If you think that a world-renowned, Academy Award-nominated actress wouldn’t get nervous about joining the small-screen world of a television series, well, you don’t know Naomi Watts. In her defense, however, joining the world of Westeros means having some very big shoes to fill.
The Australian actress is “very excited” to be the lead in the Game of Thrones spinoff (or prequel, if you’re picky) that started filming this week, according to an interview clip with the Associated Press that was tweeted out early this morning:
GOT JITTERS: Naomi Watts admits she was “intimidated” to join the “Game of Thrones” prequel, but says she has confidence the upcoming series will please fans. #GOTpic.twitter.com/yC8abKewMq
Despite her excitement, Watts also admits that being part of such a worldwide phenomenon is “very intimidating,” especially because the original series just ended and “the world was blowing up over it, everything was Game of Thrones-related.”
She hopes that “those fans will come along and find something new and interesting in this world,” but she also thinks the chances of that happening are high.
“I think they won’t be let down,” she says with a smile.
Make no mistake, we’re still a loooong way off from the spinoff — tentatively titled, or at least codenamed for filming purposes, Bloodmoon — appearing on our screens, but we’re following it closely and we’ll have every bit of casting, filming and production news we can scrounge up for you. Stay tuned for more!
Feeling the post Game of Thrones blues? We are here to ease your withdrawal pain with some news about the prequel series – reportedly titled (though most likely just codenamed) Bloodmoon – currently filming in a rather intriguing location.
BelfastLive is reporting that the prequel crew is currently at the popular Marble Arch Caves geopark in Northern Ireland for a two week shoot for the greenlit pilot, from June 17th to 26th. A production source is quoted as saying, “There’s a lot of hustle and bustle. There’s been a lot of work done on the grounds, for example, portacabins. Security is closing from the entrance of the caves which to me suggests they may be using the landscape more so than the cave. It’s a big enough operation.”
The site is beautiful, and an interesting choice. The prequel will take place during the Age of Heroes and will tell the story of the origin of the White Walkers and the Long Night. The use of caves brings to mind the Children of the Forest, as well as the caves on Dragonstone where Jon Snow mined dragonglass and discovered drawings about the Children and First Men coming together to fight the White Walkers.
According to the source, more of the filming will take place in the park, but that doesn’t mean we won’t see the caves as well. Earlier this month, Twitter user A Red Priestess shared some photos of what looks to be a cave system set being constructed.
As she mentions in her tweet, the photos were actually taken on May 20th, so they could be completed by now. If they will be used to show cave drawings or dragonglass being mined, it would certainly make sense to construct a replica of the real caves.
Speaking of photos, we have some screenshots from Georgie Henley‘s Instagram stories to share. Henley was spotted in Northern Ireland earlier this month along with a few other cast members, and posted videos with Alex Sharp and possibly Ivanno Jeremiah.
She also shared a video of Marquis Rodriguez doing the worm next to Naomi Ackie.
Finally, Rodriguez shared his own Instagram story, which appears to be a video from his hotel room. It’s difficult to say for certain, but this could be the Lough Erne Resort near Marble Arch Caves. Wherever it is, they seem to all be having a wonderful time!
Dany is happy about GoT bringing home more awards!
The Oscars are finished, the Emmys have come and gone, the Tonys wrapped up two weeks ago, but awards seasons wasn’t over quite yet — at least not until Saturday night, when MTV held its annual Movie & TV Awards. And as long as there are accolades to be had where television is concerned, Game of Thrones stands a chance of winning them.
For its final season, Thrones was nominated for Best Show, Best Performance in a Show (Emilia Clarke), Best Fight (Arya vs. the White Walkers) and Best Hero (Maisie Williams), although it only took home the golden popcorn for Best Show. Jacob Anderson, who played the stoic Unsullied commander Grey Worm, was presented with the award on the red carpet ahead of the ceremony itself.
“A lot of amazing people work on Game of Thrones, so I feel weird being the one to hold this, but I’ve always wanted to hold one of these,” he said. “So, congratulations to everybody, all the people I love on the show, who have worked incredibly hard, you will get to touch this. Cast and crew, and everybody who’s amazing, we did it!”
Elsewhere in the broadcast, which aired Monday night, host Zachary Levi filmed a hilarious segment with himself cut into the Season 8, Episode 5 scenes at Dragonstone — flaunting new clothes he picked up in Dorne, writing “Jon and Dany are boning OMG!!” on raven scrolls and finally begging Tyrion to hand him a can of dragon repellent as Drogon prepares to roast him to a crisp. Levi’s comedic timing make it all work perfectly, and it’s worth four or five minutes of your time today:
In my latest video essay, I look back over Daenerys Targaryen’s 8 season arc and break down why her tragic fall didn’t feel earned to me and how, in some glorious parallel universe where I was in the writer’s room, it might have been done differently.
