Dust and Ashes: 7 parting thoughts on the end of Game of Thrones
Updated: Jun 23
✨ FREDDIE HUTCHINS
It (surely) doesn't need saying by now, but for form’s sake: Here Be Spoilers.
I didn’t become an assiduous Game of Thrones watcher until halfway though Season 4. This is unlike me - I have always been capable of geek-tastic superfan behaviour, but somehow the early years of GoT passed me by. It wasn’t until rumblings of a Red Wedding and the fervent recommendations of (very) many people that I decided to get stuck in. Not having the subscriptions or technical wherewithal to go back and start from the beginning, I armed myself with the inimitable Game of Thrones Wiki and joined the party in full swing.
Although this is obviously a sacrilegious way to consume any cult TV show, it has given me a somewhat useful sense of dispassionate overview; I have always maintained (although no-one ever believes) that I watch the show primarily out of a professional interest. This is (was) the biggest show in the world, employing many thousands of people (including several of my actor contemporaries) on multiple film sets and locations across the globe. The scope of its ambition and the talents of its creatives have resulted in some of the most jaw-droppingly impressive moments I have ever witnessed on TV or otherwise - Hardhome and Battle of the Bastards among them.
Which is all to say: I enjoy GoT a lot. But I seem to feel an ambivalence unshared by my fellow fans in terms of how it ended, and the paths each of the much-loved characters took en route to their dates with destiny and the Iron Throne. Therefore, a week after the last of the dragon-scat hit the Dothraki arakhs, I give you my totally fair, considered and utterly impartial copper penny’s worth as to how I felt about it all.
A Vow is a Vow: The genius of Jon’s story arc
He’s never been my favourite character. Just as the load-bearing I-beam is unlikely to be a favourite feature of one’s house, so Jon’s solid, stolid presence throughout 8 seasons has done little to enthral or excite - and, of late, his tortured expressions and stultified silence have been just plain dull. People of honour, people of their word, don’t necessarily create the most exciting drama. Their bedrock-y qualities, whilst reassuring in the background, can be dull when placed centre stage.
In the final reckoning, Jon did of course have his pivotal part to play - but his tortured angst in the run-up and aftermath weren’t particularly interesting. What was interesting, I thought, was where he ended up. Jon swore an oath to the Night’s Watch. Whilst he attempted to break this oath several times (most notably towards the end of Season 1, in which his brothers memorably follow him and bring him back together) and whilst his death (of sorts) at the end of Season 5 put an end to his sense of obligation, nonetheless this stoic man of duty does end up returning to the Wall.
As dear Aemon Targaryen remarked: Love is the death of duty. Much like our own outrageously dependable Monarch, Jon chose to put duty first, and self (love) second. Bravo, Jon. Go forth and be torturously dull. Nothing could make you happier.
She was robbed: Give a girl a break
I’m not talking abut Arya. She got her moment, and it was a cool one. I think I agree that the dispatch of the Night King could - and should - have been a series-ender in itself, as opposed to the pre-interval shocker of an utterly breathless final season. Regardless, Arya did at least get her moment in the sun. Snow. Whatever.
It’s Cersei I’m sad about. Cersei has been the most unpredictable, grotesque, mesmerising character throughout - the epitome of the Game of Thrones trust-no-one, didn’t-see-that-coming mantra. She always, always had a trick up her sleeve, a card to play. Until this season. This season, her role has comprised almost entirely of standing at windows, gazing out into the middle distance. She has deployed no strategy, no tactics, has barely voiced a thought. And her role at the end was to weep for her unborn child and die in the arms of the man she loved. Snooze.
It was through Cersei that we could and should have understood Daenery’s final unseating: Cersei’s ace trumped by an even greater, hitherto unexpected malevolence. Somehow, this never hit home for me. There was no writing given over to it, no show-down between the outgoing and incoming Queens of Wrath. Instead we witnessed a muted, Clegane Bowl-sidestepping Cersei, given voice only to entreat Jamie’s protection in her final moments. Let. Down.
Democracy is laughable: Isn’t it just?
A nice touch. My heart quailed and my skin prepared to crawl as dear Sam stepped up to make the case for a People’s Vote. Please - not here. We’re not going to get a cutesy, moralistic outcome are we? But this is Westeros, not Cloud Cuckoo Land. The remaining players, minus Sam, laughed the suggestion off to a man and woman. Thank goodness for that. It almost made me long for a similarly benign dictatorship to be instigated in our own broken world.
Bran the Broken: Breaker of the wheel
I think that I think this was a satisfying result. Obviously there was never going to be an Iron Throne left to sit on (Drogon: “Hold my beer…”) so let’s have a king in a wheelchair instead.
I loved Sansa’s obvious disappointment at the suggestion that her brother be given the top job - written all over her face, this was a really honest moment of showing a woman fully capable of a role being passed over for yet another man. Again, the leanness of the writing meant that Sansa’s excellent rejection of Bran’s rule in the North came across as more petulant than strong, but the outcome remains a pleasing one: Sansa gets some valid throne-time for her efforts. And Bran, being a man, gets some too. C’est la vie.
Love is Love: But why did Brienne have to fall victim to it too?
Oh babe. You got bit hard.
My award for the BEST Twitter comment of all: “My girl Brienne outside in a housecoat. I hate d**k. That’s what d**k does. It has you outside in the cold ass North in a housecoat asking a one handed dude where he’s going.” Preach, @yay_itsrai.
I guess being made Lord Commander of the Kingsguard mitigates this woeful ending somewhat.
Brienne, you rock. In every way conceivable, it’s Jamie’s loss.
It’s a Man’s World: And ultimately, that just feels a bit ick
Like, ultimately: all the women died. They did though, didn’t they? Arya’s not a Lady, so she didn’t. Brienne is a Ser, so she didn’t. But Dany, Cersei, Missandei, Laura Elphinstone, her daughter… the exception is Sansa, but she didn’t get the ultimate prize. She had to make one of her own (and good on her.) It just leaves a bad taste. Is that just me? ‘Cos I’m like, totally woke?
Oh Varys, where art thou?
OH so close - this feels, for me, the most frustrating death of all. WHY should Varys be made an example of by yet another of Thrones’ tyrannical rulers? He navigated his way around, through and past so many of them, so skilfully, only to fall at the very final hurdle. And guess what? He really did only ever want what was best for the realm. No sneaky-business in that respect: just plain, old-fashioned altruism. Varys, I wanted you there at the table my friend, Master of Whisperers to the very end. You’ve left a very big hole.