A lot of people have been unhappy with the final season of HBO’s epic Game of Thrones, and honestly, I get it, I understand why; but I am not one of those people. So I thought I’d explain why, talk about my opinions of the series and the unanswered questions I (and many others) have.
This post will be spoiler heavy, for both the series finale and some of the aspects of the novels, so don’t read ahead if such spoilers will bother you.
I have already stated that I am not unhappy with this final season, but that isn’t to say that I didn’t have some issues with it, because I did. The writing wasn’t spectacular, and some character arcs were- baffling, to say the least. But others were just so right.
I wasn’t expecting it to go down the way it did; my personal theory was that either A) Dany would kill Jon, Arya would get revenge, Sansa would end up on the throne, or B) Jon would kill both him and Dany, Sansa would end up on the throne. Basically, I didn’t envision an ending that didn’t have Sansa on the throne, and here’s why.
Sansa “you should see me in a crown” Stark
I hated Sansa at the beginning of this season, purely for her resentment and disapproving attitude towards Dany. I thought she was being childish, deliberately causing friction, making enemies she would regret. That changed in episode two, when Sansa asked: “What about the North?” This question made me realise – she’s been gunning for an independent North since she escaped from the clutches of the Bolton’s. All Sansa has wanted is to go home and have her family by her side. Her attitude towards Dany suddenly made sense; she knew the North would never be safe, her people would never be safe, if it wasn’t independent once again. She would never have her family back together with Dany as Queen, and she knew that.
Sansa learnt from two of the biggest players in the game: Cersei Lannister and Petyr Baelish. This is shown in season seven and eight, when she executes Petyr for treason, and when she evaluates everything Daenerys does upon arriving in Winterfell.
Throughout the entire show, Sansa has developed into a rational, smart, and calculated character; she manipulated Littlefinger into helping her with the Nights of the Vale, before executing him for his treason against her family. She took care of the North when Jon left to meet Dany and entrap a White Walker – using skills she would have picked up from Tyrion, Cersei, Petyr, and many others. Her decision to reveal to Tyrion about her half-brother’s real heritage was a calculated one. She knew he would never be able to ignore such a vital piece of information, not when he was witnessing first hand the deteriorating mental state of Daenerys Targaryen.
Sansa demanding independence for the North, and being granted it, was the ultimate ending for her. Since a little girl, she had always wanted to be Queen- and now she’s earned it. Not solely because she’s a Stark, and not because she married into it – but because she proved she was worthy, and made a choice that reflected the best interest of her people.
Daenerys “the mad queen” Targaryen
This is where the controversy hits, with many fans criticising the seemingly sudden descent into madness that Dany exhibited. Personally, I disagree with all of these ideas. I don’t think this is a result of poor writing, and bad characterisation; I think this is exactly what should have happened to her.
From a young age Dany was manipulated, conditioned and abused by Viserys. She was repeatedly fed stories of it being his destiny to rule, and after his demise she took it to be her destiny – at an age of roughly thirteen. No where near mentally or emotionally mature; let’s add into this the historic incest of Targaryen’s to keep their bloodline pure, the selling of her to Khal Drogo and the consequences of such an act, the death of her only child and the death of her husband. Still in her teenage years. Let’s also factor in the fact that mental illness runs in families. Her father, The Mad King, was suffering from acute paranoia in the run up to his “madness”, that which stemmed from those who threatened his power.
Danearys didn’t go insane because of bad writing by males who wanted to turn her into a crazy villain. She wasn’t insane, or mad; she was ill. She was lied to, about having secret supporters in Westeros who longed for her to return – she didn’t have love there, only fear. Imagine the impact of such a realisation – that the Kingdom your brother had told you was destined to belong to your family, that was supposed to be calling out your name in secret and whispering support, actually feared the wrath of a Targaryen. And she was paranoid. We witnessed this in episode four of season eight, when we see the quietness in her mind as the North rejoice in Jon being their King after Arya defeated the Night King. He was a threat to her power – not just because of his birth right, but because the people loved him. The people had chosen him, not her.