Smell that, Game of Thrones fans? That’s the scent of dissatisfaction around the realm. While some people really liked the finale, unfortunately not everyone was satisfied – and that’s OK! While the show has been dead for barely a month, it has not stopped the cavalcade of discussion a show of its caliber has always been successful at inspiring. While for many, that will mean endless fan speculation, cheering, complaining, contemplation, and more (it does!), it also means that sometimes the actors or those behind the scenes might have a few thoughts of their own from time to time. In an interview with The Guardian, quoth Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister) herself: “I will say I wanted a better death.”
Now hold on just a minute, before the tabloids get too carried away with this headline. Lena makes very clear that she is not out on a mission to rewrite the final season, like some million-odd fans, but she wants to point out that as a viewer and a fan herself, she has her own thoughts and opinions on how everything shook out: “No, listen, I invested as a viewer and I have my favourite characters. And I’ve got a few of my own gripes. But I haven’t sat down drunkly with David [Benioff] and Dan [Weiss] yet.”
I mean we’re all fans of the show, even the actors, themselves! So it makes sense to me that one can have their own disagreements with the direction of their character. Still, she acknowledges that even if it had gone differently, it doesn’t mean that the fan response would have been any better. “Obviously you dream of your death. You could go in any way on that show. So I was kind of gutted. But I just think they couldn’t have pleased everyone. No matter what they did, I think there was going to be some big comedown from the climb.”
Next up for Lena are several projects involving her as actor and even director. Most excitingly for GOT fans (are there any of you out there?) is her upcoming short 30 minute piece, The Trap, which will reunite her with fellow former GOT cast member, Michelle Fairley (Catelyn Stark). Check out the rest of the interview to see what else is going on Lena’s life. It looks like Lena Headey has a lot of upcoming projects on the horizon, so I can’t wait to see what she brings to the table next!
What’s a Lannister without their favorite sellsword? Con of Thrones announced today that Game of Thrones star Jerome Flynn (Bronn) will appear at Con of Thrones 2019 on Friday, July 12, and Saturday, July 13. Con of Thrones, the premier convention for fans of Game of Thrones, A Song of Ice and Fire, and the epic worlds of fantasy author George R. R. Martin, will return to Nashville, Tennessee this summer. Festivities will take place at the Music City Center July 12–14. Tickets are available for purchase at ConOfThrones.net/register.
Autograph and photograph experiences with Flynn are available for purchase now. Autographs are $80 and photographs are $100. Tickets for a joint photograph session with Jerome Flynn and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister) on Saturday, July 13 are available for $225.
Previously announced special guests include Game of Thrones stars Coster-Waldau, Joe Dempsie (Gendry), HannahMurray (Gilly), Miltos Yerolemou (Syrio Forel), Game of Thrones Concept Artist Kieran Belshaw, Art Director Hauke Richter, fan-favorite podcasts Binge Mode, History of Westeros and A Storm of Spoilers, and wolf ambassadors from Wildefell Wolves.
Watchers on the Wall is the happy to be the official programming partner for Con of Thrones, helping create 150 hours of programming with in-depth discussions about the series, Special Guest Spotlight interviews, live recordings of fan-favorite podcasts, and much more. The Con of Thrones programming schedule can be found at ConOfThrones.net/schedule.
Bastard. Man of the Night’s Watch. Lord Commander. King in the North. Heir to the Iron Throne. Kit Harington took on a variety ofroles as Jon Snow in Game of Thrones, but through them all he remained true to his portrayal of the honorable, brooding son (in spirit if not by blood) of Ned Stark. Kit didn’t just play Jon Snow, he became Jon Snow.
Kit was fresh from drama school and his first major acting role – in the National Theatre’s adaptation of War Horse – when he auditioned for the Game of Thrones pilot. Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss remember it well. “The moment Kit walked into [casting director] Nina Gold’s office we thought, ‘Oh, man, please let this kid be good.’ He looked like the Jon Snow in our imaginations: dark, brooding, sensitive, and very, very ugly. He opened his mouth and he was better than good. He was Jon Snow.”
Hopefully they were kidding about the ugly part – have they seen him? Nevertheless, Kit was a perfect fit for the moody and sullen teenager who never felt like he belonged. He wasn’t only good at brooding, however – he was also a talented fighter. Kit proved himself to be an excellent swordsman early on, so he was given numerous opportunities to show off his skills: sparring at Castle Black, facing off against a White Walker at Hardhome, and fighting for his life during the Battle of the Bastards and the Long Night, just to name a few.
