So this is it, the last post in a long journey of posts.
Let me start with the end before I end with the beginning: I am leaving you all, gentle readers. This is my Watchers farewell.
It’s been real, it’s been fun; sometimes it’s even been real fun! But all good things must end. Valar Dohaeris, yes, but ultimately Valar Morghulis. I regret nothing.
Now then. Let’s go back to the start, as Chris Martin once crooned. I’m a huge nerd, which is shocking to most of you, I know! I’m also 50 years old, which places me in the upper tier of GoT fans, longevity wise. (I still quietly curse Pat “The Usurper” Sponagle for his single-year seniority!)
My love for Dungeons & Dragons predates my love for anything that I still currently hold any flame for, short of perhaps chocolate milkshakes. Somewhere in the early 00’s, Dragon Magazine published one of its monthly issues, and this one came with a twist:
This issue had largely dedicated its content to a series of fantasy novels written by George R. R. Martin. The Red Witch Melisandre was there on the cover, glowing in her usual sultry fashion, and the issue’s contents- from monster stats to intriguing plot points- left me with a distinct thirst for more.
I soon picked up A Game of Thrones, the one with the silver and blue cover, raven-haired Jon Snow riding a proud steed through some northerly hinterlands, a crow over his shoulder and loyal white wolf by his side. Like most of you I was hooked by the end of the first chapter. I then devoured A Clash of Kings, and A Storm of Swords…
From there it was on to the Westeros forums, where I met other rabid fans of this gritty, realistic fantasy world. (Nerd points to anyone who recalls my username over at the Worg.) The series pilot was announced by HBO, and Phil “Winter” Bicking put up a post that basically said, (Philadelphia accent implied) “Yo, any of you nerds gonna start a Game of Thrones TV show website?” A week later, after what amounted to crickets chirping as a response, Phil came back with a link to his brand new HBO Game of Thrones fan site! To assist, he asked Marko aka “Hear Me Roar” (because he’s super intelligent) and Myself “FaBio” Me (because… I’m funny?), and the rest is, as they say, history.
And man, the tales I could tell. We got in on all the good early stuff. I’ve been to two premiere parties, three launch parties, and got to see snippets of the first season; I got to meet the David Benioff and Dan Weiss, Peter Dinklage, Sean Bean, and George R.F.R. Martin himself, and that was all before the first episode was up on HBO. (I’ve actually met George on six different occasions; Phil and I both made such an impression on him that he thanked us both on the A Dance With Dragons acknowledgements page. Seriously, I should frame that shit.). I’ve interviewed over half the main cast, and I call a few of them close personal friends.
Hell, I’ve hung out with the lovely Kristian Nairn more times than I can count. I was even briefly stared down and loomed over by Charles Dance. (Long story.)
It’s been good. I went from “Curtain Call Guy” to the “Twitter Post Guy,” and through WiC and WotW and Twitter have met some of the most amazing people—people I now regard as the truest of friends.
My time in the fandom isn’t done… but from now on I’m gonna be one with the plebes, satisfied with watching the prequel(s) and reading any future ASoIaF content on the “rabid fan” sideline like everyone else.
Will I still be a loyal Watchers on the Wall reader? OF COURSE, YOU FOOLS! You probably already know this, but this is the best Game of Thrones fan site out there, bar none. We have the best writers. I challenge you to find me a nerd site with better ones!
I have thanks to give aplenty. I hope Phil Bicking and Markoknow how much I appreciated them for their partnership and, most of all, their friendship over the years. I wouldn’t be here without them. I also want to thank all the amazing writers here at Watchers. I go into my GoT twilight knowing there are far better writers than me ready to pick up the slack:
Luka, you salient San Sebastián smartypants, thank you for your help and guidance; if I ever need any help in anything internet-related, I will still contact you, because I’m dumb and you’re not.
Bex, my erstwhile partner in crime (and future karaoke rival), thank you for being you: an utterly unapologetic Cersei stan, and the inventor of the DRUNKALYPSE, the funniest Tumblr that ever was or will be.
Vanessa, thank you for not only your lovely presence, but your art as well. Both are equally inspiring, and I count you as a fine friend.
Samantha, thank you for not only for inviting me onto your most excellent podcast, but for being a like-minded nerd (despite that Steelers-fan thing) as well as the great future mom we both know you will be. Girl, you get me.
Lady Geoffery, thank you for making me laugh so hard I once snotted onto my keyboard. Seriously! Oh, and also for being a newly-minted Los Angeles Ram fan. You’ll thank me… at some point. (And lo! Geoff has a tumblr too, so y’all go check that!)
Petra, my wee fellow Theon stan and (shockingly!!) axe-chucking superior, thank you for your passionate, thought-provoking prose. (Y’all, Petra has a YouTube channel. She rarely posts there, but when she does the content is brilliant.)
Akash, you fine, dapper man, thank you for speaking out for those who may not have your boldness or talent; I will continue to troll your twitter feed for the shade you throw, and your instagram for the style you bring.
Pat, thank you for being the (ahem) elder statesman I wish I was! You’re Lawful Good, so I must therefore content myself with being Awful Good. (And check it, nerds, he doesn’t just write about GoT, so check out Pat’s site! Yes, it’s filled with GoT stuff, but he occasionally writes about um, dogs!)
Hogan, thank you for being that brilliant artist I wish I could have been. (True story: I was already a gigantic fan of his—and then lo and behold he goes and starts writing for our site?! Kismet! Check out Hogan’s fashion site, y’all!
A special thank-you goes to Tina, our sometimes-shy “Dame Pasty,” for being that shoulder I could lean on; your advice was always timely and greatly appreciated.
My deepest thanks goes to Sue, my furious foil and, honestly, the snarlingly blunt kind of Editor-In-Chief this site needs. She’s a detail-driven demon of a woman with whom I’ve oft clashed (our “artistic differences” are, shall we say, sometimes at odds)… but all the best editors are required to put their writers in their place, and lord, I’ve earned a few thumps. I’ll be buying her a drink or two at Con of Thrones, NEXT MONTH, so she can sock me in the shoulder in person for all the snit fits I’ve thrown. She has a Tumblr! Go tumbl with her, peeps!
My final thanks goes to Oz, the most courteous and caring boss I’ve literally ever had. He invited me to Watchers with open arms, and talked me into sticking through some of the tough personal times. Oz, it was a blast meeting you at Con of Thrones. It was a hard thing to do, finally admitting you had more to offer Kate Dickie than I, but I take defeat graciously and (dare I say) humbly.
(I’m not saying Kate’s final preference pushed me towards retirement, but I also won’t say I wouldn’t still be writing here if Katie had but chosen meeeeeeee….!)
Speaking of which… Yes, I’ll be in Nashville for Con of Thrones next month, as I said. And I expect to see a lot of you there. I’m friendly, and only bite in the early morning hours. Come up and say hi!
Peace out, nerds. Spread a little love, give your pets a little kiss, and be excellent to one another! BYEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!
The ending of any story is equally steeped in the ending itself and a contemplation of everything that came before it. It is why such a heavy weight is imparted upon the conclusion of a story. Not only does it have to carry itself as an episode of television but it also has to sufficiently honor the narrative foundations that led to its creation in the first place. It is a tricky balancing act and few series, if any, have ever achieved that perfect ending. Whether or not the ending to Game of Thrones accomplishes both critical beats is going to be debated for quite some time, in part a consequence of its legacy as a true pop culture phenomenon.
There are a plethora of ways to try and understand what the series has accomplished or fallen short of. As a writer, I’m inherently drawn to what the series was ultimately trying to say through its themes, its characters, its plot. What was this series ultimately about? Some would say that Game of Thrones is about the corruptibility of power. Others would say that it is about how attempts at breaking the systemic wheel can quite easily slip away and reinforce the wheel if one lacks caution. An oft heard refrain is “it’s all about tits and dragons.” My takeaway from Game of Thrones, in that sense, is a mixed message, much like my reaction to the last couple of installments that ended the series.
The central concern of Game of Thrones has always been about the question of power. That question has most obviously become a central concern for the show via the jockeying for the Iron Throne, potentially fiction’s most uncomfortable literal seat of power. Similar conflicts, albeit on much smaller scales, occurred from seats of power in Essos, Dorne, and the Iron Islands. But there were more damaging conflicts of power occurring between characters themselves. Even more intricate conflicts of power were the ones that George R. R. Martin referred to as “the human heart at conflict with itself.”
In season two, when the series had more time to explore the intricate questions of power, Lord Varys (Conleth Hill) said that power is a curious thing that resides where men believe it resides. To illustrate his point, he talked about a tale centering around a tale of three powerful men and a sellsword. One of those men is a king. Another is a priest. A third is a man of wealth. Each of them in turn offers the sellsword something for killing the other two in the room. Clearly, there is no love lost between the three of them. The king doesn’t offer much to the sellsword except for the notation that he is, in fact, the king. The priest offers some form of religious salvation, the deed of double murder a slight wrinkle in the whole holy pathway to heaven thing. The wealthy man offers him gold.
The question of actual power is what Varys is hinting at, the central trick in the question that originally drove the storytelling in Game of Thrones. The king of course represents the power of the law and the government. The priest represents the power of organized religion. The wealthy man represents the banks, the power of wealth and class, and perhaps capitalism if you take the allegory that far. Those three pillars of civilization, if you will, often seem impenetrable. The might of government, religion, and banks historically always seem to be until they’re not. In Game of Thrones, we saw a partial recognition of that reality when the poor of King’s Landing decide to rise up in season two and envelop the capital in riots.
When Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) tells Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) that she desires to break the wheel, she has a point. The power cycles of Westeros have often led to wanton destruction of the most powerless as everyone scrambles to sit on the Iron Throne. The Baratheons, Starks, Lannisters, Tyrells, and Targaryens have been culpable in that cycle of power. Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg) understood just as much. She was acutely aware of the power that the common people had as a collective, damn the government, gods, and gold. She counseled fear as a ruling tactic and pointedly reminded Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) of the necessity for a public spectacle with the Purple Wedding. When the spectacle ends, the masses will find other, more revolt-oriented entertainment.
The complication in such an analysis is often tied to where one sees themselves in that power structure. It is often easy to see the necessity of breaking a system while not analyzing one’s own role within that system. When Yara Greyjoy (Gemma Whelan) talks to Daenerys about the role the Iron Islands will play in such a system, Daenerys agrees to their independence. It’s a step that signals her seriousness in breaking the wheel. When she arrives on Dragonstone, she readies herself for the conquest of Westeros. She relies in part on the advice of her advisor and Hand of the Queen, whose formative experience as Hand of the King should have come in handy. It did not.
Tyrion makes one major miscalculation after another. Daenerys snaps and becomes Queen of the Ashes. Jon Snow (Kit Harington) assassinates her in a nauseating scene and departs for the lands north of the wall. What remains behind in the Seven Kingdoms is a power vacuum. The clichéd adage goes that nature abhors a vacuum of any sort and the melted Iron Throne in King’s Landing is no exception. The choice that is faced by the respective leaders of Westeros is quite simple: they must decide what the nature of leadership looks like post-the Last War (although it is hardly likely to be the last, all things considered). The reality of making that choice should be fairly complicated.
It isn’t. In a sequence full of players we know and those we have never seen before, there is not much of a discussion as to why Bran should or should not be king. Sansa wisely brings up the note of succession (a note over which many a war have occurred) and stakes her claim as an independent Queen of the North. But otherwise all it seems to take is a persuasive speech from Tyrion for the other lords to agree that a union of six kingdoms was the best option. Yara’s (Gemma Whelan) quest for independence gets lost in the mix. The realpolitik that defined some of the show’s best moments (think of the scene where Tyrion drags his chair in the Small Council chambers) is largely nonexistent.
Perhaps the more important question is, what does Game of Thrones ultimately say about power? What, if anything, comes of Daenerys’s stated desire to “break the wheel?” While other characters may not have repeated the exact phrase, they certainly shared some sense of wanting to pursue something different from the system that had put the Mad King, Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy), and Cersei Lannister on the Iron Throne. For now, it seems that they may not have achieved that after all.
Whether or not Bran will be a good king is largely an open question. It becomes a complicated one when one considers him being the Three-Eyed Raven. But let’s move beyond the central figure for a moment and look at the larger picture. There is still a king, albeit of six kingdoms and not seven. There is still a Small Council largely dominated by men with two vacant positions surely not to be vacant for much longer. It is difficult, beyond the names of some of the families in power, to sense there being much of a difference from what came before.
Samwell’s (John Bradley) suggestion that the people of Westeros, who have long been sufficiently fucked by the nobility, should have a direct say in their own governance elicits a chuckle from the nobles (as they are wont to do). It is the closest anyone has gotten to overturning the wheel in its entirety but it would perhaps have been too much of a change in Westeros for it to come across as narratively plausible. The system selected then, is an oligarchical appointment of a king and an annual check-in process. For now, anyhow.
In Lord Varys’s riddle about the sellsword, there is no clear cut answer about who has the most power because it inherently depends on your perception of the reality of power. If you agree with Tyrion’s answer, then the ruling class is sitting upon a brittle foundation of power. It breaks, or at least cracks, when the common people realize its fragility. From the perspective of those people (whoever is around at this point), there was another war between the nobility that wreaked havoc across Westeros and now they have to rebuild their lives while another noble boy sits the metaphorical equivalent of the Iron Throne. Everything has changed yet very little has.
I can say that the wheel is ultimately intact, perhaps even reinforced. It may have charred and cracked in certain senses, but the ultimate power structures remain relatively intact. The question then becomes whether or not Game of Thrones has ultimately answered the question of whether or not the wheel of power can be broken with a resounding “no.” That depends on your perception of where the power lies and just as importantly, how long it will remain there, intact. Perhaps it will remain there for ten years, twenty, or a hundred. What it certain is that the wheel at some point or another will shake once more and this time the trembles may break it apart at last.
Author George R.R. Martin himself said recently that, given the days-long conversations about the ending he had with showrunners Benioff and Weiss years ago, the end of Game of Thrones wouldn’t be “that different” from what he has planned for future books in A Song of Ice and Fire. However, some who disliked the controversial ending held out hope for a different endpoint altogether, not just a different execution. One of these contentious points was Bran becoming king of the now Six Kingdoms; a twist that, according to Isaac Hempstead Wright (Bran Stark), comes straight from Martin!
At the official Making Game of Thrones blog, Isaac discusses his reaction to King Bran the Broken, saying it was “the very last thing” he “expected to happen.” In fact, for a while he didn’t believe it would: “I was convinced they had sent a script to everyone in which they become king or queen, so I still didn’t believe it until the read-through.”
Once he got past his suspicions, though, the actor liked that choice: “I think he is a great character to take on that role. You never thought of him in that way, but what more could you ask for in a king than to have no personal attachments, no agenda, but have a calm understanding of the entire universe? He’s the ideal person to be in charge.”
And here comes the big revelation:
“[Showrunners] David [Benioff] and Dan [Weiss] told me there were two things [author] George R.R. Martin had planned for Bran, and that was the Hodor revelation, and that he would be king. So that’s pretty special to be directly involved in something that is part of George’s vision. It was a really nice way to wrap it up.”
There’s much more to the interview, which I suggest you read in its entirety here.
This so-called revelation will not come as a surprise to those who have read Martin’s words quoted at the top, or the showrunners’ oft-repeated claims that, though there were no more of Martin’s published words to follow, they were following his outline (which, may I remind you, though only an outline, it took days to recount in detail.) And yet, given some of the reactions I’ve read to the ending, with some people utterly convinced Bran will not become king in the books (amongst other major events in season eight and the finale in particular), I’m sure some people will be shocked by this.
Game of Thrones is over but you can relive it all over from beginning to end, as Season 8 is now available to own on Digital Download. In addition to the series’ last-ever six episodes, the purchase includes the extraordinary two-hour documentary Game of Thrones: The Last Watch, directed by filmmaker Jeanie Finlay, and two bonus featurettes: “The Long Night” and “The Final Season”.
The extra content for the Season 8 Digital Download includes:
The Final Season: “Join the cast and crew of Game of Thrones as they reflect on the final season of HBO’s epic, Emmy-winning series. Interviews include show runners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, along with stars Peter Dinklage, Emilia Clarke, Lena Headey, Kit Harington, and many others.”
The Long Night: “Join Game of Thrones show runners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss along with many of the major stars and behind-the-scenes players as they look back at the colossal filming that was the Battle of Winterfell in Season 8, episode 3. This special spotlights the weaponry, lighting, special effects and more that went into the making of this unforgettable episode.”
This is great news for fans who hold off on watching the show entirely until they can binge all at once- yes, I actually know people who have this level of self-control. Go forth and download away! Enjoy the season all over again, ye pirates, and tell us about those bonus features, or dive in for the first time if you’ve been waiting for season 8 to wrap up, for a good binge! The Long Night is over and summer is here. Enjoy!
There have been many post-mortems about Game of Thrones since the series finale aired, some by the cast members themselves. Today we bring you what I believe are two particularly strong interviews with Sophie Turner and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, in which they reflect on the end of not only an era of television but of their lives, and defend two controversial choices made by their characters, Sansa and Jaime, in this final season.
At The Wrap, Veep’s Tony Hale and Sophie Turner discuss the end of their respective HBO shows, with Turner telling us about her final scene (Sophie’s, not quite Sansa’s), which happened to be the series finale’s Dragonpit Great Council, filmed in Seville:
“It was a scene that we had been shooting for five days straight in the sun in Spain,” she reveals. “So I kept going between the feeling of, ‘God, I can’t wait for this scene to be over,’ and, ‘Please don’t ever let this end.’”
“When it came to the very final shot, [showrunners] Dave and Dan do this thing where they present each of us with the storyboard of their favorite scene of your character, and then say some lovely words about you in front of the cast and crew. I just broke down crying, and I was inconsolable for three or four hours. It was probably one of the saddest days of my life. And I don’t think I’m done with my crying yet.”
Sophie is also asked about a scene in “The Last of the Starks”, the fourth episode right after the battle against the dead, in which Sansa and Sandor reconnect. Some viewers interpreted Sansa’s words to mean that she believed Ramsey raping her had made her the woman she was now. Turner vehemently disagrees with this interpretation:
“I think that absolutely it was not so much the assault — what made her the person she is today, the politician and the manipulator, was the mentality, not the things that she went through. She made a conscious decision to stay quiet, to keep learning, to keep absorbing information from all of these people who are manipulating her or keeping her captive. It’s a wonderful thing to see a sexual assault survivor grow from that, and see her turn into this political leader she is today — but no, the rape is absolutely not a plot device to make the character seem stronger. The sexual assault made her resilient, but by no means has it made her this wonderful character that we see today. It absolutely broke her, and we saw that on screen. But seeing her thriving is so wonderful to see.”
At the official Making Game of Thrones blog, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau essentially makes the case that it couldn’t have ended any other way for Jaime, as much as we all wish that could have been the case and that he had stayed with Brienne:
“In a different world, Jaime would’ve stayed with Brienne. What he has with Brienne is something different — it’s a very pure, innocent love. There is a part of him that wishes he could not be who he is. It’s one of those things we do in Game of Thrones: you have this idea of what you want these characters to do — it’s supposed to end well for these two, they’ve been through so much together — but that’s not how it goes.”
“Gwendoline [Christie] was so moving in that scene. She did an amazing job of conveying that Brienne had finally found happiness she’s never had, and it’s just taken away from her in a brutal way. It’s very true to who these characters are. His staying in Winterfell is unrealistic. Cersei is the most important person in his life, whether he wants her to be or not. The idea that he was going to just let her die alone is too horrible for him.”
“His whole life has been about trying to protect Cersei, and trying to be close to her,” Coster-Waldau continues. “He loves her — it’s unconditional love, it’s so ingrained in him. [In season five] Bronn asks him, ‘How do you want to go?’ Jaime says: ‘In the arms of the woman I love.’ That is where he dies. That scene had so much weight.”
“The whole world is falling down around them; it’s a poetic thing. When we were done filming, it was so emotional — more so than my last scene, [which was the fight with Euron]. My hope for those final moments between Cersei and Jaime, is that even though people want her dead, it still leaves a sour taste in their mouth.”
Though many dislike that sour taste, it’s how I believe Jaime’s story had to end, if you’ll allow some editorializing. His story was always going to be a tragedy, and a tragedy doesn’t just mean we’re all sad in the end. It’s more than that. It’s more than the fact that he couldn’t have a happy ending, which most critics of his death probably agree with anyway. For it to be a proper tragedy means that Jaime’s ending had to be self-inflicted. The tragedy was always within himself, not with terrible things happening to him.
That is, I believe, something that those trying to offer alternate endings to Jaime are missing. If Jaime had died without outwardly rebuffing all that makes him good in the eyes of Brienne (and of many of us) in an effort to save his sister and lover, it would’ve been quite sad, I’ll grant you, but it wouldn’t have been a tragedy of character. Not to stir up the hornet’s nest, but the same applies to the many attempts I’ve seen at trying to engineer a way in which King’s Landing still blows up but without Dany’s agency, thus freeing her ethically from her war crimes. That’s just not the story they were telling.
Back in the interview, Nikolaj leaves us with a happy ending, for him if not for Jaime:
“I love working with Lena and we always had such an amazing experience together. l look back at what she has done on this show and it’s amazing.”
It is amazing, Nikolaj, and we’ll all miss you, and you and Lena, too!
Finally, still at Making Game of Thrones, we’re shown in more detail the two books we saw in the series finale, which made quite a splash (and resulted in many memes, too).
First, there is Maester Ebrose’s A Song of Ice and Fire, which was of course titled by Sam:
There’s also the White Book, in which the great deeds of the Kingsguard are recorded by the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard – in Jaimes case, by Ser Brienne of Tarth, in a bittersweet scene I have been envisioning for years and did not disappoint:
Sadly, these prop photos don’t include Brinne’s additions to Jaime’s entry into the book, so we’ll have to make do with what we saw on-screen, which, I remind you, was this beautiful memorial of Jaime’s entire (albeit curated) story in Game of Thrones:
Captured in the field at the Whispering Wood, set free by Lady Catelyn Stark in return for an oath to find and return her two daughters.
Lost his [hand; rest of page missing]
Took Riverrun from the Tully rebels, without loss of life.
Lured the Unsullied into attacking Casterly Rock, sacrificing his childhood home in service to a greater strategy.
Outwitted the Targaryen forces to seize Highgarden. Fought at the Battle of the Goldroad bravely, narrowly escaping death by dragonfire.
Pledged himself to the forces of men and rode north to join them at Winterfell, alone.
Faced the Army of the Dead and defended the castle against impossible odds until the defeat of the Night King. Escaped imprisonment and rode south in an attempt to save the capital from destruction.
The old adage is never work with children or animals, but with a character like Bran Stark, Isaac Hempstead Wright had to be both! He might have been one of Game of Thrones’ most unlikely players, but here’s to the actor who took us all on his journey from curious child, to Three-Eyed Raven, to ultimately being the king of Westeros.
When we first meet Bran, he’s a sweet-natured innocent whose only crime is climbing too high and scaring his mother. It seemed unbelievable to me, an Unsullied viewer during the show’s first season, that this cute kid would become one of the linchpins of the entire series, nor that this his clambering antics would have any consequences other than giving Catelyn the heebie-jeebies. His discovery of Jaime and Cersei together sets off a change of events that will alter the course of the Westerosi landscape.
In his early appearances, Hempstead Wright is remarkably adept at balancing the emotional sides to his character. His bitter realisation that he will never walk again and declaring that he’d rather be dead is utterly distressing as are his tragic scenes with Theon in Season Two, asking the man he grew up with as family whether he hated him the whole time. Bran’s scenes with Maester Luwin, Osha and Old Nan provide viewers with much needed exposition and back story which help to flavour the extraordinary world this show is set in. At the same time as he’s playing a tutored child, Hempstead Wright is already giving us glimpses of what was to become his fate as the Three-Eyed Raven; it’s an exceptionally mature and accomplished performance from such a young actor.
Hempstead Wright takes us with him on Bran’s journey to learn more about his mystical abilities. Guided by Jojen to use his warging and green-seeing powers, this is a magical twist in Bran’s tale that might have seemed outlandish or out of place if it wasn’t for an assure but understated performance from Hempstead Wright. It becomes clear the viewer that Bran’s destiny lies beyond being the heir of Winterfell and is something far greater, as his visions begin to offer us tantalising glimpses of Westeros’ past and future.
