After finishing the final season of Game of Thrones, I feel like I’m in mourning.
Part of this is mourning the end of my favorite show of all time — I’ll never sit down on a Sunday night to watch a brand new episode, ever again. Another part of this mourning is directed at the epic happy ending I wanted but never got, because that’s just not Game of Thrones.
Here I’ll share some of my thoughts and feelings on the final season of this amazing show. It was incredible in many ways, good and bad. And while I turned off the finale feeling disappointed at how many things turned out, I respect the showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss; while criticism is fine and I have a lot of that, I don’t believe there is any excuse for sending artists hate or demanding reshoots. Their talent is part of why the vast majority of the show has been so memorable.
I wish some aspects of this final season had gone differently. A lot of this came down to the writing — I needed to emotionally get on board with what was happening, but many story beats felt forced and out of character, and that comes down to the writing.
Still, Game of Thrones remains my favorite show.
I’ll spend another post going over my thoughts on the shocking character arc and ultimate downfall of Daenerys Targaryen. Some viewers were surprised and some weren’t, but I was certainly on the surprised side.
For now, I’ll break down my opinions on the final season surprises I loved and hated. And I definitely loved more than I hated. =)
Jaime and Brienne Hooking Up
The chivalry these two share has always linked them, and they have an undeniable chemistry. But I always imagined them as platonic friends, connected through their strong sense of loyalty — even when their loyalties were on opposite sides of a battlefield. Jaime knighting Brienne was the brightest point of their friendship.
But that’s why Jaime, breaking with Cersei to spend the night with Brienne, felt so out of character to me. The very next morning he reveals that he is still in love with Cersei (no, duh) and leaves Brienne to return to her. That leaves Brienne a crying wreck, which I hated to see too. The whole thing was just so awkward and ruined the beauty of their friendship.
Jon Killing Daenerys
After Daenerys burns down all of King’s Landing, soldiers and innocents alike, Jon talks to Tyrion and still seems to defend her. Maybe he’s still in love with her, even after all that she’s done. Tyrion talks Jon through her arc in a way that even I, in the audience, needed to hear — and then he warns Jon that as a Targaryen, Jon is a threat to Dany, and you know what she does to anything that threatens her throne…
Jon seeks her out and finds her standing next to the big iron chair, which now sits in a largely destroyed throne room filled with ashes. She asks him to join her in leading the people of Westeros, and for a moment, you think he’s with her. He embraces her… but mid-kiss stabs her, and she dies in his arms.
While I have a lot of feelings about Dany’s arc that I’ll go over in another post, on the whole I don’t have an issue with Jon being the one to kill Dany. I just don’t care for how it played out. It felt wrong to me, Jon twisting the knife in a moment when she thought he was with her. After all of her loneliness the past few episodes — losing her second dragon, losing her best friends, and feeling so threatened in a foreign land — I wanted more for her than this kind of betrayal. I wanted Jon to be more honest with her. I wanted her to break down about all of this too.
This strange moment also set her up as this evil temptress — a female archetype I don’t care for — which Jon has to resist to do the right thing. I know that’s boiling down their characters to stereotypes, but that’s how it felt to me in the moment, which is why I didn’t care for how this story beat was handled.
Bran Taking the Throne
I have mixed feelings about Bran becoming king at the end of all this.
When the most powerful people in Westeros — including Sansa and Arya Stark, Edmure Tully, Robin Arryn, and good old Sam Tarly — sit down and talk about who should be the next leader of Westeros, Tyrion jumps in saying that it all comes down to who has the best story. And that would be Bran.
To me, this whole idea came out of nowhere, but I tried to step back and imagine the show as a novel. If I were reading this at the end of George R. R. Martin’s series, I could accept it. It’s fitting that the little boy who was shoved out a window in episode one goes through a complete arc to become king. As the Three-Eyed Raven, he’s arguably the wisest character in the show, and so in a way his election feels like fate. He always knew this was coming, after all.
The only issue I have with him taking the throne is that he symbolizes fate, in a way. A lot of viewers have complained that he didn’t really do anything all season. Because he didn’t — he just knew how everything would turn out. Being able to warg into others’ minds, travel to the past, and see the future meant that he was aware of how everyone is essentially an actor playing their part in this game.
So after everything Dany went through to get to the throne, and after everything Jon went through to save the world from the army of the dead, and after everything pretty much everybody went through to initiate change in this world… Bran knew this is how it would end, and had to let it all play out anyway, the good and the bad.
I guess I just worry what he’ll do as a leader, if he’s the type to just sit back and let fate play out that way…
This was such a sweet moment. In the night before the Battle of Winterfell, Brienne enjoys the company of her friends like loyal Podrick and big-hearted (and mouthed) Tormund, who has an endearing crush on her. At some point, Tyrion calls Brienne “ser,” which of course she isn’t. Though she’s always wanted to be a knight, her gender excludes her from this.
But Jaime realizes in that moment that as a knight himself, he can knight her without any royalty present. And so he does, in front of all of her friends and supporters and a warm fireplace, on the night before they all might die fighting evil itself. Brienne expresses her pride in this moment in the most subtle way — remaining serious, but later breaking into a huge grin as everyone celebrates. It made me tear up. (I should say, Brienne’s actress Gwendoline Christie just nails this moment.)
A part of me wishes the show’s finale had more moments like this, because we needed a bit of happiness to balance out the shock and horror we have to witness in the final two episodes. But in any case, I’m glad it was here. And compared to Brienne breaking down over Jaime leaving her (see above), this is the Brienne I choose to remember, and this is how her relationship with Jaime feels most right to me.
Arya Killing the Night King
Best moment in the whole series for me.
