This Review is Dark and full of Spoilers.
April 2011, Game of Thrones aired on our screens for the first time. The TV show gradually became a cultural phenomenon. Now, in May 2019 the series comes to an end after eight seasons of entertaining and shocking television. But did the show end on a high?
Season Eight has had very vocal critics, and even in our previous review and discussion, we voiced our own grievances. But, on the whole, the season has provided some epic spectacles, phenomenal performances and some of the best cinematography you’ll find on TV. Are some of the character and story choices frustrating? Yes. Has it “ruined all the good work of past seasons”? No. I’m now at the eye-rolling stage whenever I see the show criticised because, more often than not, it’s because your book theory or fan-fic ideas didn’t play out. Or your favourite character didn’t get what you wanted. Well, I didn’t get Jaime on the Iron Throne, but I’ll live with it!
There is also the continued criticism of David Benioff and D. B. Weiss’ writing this season. Personally, while some of the choices have been frustrating, their only real mistake has been their desire to wrap everything up in one season. George R. R. Martin is being championed, by many, as to why the show was a success. But writing books is a lot different from producing and writing a TV show that has to have mass appeal. Did they do a great job translating Martin’s story? Yes. Has the show gone downhill now that they are writing their version of the ending? In my opinion, no. I’ve enjoyed Season Eight more than previous seasons. I want to be entertained and I have been.
On to the review…
We pick up straightaway from last week’s massacre. This opening sequence, which sees Tyrion walking through the devastation, was an audible feast of perfection. The crunching of the chard ashes, the sobs of the Northern solider, the cries of anguish in the distance. You felt the death and destruction and didn’t need a musical score to heighten the moment. It was done so well. Later, we follow Tyrion underground. He spots Jaime’s hand in the rubble and tries to remove the fallen debris. He knows it’s a pointless endeavour, but manages to uncover the bodies of his siblings. The remixed version of The Rains of Castamere cuts in and we see all three Lannisters in the same shot for the final time. Peter Dinklage is in full awards consideration mode here. What a stunning performance.
The city is under Daenerys’ rule for sure. This fact is hammered home when Greyworm executes some prisoners of war, despite Jon’s appeal. Daenerys makes her entrance in a stylish fashion with a nice shot, that incorporated Drogon’s wings, as if they were apart of Daenerys. She proceeds to give a chilling victory speech, but her delivery and tone was very much that of a ruthless dictator rather than a compassionate saviour. She makes Greyworm her Master of War and makes it clear that this is only the beginning. Jon looks horrified and Tyrion throws away his Hand of the Queen pin, resulting in his arrest. Jon is still defending Daenerys, he’s always had this Ned Stark loyalty stubbornness trait in him. Arya appears next to him and tries to succeed where Tyrion failed. To make Jon realise that he is next on her list and that he is not safe. We then get some foreshadowing as Jon comes face-to-face with Drogon. He looks right into his soul then simply returns to his slumber. We probably didn’t need this scene, but I thought it was a nice subtle little interaction.
Daenerys walks into the throne room. The only real object left standing is the Iron Throne. She walks up to it and touches it. This is what it’s all been for. Her goal was to sit on the Iron Throne and she has finally made it. Not that she gets to sit on it… Overall I really enjoyed this scene. I thought it was well shot and the music really helped hammer home the impact of how important this moment was for her. The moment was not to last though, as Jon interrupts and makes his way towards her. He puts across his case, while still reaffirming his loyalty to her. It wasn’t until Daenerys spoke that you really noticed that this is now a completely different character. Forget the rage and impulse of last week or her dictator-esque speech moments before. It was the way she spoke in normal conversation with Jon when you really noticed the drastic change in her tone. It had a noticeable evil undertone that was borderline cartoonish. It was jarring. Thankfully, Jon took back control of the conversation and delivered the perfect line, “You are my Queen, now and always”, before stabbing her. *Dun Dun Duunnn*
It was always going to be either Jon or Arya. After last week’s episode, I thought it definitely would be Arya, as they seemed to build her final moment in that episode to a point where it had a greater purpose. I guess not. That’s a shame. So it’s Jon who kills the Mad Queen and the woman whom he loves. I’ve never been a fan of Daenerys, but enjoyed the Mad Queen angle, albeit very briefly. I think a full season of Jon going up against Daenerys would have led to a more earned moment. But it is what it is. Drogon appears and rages out, melting the Iron Throne in the process. I thought this moment was a little too on the nose. But the scene worked as a whole. He grabs his mother’s body and flies away. And that is the last time we see either of them. I know this is going to frustrate some people for certain, maybe even more so than her sharp turn to madness. But as someone who is not invested in her or has ever cared about the dragons, I’m more than happy with this ending. It worked for me.
