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Fantasy-Faction Game of Thrones Discussion: Season 8, Episode 6 – “The Iron Throne”

*Spoilers*
This is the final episode. Spoilers for the entire Game of Thrones series ahead!

“The Iron Throne” is a fitting title for the finale of Game of Thrones. For the past eight years, we’ve watched the characters kill and die over this MacGuffin-seat, only to see the chair itself turned into molten slag during the finale.

There were spirited discussions but surprisingly little conflict during the six weeks the Fantasy-Factioners gathered in our virtual salon to share memes, groans, gripes, and admiration (yes, plenty of that as well). In fact, the space came to represent the best of the Internet. Group members held widely differing and passionately held opinions about the show, the showrunners, and the characters, but kept discussions civil all the same. Sometimes people can get along!

A common theme in every discussion was our love for the world and characters that George R.R. Martin created, and which David Benioff, Dan Weiss, and the cast and crew brought to the screen. In the week between episodes four (“Last of the Starks”) and five (“The Bells”), regular contributor Jochem Willemstijn posted his favorite moments from the series as a whole:

  1. The Red Wedding. It was emotional, shocking, heartbreaking and convinced me I had to read the books as soon as possible.
  2. All of Tyrion up to season five. He is funny, clever, underestimated and broken. His arc is tragic and absolutely beautifully done. Also, the performance of Peter Dinklage was perfect. Absolutely loved it.
  3. Jon and Ygritte. The most well-written relationship in the whole show for me. They go through ups and downs, have beautiful moment and have tragic moments and nothing even comes close to the chemistry those two had between each other.
  4. Hodor’s death. I read the books in between season three and four, and the show was way past the books at this point. His death was unexpected, heartbreaking and absolutely fitting. He was maybe the only character in the whole show who didn’t have his own agenda, but just wanted to help. I saw this episode when it aired at 3 a.m. and was a mess the next morning at school. Had no one to talk to since I was the only idiot who set an alarm to watch the episode in the middle of the night. Absolutely heartbreaking moment that stayed with me long after and never fails to bring tears to my eyes.
  5. The amazing battle scenes (not looking at you, episode 8×3). They were beautifully shot and really raised the level of quality for battle scenes all around cinema. There were epic shots, surprising moments, great choreography and emotional moments throughout.
  6. Last, but definitely not least. Jaime Lannister. All of it. From the very first episode he was amazing. He went through a real changing arc and it was done almost perfectly. We really got to see him develop and see how tragic he actually was. The height of it was the scene in the bath with Brienne. For the first time he puts down the facade and we see his vulnerability and pain. He goes from Kingslayer to Jaime Lannister. I really hope his arc becomes full circle and he kills Cersei.

Other group members chimed in with their favorite scenes, many echoing Jochem’s thoughts on Hodor and the Red Wedding and adding in the Battle of the Bastards and Arya serving pie to Walder Frey. For myself, the scenes that stuck with me include:

  1. Tywin and Arya chatting while she pretends to be a servant at Harrenhall. Although he was on her murder list, she hadn’t acquired her assassin skills yet, and they just talk. He guesses she’s a girl, commends her for her cleverness, and talks about his children. It gave us a glimpse into the man Tywin could have been if his own ambition, disappointments, and personal tragedies hadn’t robbed him of his humanity.
  2. When Arya decided to not fulfill the contract on the actress she was supposed to kill during her Faceless Men apprenticeship. Arya’s admiration for the actress, and her recognition that she’d done nothing to deserve death, pried open the box where Arya had locked her humanity and conscience and prompted her to reclaim her name and her place in the Stark family.
  3. Many other great moments with Jon and Ygritte and Jamie and the Hound over the course of the series
  4. My favorite moment of Season 8 was the fraternal love and camaraderie between Tyrion and Jamie during the victory party in episode four (“Last of the Starks”), followed by their heartfelt farewell when Tyrion frees Jamie in episode five (“The Bells”).

