In fairness, Daenerys, you were warned: In the Game of Thrones, you win, or you die. And Drogon’s not exactly taking you on a victory lap right now.
Yes, the Mother of Bad Decisions And Also Dragons goes to her grave in the series finale, done in by Jon’s quick blade and her own ballooning megalomania. But her successor as ruler of Westeros isn’t her lover/nephew… or his sister… or his other sister… or one of the cleverest men in the land… or even his bookish best friend with a kind heart and a slow sword hand.
Instead, the new sovereign of the realm is Bran Stark. Bran “I broke Hodor” Stark. Bran “I’ve been kind of a boring drag the last couple seasons” Stark. Bran “I’m not really even Bran Stark anymore” Stark.
That Bran Stark.
Read on to find out how the final Game of Thrones episode EVER — “The Iron Throne” — unfurls.
HOUSE LANNISTER: AND-THEN-THERE-WAS-ONE EDITION | Tyrion walks through what’s left of King’s Landing, warily eyeing the ash that falls like snow. The ruins are still on fire; flames lick the corpses and rubble that the line the streets. Davos and Jon, as well as some others, follow at a distance, and it’s eerily quiet. “I’ll find you later,” he says when they catch up, and though Jon wants to send some men to accompany him, Tyrion continues solo. “I’m going alone,” he says as he treads on.
Elsewhere, Grey Worm has got a bunch of Lannister soldiers on their knees, and he announces that he’s going to kill them, under Daenerys’ commands: “Kill all who follow Cersei Lannister.” When Jon and Davos try to stop him, the Unsullied surrounding them draw their spears against them. Davos deescalates the situation, calmly telling Jon they’ll speak with the queen. And as they leave, Grey Worm begins the killing, slitting the throat of the prisoner of war closest to him.
Tyrion winds up in the Red Keep. He lights a torch and descends into the bowels of the castle, then winds up abandoning it to crawl past some debris that’s blocking his path. As he climbs on top of a pile of bricks, he notices Jaime’s golden hand peeking out from the rubble. Tyrion clears enough of the wreckage to see his dead siblings, then he begins to sob.
Out in the streets, Arya is no longer riding her horse. She sees the Dothraki making a ruckus and approaches Daenerys’ holdfast. Jon does the same from another angle, climbing the stairs to the Red Keep and making his way through khaleesi’s bloodthirsty troops to do so. Daenerys emerges from the castle just as Drogon swoops up in the background, and the shot is so freaking cool — it looks like she has wings! — that I almost forget that she’s Pol Pot in braids. She gives her men a rousing speech about how they are liberators, and she names Grey Worm the Master of War, then “We will not lay down our spears until we have liberated” everyone enslaved everywhere. “Will you break the wheel with me?” she yells, and the Unsullied beat their spears on the ground in unison accord while the Dothraki riders whoop with joy.
Tyrion, who has come to stand near Jon behind Daenerys during all of this, looks like he wants to hurt her. “You freed your brother. You committed treason,” she says as he approaches. “I freed my brother, and you slaughtered a city,” he answers placidly, removing his hand pin and tossing it down the steps. (Side note: Recapping this show doesn’t leave much time for feelings, but GUYS! Remember how happy he was when she gave that to him? Sniff.) Daenerys orders the Unsullied to take Tyrion away, and as he passes, he shoots Jon the side-eye of “Crazy dragon lady ball’s in your court now, bro.”
Daenerys leaves, and Jon suddenly notices that Arya is standing next to him. He wonders what she’s doing there, and she says that “your queen” got to Cersei before she could. He wants her to wait for him outside the city gates, but she shuts down that noise: Daenerys knows who he is, “who you really are,” she points out, and she’s a murderer who’ll take him out. It’s just a matter of time.
HOUSE TARGARYEN: DO-WHAT-YOU-GOTTA-DO EDITION | When Jon visits Tyrion in his holding cell, Lannister wants to know if he brought any wine. Sadly, that answer is no. “So is there life after death?” Tyrion wonders, noting that Jon is one of the few people who might know the answer. When Jon says that he doesn’t think so, Tyrion muses that oblivion is the best he could hope for, given some of the things he’s done throughout his life. Jon observes that the war is over, but Tyrion says naw. “She’ll go on liberating until the people of the world are free, and she rules them all,” he adds, lamenting the folly of trying to change Daenerys’ true nature. “Our queen’s nature is fire and blood,” Tyrion says, and when Jon gives Daenerys a halfhearted defense, the former Hand of the Queen points out that he wouldn’t have done the same in her position. “It doesn’t matter what I’d do,” Jon says. “It matters more than anything,” Tyrion argues. “Everywhere she goes, evil men die, and we cheer for it. And she grows more powerful and more sure that she is good, and right. She believes her destiny is to build a better world for everyone. If you believed that, if you truly believed it, wouldn’t you kill whoever stood between you and paradise?”