Mental illness can manifest slowly, over a long period of time, or it can onset suddenly through trauma- of which Dany had plenty of during episodes three, four, and five. Her second dragon perished, leaving her with just one child remaining. Her best friend and most loyal companion was captured, then executed right in front of her eyes. She used Ser Jorah as a literal human shield (and then wept over his death like she hadn’t caused that). Varys betrayed her, as did Tyrion. She had no love in the North and her allies were slowly dwindling. And so when the bells tolled – she wasn’t happy. She was angry. She didn’t come all this way, suffer through so many losses, for Cersei to just surrender. In her eyes, that wasn’t fair, that wasn’t justice. So she took what was hers with fire and blood.
Jon “I don’t want it” Snow
I didn’t think he would have the guts to kill her, not in the way he did. I’m glad he did, however – what other way could she have been killed? The final betrayal. For her to be killed by someone other than Jon (or Arya in my previously mentioned revenge theory) just would not have been right. Jon has always done what was best for the good of the people, something which he gave his own life for in the past. He has never put himself first – which would have made him a great King, in my opinion, but I think he will now become the King Beyond the Wall, pick up where Mance Rayder left off searching for the Horn of Winter.
Jon’s ending is bittersweet. The Night’s Watch is where he wanted to go originally, to escape his bastard status and do his bit to protect the realm. He’s protected the realm, and now he’s escaping his true heritage. In some ways, he is back exactly where he started, with Ghost by his side, and Tormund too. It’s a shame that he will never get to meet Sam and Gilly’s newborn.
Jamie “extremely wicked, shockingly evil, and vile” Lannister
This is the character who’s arc irks me the most. His attempt at redemption is rendered futile by his decision to return to Cersei, and while I have been able to somewhat rationalise it in my head, it’s still pretty shitty. My interpretation is that he really does live by the phrase “the things we do for love”. And he did many, many horrible things for his love – one of which was break Brienne’s heart.
I’m not mad that he returned to Cersei, nor am I mad that Tyrion encouraged him – I’m mad that there was no reason to it. Sure, he alluded to Brienne that it was because of how evil he was and that he would only ever truly love his sister, but then what was the point of him leaving? He promised to fight for the living, but I don’t see that as a good enough reason for him to abandon his sister, defeat the army of the dead, and then return to her. His arc wasn’t, in my opinion, thought or planned at all.
Many of the unanswered questions I see floating around are “so who was the Night King?” and “who is Azor Ahai?” and “what was the point in revealing Jon’s parentage?” and so forth. These are questions that the show has not, and cannot, realistically answer.
The origin of the Night King, while briefly depicted by the show with the scene involving the Children of the Forest, is not as of yet explicitly revealed in Martin’s novels. And I doubt he would tell the show runners and writers what he has planned for his books because that would ruin the impact of his novels. And it’s the same with Azor Ahai, the Prince That Was Promised – no one besides Martin knows the answers to who that person is, whether Jon or Dany or Arya is the legendary figure of prophecy reincarnated, because it wasn’t important to the plot of the TV show. It was used as a possible reason for Jon’s resurrection, but not a definitive one; Melisandre follows the Lord of Light, who has never been clear in his reasoning’s for bringing people back from the dead.
The writers have had to, essentially, make up their own plots since they overtook the progress that Martin had made with the novels – in them, the Bolton’s still hold Winterfell, Rickon is alive, and Catelyn Stark is out seeking revenge for the Red Wedding. Politics is a huge underlying theme for Game of Thrones, which I think is what many people overlook at times; the whole narrative is of warring factions, each with their own legitimate claims and accredit that make them worthy or unworthy of ruling.
This is all I’m going to say for now, but I can’t guarantee that I won’t make another post about more aspects of the show/novels in the future. These are all just my thoughts and opinions on the ending of Game of Thrones, and really I just wanted an excuse to talk about it in length. Feel free to agree or disagree with anything I’ve said, I’d love to hear your own thoughts on the show and its ending. And for anyone interested in learning about some of the lore and legend of novels and the show, along with season and novel recaps and interesting theories, then I recommend the YouTube channel “Alt Shift X”.