THE RECAP

Tyrion digs through the Red Keep rubble and finds Jamie and Cersei, still in each other’s arms, whereupon he weeps for the loss of his only family. After a beautifully staged entrance, in which Drogon’s wings flare out behind Daenerys, she rouses her troops with a megalomaniacal tyrant speech, Eva Peron–style, while a horrified Tyrion and Jon watch. Tyrion quits as her Hand and is arrested for treason. After commiserating with Tyrion in his cell, Jon heads to the ruined throne room.

Drogon and Jon Snow

There’s a breathtaking sequence where Drogon unfurls from beneath a snow drift and faces Jon in a beautifully framed long shot. The pair stare at each other, and Drogon lets Jon go to meet Daenerys. In one of the most poignant scenes of the entire series, she talks about her dreams as a little girl and her aspirations for the future. They kiss, and while they embrace, he stabs her in the heart. Drogon arrives and unleashes a gout of flame, melting the Iron Throne to slag but leaving Jon unscathed. Scooping up his dead mother, he flies off to parts unknown.

The series wraps up with a council of lords. Grey Worm releases Tyrion, and he convinces the group that they should choose Bran as the new ruler of Westeros. Sansa asserts her claim to an independent queendom in the North, and everyone agrees that Jon should return to the Wall as a member of the Nights Watch (again). The episode ends with everyone back where they belong: Tyrion as Hand of the King; Brienne, Samwell, Bronn, and Davos on the Small Council; Grey Worm sailing for Naath (Missandei’s homeland); Arya the Explorer sailing west; Sansa realizing her childhood dream of becoming queen; and Jon riding with the Wildings north of the Wall.

PREDICTIONS

Quite a few Factioners were spot-on with their predictions, starting with mine.

Jon’s Fate

AM Justice: Jon may end up killing Dany to preserve the peace, the way he did Ygritte.

Om Lakhe, Pascal K?z?l, Christopher Brandel, Sean Conley, Rodney Milton, Jayne Davies, Daniel Thompson, and Vidhya Aravind all correctly predicted that Jon would rejoin Tormund and Ghost north of the Wall. Some also predicted he would kill Daenerys, while others thought Arya would do the deed.

Caroline Reid: Jon kills Dany. That’s why Jaime didn’t kill Cersei because it would have been too repetitive. Jon decides he doesn’t want the throne and it goes to survivor Sansa who is safe in Winterfell. Drogon escapes and gives birth to dragon eggs. Warning: I have been wrong on everything this season.

Caroline got the first part right, and who knows about the eggs? I think that’s a definite possibility.

Tyrion’s Fate

Lynn Fowler: Daenerys finds Tyrion guilty of treason for releasing Jaime.

Bran’s Fate

Om Lakhe: Let’s expect the unexpected: Bran becomes King.

Sansa’s Fate

Jayne Davies: Sansa rules the North. So, it is written.

Queen Sansa

Many people predicted Sansa would be Queen, but most thought she would be ruler of all Westeros, not an independent North.

False But We Wish They Were True Predictions

Daniel Thompson: Podric opens an inn that spurs a wildly successful spinoff call ‘Hobby of Barstools’ where he faces down life’s day to day tribulations with a kind heart and good cheer.

Clélie Rich: I would love to see more of Pod. Brienne would be his silent partner and Hot Pie would make pies for them.

Caroline Reid: What I don’t think will happen but would love to see: Brienne gets into a sword fight with Grey Worm or some other Dany loyalist. It looks like Brienne is about to lose and suddenly Tormund appears and stabs Grey Worm in the back. Brienne and Tormund ride off to the north together.

Lainylee Carter: There will be an uprising of Weirwood trees, Ent style, they will lay the land flat, crush the Iron Throne and tell everyone to ‘get off their land’. They will catapult Dany, Drogon, and the Lord of Light over the Narrow sea, tell them to go make trouble over in Old Valarya, give the rest of Westoros a good telling off, tell them to behave themselves or they are out too, because they have just about had enough of ridiculous humans. Everyone is banished to the rubble of Kings Landing and are ruled by Bran who receives his orders directly from them… And none of this is going to happen.

One thing did happen: Bran became ruler of Westeros! Whether he’s taking orders from the Ent-Weirwoods, no one knows.