That last bit hits Jon like a punch to the gut. As he sits, Tyrion adds, “I know you love her. I love her, too. Not as successfully as you, but I believed in her with all my heart. Love is more powerful than reason. We all know that. Look at my brother.” Jon has an alternate take: “Love is the death of duty.” (He’s quoting Maester Aemon.) But Tyrion brings it back to the practical, saying that Jon has always tried to protect people… and who’s the people’s greatest threat now? “Do you think I’m the last man she’ll execute?” he asks. “Who’s more dangerous than the rightful heir to the Iron Throne?”
Still, Jon maintains that as queen, that’s Dany’s decision. “And your sisters? You see them bending the knee?” Tyrion asks as Snow goes to leave. He knows that Sansa won’t be loyal to Daenerys, and when Jon points out that Sansa doesn’t get to choose, Tyrion says. Jon DOES and he HAS TO. NOW. Bottom line: Jon’s gotta kill his honey.
There’s a tense moment outside when Drogon emerges from underneath some snow and sniffs Jon so deeply, I’m sure he can smell the treachery on him like a piece of blue cheese left in his pocket. But then the beast lets him pass. Inside, Daenerys walks into the Throne Room — which now has no roof — and approaches the chair she’s been talking about for eight seasons. She touches the arm reverently, then slowly turns to see that Jon’s watching her.
She starts telling him a cute story about her girlhood idea of what the Iron Throne looked like, but Jon’s like, “That’s nice. Grey Worm is killing people in the street.” She has reasons for her actions against King’s Landing and Tyrion, but Jon argues for forgiveness instead. “We can’t hide behind small mercies. The world we need won’t be built by men loyal to the world we had,” she says, invoking a very “eyes on the prize” mentality about this brave new world she has in mind.
He’s crying as she sings a sweet song about the utopia they’re going to build together. “We break the wheel together,” she whispers, and they’re very close. “You are my queen, now and always,” he rasps, kissing her… and sliding a dagger into her ribs while he does so. She looks shocked, blood trickling from her nose and mouth, as she dies in his arms. (Read khaleesi’s obituary here.) Jon weeps. Drogon screeches into the room like, “Mom? Mom? MOM?” and perches behind Jon. When Snow steps away from her, Drogon noses at Daenerys’ body a couple of times and then belches out some serious fire — not at Jon, which seems like the likely target, but at the Iron Throne, which melts into a lava-tastic puddle under the heat.
Wow. Drogon understood more about the geopolitical power struggle and human weakness than I would’ve thought he did.
Anyway, the dragon tenderly (yes, I know it sounds weird, but that’s how he does it) scoops his mama up and flies away. Jon watches, transfixed. (Get series star Kit Harington’s take on Daenerys’ Season 8 storyline — and your part in it — here.)
HOUSE LANNISTER: TIRED-OF-THE-WHOLE-THING EDITION | In his cell, Tyrion rises when Grey Worm and two Unsullied enter. From Tyrion’s beard, it appears some time has passed. They march him to Dragonpit, where Sansa, Arya, Bran, Gendry, Davos, Brienne, Yara, one of the Martells and some others — including Edmure Tully!— sit. Sansa makes it clear that she’s backed by thousands of northerners who are just outside of the city. Yara makes it clearer that she still is loyal to Daenerys’ side. Davos argues for working together, and then there’s some argument about who gets to decide Jon’s fate for killing Daenerys. But Tyrion points out that the king or queen should discern what happens to Jon — they just need to pick a leader.
There’s a highly amusing bit where Edmure stands to make his case for being chosen sovereign, but then Sansa shuts that down right quick with a quiet, “Uncle? Please sit.” (Side note: God bless Tobias Menzies for coming back to be some much-needed comic relief in this episode.) Sam puts forth the idea of a democratic Westeros, which is met with guffaws. “Maybe we should give the dogs a vote, as well,” Edmure quips, which is bold coming from you, sir. Tyrion definitely does not want to be king — and, as he points out, the people would never go for it — but then suggests that stories are among the things that unite people the most. “Who has a better story than Bran the Broken?” Lannister says. “The boy who fell from a high tower and lived. Who knew he’d never walk again, so he learned to fly.” He cites Bran’s role as the Three-Eyed Raven and the keeper of history, but Sansa says that her brother doesn’t want to rule and can’t father children, so no heirs. Good! Tyrion says. “From now on, rulers will not be born, they will be chosen on this spot by the lords and ladies of Westeros, to serve the realm,” he announces. Um, OK? Tyrion can just make law like this now?
