotone Voice. You know, that expressionless killjoy who keeps telling everyone he is The Three-Eyed-Raven… as if we’re supposed to know what that even means!?!?
Anyway, lets just push through this, shall we?
After a hilarious scene in which Edmure Tully tries to elect himself King and Sansa prompt shuts him down, the most disappointing decision ever is made. Bran becomes the ruler of the Seven Kingdoms… except they’re not seven kingdoms anymore! Just as I feel like I’m about to choke on my own outrage, Sansa miraculously saves me from dying by declaring that The North will break away from the Seven Kingdoms to be ruled independently, as it used to be back before the Targaryens invaded.
WHICH MEANS WE WILL GET OUR QUEEN IN THE NORTH!
This is literally all I have wanted from this finale so I am completely overjoyed now! At this point, all I need is to see Jon reunited with Ghost and then I will be 100% satisfied with this show forevermore!
A few more things happen that don’t make a lot of sense to me. Everyone agrees Jon will return to the wall and rejoin the Night’s Watch, even though the Night’s Watch isn’t a thing anymore and despite the fact that literally the only reason he has to leave is because Greyworm wants to execute him for treason (even though Jon is the rightful heir to the throne!)… and Greywom is seen sailing out of town in the very next scene but WHATEVER. I’m done nit picking now because awesome things are happening! Tyrion is the Hand of the King, Davos is the Master of Ships, Bronn has Highgarden, Brienne is the new Captain of the King’s Guard and Sam is also there! The Starks are in charge of all the kingdoms and Arya is going exploring like a kickass wandering assassin/ pirate queen and Sansa is being crowned Queen of the North and John is reunited with Ghost (plus Tormund! Tormund is back. Hey Tormund welcome back I love youuuuu!)
And then Jon Snow and best boy Ghost and the wildling god Tormund Giantsbane (and the rest of the wildling population) wander off into the North, journeying beyond the wall to parts unknown and beginning what feels like a whole new, untold adventure.
And that’s a wrap on Game of Thrones!
Well let’s face it. I will never not be mad about King Bran. No matter which way you try to justify it, there’s no escaping the fact that Bran isn’t a real person anymore. Maybe his badly explained superpowers might make him an effective ruler but … really? As far as I can tell Bran is basically The Internet. He stores a lot of information and provides the world with lots of funny memes. But, I ask you, should the Internet be be crowned King of Westeros? No. And does Bran, the worst ever character on TV, actually deserve such a cool ending to his story?
Weeeeeell actually maybe he does. The Bran we used to know, before he became The Worst, was a brave, disabled boy who journeyed far beyond the wall on a perilous quest to seek ancient knowledge that might save the world. That Bran was cool. That Bran deserves to be a King. It’s just unfortunate that version of Bran is but a distant memory since the show replaced him with a realistic looking robot.
In the books, Bran is a POV character so I imagine if the books end the same way as the show, it will be much, much more satisfying. Bran will probably still be an actual person by the end of the books, provided the books get published before the apocalypse.
I hate to be one of those people who goes on about how they have “read all the books and in the books it’s really different and also I was a fan way before the TV show so actually I know everything.” Only the thing is, I am that person. I read the first three books in the early noughties and then read the fourth and fifth books as they were published. I have loved this world and these characters for a long time, and as the show overtook the books I was overjoyed to think that we would soon get some long awaited resolution. I was even heard to say many a time, “I probably won’t bother reading the books when they come out. What’s the point? We have the show to finish the story for us!”
Only now, after watching this highly entertaining Wikipedia synopsis otherwise known as Season Eight, I realise I’m going to have to read the books now. I don’t actually disagree with any of the major plot points in the show. I think everything probably happened just the way it was supposed to happen and it’s all very clever and powerful and awesome… if only it had been executed properly!
I would like a version of this story where I actually believed Jon and Daenerys were deeply in love because their romance played out over time and we got to see them together for more than half a second.