THE FINAL DISCOURSE

Across the Internet as a whole, fans’ negative reactions got a lot of buzz, but the finale episode was received well by the majority of Factioners—at least those who chose to voice an opinion in our group. Many especially admired the art direction and cinematography of the finale, and it was indeed a beautifully shot episode. There were some complaints that the end wasn’t darker, but by and large people were glad to see the remaining Starks not only survive but triumph.

Cinematography

Marty Mazzocco: Some of these shots are end of the world, apocalyptic gorgeousness.

Steve Maloney: I’ll [hand it] to the cinematographer who gave Dany dragon wings briefly in her triumph scene.

Dany with Wings

LM Towton: I LOVED the montage at the end with Arya, Jon and Sansa—it was beautifully shot. Also, the dragon wings behind Dany.

Westerosi Magna Carta

Kira Geier Hill: It seems like the game of thrones is truly over. The king will be chosen by the house heads from now on, not by blood. There won’t be any more fighting over the throne this way (hopefully). Jon will have no children, so the Targaryen line dies with him. I was hoping Jon would be the king, but I see why they did what they did. The only thing was that Bran didn’t want to be king either. Tyrion didn’t want to be Hand again either. The best leaders don’t want power though.

Melissa A Mattes: Well, there could still be a “game” to play. If the council is divided in support for two (or three) candidates when Bran decides to step down, then it could still descend into war. But at least with the council approach, it gives them a chance to resolve it through negotiations and coalitions first.

Kira Geier Hill: True, but it takes the target off the king, since even if you killed the king there’s no guarantee you would be made king.

Melissa A Mattes: Not unless you’ve already gathered your allies on the council.

LM Towton: Bronn as Master of Coin? Really?

Burning Down the Throne

Drogon Burns the Throne

Sarah McGinn: Drogon burning the Iron Throne—great symbolism.

AM Justice: I wasn’t sure if Drogon was going to try to burn Jon or give him a big doggy lick, but I full-on LOVED Drogon melting the throne. It said a lot about the wisdom of dragons, and it was a very powerful metaphor.

Alvira Quinlan: Loved it when Drogon melted down the Iron throne in his mourning. Like he knew it was the reasoning behind Daenerys been dead.

Petar Karapetrov: Drogon melting the Iron Throne. I felt that it was very poetic that it was destroyed in the same manner that it was created.

Arya’s Travels

Michael Sliter: Anyone else sensing an Arya spin-off? Arya the Explorer? Arya There Yet?

Arya Sailing Away

Sarah McGinn: Arya goes adventuring! I’d watch that for sure.

Cory Ward: Most properly ended arc in the whole show. I would love to watch a show like that.

Dennis J. Head: Only GoT I would watch

Kira Geier Hill: I would love to see more of Ayra’s future adventures. Maybe even Nymeria makes it up north to join her brother?

LM Towton: Arya! What’s west of Westeros, that to me would be interesting.

Sumayyah Waheed: Would love to see Arya the explorer.

Melissa A Mattes: Arya’s new adventures might make a great spinoff, but I’m satisfied seeing her sail West under a Direwolf flag.

Life Finds a Way: Are There Baby Dragons in Drogon’s Future?

Sarah McGinn: I don’t think he will lay eggs now, but I think it’s possible that the dragons mated and laid eggs when there were three of them. We know dragon eggs like Dany’s can lie dormant for years without hatching.

Dana Tasich: I wanted Jon to have the dragon! Drogon could have flown back in at any time and winked at Jon saying Come on! Let’s go for a ride!

David Zampa: I still can’t believe they didn’t resolve Drogon/Dany’s body. I can only assume he carried her corpse away and ate it.

Caroline Reid: I’m still disappointed we didn’t get an after credits scene with Drogon and dragon babies!

Kira Geier Hill: I’m not sure how Dragons reproduce, but they had established that the dragons weren’t eating or growing any more, and in his grief, I’m not sure if Drogon will survive. I hope that Bran can find him—warg into him—and comfort him a bit.

Melissa A Mattes: I always wondered where Drogon may have gone way back in Season 4, so it’s possible there is already a clutch waiting somewhere for a dragon to breathe on it and hatch them…or not.

