Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 6: "The Iron Throne" Review

Let me preface the Game of Thrones series finale review with this: based on the trajectory of where the series was headed over the past few weeks (specially a penultimate episode as bad as what we got), there was no way that “The Iron Throne” was ever going be the ideal ending for the series for most fans. The way the fanbase has been split will ensure this will be one of the most divisive series finales in recent memory. It was always going to be this way.

Last week’s episode left my feelings about the series pretty shattered. The way a very important plot point like Daenerys Targaryen’s journey from would be savior to mad queen was handled brought to life the fundamental problem about the series in the last two seasons: shortening them up was a bad idea. There were small hints of Dany’s potential mad queen turn seeded throughout the entire series if you go back and look for them but theexecution in the hastily paced final seasons made it seem like a left turn that wasn’t earned and a betrayal of years of character development. It left the series finale “The Iron Throne” with a heavy burden to carry I wasn’t sure it was going to succeed at carrying all the way to the finish.

Despite some problems (and some final plot developments that will divide the fanbase into oblivion), I found “The Iron Throne” to be a mostly satisfyingly (if not perfect) bittersweet finale to a series that subverted and shattered my expectations over this past decade.

Picking up where last week’s disaster left off, “The Iron Throne” played a bit like some of the season finales from earlier seasons of the show. In typical Game of Thrones fashion, last week’s episode delivered the big moments and now the finale had to settle on the aftermath. But whereas previous finales were about setting up what was to come, “The Iron Throne” would not. This is the coda. This was it. And the ending it settled on is definitely not what I would have expected.

One thing “The Iron Throne” did well early on is making good on the Mad Queen turn from Daenerys Targaryen. While I was on the camp where I thought the turn last week felt rushed and unearned despite foreshadowing, the finale at least helped paint some real new context to prior scenes in seasons past. Whereas Dany rallying her troops early in the series would be a cause of cheering, this time out they furthered explained what Dany meant by “Breaking the Wheel” in a chilling, now more terrifying context. In a way, while not downright fixing the episode, it made some of the beats from “The Bells” seem a bit better in hindsight.

And ultimately, I found Dany’s death to be one fitting to the story told. It was a fittingly bittersweet irony to see how Dany’s journey left her so close to an Iron Throne she reached but never even got to sit on, all while having delirious visions of grandeur for what her idea of “Breaking the Wheel” was going to mean to the rest of Westeros. Jon being the one stabbing her felt like a proper way to close out the “Fire and Ice” section of this saga, even though emotionally, the moment was a bit stunted due to the nature of their rushed relationship thanks to the rushed final two seasons. At the very least, Drogon finding his mother dead, burning the Iron Throne, and taking his mother with him to the far unknown provided the emotional catharsis this sequence needed.

Now to the big elephant in the room: who ends up as the new king of Westeros? I have to throw this disclosure ahead of time and say that I was spoiled about this outcome on a leak I unfortunately saw on Twitter, so I had almost a full week to process the idea of what this outcome would be. I certainly would say, never in a million years would I have expected that king to be Bran Stark. It was shocking to read it, but it was also shocking to see it end up coming true. While a very left field development to be sure (and I can already hear the knives being sharpened as I say this), I thought it was a twist that quite worked, and given some decent justification when seen in the context of why he ends up on the throne. Sure, the idea that Bran the Broken has the best story out of anyone is asinine. In the mold of Game of Thrones liking to subvert expectations, this is the only logical way for this story to have played out.

Is it the outcome most people would have wanted? I don’t think so, specially with how little Bran has had to do ever since becoming the Three Eyed Raven, specially this season where it always felt like he had no purpose. But it’s that reason why I feel it worked for me on the justification given. After a series that emphasized kings and queens ruling based on bloodline and usurping, it actually was a way to “Break the Wheel” as it were.

As for where all the surviving characters ended at the end of their arc, I found it satisfying while understanding people will be mad at some of the outcomes. I can totally see people being mad at Brienne of Tarth embellishing Jaime’s memory in a way that doesn’t jive on the last interaction they both had back on “The Last of the Starks”. Personally, I found it to be a bittersweet moment for characters that always were defined by their unrequited love for each other, so I’m glad it was the note they ended her on. I can also see people being mad at Jon Snow’s final coda. But keeping the theme of audience and story subversions going, it’s fitting that the “hero” of this tale ends up in exile back in the place he was at the beginning of the series when he was just a nobody bastard from Ned Stark. Look a little closer though, and you can see his return to Castle Black is a fulfilling return to a place where he was shown disdain forever, and now has people embracing him for the care he gave to the realm (specially the Free Folk, who you see Jon riding with in the closing moments of the series). It may not be the place people would have expected him to end up at after the Aegon Targaryen lineage reveal, but it was a fitting end for a character that never wanted anything big. Plus, his reunion with Ghost and petting him gave me all sorts of feels.

Before I forget it, I have to give some mention to the scene at the table with new Hand of King Bran Stark, Tyrion Lannister, and his newly assembled crew. Seeing his crew include Bronn, Ser Davos, Samwell and Brienne was personally a fun moment, and makes me wish I could get extra episodes of all of them bickering about how to run the realm as Bran wargs finding the missing Drogon. Character interactions about banal realm stuff was one of the early highlights of the series for me, so I liked to see that element be reestablished as things reached a conclusion.

And ultimately, for a series that started with them, I found it fitting and satisfying to see the series end with the Stark children. Let us not forget it all started with Ned Stark and his family, and after such a brutal journey for the last few surviving members, seeing Jon smile and live with the Free Folk, Arya out in the wild sailing west of Westeros and Sansa become queen of the newly independent North were fitting codas for all their journeys. Also, as a weird subversion for this series, I definitely wasn’t expecting this to be this happy of an ending, but I can’t complain when I still liked what I saw.

Are people going to absolutely hate where things ended up? Absolutely. I already see myself engaging in many conversations trying to justify why I liked this finale while other people hated it. Such is the beauty of life and differing opinions. Will I feel differently a few months or a few years from now the more I keep marinating on it? Well, who knows? Ask me again in ten years. 

What I know is that, as of right now, the series finale was an imperfect but satisfying end to a turbulent final season, and I’m happy with where it left off. Based on where things were at just a few episodes ago, I think that’s a win. Will Game of Thrones Season 8 go down as the most disappointing season of the series? Probably. But I’m glad I took this journey.

See you until the prequels start, Westeros!


TV Scoring rubric:

★ : 1 point  ☆ : 0.5 points

★★★★★: Essential. Excellent episodes. Close to flawless. Transcends any minor flaws it may have. 
   ★★★★: Great/Highly recommended. Great episodes. Some flaws worth mentioning, but nothing to worry about.
      ★★★: Okay/Recommended. Good episodes. Contains things worth watching & experiencing, but flaws can hinder the experience.
         ★★: Caution/Questionable. Mediocre episodes. The flaws start to significantly hinder anything good the episode has.
             ★: Avoid. Bad episodes with nothing redeemable about them (some enjoyment as "so bad its good). Preferably don't waste your time. 


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