As usual with these kinds of things, this review will contain spoilers for Season 8 Episode 6 of Game of Thrones – be warned.
So finally, one of the grandest television propositions of all time has come to a close. And what a journey it’s been, with the HBO series based on the books of the same name dominating awards ceremonies, viewing figures and the global cultural landscape for almost a decade. The unprecedented success of the show has involved its audience in the plots machinations to an extent that fiction rarely can, and so it was always going to be difficult to please the baying hoards in their entirety with the conclusion to the saga.
That being said, the overall response from viewers has been less than positive so far and the final ever episode had it all to do to right the wrongs of the earlier efforts in season 8. And, for me at least, I felt it did an admirable job, albeit an impossible one. We entered the final hour and a bit having just watched the annihilation of a city of a million people, and so many characters with open story arcs that needed tying up in one way or another. Daenerys had finally conquered Westeros, but her method of doing so left her needing some form of justice. Jon was still kicking about and, in case you hadn’t heard him the first 804 times he said it, very much not interested in being King. Tyrion was about to find himself in a ton of trouble and the rest of the Stark’s were hanging around waiting for their resolutions.
And to a certain extent everyone got them but that’s not to say that the final episode satisfied, because it had too much to do in too short an amount of time. This was most obviously demonstrated by the sudden jump in time between the murder of Daenerys and the gathering of the great and good of Westeros. Previous series would have provided us with a litany of scenes featuring conversations from all the major involved parties in the run up to this crunch meeting, what to do about Jon, Greyworms role in his capture, the journey of the stark’s down to the fighting pit etc etc. What we actually get is an “Oh, just so you know we’ve moved on now” with almost no explanation as to why or what’s happened in the intervening period. It’s underwhelming to say the least.
Bran becoming King was actually fine by me, and makes logical sense from the viewpoint of the rest of the cast, but again it seemed too easy. Yara Greyjoy went from being furious at the murder of her Queen to accepting Bran within the space of about four minutes, with no audible protestations. It simply didn’t ring true with how passionate and loyal humans, like the ones on display here, would behave. Jon taking the black was a nice bit of full circle narrative but it did leave me with the feeling that he’d rather been rendered a little useless by this final season. Reduced to just a participant, rather than a leader, during the two big battles, he became a passive bystander only capable of uttering repetitive catchphrases. Perhaps most unforgivably, the big secret that he’s a Targaryen led almost nowhere, save for straining his relationship with Dany and possibly triggering her madness – it didn’t actually advance his character significantly.
The conclusion to the episode sees the remaining main characters go their separate ways, with Arya heading West, Sansa North, Jon further North and Bran swapping his usual chair for one that is considerably more molten. Again, it’s difficult to have a problem with what they did here per se, but there was a part of me which regretted how tied up in a nice little bow this was. I’m conflicted because I wanted my favourites to make it to the end, but at the same time that’s just not what Game of Thrones has been all about.
With all those criticisms being said, it is important to remember what a monumental achievement of filmmaking it really is. The cast and crew have to be commended for their commitment to a final season with brutally long shoots (particularly the 55 nights it took to get all of the Battle of Winterfell) and the end of the characters which had taken up such a significant portion of the lives. Regardless of how you or I feel about the direction the series took in its death throes, they left absolutely everything out there. Now all we have to do is wait for them to get the production of the prequel started and we can get going with the world of George RR Martin all over again. I, for one, can’t wait.