Kit was able to reveal his romantic side in season two, when Jon captured the wildling Ygritte (Rose Leslie). She then captured his heart, and their doomed love affair was the highlight of Jon’s time with the Free Folk. Jon’s anguish at abandoning Ygritte to return to the Night’s Watch, and then again as she tragically dies in his arms, was played by Kit to heartbreaking perfection.
Life sometimes imitates art, and this onscreen romance became a real one as Kit and Rose began dating after working together on the show. They eventually married last June, with several of their cast mates in attendance. At the Emmy awards later that year – when asked what being part of Game of Thrones has done for him – Kit remarked, “I met my wife in this show. It gave me, hopefully, my future family, and my life from here on in.”
While Kit had the good fortune to meet the love of his life while working on Thrones, it hasn’t been all sunshine and roses. Playing Jon has tested the limits of Kit’s endurance, physically and emotionally. Hardly a season went by without him being subjected to harsh weather, gruelling fight scenes, and tragic events, but through it all Kit put his heart and soul into whatever he was asked to do. Perhaps his biggest acting challenge was pretending Jon was truly dead at the end of season five and having to keep the secret for a year.
“It was probably one of the darkest periods I have been through in my life,” he said in an interview earlier this year. “I think it must have had something to do with being a walking cliffhanger: I didn’t enjoy it. You want to be a lead, and then you get all the spotlight of the biggest show in the world onto you for a few months.” Jon’s death and subsequent resurrection in season six propelled his character into the spotlight for the remainder of the series.
Jon later shared that spotlight with Daenerys – who sailed to Westeros and eventually joined his cause to defeat the White Walkers. She became his second love, which was unfortunately just as doomed as his first. Theirs was a complicated relationship: initially antagonistic, then cooperative, and finally romantic. Kit’s range was definitely put to the test as Jon navigated the complexities of his alliance with the dragon queen.
In the final season, Kit was pushed to his limits (along with the rest of the cast). He admitted to GQ Australia, “Everyone was broken at the end. I don’t know if we were crying because we were sad it was ending or if we were crying because it was so fucking tiring. We were sleep deprived. It was like it was designed to make you think, Right, I’m fucking sick of this. I remember everyone walking around towards the end going, ‘I’ve had enough now. I love this, it’s been the best thing in my life, I’ll miss it one day – but I’m done.’”
Not only did he endure 55 nights of shooting for episode three, “The Long Night,” Kit’s emotions were put through the ringer as Jon learned his true parentage, causing a rift in his relationship with Daenerys. The consequences were ultimately tragic, forcing Jon to murder his lover to save the realm. Kit cried when he read the script, and you can certainly see the anguish on his face during the scene.
The finale ended with Jon riding off with the Free Folk beyond the Wall, away from the politics, fighting, and intrigue he despised. Kit, too, has earned a well deserved respite from the challenging role of the reluctant hero who always tried to do what was right. Kit truly brought Jon Snow to life and put everything he had into the role. I’m sure we are all grateful for his efforts, and I look forward to his future work. Thank you, Kit, for eight wonderful seasons.
This past March, HBO and Insight Editions announced four new Game of Thrones books, each focusing on one aspect of the show’s production: the costumes; the photography; the art; and, finally, the storyboards. We even gave you a sneak peek at the now available Game of Thrones: The Storyboards. And yet, if you’re still unconvinced, here’s the show’s Principal Storyboard Artist Will Simpson in an exclusive video in which he not only tells us about his involvement with the show (“We need more blood!”) but also provides us with another sneak peek into this new beautiful artbook:
In the clip above, Simpson speaks to Insight Editions regarding a very special episode of the show, season two’s “Blackwater,” and the corresponding storyboard that helped inspire the scene in which, having arrived at the walls, Stannis is witness to one of his men getting his head absolutely smashed to a pulp by a rock. According to Simpson, director Neil Marshall’s only note when working with him was: “We need more blood.”
“The boards are meant to fill in part of the gap from a director’s mind to what actually gets shot on a particular day,” Simpson explains. “If you’ve enjoyed the show, and you’re more interested in seeing how the whole thing was developed, please take a look at my storyboarding book from Inside Editions.”
Are you interested? I know I am! Order Game of Thrones: The Storyboardshere.
If you’ve been anxiously awaiting the Beautiful Death illustration for “The Iron Throne,” wait no longer! Robert M. Ball’s last poster for Game of Thrones was unveiled today, and it is stunning. Along with the artwork, we have also been treated to a video of Ball sharing his creative process and an interview about his final contribution to the series.
In the video, Ball reveals the impact the Beautiful Death project has had on him, saying, “It’s been bigger than I expected. To put it mildly, it’s been quite overwhelming.” He goes on to explain how he gets the inspiration for each piece and his method for bringing it to fruition. Check it out below.