The Man Who Would Not Be King

AM Justice: I had said at one point that Jon would kill Dany out of duty/big picture stuff the same way he did Ygritte, and he did! So, yay me.

Michael Sliter: Going full-on idiot for Jon Snow. “She is my queen.”

Sarah McGinn: I’d say he’s consistently been a full-on idiot through all 8 seasons!

Michael Sliter: Fair enough!

Christopher Brandel: I just don’t get all this mystery and buildup to who Jon really is and they hardly do anything with it.

Cory Ward: Then stripped it all away from him again!

Pascal K?z?l: Jon being who he is caused a distance between him and Dany and that caused Dany to burn down Kings Landing, because she felt like no one loved her anymore, so fear was the only way to rule.

LM Towton: How is Jon not dead? Who stopped Grey Worm and all the Unsullied and Dothraki killing him?

Christopher Brandel: Am I the only one that thinks that Jon secretly bargained for this? To go back to the far north to be with Tormund and Ghost? Because he told him he would rather be doing that when they separated the first time.

Caroline Reid: And that’s why he didn’t bother saying goodbye to Ghost properly!

Stark Endings and Other Lauded Scenes

Kira Geier Hill: My favorite part was the end when they showed Jon, Sansa and Ayra each doing the same thing in their new lives (dressing, walking among people, etc.). I thought that was very well done. The cinematography overall was awesome.

Petar Karapetrov: Of course, [a favorite moment was] the ending scene following each of the Starks as they embark on their journeys.

LM Towton: I liked Brienne finishing Jaime’s entry—I always imagined she would do that. Anyone else notice she wrote, “rode south in an attempt to save the capital from destruction,”? Also, the Small Council, final bit of comedy of those characters.

Steve Maloney: Emilia Clarke’s portrayal of Dany’s childlike wonder in the throne room before being stabbed; it’s interesting what she has stated about this in interviews and her perceptive play on the role.

Sumayyah Waheed: [My favorite moments were] Drogon’s reaction on Dany’s death, and [the fact] that Arya’s boat had a Stark direwolf on it. Also, I did like how Jon simply murdered Dany and it wasn’t some morally correct execution thing. Oh, and Sam being Arch-maester was awesome.

Wishful Thinking on Stirrings Up North and Other Alternate Endings

David Zampa: Dany is carried away [by Drogon] to become the Night Queen. Or maybe when Jon went up above the wall, they could have ended by finding a bunch of fresh bodies arranged in a familiar symbol.

Clélie Rich: Yes, I would have liked an indication that perhaps things are afoot again in the far north.

LM Towton: I wanted to hear three blasts of the horn at the end, signaling that the Others are not actually gone.

Caroline Reid: Or Littlefinger turns out to be alive and a Faceless Man and he’s actually been posing as Davos for the whole of Season 8.

David Zampa: Or any use of the Faceless Men talent at all.

It’s a Wrap: Jeers and Cheers for the Finale and the Series

David Zampa: In an alternate universe where this was Season 10 instead of Season 8 I would be overcome with emotion right now, feeling like I was witnessing some of the greatest fantasy film making ever conceived. Instead I feel nothing but empty disappointment.

This show was like watching an epic game of 3D chess on immense scale between masters. The game played through a long, intense, intricate opening to position all the pieces for a dramatic mid game that never came. The pieces were suddenly reconfigured into the end game we’re watching now, and all I feel is the hole where the genius execution that led to these moments should have been.

Christopher Brandel: I didn’t jump on the bandwagon that this season was all a waste after the last episode, giving them a chance to redeem it. First half hour was great, and the rest is crap.

Marjan Jackman: Same for me. I was convinced they’d pull a Hodor and redeem themselves and all the people who signed the petition along with the rest of the fandom would have their minds blown. But no. Just a crappy season finale.

Kenneth Øster: My biggest take away from the finale is that I now want a The Office style sitcom with the new small council.

Christopher Brandel: I second that.

Sarah McGinn: This episode somewhat redeemed the season for me. I’m still unhappy about the rush job they did plus some of the unfulfilled story arcs and poor strategic decisions, but it was a very satisfying wrap up. My only disappointment with this episode (apart from the time compression) was that Arya didn’t have a bigger part. And when Jon was hugging Dany I was like, “You’d better stab her!”

