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How the GAME OF THRONES Finale Brought Its Stories to a Close

The last ever episode of Game of Thrones started off slowly, maybe a little too slowly. Still, it felt at first like past season finales in the best way, with its characters dealing with the consequences of an explosive penultimate episode on a grand scale. But then, as Tyrion retroactively changed Dany’s journey and Jon met her in the throne room, it all felt apart, giving way to an illogical and unsatisfying ending that tried to be too tidy for a show best known for upending traditional storytelling.

In begging Jon to stop Daenerys before she could “liberate” the rest of the world, Tyrion redefined her entire history—she has always killed evil men, and according to Tyrion, that should have been a warning all along for what she’d become—and in turn her decision to burn King’s Landing. He reframed the decision as the result of misplaced logic as opposed to madness, which doesn’t fit with her story as we knew it. Tyrion’s speech only highlighted how out-of-character it was for her to become Queen of the Ashes at all, rather than place that action in a broader context.

Regardless of his questionable insights, Tyrion was right that Jon had to kill Daenerys. It would have been nice if some of the slow walking through the city at the start could have been used to give Jon more quiet time to agonize, because when he did kill her it was another anti-climactic moment in a season full of them. The Mother of Dragons, one of the two most important characters throughout the entire show, was gone in a flash, in a moment that felt aggressively understated. Oberyn’s death was more impactful. The Hound got a better sendoff last week. Even Ramsay Bolton got a better death scene.

Unfortunately, things only got worse from there. Somehow Drogon decided not to kill Jon, but destroy the Iron Throne that had driven his mother wild. Who knew dragons had such a flair for symbolism? Then Jon, after ostensibly telling the Unsullied what he’d done (how else would they have know?), amazingly wasn’t murdered on the spot. Grey Worm was slitting Lannister throats but let Jon live after his confession because… reasons? In exchange for his life, Jon had to rejoin the totally pointless Night’s Watch (the wildlings were still guests at Castle Black!), even though the Unsullied were leaving the Realm forever and the ruling parties could have done whatever they wanted with Jon after they were gone.

Jon’s ultimate ending was ambiguous, with the show hinting he going to live with the wildlings, but even if he did it was the better of only two options. It wasn’t a bad ending unto itself, since heroes don’t always get the ending they deserve, but it was a lot less satisfying than if he had at least made that decision himself. The circumstances around it made it all feel forced.

The biggest eye roll moment belonged to the crowning of Bran, who everyone happily accepts as the Three-Eyed Raven despite that not being a thing that should make any sense to them. The only living son of Ned Stark becoming king, with a promise for future rulers to be chosen rather than inherit the crown, wasn’t crazy for Westeros, but it came out of left field (along with a bunch of strangers) and felt like an actively anti-fan-theory choice.

It’s made more crazy that the North had been allowed to opt out of the Seven Kingdoms. After everything we’ve seen in Westeros, does anyone seriously think the other Lords and Ladies would accept a king from somewhere no longer part of the Realm? It was ludicrous, and it felt reverse-engineered so Sansa could also be Queen in the North. Her otherwise satisfying ending came at the expense of internal logic.

Not that there was much of that elsewhere. Outside of Brienne becoming Lord Commander of the Kingsguard and finishing Jaime’s entry (the most emotionally satisfying moment of the episode), Tyrion got promoted to the same job he just historically failed at: a just reward for a job poorly done. (Maybe don’t publicly resign if you want to stop the crazy queen? Did Varys teach you nothing?) Also, Bronn didn’t just get a massive castle, he got an important job he’s not qualified for. And since there’s no chance they took years to gather for a Small Council meeting, Sam apparently become an archmaester in only a couple of months (while King’s Landing was totally fixed!). Were Gilly, Little Sam, and their unborn baby left to fend for themselves?

But don’t worry, they can read all about what happened in A Song of Ice and Fire: the single most anti-Game of Thrones moment in show history. All that scene was missing was Tyrion looking at the camera and shrugging while a sad trombone played.

At least Arya got a happy ending, setting sail like she always said she wanted to. Well, she never actually talked about exploring the world, but don’t mind that—the important thing is she lived and she’s no one’s lady. She got a happy, unsatisfying, unearned, way-too-tidy ending.

All of that is exactly what this series finale was. The one important death we got was so underwhelming it felt intentionally lame, and most of the overly, almost Tolkien-esque happy endings didn’t make any sense. The Realm might be in a slightly (and we do mean slightly) better place after the series finale, but after all of the great work that preceded, Game of Thrones deserved a final episode that worked a lot harder to make sense.

Images: HBO

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