So Tyrion asks Ned’s son directly if he wants to rule. “Why do you think I came all this way?” the teen replies. Then they vote, and it’s unanimous until they get to Sansa. “The North will remain an independent kingdom, as it was for thousands of years,” she proclaims. “All hail Bran the Broken, first of his name, king of the andals and the first men, lord of the six kingdoms, protector of the realm,” Tyrion says, and everyone stands to agree. THIS IS THE POINT WHERE I REALIZE THAT ONE OF THE DUDES IS ROBIN ARRYN. Wow, breast really is best. Anyway, then Bran says Tyrion will be his Hand, and though Tyrion turns it down, and Bran acknowledges that he has made “many terrible mistakes,” he says the rest of his life will be spent fixing them. “It is not enough,” Grey Worm protests. (Whether you loved or hated Bran’s ascension to power, we want to hear about it here.)
HOUSE STARK: ALL-GROWN-UP EDITION | Next we know, Tyrion is telling Jon that Bran is sending him to the Night’s Watch. He’ll have no wife, no kids and no lands, which is enough to placate the Unsullied. “No one is very happy, which means it’s a good compromise, I suppose,” Tyrion says. But Jon is still wrestling with his actions. “Is it right, what I did? It doesn’t feel right,” he says, clearly tormented. “Ask me again in 10 years,” the Hand of the King replies, patting his friend on the back before going to leave and hinting that they may see each other again in the future.
Jon puts all the dead animals back on his shoulders walks by the pier, with Grey Worm giving him the stinkeye the whole time. Then the Unsullied set said for Naath, aka Missandei’s home. Aw, poor Grey Worm.
At the water’s edge, the Stark siblings gather for perhaps the last time. Sansa asks Jon to forgive her for having to be OK with the Night’s Watch solution. “The North is free, thanks to you,” he says, adding that Ned Stark’s daughter is “the best they could ask for.” They hug tightly. Then he tells Arya she can come see him, but she says she can’t, because she’s going to whatever is west of Westeros. “No one knows. That’s where all the maps stop. That’s where I’m going,” she says sadly. “You have your Needle?” he asks, and she says she does before they cry on each other and hug. I wonder if she also has her cool face-switching trick, and if so, WHY THE HECK DIDN’T WE SEE IT EVEN ONCE THIS SEASON. Bran tells Jon he was exactly where he was supposed to be, and man, they had to end on that note?
Brienne reads through the Big Book O’ Knights and comes to Jaime’s page, then dips her quill in the inkwell and finishes writing his story. “Died protecting his queen,” she pens, and proves she is a much better person than I am by not following this with “Didn’t know a good thing when it looked him in the face/and or faced down a bear in a hideous dress.” (And if you want to reminisce about happier/more naked times, may we suggest you take a gander here?)
KING’S LANDING 2.0 | At the Red Keep, Tyrion rearranges the chairs ahead of a meeting of the small council. Sam plops down a big book in front of Tyrion, “A Song of Ice and Fire,” Tarly announces, saying he’s helped a maester with the giant history. (For the record, the council also consists of Bronn, Davos and Brienne.) They’re lacking a few key roles, and Drogon has been sighted east, but that’s about it before Bran decides to peace out. (Aw, Pod is a knight now!) Bronn is master of Highgarden and master of coin. Davos is master of ships. Sam is grandmaester. And as they go about their amusing conversation about rebuilding the city, the camera pulls back to end the scene… but not before Tyrion says, “I once brought a jackass and a honeycomb into a brothel,” giving us the start — but not the end! — of that old joke one last time.
Far north, Tormund lets Jon into the newly remade Castle Black. Then we watch as Sansa takes her place as Queen in the North and Arya confidently walks the deck of a ship bearing the Stark sigil. Then JON AND GHOST ARE REUNITED AND WHAT HAPPENED TO GHOST’S EAR POOR PUP OH I DON’T EVEN CARE THIS IS STILL BETTER THAN #OATHSEX. Jon, Ghost and Tormund, followed by a large group of wildlings, leave The Wall and head even North-er, into the forest. But did you catch that blade of green grass poking through the snow underneath their feet? Spring is coming!
And now my watch is done… and it’s your turn! Grade both Game of Thrones‘ series finale and final season via the polls below, then hit the comments with your reactions to the episode!