I’d almost forgotten, when I came to writing this article, that Bran didn’t appear on our screens for an entire season, so much was his presence felt throughout the show. When he returned to us in Season Six, Hempstead Wright has almost become a proxy for the audience; as he learns about the events which shaped his world, so do we. Through Bran we learn about the Tower of Joy, Jon Snow’s true parentage, the creation of the White Walkers and, of course we are witness to one of Game of Thrones’ most tragic and unexpected twists, the origin of Hodor.
Bran is now a changed man, and Hempstead Wright puts in an eerie, almost sinister performance in his final seasons, having finally become the Three-Eyed Raven. Playing a character who can experience everything, except emotion, seemingly, is not an easy task, but one he manages with aplomb, becoming a calming and occasionally chilling presence among the chaos of the last few episodes.
I’m still not sold on Bran the Broken as a title (Bran the Badass would have been much cooler and still alliterative, let’s be real) but I was absolutely sold on him becoming king. He’s ushering in a new era and a new style of leadership, and while his experiences may not be what one would immediately look for in a ruler, his was undoubtedly one of the greatest stories from our time in Westeros. Plus, as one of the most consistently positive portrayals of a disabled character in fantasy fiction, I was thrilled to see Bran gain legitimate acceptance and recognition from his peers. Hempstead Wright took us on an extraordinary journey with Bran, with what was unarguably one of the most emotionally complex characters on the show, and it’s one I can’t wait to revisit when I watch the show over again. All hail King Bran the Badass! (or Broken. Whichever!)
All hail the Starks — can we safely say they won the game of thrones? I think we can.
Well…it’s come and gone, folks. The series finale of the most epic, incredible series we’ve ever seen splash across our TV screens. We here at The Night’s Cast, the official podcast of Watchers on the Wall, have had time to let our Thoughts and Opinions marinate, and this week we recap and react — for the last time — to Season 8, Episode 6, “The Iron Throne.”
Join Axey, Vanessa and Samantha as they talk through happy endings, not-so-happy endings, their feelings on the show coming to an end, and what being a part of the incredible fandom has meant to them.
The Night’s Cast will be taking a short hiatus until July, when we’ll be recording a live episode at this year’s Con of Thrones in Nashville! Please join us in person if you can (you can get $25 off General, Valyrian and Kingslayer passes until the end of the day today) or keep an eye out for the recording to be released the week of July 15!
We’ve come to the final official Game of Threads. It’s been a great ride. I want to take a quick minute to thank everyone at Watchers for this wonderful opportunity to nerd out over the costumes and flex my writing muscles in ways I usually don’t get to, and to be able contribute this small offering to a fandom that I feel so privileged to be a member of. It blows my mind to think that almost 10 years ago, I was posting my fanart on Tumblr and Twitter, which led to me to meeting the site-runners here, and the rest is history.
But I digress…we are here to talk costumes! I know that there are many differing opinions on how the story wrapped up, but one of the things that we can all agree on is the consistently beautiful work coming from the wardrobe department, and Michele Clapton delivered everything in the final moments of heading this mammoth project since Season 1.
We open post-sack of King’s Landing, where Tyrion, Jon, and Arya, look on as Daenerys steps out to address her forces on the steps of the Red Keep. She is wearing the same embossed leather coat that she wore in last week’s episode, but the “becoming the dragon” motif is driven further home with the epic shot of Drogon’s wings unfurling behind her. Her hair is even arranged in a way that it actually looks like a dragon spitting fire. A reader last week commented that the color treatment of the coat looks as if it’s been charred with the red at the hem, which is an amazing observation, and I would also add that it looks almost blood-soaked- as if she’d been wading through the bodies of those she’s massacred. As she enters the throne room, it’s interesting to juxtapose the costuming between this scene and the vision of this scene back in the Season 2 finale. Then, she still wore leather, but it was created in lighter colors. She still had an innocence to her and an indefinite plan as to how to get what she wanted. Here, we see a ruler, hardened by the atrocities she’s endured, wearing an equally hardened outfit.
Attention should be paid to the fact that Jon is still wearing the Stark sigil, even after accepting that his parentage is half-Targaryen (“Then I’d be fire and blood too!”). Granted, he didn’t have much time to create a new set of armor after the battle of Winterfell, but stranger things have happened at an even quicker pace in the GoT world. Still, when Dany meets her end at the hands of Jon, they are very much embodying their sigils- her in black and red, and him in grey and black. They are visually the song of ice and fire.
With the aftermath of Jon’s queenslaying, we cut to a few weeks later where the lords and ladies have gathered in their finest to figure out what comes next. Sansa is naturally wearing her leather armor, showing the group of mostly men that she will be heard and respected. Gendry gets a nifty new lordly, Baratheon outfit, rendering him a dead ringer for a younger Robert. The claw-like slashes in the leather could be paying respects to Dany, who elevated his to the position he’s in now, but it’s also symbolic of his father’s warrior status, and brings to mind the warrior paint that Drogo wore on his shoulders. The reintroduction of the beautiful costumes of House Arryn is always a treat.
Edmure, bless him, is wearing a beautiful brownish-gold tunic that creates the illusion that the textile is fittingly made of fish leather. The rest that we do know are wearing what we’d expect them to, and those that we don’t know, all seem to be following suit. I do find it curious, and this is just my assumption, that Sam seems to be the only representative from the Reach, the largest region in Westeros. Aside from the new prince of Dorne, most others look like they exist further up the map.
As Jon readies himself to rejoin the Night’s Watch, he meets with his three siblings before shipping off. Sansa and Arya are still in their leathers, but Bran has taken on his kingly role is beautiful fashion. This might be one of my favorite male character’s costumes in the entire series. The lush, royal, deep blue velvet is embroidered with feathers that seem to rise up towards his head, evoking all of the world’s stories that reside inside Bran’s head. The feathers are obviously representative of his role as the Three Eyed Raven, but the color still ties him to his family and his Stark name, while also conveying the “hope” of blue that Clapton employs when characters are faced with new life paths. I only wish we could’ve seen what his crown looks like…
In the final montage between the other three siblings, we see a shift in their respective styles- most notably their hair. Both Jon and Arya have put to rest the wearing of Ned’s signature style. They’ve been able to close that bloody chapter of their lives that arguably began with his death. Jon lets his hair return to how he wore it before he was killed and brought back to life, making his resurrection, visually, come full circle. He’s able to let his hair down (literally) and leave his past behind him. Arya’s hair is swept back in a no-nonsense bun, fit for an explorer. Sansa also leaves her past behind her with her hair. She’s no longer wearing the hybrid Cersei-Catelyn-Margaery braids she’s been cycling through on her brutal journey while coming into her own. I was getting heavy Elizabeth I imagery throughout her portion of the montage, and Renaissance expert Anthony Oliveira illuminated beautifully in a Tweet that
“Elizabeth wore [her hair] down at her coronation to signal sexual purity, in open hostility to those who said her sexual abuse ruined her.”
Quite a fitting allusion for Sansa.
Then we get to the DRESS! This stunning dress. This absolute work of art. Unlike her unburdening herself with the history of her hair, she chooses to pay homage to all of the important people that shaped her life and lead her to become Queen in the North. First and foremost, the color calls back to her Season 1, Episode 1 pale blue dress, where she discusses her excitement of one day becoming queen. The metal bodice, cut in the shape of her leather armor bodice, features a Weirwood Tree motif, a symbol of her family, which is also represented in the red leaves that are embroidered into the inside of one of the sleeves.
The fabric itself is the same exact silk with woven leaves that was used for Margaery Tyrell’s wedding dress from her marriage to Joffrey. I have to have an aside here because I saw it immediately and it warmed my heart so much that my two favorite characters were connected at the very end. I thought maybe it could’ve just been a fluke, until Clapton confirmed it on her Instagram page, stating that they shared a bond (that Sansa clearly wanted to honor), and then my heart exploded. Anyway, moving on.
The most obvious homage is the beaded direwolf pelt over her shoulder, honoring her family. The delicate beading features black feathers, which have layered meanings. It represents her past when she once was a “little bird”, it represents Jon’s reinstated “crow” status up North, it represents Bran, the Three Eyed Raven, down in King’s Landing, and to an extent, it represents Littlefinger and his mockingbird sigil. The direwolf seems to continue down into the other sleeve, but the embroidery also evokes fish scales, which call back to her mother’s Tully roots. Finally, and maybe a bit eerily, her direwolf crown has a similar feel to it as Cersei’s coronation crown. Cersei had such an impact on her and, for better or worse, Sansa will always carry her lessons with her.
The fact that Michele Clapton’s hands are the ones dressing Sansa is a single-tear moment :’)
It truly blows my mind that this is the end of the consistently gorgeous work that comes from Michele Clapton, Michele Carragher, Kevin Alexander, and the rest of the wardrobe and hair team. I want to personally thank them for bringing Westeros to life, and thank you to the readers here for joining me these past few seasons. It’s been an honor.
Here it is. The Curtain Call I feared but had hoped I would never have to write. The reign of Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen – the First of Her Name, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Protector of the Seven Kingdoms, the Mother of Dragons, the Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, the Unburnt, and Breaker of Chains – has come to a tragic and fatal end.
As many of you already know, Daenerys is my favorite character. I fell in love with her during my first read of A Song of Ice and Fire in 2011, and I was excited to see her onscreen portrayal when I began watching Game of Thrones. From her first scene, Emilia Clarke was Daenerys. She captured her innocence, her vulnerability and timidness – but you could also tell she possessed a fierce inner strength, an ability to rise above her tragic circumstances and persevere despite the odds.
Perhaps it’s not surprising to learn that Daenerys’ strength is echoed in Emilia herself. In an emotional essay for The New Yorkerearlier this year, she admitted she suffered two aneurysms during the course of Thrones – one after filming season one and the other after season three. Much like her character, Emilia refused to let anyone see her suffering. “I was a young girl who was given a huge opportunity. I did not for any reason want to give anyone a reason to think I was anything other than capable of fulfilling the duties they had given me. And I didn’t know what the show was at that moment. All I knew was I had a job.”
It was an incredibly difficult time, but Emilia drew inspiration from the character she played. “You go on set and play a badass and you walk through fire and that became the thing that saved me from considering my own mortality,” she admits. During her first brain hemorrhage, Emilia “tried to recall, among other things, some lines from Game of Thrones” to keep her memory intact.
She later threw herself into her work, but it wasn’t always possible to keep fears of another attack at bay while on set, as she recounts to the LA Times, “I’ll suddenly get a tension headache and I’ll turn to someone who’s near me — God love every hair and makeup girl I’ve ever had — and say, ‘I think I’m having a brain hemorrhage, but I’m not. Can you just hold my hand and look at me and tell me I’m going to be fine?’ And I’d just try to relax, take some deep breaths and get through it.”
Playing Daenerys was a grueling job, and Emilia powered through despite her brain injuries. She brought her character to life, letting us share in her highs and her lows. We witnessed her lose her child and her husband, bring dragons back into the world, conquer cities, free slaves, and fight the undead. We grieved with her, cheered her on, questioned her ruthlessness, felt her love for her people and were wary of her hunger for the Iron Throne. Ultimately that hunger led to her downfall, as all of her losses, the suspicion of the people of Westeros, the betrayal of her advisors, and the rejection of Jon Snow caused her to fully embrace her House words: Fire and Blood.
Daenerys may have turned to the “dark side,” but Emilia has a difficult time seeing her that way. In that same LA Times interview, Emilia says, “It’s a woman I lived with for a decade…So for that to be the way that it ends … obviously there’s a poetry to it, but there’s a huge amount of pain that comes with it.”
For her final scene, Emilia wanted us to remember the girl we fell in love with back in season one. “I just wanted the audience to have a little reminder of who she was in the beginning. And I wanted that kind of justice for her, if I’m really honest. I wanted the person that [Jon] kills to not be a tyrannical dictator. It should just be a girl. It should be a human thing. And I think there’s an enormous amount of that person left.”
Despite who Daenerys became, her story was a fascinating one – both inspirational and a tragic cautionary tale. Thank you Emilia for telling it so brilliantly. Valar Morghulis, Khaleesi.
Emilia Clarke’s first big break was her role on Game of Thrones, but she has gone on to star in other big budget projects – playing Sarah Connor in Terminator Genisys and Qi’ra in Solo: A Star Wars Story. She has also started a charity to support survivors of brain injury and stroke called SameYou. You can catch Emilia next in the upcoming movies Above Suspicion with Johnny Knoxville and Last Christmas alongside Emma Thompson. I hope she continues to light up our screens with her bubbly personality long into the future.
The dust is still settling on the final season but new content for fans is coming, with the premiere of Game of Thrones: The Last Watch set for this coming Sunday. Directed by Jeanie Finlay, the documentary special chronicles the behind-the-scenes creation of GoT‘s final season, through the lens of the show creators, cast, and crew. Airing on Sunday, May 26 at 9pm EST, we can expect even more tears and laughs. Here’s a peek!
Welp. It’s over. Game of Thrones has come to an end, paving the way for whatever comes next. The perpetually monumental TV event in pop culture at last has come to a close, and all was well in the world, and everyone was happy with everything! The end. Thanks for reading….But seriously, you’ve already read what your cousins and friends thought on Facebook. You’ve already seen what your favorite celebrities have said on Twitter. But you came here to get to the bottom of what’s been bugging you all day: What did the critics think of Bronn’s new castle?
Here at Watchers on the Wall, we encourage you to ‘Always Support the Bottom.’ This extends to your support of our editor-in-chief Sue the Fury, in which her background knowledge of the books informs her perspective on the episode, so please go check it out when you get a chance! Once you’ve done that, you would do well to support our peerless Oz of Thrones’srecap in which his fearless determination to avoid reading the books has outlasted all others, continuing on for 8 full seasons. After this, you can check out what these Internet critics thought of “The Iron Throne”:
Alex McLevy, The A. V. Club – In which the lurid storytelling and expensive-looking action can’t compensate for what seems to be missing—namely, that elaborate narrative connective tissue lending emotional firmament to the strength of the separate installments.
Alyssa Rosenberg, The Washington Post– In which Benioff and Weiss’s decision to make two truncated final seasons of the show may go down as one of the worst in recent television history.
Daniel D’Addario, Variety– In which the symmetry of Bran falling out of a window in the first episode and ascending to rule in the last picked up whatever poetry Peter Dinklage could lend it through narration, but falls flat given how meager a presence Bran has been for seasons now, delivering gnomic provocations but almost no plot action.
Hillary Kelly, Vulture– In which the show gave up on the magic of the books because its writers didn’t have the puzzle skills to really work through them.
Ian Thomas Malone, Personal Blog – In which the conclusion needed to honor GRRM’s original vision while still providing a sense of narrative closure for all the book’s deviations, and sort of succeeds on both fronts.
Kelly Lawler, USA Today – In which it didn’t gracefully swerve into another lane, it careened off a cliff, and looking back, the series will never be the same.
Laura Hudson, WIRED– In which it will always be replete with alternative interpretations and theories, debates about what it meant and revisionist histories that imagine it through the lens of whatever people want to see, through which it has truly come to embody stories—and histories—in all their slippery glory and their power to remake the past and shape the future.
Melanie McFarland, Salon – In which it is is an entirely predictable end to a season marred by rushed narratives and uncharacteristic U-turns in behavior that David Benioff and Dan Weiss explain away in their post-episode behind-the-scenes features.
Mike Bloom, Parade – In which the future of Westeros is reported in the Westeros World News.
Myles McNutt, The A.V. Club – In which we shouldn’t be surprised that the final season has been divisive, or that some people have gone so far as to risk the public embarrassment of signing an online petition to force HBO to change the show’s ending.
Ron Hogan, Den of Geek – In which rushed though the finale is, it is ultimately very satisfying, because everyone involved brought everything they had to every scene within the episode.
Sarah Hughes, The Guardian– In which it was a fantastic conclusion, melancholy and stirring in all the right places, to a show that has had to wrestle with the often unwieldy but always addictive nature of the story being told.
Sean T. Collins, Rolling Stone – In which one of the series’ most unique and underrated performances reaches its zenith as Isaac Hempstead Wright accepts the crown.
David Benioff, George R. R. Martin and D.B Weiss at Season 8 NYC Premiere. Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for HBO.
On his latest Not a Blog post, George R. R. Martin speaks out about his feelings for the final Game of Thrones episode, as well as what projects are in store for him and the showrunners now that it’s all over! How much will his written work differ from the version we’ve now seen on screen? Let’s find out!
On his blog, titled An Ending, GRRM reminisces about his initial meeting with David Benioff and D.B. Weiss over a decade ago. He remarks on how quickly that time has gone by and how little idea he had at the start that the show would become one of the most popular television series of all time.
He takes the time to thank some of the people involved in what he terms, “a wild ride, to say the least,” including the cast and crew, David and Dan, the team at HBO, headed up by Richard Plepler, and the wonderful Bryan Cogman, referring to him once again as “the third head of the dragon.”
GRRM goes on to discuss what future projects lie ahead for him and the showrunners. This of course includes Star Wars for David and Dan, as well as what appears to be confirmation by GRRM of Bryan Cogman working on Amazon’s new Tolkien series as a consultang. As well as finishing off the ASoIaF books, GRRM himself has eight(!) TV shows in development – five with HBO, two with Hulu, and one with the History Channel – numerous feature adaptations, and other new projects to keep him busy!
He also touches on what has been one of the most hotly contested topics of the final season: does the show have the same ending as the books? All he gives us is…“Well… yes. And no. And yes. And no. And yes. And no. And yes.”
Thanks for clearing that up George! Of course the books and the show are very different mediums, and GRRM does promise that in his novels we’ll find out what happens to book only characters and plot lines, as well as featuring “unicorns of a sort.” He finishes with his favourite reference to the number of children Scarlett O’Hara had (famously she has three in the novel Gone with the Wind and only one in the film adaptation) and suggests that once he’s written it, “Everyone can make up their own mind, and argue about it on the internet.” Sage advice!
One of Game of Thrones‘ greatest assets has always been its music. Luckily this year we don’t have to wait to hear it all over again, as WaterTower Music has released Game of Thrones (Music from the HBO Series) Season 8, the soundtrack from the final season, as of midnight last night. The album features music by the show’s Emmy Award-winning composer Ramin Djawadi and is available for sale digitally and for streaming today, with a Double CD scheduled for release scheduled for July 19 and a vinyl release later this year.
The release is loaded with 32 tracks, including the 9-minute opus “The Night King” featured in “The Long Night.” The album also includes an instrumental version of “Jenny of Oldstones”, the Westeros classic that tugged our heartstrings in “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms.”
In case you were hankering for yet another cover of “The Rains of Castamere”, you’re in luck! This one is from Djawadi and Serj Tankian, the lead vocalist of System of a Down.
“The music for season eight concludes the story arc of Game of Thrones,” explained Djawadi in a press release from HBO. “Though it’s tough to say goodbye to the series, I hope this soundtrack transports the listener back to the world of Westeros. It’s been such an honor to be a part of this incredible show for the past eight years.”
The track listing:
The Rains of Castamere performed by Ramin Djawadi & Serj Tankian
Arrival at Winterfell
Flight of Dragons
Heir to the Throne
Jenny of Oldstones
A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms
The Battle of Winterfell
The Dead are Already Here
Battle for the Skies
The Long Night Pt. 1
The Long Night Pt. 2
The Night King
Dead Before the Dawn
Outside the Gates
The Last War
Into the Fire
Stay a Thousand Years
Nothing Else Matters
Master of War
Be with Me
The Iron Throne
Break the Wheel
You Have a Choice
The White Book
The Last of the Starks
A Song of Ice and Fire
Announced a couple weeks ago, the Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience returns this fall for a 20-city amphitheater tour, bringing the music of Ramin Djawadi (who will conducting and performing at select shows) to life at outdoor theaters across North America. Fans can relive the greatest musical pieces and footage from all eight seasons in an immersive outdoor concert experience. For a full list of tour dates and tickets, visit HERE!
Spoiler note:The discussion in this post is primarily for non-book readers (book fans can discuss the show-only here). We ask that all Sullied book-readers refrain from posting any mentions/references to the books in the comments here, veiled or otherwise. No spoilers, at all! This show is best viewed without knowing all the surprises beforehand or afterwards, so please be respectful of your fellow fans. Thank you!
Can you believe the final “Unsullied Recap of Epic Proportions” is here??
A man is weary from doing his best impression of a drunk twenty year-old at a music festival, hence the lateness of this recap. My apologies, kind ladies and sers. But a man has survived and is here now to melt your dreams, steal one of you kingdoms, and make you cry. And this is why I don’t get invited to parties…
Let’s jump right in and discuss as we go. A man has thoughts as I’m sure you do, so let us quickly discuss the outcomes as I’m sure it will be analyzed and over-analyzed and reanalyzed after this for years to come.
We open up with Tyrion and the crew surveying the damage in the wake of Drogon’s incredibly hot acid reflux (think burritos with ghost peppers hidden inside). Needless to say, it ain’t pretty… dead women and children; buildings turned to ash; all the Harrenhal damage shit we witnessed in Season 2, but in the capital and thousands more deceased.
Tyrion heads off alone to look for his fallen family (possibly searching for Cersei’s wig, but more likely Jaime’s hand). OK… that was uncalled for. Moving on, when he does finally find them, Tyrion’s heartache is gut-wrenching and Dinklage probably earns another Emmy nod in the process.
And the carnage isn’t over. It seems the only humane thing to do now is to kill more people. Jon walks up on the temperamental Worm about to execute more Lannister soldiers and voices his displeasure. But Worm DGAF.
At that point, I was about ready for the Worm to get hooked. Up until the last episode, I really liked his character. And yes, I recognize that he lost the love of his life to a tyrant. But still, killing doesn’t necessarily justify killing.
Where the hell did all of these soldiers come from?? Damn.
Dany arrives on Drogon while Jon watches and Arya the Assassin lurks in the Unsullied’s shadows. Would she take out the Night King AND the Dragon Queen?
Dany cheers on her thousands of soldiers and exclaims that they won’t be stopping with Westeros, but will go on to liberate the world. The image of Dany with dragon wings post-dismount was phenomenal.
After finding his dead brother and sister and upon hearing Dany’s plans for the rest of humanity, Tyrion tosses the Hand pin and admits to freeing his brother. And once again, he is off to the dungeon.
Jon doesn’t seem too keen on the idea of world domination either but is caught off-guard when Arya shows up. Arya explains that she was there to kill Cersei and reminds him that Dany will always see him as a threat.
Tyrion gets a visit from Jon in his dungeon-room-area and tries to convince Jon that Dany won’t change and that Varys was right all along. He tells Jon about all of the other executions in the past (khals, slavers, etc). At first, Jon isn’t quite buying it (lover denial I suppose). But slowly, the things that Tyrion says to him make sense and as torn as he is, he knows something must be done to avoid further disasters.
Finally, Dany enters what is left of the throne room and touches it as the ashes fall. Shout out again to Djawadi.. that was some beautiful haunting music as Dany approached. What an incredible journey it has been. Jon enters as she stands seemingly in awe of everything she has accomplished.
Jon embraces Dany as she continues to say the wrong things and confirming what Tyrion had told him earlier. They exchange “I Love You”s and passionately kiss and GOD this is CHEESY. The love music plays in the background. Is this Days of Our Knives? Guiding Flight? As the Westeros Turns? The Young and the Headless?
And then, the cheese gets cut. But who cut the cheese?
Jon did. And Dany was done.
I never once believed that Drogon was going to burn Jon’s cheese. After all, he had just let Jon enter and knows he is one of them. However, it was climactic nonetheless as the fire comes incredibly close to Jon but was destined for the throne itself. After all the death and destruction and chaos the throne had caused throughout history, it was time for it to be melted down.
Following the grilled cheese throne, Drogon scoops up Dany and flies away. Could Jon have just gotten away with not telling anyone he did it? Just run, dude. Go! Zig-zag dammit! But he couldn’t… because he is Jon. I don’t know why the Unsullied didn’t just kill him as soon as they found out, but they didn’t.
Regardless, what a great freaking scene.
Meeting of the Mind(less)
A few weeks later (verified by Tyrion), a meeting at the Dragon Pit takes place with all the remaining heavy hitters… Edmure (he IS alive!), Robin, Sam, Brienne, Yara, Gendry, Yohn Royce, Arya, Bran, Sansa, a rando from Dorne, and a few randos from elsewhere discussing the fate of Tyrion and what the hell to do next.
Why they gotta pick on Edmure? Poor Tobias has been brought in to be made fun of for years. After Sam suggests democracy (oh God, LOL hahaha… we know how well that turns out) Tyrion states the obvious… that the seven kingdoms need a king and recommends someone new: Bran the Broken.
