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Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Game of Thrones 8x06: The Iron Throne

Opening Credits Map
Last Hearth -> Winterfell -> King's Landing

We did it! We've reached the final episode of the series. It's kind of bittersweet...well...these last few episodes are more just bitter but, overall, it's bittersweet. Let's dive into it.

King's Landing
We start with Jon Snow, Davos and Tyrion walking through the burnt out husk that was King's Landing. The three are stunned by the destruction. They come across Grey Worm hungrily executing captured soldiers. Jon Snow objects to these executions but Grey Worm says it's the Queen's command. Jon Snow and company decide there's nothing more they can do and move on as Grey Worm continues his murders.

Tyrion goes into the Red Keep where he finds some rubble with, conveniently, a metal hand sticking out. He removes approximately two pieces of debris to reveal the corpses of Cersei and Jaime holding each other. Tyrion weeps for his garbage siblings. Status of my heartstrings: Still Untugged.

Daenerys then holds a rally. The Unsullied are standing at attention in perfect formations ready to do whatever their asks. The Dothraki are in the front, unruly, yelling, riding in circles, ready for the next battle, and barely able to contain their adrenaline and aggression. I suppose it should pointed out that only people who show level-headedness and the appropriate sense of horror at what has occurred are all of paler skin.

The city is still burning, the skies are gray, Daenerys appears clad in black and framed by the wings of Drogon. It's all very YA dystopian. Drogon perches himself atop the crumbling wall as Daenerys prepares to make a another speech where I wonder how anyone can hear the speaker.

Daenerys speaks in...some foreign I'm not sure if Jon Snow or Tyrion can understand what Daenerys is saying but from her tone and demeanor I'm sure they get the gist of what the subtitles tell us. Daenerys isn't satisfied with conquering King's Landing. She wants to "liberate" Winterfell, Dorne, Lannisport, etc.

Tyrion interrupts this rally to tell Daenerys he will no longer be the Hand of the Queen, not that there was much hope of that after he freed Jaime. Daenerys has the guards arrest him. This all seems like a weird time and place for this conversation to occur.

Arya appears out of nowhere pretty much just to tell Jon Snow that he has to kill Daenerys before she kills Jon Snow because of his heritage. Jon Snow isn't sure about it. He's still loyal to his queen.

Jon Snow visits Tyrion who is being held captive. They then have a long discussion on Daenerys. Jon Snow defends her actions as if the pressure put on Daenerys by Cersei drove Daenerys to to do what she did which is weird and illogical. I guess he's supposed to be blinded by love but I'm wondering if anyone is truly invested in the love story between Jon Snow and Daenerys.

Tyrion, on the other hand, talks about how ghastly what Daenerys did is (which I agree with) but then seems to go down the road of "we should have seen this coming" because killing slave traders is just a hop, skip, and a jump away from murdering thousands of innocent people in the streets. I'm not sure I buy that logic either.

I suppose a more generous reading of what Tyrion is saying is that when you continually applaud and celebrate a person who's doing good things then they'll misinterpret those plaudits as proof that they can do no wrong. Which, if that's the case, "don't tell people who do good their actions are good because then they'll get a big head" seems like a really weird moral to this story. Anyway, Jon Snow leaves Tyrion and has to decide what to do about Daenerys.

Daenerys enters the throne room where, despite holes in the walls and ceiling, the throne is remarkably intact. Snow (or ash?) falls as Daenerys surveys the Iron Throne. As soon as she touches it Jon Snow appears.

Daenerys looks happy to see Jon Snow. Jon Snow lectures Daenerys about burning innocent people. Daenerys said Cersei saw Daenerys' and Jon Snow's ethics as weakness so Daenerys proved her wrong. Or something? I guess it's kind of a "shooting the hostage in Speed" situation?

If I'm following her logic, Daenerys says that they have to be ruthless and unforgiving now to rid the world of the ruthless of and unforgiving. Once they have done that, the world will be good and beautiful since they will be ruling it. Jon Snow wants to know how she can be sure that the world she rules over will be good and Daenerys basically says because everything she does is good.

Daenerys and Jon Snow kiss while, secretly, Jon Snow stabs Daenerys in the gut. He has an anguished look on his face as if this is a tough decision. He's really, really sad he had to harm her because he loves her but, she made him do it. Why'd you make him stab her, Daenerys? But don't worry, she only has a few strands of crimson blood streaming down her face and she is gently laid down so that her elegance and grace is on full display. Tis a beautiful death Jon Snow has reluctantly given her.

Soon enough Drogon comes flying in and investigates Daenerys' body. He nuzzles her with his nose and, upon realizing that she's dead, cries out into the air. Status of my heartstrings: Tugged.

Drogon then stares at Jon Snow and if I were Jon Snow I'd get the hell out of there. Instead, Jon Snow just stares back. Just as it seems like Jon Snow is going to get nicely roasted Drogon turns his head and melts the Iron Throne. I guess dragons have a thing for symbolism? Drogon then flies off with Daenerys' body.