Over on the Making Game of Thronesblog, Ball discusses his poster for “The Iron Throne” and describes some of the details included in the piece. “The idea is the Iron Throne is sat on a kingdom of rubble, and that rubble is a mixture of swords, representing all the bloodshed it took to get here, plus a visual journey of Daenerys’ progression through all 8 seasons — if you follow the blood trail it will take you past certain important objects like Sons of Harpy masks, Dothraki camp, Viserys’ ‘crown’, broken chains and so on. The color scheme is very simple, but there’s a lot going on if you scrutinize the image.”
Ball wanted his final piece to not only represent the death of a major character, but also the overarching theme of the show itself. “Ultimately, it’s Dany’s death, but really the image is about how power corrupts all. It’s meant to be an encapsulation of the whole series.” Mission accomplished.
You can find all the Beautiful Death posters here.
Con of Thrones announced today that Game of Thrones Art Director Hauke Richter will appear at Con of Thrones 2019 on Friday, July 12, and Saturday, July 13. Richter joins a lineup of previously announced special guests including Game of Thrones stars Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister), John Bradley (Samwell Tarly), Joe Dempsie (Gendry), Hannah Murray (Gilly), Miltos Yerolemou (Syrio Forel), GoT Concept Artist Kieran Belshaw, fan-favorite podcasts Binge Mode, History of Westeros and A Storm of Spoilers, and wolf ambassadors from Wildefell Wolves. This year’s convention will take place in Nashville, Tennessee, at the Music City Center July 12–14, 2019. Tickets are available for purchase at ConOfThrones.net/register!
Richter served as an art director for Game of Thrones for the final four seasons of the show, from the season 4 premiere “Two Swords,” through the series finale “The Iron Throne.”
This year’s convention programming was curated in partnership with Watchers on the Wall; we’re proud to have helped with bringing you all 150 hours of original programming, Con of Thrones will host in-depth discussions about the series, Special Guest Spotlight interviews, live recordings of fan-favorite podcasts, and much more. You can find the up-to-date Con of Thrones programming schedule at ConOfThrones.net/schedule.
Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss accept the writing award at the 2015 Emmy Awards
Welp, it’s that time of year again, nerds. No, not wabbit season, it’s duck EMMY SEASON!!!!! And as predicted, Game of Thrones candidates are all over the submitting ballot, from the acting categories as assumed, to cinematography, and everything else in between. While GOT has won its fair share of Emmys (aka, the most ever for a Primetime show, and still growing), it’s always come up curiously short in the category that people end up talking about most. I’m referring to, of course, the acting categories. To date, Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister) is the only acting nominee to ever win an Emmy (3 out of 7, in fact). It is my devout hope that in GOT’s season 8 victory lap, we are able to break this curse. A full write up of Emmy speculation will come in the following weeks, but in the meantime, let’s check out who is in contention for nominations this year. Here are the candidates currently sitting on the Emmy ballot:
1. Outstanding Casting for a Drama Series
2. Outstanding Cinematography For A Multi-Camera Series (3 candidates)
The Long Night (803)
Fabian Wagner, ASC, BSC, Director of Photography
The Last of the Starks (804)
David Franco, Director of Photography
The Iron Throne (806)
Jonathan Freeman, ASC, Director of Photography
3. Outstanding Period Costumes
The Bells (805)
4. Outstanding Directing For A Drama Series (3 candidates)
The Long Night (803)
The Last of the Starks (804)
The Iron Throne (806)
David Benioff, D.B. Weiss
5. Outstanding Hairstyling For A Single-Camera Series (3 candidates)
The Long Night (803)
Hair team includes department head plus four others. Of 22 actors, 4 had lace wigs. Of 16 pictures/stunt doubles, 12 had lace wigs. Using dirt made of hair gels/oils mixed with dirt powder and dry shampoos. Fresh blood plus fresh scab. Episode 803 had continuity jumping pre/post battle, cleaning actors up on set. 25 crowd hairdressers did over 400 extras. Special lace wigs for the dead in the crypt/library. 7 Whitewalker wigs, 2 giant’s wigs.
Kevin Alexander, Department Head Hairstylist Candice Banks, Key Hairstylist Nicola Mount, Hairstylist Rosalia Culora, Hairstylist
Night King full silicone head and hands make-up, contact lenses and dentures. 6 White Walkers, each consisting of 9 silicone appliances, dentures, contact lenses, lace hair pieces. The Hound: Silicone burn makeup. Bespoke Wights silicone make-ups : 9x in Library scene, 9x mummified wights in the Crypt, Hero Wight which attacks Arya on battlement. Plethora of Wights silicone make-ups throughout the battle. Giant Wight, silicone head and hands make-up. Many various wounds and blood gags.