I would like a version of this story where Jaime’s decision to return to Cersei made perfect sense because there was an actual, perceivable passage of time in which he slowly came to understand that things were never going to work with Brienne, as much as he cared for her, because wanting to be a better person and trying to be a better person does not necessarily mean a person can change their essential nature. They cannot change who they love. And so we would accept that, inevitably, Jaime must go back to Cersei because such are “the things we do for love.”
I would also like a version of this story where Cersei did more than stand on a balcony drinking wine. She should have been plotting like a wicked genius and delivering snappy dialogue like “I choose violence.” She should have been manipulating Euron more. Speaking of Euron, I would like a version where he was less of a bond villain and more of a nuanced, morally complex villain – someone worthy of killing a dragon and mortally wounding Jaime Lannister.
I would like a version of this story where we spent a lot more time worrying that Daenerys might be “breaking bad” but hoping that she wouldn’t. We should have seen it almost happen a few times, watched as the heroic mother of dragons hovered precariously on the brink of some unforgivable act of violence… only to pull back at the last second. We should have been right there with her on her downward spiral (which should have spanned at least a full 10 episode season) watching in slowly dawning horror as she drew ever closer to the tipping point. And then when we came at last to that fateful moment when the bells rang out across King’s Landing, we could have felt her story reach the critical culmination of a strong narrative arc. We would have known exactly what was happening to Daenerys in that moment, with no confusion. We would have felt the warning signs in our bones and understood that Daenerys had no other choice. She had to let it be fear and destroy everything in an explosion of fire and blood.
I would like a version of this story in which secondary characters like Meera Reed, Yara Greyjoy, Gendry Baratheon, That Guy in Charge of the Golden Company, The Random New Prince of Dorne (and maybe even Hot Pie!) etc. were given proper roles to play in the endgame and proper satisfying conclusions to their stories. Especially Meera, who literally saved Bran’s life last season only to get tossed aside and never be seen or heard from again.
I think most of all, I’d like a version of this story where we got to see all the cool stuff that happened while Tyrion was growing that beard!
But if there’s one message Game of Thrones has always consistently delivered it’s this:
“We don’t care what you want or what you expect. We will not let you have nice things.”
All things considered I’m glad we got to see Queen Sansa, Arya the Explorer, and a Jon/Ghost reunion because you know what? Those were some nice things that I am grateful to have.
Overall, this has been seven hells of a ride. Love it or hate it (and I definitely loved it), Game of Thrones is an amazing show. Sure, the final season was a little shaky on the dismount, but it was also beautifully shot and consistently surprising and, above all else, wildly entertaining to watch. We were warned repeatedly that this story wouldn’t have a happy ending… and yet after all is said and done it was actually a rather hopeful ending for most of the characters we love (sorry Dany!).
And now I guess there’s nothing left to do but wait for The Winds of Winter to be published. And so our watch begins!
A Game of Thrones - The Story Continues
George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series has set the benchmark for contemporary epic fantasy. Labelled by Time magazine as one of the top 100 most influential people in the world, Martin has conjured a world as complex and vibrant as that of J.R.R. Tolkien, populated by a huge cast of fascinating, complex characters, and boasting a history that stretches back twelve thousand years.
Three great storylines weave through the books, charting the civil war for control of the Seven Kingdoms; the defence of the towering Wall of ice in the uttermost north against the unearthly threat of the Others; and across the Narrow Sea the rise to power of Daenerys Targaryen and the last live dragons in the world...
About the Contributor
Sarah McDuling is Booktopia's Category Manager for Children's and Young Adult Books. She has been in the bookselling game for almost a decade and a dedicated booklover since birth (potentially longer). At her happiest when reading a book, Sarah also enjoys talking/writing/tweeting about books. In her spare time, she often likes to buy a lot of books and take photographs of books. You can follow her on Twitter and Instragram @sarahmcduling
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