I have been a devout fan of Game of Thrones since the very beginning. I’m not just talking about HBO, I mean I-read-the-books-hardcore-fan. I have felt love, I have felt loss, but I have never felt disappointment until HBO took over and released George R.R. Martin to the wind.
My analysis is simply the humble opinion of an English teacher who specializes in fantasy literature.
What HBO did right:
- Personified Drogon with a depth and breadth of understanding that Daenerys never had. By burning the Iron Throne after Jon killed Dany, Drogon demonstrates his comprehension that the root cause of his mother’s death, his brothers’ deaths, and all of the suffering, was the quest for power. Drogon, of all the characters, illustrates the insight that power leads to corruption. The symbolism is poignant, epic, and makes sense since Drogon is supposed to be Khal Drogo, who was always disgusted by people obsessed with power (think Viserys in Season 1).
- Making Sansa the Queen of Winterfell. If any character has shown a consistent growth, it has been Sansa. Her character development has been steady, with solid basis and anecdotal evidence to all lead her to that place. Lady Sansa has earned her keep as the Queen of the North, and while we can argue Bran’s blessing is nepotism, his near-omniscience makes us believe he has a greater understanding.
- Samwell Tarly as Grand Maester is the precise payoff Sam has earned through his studies and character development. He has grown through plight, found his way to bravery, and continued to honor and value the pursuit of ethical knowledge above all. His precise balance of intellect and morality will make him ideal for the position.
- Brienne’s dedication to Jaime. As much as they did Jaime wrong by making him fall back into the arms of Cersei, it’s not poor character development, it’s just because we (as the audience) hoped more for him. In truth, though, Jaime’s self-loathing is a flaw he has struggled with from the beginning, and the only consistency for him has been Cersei, while the main consistency for Brienne has been honor, and they both illustrated that to the very end.
- Turning Daenerys into a villain. I know this is not a popular opinion, but what discerns heroes from villains is how we deal with hardship. Dany lost her claim to the throne, Jorah, Viserion, Rhaegal, and Missandei – any person would be completely heartbroken by this incredible loss over the last two seasons, but what would have distinguished her as a true leader and a rightful queen would have been to react with compassion and mercy, just as Jon said. Freedom is never bought without casualties, and as Tyrion explains, we cheered her on as she destroyed “the bad guys,” but a leader who continues to destroy her trusted advisers simply because they are advising her against bad decisions is no longer a leader, but a tyrant. A good leader, a leader of people, allows herself to be checked and questioned, to be open to different ways of doing things, and mostly, to know when she has made a mistake. Tyrion perfectly illustrates that Daenerys developed a god-complex over her unwavering philosophy.
- I’m so glad Ghost got his hug. That killed me two episodes ago.
- Bran as King of the Six Kingdoms. Bran was definitely a surprising choice for most people, but a brilliant one. It was Bran’s push from the tower which essentially sparked the entire series. It was Bran’s dagger to lead to the death of the Night King. It was Bran’s strange journey to becoming the Three-Eyed Raven which allowed the truth about Jon to be revealed (and essentially, the truth about Daenerys). A man who knows suffering, a man who knows survival, a man who knows the history of the realm, and an omniscient-like wisdom – as illustrated when he tells Jon that Jon was “exactly where he was supposed to be” – and the son of Ned Stark (which, by birth, transfers honor to him). Bran makes perfect sense and will be a wise, just ruler as we can see from his distributed leadership in the last scene.
- Tyrion as Hand-of-the-King. Yes, Tyrion has made mistakes, but there is not one mistake he made that he didn’t learn from. All we can ask from an excellent adviser is intellect, reason, ethics, morality, and mostly, reflection
- Comic relief done right:
- Ser Bronn of Blackwater and of Highgarden… the story of how a lowly, low-life sell-sword can become the Master of Coin.
- Ser Bronn then being called “Lord of Lofty Titles” by Ser Davos.
- Sam inventing democracy and being laughed off by old white men.
- Arya heading West of Westeros… I don’t know if I hate this or love it. It is befitting of her character, as she was never content to live the life of a “lady,” but it almost feels empty. I think many of us feel cheated not knowing about the “green eyes” part of her prophecy, but I still put this in the “done right” category because there is absolutely nothing conventional that could have been justifiably given to Arya’s conclusion, so it was best left up to the imagination.
- Ser Davos growing from an illiterate character to one who corrects grammar; what a beautiful tribute to Shireen Baratheon.
- The pathways for a follow-up film or sequel:
- Tyrion telling Jon they would probably meet again and to “ask [him] in ten years.”
What HBO did wrong:
- They really did Jon dirty. No one even MENTIONS the fact that Jon is the TRUE heir to the Iron Throne at the end of the episode. Listen, we get that the Unsullied, Dothraki, and Dany-fans wouldn’t love what Jon did, but if Drogon could understand, then everyone else should have, too. And Tyrion, who essentially talked Jon into killing Dany, really should have spoken up for him. Not a word, a mention, meanwhile Jon risked himself advocating for Tyrion to Dany before he killed her. Only Sansa apologizes for not being able to do more for Jon. ONLY SANSA! Seriously, what do we learn from this? The man with the most respect and honor in the entire series has to kill BOTH of his lovers, get killed by his men, and then get ostracized by the very people he saved, all the while HE IS THE RIGHTFUL HEIR. I get not making Jon the King, but it should have been proposed to him to which he says no. Tyrion is, and always will be, my favorite character, but Jon should have been the one to suggest Bran. Jon knew what Bran went through. Jon knew he had to protect Bran. Jon and Bran always had a deeper connection for a visceral truth of the realm. Jon should have been given the right to suggest Bran, Bran made King for all the reasons presented in the show, and Jon made as one of the advisers because he served the realm on so, SO many other levels. Not only was sending Jon back to Castle Black just wrong considering he was instrumental for saving the world, but to add that he cannot ever marry or have children just adds insult to injury. It makes sense that Jon heads for the “real North,” as Tormund even describes Jon having the “real North in him” in previous episodes. Jon is also the only person who found a way to bridge the world of the Free Folk and the Seven Kingdoms, but always related more to the non-hierarchical diaspora of the Free Folk. I get why he goes there – his heart is not part of the Westerosi world, BUT IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN HIS CHOICE. It should have been made clear that HE says it’s where he really wants to be and he should have had a major vote in who would be the next leader, not just make him walk away and disappear from existence.
- Where are Varys’ “little birds” and raven notes to save Jon? Why show us that he put those wheels in motion to never call back to them? There should have been some mention of it to have given his final days legacy and purpose.
- Turning Daenerys into a villain (the flip perspective). While Daenerys made a dark turn these last two seasons, I really think there should have been more Easter Eggs for our beloved Khaleesi getting all Dark Phoenix on us (yes, bad Sophie Turner joke). For example, as much as I love(d) Ser Jorah, I really believe if she would have had him killed several seasons ago, we would have gotten a true taste of how bitter her wrath could be. Tyrion tries to explain away this point by stating just because we defined the people as “bad,” her murder of them was still indication….eh, no, let’s be real, no throne is earned and maintained without blood and imperialism. Even our “good” characters have blood on their hands – remember Ned Stark killing Lady? There simply wasn’t enough development to have us question her character arc to make the last turn of events truly believable.
I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments! Feel free to Tweet me @scentsthemoment, too.