Emma Faulkes, Special Makeup Effects Artist Paul Spateri, Special Makeup Effects Artist Chloe Muton-Phillips, Special Makeup Effects Artist Duncan Jarman, Special Makeup Effects Artist Patt Foad, Special Makeup Effects Artist John Eldred-Tooby, Special Makeup Effects Artist Barrie Gower, Prosthetic Designer Sarah Gower, Prosthetic Designer
Progressive wounds and injuries applied throughout to tell the story of the battle. Wounds sculpted freehand with thicken sculpting-prosaid, painted with various make up and finished with blood splatter, dirt effects and rubber dust mixture for depth and texture. Character faces created with latex then painted to create broken veins and liver spots for a weathered look. Colodion scars, hair lace beards, laid on Yak hair beards. Frozen effects on facial hair with petroleum wax. Jane Walker, Department Head Makeup Artist Kay Bilk, Makeup Artist Marianna Kyriacou, Makeup Artist Nicola Matthews, Makeup Artist Pamela Smyth, Makeup Artist
6. Outstanding Main Title Design
7. Outstanding Music Composition For A Series (Original Dramatic Score) (2 candidates)
A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms (802)
Evyen J Klean, Music Supervisor
The Long Night (803)
Ramin Djawadi, Composer
8. Outstanding Actor in a Drama
Kit Harington (Jon Snow)
9. Outstanding Actress in a Drama
Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen)
10. Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama (5 candidates)
Alfie Allen (Theon Greyjoy)
Pilou Asbæk (Euron Greyjoy)
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister)
Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister)
Richard Dormer (Lord Beric Dondarrion)
*edit from David – yes, it says “Lord” on the Emmy ballot for him but no others, don’t @ me, please @ them*
10. Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama (4 candidates)
Gwendoline Christie (Brienne of Tarth)
Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister)
Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark)
Maisie Williams (Arya Stark)
11. Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama
Carice Van Houten (Melisandre)
12. Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing For A Drama Series (3 candidates)
Crispin Green, Editor
The Long Night (803)
Tim Porter, ACE, Editor
The Iron Throne (806)
Katie Weiland, ACE, Editor
13. Outstanding Drama
14. Outstanding Sound Editing For A Comedy Or Drama Series (One Hour)
The Long Night (803)
15. Outstanding Sound Mixing For A Comedy Or Drama Series (One Hour)
The Long Night (803)
16. Outstanding Special Visual Effects
The Bells (805)
17. Outstanding Stunt Coordination For A Drama Series, Limited Series Or Movie
18. Outstanding Writing For A Drama Series
The Iron Throne (806)
David Benioff, D.B. Weiss
*edit from David – Um. Good luck guys. It’s right now them vs. the wrath of the Internet, and I say this as someone who unreservedly and unapologetically adored the finale.
So there you have it. 35 candidates up for nominations for Game of Thrones, although it should be noted that The Last Watch, the documentary special of season 8, is up for quite a few awards itself. And of course, tons of late night and sketch shows that involve GOT to a small or large degree. I’ll follow up in the next few weeks with some speculation about the upcoming nominations, but in the meantime, what do you think?
Nominations will be announced on Tuesday, July 16, and the awards will be broadcast live on Sunday, September 22!
Deadline brings fans an exclusive report today- we can look forward to one last big splash at San Diego Comic Con with the cast of Game of Thrones. The outlet reports that GoT “looks certain to be returning to Comic-Con’s Hall H next month,” and that “talks between HBO and confab organizers are in the final stages.” It’s not clear exactly which cast members will be taking to the massive stage at the San Diego Convention Center. They hint that the line-up is still to be determined.
Deadline confirms that HBO didn’t respond to a request for comment on their report. GoT skipped Hall H last year, reasonably since there was no new season. This year Comic-Con runs from July 18-21 (preview night July 17). With the Thrones appearance not technically official, there is no date or time set, but it would be a great year for one. The cast can finally discuss the show without fear of getting a slap on the wrist about spoilers. Would Benioff and Weiss show up? That seems unlikely as the showrunners have not done a single interview about the finale, and said that was their intention in advance. Could they face the rowdy audiences of Comic-Con? I very much doubt it. It would still be a very entertaining panel, even with just the cast, and who knows- maybe we’ll get some kind of hint about the prequel pilot?
It’s been rumored for months that A Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin was in some way involved in the creation of Dark Souls developer FromSoftware’s new project, and Martin himself lent credence to the rumor last month when he mentioned on his Not A Blog that he’d “consulted on a video game out of Japan.” Yesterday, this was confirmed when Elden Ring was announced at the Microsoft E3 2019 press conference!
