So, Bran is the true villain of Game of Thrones, right?
He travelled down to King’s Landing because he knew they were going to vote him king. Which means he knew what was going to happen. He dropped the Aegon bomb knowing that it would eventually lead to the horrible deaths of most of the people of King’s Landing and his own ascent to the throne.
And I’m going to believe that Brandon Stark has been playing the long game for the throne, because otherwise… honestly, this finale was kind of boring.
It’s hard to engage with a plot and its characters when the writing doesn’t respect its audience. The episode opened with a slow, painful walk through the destruction of King’s Landing with Tyrion, and although it was well-shot and well-acted, I didn’t emotionally connect with it at all. How could I? This was the aftermath of a character decision that made absolutely no sense. Tyrion stares at symbolic broken bells, and instead of remembering how mad and evil Dany is for attacking after the bells rang in surrender, I just think how nonsensical it was for Dany to do that.
The entirety of the Red Keep collapsed on top of Jaime and Cersei last episode, but this week, the tunnels are passable, their bodies are at the top of the pile of rubble, and they would have survived completely uninjured if they’d just stood a little to the right.
Last week’s episode ended with Arya finding a white horse and riding out of King’s Landing, so this week she is back in the city with no horse in sight.
On scales both huge and irrelevant, this episode, like this season, just didn’t expect its viewers to be paying attention. It hoped its drama and spectacle would wow them enough that they lost all sense of logic or continuity.
Without having copies of A Dream of Spring in our hands, it’s hard to tell where the real problem lie here. Was it that George RR Martin had told them the ending, and they tried to shoehorn it in despite the show having moved in a different direction? Was it the writers’ desire to be dramatic and subvert expectations leading them to contradict their own character arcs? It was probably a bit of both — some bullet points given to them years ago by George RR Martin before he stopped collaborating on the series that they treated like a checklist, with their own innovations thrown in.
One consequence is Jon’s arc — the hero who was brought back to life, the Prince Who Was Promised, and whose story and promise all went literally nowhere. It definitely gives fuel to the evil!Bran theory when we think that no one even mentioned the fact that he is technically the heir to the throne during their council. No one cared! The only time it mattered this week was the fact that Dany knew about it, putting Jon and his sisters at risk.
This is why Bran waited til Jon had hooked up with Dany to reveal it to anyone, right? He wanted maximum drama.
Jon spent half of this episode acting like there was some logic or justification behind Daenerys’ actions. He acted like the deaths of the innocent were accidents or a battle strategy, rather than a purposeful slaughter after the battle was won. In another universe, that might have been the story we saw. But in this one, Jon’s moral quandary only served to underline both how nonsensical Dany’s actions were and how stupid Jon is. “Cersei gave her no choice,” Jon? And you think Sansa will be loyal to the throne? In this universe, Sansa hated Dany even before she had a good reason.
Of course, the show needed to have him seem conflicted so then we could have a PLOT TWIST when he stabbed her. It doesn’t make sense, but it adds to the drama, and so we’re expected to follow along with it. Just as we’re expected to believe that Dany burned Varys immediately for treason, but lets Tyrion live.
One great strength of the books (and the early seasons) is that they’re unafraid to see through the consequences of characters’ actions. They’re described as shocking, but every shocking moment happens because of characters’ own choices. But now, the show pulls its punches at the moments when it most makes sense to be brutal. Tyrion defies Dany, and lives. Jon kills Dany, and Drogon does not burn him.
Instead, Drogon gets big into symbolism, melts down the Iron Throne, and then just flies off, taking away both Dany’s body and any need for any more consideration of her motivations or impact on the plot.
And so the show goes about tying up its loose ends. A few more items for the checklist! Bran becomes king, because… I’m not sure why. His ability to know everything didn’t exactly help prevent this massacre (evil!Bran!!). Sansa becomes Queen in the North, which I have been half-joking about for about seven years, but seriously, why would the other six kingdoms all agree to have Bran as their king and allow Sansa to walk off with the North? Her crowning was a great scene, but the North would have the biggest reason to be loyal to the throne with Bran as king, so if Sansa’s out, why wouldn’t the Ironborn and the Dornish follow? Half the people on that council don’t even know who Bran is.
Sam skipped becoming a maester and became the Grand Maester. Bronn is Bran’s Master of Coin for… reasons. Brienne is the new Commander of the Kingsguard, which is great, but also strange since she swore fealty to Sansa, so shouldn’t she be commander of her guard? Jon is sent to the Wall, despite there not really being a Wall any more, or anything dangerous north of it to defend against.
But Ghost finally got his hug from Jon. So that’s something.
One piece of good news, as this chapter of TV history comes to a close? David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have no connection to the spinoff series that has apparently just started filming in Belfast. In fact, the series has a female showrunner, Jane Goldman, which gives me just a little bit of hope that maybe all the nonsensical misogynistic bullcrap of Game of Thrones itself won’t be repeated. It’s not a guarantee, but it’s hope. And without D&D around, maybe the story will end up making sense too.
Just don’t get your hopes too high about the future of Star Wars.
And meanwhile, our true wait for The Winds of Winter begins.