Bran wasn’t surprised at all yet surprisingly accepts it with no reservations, other than he wants Tyrion as his hand.
Everyone is on board, right? Right. Everyone except his own damn sister. WHA???
No, because Sansa wants the North to be independent. Or is it because she wants to be a queen? How do you do that when your brother just got chosen to be King of the Seven Kingdoms? The only holdout is the place the new King himself is from? What if this choice had led to the rest of the Kingdoms saying, “well, if you don’t trust your own blood to rule, then why should we?”
If they had given the throne to Yara or Gendry or someone not related to her, I would be a lot more accepting of this. But they gave it to a Stark!
So… six kingdoms. Whatever. The good news is that the nobles will now select a new king instead of it coming by inheritance. That is called progress.
In the only option short of execution that wouldn’t start another war, Bran sends Jon back to the Wall which is where he wanted to be in the first place before all this shit storm started. You’ve got to think Bran had this planned knowing that Jon would likely be the happiest in the North anyway. Thanks, Brotha!
On his way to tell his family goodbye, the Volatile Worm gives Jon a final “eat shit” look and I’m praying for one last duel before the show ends. But nope… off to Naath for the Worm. For what reason, I have no idea.
Jon bids farewell to his family letting Sansa know that he doesn’t hold anything against her. Arya tells Jon that she is off to see the world! Bon voyage, MF’s! And Jon apologizes to Bran to which Bran replies, “you were exactly where you were supposed to be.”
Brienne is shown flipping through the Book of Brothers to fill up Jaime’s empty pages and remembering him for all the good that he did, ending it with, “Died protecting his Queen.”
The most current version of the small council meet for brothel talk and an armada rebuild, without the threat of war for once. Go to your nearest city council meeting and it was very similar to what you will hear there: “We need to work on infrastructure.” “Yes, and also adult gift stores.” “What? We don’t need those. Roads are more important.” “Yes… roads to get to the adult gift stores. Liquor stores as well. If you don’t build those, what’s the use of roads?”
Ozzette didn’t really think it fit into the episode. I kind of found it amusing.
Jon gets back to the Wall and finds Big Red waiting on him with Ghost! You better pet that good boy.
Arya sails off with a bad-ass wolf carved in the front of her boat. I’d like to formally petition for a spin-off entitled, Into the Starkness: The Adventures of Arya Stark and Whatever’s West of Westeros
And finally, Sansa is crowned Queen in the North. Long may she reign. I sincerely hope it makes her happy. But I still don’t fully get it.
Jon ventures beyond the Wall with his free folk (in what looked like a callback to the first episode) and seems at ease. In the end, at least for him, I guess that’s all we could have asked for. The rest of it? I guess that’s up for you as an individual to decide. Even though I haven’t looked, I’m sure the opinions are all over the board. But that’s what you get when so many are emotionally invested in something. And if you as a show runner or a writer or an author can accomplish that, that’s called success.
“And…. End Scene.”
Episode 806 Personal Awards
Favorite Action Sequence: Burning Down the Throne (Talking Heads version)
“I freed my brother. And you slaughtered a city.” -Tyrion
“You’ll always be a threat to her. And I know a killer when I see one.” -Arya
“Love is the death of duty.” Jon quoting Aemon
“Sometimes duty is the death of love.” -Tyrion
“You have to choose now.” -Tyrion
“We can’t hide behind small mercies.” -Dany
“They don’t get to choose.” -Dany
“There’s nothing more powerful in the world than a good story.” -Tyrion
“Ask me again in ten years.” -Tyrion speaking during the show but secretly referring to the sequel that HBO will greenlight in nine years.
The “Ow, That Shit Hurts Award” goes to: Dany’s stabbing, and probably her heartbreak.
Overall Thoughts: This season has been a little like going to an inconsistent restaurant that you really enjoy. Sometimes the food is phenomenal. Sometimes it’s still good but not AS good as the last time you came. If you found out that the restaurant was closing, you would want to go one more time and hope that the food was going to be just as good as the best meal you ever had there. However, it’s an unrealistic expectation. Otherwise, they probably wouldn’t be closing.
In this case, the Game of Thrones Cafe is closing for unspecified reasons although we can safely assume that proprietors were tired of the headache and the hired help were getting expensive. To expect that I was going to get the best meal ever served on the final evening when the chefs rushed the process of the recipe just because they were ready to go open another restaurant was setting myself up for a letdown. So I didn’t. I took what was served and I enjoyed it for what it was.
That said, I loved most of it, even if the meat was slightly undercooked. The season just needed more time to marinate. We all knew Sansa wanted to be Queen. But her decision after Bran was chosen just threw me for a loop. This is nitpicky. You most likely have an issue with something else. My appetizer was good. Yours was cold. My chicken was dry. Yours was juicy. We’re not going to all see it the same way. We’re not going to have the same experience even if we order the same dish. Everyone’s tastes are their own, and neither is right or wrong. They’re just yours.
Discussing those differences is what makes the world an interesting place and this episode and the season and the series will promote compelling conversation for years to come. Don’t go away. This show is over. But Watchers is just getting started.
A man’s Fandom Road will be up later this week, so tune in and see how this joint got started! Thank you all, sincerely, for coming here and supporting and being a part of this community. I love you all for it.
Please bookmark us and visit often, and may there always be peace in your realm. –Oz
**SPOILER NOTE: The Management of this fine site would like to remind you that book discussion is not allowed in Unsullied posts. This includes comments covered by code or otherwise. Personally, I appreciate feedback from Sullied and Unsullied alike, so long as they do not include any type of hinting or conversation related to the written verse. However, spoiler-coded comments do tend to lead to further Sullied conversation and for that reason, we ask that you please refrain from posting any book content whatsoever in Unsullied posts. Thank you for the coop. -Oz
Game of Thrones is over. As I write those words, I can’t quite believe it myself. The world of George R.R. Martin is very much ongoing, not only in his own books but in currently developing HBO projects. And yet, the hard truth remains: Game of Thrones is over.
This incredible show made TV history throughout its run, and of course it couldn’t be any other way for the finale, with these truly astounding viewership figures…
Game of Thrones went out with a bang, breaking the record yet again with 13.6 million viewers during HBO’s first US airing, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
With its astounding 13.6 million figure, “The Iron Throne” dethrones, or melts the throne of (if you want to get cheeky), the preceding episode “The Bells,” whose 12.48 million had in turn just narrowly beaten the 12.07 million of season seven finale, “The Dragon and the Wolf”. Just as it should, the series finale towers over both, as you can clearly see:
Accounting for overnight airings on HBO and streaming on HBO Go and HBO Now, it should go without saying that, with a mind-numbing 19.3 million viewers, “The Iron Throne” also breaks the 18.4 million record earned and lost in one week by “The Bells.” Five of the six episodes this season make up the top five most-watched episodes in Game of Thrones history, going by this expanded overnight and streaming metric.
In comparison with other HBO shows, none other has maintained this constant upwards trajectory, let alone reached its heights, as shown by this first airings chart helpfully provided by my esteemed predecessor as the “Watchers ratings guy”, Hear Marko Roar:
That’s it, folks. The end of an era not only of storytelling but of appointment television. Unfortunately for HBO, I can’t see any of their shows doing these numbers again any time soon. Nevertheless, rest assured we’ll be back with our usual ratings analyses when and if Jane Goldman’s Game of Thrones prequel pilot gets picked up to series.
So this isn’t, in fact, goodbye. I think I’ll go out with this instead: See ya!
Let’s take a break from Game of Thrones series finale madness for some very welcome Con of Thrones news! The con announced today that GoT star Joe Dempsie (Gendry Baratheon) will appear at Con of Thrones 2019 on Saturday, July 13, and Sunday, July 14. This year the con is taking place in Nashville, Tenn., at the Music City Center July 12–14. Tickets are available for purchase at ConOfThrones.net/register.
Autograph and photograph experiences with Dempsie are available for purchase now!
Autographs are $65 and photographs are $85. Previously announced special guests for CoT 2019 include Game of Thrones stars Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister), John Bradley (Samwell Tarly), HannahMurray (Gilly), Game of Thrones Concept Artist Kieran Belshaw (Season 5-8), fan favorite podcasts Binge Mode, History of Westeros and A Storm of Spoilers, and wolf ambassadors from Wildefell Wolves. More guests will be announced at a later date!
Watchers on the Wall is thrilled to once again be the programming partner for Con of Thrones. This year the con features over 150 hours of original programming, with in-depth discussions about the series, Special Guest Spotlight interviews, live recordings of your favorite podcasts, and so much more. We recently announced the complete panel schedule for your previewing pleasure- you can check it out at ConOfThrones.net/schedule.
Joe was an amazing guest last year. I’m so stoked to have him back this summer in Nashville, and I hope we see you all there too!
After eight seasons, Game of Thrones has finally come to an end. We may never see its like again. The series finale “The Iron Throne” showed us the corrupting influence of power and the hard choices that are sometimes necessary to protect the realm and the ones you love. Daenerys won, but lost everything. The Iron Throne is no more, and out of the ashes a new order arises. Let’s take one last deep dive together with our final round of episode interviews.
Entertainment Weekly brings us several interviews, starting with Emilia Clarke. She understandably has much to say about Daenerys’ fate, admitting she “completely flipped out” upon reading the final script because “it comes out of f—king nowhere. I’m flabbergasted. Absolutely never saw that coming.”
Despite her shock at her character’s turn, Clarke does have sympathy for Daenerys and believes there was a reason for it. “She genuinely starts with the best intentions and truly hopes there isn’t going to be something scuttling her greatest plans…There’s so much she’s taken on in her duty in life to rectify, so much she’s seen and witnessed and been through and lost and suffered and hurt. Suddenly these people are turning around and saying, ‘We don’t accept you.’” She adds, “One by one, you see all these strings being cut. And there’s just this last thread she’s holding onto: There’s this boy. And she thinks, ‘He loves me, and I think that’s enough.’ But is it enough? Is it? And it’s just that hope and wishing that finally there is someone who accepts her for everything she is and … he f—king doesn’t.”
Co-executive producer Bryan Cogman has mixed feelings as well.“I still don’t know how I feel about a lot of what happens this season and I helped write it. It’s emotionally very challenging. It’s designed to not feel good. That said, I don’t think that’s a bad thing.” He also contends Daenerys isn’t really a villain, but “a tragic figure in a very Shakespearean and Greek sense. When Jon asks Tyrion [in the finale] if they were wrong and Tyrion says, ‘Ask me again in 10 years,’ I think that’s valid.”
Kit Harington has a harsher view on Daenerys, saying that “if you track her story all the way back, she does some terrible things. She crucifies people. She burns people alive. This has been building. So, we have to say to the audience: ‘You’re in denial about this woman as well. You knew something was wrong. You’re culpable, you cheered her on.” He adds, “One of my worries with this is we have Cersei and Dany, two leading women, who fall. The justification is: Just because they’re women, why should they be the goodies?…It’s going to open up discussion but there’s nothing done in this show that isn’t truthful to the characters.”
Clarke also spoke to The New Yorker about Dany’s end, and confesses that as much as she might want her to triumph, “I’m not sure it could [end that way]. Even for a part that I’ve given so much to and I’ve felt so much for, and for a character that’s seen and lived through so much, I don’t know that there was any other way.” For her final moments, Clarke “wanted to show that softer side of Daenerys—or more textured…I wanted to show her as we saw her in the beginning: young, naïve, childlike, open, and full of love and hope. I wanted so much for that to be the last memory of her.”
For more from Clarke and other cast members on the dark Daenerys storyline, check out both articles here and here.
The surprise winner (I suppose) of the episode was Bran, who was elected King of Westeros – except for the once again independent North. Isaac Hempstead Wright tells EW, “When I got to the [Dragonpit scene] in the last episode and they’re like, ‘What about Bran?’ I had to get up and pace around the room. I genuinely thought it was a joke script and that [showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss] sent to everyone a script with their own character ends up on the Iron Throne. ‘Yeah, good one guys. Oh s—, it’s actually real?’” He adds, “I’m happy, though I kind of did want to die and get in one good death scene with an exploding head or something.”
Does Hempstead Wright believe Bran is up to the task of ruling? “I think he’ll be a really good king actually. Perhaps there will be something missing in having real emotive leader, which is a useful quality in a king or queen as well. At the same time, you can’t really argue with Bran. He’s like, ‘No, I know everything.’” All hail King Brandon Stark!
Hempstead Wright also wrote a guest column for The Hollywood Reporter reflecting on the years he has spent on Game of Thrones. He recalls his last week on set, which was the council in the Dragonpit scene. “When it came to the very final shot, it all dawned on me. This was to be the death of my character; it would be the last time I would ever breathe life into him, the last time I would sit in my costume on a Game of Thrones set and think about what it feels like to be Bran…The camera was so far away you could hardly see it and we had a rare chance to act directly across from one another with no machinery or lighting in the way, as if we were on stage. It was a very special goodbye to my character.”
As for the end of the story, he is “thrilled with the way the show ends. At the beginning of the show, Bran is a disabled 10-year-old with slim chances of surviving in this harsh universe. He will never be the warrior who comes in on horseback and saves the day, but he is resilient…I find it an extraordinary character arc to see him go from a vulnerable character totally dependent on others to the one person who holds all the keys to understanding the world.” He adds, “I think Bran presents a valuable reminder to us all in this day and age where sensationalism is rife and anybody can voice an opinion to millions, to sit and consider things a little more carefully.”
The entire piece is a lovely look at Hempstead Wright’s Thrones journey – be sure to read it here.
Bran may be King of Westeros, but Sansa is now Queen in the North. Would she have preferred Sansa over Bran to rule it all? Sophie Turner tells EWthat she “wasn’t bummed at all” at the way it ended. “Because ever since the end of season 1, Sansa has not been about the capital or being queen. She doesn’t believe she could rule and doesn’t want to.” I’m not sure that’s a fair assessment given her proven ability to lead during the past two seasons, but I can’t blame her for wanting to stay away from King’s Landing.
Turner continues, “She knows her place is in the North and she can rule the people of the North and rule Winterfell. She’d probably be capable [of being queen of the Seven Kingdoms] with the help of her family and advisors like Tyrion. But she has no desire to be ruler of all of the Seven Kingdoms.” Given how tragically it has worked out for every monarch since Mad King Aerys, that’s probably the smarter option! Hopefully it will go better for Bran…
There are no “Inside the Episode” or “The Game Revealed” videos this week, but there is a video of the cast saying their farewells.
The Iron Throne is no more. Like, literally. Did you see that one coming? Suddenly those $30K replicas just became a lot more valuable. Oh, and the Game of Thrones finale? I have thoughts on that too!
Spoiler Note, one last time, just for the memories: This is our book reader’s recap, intended for those who have read the A Song of Ice and Fire series. The post and the comments section may contain spoilers from the novels, whether or not that material has appeared on the show yet. Because no, we are not all Unsullied now. If you have not read the books yet, we encourage you to check out our non-book-reader recap, by Oz of Thrones, which will be posted tomorrow!
Everything Tyrion, Davos, Jon and the late Varys were afraid of, has come to pass. The Queen’s Hand surveys the wreckage of King’s Landing and it’s not pretty. Dead kids, hollow silence, and scorched survivors wandering in a daze that reminds me (probably purposefully) of images of the aftermath of nuclear bombings. This is what their queen has done, and now they have to reckon with their role in this regime.
Tyrion heads off to the Red Keep to hunt for his siblings, while Jon runs into Grey Worm cleaning out more Lannister survivors. Which brings up an interesting question, one that comes up time and time again on Game of Thrones: can we judge Westeros (and Essos) by our moral code? Can we call it a war crime to execute the Lannister prisoners? Jon Snow certainly views it as such but Grey Worm sees no issue with following orders when these “free men” made terrible choices, as soldiers. It’s punishment for their personal actions, choices made- but then Grey Worm may be using all of this as justification for his grief and rage.
In the cellars of the devastated Red Keep, Tyrion finds the remains of Jaime and Cersei buried under stone and embracing even in death. He weeps for them.
Dany’s banner makes her presence known; she has staked her claim on the city, though we’re all left wondering where she found the cloth for that giant sigil and was she just carrying that around this whole time? Probably- she’s extra like that.
Arya stalks Jon on his way to see Dany. Maybe she’s adding another queen to her list since she was cheated out of Cersei?
Jon approaches, and we find Dany with Drogon rising up behind her, giving her the illusion of dragonwings- an incredible shot. Teeming with confidence, and surrounded by her legions of riders and Unsullied, Daenerys cheers on her men in Dothraki and Valyrian. Love or hate the dark!Dany turn, you have to admire the power of Emilia Clarke’s performance in this scene.
But Tyrion isn’t quite feeling Dany’s speech about liberating the world, because freeing the world by removing choice and bringing people fire and blood doesn’t work out very well. Tyrion admits to freeing Jaime, but counters with an accusation of his own: Daenerys slaughtered a city. He quits the Hand gig. She doesn’t have much of a retort for that other than “Take him.” Once again Tyrion is out of work and headed for the slammer.
Jon does not approve, but is distracted by realizing his little sister has shown up. I appreciate how relatively unfazed he is by Arya saying she’s there to kill Cersei. She reminds him that Dany will always see Jon as a threat, knowing his secret heritage.
Imprisoned, Tyrion has found a situation he finally can’t talk his way out of. Or can he? Guilty Jon visits him in his cell. Tyrion lays out his own sins, before eventually getting around to discussing Dany’s- her habits of annihilating anyone in her path. Tyrion’s powerful skills of persuasion get inside Jon’s head slowly over a long conversation. He knows what has to be done; he’s convincing himself as much as he is convincing Jon.
It’s interesting that Tyrion touches upon points that have come up in fandom discussion often in the past week since the battle of King’s Landing- the burning of the khals, the burning of the slavers of Astapor, the crucifixion of Meereenese nobles-and how people can accept and even embrace these acts as good, so long as the violence is aimed at a target one approves of. It’s an uncomfortable moral issue. Daenerys feels completely justified, and so when she reaches King’s Landing, she feels secure enough to blast it into oblivion for the greater good. As Tyrion explains it, it doesn’t seem mad- it’s a chosen behavior, but still a destructive one.
Tyrion works his magic well though; in the end it comes back to Jon being a man of the Watch. He shields the realms of men, and right now Daenerys is making frightening plans. He still hesitates though because Jon is a good person, as Tyrion demonstrates with his moral exercise, with the firepower example in the scene. Although whether a good person could do what Jon does later? That’s another thought. It will probably haunt Jon for the rest of his life.
Daenerys discovers the throne room in the Red Keep, and it’s exactly as it was in her vision in the House of the Undying, with snow falling on the Iron Throne. Yes it was a literal vision, not a metaphor. She touches it, and it’s a lovely moment. She’s finally there!
But Jon’s arrived. She reminisces about Viserys and his weirdo stories, but Jon interrupts cute story time to discuss the war crimes. Buzzkill. Dany debates the point, and Jon asks her to forgive Tyrion, but she won’t relent.
Jon softens and is in her arms. Here’s where Daenerys really stumbles; Jon wants a reason to accept her vision, and forget all the bad things. But she says all the wrong things, fails to read the room and makes it clear she has no intention of letting anyone but her decide what is right and good. She’s decided she’ll be the judge, jury and executioner, essentially, to put it in our terms.
As they embrace, Jon slides a knife into her. It’s over quickly.
Jon holds her, crying. Drogon flies in- sensing the loss of her? He’s like a dog who has lost his human, nudging her, trying to wake her, and it breaks even my heart. Rearing back, Drogon revs up his flamers, and Jon stands still, accepting his fate.
But the fire isn’t for him. Drogon turns it toward the throne. Blast after blast hits the Iron Throne until it’s no more. After all this fuss- the chair is melted away. Good.
Finished with the throne, Drogon scoops up Dany’s body and flies away with it, over the sea, until they’re gone.
And now for something completely different: time has passed. Tyrion is brought into the Dragonpit by Grey Worm for a trial, and we learn Jon is imprisoned as well for the killing of Dany. Yara, Edmure Tully (yassss floppy trout!), Sansa, Arya, Bran, Samwell, Brienne, Gendry, Yohn Royce, Robin Arryn, and others represent the new leadership of Westeros.
They argue for a bit before Tyrion points out they need a king because duh, no one is in charge. This leads to a bit of funniness with Edmure (bless Tobias Menzies), then everyone laughing at the notion of democracy, and Tyrion taking on a new role: kingmaker. He presents a surprising candidate with a compelling speech: Bran the Broken.
Naturally Bran isn’t shocked, and it takes only a small amount of convincing to get everyone on board. Except for Sansa, because the North will not kneel. They’ll remain independent, thank you very much.
The group accepts a new notion of government: the nobles with gather to select their kings from now on, rather than following inheritance. That is how they’ll break the wheel. They’ll exercise choice. (Among the nobles, obviously the poor don’t get that).
All hail, Bran the Broken.
Oh, and Tyrion has to be the Hand of the King. He’ll never be free of this shit. HA HA.
Prison!Jon is looking mighty shaggy himself as he learns of his fate. King Bran has sentenced him to the Wall, so we’ve come full circle. They don’t exactly need a Night’s Watch anymore so this seems like a half-assed punishment but I can’t blame Bran for it.
Jon is still struggling with his actions, as he should be. Did he do the right thing? He doesn’t know. But he’s going to live, so he’ll have time to think about it. Heading to the docks, he comes across Grey Worm who gives him one last glower. We learn that that GW and his Unsullied are headed for the isle of Naath after all (I hear that Missandei/GW love theme playing, dammit. Quit playing games with my heart.)
Jon shares a goodbye with his family on the docks. Jon doesn’t begrudge Sansa for her choices. We learn that Arya isn’t going home; she’s headed west of Westeros, to learn what’s there. He apologizes to Bran for not being there, but the Three Eyed Raven knows Jon was exactly where he was supposed to be.
In the tower, clad in new Kingsguard armor, Brienne sits with the White Book. Flipping to the page for Jaime Lannister, she begins to thoroughly fill in the pages with all his brave deeds. Everything we’ve seen throughout the seasons. As she reaches the end, she pauses, and with tears in her eyes, notes, “Died protecting his Queen.”
Brienne closes the book on Jaime.
The new Small Council meets, and a new game begins. Tyrion straightens the chairs, juuuuuust right. Soon he’s joined by Bronn, Master of Coin and Lord of Highgarden. Davos, Master of Ships. Samwell, in maester’s robes, presents a book- Archmaester Ebrose (the fellow played by Jim Broadbent) has written A Song of Ice and Fire, with Sam’s help of course. “I don’t believe you’re mentioned,” Sam admits. Tyrion is not thrilled.
The players set to bickering over funds, brothels, ships and nonsense. It’s another day in Westeros. That is to say: life goes on.
Jon arrives at the Wall to find Tormund, a host of wildlings- and Ghost! (Yes, he gives him a patting. Are y’all happy now?)
Arya sets sail for her journey, as Sansa dresses for her big day. The final sequence is beautifully done, with the three of them- Jon, Sansa, and Arya- moving forward into their lives, accepting their destinies, at peace.
Arya sails with direwolf sails on her ship- her family goes with her wherever she goes. She will always be Arya of House Stark, she will never be No One.
Sansa is proclaimed Queen in the North, on a direwolf throne. She was born to wear a crown.
Jon ventures beyond the Wall, a wilding at heart, with his people.
The final sequence: A play on the opening sequence of the series, with the rangers venturing out beyond the Wall, we now have Jon doing so, with a much happier ending, I think. The music, the editing, the interplay of the three Starks’ endings- it all worked very well for me.
Drogon: It’s been a long time since Drogon showed this much personality and I wish they’d done it ages ago! I loved the bit with him sleeping in the snow, and his reaction to Dany’s death. He was a character, not just a weapon.
It’s over…. It’s going to take me a while to process it all. It was extremely intense, and I appreciate that they acknowledged the gravity of the actions for Tyrion and Jon but it also lent a heaviness to the episode.
A Song of Ice and Fire: We were expecting a book shout-out and there it was. I’m glad it wasn’t too hokey and sentimental, actually.
Costumes! They’re always great but golly darnit, the costumes were extra beautiful this week, with Sansa’s dresses, Gendry’s new duds, even the random lords at the Dragonpit looking so well dressed. I love the attention paid to detail.
The Iron Throne: I always thought they should get rid of the throne and embrace democracy but I didn’t know they’d literally torch the thing. DAMN!
Book reader verdict: Yes the book version will probably be better and more filled out. I doubt Grey Worm will be this present since he’s barely a character at all in the books, and that’s the tip of the iceberg. But I think Queen in the North, West of Westeros Explorer, and Back to the Wildlings Ways are pretty solid conclusions for the Stark kids, along with being King of the Whole Dang Enchilada.