As usual with FromSoftware, Elden Ring is an action RPG, of which there is no gameplay available yet. The teaser trailer above is all there is, where it’s revealed that Martin was involved, as one may expect, in what appears to be his favorite realm of writing: worldbuilding. “A new world created by [game director and FromSoftware president] Hidetaka Miyazaki and George R.R. Martin”, the trailer below proudly claims.
In FromSoftware’s official statement, Miyazaki says “collaborating with George R.R. Martin to create the Elden Ring mythos has been a genuinely delightful experience and a source of wonderful inspiration. The team is working hard to ensure that the world of Elden Ring will be a fascinating place for players to explore, filled with peril and wonder from its furthest reaches to its lowest depths. This is a FromSoftware title through and through, rich in fantasy and RPG action. We sincerely hope you look forward to it.”
Martin himself is quoted in the announcement, adding that “building the world of Elden Ring with Miyazaki-san and his team was a treat! The graphics, mythos, and action-RPG gameplay will deliver an unforgettable experience. I can’t wait for people to see what Elden Ring has in store for them.” So there you have it! And here’s the teaser trailer:
For those unaware, ‘FromSoft’ is known for developing incredibly beautiful and challenging games such as Demon’s Souls, the Dark Souls trilogy, Bloodborne, and the recently released Sekiro. If you’re interested in giving Elden Ring a try when it’s released based on Martin’s involvement in its creation but you haven’t touched a game in quite some time, I would advise caution; unless FromSoftware is going in an entirely different direction for once, it’s probably going to be a ruthless experience. It is perhaps quite appropriate that the next game from the developers of a series marketed with the “Prepare to Die” slogan is created with the help of the man behind the similarly ruthless world of Game of Thrones. That said, in this case it’ll be you doing the dying.
What do we say to the god of death? Not today! Will July do?
Con of Thrones announced today that Game of Thrones actor Miltos Yerolemou (Syrio Forel) will appear at Con of Thrones 2019 on Saturday, July 13, and Sunday, July 14. This year’s con returns to Nashville, Tennessee, heading to the Music City Center July 12–14, 2019. Tickets are available for purchase at conofthrones.net/register.
Autograph and photograph experiences with Yerolemou are available for purchase now! Autographs are $20 and photographs are $35.
Another exciting opportunity for fans: Yerolemou will also be leading three Water Dancing sword combat workshops for attendees. Workshop tickets are $60 and will go on sale on Monday, June 10, 2019 at 1 PM ET.
Previously announced special guests for Con of Thrones 2019 include Thrones stars Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister), John Bradley (Samwell Tarly), Joe Dempsie (Gendry), Hannah Murray (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.
Watchers on the Wall is proud to be the programming partner for Con of Thrones, working with Mischief Management to bring you all over 150 hours of original programming, with in-depth discussions, Special Guest Spotlight interviews, live recordings of podcasts, and so much more. We can’t wait to show you what we’ve been working on all year! The complete Con of Thrones programming schedule can be found at conofthrones.net/schedule.
As you may expect, the series finale, “The Iron Throne”, has become the most-watched series finale for any program in Sky, the United Kingdom’s subscription broadcaster for Game of Thrones. But there is a twist! Another episode was the most watched overall…
As originally reported by The Hollywood Reporter, at 5.789 million cumulative viewers, the Game of Thrones series finale, “The Iron Throne” broke the finale record once established by the previous finale, season seven’s “The Dragon and the Wolf,” which stood at 5.170 million. For the sake of comparison, the (somewhat) equivalent figure in the United States, which accounts for overnight and streaming viewers, was 19.3 million.
And yet, unlike in the States, “The Iron Throne” was only the most-watched finale in the United Kingdom; not the most-watched episode in all Sky programs or this season: surprisingly, that would be “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms,” the calm-before-the-storm second episode in this final season, which enjoyed a viewership of 6.31 million.
In the United States, by contrast, this quiet yet beloved second episode was the least watchedGame of Thrones episode this year, at 10.29 million, behind not only all of season eight episode but also season seven’s “Eastwatch” (which came after the explosive cliffhanger in “A Spoils of War”) and the finale, “The Dragon and the Wolf.”
On average, each season eight episode had a cumulative audience of 6.081 million, which is said to be “the biggest-ever series performance of any Sky program”, and “up 28 percent from the previous record of season 7, which sat at 4.76 million.” Another interesting fact is the demographic breakdown of the audience by reported gender, which was an almost equal 51-to-49 percent male/female split.