The next scene is Grey Worm escorting Tyrion from his prison cell. Tyrion has grown a nice beard indicating that some time has passed. Grey Worm brings Tyrion to a council consisting of "the most powerful people of Westeros." There's Sansa, Arya, and Bran, of course. There's also Yara, Gendry, Davos, Sam, Brienne, Edmure Tully, and even some dude from Dorne (well we deduce he's from Dorne by analyzing his clothes and being racist). We even have a Robin sighting!

What we learn is Jon Snow is alive and was supposed to be brought to this meeting with Tyrion but Grey Worm wants him dead...but still wants Westerosi Oligarchs to give their approval execute him? Doesn't sound in keeping with Grey Worm's MO. Tyrion convinces Grey Worm that the King or Queen of Westeros needs to decide Jon Snow's fate. But how do we decide who the next monarch will be?

Edmure Tully throws his hat in the ring but is summarily dismissed by Sansa. Sam suggests democracy which is an idea that gets laughed at immediately with common folk being compared to dogs. So, now that I'm suitably ready for Drogon to burn the entire lot of them, they ask Tyrion who he thinks should be king. This is Tyrion's cue for a long a diatribe.

According to Tyrion the people need someone to believe in. A myth to get behind. So he thinks the person who should lead the people through these tumultuous times is the person who has the best story. And who has the best story? Jon Snow! He was a bastard who rose through the ranks of the Night's Watch to become Lord Commander. He freed Winterfell from the Bolton's and commanded the army that saved Westeros from the Night King. Beyond that, he rose from the freakin' dead!

I guess Jon Snow could be a controversial pick. So is Grey Worm, I guess, though he's a freed slave who has commanded countless successful military campaigns. How about Sansa who fled King's Landing as a fugitive and endured Ramsay's tyranny to help free Winterfell from his grasps and become it's respected leader? Or Arya who has traveled the lands to become a super ninja?

Alright, alright, we all know where this is headed. Bran. Apparently falling from a wall and having people carry you around the North is the best story. Tyrion's logic gets a bit muddles because he starts talking about how Bran knows all the stories of Westeros which is different than having the best story. But whatever, the white, male, storyteller who is totally not a stand-in for George R.R. Martin is crowned King. All hail "Bran the Broken."

I suppose I should also note that Bran can't have kids (apparently?) which is considered good. This means the lords/ladies must gather after Bran's death to pick a new leader and theoretically this will be how new monarchs will be crowned instead of birthright and there's no way this will just lead to the sons/daughters of the current monarch after Bran always being elected. I mean, regardless, we're essentially left an oligarchy. Every time a monarch passes the rich and powerful will elect a new monarch who sole credentials will be ensuring that the rich and powerful stay rich and powerful.

Also, Sansa's out and Winterfell will be free because "screw you Bran!" This does not prompt the other lords to say, "wait...we can do THAT?" Instead, they're all just cool with it, I guess.

So, Tyrion goes to Jon Snow to tell him what his (decided off screen) fate is. Jon Snow is not to be executed but, instead, must serve a life sentence as part of the Night's Watch. With the White Walkers defeated there doesn't seem to be much use for the Night's Watch but Tyrion thinks there will always be a need to send the riff-raff someplace.

Jon Snow goes to meet with his family one last time as Grey Worm, while preparing to leave Westeros, scowls at him one last time. The Stark siblings share a tearful good bye. Sansa will officially be the Queen of the North. Bran is going to be King of the South, obviously. Arya decides she's going to board a ship to find out what's west of Westeros. We'll have Starks all over the map! But, to be fair, these farewells tugged at my heartstrings a little. Except for Bran, who still remained an emotionless robot.

Brienne looks through the book of knights or whatever it is and finds Jaime's page. Instead of crumpling it up and burning it she adds more to his story. She adds a bit about protecting Catelyn Stark's daughter but suspiciously leaves out the part about throwing her son off a wall. She ends his story with "died protecting his queen." Barf...

Next we get a small council meeting. Tyrion, proving that failing upwards is definitely a thing in Westeros, is Hand of the King. Brienne is Lord Commander of the Kingsguard. Sam is the Grand Maester. Bronn is Master of Coin. Davos is Master of Ships.

Sam gives Tyrion a book of the History of Westeros following the death of King Robert Baratheon. It is, of course, named "A Song of Ice and Fire." Tyrion wants to know how critical his portrayal is but learns that he's not in it at all which...I don't think would be possible?

Bran is wheeled in by Ser Podrick. A less sophisticated recapper would probably make a joke about Podrick lending Bran a leg since Podrick has three and could spare one but I'm too classy for that kind of humor. Bran really doesn't do much through except worry about Drogon's whereabouts. He is then wheeled out.

Next we get some small council banter. Ports need to be rebuilt and there's discussions about the necessity of brothels. I'm not sure how much time has passed, though, because I'd assume King's Landing is basically still rubble. So it feels like some horses are being put in front of carts. Frankly, they probably should be relocating the capital for the time being. But what do I know?