Not bad for the kid who fell out the window. Congrats on the taking the prize, Bran. Not sure anyone would want it but it’s going to be a helluva ride. He can use “I’m going to go now” every time the Small Council meetings get boring.
And that’s a wrap, babes. Our watch has ended. Never fear- the Watchers on the Wall will continue as we always have, with the prequel series! But there will be another Long Night before that day arrives, and some of you may decide to step away.
It’s been a pleasure sharing this journey with you all, standing guard on the Wall.
Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss Directors: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss Runtime: 1 hr 19 minutes Content Warnings: TV-MA: Adult Content, Adult Language, Violence Video Preview:Season 8 Finale Trailer
What began over eight years ago ends tonight with the season and series finale. Join us now for live discussion, filled with hopes, predictions, and memories, in advance of tonight’s episode, with the Night’s Cast:
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Please use spoiler coding when discussing ASOIAF/book or light filming spoilers- anymaterial that has not aired or been discussed on Game of Thrones, and no major spoilers. Instructions on coding/showing/hiding spoilers are found at the top of the Comments section. Please do not post ANY leak spoilers in this Chat post before it airs on HBO- the comment will be deleted. Leak discussion is only permitted in our Quarantine forum.
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There is this Game of Thrones theory floating around out there, and it goes a little something like this: “it’s easy for viewers to tell the demarcation point between where the HBO series stopped adapting the five published novels it’s based on and where it started to tell the remaining, unpublished story all by itself, left to the devices of its two showrunners, David Benioff and Dan Weiss.” This transition is an easily identifiable one, the argument maintains, because the narrative has changed in some pretty dramatic and obvious ways, becoming a lot safer and, thus, more predictable, with the various shocks and twists of author George R.R. Martin’s portion largely falling by the wayside.
Interestingly enough, a close examination of this critique reveals something pretty extraordinary: it’s both spot-on and completely without merit in equal measure. And explaining why this is so may help to calm some viewers’ apparent anxiousness heading into the series finale while also demystifying Martin’s writing process —and, just maybe, help explain why it’s now been taking him nearly a decade per book.
The fake-out factor
Let’s start with a very basic premise: A Song of Ice and Fire, George Martin’s sprawling, several-thousand-page saga, has always been, at its very foundation, a traditional story. From its very beginnings, for example, it established a core of just a few central characters – who even go on to survive that inconvenient state of affairs called death – who have very closely hewed to the traditional narrative progression that Joseph Campbell famously dubbed the Hero’s Journey; Jon Snow’s arc, in particular, seems to have sprung directly from that roadmap, but it just as equally applies to the likes of Arya Stark, Tyrion Lannister, and, perhaps most controversially now, Daenerys Targaryen.
What obscures this basic structure – besides the fact that Ice and Fire has yet to complete its planned seven-volume run, of course – is Martin’s exceptional ability to obscure it; a famous adage says that writing is like a giant magic trick, redirecting the audience’s attention over here while the set-up goes on over there – and George’s magic act is, in many ways, one of the most elaborate productions around. While Jon Snow rides off to join the Night’s Watch and begin a master course in leadership and self-sacrifice, for instance, Lord Eddard Stark is contending with the governing incompetence of King Robert Baratheon down south and the rising threat of Khal Drogo across the narrow sea; by the end of the first book, all three of these seemingly-major players are dead, and readers (and viewers!) are left with the feeling that the narrative groundwork underneath them has just buckled. In retrospect, the real character development is obvious and predictable, yet almost entirely hidden.
And this perfectly illustrates the first layer of this storytelling smokescreen: a pretty consistent level of fake-outs. Ned Stark’s beheading, the massacre that was the Red Wedding, the arrival of a prophesied savior in the form of King Stannis Baratheon, even the shifting identities of the man called Reek (in the books, first he was Ramsay’s indentured servant, then Ramsay himself in disguise, and then he was the forced identity of the former Theon Greyjoy) – they all are trotted out in a constant parade of reveals and revelations, keeping the reader guessing in the foreground while all the major work was going on in the background. In this way, audiences could be lulled into a false sense of shock and awe, that anyone could be killed off at any time for any reason (and in any manner) while, in reality, Jon could acquire so much “plot armor” that he could even be resurrected from death itself. It’s both simple and complex, pedestrian and poetic.
A peculiar narrative structure
Compounding all the fake-outs was another, more systemic wrinkle to George R.R. Martin’s storytelling modus operandi: each chapter would be told exclusively from the perspective of just one particular character. While this may sound straightforward on paper, it actually is employed to intricate dramatic effect – since the entire narrative playing field is severely restricted to a protagonist’s field of knowledge, there are many major plot developments or character beats that get lost in the cracks and which can only be surmised after the fact, like a detective trying to reconstruct a crime scene. The shifting loyalties of Roose Bolton, for example, fall squarely in this realm, meaning that an unobservant reader may find the northern lord’s infamous betrayal at the Red Wedding a whole book later somewhat abrupt; the disappearance of three Freys on the way to Ramsay Bolton’s wedding to a false Arya Stark (see? The fake-outs keep landing, even if readers happen to know this one while all the rest of the characters may not) and Wyman Manderly’s jubilant serving of three large meat pies at the reception are otherwise two completely unconnected events.
A corollary to this device is the introduction of previously-established “background” characters as POV protagonists in subsequent novels, a practice which helps to hide the importance of such figures as Jaime and Cersei Lannister to the overarching story (they aren’t added to the main roster until the third and fourth installments, respectively.) In this way, most readers of the first volume would never have jumped to the conclusion that Ser Jaime of the Kingsguard would be a pivotal mover and shaker in the saga’s endgame, never mind the fact that he’s actually one of the most nuanced and dynamic characters in the text.
Muddying the narrative waters even further is Martin’s regular deployment of the unreliable narrator, the fancy literary term for a protagonist who is either lying to the reader or who is mistaken in his conclusions or convictions. Thanks to this particular vein of obfuscation, entire historical developments are misunderstood and, therefore, extended to the wrong conclusions – the entirety of Robert’s Rebellion against the Targaryen Iron Throne was based on the lie that Lyanna Stark was forcibly taken from Robert Baratheon and then raped by Prince Rhaegar, which would ultimately unleash such further throes of misinformation as the War of the Five Kings, which saw the public operate under the false belief that Joffrey (and then Tommen) were Baratheon heirs.
It is this reading-between-the-lines approach to storytelling that has not only encouraged but probably necessitated the existence of companion ebooks and analytical websites to help audiences pick out overlooked throughlines and half-hidden thematic motifs – what may be the majestic hallmark of prose, but which had to be all but abandoned for the medium of television (all three of the Lannister progeny, for example, carry their own scenes and begin shuffling through their own character arcs right from the very first episode).
Bringing it all home to Game of Thrones
Given all this, when executive producers Dan Weiss and David Benioff sat down to do the impossible and adapt the seven-book Song of Ice and Fire to just 73 episodes of Game of Thrones, a number of key decisions had to be made on where to abridge and how to fill in the gaps – an obvious observation, admittedly, when it deals with a certain chapter being omitted or a certain sub-plot being condensed, but one that may not be quite as noticeable when it comes to such matters as fundamental story structure and narrative sleight of hand.
And no choice has been as consequential as limiting the size of the television series’s cast. Whereas the lineup of POV protagonists in books four and five explodes to something double or nearly triple what it was across the first three volumes, Benioff and Weiss made the decision to hold firm to just the two dozen or so characters that were largely introduced in the first two seasons of the show (a wise move, as Game of Thrones would otherwise be some five seasons longer); in this way, when a particular development befell a newly-inserted player in the novels, that plot beat had to be appropriated by a pre-existing television character, like when Lord Jon Connington secretly contracted greyscale and Ser Jorah Mormont became his HBO stand-in, or how Arya took over Lady Stoneheart’s vindictive crusade to execute all of House Frey.
This may have been born out of concerns of narrative efficiency, but it has also resulted in an unintended side effect: a number of the misdirections that George Martin continues to employ on the page in his (proposed) final two books are no longer available on the screen. As such, just as Jon Snow is being brought back from beyond the grave and Daenerys Targaryen is exerting control over nearly the entirety of the Dothraki horde, some of the final steps that begin to prepare both characters for the story’s endgame, there is no suddenly-revealed-to-still-be-alive Jon Connington and Aegon Targaryen landing their sellsword forces on Westeros – marking a Targaryen invasion several months, if not longer, before Dany would be able to do so. This, in turn, forestalls a number of military clashes and political cage-rattling for King Tommen and his royal mother, Cersei Lannister, and it doesn’t have the same effect on Lord Varys and Magister Illyrio Mopatis’s secret conspiracy to reinstate the Targaryen dynasty (which becomes terribly disrupted by the Dragon Queen’s sudden emergence as, perhaps, a worthier candidate for the Iron Throne). And, finally, all of this doesn’t even touch the possibility that little Aegon isn’t, perhaps, the real deal in the first place – meaning that even the fake-outs could themselves be the result of other fake-outs.
In terms of Game of Thrones, then, this necessarily results in an open, distraction-free field for Queen Dany to arrive in the Seven Kingdoms, fall in love with King Jon, and face off against Queen Cersei for control of the throne – a scenario which suddenly seems a lot more straightforward and, thus, predictable than anything that landed in the show’s first five seasons. But make no mistake about it: given the plethora of interviews that Martin, Benioff, and Weiss have all given over the course of the past several months, this fundamental state of affairs playing out in the source material seems to be all but guaranteed, meaning that Mhysa Dany’s controversial transformation —from aspirational monarch to someone the people may remember as the true daughter of the Mad King in spirit as well as blood— is just as inevitable on the page as it has been on the screen.
We just need to see how many more thousands of pages George R.R. Martin needs in order to ultimately get there.
Marc N. Kleinhenz is the editor-in-chief of Orlando Informer. He’s also written for 31 other sites (including Screen Rant, IGN, and Tower of the Hand, where he serves as consulting editor), has appeared on radio and television news as a pop-culture specialist, served as a consultant on the theming industry, and has even taught English in Japan.
My journey down the fandom road to the end of Game of Thrones is one that I can’t believe sometimes. Despite my focus on A Song of Ice and Fire, I first got into the TV show. At the time, I was working a terrible job and struggled daily for mental stimulation. Sometimes I would listen to podcasts or music, or browse the warcraftlore board on Reddit. For a lot of my twenties, I was a heavy World of Warcraft player and really enjoyed reading the lore behind the game and trying to guess where it was going next. Sometimes I enjoyed that even more than the game.
I struggled with loneliness and depression after flunking out of college and had become isolated. I took that terrible job to keep up with my student loans (on a degree I didn’t have, for the extra sting). I’d sit day in, day out, with headphones on passing the minutes until I could go home. One day in my boredom, I came across this hot new TV show being advertised on HBO: Game of Thrones. It looked to be a medieval-ish fantasy story. Sounded interesting, although I rarely enjoy live-action fantasy; too often the magic and fantasy aspects come off as corny or unbelievable, or trying way too hard to be Lord of the Rings.
I watched one episode, and something odd happened. Normally when I watch television, even new things, I can predict with fairly good accuracy what’s going to happen next. It’s basically ruined all mystery and detective shows for me all my life. Yet with that one episode, everything that happened surprised me. I struggled to understand what the point of the episode even was. It made me think, and wonder, and try mentally in a way I hadn’t in a long time. I was challenged by what I saw.
And so I went looking for more information. Reading wiki articles, watching YouTube videos explaining the basics, and watching a few more episodes. One night I started on one wiki article and then it was 3 AM; I had spent the whole night starting from Ned Stark, and ending up reading about House Dayne and their most famous son Arthur Dayne. It was like waking up out of a stupor. Eventually I found my way onto the asoiaf board on reddit and began reading these long essays and theories about the show. And wait, books? There were books too?
And what were these essays about? Characters I had never heard of, plots that went over my head, and endless pages of analysis and reading. It was a mental paradise compared to where I was previously. And it all snowballed from there. I began contributing my own essays, talking with fellow fans, learning more and more and discovering there was almost no end to what new information could be had. I was invited to become a moderator of that same asoiaf board, and found myself in an absolutely wonderful group of people who were all much smarter than me and eventually close friends.
My big break, if you can call it that, was like most things in life a stroke of luck. My cousin (a big ASOIAF and Game of Thrones fan with a memory that makes mine look shabby) and I were at his lake house up in Maine talking about theories that would one day become my essays, drinking beer and looking over the lake. On Twitter, I noticed that someone else in my timeline was also posting about being in Maine. That was our beloved editor-in-chief, Sue the Fury. Normally I’m very shy, even through social media, but the beer was talking for me and I started up a conversation with her about Maine and how great it was, and somehow I ended up writing an article for Watchers about Bran Stark’s issues with becoming a demi-god.
If I’ve learned anything though, I know nothing and we all should listen to Sue. If it wasn’t for her, I’d be posting long essays about direwolf magic powers on a WordPress somewhere no one was reading. I’ve been a big fan of YouTube for a long time, and wondered about how I could make my own, but wrote it off as a pipe dream. Sue told me to believe in myself, that people love my writing, and to give YouTube a try. So I started a YouTube channel.
Manu, Bookshelfstud, and JoeMagician at Con of Thrones 2018
And going to Con of Thrones- public speaking is terrifying, and nobody was going to know who I was. I’d just be some guy up on a panel or two trying not to freak out about everyone watching him stammer through obscure ASOIAF lore locked somewhere inside my head. Sue encouraged me to go, told me I’d have a wonderful time, and then put me on panels. And she was right- it was one of the best weekends of my life. I met so many friends that had previously only been usernames and Twitter pictures, discovered that not only did I like speaking about Game of Thrones, I was pretty good at it, and felt like I belonged somewhere. People even recognized me from Maester Monthly and my own YouTube videos. They were nodding along as I spoke up on the stages, and I got to see in person what it is like when you reach someone with a theory or analysis. One guy even asked to take a picture with me to show his wife that he had met me, which was maybe the most surreal thing in the world to me. So when Sue the Fury comes knocking for you to do things, say YES.
Through Game of Thrones, I found what my life had been missing: passion. For literature and analysis, finding myself in the stories of Aemon, Dunk, Brienne and Jon, connecting with other fans and discovering it doesn’t just have to be me on my own, reading articles late into the night. Trying new things, learning how to write and make my own YouTube videos and podcasts- I’ve found through this fandom and the wonderful fictional world of Westeros a thing that I can give back to others with, a hobby that actually makes my parents proud. Game of Thrones is ending, as all things must, but I don’t feel down or morose. There will be another new challenge after this, more skills and information to learn, and people to meet.
And The Winds of Winter is around the corner, right? Right?!
Three great men- a king, a priest, and a rich man. Between them stands a common sellsword. Each great man bids the sellsword kill the other two. Who lives? Who dies? Power resides where men believe it resides.
Seven years ago, after the release of the season 2 “Shadow” teaser featuring Varys and his infamous sellsword riddle, I shared this gut reaction on my personal blog: “FUCKING CONLETH HILL IS THE FUCKING MAN. GOD BLESS NORTHERN IRELAND FOR PRODUCING SUCH STELLAR ACTORS AND FUCKING BEAUTIFUL SCENERY.”
It’s crude and simple, but after seven years and the end of a beautiful run on Game of Thrones, I’m not sure I’d put it any other way: Conleth Hill is in fact the fucking man. And it’s time to pay tribute to the actor who brought one of my absolute favorite characters to life, doing him justice in a way I’d feared would never be possible.
Varys is an enigma in the books, which is why he’s so often at the center of ASOIAF fan theories, from origin speculation (secret Blackfyre!) to totally bonkerballs theories (Varys is a merman!). Game of Thrones offered an opportunity for an actor of Hill’s caliber to step up and flesh out a role that could’ve slid into an obnoxious caricature in the wrong hands. A eunuch spymaster who prefers silks and the occasional campy touch is an easy role to go over the top with, but that never happened here. Varys was hilarious without being ridiculous; he was the wit, not the joke. We can credit so much of that to Conleth Hill’s gifts, and the darkness he slips in at just the right time, to remind people of who they’re dealing with.
That particular gift was often on display in his scenes with Aidan Gillen (Littlefinger) and Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister). The “big fish” scene (shown above) shows how the actor dips into menace and out again easily, as slippery as a fish. I think those scenes also convey that he’s a tremendously generous actor; you always get the sense that he’s sharing a scene, not hogging it, even when he’s brilliant.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention one of my favorite small things about Hill as well- his reactions. The Small Council scenes throughout the first four seasons were filled with them. And his reaction that time Ros tried to cop a feel and found nothing to cop? Perfection. It’s the little things, you know.
His good humor extended to real life as well, by all accounts. Cast members often cite Conleth Hill as the funniest Game of Thrones actor and he’s generally delightful in every interview he does, whether it’s hanging with Leslie Jones or weeping over shaving his head for the role while imitating Rory McCann.
But all good things must come to an end. Varys proved time and time and time again you don’t need balls to be brave, and Dany and Drogon delivered a fiery death to our Spider. He almost made it to the very end, so we’ll only have one episode without Varys and his snarky- or very frank- take on matters. I’ll greatly miss having Conleth Hill on my screen.
Then again, there’s always the prequel series! All Hill needs to do is grow back his hair and few would recognize him, apparently. I would have no problem with this. I told you- he’s the fucking man.
It is known: this season of Game of Thrones has been highly divisive, with Twitter ablaze, critics critical and YouTube comment threads unpleasant. The actions by Daenerys Targaryen in Sunday’s episode only added more fuel, ahem, to the fire.
But evidence shows that viewers already had mixed, even lukewarm, views about Dany. And the ongoing online argument, full as it is of heartfelt reactions, involves a fraction of the viewing audience. What does everyone else think? There’s no easy way to know for sure, but there’s a good chance they’re enjoying this final season more than highly engaged viewers.
Entering Season 8, Mixed Feelings on Dany
To go forward in analyzing perceptions of Dany, we must go back: one’s reaction to her torching King’s Landing depends partly on what one thought of her going in. You may recall last spring’s survey of 2,500-plus fans, discussed here and at Con of Thrones. In it, 73 percent of respondents saw Dany as “good,” as opposed to neutral or evil. That’s a good number, albeit lower than most other surviving characters that happened to be measured: Good-ness aside, respondents were split on liking Dany: She ranked as both the fourth-favorite AND fourth least-favorite character. Respondents were also increasingly viewing her violent actions as not justified, especially executing Mossador and the Tarlys.
The Dragon Queen also fell into the middle of the pack in a list of 29 characters for whom respondents wanted a “happy ending.” She was on par with the late Jaime (64 percent) and ahead of Theon (46 percent – sorry, Petra) and Cersei (5 percent). But she was well behind most of the 16 alive for the final episode:
Arguments about foreshadowing, abruptness and show quality aside, then, even if viewers largely didn’t expect Dany to incinerate half a city, they also don’t place her on the same plane as most of the show’s other lead characters. Which means that for many, Sunday’s episode may have been horrifying, but the arguable character assassination less of an issue.
Viewer Engagement and Dany’s Actions
Level of engagement or investment in GoT/ASOIAF appears to play a role in perceptions of Dany, but in an unusual way. For comparison, I sliced off the two ends of the “viewer engagement” spectrum:
-“Immersed” respondents, or those who read at least one ASOIAF book before seeing the show and spend a lot of time reading about or discussing GOT/ASOIAF (About 120 people)
– “Isolated” respondents, who haven’t touched the books and spend little to no time discussing the show. (About 185 people)
These are subsets of the “book first” and “show only” groups analyzed last year. The vast majority of respondents fall between Immersed and Isolated; those 2,200 people generally were skewed toward online activity, given the survey was distributed online. The same is almost certainly the case for most “snap poll” type surveys taken after episodes air.
We can break down the above “Percent Seeing Character as Good” chart into Isolated vs. Immersed respondents. Five of the surviving 11 characters had notable differences, Dany among them:
The fact that the Isolated respondents had Dany further up in the “good” rankings could mean her actions in “The Bells” were more stunning to Isolated viewers. But they also named her their favorite character less often than Immersed respondents (8% of the time vs. 13% of the time), so her destruction of King’s Landing may not have otherwise overly affected them.
Viewer Engagement and Opinion of Season 8
There’s an obvious larger question at play here: How do the views of those isolated from Thrones-talk online compare with those immersed in it?
I’d posit that the Isolated folks are more positive toward this season, being less engaged and less apt to spot apparent plot holes and the like. It’s a corollary of Oz’s recent speculation that it may be easier “for viewers-only to take and accept the show as-is” than book-readers.
Many aspects of Dany’s attack have been criticized online, as have other events in Season 8, such as how Rhaegal died and the Winterfell battle plan.
Of course, a number of plots in other seasons were also lambasted in reviews and on social media, for instance the “wight hunt” beyond the Wall. But last year’s survey found that Isolated fans had a far more positive opinion of those denigrated plotlines:
Yes, you’re reading that right: There’s a seemingly absurd 40-point difference regarding how Isolated vs. Immersed survey respondents felt about last season’s Littlefinger/Arya/Sansa plotline. Of the five plots listed, only Stannis/Shireen had equal footing across the groups — but Immersed respondents found it the most effective listed, while Isolated folks placed it fourth.
A similar, if less extreme pattern, holds with how Immersed and Isolated respondents ranked the first seven seasons from top to bottom.
Season 1 and Season 5 were best and worst for both groups, but the others are jumbled. The Isolated rankings are more tightly bunched, meaning their opinions were more all over the map while Immersed folks marched mostly in lockstep.
While those of us highly immersed in the show’s final season virtually (and literally) shout and debate after each episode (Full disclosure: I was initially appalled by much of “The Bells” but have since warmed to it), there’s millions of others who tune in Sunday night or later, maybe text a friend and then forget about Westeros for another week, or year – or after Sunday, even forever.
Evidence suggests the two groups have long had differing experiences with Game of Thrones. There’s little reason to think it’s any different with Season 8.
James, aka Chris Wright, is an occasional WOTW contributor who particularly likes analyzing how people consume media. He once wrote a book about this regarding Survivor. He works as an editor in Washington, D.C.
I’m here to tell you all a beautiful tale—the story of a wonderful man.
It’s about a man we all know, a man we admire and respect. This one’s not so much about the legendary Kingslayer, Ser Jaime Lannister, as it is the man who inhabited him.
This one’s for Nik.
First and foremost: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau isn’t just a great actor, he’s a great human being. He is kind, generous, and patient to a fault, especially when dealing with overzealous fanbois (trust me). He uses his influence to champion a number of great causes, including being a goodwill ambassador for the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme), spearheading action towards combating climate change, and is rigorously active in many other charities, particularly ones located in his native Denmark and his wife’s native Greenland, though recently he traveled to Rwanda, assisting the U.N. there, and lending a hand with the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.
He is a vocal and demonstrative supporter of that aforementioned wife, the gorgeous and talented Sascha Nukâka Motzfeldt, and is an encouraging and empowering father to two energetic and lovely teenage daughters.
He is the sort of person we should all aspire to be. And that comes first, before I even attempt to encompass what he means to the Game of Thrones fandom.
When Nikolaj’s casting news broke, a flurry of investigation ensued. Who was this Danish actor? Was he good with a sword? Could he play someone with an English accent? Our second “gate” (following the infamous “Chairgate”) was “Nosegate,” in which various dubious fans declared that Nikolaj’s nose was either “too big” or “too broken” to ever play the dashing Ser Jaime. It seems absolutely insane now, right?
We scoured the internet for clips of Nik in other roles. We needed to know! Some people knew about him following his short-lived role in Blackhawk Down, but we also found some early stuff, like his role as Martin in Nightwatch, and his role as Martin (always Martin!) in Shadow of the Sword (The Headsman). We were quickly impressed.
Once the show began, any doubting fans quickly came around. As Ser Jaime Lannister, Nikolaj was absolutely singular, arguably the best person cast in one of the show’s most pivotal and controversial roles. Nikolaj inhabited the Kingslayer like a second skin, often wearing Jaime on his sleeve in interviews. He cared about this character, and it was obvious. As a self-described “romantic,” Nikolaj was of course conflicted by Jaime’s end. He wanted Jaime to be with Brienne as much as any fan, if not more.
But… we’ll get to that later. First, let me tell you about the times I got to interview him.
You see, as part of the team that brought you the first Game of Thrones fansite, founded by Phil “Winter” Bicking (Oz and Sue begat this site once its predecessor was sold away), I remember back when this fandom were the only people who believed this thing could last longer than a season, so we were given access and interviews that, these days, are only really gifted to the likes of Entertainment Weekly or Hollywood Reporter.