It has often been stated that Game of Thrones would not have worked if the child actors had not been spot on, given the many major plotlines that focused on children. Among the many child actors throughout eight seasons of television, you would be hard pressed to find an actor who made a stronger impression on the fanbase than Maisie Williams.
Maisie’s commitment to her portrayal of Arya Stark was so strong that, after being cast, she famously declared she would learn how to sword fight with her left hand, simply because the Arya of A Song of Ice and Fire is a leftie. Never you mind that Maisie is an avowed righty; she wanted to do Arya right, and to her that meant doing it left.
Like Arya, Maisie has always been against the grain. Before the show started, casting directors had the seemingly impossible of finding a little girl who could take on the mantle of Arya Stark. It needed to be someone who would both come out swinging, and be capable of having enough room to keep the character growing. Now, I am not a particularly pious man – I keep to the old gods as did my father and his father before him – but thankfully the old gods of the North heard our prayers:
HOW IS THAT A 12 YEAR OLD? LIKE, WHAT THE HELL MAN?! When they called Maisie in to read this scene, she delivered it like she was a successful actor returning to her acting conservatory to show the students how it’s done. I genuinely am in awe of how good this is. Some of the other actors (adults and children alike) on GOT took time to grow into their characters. But Maisie was one of perhaps two or three who nailed it from the very first scene. Speaking of her first scene, what an introduction that was! Without any dialogue whatsoever, Arya was introduced as the younger sister to someone who was clearly enjoying needlework more than she, only to have her vacate the room to grab a bow and one up her brother during his archery practice. It matched every tone you’d come to expect in Arya scenes, and it’s all thanks to this kid right here:
While Arya spent much of the first season very memorably around her fellow Starks and her dancing master, Syrio Forel, Maisie’s talents were called to a higher purpose in season two. I’m talking of course about the decision to pair her with established actor Charles Dance (Tywin Lannister). Could this thirteen year old with one season’s worth of television under her belt pull off her several scenes with this established, experienced actor? You better believe she did. No one expected the unquestionably best moments of season two to be an older man and a younger girl sitting quietly by a fire, pouring water, and talking about the literacy of stonemasons:
Tywin: “Where is your father? Is he alive? Who was he?” Arya: “A stonemason.” Tywin: “A stonemason who could read!” Arya: “He taught himself. “Tywin: “Quite a man! What killed him?” Arya: “Loyalty.”
This is the kind of dialogue exchange you expect from classically trained actors at The Globe, not from a teenager in a costume drama. What I’m saying is that Maisie is an international treasure (or a national one, if you’re a UK citizen).
Season three saw quite a tumultuous journey for Arya, with Maisie getting some great opportunities to test her acting prowess alongside Richard Dormer, Paul Kaye, Joe Dempsie, Carice Van Houten, and of course Rory McCann. Maisie’s best performance showcase may be how she played coy when Arya went up to a group of Frey soldiers bragging about their participation in The Red Wedding. It’s astounding how quickly Maisie can switch from menacing, to innocent-looking, to her psychopathic revenge-fueled look, to her “What did I do?” look to The Hound. It is golden:
So much of the reason that season four is my favorite is due to the adventures of Arya and The Hound. Every time their scenes were on screen, you would know you are in for a rollicking good time. Let us hearken back to a simpler time on Game of Thrones, when characters going places took forever and a day:
Arya: “Something wrong with your leg, boy?” Polliver: “What? What do you mean?” Arya: “Can you walk? I’ve got to carry you?” Polliver: “Carry me?” Arya: “Fine little blade…Maybe I’ll pick my teeth with it.”
And we all know what she does next.
Maisie plays the vindictive girl so well that you wonder if she uses Needle in place of a toothbrush to prepare for these scenes. Her grasp of Arya, and moreover, who Arya has become, is so strong that I cannot believe how lucky we were. There was no way for the casting team to know in the original audition that, several years down the line, Maisie would be able to flip a switch so easily and become the stone-cold murder warrior to which we’ve become so accustomed, but, well, here we are.
Seasons five and six sent Arya off on a whirlwind adventure to Murder School in Braavos. But as we all know, the real gift was the friends she made along the way.
