The Game of Thrones series finale has people reacting with (nerd) rage, grief, and more. Personally, it was taking a while for me to process the ending myself. Rather than let my thoughts simmer on their own, I jumped on the internet to peek at other people’s opinions (which ended up being mostly about Daenerys). The mess below is what I think about how these characters’ stories ended.
Be warned, there are spoilers below.
Daenerys Targaryen, Queen of Many Titles
On my Facebook feed there were overlapping yet contrasting articles about how Daenerys’ actions at the end of the final season were not surprising. “Daenerys Was Always a Narcissistic, Power-Hungry Colonizer” details how she consistently resorted to violence as she colonized other peoples from the beginning of the series and through to the end (and notes that audiences generally didn’t mind it until she started colonizing the white folks of Westeros). The other article, “Why Daenerys’s Transformation Into A Totalitarian Was Perfectly Logical,” says people (mostly socialists, apparently) who believe “their version of the higher good or paradise is so compelling that it overrides [pretty much everything]” are dangerous and Daenerys’ belief in her own righteousness had been present early on in the series. Basically, these two opinions politicize the crap out of the show and take a few jabs at the other end of the ideological/political spectrum. What they agree on, however, is that it wasn’t surprising that Daenerys decided to use dragon-fire diplomacy to “liberate” the people of King’s Landing.
To contrast, this opinion piece on CNN feels that Daenerys’ actions in the final season were out of character: “Why I’m furious about (and obsessed with) ‘Game of Thrones.'” This article asserts Daenerys’ previous demands of “absolute loyalty” and “vengeful [acts]” were justified because “she consistently protected the weak.” The article also says the writers fell into sexist tropes by making Daenerys unstable.
My opinion: Daenerys burning King’s Landing to ashes was not a surprise. There was plenty of build up for it, and it was one of many possible endings for her without being entirely out of the blue.
Daenerys begins the series with compassion and naivete and her character arc is a gradual erosion of those traits. There are many instances in which she is tested or screwed over by grim realities, forcing her to let go of her ideological and naive beliefs and replace them with realist expectations. Over time, however, she went beyond being a realist and dove into paranoia. This paranoia was obvious the minute she set foot on Westerosi soil continued to grow as she was hit with defiance and bad news (e.g., Sansa Stark’s stink-eye, dragon-killing “scorpions,” Jon Snow’s true lineage, independent-leaning people of the north).
Like the articles above mentioned, Daenerys had shown a clear pattern of resorting to threats and violence and exhibits a sense of entitlement to rule the people of the Seven Kingdoms due to her lineage and the fact that she had brought dragons back into the world (aka Chosen One syndrome, more commonly referred to as a Messiah Complex).
I’ll go ahead and summarize several instances which demonstrate her gradually increasing wrath: she watches calmly when her brother is killed (he was horrible so it’s okay); she burns Mirri Maz Duur to death (but Mirri killed Drogo and Rhaego so it’s okay); she buys the Unsullied then immediately uses them to kill the sellers to get her new infantry for free (it’s okay because they’re slavers); when waging war against sellswords and slavers, she gives them a gift of alcohol during negotiations to get them drunk before launching a sneak attack (great strategy) then tells them they won’t be killed if they swear loyalty to her (it’s okay because… that’s not slavery—I’m actually not sure this happens in the show or if it’s only in the books); she burns the Tarlys to death for not swearing loyalty to her (it’s okay because Westeros doesn’t abide by the Geneva Convention); from then on she basically gives everyone the choice of death or subjugation (if she didn’t already do that before crossing the Narrow Sea).
So, no, it wasn’t sudden for Daenerys to give into wrath.