A few weeks have passed since Jon killed Daenerys. Tyrion is taken to the Dragonpit and is greeted by some familiar faces. The lords and ladies of the Severn Kingdoms! This group even includes Edmure Tully, making his return to the show, and a now grown-up Lord Robin Arryn! (That kid clearly benefited from some mothers milk just like Tormund did!). This was a nice throwback and an unexpected one. What was also unexpected was what happened next! Tyrion tells the nobles that Bran should be the next King. Bran agrees. “Why do you think I came all this way” – Ha, what a line! Unlike Bran, I really didn’t see that coming! But the more I thought about it, the more I’m happy with it. The wheel is broken. No longer will the right to rule be inherited. It will be given to the right candidate chosen by comity. All the head of houses agrees, barring Sansa who stands firm that the north will not bend the knee. Bran agrees to let the North remain independent, reducing the seven kingdoms to six. Tyrion is made Hand of the King, as punishment and Jon, to appease those loyal to Daenerys, is sent to rejoin the Night’s Watch. I’m pleased with every aspect of this! It makes sense and it’s a diplomatic comprise. Win-win.
We then get a nice sequence of scenes of all our characters setting off on their next chapters. Tyrion leads the small council, with Bronn (Master of Coin), Davos (Master of Ships), Brienne (Lord Commander of the Kingsguard) and Samwell (Grand Maester). Their first order of business is to begin planning to rebuild Kings Landing. Bronn is his usual old self, but now in a position of considerable power, willing to release funds, but starting with rebuilding the brothels. This was a nice scene packed pull of subtle humorous moments. I really enjoyed it. Brienne updates the Kingsguard book, and finishes off Jaime’s story in a bittersweet moment. *Sigh* What could have been! Sam brings in a book, dictating past events entitled “A Song of Ice and Fire” – I’m sure some enjoyed this moment, but I didn’t. I don’t like this type of book title acknowledgement in visual adaptions. Greyworm is taking the Unsullied to Naath, the homeland of Missandei to oversee their protection. One final act of devotion.
Down on the docks, Jon is released from prison and is preparing to take a ship back up north. He is greeted by his siblings. Sansa is heading back to Winterfell, Arya is heading west and Bran is starting his new life as King. I thought this final scene of the ‘Stark children’ was a fitting final onscreen moment for all of them. But as it was implied, it is unlikely to be the last time they are together. It’s just that we, the viewers, won’t get to see this.
Winterfell/The Sea/Castle Black
What follows next is a wonderful montage of Jon, Arya and Sansa mirroring each other as they begin their new lives. Sansa is crowned Queen of the North, Arya is on a Stark ship sailing west into unknown territory and Jon is welcomed back as Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch by Tormund. Jon finally gets to stroke Ghost and they escort the free folk back into their homeland. The Game of Thrones main theme begins to fade in and we cut to black. The end!
I’m satisfied. I know some people won’t ever be happy, but I think they get most of the character endings right here. Of those left alive, there wasn’t a single character I wished for a different outcome. I think it ended on a positive, but sombre note. Did the series go out in a blaze of glory? Not really. It was a very story-driven episode and for me, that wasn’t a bad thing. We’ve had plenty of action this season and I’d rather the show end with tying off all the loose ends than the final act has been Jon killing Dany.
Satisfying with no real complaints. That sums up the final episode, and for me, the final season of Game of Thrones. While there have been failings, I don’t feel that these have ultimately hindered my enjoyment of the show. You are never going to please everyone and I feel they have given us the best endings possible for the story that they wanted to tell. Could things have been done differently? Of course. But if you want that to happen, sign that petition and fork up $15m per episode to make your own TV show. – Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!