One of the very first interviews I conducted was an e-mail interview with Nikolaj. He was engaging, witty, and enthusiastically answered follow-up questions. Then, just before season three, I got to do a large-scale interview with the cast, of which Nik was the stand-out. Paired with Gwendoline, his on-and-off screen foil, the interview became a saucy game of cat-and-mouse, where myself and other ASoIaF fan-journalists (ASoIaFanalists?) attempted to try and discern whether or not Jaime loses a hand, and whether or not Jaime and Brienne share their notorious bathing scene onscreen.
Nik and Gwen played us like fiddles, giving just enough to make us hopeful but always stopping short of actually confirming anything. I can still remember Nikolaj leaning back in his chair, that Jaime Lannister half-smile playing at the edge of his lips, eyes twinkling with barely-suppressed mirth, while Gwendoline roared her Gwendoline laugh. They enjoyed the questions as much as we enjoyed being in the same room with them. Myself and IGN’s Terri Schwartz (a dyed-in-the-wool Braime) were writhing in our seats in overt displays of nerd agony, so purposefully torturous were the hints.
Later, as most of the journalists filtered out and the cast were treated to a catered lunch, I hung around, quite unwilling to leave short of them dragging me out bodily. Nik came up to me, wholly unprovoked, and engaged me in further conversation. He wanted to know how the book fans were receiving the series in contrast to non-book fans. I told him the truth: Non-book fans loved Game of Thrones for its own merits; book fans, however, could have varied responses, depending on what they felt was important… but most still loved it. He seemed quietly enthused by the reaction of the “Braime” factions, and I reiterated to him that I loved Jaime and Brienne’s complicated relationship, and (lowkey) pressed him for any small hint as to how that might play out.
Of course, onscreen he gave us everything we wanted. From “The things we do for love” to “Nothing else matters, only us.” His wrenching speech to Brienne in that stone bath is now the stuff of legend. “By what right does the wolf judge the lion?” And many, and more. His knighting of Brienne might have been his crowning achievement; leaving her likely his greatest shame. Her heartbroken cry ripped my soul.
And then came Jaime’s end—as controversial as anything he’d ever done. Did returning to Cersei’s side lessen his story? Had Jaime been cheated of a redemptive arc that both character and actor had earned? If you believe so, I urge you to reconsider, as I did.
Watch it again, and understand: Jaime Lannister was already redeemed. He did what he did to Brienne to protect her, else she might have followed him to King’s Landing. And he still loved her, you can’t tell me he didn’t; Jaime embraced Cersei with his arms, but Brienne was the last woman he kissed. When he returned to Cersei’s side, there in her moment of need, he returned as her protector—her brother, her twin. Jaime and Cersei went out of this world as they came into it: together. He did it knowing how the rest of the world might view him, because even he knew how it would appear. I can live with that. Westeros won’t likely know Jaime’s heroism. But we will.
And we will never see his like again.
Jaime’s road was long; Nikolaj was involved in this project for nearly ten years, and it will likely impact his career (and complicate his ability to have privacy outside his home) for a long time to come.
But what a ride, eh? And that’s the best anyone can ask of a television show. Jaime’s end was as controversial as his sister-screwing or Bran-shoving beginning, but would we have it any other way? If you’re sad, don’t be! This was a legendary character arc. I think it ended well.
If you must cry, cry for Jaime, not for his actor. Nik will be fine. Wonderful man, wonderful family, wonderful life!
The Kingslayer’s days may be ended (at least in television form), but Nikolaj is still busy. He’ll be starring in Domino with (of all people!) Carice van Houten, Suicide Tourist with Robert Aramayo, the Danish film Notat, and The Silencing with Annabelle Wallis. Not only that, but he’ll be starring in that Scottish play here in Los Angeles over the summer. Busy guy. Hear Him Roar!
This man is fedt. Thank you for everything, Nik!
You have our thanks—and our love. And I can’t wait to see you again in July at Con of Thrones!
(Not to turn this into an ad at the last second, but tickets for that event are HERE! I recommend the Kingslayer Pass.)
We teamed up with CafePressagain to celebrate (or is it mourn?) the end of the show this coming Sunday, with the latest in their Game of Thrones merchandise—T-Shirts, blankets, mugs, and even merch personalized by you based on official Game of Thrones designs. Below the cut, check out all the featured items and a Watchers on the Wall exclusive code to take 25% off of your CafePress Game of Thrones order!
As the first official fan-design partner for Game of Thrones, CafePress offers a huge assortment of fan-designed Game of Thrones merch including apparel, drinkware, bags, home goods, and more. Let us remind you of some highlights:
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What is it about bad guys? I just love ’em, ya know? I waxed poetic about Ramsay for years, and have been on board with Euron the past couple, but all the while, there’s been a more silent baddie chewing his way through the scenery: [Formerly Maester] Qyburn. Often quiet, but ever deadly, Qyburn has been a lingering presence on Game of Thrones since season 3, and ever since he showed up, he has made his presence known. This of course would not be possible without the pitch perfect performance of the Maestro himself, Anton Lesser.
Through thick and thin, Qyburn has always been there to lend our characters a hand – quite literally, if you recall that he fitted Jaime with his golden hand.
Qyburn’s helpfulness is shown through Anton’s dedication to the craft of acting. He meticulously molded Qyburn into that quirky little side character who was always intriguing to watch. And I think one of the reasons he was so fun is that Anton took as much pleasure in Qyburn’s fascination with weird stuff as the character did. Remember how mirthful he was when he told Cersei that his dark magic would keep The Mountain strong, whatever else happens?
Qyburn: “You should know the process may change him…somewhat.” Cersei: “Will it weaken him?” Qyburn: “Oh no.”
Two words. “Oh no.” That’s all it takes. The gleeful way in which he says this is so memorable because Anton makes it so.
Through thick and thin, Qyburn was there for our main characters. After Cersei’s devastating walk of atonement shame, Qyburn was the first to put a cloak on her, showcasing that he was not without empathy. In doing so, the softer side of Qyburn was able to come to the forefront. I honestly believe that he truly loved his queen and that is all due to Anton’s softly spoken, but carefully crafted work.
And of course we can’t forget the comedy bits. Who remembers where they were during the summit at the dragonpit? *raises own hand* – I still remember the reaction from our viewing party when Qyburn went to pick up the wight’s hand and examine it – so much laughter. It was a truly meme-able moment:
Qyburn ultimately got killed by his own creation towards the end of 805’s ‘The Bells,’ in a death scene has gotta be a top 5 of all time, for me. It was quick, out of nowhere, and just perfectly fitting for the moment. He may be gone, but with Anton Lesser’s deft approach, the legacy of Qyburn will live on. RIP to Qyburn, and Bon Voyage to Anton Lesser. I wish him well in his next endeavors.
In the fictional history of Game of Thrones, King’s Landing has seen some rough times. During Robert’s Rebellion, the dynasty-breaking conflict that sowed seeds of the now-blooming discord, the capital city of the Targaryens was sacked by the troops of Tywin Lannister. Tywin had come to King’s Landing as a promised ally to King Aerys II and once in the walls, treacherously began to put the city to the torch and sword. During the War of the Five Kings, Stannis Baratheon threatened to bring similar bloodshed and violence into the city, as he pressed his claim against the illegitimate king Joffrey Baratheon. King’s Landing was spared that sacking by the timely arrival of Tywin Lannister and his allies- this time the rescuer and not the reaver.
In the recent episode “The Bells,” King’s Landing fared far worse than during The War of the Five Kings or Robert’s Rebellion. After the precise destruction of the city’s scorpion-artillery and the annihilation of Queen Cersei’s expensive sellsword armed forces, the Lannister soldiers within the walls threw down their swords in the face of northern and Unsullied infantry and Dothraki cavalry. And a dragon. Daenerys Targaryen chose to not honor the surrender of the city. And began to burn the capital.
The question at hand is why. Why not accept victory, rather than bring death to thousands of civilians?
One possible answer seems to be rooted in the madness of the Targaryens. Daenerys’s father was known as the Mad King, and had a history of at least planning city-wide destruction. That Dany, after betrayals and defiance by Cersei and the loss of her close associates, had reached some breaking point that broke during the battle.
This answer seems unsatisfying at best. Targaryen madness has certainly been talked about in the context of the show, and while Dany has taken extreme actions in the past, her seemingly embracing a consuming bloodlust to destroy seems unsupported.
Unless that’s not what happened. Daenerys might have been driven to attack the citizenry not from some emergent madness, but as a choice to achieve her goals.
It’s beyond the scope of this article to talk about madness; what it is, what it isn’t. Daenerys burning thousands of people isn’t something sane. It’s an atrocity. Much like Tywin’s sacking of King’s Landing was an atrocity, and if Stannis had gotten inside the city, the atrocity that could have happened.
Both Tywin and Stannis were rational, ruthless men. Their actions were not driven by madness, but by their ambition. Stannis desired the Throne; Tywin desired to maintain his power by committing to the victorious rebels at the very end of the rebellion.
That is the mindset that Daenerys might possess. And the show has set up supporting moments for that model of behavior from Dany more than the simple explanation that she has slipped into a murderous mania.
SEASON SEVEN – SHALL WE BEGIN
Although proponents of the Mad Queen explanation can find instances to support Dany’s perceived predisposition for madness throughout the series, going back to season one and Viserys’s erratic behavior, followed by Dany threatening to burn cities if she didn’t get her way in season two, and onwards as Daenerys dealt with increasingly difficult challenges, it’s only necessary to start early in season seven and see the groundwork for Dany making a “rational” choice to commit war crimes.
Yara Greyjoy: If you want the Iron Throne, take it. We have an army, a fleet, and three dragons. We should hit King’s Landing hard, now. With everything we’ve got. The city will fall within a day. Tyrion: If we turn the dragons loose, tens of thousands will die in the firestorms. Ellaria Sand: It’s called war. If you don’t have the stomach for it, scurry back into hiding.
After a brief digression involving Myrcella’s death and there not being any innocent Lannisters…
Daenerys: I am not here to be queen of the ashes. Olenna Tyrell: That’s very nice to hear. Of course I can’t remember a queen who was better loved than my granddaughter. The common people loved her. The nobles loved her. And what is left of her now? Ashes. Commoners, nobles; they’re just children really. They won’t obey you unless they fear you.
A plan to lay siege (but not assault) King’s Landing was laid out, to isolate Cersei and to capture Casterly Rock, to symbolically cut Cersei off from her House’s traditional seat of power. Once that was settled, Daenerys wished to reassure Olenna of their mutual goals.
Daenerys: I realize you are here out of hatred for Cersei, not love for me, but I swear to you: she will pay for what she has done. And we will bring peace back to Westeros. Olenna: Peace? Do you think that’s what we had under your father? Or his father? Or his? Peace never lasts, my dear. Will you take a bit of advice from an old woman? He’s a clever man, your Hand. I’ve known a great many clever men. I’ve outlived them all. You know why? I ignore them. The lords of Westeros are sheep – are you a sheep? No. You’re a dragon. Be a dragon.
Love versus Fear is an element that reoccurs in “The Bells”, bringing the conversation with Olenna back into consideration.
QUEEN OF THE SEVEN KINGDOMS
It’s important to recognize that Daenerys has ambition. When she met Tyrion, she made it clear that she wanted to sit the Iron Throne. Upon arriving at Dragonstone and meeting with King in the North Jon Snow, she asserted that she intended to be Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, with an emphasis on the North being one of those kingdoms.
On coming to the North to fight the threat of the White Walkers, who threatened all of the Seven Kingdoms – her perceived birthright – she encountered friction from Lady of Winterfell Sansa Stark, and the unresolved question of what arrangement would be made after the White Walkers were defeated. Now that the North had seceded, the northern lords were not content to bend the knee again to a southern ruler.
Daenerys has stated motivations other than simply ruling the Seven Kingdoms. She’s proud of freeing slaves in Essos (there are no slaves in Westeros for her to free) and she seemed to criticize the political system of Westeros in which she was currently out of favor. Although it’s possible that Daenerys entertained some idea of political reform, it seems clear with her focus on taking the Throne that any reforms would be initiated from the top, with her being able to control the process.
There was a problem with her plan to achieve her dream of being Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. The lords of Westeros, except for allies who had specific grudges with the Lannister regime, were not receptive to restoring the Targaryen dynasty to power with foreign-raised, foreign-supported Dany as candidate. Randyll Tarly would rather burn alive than yield to Daenerys, preferring Cersei Lannister: the devil he knew versus the devil he didn’t know.
On choosing to head North and fight the White Walkers (and contend with Sansa) Daenerys found the northmen somewhat unwelcoming, despite her joining forces in their mutual defense. After the battle, she noticed that Jon was getting attention and credit. Tormund the Wildling was happy to toast her, but he was invested in bragging about Jon, highlighting things that Jon had done (which also applied to the under-heralded Dany.)
Which brings up the second problem with her dream of becoming Queen of Westeros. Jon Snow had the better claim.
Daenerys begged Jon not to tell anyone about his being the legitimate son of Rhaegar Targaryen. Because she would lose her legitimacy. The lords of Westeros might be sheep, but they would prefer Jon as their shepherd over Dany.
It doesn’t matter if that was true or not (it does matter and it is true) – it matters that Daenerys believed it to be true. Jon’s true birth was a threat to her ambition, and she was invested in keeping that threat minimized.
IT’S NOT A SECRET – IT’S INFORMATION
If Varys did succeed in sending any ravens from Dragonstone reporting on the details of Rhaegar and Lyanna’s marriage and offspring, presumably to influential Houses that could spread the information, he may have killed Dany’s hopes to keep Jon’s superior claim a secret. As surely as Gregor Clegane killed Missandei.
With the northern host having marched into the Crownlands to join with Dany’s Unsullied and Dothraki, Daenerys had to consider the possibility of two battles. First, the military battle against Cersei – against her Iron Fleet and sellsword army. And should her coalition prevail, she’d have to consider the possibility of a political battle, if the lords of the land opted to choose between Aegon Targaryen’s solid claim, or her own.
In the history of Great Councils, where the claimants were ostensibly bound to the decision offered by lordly debate, males of lesser claims came out on top. Jon does not have the lesser claim.
Tyrion and Varys had already discussed a possible solution (before Varys decided to go all-in on telephone-tag treason and get roasted.) Tyrion suggested that Jon and Daenerys marry, which would solve the problem of competing claims, and the situation would go from being a potential civil war to a domestic dispute.
Varys didn’t seem keen on the idea, but Varys’s opinion was less important than Jon and Dany’s. Dany seemed game to continue a romantic relationship with Jon, but Jon was not.
It was never expressed explicitly by Jon, but he clearly was reluctant to have sex with his aunt. No amount of fan assertions that Ned Stark’s parents were cousins, or that Tywin Lannister married his cousin Joanna matter. Cousins marrying isn’t the same as an aunt and nephew marrying, and it matters what Jon Snow thinks about it. He’s just not into it, auntie.
So, without a clear pathway to marriage to bring her into the halls of power directly, Daenerys was looking to have her claim set aside. Even if Jon refused any offered crown, her claim would be considered illegitimate. Unless she had support. Unless they loved her.
Daenerys: Far more people in Westeros love you than love me. I don’t have love here. I only have fear. Jon: I love you. You will always be my queen.
Daenerys: Is that all I am to you? Your queen? Jon: Daenerys: Alright then. Let it be fear.
ASK NOT FOR WHOM THE BELLS TOLL. IT TOLLS FOR THEE
Daenerys had her battle plan set. She’d destroy the Iron Fleet, sweep the defenses on the Walls and open a breach for the coalition army (and rout the Golden Company and their lack of elephants.)
Tyrion hammered home that the city might turn away from Cersei and surrender. That the citizens would ring bells to signal their capitulation. Daenerys knew those details, but did not seem too invested in them. She agreed to Tyrion’s plan only reluctantly, after making it clear her preferred method of attack involved fire and blood.
As plans go, ones that are articulated usually go awry. But the Stark/Targaryen assault worked like a charm. And to Tyrion’s relief, the city surrendered. The bells rang and rang.
And for some long seconds, that seemed to be that. The day was won. A tremendous victory. And then it began to rain fire. And the victory became an atrocity.
As said before, Dany might have snapped, or went mad, or some other simple and uninteresting explanation. Or, the slaughter of innocents and commission of an unfathomable record-breaking atrocity served her ambitious goals.
The city surrendering would certainly get her revenge on Cersei, but it would not get Daenerys the Iron Throne. Not when heroic Aegon Targaryen had captured the city from the grip of the sept-bombing Queen Cersei. Jon Snow would be credited with this victory when the lords conspired against her to insure that their preferred claimant got the throne. The heroic Rhaegar’s son would be honored, instead of the Mad King’s daughter.
Marillion: My lord of Lannister! Might I entertain you while you eat? I can sing of the Lost Son of Rhaegar’s victory at King’s Landing. Tyrion Lannister: Have a care. I might provide some fact-checking notes.
She did not have their love. She likely would not get their love. She could only have their fear. And so she embraced fear entirely.
STANNIS AND RENLY
In the second season of Game of Thrones, two Baratheon brothers were in competition for which one of them would be able to take King’s Landing, depose Joffrey, and be recognized as ruler of the Seven Kingdoms, King of the Andals and the First Men. Stannis was older than Renly and therefore should succeed the dead Robert by the usual rules of succession.
Renly did not come with a legal document supporting his bogus claim to a crown. He came instead with most of the Stormlands armies and with the chivalry of the Reach. The powerful Tyrell family had decided to play kingmaker and make a king out of Renly.
Stannis had the better claim, but Renly had the larger army.
To make up for her inferior claim, Daenerys would have to rely on a similar framing.
Jon/Aegon has the better claim, but Daenerys has the Only Dragon.
And when Cersei loses King’s Landing, it wouldn’t be to Jon and the ground troops claiming a victory. It would a dragon bringing ruin that men would remember for generations.
When the builders of the Wall made that massive structure, they made it so large that even when the memories of men passed they’d still understand its purpose. That big wall of ice was built to keep something out.
And after the destruction Dany deliberately wrought on King’s Landing, just like the melted towers at Harrenhal reminded people for generations, people would remember to fear dragons.
Did Daenerys go into battle with full awareness that she was going to destroy King’s Landing? Was it something she chose to do, entirely in the moments that the bells tolled? Was she weighing her options when Tyrion was explaining the bell-ringing surrender option? Since we’re not privy to Daenerys’s thoughts (before anyone brings up what Benioff and Weiss say, Death of the Author is my go-to response,) we can speculate, but unless Dany explicity talks about her thought process in the finale, we won’t know. And I don’t think it even matters. Certainly not to the dead of King’s Landing. Or the horrified living.
AND DANY MAKES THREE
Could Dany have not done this? Of course. She was not mentally well, obviously, but it’s not like she was mad, in the literal sense of the word. (If in next Sunday’s episode Daenerys is suddenly a cackling “psychotic” villain, that will refute this entire feature, but somehow I don’t think that’ll be the case.)
She could have accepted the surrender of the city; she could have just targeted the Red Keep to kill Cersei. Both could then be credited as massive victories to the heroic son of Rhaegar and his pretty aunt, the one the dragon carries around.
She could have killed less fewer people in Drogon’s extended strafing of the city to prove her point, but when you’ve killed five thousand people, does it matter if you kill five thousand more? (Well, it does matter, depending.) It’s all bad. But if Dany’s goal is to really make a mark, to create an atrocity of legend so that it would be toxic to consider this a victory, then more death and destruction is the way to go as insurance.
None of this is good for Daenerys as a person. It’s understandable that people who have named their children Daenerys because they’ve been enchanted by the story of the little blond girl and her dragons, just trying to come home and be a queen, would be upset. People who have gotten Daenerys tattoos might have instead just gotten a tattoo that said “I regret this.” Some people are still mad that Ned Stark was killed.
Some people might prefer that Dany had actually gone properly “mad,” and fallen victim to some dangerous recessive genetic situation. That way they can feel that it’s not Dany’s fault. But that’s not nearly as interesting a story.
This isn’t a hard and fast rule in storytelling, but the Rule of Three does have weight. Martin often talks about having a three-fold reveal to his stories, which isn’t the same as a Rule of Three in a story, but feels similar. With Daenerys choosing to do evil, she completes a trinity of antagonist characters on the show, particularly during this season.
The Night King, who was unknowable and abstractly evil; Cersei Lannister, who we knew and was mundanely evil; and now we can possibly add Daenerys Targaryen to the list. Who we knew and rooted for. And tragically chose to become a villain.
The end of Game of Thrones is upon us. The global pop culture phenomenon bows out with its series finale this upcoming Sunday, after delivering a truly shocking episode in “The Bells.” Here’s the only short, mysterious preview HBO released…
Ash is raining down upon King’s Landing, as Jon Snow (Kit Harington), Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham), and Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) look on in horror. Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) arrives from the ruins of the Red Keep to the outer courtyard, where her remaining army awaits, triumphant. She has obtained the Iron Throne, or whatever is left of it, at great cost. Arya (Maisie Williams) stares at her intently. Now what will happen? Who will make it to the end credits? And most importantly, how many incredible Ramin Djawadi musical moments will we receive?
This is a Curtain Call I have been expecting for quite some time. It is nevertheless an odd experience to be sitting down and writing it at last.
If you’ve read my previous pieces in The Writing on the Wall series or heard me on The Night’s Cast podcast, you may know that I love the character of Cersei Lannister and what Lena Headey brought to the role.
Lena could have easily played a stereotypical Evil Queen, cackling as she devours her enemies or what have you, but she didn’t. She looked behind the veneer of Cersei and found the broken, isolated, and insecure being underneath. Lena’s performance never excused Cersei’s abhorrent behavior but she also never allowed the audience to ignore that there was a human being underneath the sharp callousness. To consistently embody that complexity for a decade is incredibly difficult and the tapestry of television and certain women in television has been made richer for it.
That humanizing of a villain was incredibly powerful for it complicated the picture of who Cersei is – and a villain whose humanity is consistently visible is far more potent than one who’s humanity is obscured, opaque. Lena embodied and played each element of Cersei beautifully, never losing sight of who she was, even if she was becoming someone else entirely in those moments. Her performance in “No One” after Tommen (Dean Charles-Chapman) outlaws trials by combat is perhaps my favorite. You see grief, shock, terror, despair, and anger all come together to form a shield of misguided strength and resolve as Cersei infamously makes the infamous decision to blow up the Sept of Baelor.
Lena’s filmography is vast, with more than eighty credits to her name. Her first breakout role arguably was her performance as Queen Guinevere in the 1982 NBC miniseries Merlin. She became known to a wider audience as Queen Gorgo in the war fest 300 and its sequel. She gained further notoriety as Sarah Connor in the excellent The Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.
You can catch Lena in the upcoming Gunpowder Milkshake alongside Karen Gillian, Michelle Yeoh, and Paul Giamatti. You can also see her teaming up in the television drama The Flood with her Thrones co-star Iain Glen and Mandip Gill of Doctor Who fame. And if you don’t follow her lovely Instagram, you’re missing out! Follow her on @iamlenaheadey.
A hero. A villain. A chicken-craver, potty-mouthed one-line spouter and, finally, Mountain-destroyer. It’s time to say our final farewells to Sandor ‘The Hound’ Clegane. When we first meet the Hound, all the way back in Season One, it’s easy to dismiss him as just another villain. After all, this scarred, hulking figure is Prince Joffrey’s personal bodyguard and his fearsome dog-head armour and initial actions (remember when he ran down poor Mycah?) do little to endear us to him. But, thanks to Rory McCann’s sensitive, layered portrayal, a tragic, anti-heroic figure begins to emerge.
Our first hints that there might be more to this brutish warrior occur during the tourney, in which Littlefinger relays Sandor’s fearsome past to Sansa. When Sandor intervenes and saves Loras Tyrell from being beaten to death by the Mountain, we realise that unlike his brother, Sandor has a moral code and a sense of chivalry, even if he is, by his own admission, ‘no true knight.’
McCann’s scenes with Sophie Turner across Seasons One and Two are delicately balanced and a joy to watch; when Sandor offers to take his ‘Little Bird’ away from King’s Landing, viewers are left begging that she’ll take him up on his offer. Sandor is a dangerous man, but McCann’s portrayal leaves us in no doubt that he’s got Sansa’s best interests at heart. Sansa declines, The Hound leaves without her, and the dreams of a thousand SanSan shippers go with him.
