It is done, the final episode of what could be described as the most epic series to ever appear on television, or at least on HBO. Over 17 million officially tuned in for the season 8 opener, and they estimate 50 million more pirated the show. Last week’s episode, “Bells,” topped 18 million. It is the most viewed series and season, in HBO history.
Hard to judge it against shows on broadcast television, which don’t require a subscription, or even a cable/satellite connection. What we can do is measure the mania for it, at least in terms of marketing and feedback and it excelled in all those. Game of Thrones has been and will go down in history as one of the iconic series, up there with I Love Lucy, Bonanza and The Ed Sullivan Show, which featured the now iconic TV moment of presenting The Beatles to America on February 9, 1964. Game of Thrones stands with all of those and any other we might recall.
Like many shows these days, GoT will have spin offs and the end leaves room for sequels. Arya heading off for uncharted territory, Jon Snow going north of the Wall with the Free Folk and what about the return of Drogon? The last we see of him he is carrying his mother off to the east.
It happens early in the episode, if you you’re wondering. And it isn’t done by the most likely suspects, although Jon Snow fans were pleased. Daenerys Targaryen’s destiny was cast in episode 5, when she destroyed King’s Landing. But who would do it?
That was the unkindest cut of all, when she and Jon Snow were embraced in a long, passionate kiss. After she tried to convince Jon she was doing the right thing, that her vision of the future was the right one. She welcomed him to join her in ruling a free world in which she would be the monarch at the very top of the food chain.
It was during that kiss when Jon literally pushed the dagger into her heart. Of course he wept afterwards, wouldn’t you?
Before he met with Queen Daenerys, Jon spoke with his sister Arya, who told him, “I know a killer when I see one.” She would know. He also went to visit Lord Tyrion, who went promptly into custody after flinging his lapel pin of The Queen’s Hand down the steps of the destroyed Red Keep. Tyrion spoke of betraying his friend Lord Varys, to serve the Mad Queen. The ashes of Varys could tell the ashes of Tyrion the Master of Whispers was right.
The message from both Arya and Tyrion was that Daenerys Targaryen was not the right person to sit on the Iron Throne. The only person who could make the choice of whether she did or not was Jon Snow.
So many of us were speculating that Jon Snow didn’t have what it takes to kill Daenerys. He fell in love and pledged his obedience to the queen many times. He did so seconds before putting the dagger into his lover’s heart. The clue was there in the dungeon when Jon and Tyrion spoke. “Love is the death of duty,” Jon says. After explaining to Tyrion when he heard that and from whom — “Maestor Aemon said it long ago” — Tyrion said, “Sometimes duty is the death of love.”
Then, with Drogon guarding the queen, Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen had their final embrace.
Before he flew off to the east with his mother, Drogon, the last remaining dragon ensured no one would sit on the Iron Throne. He melted it with a roar.
So we cut to the end, the sad, uninspiring tedium of moving on after all the big wars are over, making the decision that will outlive them all; the final act in the quest for the throne. Who would be the ruler of the Seven Kingdoms? And what is to become of Lord Tyrion and Jon Snow are the top two questions. The Unsullied have both in custody. They want both of them beheaded, because that’s just the way they do it if there’s no dragon around to burn them to death. To the rest of the lords and ladies of Westeros, Tyrion and Jon Snow are heroes.
All the lords and ladies of Westeros gathered to decide the fate of the realm. While in the custody of Grey Worm Lord Tyrion reminds the assembled they are the most powerful people in the world. They need to pick a new ruler. When they cannot choose, or even suggest one, Lord Tyrion does it again. He gives an eloquent speech putting Brandon of House Stark, Bran the Broken, up for the title. Being unable to have children makes him the perfect choice because then there will be no evil children ascending to rule. The large counsel will once again be forced to choose a new leader, an election if you will, to find the one man or woman best suited to lead the world.
Samwell Tarley suggests everyone in Westeros be given a vote. What? Democracy? Everyone laughs at the idea. Apparently the common people aren’t smart enough to choose a good leader …
What really shakes that large counsel is the plastic — modern — water bottler behind Sam’s foot.
First a Starbucks cup and then a plastic water bottle. Seriously? Twice in one season? They spend all the time and money to be meticulous and they can’t keep their sets clean?
Tyrion, Bran and Sansa gave those brilliant soliloquys and it is ruined by a forgotten water bottle — if you noticed it. Otherwise the selection of Brandon of House Stark, First of His Name, King of the Andals and the First Men, Lord of the Six Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm appears to be the unanimous choice.