Andrew Russo: The episode was a bit of a dud after last week. Seems like this is one of those series where the penultimate episode is really the one worth talking about. I need time to process my thoughts, but I mostly feel good about it, but not as amazing as I felt after last week.

Lynn Kempner: As much as I hated the pacing and plot holes, I’m satisfied, but in a bit of mourning as well. I enjoyed Jon’s conversation with Tyrion that helped him realize what he already knew. Love is blind. Bittersweet ending. I will miss GOT for a long while to come.

LM Towton: I still think it was rushed and needed more episodes. I still dislike how some character arcs ended, especially Jaime’s. There wasn’t much rubble to kill Jaime and Cersei was there? I mean if Tyrion managed to dig them out by himself. Are we supposed to believe that the bricks managed perfect shots on their temples or something?

Melissa A Mattes: Tyrion lived, so I am happy. More seriously, I found it a satisfying conclusion, with decisions made, character threads tied up tidily, and war truly ended (for now).

Altario Shialt Eck Gorrin: Didn’t redeem the season by any stretch, but I thought this episode to be fairly strong. I wish the Jon killing Dany scene had of been last week Jamie killing Cersei.

AM Justice: I was quite pleased with the end. King Bran was perhaps a bit too neat, but I was OK with it. I loved Tyrion made Hand so he could rectify his errors, and I loved the sweet wrap-around of Sansa becoming queen. In the first episode/early chapters of the books, she told Catelyn that, “all I ever wanted was to be queen,” and she got her wish. I also thought Arya sailing off into the West was a little bit of a nod to LOTR and Frodo doing the same. And of course, we finally got to see Jon give Ghost a hug.

Overall, I really enjoyed the final episode and despite the flaws of Seasons 7 and 8 (the Sand Snakes still being the stand-out flaw and the only deviation from the books I really hated), I’m very happy with how the series as a whole turned out. Did it turn out to be my favorite series of all time? No. But I don’t regret a minute spent watching it.

Caroline Reid: I liked the Jon/Dany/Drogon scene but everything after that was a bit meh. I was expecting some final twist that never happened (e.g. Bran was evil and engineered it all). Instead we got a bog-standard fantasy series ending where all the bad guys died, and all the remaining good guys got rewarded and everyone lived happily ever after. Face it, Jon will be far happier chilling with Tormund and Ghost than he would have been ruling with Dany.

Linda Åkerman: I loved it. I was almost teary eyed at the end. Best season! I really liked when he burned the throne and to wake her and then flew away, epic. But my favorite moment has to be the end. Sansa got what her people needed. Arya was finally free, and Jon truly got what he needed too. Ghost too! And that green grass! Soon the ice will melt. But I do not want a follow up. That will just ruin things. This is how it was supposed to end, not with some bloody conqueror, not with some guy ruling by the right of birth.

Raymond Strodl: While episode five threw me as it was out of character for the queen I had watched her become over the series, I found this last episode fairly satisfying and ended it all well for me, and was the only logical ending with what the mother of dragons had become. Dragon scene was excellent, but I loved Jon Snow leading the Wildings out from behind the wall and felt this could be where he should have been all along. Greeting his Wolf touched me. The north achieving its own queen of the north, who I believe is going to be a great queen, was one of my predictions and was very satisfying for me. Our young assassin heading west to explore could become a whole spin-off in my opinion, and I would watch this. Bran as king made so much sense and Tyrion ending up as the Hand was a great move and said so much about the reign of this new and very different young king. Loved that the council ended discussing whether to spend money on ships or brothels—that is very Game of Thrones.

Kira Geier Hill: Everyone had good story arcs and just became more of what they were the whole series.

Sumayyah Waheed: Story wise, I liked it, but it was the rushed execution that I didn’t like. I liked how all the threads were neatly tied. And I seem to be the only person who did not dislike the episode that much. It was meh, but not terrible.