Art by http://bubug.deviantart.com/
It’s in McCann’s scenes withMaisie Williams,however, that the character really took off. McCann, who claimed to feel ‘nervous’ with the character for the first few years, found his feet in this bizarre pairing. Equal parts grumpy captor and reluctant protector, Williams and McCann share great screen chemistry as the disparate parts of Sandor’s personality begin to unravel. He’s by turns compassionate, dishonorable, aggressive, humorous and affectionate, and, when Arya leaves him for dead, even proud of his unlikely ward.
There was much rejoicing when the Hound returned to our screens in Season 6, seemingly a little more mellow thanks to his time with Ian McShane’sBrother Ray. His briefly peaceful stint was not to last however, after a village massacre prompts Sandor to team up with the Brotherhood Without Banners and eventually working for Jon Snow. If someone told you in Season One that the Hound would end up working for the opposite side, you might not think it was very likely, but McCann always let Sandor’s shifts in allegiance feel very natural, keeping the character grounded within himself, always grumpy, always sweary and always quick to his axe.
It would have been easy to let Sandor’s fear of fire slip away as a passing reference, but McCann plays it totally straight, as a survivor with such severe PTSD that at times he is completely paralysed by his phobia and unable to act. When he’s turning tail on King’s Landing or is frozen in place in Winterfell, we see the Hound as a man plagued by past fears rather than one dogged by cowardice.
It’s his hatred for his brother Gregor that forms one of the backbones of Sandor’s faceted character. The long-awaited CleganeBowl was just as violently gripping and brutal as many fans had hoped. This wasn’t an elegant joust, but a grappling brawl between two brothers long locked together by hatred. McCann’s crazed laughing towards the end of the fight is pitched perfectly as both he and the viewers realise there is only one way to kill off the resurrected Mountain. Sandor falls to his fiery demise, taking his brother along with him. It was a fitting, if tragic end, to a man whose life had been hounded (pun intended) by flames.
McCann’s acting career began with a role as an extra on the film Willow, from which he was fired for laughing too much on set! Since then, he’s appeared in films including Alexander, Solomon Kane and Hot Fuzz, as well as various TV shows, including a Scottish BAFTA winning turn in The Book Group. Of course, in my homeland he’ll always be fondly remembered as the ‘Scott’s Porage Oats Guy’ thanks to this stunning advert.
Con of Thrones has announced the programming schedule for Con of Thrones 2019, featuring three days packed with events curated for the biggest fans of Game of Thrones, A Song of Ice and Fire, and the epic worlds of fantasy author George R.R. Martin.
Also, we’re excited to announce that Game of Thrones Concept Artist Kieran Belshaw, whose work we’ve higlighted at Watchers on the Wall, is joining the guest lineup!
Con of Thrones will take place in Nashville, Tenn., at the Music City Center July 12–14, 2019. Tickets are available for purchase here, at ConOfThrones.net/register.
Curated in partnership between Mischief Management and this fan community of ours, and featuring over 150 hours of original programming with more to come, Con of Thrones will host in-depth discussions about the series, Special Guest Spotlight interviews, live recordings of fan-favorite podcasts, and much more. Con of Thrones also provides opportunities for autographs and photographs with some of the most familiar faces from Game of Thrones, whose appearances we have announced before.
Special guests include but are not limited to Game of Thrones stars Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister), John Bradley (Samwell Tarly), and Hannah Murray (Gilly); Kieran Belshaw, concept artist for seasons five to eight; fan-favorite podcasts Binge Mode, History of Westeros and A Storm of Spoilers, and wolf ambassadors from Wildefell Wolves. Additional guests will be announced at a later date.
Among many, many others, schedule highlights include, starting on Friday, July 12:
Endgame: Breaking Down the Big Finish
Let’s break it down, the finale of the biggest show in the world! Is the conclusion what we were hoping for and how could it have been improved?
Fit To Sit: The Best & Worst Rulers of Westeros
With Fire & Blood, we know more about the past kings and queens of the Seven Kingdoms than ever before. This calls for an in-depth discussion of the best, worst, luckiest, and most unfortunate people ever to sit on the Iron Throne (with all due consideration to influential Hands and movers and shakers behind the scenes).
Spotlight: John Bradley and Hannah Murray
Spotlight Sessions let you hear unique perspectives and behind the scenes stories from the show’s cast and crew. John Bradley debuted in season one as everyone’s favorite maester wannabe and wight slayer, Samwell Tarly. Hannah Murray joined in season two as Gilly, the persistent and kind wildling woman.
Then, on Saturday, July 13:
Mad, Bad, and Dangerous: Villains We Love
Why do we love the worst of the worst? Join your fellow fans for appreciation and analysis of the bad men and women of Westeros who steal our hearts, like it or not!
You Win or You Die: The Sequel – A Song of Ice and Fire Spelling Bee
Join us for another clash of words as we once again challenge you to spell the hardest words in Martin’s world in our single elimination round spelling bee. Come to fight your way to the top prize and bragging rights, or just to watch and yell ‘shame’ when spellers fail. You spell or you die, there is no middle ground!
Con of Thrones Cosplay Contest 2019
We’re kicking off the evening with the Con of Thrones Cosplay Parade and Contest! Take a look at the amazing costumes made by Con of Thrones attendees and be there as we crown this year’s winners.
Finally, on Sunday, July 14:
The Great Debates: Best Fight
Welcome to the Great Debates: the Con of Thrones epic battle of wits where anyone can be a contender! How does it work? Attend this weekend’s debates, step up to the mic and make your case in two minutes or less and wait for the audience to choose the winner. No sign-up necessary, just show up ready to battle!
Spotlight: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau
Our Spotlight Sessions let you hear unique perspectives and behind the scenes stories from the Game of Thrones cast and crew. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau has been a part of Game of Thrones since the very first episode. He’s the one and only Kingslayer, gold of hair and hand, Jaime Lannister.
The Game of Thrones Effect: How GOT Changed TV Forever
The end of event television was also the beginning of a new strategy of storytelling and broadcasting. Sex, violence, epic fantasy, main characters being killed off – shows had done this before but none have had all of this come together in such confluence. Let’s talk about how the Game of Thrones show changed how we now talk about serialized television.
Game of Thrones’ most recent episode might just have been the most controversial one yet! But do your favourite video reviewers share your thoughts on The Bells? Find out with our handy Video Recap Roundup!
First up, Westeros History’s Show Only Review (their Book to Show Review is here)
The inevitable has materialized quickly. Six weeks passes hastily when you’re counting down episodes. And now we all stand at the precipice of hell staring down at the reality of our lives void of Game of Thrones. Yes, we will persevere. Yes, we will move on to other forms of entertainment that enhance our existence. Will there ever be another cultural phenom that has brought us together like this? A man doesn’t know.
But the real question is… what the hell are we going to do with this website?!
We built the Wall. You made it a community.
Let’s be up front here… without you, our loyal readers, we’re not even having this conversation. Our labor of love that we threw out on the interwebs in 2014 caught fire. And we didn’t even know if it would catch a cold.
But at the time, we literally had nothing to lose. If it took off, great. If not, we were out a couple hundred hours building and coding the joint, decorating it with some fancy buttons, making it user and spoiler friendly (the spoiler coding almost killed me), making contacts, lining up potential contributors, and trying to cost-effectively get the ship sailing.
We didn’t know if it would work. We didn’t know if anyone would Take the Black with us.
What we did know was that corporate media was jumping on board the Game of Thrones Loot Train in astonishing numbers. They saw revenue. And we recognized a need in protecting a fandom.
You don’t need me to tell you how much hate and vitriol there is on the internet. If you get online, it’s almost unavoidable now. In creating the Wall, we sought to protect at least one sacred place where you could come and discuss and exchange ideas free from judgement, or trolls, or bullshit regardless of your age, race, gender, orientation, or any other discriminating factor. Our oath has been the same all along:
Weshall wear no crowns and win no glory. We shall live and die at our posts. We are the sword in the advertising darkness. We are the watchers on the wall. We are the shield that guards the realms of women and men of the fandom. We pledge our life and honor to the Night’s Watch, for this night and all the nights to come.
Game of Thrones may be coming to an end. But the ideals on which the foundation of this Wall were built still stand.
Watchers on the Wall panel at Con of Thrones 2018, with Oz of Thrones, Patrick Sponaugle, Bex, Vanessa Cole, Petra Halbur, JoeMagician, Sam Wallace, David Rosenblatt, Luka Nieto, and Sue the Fury.
And we can continue, whether that be covering the prequel, or the release of a book (insert joke here), or possibly even other programming we all share an interest in. Whether or not we can is up to you.
Here is how you can help. And before I even suggest this, let me make one thing abundantly clear: we never built this website in the interest of money and we’re not proposing these ideas for the sake of profits. Anyone that tells you otherwise doesn’t know what the hell they are talking about.
This is about keeping WotW up and running. You lovely people have been nice enough to crash our server on multiple occasions and our expenses are not necessarily extensive, but Sue and I don’t have the luxury of disposable income to keep it going at a loss. We also made a vow to never inundate you with clickbait and video ads, a decision that costs us hundreds of dollars if not more per month. If the Wall stays up, we will uphold that vow until our last day.
So here we go:
Many of you are already make monthly donations and WE THANK YOU! Your donations have made a huge difference in making sure our little corner of the internet survives.
If half of our other readers pledged the cost of one drink at Starkbucks™ per month, we would be able to keep the Wall maintained and provide much more for our writers, the fandom, and for you, the reader.
Here’s what you can do:
Pick an option below and click the “subscribe” button or go to our Support the Wall page, find the “subscribe” button and pick an option. Anything is appreciated.
If you’d like to make a one-time donation, use the subscribe button to proceed and then “Cancel” after the first donation.
In order to make this community ideal last, we need your help. If you’ve ever considered giving to a cause that stood for your values as a fan and that stood up for a fandom, then consider us. There is power in numbers, and together we can establish and maintain anything we feel passionate about.
Assuming we can keep this boat afloat, what would you like to see us cover? Sound off! And with all sincerity, thank you all you crazy-ass nerds. It’s been a wild f’ing ride!
Michele Clapton has never shied away from giving us heavy symbolism during important moments for the characters. Sometimes it’s visually very obvious like Sansa’s “Eyrie” dress, Margaery’s wedding gown, or Cersei’s “Tywin” homage when she takes her crown. Sometimes it’s subtler like a dagger woven into a textile, or the deeper meaning of a particular color. Clapton, in my opinion, really shines in those subtleties. They are more like a secret for the character as well as the actor, more personal, more meaningful. So often in the series, we see very surface adornments of allegiances to great houses, kings, queens, and so on, but once we really take a deeper look at the fabrics and embroidery, we can see the secrets that tell the stories of so many of the leading characters.
Take Daenerys’ riding coat that she wears this episode. At first glance, it looks like a black leather version of the red coat she wore to last episode’s feast. That enough would be impactful, as it can be argued that smoothed, black leather has often signified a call to action (Cersei taking the Iron Throne, Sansa’s Winterfell armor, the uniforms of the Unsullied, and just about everything Tywin wore,) and this was absolutely a call to action for Dany. It’s also the most aerodynamic riding coat she’s had yet.
When you look closer, however, the leather is embossed with large dragon scales that look as if they are beginning to close in around her body. Dany has often implemented a scaled motif into her outfits by way of embroidery and embellishment. This is meaningful to her, and extremely beautiful, but beading is delicate and merely a decoration. It’s not integral to the overall structure of a garment. Having the scales embossed into the actual fabric shows what Dany has been all along: a Targaryen, a dragon, capable of terrible destruction. The scales are part of the DNA of the coat, and by extension, a part of her own DNA. It’s no coincidence that she’d be wearing something like this when she tragically falls victim to her bloodline.
But again, it’s something that only Dany knows. It’s for her, and not anyone else. Contrast it to the white fur coat that she wears upon arriving in Winterfell back in the season premiere. The garment is declarative and sends a message (whether you subscribe to the “savior” idea behind the color, or the “Queen of Meereen” symbolism), but it isn’t her, especially in the fabrication. She’s never had to pile on fur for warmth because she’s never needed to keep warm, and her trying to dress for the North in her own way has only furthered her isolation from the people of Westeros. Her hair is also being worn in a less crown-like way than she used to, and has been slowly evolving into a more reptilian style, really tying her visually and emotionally to Drogon and her two fallen children. This whole look is a walking embodiment of her and her ancestors: leathered dragon scales flying through the air, raining fire over the lands below.
It can also be noted that the textile of red cape she wears ties her directly to Cersei. It has a very velvet-like quality to it (though I believe it’s sueded leather), which looks like it could have been cut from the same fabric as Cersei’s dress this episode.
This coat, of course, is preceded by the red ensemble she also wore last week. Once again, she’s making a case to Jon and testing his loyalty and his love. She also wears it in the Dragonstone throne room addressing Tyrion. It’s become her formal, authoritative outfit and this time the deep red alludes to the fact that she’s out for blood.
Cersei also becomes another version of herself by the time she meets her end. Yes, it’s the same red velvet dress that she wore in the last episode, but with a few key, meaningful differences: she isn’t wearing any of the armored elements and, most notably, she is without her crown for the entire episode.
Her metal epaulettes and extra chains are removed, leaving only her gold Lannister necklace, which makes her an embodiment of her house: red and gold. No silver crown or full-body black, which is almost visually marked as an end to that era of her life the minute she leaves the Mountain (who is in his silver and black armor) and flees for her life. The shape of the dress and elements in the detail are tied with her rule over the past two seasons, but in the end, she’s no longer the cold, calculated queen that she fought so hard and so ruthlessly to be. While velvet is a weighty, royal fabric, it’s also soft to the touch, and will carry any marks and bruises it’s subjected to forever.
Cersei’s clinging to the only two things she has left: Jaime and their unborn child, their love and legacy, golden lions on a cloth of red. As the walls of “everything she holds dear” come crashing down around her, Cersei is seen stripped of her power, literally and figuratively, leaving her crushed and buried by the very symbol of that power.
The Golden Company definitely has some interesting armor to discuss, but I’m going to save that for the mass armor article I’m planning once the series has concluded…but feel free to sound off in the comments!
We’re here, everyone. We’ve arrived at the far side of the epic tale we began eight seasons and nearly 10 years ago. I hope I’m not sounding too emotional, but knowing that this is the last-ever “official photos post” I’ll put together for Game of Thrones is making me a bit teary-eyed on this bright Wednesday morning.
Anyway, let’s dive in: the official photos for the series finale are here!
Not that there’s much to speculate on — they are being particularly secretive about this one, folks. Aside from the Daenerys screen capture above, HBO has only shared this Tyrion photo taken by official Game of Thrones photographer Helen Sloan:
Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister. Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO
So what do these images say to you? What will the final episode of our beloved Thrones entail? Let us know in the comments below!
The discussion around the writing of Game of Thrones has been fraught for a while, whether those fractions are divided along the lines of books versus show or other metrics. As the story approaches its conclusion and numerous theories that have been built, fortified, and championed fall by the wayside, there is going to be a natural amount of chagrin amongst respective viewers’ that their respective ideas are no longer in the realm of what the series is trying to achieve with its narrative. To a certain degree, I have also been impacted by that, even as much I have tried to focus on the writing at hand for what it is, and not for what I want it to be. That has been my guide with these pieces and I will do my best to follow it for this penultimate episode.
What immediately comes to mind about the episode’s title, “The Bells”, is Lord Varys’s (Conleth Hill) assertion that he truly hated the bells of King’s Landing for they rang whenever anything terrible had happened. This ultimately proved to be apt yet again, even if he was no longer around to witness exactly why that would be the case.
Game of Thrones has never been even remotely shy about being brutally honest when it comes to the cost of violence and war. It may not always have written those moments subtly and with the nuance they require, but largely if anyone has any remote fantasies about the glory of war, the series has done enough work to dispel those fantasies as easily as the Mountain (Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson) swiped away dear old Qyburn (Anton Lesser). The dragonfire, the smoke, the ashes, the bodies, the blood; none of it was remotely illustrative of a series that does not understand the inherent cost of war.
On that level, the third act works beautifully.
There is an oft-repeated adage that the third act of a narrative is always the most difficult to pull off. People will often point towards the mystery genre as an example: the third is where the mystery unspools and, if the mystery is good, you will feel rewarded for being on the journey and satisfied with the answer. Many mysteries tend to crumble apart in that critical third act because something falls apart and the mystery is thus rendered unsatisfying. The same applies to a character-focused drama.
In regards to the characters, it feels to me like the final acts for some of them stumble. And it is within those arcs that the overall level of satisfaction is going to land. There is the question of whether or not the turn of Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) from a person who was a bit too into hard justice into a war criminal has sufficient foundations. Did Jaime’s (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) actions when he, as it turned out, died with Cersei (Lena Headey) in the destruction of the Red Keep hold with his character? And what of Sandor Clegane (Rory McCann)? Did the delivery of the much hyped Cleganebowl rob him of the character development established in the previous two seasons?
The most salient element in display from a writing perspective is the distillation of these characters down to who they are at their core, as the series accomplished with more finesse in “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms.” For some characters, just as in the Battle of Winterfell, the destruction of King’s Landing brings them to the forefront of who they are, rather than simply who they want to be. Arya (Maisie Williams) at her heart is not a mindless assassin without humanity; Sandor, whom she touchingly calls by his first name for the first time here, knows that he has an unfinished arc with his brother to complete, but is self-aware about what a lifetime of revenge has done to him.
Similarly for Cersei, there is the underlying current about who she has always been. She has always searched for a degree of belonging and satisfaction, whether it’s via hatred for Tyrion, her relationship with Jaime, or more often than not through sheer violence. Before Daenerys lays waste to King’s Landing, it was Cersei who blew the Sept of Baelor to smithereens and the surrounding civilians along with it. She nevertheless found that sense of belonging when Jaime, in spite of everything, came back for her. Alas, it was a bit too late for that belonging to outlive the destruction around them.
Jaime has always been tied to Cersei, for better and more often for worse. The destruction of the Sept of Baelor evoked the first serious reconsideration of their relationship, evoked by the anger and confusion on his face when Cersei takes the Iron Throne. He falls back into his addiction to their toxic relationship as he fights Daenerys’s invading forces, conflicted as he does so. Cersei’s decision to turn her back to the North is the straw that broke the camel’s back, but only temporarily, for Jaime did not return to King’s Landing, as many had expected, to end Cersei. Jaime’s addiction or love for Cersei, a categorization that depends on the individual viewer to a certain degree, has been layered throughout the series but his return in this fashion raises the question of what the writing ultimately wanted to say about the arc of his character.
Daenerys’s third act turn will no doubt inspire the most debate, a debate that is likely to continue well past the series finale. Her decision to raise all hell on King’s Landing as she breaks down atop Drogon is arguably the standout moment (for better and for worse) in what has been a true pop culture phenomenon. The overall character arc for her, while under judgment until the series finale, works on a thematic level because it conveys a dark reality about the pursuit of power and how dark the thematic concept of justice can go. It is perhaps on the side of potentially being too bitter but it can work, but only if the character beats have felt as weighted and fitting for you as the themes they were ultimately building towards. At the moment, it feels to me a bit like the writing revealed the murderer but the steps they took to commit their crime are opaque.
In the meantime, what are your thoughts? Share them below!
The King of the Iron Islands is no more, succumbing to injuries after a brutal knock-down fight with Ser Jaime Lannister.
Danish actor Pilou Asbæk brought a certain swaggering confidence to his performance of Euron Greyjoy. Arrogant and with a constant provocative attitude, it underscored Euron’s deadly nature. Someone so obnoxious would have to be able to back up the attitude with dangerous ability.
According to a recent interview with Kim Renfro of Insider, Asbæk came to be on Game of Thrones in the sixth season as a fan. He forced himself to stop watching for professional reasons, but the presentation of the existing ironborn characters must have influenced his choices for Euron. Alfie Allen’s Theon Greyjoy was similarly arrogant (before Ramsay) and Asbæk played a type of devil-may-care rake that Theon seemed to be romanticizing in the early seasons.
Asbæk, formerly known for playing spin-doctor Kasper Juul in the political drama Borgen, enjoyed a hands-on approach to Iron Island politics by tossing his royal brother off a rope bridge at the castle of Pyke, and then stole, like a pirate, his niece Yara’s near-certain election victory as Ironborn monarch.
With the Iron Islands under his control and a rapidly replenished Iron Fleet, Euron went on to provide Cersei Lannister with much needed strategic victories against the scrappy newcomer Daenerys Targaryen. His successes in the seventh season took a turn downwards in the eighth. After joining the Night King in having dragonslaying boasting rights, the Iron Fleet was ill-prepared to defeat the fast-moving and destructive Drogon during a rematch.
Encountering Jaime Lannister in a popular smuggling landing after escaping from his exploding vessel Silence, Asbæk played Euron as a man totalling enjoying a private joke and not a man who’d just lost his armada. He was delighted in running across something he could kill, his queen’s former lover.
When Euron and Jaime first met, when the pirate swaggered into an audience with Cersei to negotiate arms for favors, Euron and Jaime reminisced about the defeat of the Ironborn at Pyke. Asbæk’s interactions with Nikolaj Coster-Waldau seemed to indicate a touch of hero worship for Jaime’s efficient combat abilities – masked by insufferable negging. This reminiscence no doubt set up the final doomed encounter wit Ser Jaime. As Jory Cassell and Alton Lannister can attest, sharing stories with Jaime eventually ends with him killing you.
These two men, connected by their romantic attraction to Cersei, both kinslayers and kingslayers, dealt each other mortal wounds. Or so it seemed to Euron Greyjoy as evidenced by his final words.
“But I got you. I got you! I’m the man who killed Jaime Lannister.”
Jaime managed to stagger away gamely after skewering Euron, to meet up with first his sister and then his demise minutes later, buried in the collapsing Red Keep. But the Ironborn king didn’t seem to be the type of person to let facts get in the way of some good bragging.
Blackwater Bay wasn’t the sea, but at least Euron died close to the tides, as an Ironborn should.
As reported in the Insider interview, the deadly duel between the pirate king and the not-so-shining knight took place on the last day of filming for Coster-Waldau (who, incidentally, coined the term “Danebowl” for this climactic fight between the two danish actors.) When their battle was done, so too was Ser Jaime.
Maybe Euron wasn’t just idly boasting when he said “I got you!”
That’s a murderous glint in the eye if I’ve ever seen one.
A torched city, a dead queen, utter madness — there’s an AWFUL lot we could discuss about Season 8, Episode 5 of Game of Thrones on the Night’s Cast, the official podcast of Watchers on the Wall. So we will!
This week, Axey, Lady Geoffrey and Samantha discuss some of the major happenings in the penultimate episode of Season 8 (and the series!!), appropriately titled “The Bells.”
“The Bells” wasn’t just a big battle episode. It was the second-to-last episode of the season, which has traditionally been a big one (the so-called “episode nine”, though the term obviously doesn’t apply these last few shortened seasons.) It’s also the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones ever. With those stakes, one would expect the viewership numbers to go through the roof. If they were ever going to, this was the time.
Oh, boy, did they!
As per The Wrap’s report, “The Bells” earned a record-breaking viewership of 12.48 million during HBO’s first airing on the United States. Here’s a pretty chart about it:
At 12.5 million viewers, “The Bells” is, as we predicted, the most-watched Game of Thrones episode on its first US broadcast, finally dethroning the season seven finale, “The Dragon and the Wolf”, which stood at 12.07 million viewers, followed closely by the other battle episode of season eight, “The Long Night”, at 12.02 million.
By breaking the show’s own viewership record, “The Bells” is now also the most-watched episode of any and all HBO TV shows. If anything could surpass all these records, it’ll have to be the only episode of Game of Thrones left: the series finale this coming Sunday. As momentous as a series finale is, it’s not been advertised to be as eventful or explosive as “The Bells”, which was controversial to boot, so a decrease doesn’t seem unlikely.
Though “The Dragon and the Wolf” held fiercely to its first airing record as long as it possibly could, if we account for all the modern ways we watch TV, such as multiple airings overnight and streaming services, season eight broke the season seven finale’s record from the very beginning: first it was the premiere, “Winterfell”, with 17.4 million viewers; then “The Long Night”, at 17.8 million. So, as one would expect, when accounting for overnight airings on HBO and streaming on HBO Go and HBO Now, “The Bells” also breaks the show’s record, drawing a massive 18.4 million viewers!
Feeling down about Sunday’s episode? Are you sad that Game of Thrones is coming to an end? We have some news that may lift your spirits! We’ve been reporting the pre-production work in progress on the Jane Goldman prequel, set during the first Long Night, and now it appears filming for its pilot is underway!