Yes, six kingdoms because the North has decided to remain independent, as it had for thousands of years. So, House Stark is the ruling family of the Seven Kingdoms anyway.
As punishment for being so central to this story, specifically the story of Daenerys Targaryen, Lord Tyrion is chosen by Bran to be the Hand of the King. Now he will spend the rest of his life fixing the results of his mistakes.
Jon Snow, the queen slayer, in a compromise that pleases few, if any, will not be put to death, but instead be sent north to join the Night’s Watch once again. “There’s still a Night’s Watch,” he asks?
“Yes,” replies Tyrion. “We will always need a place for bastards and broken men.”
The last of the Starks, the real winners in the Game of Thrones, meet on the dock as Jon Snow gets ready to sail for the North and Arya, yes Arya, our hero, decides to explore what is west — and unmapped — of Westeros. It is probably the last time the four of them will ever be together, alive.
Sansa becomes Queen in the North, Bran holds his first small council meeting, with Lord Tyrion as chair, with the assorted lords quibbling about what to build first, brothels or a fleet of ships. Bronn, who is now the Lord of Highgarden and the Master of Coin, really thinks the brothels take precedence.
Ser Bronn of the Blackwater, Lord Paramount of the Reach and a member of the small council. My, how fortunes can rise. Ser Brienne of Tarth is a member of that council, as is Ser Davos, the Master of Ships. In episode 4 Gendry became the Lord of Storms End, as the last Baratheons, and he too sits on the small council.
That is how it ends, with our heroes, Jon Snow and Arya Stark, heading off on their journeys while the rest settle down to the tasks of governance. Maybe that was the most sensible way Game of Thrones could end. From Tyrion weeping over the bodies of his brother and sister, to Jon riding out the gate of the Wall with the Free Folk, with his dire wolf Ghost, who was the runt of the litter.
When you have a hit like Thrones come to its end, the smartest thing to do is leave room for sequels. We will be wondering what Arya finds out there in the wilderness, what Jon maps north of the Wall. We know there will be a prequel, that is already in production. And the rumor is there will be more prequels that set up how and why this game of Fire and Ice came to be.
Will all of that diminish the prominence and high praise for this series? The show Happy Days had several successful spinoffs and still remains one of the seminal television shows in history. It’s no surprise that there are clips from the series finale already available on YouTube.
The millions of fans that tuned into HBO every Sunday evening at 9 p.m. Eastern Time will never forget the show. We can expect to see actors and technical people show up at Comic-Con for years to come. Kids, and adults, will dress like Arya forever. Game of Thrones has an impact on society that will last. The prequels and sequels will keep it alive and like Star Trek, fans will be debating which one is more realistic.
True story: as I was taking the bus to work one day during the 2008 Comic-Con, there were two groups of Star Trek fans in costume. One group in original series gear and the other in Next Generation attire. They got into an argument over which looked more real that was so heated, the bus driver stopped the bus and threatened to kick them all off if they didn’t stop.
In the future I suspect we will have these same types of arguments over Game of Thrones and all the spinoffs. Was that the end of GoT mania? To quote Arya and her sword master Syrio Forel and Melisandre, the Red Woman: “Not today.”
Photos courtesy of HBO unless otherwise noted
Top photo is a YouTube screenshot of Jon Snow holding Daenerys Targaryen as she dies
Tim Forkes started as a writer on a small alternative newspaper in Milwaukee called the Crazy Shepherd. Writing about entertainment, he had the opportunity to speak with many people in show business, from the very famous to the people struggling to find an audience. In 1992 Tim moved to San Diego, CA and pursued other interests, but remained a freelance writer. Upon arrival in Southern California he was struck by how the elected government officials and business were so intertwined, far more so than he had witnessed in Wisconsin. His interest in entertainment began to wane and the business of politics took its place. He had always been interested in politics, his mother had been a Democratic Party official in Milwaukee, WI, so he sat down to dinner with many of Wisconsin’s greatest political names of the 20th Century: William Proxmire and Clem Zablocki chief among them. As a Marine Corps veteran, Tim has a great interest in veteran affairs, primarily as they relate to the men and women serving and their families. As far as Tim is concerned, the military-industrial complex has enough support. How the men and women who serve are treated is reprehensible, while in the military and especially once they become veterans. Tim would like to help change that.