Images via HBO.
You survived eight long years of Game of Thrones, and somehow, you still expected more. But this is no longer the show that made its lead character headless before season two. It's not the show that killed off many of its central characters in the Red Wedding. This isn't that Game of Thrones, the global phenomenon that upended any expectations from the fantasy genre. Instead, the biggest surprise of the show's series finale, "The Iron Throne," is that every predictable thing happened in the worst way possible.
Audiences knew by episode five that a Stark would end up on the throne, but it was the do-nothing Bran who was the lucky winner. Sure, viewers believed that Daenerys had to be stopped after her Mad Queen turn in the last episode, but all it took was a Tyrion pep talk to get Jon Snow to stab his aunty mid-kiss?Game of Thrones continued to chase the same themes around politics, espionage, and spectacle until the final credits rolled. But the season eight shortchange—largely brought on by showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss' desire to end the show before it was ready—produced one of the worst endings in prestige TV history.While there's going to be plenty of time to break down what brought a phenomenon to a sputtering finish over these last two seasons, it's painfully easy to pick out the more obvious elements that made the series finale so ridiculously frustrating.
Inexplicably, Bran is King
It's hard to justify this one. GoT has a penchant for twists and all that—this is Benioff and Weiss material after all—but only the Three-eyed Raven saw this one coming. We're supposed to believe that it would only take a well-placed suggestion by Tyrion, man who all parties distrust, to suddenly place Bran as the best choice to rule? We're supposed to buy that a series that spent entire seasons reveling in political tug-of-wars and in-fighting about governance, just determined it all from Tyrion's elevator pitch about folks with the best stories?
Even if you forgive all of this, there is nothing gratifying about Bran's story. For the entirety of season five, he played hooky as a visible player. In season six, he was that Westeros guy nibbling on psychedelic weirwood bark, mumbling endlessly about being "the Three-Eyed Raven" and not "wanting" anything. And now that the Night King is defeated, this series has done nothing to lay the groundwork for the new leader, Bran the Broken, who's apparently ready and willing to take the throne.
So it's the ultimate finesse: that Bran who truly knew of the past, present, and future, spent whole seasons silently staring down other characters, with the knowledge that he was destined to be king. Forget the thousands burned by a dragon. Forget the countless innocents who could have been saved from his foresight. Self-servingly, Bran knew this would happen all along. That doesn't feel right.
Daenerys deserved more
After a heated conversation with Tyrion—because he's what passes for reason in this episode—a battered Jon Snow confronts aunty Daenerys about her roast of King's Landing. One thing leads to another, and Jon hugs Dany, proclaiming her his queen before kissing her. Then he kills her. It is so cold and out of character for a protagonist known as being stupidly loyal and honourable to side-step Dany's advances for three episodes, only to slide his tongue down her throat as he stabs her. It took her mad queen transformation one episode to reach an extreme, and this kill had the same energy. It was the cheapest and quickest way to rid Thrones of a huge problem it wrote into existence, regardless of believability. The pained relationship between these two required an equal amount of time to undo. Dany was a complicated character who lost her family, home, son, dragons, and friends, over eight seasons' worth of TV, only to go out in this way in an instant. Every throw-away character on this show was given a chance at redemption, but Daenerys wasn't given the same shake.
Drogon can understand symbolism now?
What's Drogon's deal? In one episode, he can't take on a fleet of ships led by a deranged pirate. In the very next one, he not only destroys those ships, but takes down King's Landing, too. And now, when he finds his mother dead by Jon's hands, he reacts by melting down the Iron Throne with unrelenting fire. It's a little too on the nose.Dragons were once thought to be unstoppable weapons, but in the show's final season their abilities were inconsistent. An indestructible weapon would pose issues from a storytelling perspective, so the thought of a dragon being important enough to kill a certain god-tier character wouldn't exactly work. But it's hard not to wonder why Drogon didn't turn his wrath toward Jon Snow, who just knifed his mother. Instead, the dragon turned the Iron Throne to lava, destroying a symbol that has caused plenty of destruction of its own. Satisfying? Yes. Cheesy? Very.
Brienne wasted her final moments
As Game of Thrones wrapped up its serving of northern fromage, we spotted Brienne in the same golden armor Jaime wore. She's now the head of Bran's Kingsguard, and as a duty, it's her responsibility to fill out The White Book which records the actions of every member that served. In the last few minutes, Brienne doesn't note herself as being the first woman to be knighted in the history of Westeros. She doesn't even start her own page. What she does instead is update Jaime's page—the same Jaime who bailed on her—by painting him as a hero and stubborn romantic.
It's bad enough that her arc this season teased at a woman who seemed fiercely independent, only to reduce her into a woman heartbroken by an a twincest lover. But to make her last thoughtful moments defined by this same man is the worst possible ending for the most pure character on this show.
Arya is on her Christopher Columbus ship now. For those with a long memory, back in season six, she asked a Lady Crane about the west of Westeros, to which Lady Crane referred to it as the edge of the world. Arya later smiled and said that she'd like to see that. Arya's arc is one of the more forgiving, despite the fact that it took a single conversation with The Hound for her to abandon years of assassination training. She's always been the Stark who refused to settle down, and it's within reason to imagine that she'd end things on a boat to god knows where. But even still, she didn't wear a single face during this entire season which makes a good portion of her arc feel like filler.
That Jon ending
So in the end after killing Daeneyrs, Jon Snow's punishment—despite ridding everyone of a potentially significant problem—was to be sent back to the wall. For some reason, a man whose subsequent death and rise allowed him to march south and retake Winterfell, to become king of the north, align with Daenerys and defeat the Night King, only ends it all with a bastard's farewell? Meanwhile, Tyrion who didn't do half as much for the realm gets the benefit of becoming hand to a newly crowned Bran. I guess Jon really is his uncle Ned in spirit, and in the end his honour placed him in the exact position he ended up in. At least we got a Ghost reunion.
I get it, Bran mumbled something about Tyrion needing to fix all the issues he's caused. But isn't this just a formality? What kind of advice would a dude that can see the past, present, and future need in terms of strategy, politics, or future planning?
Tyrion is Bran's hand…for what reason?
They really named it, 'A Song of Ice and Fire'…
Tyrion asks the question we're all afraid to ask, "What's this?" Apparently it's the archmaester Ebrose's history of wars since Robert's Rebellion and according to Sam, "I helped him with the title." And then, we get the collective cringe of one of the corniest moments in prestige TV history. I mean…my god. Look, I know Benioff and Weiss honour the works of George R.R. Martin, but maybe it wasn't a good idea to literally title this in-show book, A Song of Ice and Fire. How could someone actually write that and think it was clever? It sure says a lot about this ill-fated final season.Follow Noel on Twitter.