Last night was the last ever episode of Game of Thrones. Did you watch it too? What did you think? (Warning: Spoilers ahead!)
The show is perhaps most famous for its ability to shock the viewer. How many times has a much beloved character been brutally murdered? Remember Ned Stark, the star of Season 1? An honourable man trying to do the right thing. So of course they cut his head off. And then there was the infamous Red Wedding. I could cite numerous other instances.
So it would have been unusual if the showrunners hadn’t included a few genuine surprises in the finale.
The first shock came only a few scenes in. We see Daenerys giving a chilling victory speech to her men, where her megalomania is on full display. We have seen evidence in the last few episodes that she might be becoming unhinged, but this scene really confirms that she’s lost it. As she sits imperiously on the shiny metal toilet, we realise that her obsession with the Iron Throne has been entirely misunderstood. And while dysentery has been a major problem for this character through most of Season 8, no real explanation is given for why the Queen of Dragons should have been so fixated on capturing the royal toilet. So this is what all those people in King’s Landing burned for?
Another shock comes during the scenes between Tyrion and Jon Snow, after the Hand of the Queen is arrested for securities fraud, money laundering and conspiracy to commit copyright infringement. He has betrayed Daenerys and seems certain to be executed. But as he ponders his likely death he gives Jon a message: do the right thing. You know what you must do.
Jon has been struggling for the last few episodes. He wonders who he really is. Has his entire life to this point been a lie? But Tyrion’s words affect him, convincing him that he can no longer put off the gender reassignment surgery. Jon can no longer pretend to be someone he is not. There is a clinic north of the Wall that does the surgery. It won’t be pleasant, given the lack of any sort of anaesthetic and the rudimentary knowledge in Westeros of medicine and even basic surgical procedures, not to mention the very real risk of death by infection. But will Dany approve? She’s been acting all weird lately, and with a new kingdom to run he wonders how she finds the time to watch so much Fox News.
So Jon meets Daenerys in the throne room. She tells him that what he proposes is unnatural, and then begins to complain about the fake news media. Jon sees that a member of the crew has left a milkshake near the foot of the Iron Throne, so he throws it over her. Little does he know that the Queen of Dragons has a severe milk allergy, but we only know this because she pulls out an EpiPen and injects herself. It all comes as a shock to the viewer shock, but looking back through previous episodes there were plenty of clues to this. Do we ever see her drinking cow’s milk?
I have to say that I didn’t enjoy what happened next. Sure, she’d just finished murdering thousands of women and children without any apparent regret, but who hasn’t made the odd mistake? Daenerys didn’t deserve to be written out of the story the way she was. But it’s an object lesson to allergy suffers to always check the expiry date on your EpiPen. Alas, too late for the Queen of Dragons.
And then our remaining heroes meet to decide who should rule the Seven Kingdoms. It’s not an entirely convincing scene, given that we’ve seen little evidence to date that any of our main characters could sing, let alone breakdance. In the end the winner of this contest is Bran, though not so much for his ability to hold a tune, which while impressive doesn’t seem to move the judges as much as his wheelchair spins. It looks as if Bran will make a fine king, although as Simon Cowell pointed out, he’ll need to work on his musical range. If he wants to unite Westeros behind him, he’ll need to expand his repertoire beyond Guys and Dolls showtunes.
The rest of the show then seems to drag a bit. We already know from previous episodes that Arya wants to open a kebab shop in Highgarden (you’d think she’d have learned her lesson about engaging in commerce, after that failed tax consultancy business back in Braavos), but why the writers thought we’d want to hear her recite all the different menu options is beyond me. And while I’m very pleased that in the end Sansa got exactly what she wanted, it was a letdown to find out that all she’d ever wanted was a pet weasel. Seriously? A ferret would have been more believable.
Bran is depicted as a good and wise king, even if he now has a dose of the dysentery that was going around earlier in the series. We see his Small Council arguing over the differences between Brie and Camenbert. Bronn contends that they are one and the same, while bookish Samwell points out that according to all the ancient texts they are made from different breeds of cow; then Davos claims that one has a higher fat content than the other. All the while the king sits nearby in his chair, groaning quietly, sweating, miserable, desperate for some relief. This is genuinely thrilling stuff, as good as anything we have seen in previous seasons. But then it just fades out, everything left incomplete. All these characters deserve better than to end their time on the show with an unresolved debate over soft cheeses and a king trying not to shit his pants.
Then finally, at the end of the episode, we see Arya serving falafel to her satisfied customers, while Jon is sent north to have that gender reassignment surgery.
And so it ends after eight seasons. It was a disappointing way to conclude what has been a stupendously successful show. It feels like something was missing from the end. Couldn’t there have been a ceremony of some sort? Medals? Maybe a speech or two about how well everyone had done? It would have been nice for some of the lesser characters to have been rewarded, like Podrick or Gendry. At very least they deserved a Certificate of Appreciation, or a pat on the back and a “well done”.
It’s always dangerous to go into a show’s finale with too many expectations. But as a minimum you would expect some effort on the part of the show’s creators to tie up loose ends. Instead, we were left with questions, so many questions! Did the Small Council reach consensus over Brie and Camembert? Did Bran shit his pants? Was Jon’s operation a success and what gender pronoun did Jon choose to go by? We’ll never know. We will go to our graves not knowing. It is literally killing me. How can I go on living with these questions left unanswered?