I don’t know why I didn’t see this coming. I had no idea who would kill the Night King — though if anybody, I would have expected Jon Snow to do it.
The night of the battle at Winterfell, we see Arya fighting the white walkers, then running for her life, stumbling, hiding, and nearly dying. The twist comes later in the show, when Beric — who has been brought back to life numerous times — dies saving her. The Red Woman explains that in doing so, he served his purpose. I got chills when she remindsArya of the prophecy she shared with her so long ago: Arya would kill someone with brown eyes, green eyes… and blue eyes.
Up to the last second, I didn’t know if Arya would make it. When she rushes toward the Night King, he grabs her and it seems like she won’t survive. But a feint of hand wins the day, as she drops the knife to stab him with the arm he’s not expecting. He breaks into a bazillion fragments of ice, and she survives. The hero of the world.
What I loved about this moment is how special it is to watch Arya become this hero after watching her grow up. We see her as a child in Winterfell, watching her father killed. We see her go through hell for years. In this battle, we see her afraid — unusual for her — and almost die. So for her to triumph like this, it feels almost like watching your daughter triumph. After all that she’s gone through, you feel proud of her. I don’t know that I’ve ever experience that with any other character in a show or movie before, but Game of Thrones pulled it off.
Melisandre’s Last Night
Of course I haven’t always agreed with Melisandre’s choices. As the Red Woman, she’s a religious seductress who has encouraged some absolutely terrible things in the name of her god. But she has always believed she was doing right, and the Battle of Winterfell was her final redemption before she died. I loved every minute of her in this battle.
First, she summons a spell to light the Dothraki riders’ weapons on fire — all the better to defeat the white walkers. Later that night, she lights the trench to help ward against the white walkers, too. She then finds Arya and reminds her of her prophecy: Arya will kill someone with blue eyes, and in that moment it becomes clear to everyone — including the audience — that Arya’s fate is to take down the Night King himself.
Melisandre once told Varys that she would die in Westeros. At the beginning of the night, she tells Ser Davos that she will die before the dawn.
And after everything goes down — after the white walkers are defeated, and she’s done all she could to help with her magic and gift of prophecy — she walks out into the snow, removes the mysterious necklace that has been keeping her alive, and ages to her death within seconds before collapsing in the snow. It was a beautiful way to end the episode, and for the first time I truly admired her.
I thought Arya was going to kill her. Some thought Jaime would. But when Cersei was left crying as the walls of the Red Keep crumbled around her, and in that moment saw Jaime? I lost it.
It was such a sweet moment to see her embrace the one man she truly loves and trusts. Cersei is loyal to her family — to her children first, but her relationship with Jaime is something that has kept her going too. There were moments when she could have turned on him — one in particular when she is this close to calling the Mountain to kill him — but she never does. Because I believe she really loved him to the end.
And Jaime loved her too. It’s so Game of Thrones that the most romantic relationship in the show is between a brother and sister — and the sister is the biggest villain of the story.
But after hating her for seasons, I felt bad for her in her last moments and cried when she and Jaime died in each other’s arms.
Drogon Melting the Iron Throne
After Jon kills Daenerys, Drogon flies in and mourns her. His anger at her death is evident when he opens his mouth, and you see the fire lighting up his throat.
I thought he was going to try to burn Jon in his rage — and Jon, being a Targaryen, would survive the fire. But what happened was more surprising than that.
Instead, Drogon directs all his rage at the Iron Throne, melting it down for good. The destruction of this symbol of power, which so many characters have been chasing, just felt so right to end all of this.
After the show, I read that maybe Drogon didn’t blame Jon for Dany’s death — he blamed the true culprit, the Iron Throne itself. Dany’s obsession with it corrupted her in the end, blinding her to what was truly right, and so it had to be destroyed.
So Drogon carried out his mother’s true wishes by finally breaking the wheel.
Sansa Crowned Queen in the North
Sansa has long been a favorite character of mine — even when I loved to hate her.
For instance, I really hated when she spilled Jon’s secret about being a Targaryen, because it felt like she was betraying her family just for the sake of playing the game. But that’s just who she is now. She’s called a lot of things that others missed. She called on Littlefinger as an ally when she needed him, but then later saw through him and had him executed. She spoke her mind on how to treat traitors, even when it meant undermining Jon’s ideas in front of everyone. She was the only one who knew that Cersei’s promise to help fight the dead was a lie. She’s gotten her vengeance against those who hurt her — the most satisfying case being her canine revenge against her evil husband Ramsay Bolton.
So even when I disagreed with her, I rooted for her. Her arc is arguably the most well-done in the entire series: from a naive girl who wants to be a princess, she blossoms into a cunning woman who wants to be a queen. A leader. She wants to call the shots, and by going through hell she’s learned exactly how to do that.
Some say that when she tells the Hound, “Without Littlefinger, and Ramsay and the rest, I would have stayed a Little Bird all my life,” she is saying that her history of abuse is what made her strong, and they take issue with that. I would too. But I don’t believe this is a case of a woman needing to experience abuse to grow stronger; I look at this more as a person who lived life as a pawn realizing that she could take control of her own story. Sansa achieves this by outwitting others, just as Littlefinger did. Like it or not, she’s a politician now.
That’s why it was so satisfying to see her take the crown of the North. When the gathering is electing Bran as their king, she is the last to speak — and she saves the best for last. While telling her brother that he will make a great king, she will lead the North as a free kingdom. The North has always had a strong, independent heart, so I believe she’s doing this not only for herself, to become queen, but for the good of the Northerners.
She has become a capable leader who truly cares about her people, and she’s not afraid to take charge. Nobody grants the North freedom; she just stands up and takes it. And her crown is just the icing on the cake.