According to our sources here at Watchers on the Wall, prequel filming has been taking place at Glenariff, near Cushendall in Northern Ireland. Glenariff has been a location on Game of Thrones for part of the Vale of Arryn, most notably during Robin Arryn’s swordsmanship training in season five.
Although it’s admittedly not the best outlet for information, we have received further confirmation by The Sun, which reports that filming began in Belfast two weeks ago. Their source is quoted as saying, “Thrones fans will be delighted to hear things have started with the prequel. Those working on the set in Belfast are referring to the series as Bloodmoon. Producers have put together a stellar cast and it will be must-watch telly for anyone who loves Game Of Thrones.”
The prequel has been informally called The Long Night – which has never been an official name. If the working title is indeed Bloodmoon at least we have something to call it for now; it remains to be seen whether that title sticks or it’s just a production codename, not unlike, say, Return of the Jedi’s famous working title of “Blue Harvest.” We shall see!
Just when you thought last week’s episode of Game of Thrones was contentious, along comes “The Bells”, to barrel down your door (see picture above), divide your friends, and perhaps even align you with some of your enemies. Every Facebook and Twitter this side of the Narrow Sea has thoughts and opinions about our favorite show’s penultimate episode. But I’m not here to talk about your cousin Peter who thought the episode was “cool because the dragon lady burned stuff.” I’m not here to talk about your friend Sarah who thinks it was terrible because “it was too long and violent.” I’m also not here to talk about your Great Aunt Sally, who wants to know if you DVRed that great Hallmark movie that aired last night. No, friends, I’m here to gather up the critics’ thoughts and see what they thought about the decimation of King’s Landing. And whoa boy, did they have some THOUGHTS. And FEELINGS.
Here at Watchers on the Wall, we encourage you to ‘Always Support the Bottom.’ This extends to your support of our editor-in-chief Sue the Fury, in which her background knowledge of the books informs her perspective on the episode, so please go check it out when you get a chance! Once you’ve done that, you would do well to support our peerless Oz of Thrones’s ‘Unsullied recap,’ in which his fearless determination to avoid reading the books has outlasted all others, continuing on for 8 full seasons. After this, you can check out what these Internet critics thought of “The Bells”:
Alan Sepinwall, Rolling Stone – In which the script races through Dany’s transition, piling one personality-altering event on top of the next so that none of them gets to breathe.
Alex McLevy, The A. V. Club – In which this episode was a refreshing tonic to the sometimes conservative mode of traditional heroics Benioff and Weiss have been dishing up this season.
Alyssa Rosenberg, The Washington Post– In which Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire novels have always been about family, and such, the final season, and this episode in particular, are hitting many, many high marks.
Amanda Marcotte, Salon – In which the fans simply aren’t paying attention because the show has spent 8 seasons signaling the ways that war makes monsters out of people and that Daenerys in particular has a deep capacity for cruelty that is only checked when her ego is being sufficiently fed.
Daniel D’Addario, Variety– In which Daenerys’s decision doesn’t need to be sympathetic, however — just legible to the viewer, which this viewer ultimately found it to be and which others, he suspects, will not.
Dave Gonzales, Thrillist– In which Arya’s arc makes sense as a way to anchor point-of-view, but doesn’t add anything to last week’s lingering questions of what Arya’s ultimate motivations are, other than killing Cersei, which she doesn’t get to do.
David Rosenblatt, Squinty Overanalyzes Things – In which I (yes, me of me, fame) explain why my expectations have long been tempered, and people should have been this angry years ago as opposed to now, because this is more or less always how it was going to be given those long ago decisions.
Hillary Kelly, Vulture– In which it stands out as massively uneven, brilliant in moments, but often abysmally fan service-y.
Ian Thomas Malone, Personal Blog – In which the best scenes involve the random soldiers trying to stop Arya, The Hound, and Tyrion because as as larger than life the show feels in so many ways, it also tends to only focus on a handful of people in this big world, making it quite easy to forget that there’s all these other people in the realm, just trying to get by.
James Hibberd, Entertainment Weekly – In which if pushed to nitpick, then he’d say that he wished season 8 had more episodes to play Dany’s arc out a bit longer, but also knows the production gave the final season everything they had given the level of production required to pull off its battle sequences.
Jeremy Egner, New York Times – In which it was a thrilling, horrifying, and ultimately frustrating episode, which feels weird to say because it was often amazing to behold and reflected some of the show’s most central themes, but ultimately hinged on a turn that rang hollow — specifically the heel turn mentioned above.
Joanna Robinson, Vanity Fair – In which it would have been nice to have seen Daenerys talk with Missandei about, say, the death of her dragons, or the loneliness and isolation she was feeling in Westeros instead of being told, rather than shown, that Jorah and Missandei mattered to Daenerys.
Julia Alexander, The Verge– In which it fell into the category of “dumb entertainment,” and that’s not a bad thing — but it’s a lot to unpack.
Kathryn VanArendonk, Vulture – In which GOT may have gotten the “right” answer — that Daenerys would go mad, that this was always her destiny — but without a richer exploration of Dany’s internal life, the series failed to show us the work that got it there.
Kelly Lawler, USA Today – In which maybe some fans can hold out hope that the finale can wrap things up in a way that makes emotional and logical sense, but betting on GOT to fix itself is really just doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result.
Laura Hudson, WIRED– In which Dany’s transformation from ruthless but compassionate wheel-breaker to videogame supervillain took place over the course of maybe two episodes, because in the absence of enough runway to demonstrate a gradual descent into mental illness, Dany has to simply snap—to experience a break so traumatic that it explains a heel turn into mass slaughter.
Laura Stone, Hey Don’t Judge Me – In which Euron isn’t worthy of this battle, he’s a piece of shit walking dick pic, a usurper and a bit of human trash, and it isn’t clear who won, dammit.
Michael Schick, Hypable – In which as the culmination of eight seasons of so many emotional journeys — the story of Jaime and Cersei, the story of Sandor Clegane, the story of Daenerys Targaryen and her sanity — the episode crumples, feeling almost divorced from much of the work that came before it, or as though the audience is expected to write in crucial information that has been either forgotten or ignored.
Michael Rogeau, Gamespot – In which the fight between Sandor and Gregor actually lived up to the hype, was perfect and much-needed, considering where several other character arcs wound up in the end.
Mike Bloom, Parade – In which the Battle of King’s Landing is reported in the Westeros World News.
Myles McNutt, The A.V. Club – In which it’s not that the final season is failing to live up to his specific expectations of what was supposed to happen, it’s that the final season is failing to live up to what he believes a final season should do: enriching the show that came before it.
Rob Bricken, io9 – In which Cersei’s final moments should have been bigger—not with a grander or more exciting death, but something more emotionally powerful as she realized that her destruction was of her own doing.
Ron Hogan, Den of Geek – In which it’s fair to blame (showrunners) David Benioff and Dan Weiss for the change in the show’s tone, but it’s unfair to blame them at the same point.
Sean T. Collins, Rolling Stone – In which it’s the Red Wedding writ large, a masterpiece that murders all hope of neat closure, and reduces any lingering belief in the redemptive power of violence to ashes in our mouths.
Tori Preston, Pajiba– In which the decision to continuously cut to Cersei, standing in her tower and watching her city get sacked, worked because Lena Headey sold the hell out of it, changing her expression slowly from cool, detached wariness to abject fear.
Verne Gay, Newsday – In which Cersei may have deserved her fate, but also made this series better — and indisputably richer — by her presence.
Thanks for joining this week. Whose reviews did you love/hate, with all due respect of course, and as always?
The penultimate episode of Game of Thrones featured betrayal, triumph, and tragedy. In “The Bells,” we saw a grieving and despondent Daenerys finally win her victory over Queen Cersei – only to have it turn to literal ashes. Many characters were taken from us, while others were traumatized by the unleashing of “fire and blood.” Where does the story go from here? We have one more Sunday to find out. In the meantime, let’s breakdown this episode like Drogon broke down the Red Keep with today’s interviews and videos!
Cersei Lannister met her end last night, and Lena Headey reveals to Entertainment Weekly that “it’s maybe the first time that Cersei has been at peace.” She starts off the season “desperately unhappy and everything that’s happened becomes more real than it ever has for her. She starts to lose control of the situation. She’s destroyed every good alliance, connection, love in her life — she was always destined to be alone. And until the very, very last minute, she is, as ever, in denial of what’s actually happening.”
However, as death comes for her, Jaime appears to comfort her in her final moments. “I think the biggest surprise is he came back for her. Cersei realizes just how she loves him and just how much he loves her. It’s the most authentic connection she’s ever had. Ultimately they belong together.” Headey adds, “I told Nikolaj [Coster-Waldau], ‘I’ve never seen you so sweet and sentimental.’ And he’s all, ‘What’s happening to me?’ We kept cuddling going ‘I love you.’ It was weird. There’s a sense of loss that nothing like this will ever happen again. There was a great sense of grief and an enormous amount of gratitude going on.”
For more of Headey’s reflections on her time with Game of Thrones, check out the article here.
EW brings us an interview with Conleth Hill as well,whose character, Varys, was executed for treason. Hill had mixed feelings about his death, saying, “I took it very personally. I took it as a person, not as an actor or an artist. I understood the reactions of previous actors who had been in the same position a lot more than I did at the time. You can’t help feeling that you failed in some way, that you haven’t lived up to some expectation that you didn’t know about.”
He may not have been happy about the consequence, but Hill believes Varys’ actions were noble. “He was absolutely true to his word the whole way through. All he wanted was the right person on the throne and a fair person on the throne. He said it so many times in the scripts. I don’t have the distraction of love or desire or any of those things. And the people he needed to see clearly were both in love. So that makes perfect sense.”
Varys will be missing from the finale, but Hill knows what’s coming and isn’t sure how fans will take it. “I have no idea. I don’t know how I feel. I can’t anticipate it until it happens. I don’t think they’ll feel cheated. The fan favorites are all there.” Maybe so, but that doesn’t mean they will survive to the final credits!
In our final interview, also from EW, Rory McCann expresses his satisfaction for how Sandor Clegane goes out. “I’m very happy with the way The Hound’s story ends, thank you very much. I love all the endings. I don’t know how they managed to sew it all together. I don’t know how it goes with George R.R. Martin’s ending, if it’s the same or no.”
During the table read, McCann remarks that “it was quite funny when the so-called Cleganebowl started. I secretly brought a trumpet with me. [Co-executive producer Bryan Cogman] is reading [the stage directions] and I’m like, ‘Can you pause right before I say one of my last lines?’ He did and I brought out this trumpet and [blew it]. I got butterflies in my stomach over that fight.” If only he had brought an airhorn…
McCann feels “absolutely delighted” with the conclusion to his arc, saying, “I’m blessed to be given this storyline…Maybe he could have found peace and wandered off. But this is a fine way to go. It seems pretty beautiful to me. How lucky to be an actor who ends up on one of the biggest and best shows in the world. I see panic in some [fellow castmates] eyes: ‘What are we going to do now?’ Relax. Don’t worry. We’re on the map now.” They certainly are.
The entire article is worth a read, so be sure to head over to EW for the rest.
In this week’s “Inside the Episode,” David Benioff and Dan Weiss break down the sequence of events that led to the destruction of King’s Landing.
The next two videos are from HBO’s website and are only available in the United States. Emilia Clarke, Kit Harington, Peter Dinklage, and Jacob Anderson examine why Daenerys makes a tragic decision in “The Mad Queen.”
In “The Hound’s Gift,” Maisie Williams discusses Arya’s relationship with Sandor, and why she chose to not to pursue revenge.
In “The Game Revealed,” cast and crew give us a look at recreating the King’s Landing set for a dragon attack.
HBO offered up a preview today of The Last Watch, a two-hour documentary which premieres on May 26th on HBO. Director Jeanie Finlay has created “a farewell to Westeros with the people who built the realm,” according to HBO.
Spoiler note:The discussion in this post is primarily for non-book readers (book fans can discuss the show-only here). We ask that all Sullied book-readers refrain from posting any mentions/references to the books in the comments here, veiled or otherwise. No spoilers, at all! This show is best viewed without knowing all the surprises beforehand or afterwards, so please be respectful of your fellow fans. Thank you!
The biggest can of fucking worms ever opened has just been opened (no pun intended). A Man brings you a recap of it.
If we’re being honest, that was probably not what you were hoping for. But now, it is what it is. You can choose to accept the story as it was told or you can choose to deny it and pass it off as bad writing, or fan fiction, or whatever else makes you feel better.
But we got what we got. And regardless of whether or not you agree, you have to admit that this episode was terrifying, and horrid, and surreal, and something that will make you reflect for a long time. In that sense, “The Bells” was monumental.
Ok… before we dive (behind that building over there because if we don’t, we gone die) in, let’s start with something we can all agree on: the ending of this truly remarkable TV series has been rushed. I don’t deal in absolutes because there are very few absolutes in this world, but I feel incredibly confident in this statement.
Having said that, I don’t lay blame at the feet of anyone. None of us are privy to every step that was taken in this journey and exactly why we are where we are (only one episode to go in what clearly could have been ten). I only know the shoes I have walked in. And to assume that I can pretend to even come close to comprehending the kind of sacrifice by so many that have made this incredible show what it is would be both conceited and pretentious, neither of which are glowing character traits.
We’ll have years to discuss the “what ifs” and “whys” and if this outcome is what the creator had in mind. But for now, we have the facts in front of us as they were presented to us. And that is what we will discuss here.
People sometimes agree to disagree on whether or not to even watch the lead-in for the episode. But this one gave away a lot as it relates to the mindset of Dany and the voices regarding Targaryen heritage: flipping the coin, waking the dragon etc. Not a good sign.
The Spider Writes a Letter
Varys is shown writing about the true heir to the throne (Ned anyone?) when approached by a little girl (the last of his little birds as it turns out) who reports that Dany won’t eat. Tyrion then observes Jon arriving to the greeting of Varys who explains his concerns to Jon about Dany. Again, Jon stands by his queen, and in voicing his opinion and his feelings Varys seals his own fate. Not a smooth move, Spider. He knew better. But it’s also fair to say that he felt he had to act quickly to try to avoid the upcoming slaughter, of which he felt certain was going to happen. And he was right.
Tyrion approaches Dany about the treason and Dany correctly traces back where the information about Jon originated. At this point we knew someone would be punished, but it could have potentially been anyone of those named, including Jon. For a moment, it appeared it was going to be Tyrion. But it was not…
Varys is retrieved from his quarters by Worm and is taken to Dany, Jon and Tyrion on the beach. Tyrion tells the truth about who told Dany and Varys proclaims that he hopes he is wrong. He wasn’t.
The Spider gets charbroiled and Jon gives Dany an obvious look of concern. Yes, his act was treasonous, but Varys’ entire concern was over the safety and the welfare of the innocent people of King’s Landing. If that is wrong, then burn me too. I can no longer defend Dany.
Afterwards, Dany and Worm remember Missandei and Worm throws her collar into the fire. Jon enters and Dany dismisses Worm who appears to be standing to guard her against anyone who enters. Even Jon. She trusts no one.
Jon again proclaims that he doesn’t want the throne. Dany states that Sansa betrayed Jon’s trust and that Sansa killed Varys as much as she did. She also says that now Sansa knows what happens when people know the truth about Jon. This is called character development. And it is far from the first sign of where it all would end up. Jon is understandably confused about his feelings. And then Dany flat out says it… “Let it be fear.”
Tyrion again pleads for the people of Kings Landing. Dany essentially says that mercy is their strength and that mercy is for future generations to never again be controlled by a tyrant. My translation: sacrifice the innocent people currently in KL. Tyrion makes a last-ditch effort to save them all by getting Dany to agree to calling off the attack if the bells ring and the gates open, signaling a surrender. She agrees. Or at least we thought she did.
As a parting gift, Dany lets Tyrion know that she captured Jaime as he attempted to get back to Cersei. And we all knew what Tyrion would do then.
I’ll be honest… at this point I was still doubting whether or not Dany would do the deed and held onto the hope that she would realize the repercussions of laying waste to the Keep and the lives of thousands of innocent people. But that admittedly was denial on my part. All of the signs were there and have been present for a while now. But still, a man was hopeful.
Tyrion and Jon and company arrive on the shores of KL with Davos waiting. Tyrion asks Davos for a favor.
Tyrion proceeds to find Jaime and set him free (we won’t talk about the ease in which this takes place). The Brothers Lannister have their final moment together with Tyrion ultimately wanting Jaime to be happy and for he and Cersei to escape. I don’t know what made Tyrion think that Cersei would just leave so easily, but considering what she was up against, the baby, and the fact that Jaime came back for her, maybe it was a possibility (Ozzette didn’t think so). Regardless, Jaime escapes and the brothers share their final embrace. (Oz very sad)
But it wouldn’t matter how many they had. Euron and the boys ready the scorpions as the troops line the walls and Golden Company prepared for battle outside the gates.
Arya and the hooded Hound would make it into the Keep, but Jaime would not and is forced to seek another way to get to Cersei.
The scorpions were fired as fast as they could be reloaded, but it was a useless effort. At first, Drogon and Dany’s attack seemed focused only on the weapons to be used against them with pinpoint accuracy, sparing the lives of the innocent people within the Keep and the City. Drogon was worth his weight in gold. The Golden Company wasn’t worth a gold dragon.
Within minutes, Cersei’s defenses were decimated, the gates were breached and the taking of KL seemed well in hand with minimum civilian loss of life. Observing from the tower, Cersei finally seemed concerned yet not enough to leave even on the advice of Qyburn.
Jon and his forces come face to face with Lannister soldiers in the streets of KL. Realizing their imminent defeat, the soldiers drop their swords and concede. The shouts of “ring the bell” can be heard numerous times and then finally commences. It should have been over. But it wasn’t over.
Book reader or not, purist or not, casual fan or genuine fanatic, what happened next will likely be discussed ad nauseam for years to come.
Dany allows herself to do what most of us hoped she would not do (but threatened to do on numerous occasions). She burned the city down.
Complete and utter chaos ensues with the Northerners and the Unsullied continue to fight the Lannister army while the innocent people run for their lives. Women and children are slaughtered and burned. Tyrion looks on in disbelief. Jon seems unable to comprehend what is happening.
Jaime and Euron would meet along the shore in what certainly going to be the end of one of them. Meanwhile, Dany and Drogon take aim at the Red Keep and Qyburn finally convinces Cersei to leave. Euron stabs Jaime in what looks like would be a fatal wound and then gets him again. But Jaime gets the final jab although Euron credited himself for killing Jaime. I kept waiting for one of them to bring up the baby.
Arya and the Hound enter the Keep and Sandor convinces Arya to leave or she will die. She thanks him and they part ways.
We’ve been waiting on the Game of Cleganes for years and we finally get it as the world crashes around them. The Hound confronts Cersei and company as they flee the crumbling building. Sandor takes out the other Queensguard and the Mountain takes out Qyburn’s head. Cersei is allowed to leave as the brothers are only concerned about their unfinished business.
The battle of the brothers is brutal as the Hound gets in shot after shot yet the Mountain is unfazed. The sword through the chest isn’t enough as the Mountain pulls it out to the background of the smoky sunlight in some of the best imagery of the episode.
As the Hound took the beating of his life, Arya fought for hers in the streets of KL while witnessing first-hand the agony and terror of Dany’s attack. The Mountain begins to gouge out the eyes of the Hound (a la Red Viper), when Sandor stabs the him in the head. As the Mountain steps back and begins to remove it, Sandor realizes the only way to kill him is take them both out into the fire below. And he does. I loved you, Hound. I hope you are enjoying a bucket of chicken in the afterlife.
Born Together. Die Together.
Jaime finds Cersei in the map room and the two lovers try to find their way out to safety. They make it to the bottom of the Keep but all of the exits are blocked. Jaime reminds Cersei that nothing else matters, only them. The Keep falls in on top of them and Jaime and Cersei die in each other’s arms.
Jon sees Davos in the melee and realizes he needs to get all of his forces out if any of them are to survive. Arya regains consciousness and again tries to outmaneuver the fire and falling buildings. She finds the recurring mother and daughter and tells them they have to keep moving or they will die. But the mother gets injured and when the daughter runs back for her, they are both burned to death by the unrelenting Dany and Drogon.
Arya would regain consciousness again to find the mother and daughter burned in the street and would randomly find a white horse (which I hope will be at least somewhat explained in the final episode) and rides off to safety (assuming she’s not already dead and this was some sort of vision from Planetos heaven).
Damn. Damn. Damn.
Episode 805 Personal Awards
Favorite Action Sequence: How do you pick one? Regardless of the underlying issues, the episode was filled with horrifying visuals, incredible CGI, and some spectacular imagery.
“I still don’t know how her coin has landed, but I’m quite certain about yours.” -Varys
“She trusted you to spread secrets that could destroy your own queen. And you did not let her down.” -Dany
“It doesn’t matter now.” -Dany
“I hope I deserve this. Truly I do. I hope I’m wrong.” -Varys
“I don’t have love here. I only have fear.” -Dany
“The next time you fail me will be the last time you fail me.” -Dany
“I’m not going to like this favor, am I?” -Davos
“You’re the only one who didn’t treat me like a monster.” -Tyrion
“You fought well for a cripple.” -Euron (always the smartass)
“Nothing else matters. Only us.” -Jaime’s attempt to comfort Cersei
The “Ow, That Shit Hurts Award” goes to: Jaime’s wounds, Euron’s sword in the chest, everything The Mountain did to the Hound, Tyrion’s shock, the Golden Company’s pride, Varys’ death, Qyburn’s head, and Dany’s tragic life experiences coupled with her genetic disposition.
Overall Thoughts: As a show-viewer only, I’ve got lots of questions but probably not even a fraction of what book readers have. I would speculate that it is much easier for viewers-only to take and accept the show as-is. But if you are reading this, that means that even if you have not read the books you are deeply invested in it. We will have plenty of time to dissect in the coming weeks. I hope you stick around for it.
That said, I think this was one of the best episodes ever, as tragic as it was. I personally had very little doubt in my mind that Dany was capable of such horrific acts, but I still didn’t think she would. And the fact that she had the opportunity not to while being able to achieve her goal only adds fuel to the fandom fire. If you are not caught up in the toxicity, I highly recommend staying out of it. It’s as ugly as the KL right now.
Next Week: The Grand Finale. Arya going after Dany after seeing the devastation first-hand? Jon vs. Grey Worm?
We are civil here. So civil your way through the comments and let’s discuss. Can you believe we only have one more?? What will we do when it’s all over? We’ll discuss that later this week.
Until the end of the end next week, hang out and stay awhile. Invite an Unsullied to join us. And may there always be peace in your realm. –Oz
**SPOILER NOTE: The Management of this fine site would like to remind you that spoilers (book or leak) are not allowed in Unsullied posts. This includes spoilers covered by code or otherwise. Personally, I appreciate feedback from Sullied and Unsullied alike, so long as they do not include any type of hinting or conversation related to the written verse. However, spoiler coded comments do tend to lead to further Sullied conversation and for that reason, we ask that you please refrain from posting any SPOILERY content whatsoever in Unsullied posts. Thank you for the coop. -Oz
Hear the tolling of the bells—
What a world of solemn thought their monody compels!
Spoiler Note: This is our book reader’s recap, intended for those who have read the A Song of Ice and Fire series. The post and the comments section may contain spoilers from the novels, whether or not that material has appeared on the show yet. Because no, we are not all Unsullied now. If you have not read the books yet, we encourage you to check out our non-book-reader recap, by Oz of Thrones!
Sorry, just a big Poe fan, is all.
I think Ned Stark would appreciate the irony that Varys turned out such an absolute honorable dumbass when it came to the Iron Throne. Tonight’s episode opens with Varys penning a letter about a rightful heir, just as Ned once did, and meeting with a little bird, who reminds us helpfully that the “greater the risk, the greater the reward.” It also reminds us that Varys is a bit of a creep for using children in dangerous positions, so we shouldn’t mourn him too much.
After last week’s brutal ending, Daenerys mourns and Varys plots. He sees madness in the toss of the Targaryen coin when it comes to the queen, and greatness for Jon. Seems like he should’ve been concerned about that years ago when she resorted to massive firepower as her first plan of attack most of the time, but okay. Jon resists the Spider’s attempts to rope him into making a move, while Tyrion spies on the pair of them in discussion. That’s not good news for them, as Tyrion informs the queen of Varys’ apparent betrayal. She isn’t pleased with her Hand’s performance once again. (She’s going to be even less pleased next episode, based on the results of this week, but one step at a time.)