That’s not even addressing her reasons for becoming more ruthless, so let’s get a little into that: her childhood sucked; her brother is killed; her husband is killed; people keep trying to assassinate or use her; her dragon is killed; after she’s used to thinking she’s the Chosen One and rightful heir to the Iron Throne, Jon Snow shows up with a stronger claim to the throne, and a crazy death-resurrection story (he also rejects her advances once he finds out she’s his aunt); she gets acid reflux (I’m just assuming this one); her best friend is killed; a bunch of her Dothraki and Unsullied are killed; another dragon is killed; yet another best friend is killed; then one of her top advisors betrays her which prompts her to kill him.
So, yeah, not surprised.
That being said, I wouldn’t have minded had the writers gone the other way and had Daenerys pull herself back from the brink. That also would have made sense as well. Of course, that wouldn’t go with the general intent of the show and the source material to subvert expectations.
Overall, I think most people who feel like Daenerys acted out of character probably built up a lot of bias after years of aligning themselves with House Targaryen, buying Mother of Dragons t-shirts for their children and Fire & Blood chalices to get sloshed at viewing parties. I personally have always been a House Stark supporter, so I’m not quite as bothered with how they chose to end Daenerys’ journey to claim the Iron Throne.
Jon Snow, King of Knowing Nothing
Although I rooted for him, I didn’t expect Jon Snow to sit on the Iron Throne. He stumbles into leadership positions because he is needed and often does well. However, he also seems like the kind of guy who is perpetually screwed, maybe because of his sense of duty and honor (we all saw how honor worked out for Ned Stark). He can have successes and be somewhat happy, but a sense of melancholy will always follow his ass around.
Overall, I like that he’s ultimately sent back to the Night’s Watch and returns to Ghost and the Freefolk. Although Jon does a lot in the south, his best moments are at the wall and beyond. Up there, he met his best friend, bonded with his brothers in black and the Wildlings, met Ygritte (his true love who happens to not be his aunt), and became Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch through strength of character and action.
Sansa Stark, the Queen in the North
Sansa Stark is the Queen in the North and that’s totally fine with me. I figured she would eventually become a master of court intrigue and matters of state, given her environments for the whole series. I have to say, I could’ve done without the rape on the show and Sansa could easily have been strong without it (which is probably going to happen in the books seeing as how it was Jeyne Poole that was raped by Ramsay Bolton, and not Sansa).
Overall, in the last season Sansa makes some good points during the various meetings and works to assert independence for the north. She also, as the show really tries to hammer it in, is instrumental in getting Daenerys to flip out by leaking Jon’s secret. However, I feel like she could have been a more active character (perhaps had there been a few more episodes in the season).
Arya Stark, Doctor of Sticking ’em with the Pointy End
Arya was probably the most consistently fun character to follow throughout the series. After she killed the Night King, though, her role kind of shrunk away. I thought that was fine, for the most part since she got to kill the ultimate supernatural bad guy. However, after learning there won’t be a sequel following her exploits across the sea, I kind of wish she squeezed in a few more feats this last season.
Regarding the supposed controversy with her sex scene, I didn’t think it was a big deal. People grow up and have sex. Wanting or having sex doesn’t make you any less of a badass. I’m also aware other folks liked the scene because it the sex was entirely on her terms, and I wouldn’t disagree with that opinion.
Tyrion Lannister, still smarter than you
Tyrion was a lot less flippant than I would have liked, although it makes sense he’s less prone to snarky comments given the circumstances. I’ve read that people feel Tyrion was suddenly not-so-smart in the last season, making too many mistakes and all that. Perhaps the show didn’t do a great job in showing it, but in Tyrion’s defense he could only see from a limited perspective. He didn’t have enough intel and evidence. Might have to look at this more closely when I re-watch the show.
I’m glad he lived, for sure. Despite some of the lulls, he is still one of the best characters.
Cersei Lannister, some joke about wine (I’m getting tired)
I thought Cersei was going to get roasted when Drogon and Daenerys took flight at the end of episode 5. She’d committed so many atrocities, I was ready for her character to get her comeuppance. Instead of fire, though, she was crushed by a bunch of debris and basically took Jaime with her. I’m still not sure how to feel here. Cersei certainly had a difficult life which makes some of her behavior understandable, but not forgivable.