At this point, we were in full on Assassin Arya mode, and the world was Maisie Williams’ oyster. It’s her world and we were just attempting to not get killed by her in it. Given how far removed from the rest of the main story Arya’s plot had become, it was going to require a compelling actor to keep us invested. Maisie, as always, was all of that and more. As Arya navigated the complicated world of the Faceless Men, Maisie navigated her fighting prowess, never betraying the young girl she was still portraying. But then the show tried something new. A theatrical troupe came along, and Arya was the audience’s proxy for watching an in-world recap of seasons one-through-six. The looks of wonder and disgust on Maisie’s face sold us every bit on what was going through Arya’s head, as she relived Ned’s death, and all those terrible things all over again:
With the journey’s end on the horizon, season seven brought Arya back to Westeros. With it came one of the best one-on-one fights we’ve seen the entire series, due to the incredible commitment of not only Williams but Gwendoline Christie (Brienne of Tarth.) One of the reasons it looks so good is that you can see the hard work that Maisie is putting in. She’s always one step ahead of the next blade swing so that it never looks mechanical. Hard work shows, and no one works harder than Maisie:
Season eight had so many incredible Arya moments to pick from, from Maisie perfectly capturing the adult woman Arya has grown into, in her intimate moments with Gendry, to the work she put into crafting the library horror sequence, to the number of takes she apparently suffered through to pull off the Night King’s death scene perfectly.
But the strongest season eight moments for me were Arya’s hellish escape through the ruins of King’s Landing. Eight seasons of building up Arya as a “survivor” were leading up to this moment, and there is no one I would have rather spent that much time with during the decimation of King’s Landing than Maisie Williams. Every turn brings a new look; with every glance, her eyes know exactly what to look for and to look at. As I’d mentioned, Maisie knocked it out of the park from day one, but this scene alone eclipsed it all. Maisie never looked more at home in her character, and I am entirely grateful to her for the talent she poured into this harrowing sequence.
Game of Thrones has more iconic characters than it knows what to do with. You can’t go anywhere in the world without hearing Jon Snow or Daenerys at least 3 or 4 times. But no one gets people excited like Arya does. Maisie Williams slammed the door down of what was possible for twelve year old female representation in TV, and made grown men fall in love with her character. She recently gave a TED Talk, performed on West End, and created Daisie, a platform for creatives to meet and collaborate. Her stardom has barely begun to rise, and I can’t wait to see what she does next.
Game of Thrones may be over but with the prequel-spinoff filming starting, a new adventure has begun. It’s been quiet of late, but news has started to trickle out of Northern Ireland. So it’s time to shed those post-season glums and dive back into filming-season glee!
Rumors are still flying about the title of the new show- it’s unconfirmed whether the title will really be Bloodmoon, or if that’s a production code name, or if that’s entirely a fan fabrication.
News that’s more firm: Local sources tell us that people have been coming and going to Titanic Studios, but production activity is light overall in the area. The large cliff/wall set that’s been in progress for months on the lot is still being worked on, we’re told.
Actors cast in the spinoff have also been spotted in the country, and have been helpfully sharing it on social media!
Jamie Campbell Bower somewhat vaguely last week shared this fun tease:
This tweet from a NI local person confirms the actor was still in Northern Ireland as of yesterday. Having a sandwich apparently. (What’s the menu like over there? It must be a totally different experience. Do they base sandwich names on UK and Ireland transit?)
just saw Jamie Campbell bower tuckin into a subway in a service station in ballymena
Two of the spinoff actors- Alex Sharp and Marquis Rodriguez– were hanging out together this week in Northern Ireland and checking out the sights, including the country’s famed hedge maze and the Giant’s Causeway. The two shared images of the sights on Instagram, including shots on Instagram stories.
Update to add: Alex Sharp shared this image of the Titanic Studios lot on Instagram about an hour ago, shortly after we published this post:
Annnnd another update- Georgie Henley has just posted an Instagram story from Belfast’s Victoria Square:
This early in the game, it’s hard to tell exactly what’s happening, but often readings and costume fittings are happening long before filming actually starts. But June was the officially stated filming start date given by HBO so we’re right on track! We should see a lot more sightings over the next few weeks so keep your eyes peeled.
Follow in Jon Snow’s footsteps from Eastwatch-by-the-Sea to North of the Wall, fighting your way through the Night King’s army. This seven minute adventure features high quality, immersive graphics as well as Ramin Djawadi’s glorious score.
According to the official website, players will be able to use, ‘Ranger skills with a sword to defend yourself against the undead threat as you advance through iconic locations. Be prepared to face impossible odds on your quest as you hack and slash your way out of dangerous situations’
The VR experience is available to anyone with SteamVR (1.4.14) and Viveport (1.3.3 or later). You can download it here. Unfortunately this Watcher’s most advance console is a ZX Spectrum, if any of you lovely readers have had a go with this amazing virtual reality journey, let us know in the comments below!
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:
For those new to Watchers on the Wall or needing a refresher on the guidelines, here is our spoiler policy for open chat:
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:
As a continuation of our previous Watchers on the Wall discount, you may yet again take 25% offyour CafePress order by entering our new code at checkout: GOTFINALE. This promotion ends on May 31, at 23:59 PST, so get your gear as soon as possible!
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.
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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 Thr