So, it’s the end of the road for a slippery fish. Tyrion owns up to his turning over of his old friend, when the time comes for the execution of Varys. I have to say, I was slightly disappointed they didn’t throw him into the water chained up- it would’ve been fabulous fodder for all the Varys-is-a-merman theorists. But no, it’s a fiery Dracarys end for the spymaster who survived so many rulers and twists of fate but couldn’t avoid Melisandre’s prophecy. Dany condemns him for his choice, and Drogon does the deed quickly. Jon and Tyrion don’t have the stomach for a Targ BBQ, clearly. Grey Worm don’t give a fuck, and I respect that.
Afterward, Dany shares with GW Missandei’s one possession brought from Essos- her slave collar. He tosses it into the fire where it belongs, and takes off when Jon pops in for another awkward auntie-nephew chat. Dany still struggles with the threat Jon presents as someone who is loved by the people of Westeros, while she is only feared. (I mean she isn’t wrong, but has she even tried?) Jon rejects Dany’s attempts to restart their thing because that’s how Targaryens swing anyhow but Jon is half-Stark and he can’t deal. Since he won’t get down, she’s gonna roll with the fear.
Reviewing their options for the battle ahead, Tyrion argues in favor of a more merciful approach again. Dany is resistant, but with persuasion, he presents his idea that if King’s Landing surrenders and rings the bells, they should call off the attack. (Hence the episode title.) It’s then we learn that Jaime Lannister was captured trying to cross Targaryen lines, because he’s just not stealthy. He’s Jaime fookin Lannister, after all.
At the walls of King’s Landing, people rush into the city, including a mother and daughter we’ll come to recognize. Tyrion and Jon come ashore near an encampment full of Northmen, with Davos waiting. That’s good news for Tyrion because he needs a favor from the Onion Knight- he needs to put him back in the smuggling business and not for aphrodisiac crabs.
Arya and the Hound are also heading into the city. It’s hot, it’s happening, it’s literally on fire: it’s King’s Landing.
Tyrion fully embraces pissing off his queen and throwing away his career by seeking out Jaime and freeing him to return to Cersei. (Incidentally I’m glad Jaime knows he’s the stupidest Lannister. Because tonight really proved it.) Tyrion provides his brother with an escape plan after driving home the point of how completely and utterly fucked Cersei is in Westeros. The two share a touching goodbye, knowing this is the end for them.
The people of King’s Landing panic because the big dust-up’s coming but where are they going to go, honestly? Arya and the Hound hurry into the city. So does Jaime, slipping past the Golden Company before the doors shut and the battle begins. Jon, Davos and Tyrion ready themselves for the battle, while we spy the mother and child once again- they become the recognizable human faces for us among the chaos and death of King’s Landing.
Above, even Cersei is feeling the tension. On his ship, Euron is waiting.
And then he sees it- death from above. Daenerys on Drogon arrives and utterly destroys the Iron Fleet; Euron is thrown into the water. This time around she’s ready with maneuvers to evade the scorpions’ arrows, raining fire on the ships, the soldiers and the machinery that killed Rhaegal last week. It’s awesome to watch, if you just sit back and don’t think too much about it all. The effects really are gorgeous.
In front of the city walls, the two armies awkwardly face off in silence, waiting for the right moment to break into a fight- Grey Worm and his Unsullied and the Dothraki (yes, some of them live!) versus Harry Strickland and the Golden Company. It never happens because the walls are blasted from behind them, annihilating the Golden Company. The remains of them are crushed easily by the Unsullied and the Dothraki, who pour into the city and kick some Lannister ass.
Daenerys and Drogon pour fire over the Lannister soldiers, melting away any resistance. And in Cersei’s eyes, there’s fear. She puts on a brave face for Qyburn with a hilarious amount of denial.
Jon, Grey Worm and Davos face down Lannister men, and these bros know they’re screwed. Faced with the might of this force and Dany’s firepower above, they drop their swords and surrender. Cersei watches. Daenerys holds.
And the bells sound out, with the tintinnabulation. Heck yeah they do!
But that’s not quite enough for Daenerys.
Shaking, seething with rage, seeing the Red Keep where her family lived and died, she takes off, flying and destroying everything in her path. Everything beneath her and Drogon is scorched and turned to ash- innocent people running and screaming disappear in fire. Seeing the flames, Grey Worm sees it as a signal to carry on fighting (probably in his own grief and rage, I imagine) and their army resumes the battle. At a loss, Jon continues to fight.
Grey Worm cuts down countless men in the fight, while Drogon pours flame everywhere across King’s Landing. Cersei’s fear grows, and Tyrion’s horror. Innocents are killed all over the city without any rhyme or reason.
Now Daenerys come for the Red Keep.
Euron crawls from the water near the keep, as Jaime nears the base. He challenges Jaime, while taunting him with having nailed the Queen. (Shout-out to Lancel and Moon Boy? Denied!) The fight gets ugly fast- these two are brawlers, a one-handed knight and a pirate going at it. Jaime gets stabbed in the side, a probably-mortal wound, and Euron thinks he’s won, but he doesn’t give up easy.
Meanwhile, Qyburn finally convinces Cersei to retreat to Maegor’s Holdfast, now that every defense has fallen. Beyond, we see that wildfire is igniting throughout the city.
Jaime tries to grab a sword, but Euron shanks him again- fuuuuuck this hurts to watch. But Jaime succeeds, and guts Euron- that one’s gonna sting. He’s a Kingslayer once again. Goodbye, Eyeliner King. Even as he lays dying, he’s a cocky prick though, sighing, “I’m the man who killed Jaime Lannister.”
They’ve gotten to the Red Keep but with it falling down around them, it’s a death trap. The Hound- Sandor Clegane- convinces Arya that it’s a fool’s game, this revenge thing. She’ll die if she goes up there, and revenge will just turn her into him. He heads up and she heads out to try and survive a city that’s falling apart.
The Keep is falling down on Cersei’s head as she makes her escape with the Mountain, Qyburn and the Queensguard. Sandor meets them on the steps and cuts through the red, okay, blackshirts. Qyburn tries to stop the Mountain from the distraction of CLEGANEBOWL but the hype cannot be denied- Qyburn is brushed aside with a GREGORSMASH! of the head. And Cersei tastefully makes her way out of the scene for the final confrontation between the two brothers. This fight ALSO gets ugly right away but mainly because Gregor is an ugly fucker when you knock off his mask.
Cersei makes her way down to the cellar where they keep the bigass dragon skulls (heyyyy remember when they pointedly added that to the opening credits this year) and runs into Jaime! She’s thrilled, he’s dying and all is forgiven, apparently, after she threatened to kill him when they last parted.
Cleganebowl is going not that great for Sandor, as he’s realizing just how inhuman his big brother really is now. He’s getting tossed and beaten down.
In the city streets, Arya wanders as aimlessly lost as when she was a little girl after “Baelor.” Even with all her training, she’s taking some hits. It’s amazing anyone is alive in this fiery shitstorm. She’s getting knocked into the ground in a stampede when the mother we saw before pulls her up and saves her from getting crushed by the crowd.
At the Keep, Gregor attempts to finish off the ‘Bowl with his trademark move, the Eyegouger™, but Sandor has some life left in him yet. He manages to stab his brother in HIS eye, knocking him back enough long enough for Sandor to muster his strength and take Gregor and himself off the Keep and down into the fire below. RIP Sandor But rot in Westerosi seven hells, Mountain.
In the battle, Jon orders the men to fall back, because everything has gone to hell thanks to Dany abandoning the plan.
Arya wakes up covered in ash, but alive. But only if she keeps running as the walls fall down around her. She stumbles upon the mother and daughter again, huddled among a group of women and children. She encourages everyone to keep moving to stay alive, and pulls the mother/daughter team with her. It…doesn’t go well. They should’ve stayed in that hovel.
Jaime and Cersei head for the escape route only to find it blocked by rubble. Whoops. She starts to finally melt down because of her baby. Jaime comforts her because I don’t know, that’s what he’s about now. Then the rubble falls, and I assume they’re dead, and I don’t really care, to be honest.
It looks like it’s snowing in King’s Landing but it’s only ash, raining down on Arya as she wakes up again. On the ground are the blackened carcasses of the mother and child she tried to save.
A lovely pale horse, now splattered in blood, trots along. (I just know people will mock this but it doesn’t bother me. People survived; meh, why not a horse, death is random.)
Arya hitches a ride, because death rides a pale horse, and she needs a ride home after all.
Thoughts? Not Stray. Pretty Specific.
The Jaime Problem: Redemption is a not a straight line. People backslide, they leap forward, and they stumble hard. Jaime has always been a character who does terrible things, but his evolution has been purposeful. His handling in season 8 has been completely baffling. If the ultimate resolution was intended to be “He and Cersei are total soulmates and it’s pointless for him to try and be better,” then why bother with several seasons of him struggling over his own behavior? Looking at it from both book-reader perspective and at show content, it doesn’t make sense. It’s woefully inconsistent. Which leads to…
Valonqar: It was never a thing on the show. Maggy the Frog only made the “Younger and more beautiful queen” prophecy which we can assume is Daenerys, based on this conclusion. However it was always stated that the endings for major characters would remain the same-and Cersei and Jaime certainly qualify as such. So I was expecting something to happen which would tie into the Valonqar prophecy, whether it would be Tyrion, Jaime or a suprise contender. Nope. Just a pile of bricks. So that makes me doubt the frequent statements about this ending matching the books’ ultimate endings, at least when it comes to Cersei.
Six Is Not Enough: I think this episode, with Dany’s snapping, really drove home the idea that six episodes for this year was not enough. I’m sure there are a host of real reasons for why it was six that we’ll never know, or we won’t know until someone writes a sexy scandalous tell-all. But they needed more time to show us Dany’ descent. I personally don’t have a problem with the “Mad Queen” idea. We’ve seen her burning people for years; it’s NOT a shock, people. For me it’s not about a genetic madness (though that’s on the table), but the fact that she’s lived a terribly difficult life, has been mistreated, handed the equivalent of a nuclear weapon with dragons, had her heart broken, been betrayed by her high-ranking employees which induces paranoia, and had her main emotional supports (Jorah and Missandei) killed horribly. But we weren’t given enough time to watch Daenerys sink into this- her snapping so suddenly is bound to confuse and piss off a whole lot of people. If you spend seven years convincing everyone the sun shines out of someone’s ass, don’t be surprised they’re mad when you decide to tell them she’s lost it and is torching innocents. I feel like the time could also be at the root of Varys so suddenly betraying Dany after spending all this time helping her. It’s the time crunch that was the underlying problem. Given more time to see her descent, we would buy into it more, especially if this ending is what GRRM has planned for the novels.
Cleganebowl: This was fun! Enjoyed the callback to the Mountain vs the Viper, and Sandor going with fire was fitting. The Mountain smashing Qyburn made me laugh, which is sick, but whatever, he had it coming.
Chaos in the Streets: Funny I compared parts of “The Long Night” to Black Hawk Down. I was watching this and thinking, “Shit no, THIS looks like a visual reference to Black Hawk Down.” Which I guess makes sense, this episode has the same director and DOP as episode 3 (Sapochnik/Wagner). I dug the disorienting cinematography style of those scenes, from Arya’s running to the smoother fight moments with Grey Worm. The episode looked wonderful, whatever other issues I had with it.
Life: I appreciate that Arya ultimately rejected violence and chose to leave, even trying to save people. She’s lived a life based killing for the past several years. Sandor helped save her, with his final lesson. There’s still hope for Arya. Despite what some people think, she isn’t soulless. And she can go home again. People accuse Game of Thrones of glorifying violence (and we sure do love the sight of Dany burning KL), but George RR Martin always embeds a message that opposes violence in his stories; it’s at the heart of A Feast for Crows in particular, seeing the destruction of Westeros. It feels like Benioff and Weiss captured some of that here.
RIP: Varys, Cersei Lannister, Jaime Lannister, Euron Greyjoy, Sandor Clegane/The Hound, Gregor Clegane/The Mountain, Qyburn, Harry Strickland, and 90% of King’s Landing!
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In Game of Thrones season eight’s fourth episode, “The Last of the Starks,” rakish cad Jaime Lannister broke more hearts than just Brienne of Tarth’s when he turned his back on a cozy life at Winterfell. A section of the fanbase had been very invested in Ser Jaime and Brienne forging a romantic relationship; but word from the south of Daenerys Targaryen’s vengeful intentions towards Jaime’s sister Cersei apparently prompted the Kingslayer into sneaking out of bed, saddling up his horse to head away from the North and his Night’s Watch vows. Luckily, Sam and his black brothers caught up to Ser Jaime and convinced him to stay. No wait. That was Jon Snow in season, when he had planned on heading south to join in on a fight with the Lannister regime, but had responded to the pleas from his fellows to remain where he was.
Ser Jaime is not like the heroic and selfless Jon Snow.
But we knew that already. Or had we forgotten?
Caught by Brienne before he could slink away into the night, Jaime cut short Brienne’s argument that he was a good man and could stay among decent folk by reciting his greatest hits:
Jaime Lannister: You think I’m a good man. I pushed a boy out a tower window. Crippled him for life, for Cersei. I strangled my cousin with my own hands, just to get back to Cersei. I would have murdered every man, woman, and child in Riverrun. For Cersei. She’s hateful. And so am I.
In a story filled with characters defined by their shades-of-gray morality and secrets, Jaime Lannister stood above the rest. Establishing himself as a villain in the first episode by defenestrating innocent Bran Stark, Ser Jaime did not shy away from talking to Bran’s mother about the attempted murder of her son.
Catelyn Stark: My son, Bran. How did he come to fall from the tower? Jaime: I pushed him out the window. Catelyn: Why? Jaime: I – I hoped the fall would kill him.
With his carefree attitude towards the taking of life if it suited him, it was not a surprise when Ser Jaime killed his cousin Alton as a means to attempt an escape from the Stark camp.
Lady Catelyn eventually gave him his freedom. Or rather, unilaterally decided to exchange the hostage Jaime for the promise of the release of her captive daughters, Arya and Sansa (only one of them was actually captive, but hairs don’t need to be split here.) During his journey escorted by his future lover, Brienne of Tarth, they bonded over common cause against a mutual foe: the sadistic Boltons who threatened to rape Brienne and maimed Jaime while in their care.
During these events, Ser Jaime was also known to viewers by his nickname, the Kingslayer. Jaime had earned this sobriquet for murdering his king, the mad Aerys II. Although few shed a tear over Aerys’s death, regicide isn’t something taken lightly in Westeros, particularly when done by the sworn bodyguard of the king. That’s the opposite of the job description.
The hidden truth behind the name came out in Harrenhal, when an exhausted Jaime revealed to Brienne that he’d killed Aerys to prevent the death of thousands and thousands by wildfire. Not that he had been thanked when Eddard Stark had arrived on the scene of the murder.
“Do you think the noble Lord of Winterfell wanted to hear my feeble explanations? Such an honorable man. He only had to look at me to judge me guilty.” Jaime lurched to his feet, the water running cold down his chest. “By what right does the wolf judge the lion? By what right?”
— A Storm of Swords, Jaime V
The scene in the books is powerful, and the presentation on the show equally so. Jaime had transitioned from a scoundrel and antagonist to someone who, while still a scoundrel and antagonistic, had been misjudged and had lived with unfair prejudice for years. Too proud and scornful to set the record straight, he’d kept that secret until caught up in a moment of naked (literally) vulnerability with the earnest and exemplary Brienne.
This seemed to usher in a turning point for Jaime’s character, as well as encouraging positive sentiment for him by fans. When leaving Brienne at Harrenhal, Jaime was charged by the Beauty of Tarth to remember his oaths to Lady Catelyn. He refused to let Brienne be executed, and once in the capital supplied Brienne with arms, armor, and a squire to seek out and find the missing Stark girls.
The prevailing thought among Jaime supporters was that once removed from Cersei’s toxic influences, Ser Jaime might be able to move past his shadowy villainous ways and redeem himself. The show could not provide literal insights into character thoughts the way the book can with its point-of-view structure, but the scene where Ser Jaime, as Lord Commander of the kingsguard, considered his few chivalric accomplishments tracks with the analogous scene from the books.
Jaime sat alone at the table while the shadows crept across the room. As dusk began to settle, he lit a candle and opened the White Book to his own page. Quill and ink he found in a drawer. Beneath the last line Ser Barristan had entered, he wrote in an awkward hand that might have done credit to a six-year-old being taught his first letters by a maester:
Defeated in the Whispering Wood by the Young Wolf Robb Stark during the War of the Five Kings. Held captive at Riverrun and ransomed for a promise unfulfilled. Captured again by the Brave Companions, and maimed at the word of Vargo Hoat their captain, losing his sword hand to the blade of Zollo the Fat. Returned safely to King’s Landing by Brienne, the Maid of Tarth.
When he was done, more than three-quarters of his page still remained to be filled between the gold lion on the crimson shield on top and the blank white shield at the bottom. Ser Gerold Hightower had begun his history, and Ser Barristan Selmy had continued it, but the rest Jaime Lannister would need to write for himself. He could write whatever he chose, henceforth.
Whatever he chose . . .
— A Storm of Swords, Jaime IX
As presented on the show, Jaime’s redemption arc was, quite deliberately by the writers, not a straight course. He kept returning to Cersei. After the destruction of the Sept of Baelor, orchestrated by Cersei’s minions, the fans assumed that Jaime would now break from his sister, but he did not. The question was asked “since Jaime killed the Mad King for threatening to use wildfire on King’s Landing, why isn’t Jaime killing Cersei for actually doing it?”
The obvious answer would be that Jaime was not in love with Aerys. That we know of.
Jaime: We don’t get to choose who we love… but I don’t recall being in love with him.
Jaime finally broke ranks with Cersei and headed north to fulfill his promise to fight for the living, a promise made in bad faith by Cersei to the Starks and Targaryens who were trying to build a coalition to stop the existential and life-ending threat of the White Walkers. Brokering a pass for his various crimes against, well, everyone, Jaime knighted his former warden Brienne of Tarth, and after a grueling battle against the undead, the two knights consummated an attraction that had been growing for something like six seasons.
The climax of this will-they-won’t-they was presented with Jaime behaving more awkwardly than romantically. And led to the heartbreaking scene of Jaime saddling up his horse, explaining to Brienne why she can’t have good things, and then riding south with Cersei on the horizon.
It’s understandable if fans of the Jaime/Brienne relationship feel upset or unsatisfied. They’ve had years to imagine a more romantic coming together of the pair. The interactions that Jaime and Brienne have had over the years have lent themselves to romantic embellishment. Jaime having custom armor made for Brienne, indicating that he had memorized her body, is prime boyfriend material. When Brienne tried to return the sword Oathkeeper to Jaime during their meeting at the siege of Riverrun and Jaime refused, insisting that it would always be hers, it wasn’t a stretch to imagine him referring to his heart when talking about the sword.
This sword and shield chivalric romanticism climaxed (non-sexually) in the episode before the battle of Winterfell, when Ser Jaime charged Brienne of Tarth with her knightly vows, with the same gravity of wedding vows.
Ser Jaime: In the name of the Warrior, I charge you to be brave. In the name of the Father, I charge you to be just. In the name of the Mother, I charge you to defend the innocent.
All of this felt like the earmarks of a Shakespearean drama, with two star-crossed lovers destined to be bound together, not so much with the power of love (although that seemed to be in evidence) but by the directed purpose of chaste and courtly chivalry.
So when the two finally did have sex, the awkward booty call nature of Jaime showing up, fumbling with his clothes, felt so wrong to some. Where was the shining knight from before?
But there is no contradiction. Jaime had never been what can be called good with the ladies, because his only sexual partner in his life had been the no-nonsense Cersei, where sex had been transactional and selfish. Jaime had been romantic and charming with Brienne in their knightly interactions because Jaime has all of that chivalric-ritual experience. It was more natural to him, and easier to infuse affection into those familiar interactions.
It’s not that Jaime’s love for Brienne might be false, it’s likely that he’s just bad at loving.
With Jaime abandoning Brienne and vocalizing his past misdeeds, framed as being done for Cersei, as a means to separate away from his lover, Jaime transitions from a more Shakespearean mold and becomes a character from a different genre. The anti-hero who has to make a choice, between a virtuous woman offering him salvation and a less-virtuous woman from his past, is a common Film Noir trope.
Jaime referenced his willingness to massacre people at Riverrun, which would have included Brienne, as she had joined with Brynden Tully and the castle’s defense. This echoed the conversation where Jaime extorted compliance from Edmure Tully, who agreed to surrender the castle against the wishes of his uncle the Blackfish.
Edmure Tully: You understand, don’t you? You understand on some level, that you’re an evil man? Jaime: I’ll leave the judgment for the gods.
Jaime convinced Edmure Tully to surrender the castle to spare lives, with a statement that Jaime only cared about Cersei. He could return to Cersei once Riverrun had fallen, and it could either be surrendered without loss of life, or loss of all life. Jaime asserted that it was all the same to him.
But was Jaime being honest? In the books, we have insight into Jaime’s thought processes in regards to the siege. He’d sworn an oath to Catelyn Stark not to wage violence against the Tullys, and an assault on Riverrun would break that vow. In those latter books, Jaime was trying hard to keep to his vows. So he made threats that he hoped he’d not have to go through with, and it paid off.
The show can’t easily give us an insight into these unspoken motivations. Who would he talk to about this? To Bronn?
Bronn: Afraid to break a vow? I thought you were a hard man, Lannister. Har.
Instead, the show added Brienne to the siege to raise the stakes. Assaulting Riverrun would put Brienne at risk. Something Jaime wanted to avoid, and something he couldn’t reveal to Edmure Tully.
Jaime: Please surrender the castle. My non-sibling crush is in the castle, and if we attack, she might get hurt. Edmure: Am I dreaming? This can’t be real.
So it might be worthwhile to view some of Ser Jaime’s words with skepticism, even though he’s occasionally brutally honest.
Jaime: I – I hoped the fall would kill him.
During the final conversation with Brienne, Jaime was cagey on what he was planning on doing, although she reasonably assumed he was leaving her because he was still in love with Cersei. Other fan interpretations included Jaime feeling that he was undeserving of happiness with Brienne. These might all be true, in part.
A common interpretation is that Jaime will be killing his sister in these final episodes. Although the show has not brought up the often-discussed valonqar prophecy from the books, where the “little brother” will end Cersei’s life, fans have long assumed that Jaime would eventually end his relationship with Cersei with fatal finality.
This doesn’t feel right in this instance, since the word from the Targaryen front indicated that no mercy was being planned for his sister, and she’d likely wind up dead. A reasonable assumption vocalized by practical pragmatist Ser Bronn of the Blackwater.
Bronn: I knew your sister was dead the second I saw those dragons.
Why leave Brienne to go do something that someone else will already be planning on doing? Is it that Jaime loves Cersei so much or hates Cersei so much that he has to be responsible for her death?
There’s another answer. Love. Not love for Cersei though. And not love for Brienne.
THE THINGS WE DO FOR LOVE
After Robert’s rebellion, Ned Stark, for love of his sister, accepted the dishonor and risked marital discord by taking his nephew Aegon Targaryen to Winterfell and declaring him his bastard, Jon Snow.
Years later, to spare the children of his enemy Cersei Lannister, he offered her a chance to flee the city with her children, and the doom that would come to then when her cuckolded husband Robert returned to the capital.
Jaime Lannister, for almost as long as Ned Stark kept the secret about Jon’s parentage, had been keeping the secret that all of Robert Baratheon’s children were his. To prevent suspicions, Jaime kept an emotional distance and maintained at most an unremarkable avuncular disposition with his secret offspring. He watched Joffrey die by poison, he held Myrcella in his arms as she died from poison. He was absent from the capital when his last child, Tommen, committed suicide as a result of Cersei’s scheming.
In King’s Landing, Cersei awaits. But so does Jaime’s unborn child. He had failed to protect Joffrey, had possibly forced the murder of Myrcella by trying to save her, and had been unable to do anything about Tommen. Jaime has no loyaly that can be reasonably expected by Cersei. She’d sent Ser Bronn as an assassin to kill him. But their child represents something, a potential for the future.
Like the blank page in the White Book that waited for him to write what he chose, he could still have a future with this child.
As long as Cersei lives through the pregnancy.
Jaime often doesn’t explain himself. He didn’t explain why he had killed the Mad King. He seems to be happy for people to think the worst of him.
Although he might have been able to explain his situation to Brienne, it would have been against his nature to do so. By what right does the wolf judge the lion?
And until we get all the information, by what right do we?