Jaime Lannister, the Stupidest Lannister
Jaime did a lot of work to redeem himself and got pretty far down that road, maybe to the end. Although I would have preferred he lived due to my penchant for slightly happier endings, I can sympathize with his urge to get back to Cersei.
Jaime had, after all, spent his entire life devoted to Cersei. Caring about someone that much and for so long, it wouldn’t make sense for him to sit around and wait when he basically hears that Daenerys is absolutely going to try to kill Cersei. Although there was a chance to survive, it seems Jaime is aware that he’s going on a suicide mission when he leaves for King’s Landing. So to me, he doesn’t leave Brienne to crawl back to Cersei, he leaves Brienne so his sister doesn’t have to die by herself (and, also for the off chance he could actually save her).
Missandei and Grey Worm
Well, their roles certainly devolved in the final season. I’m a bit reluctant to combine them into one section, but Missandei doesn’t do much in this season.
Early on, these two start talking about what they would do after securing the Seven Kingdoms for their queen. They talk about going to Missandei’s peaceful home country of Naath. Then, of course, without much else developing for these characters Missandei is kidnapped and killed by Cersei.
What frustrates me about this scene is that Missandei looks like she could easily shove Cersei off the top of the battlements even though she’s tied up. Rather than give her one dramatic word of Valyrian (which arguably instructs Daenerys to raze the city, though I don’t think Missandei would have approved of killing the innocent people), she should’ve thrown her body weight against Cersei to go down swinging.
After Missandei’s death, Grey Worm is understandably grief-stricken. Even so, I think he goes out of character when he follows Daenerys’ lead to indiscriminately kill the people of King’s Landing and the unarmed Lannisters. Although he was raised to be Unsullied, the love of his life was the relatively peaceful Missandei, so it would have made sense for Grey Worm to learn to show a little more compassion. It would’ve been much better had he demonstrated a stronger and independent moral compass when Daenerys started covering everything with fire.
Of course, I think the writers felt they needed Grey Worm to be complicit with Daenerys’ act of genocide. They needed someone to be around to arrest Jon Snow so they could get to the final plot points.
I disapprove of Missandei and Grey Worm’s fates (apparently more so than that of any other character).
Brienne of Tarth, Knight of the Seven Kingdoms
Almost as consistently fun to follow as Arya, I’m not sure I see a good reason why Brienne wouldn’t have gone south with Jon Snow and Davos to participate in the final battle. Was she too injured from the Battle of Winterfell (I don’t recall such a thing)?
Although I’m fine with her filling out Jaime’s entry in the Kingsguard book, I would have preferred her final scene to be something less depressing and demonstrative of how her life will be after the series’ end. Perhaps a light joke with Podrick would’ve helped.
In regard Brienne’s crying earlier in the season: Tough people should be allowed to cry. I’m sure almost every human character on the show cries at least once or twice. It doesn’t make them any less worthy. Also, just as I believe Jaime didn’t expect to survive his trip to King’s Landing, I believe Brienne also didn’t expect him to survive. She wasn’t crying because she was dumped, she was crying because she knew Jaime would die trying to save Cersei. This is probably debatable, but I’m sticking to it (until I rewatch the show and realize I’m wrong).
Podrick Payne, Best Kingsguard Ever
Okay, he probably won’t have the greatest exploits in that book, but I think it’s awesome he became a knight and one of the kingsguard. As documented in this old post, I’ve always liked the guy and that was before I knew he could sing.
Melisandre and Theon Greyjoy, the Redeemed
Melisandre. Redemption. Good.
Theon Greyjoy. Redemption. Good.