Melissa A Mattes: I loved this episode. As a finale, it checked all the boxes. The lead-up to it felt rushed, but the episode itself was excellent. Just the right amount of heart-wrenching and funny as we see all the ends tied up.

Steve Maloney: The finale confirmed my feelings about the season. Well-crafted but lacking in overall time. I imagine that the choices between what was left in, and what ended up on the cutting room floor, were agonizing.

My least favourite moment was ‘Ice and Fire’ without a mention of Tyrion. A foolish stab at a cheap laugh which could have had no bearing on what was written—ruined the tie-in with the book. My favourite musing is to have another/show book written a thousand years after the events; when the characters have gone from magical realism to mythological figures. Compare and contrast on their treatment, how minor characters and their accomplishments blur into single mighty figures, and showing what humanity believes was important about the story in the mythological drama of the people.

Finally, in addition to all the arguments we’ve seen around Dany’s madness, take Tyrion’s comments and Dany’s portrayal in the final episode as witness. She didn’t even consider herself to be mad or bad in any way; she had a vision which for her was the greater good; and pressed it above all individual thought and mercy. This is a great historical arc, Emilia herself was told to look to Lawrence of Arabia for inspiration; and that’s not a bad call. For all those Dany named babies, I sympathise, and one of my children is named Lawrence, partly in honour of that complex man.

Petar Karapetrov: It ended on a positive note, loved everything about the last 20 minutes. Unfortunately, I couldn’t help but feel that I “cheated” my way to this ending, missing out on the plot points that would have led us there in a more satisfying manner. It’s obvious they had to cut out a lot of things, so everything felt a bit…off, especially Bran. They sidelined his story completely, then propped him up as King at the last moment. The outcome seems very Martin-esque to me, but I’m sure he didn’t exactly imagine it coming out of the blue like that.

WE WANT THE BOOKS, GEORGE!

After the last episode, I posted a final poll in the group to assess whether the end of the series made people more or less excited to read the concluding volumes of A Song of Ice and Fire. The response was overwhelmingly in favor of wanting to see how GRRM wraps up the story in the novels. Some Fanatics were skeptical that we’ll ever see Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring in print, but they remain anxious to read the ending nonetheless.

Final Poll

Some comments from Factioners spoke to this enthusiasm:

Steve Maloney: I’m highly satisfied with almost all aspects [of the series] and suspect that the overall arc in the books will not be significantly different. I look forward to the deeper explanations that we have been speculating on.

Petar Karapetrov: This season has made me look forward to reading the rest of the books if they ever come out even more. I really want to see Jon and Dany’s POV of the events we saw in the last couple of episodes.

Alvira Quinlan: Apart from the completely unexpected king, on the whole I’m satisfied with how it ended. Of course, it would’ve been great to have another couple more episodes or another whole series to really seal up plot ends, but unfortunately we aren’t the writer’s. Now just to wait for books to be finished.

Corinne Lebret: A very, very satisfying ending for me. I loved it. I just wish they’d brought us to this conclusion in more episodes, they needed the seasons that HBO offered them, but they chose a quick conclusion… Anyway, now, GRR Martin, I need the books!!!!

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I want to thank all the Factioners who contributed to this project over the last six weeks, as well everyone who joined the Facebook group and contributed to the lively discussions there. A special thank you goes to Richard Marpole for writing up episode five and to David Zampa, who not only wrote up episode two but also helped moderate the Facebook group.

Contributors

Linda Åkerman, Vidhya Aravind, Christopher Brandel, Lainylee Carter, Sean Conley, Jayne Davies, Lynn Fowler, Altario Shialt Eck Gorrin, Dennis J. Head, Kira Geier Hill, Marjan Jackman, Kenneth Øster, Petar Karapetrov, Lynn Kempner, Pascal K?z?l, Om Lakhe, Corinne Lebret, Steve Maloney, Melissa A Mattes, Marty Mazzocco, Sarah McGinn, Rodney Milton, Alvira Quinlan, Caroline Reid, Clélie Rich, Andrew Russo, Michael Sliter, Raymond Strodl, Dana Tasich, Daniel Thompson, LM Towton, Sumayyah Waheed, Cory Ward, Jochem Willemstijn, and David Zampa.

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