The North
Jon Snow arrives at Castle Black and is greeted by Tormund. We then get a epilogue montage of the non-Bran Stark children preparing for their new life. Arya gets dressed for the high seas, Jon Snow for the cold of North, and Sansa for her coronation.

Jon Snow spots Ghost(!) and pets him(!!) before riding with the free folk North of the Wall. I'm, not sure he's allowed to do that? Regardless, the gates of the Wall close behind Jon Snow and close the series.

Other Thoughts
So, we're done? What else is there to say? I guess the main criticism of the ending and the final two seasons in general is how rushed they were. And certainly plot points felt rushed. The worst, obviously, was Daenerys turning crazy. But, while I would agree they didn't give themselves enough time to tell their story I would also argue there was a lot of filler in these hour-plus episodes. It's not that those filler scenes were superfluous but they didn't maximize the limited time they had.

I eluded to it in my recap but having a man harm the woman he loves because she made him do it is a bad trope and another bad look for the show. I don't really want to point out all these "bad looks" and there are certainly people out there better equipped to discuss them but they happen so often I can't not point them out. Most of the problematic elements in the show are defensible in a vacuum but they're frequent enough that it's become part of the show's legacy in my mind.

Jon Snow again looks stupid this episode trying to defend Daenerys and agonizing over what must be done despite it being obvious. I think we're supposed to see him as blinded by love but they did not put the time and effort into that relationship to get me to buy in. Part of it had to do with the condensed timeline but this relationship was always going to be an uphill climb. It really felt like they got together by saying "You're hot and famous, I'm hot and famous, let's get it on!" So even if they did put in more time in the fact that they met after Daenerys was Queen of nearly all of Essos and Jon Snow was King of the North meant they would always feel like a celebrity couple.

Throughout this post I kept accidentally typing Daenerys as "Cersei." That...says something.

After calming down from the penultimate episode I realized there's be plenty of time for Daenerys to explain why she did what she did in this episode. Maybe retroactively make her turn to the darkside make sense? But her brief and incomplete explanation left a lot to be desired.

So, yeah, laughing at Sam for suggesting a democracy did leave a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. I mean, you could argue this has always been a series focused on lords and nobles and the upper crust who have not shown must concern for peasants. I could argue that that doesn't mean these characters couldn't have character growth and learn to appreciate the common folk. You could come back at me and say that's true but that's not what this story was about. I would then say that that might be true but you don't have to rub my nose in our protagonists' contempt for the common person.

Bran being crowned king really felt like Maggie Simpson being the one to shoot Mr. Burns.

I feel like part of being a good leader is being inspiring and connecting with people. Bran has never shown either of those abilities.

Speaking of comparisons, the last few episodes really had an "ending to the Hunger Games" vibe to it..

Shout out to Last Hearth for what I believe is having more screen time on the opening map than in all of the actual episodes combined!

So, like, is Ellaria Sand still imprisoned or did she get crushed or...?

I'm still confused why everyone just let Sansa make the North free without asking for it themselves. Dorne seems to do alright by themselves and the Iron Isles, despite being the Detroit of Westeros, has always been fiercely independent.

Jon Snow was pretty emotionless throughout the end of this episode but I believe he's very content being banished to the North. And I doubt he'll abide by his celibacy oath.

I do like the symmetry of Jon Snow essentially going back to where he started his story at the end of this series.

Also, despite all my criticisms, if there was a spin-off of Arya sailing the high seas I'd totally watch it.

In the end I’ll remember Game of Thrones as a series that was really engaging (especially at the start), loved to make its audience miserable, was tone deaf to the social politics of the world it was airing in, and sacrificed itself in order to sprint to a finish line.

Bronn: The Master of Coin looks forward to helping the Master of Ships, but first he has to ensure we're not wasting coin, or soon there won't be no more coin.
Davos: Any more.
Bronn: You Master of Grammar now too?

Tyrion: The world will always need a home for bastards and broken men.

Season 8 Totals
Boob Count: 7
Full Frontal Count: 0
Butt Count: 4
Coitus Count: 3
Main Character Death Count: 16 (It might be easier to say who's still alive but here we go...Edd, Beric, Lady Mormont, Theon, Jorah, Melisandre, Missandei, Rhaegal, Varys, Euron, Qyburn, the Hound, the Mountain, Cersei, Jaime, Daenerys)

1 comment:

  1. The total lack of comment on this post pretty much underscores how badly D&D screwed the winding up of this franchise.

    I can't speak for anyone else, but the utter shenanigans of this season (and subsequent online debating everywhere else BUT here) just utterly exhausted me.

    Ten years of enjoyment to be derailed by roughly six hours of incomprehensible plotting & characterization is, in a phrase, a fuck-up of unbelievable proportions.

    I hope they suffer their own version of "Here Today, Gone Trevorrow". It would be poetic justice.


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