Unlike what I’ve read about how Melisandre’s story contrasts to Theon’s tale of redemption, I believe she did in fact redeem herself and then some. Unlike Theon, Melisandre is consistently earnest in working toward the greater good (albeit to fulfill the will of the Lord of Light). She definitely does some terrible things, like sacrificing those with royal blood. However, she also brings Jon Snow back to life and helps significantly during the Battle of Winterfell: by lighting the Dothraki arakhs (okay, this first wasn’t so helpful), igniting the trenches (this was much more helpful), and gives Arya the nudge she needs to go after the Night King (maybe pivotal to the success of Team Human). Arguably, Melisandre helped just as much as Theon, if not more so.
The fact that Bran expressly forgives Theon doesn’t draw much of a contrast in how the measure of redemption the characters earn. It makes sense for Bran to speak to Theon here because they grew up together and, as the Three-Eyed Raven, Bran is aware of what Theon will do and perhaps aware of the words required to say to spur Theon into delaying the Night King for a few necessary seconds.
Unlike Theon, Melisandre doesn’t require any of the other characters to forgive her in so many words. She doesn’t need the same reassurance and external affirmation as Theon. She serves the Lord of Light and she when she goes, she knows her purpose was fulfilled.
In the eyes of the audience, she redeemed herself just as much as Theon. Who needs Bran’s slap on the back?
Ser Davos Seaworth
Davos remains likable despite his lack of flash. Not much character development in terms of personality or overall sense of purpose. He works for the greater good and has always done so.
Ser Bronn of the Blackwater
Bronn almost goes full douche when Cersei asks him to assassinate her brothers, but ultimately is only half a douche when he makes a deal to be Lord of Highgarden.
Samwell Tarly, Lord of Many Hats
During the little vote scene he seems to be voting as a lord for the new king. However, when he shows up as a member of the Small Council he’s obviously a maester. So is he a lord, a member of the Night’s Watch, and a maester all at once or simply a maester? I guess I don’t particularly care, but I’m glad he survived.
As someone said on Facebook or Twitter or something, it’d be fun watching this Small Council at work.
Gendry Baratheon, Lord of Storm’s End
Good for him, going from a bastard armorsmith to a lord. Still feel bad for him for getting rejected by Arya, but his new castle should bring him some solace.
Jorah Mormont, Super Chump
He dies protecting Daenerys which, I suppose is what he wanted. He’s kind of cool, but he basically makes himself a chump twice over. First, he’s exiled from Westeros because he sold people into slavery to deal with his second wife’s spending habits. Then, he gets killed for another woman for whom he possesses a ridiculously powerful unrequited love. Jorah’s not much of a role model when it comes to women, but I suppose he subverts the trope of the knight who saves the damsel in distress.
Varys the Spider
However many seasons or go, or during my time reading the books, I did not expect to like this character as much as I do. His devotion to working towards the greater good for the people is admirable, and he’s fairly consistent. I suppose the show did a good job making us sorry to see him go.
Sandor Clegane, the Hound
For almost the entirety of the Hound’s fight against the Mountain, I was hoping the Hound wound realize it wasn’t truly Gregor in there anymore and simply leave. Of course, it’s obvious there’s still something of Gregor still in there as he disobeys Cersei’s orders orders to tussle with his little brother.
Overall, I get this is where the Hound’s arc would take him. Although he shows softness and other traits throughout the series, he was always barreling towards this kind of end. I’m glad he at least got to out Zombie Mountain with him.
I think the scene might have been cooler had the fight not been isolated from everyone else and, instead, they battled it out among all the normal sized people.
Now that I think about it, I wish Brienne had gone for him instead of Jaime.
Bran the Broken, First of his Name, King of the Andals and First Men, and all that
So the near omniscient guy, who could see into the future as well as the past, orchestrated a bunch of events that ended up with him as the king.
Selfish or selfless? Can’t really tell without seeing the results of his rule. Oh well.
Overall, the last season feels rushed. I would prefer more dialogue to flesh things out.