Look, I share David’s love of Game of Thrones. But I thought the finale was largely a bust, for failings David mostly acknowledges in passing (but does not allow to dampen his ardor). The problems with the finale were largely the problems of this entire season. Characters that had been carefully developed over the years, were turned into almost allegorical plot-advancement devices. Subplots that had been teased for just as long were relegated to the dustbins of “Whatever happened with . . . ” “What was the point of . . . ” and “Aw, just forget it.”
The second most interesting event — how the Unsullied and others reacted to Jon’s betrayal of Dany — was skipped entirely. We just fast-forwarded past what would have seemed like the disappearance of the Mother of Dragons. After all, Jon could have easily just walked out of King’s Landing after telling everyone, “Dany went for a tour of her kingdom with Drogon.” Did Jon just walk up to Grey Worm and say, “I offed her”? He might have, given his tendency to bluntly tell the truth when he shouldn’t. But if he did, why would Grey Worm agree to arresting the assassin rather than kill him on the spot? Never mind all of the fascinating debates that might have transpired since Jon was in fact the rightful heir to the throne and could have justified his actions against the pretender Dany. Obviously the Dothraki and the Unsullied don’t much care about the line of succession, but that would have just made everything more intriguing. Of course, the Dothraki ceased being sentient humans a long time ago. This season they might as well have been photon torpedoes for all the agency they had.
That brings me to the most interesting event — which should have actually been, you know, interesting.
Grey Worm brings Tyrion to the Council of the Lords of Westeros and the moment Tyrion starts talking, Grey Worm says “Shut up, you have no voice here” or words to that effect. So far so good. Tyrion agrees but then keeps talking anyway and Grey Worm, now no more than a plot-advancement device, not only lets him, but lets him devise a scheme that anoints a new king, a new system of government and a new — or rather old — job for Tyrion as Hand of the King (again!). Sam’s pitch for democracy came dismayingly close to breaking the fourth wall. He might as well have yelled, “Shut up woke Twitter gadflies, no democracy for you!” I did like the humiliation of the Tully fop. But everything else was ridiculous. As I’ve written before, the thing I loved most about Game of Thrones was the way it took politics seriously in a realm markedly lacking in idealism. The idea that all of the Lords of Westeros wouldn’t even say, “Give me a week to think about it” before agreeing to an entirely new political order with a creepy, emotionless, mystical cripple as the new monarch is absurd. So was Grey Worm’s instant acquiescence to the scheme, particularly given that five minutes after the meeting he was leaving Westeros anyway. Why couldn’t Jon just wait for the Unsullied ships to disappear before saying, “Screw all that” I’m not going to the Night’s Watch – which frickn’ doesn’t exist anymore and doesn’t need to. I know, I know, he gave his word. But come on.
And then, when Sansa says, “Yeah, no. We’re staying independent” why didn’t any of the other Lords say, “Uh, if she’s not joining neither are we?” I’m not saying they couldn’t be persuaded, but in the world built so carefully over the first few seasons, the idea that they wouldn’t even need persuasion is preposterous. The EU is more against Brexit than the Lords were against the largest chunk of the Seven Kingdom’s breaking away.
Also, as Ross Douthat notes on the special GLOP podcast we recorded this morning, what the Hell is going to happen with Bran? He’s the Three-Eyed-Raven. The last one lived for like a thousand years. Will he rule that long? Is no one interested in asking that question? Will he be more loyal to his Three Eyed Raven agenda or to the country? Will he merge with a tree? What is the Three Eyed Raven agenda? Why is his story so much more compelling than, say, Arya’s or Gendry’s or Sansa’s? He did jack all to fight the Night King. When it was go time he didn’t Warg into a dragon or wolf or even a particularly burly Dothraki. He just said, “I’m going to take a piss in the astral plane. Good luck fighting the dead, losers.” Ross rightly argues that Bran represented the fantasy arc of the series and that arc turned out to be a big nothing. Meanwhile, the real politik arc of the series was ended with an After School Special “The pluralism was in our hearts all along!” — all in the name of setting up some sequels.
The moral take-aways at the end were insane — and weirdly stale, better suited for the tail end of the Iraq War. All of the stuff about how Dany was evil because she had led a life as proponent-of-liberty promotion and regime change could have been interesting, but they just left it all out there. Are we to believe that killing the slavemasters wasn’t worth it because it corrupted her soul? Please. Similarly, this idea — super clever when you’re sixteen — that the person most suited to rule is the one who wants it least is preposterous. If that’s true, put Hot Pie or a wolf on the throne and be done with it.
Finally, what in the Seven Hells was up with the Song of Ice and Fire bit at the end? That is a big ass book written by a Maister (awfully quickly, I might add), that supposedly chronicles the entire story we all just watched.
Tyrion isn’t in it? Ha ha! That’s funny!
But it’s also staggeringly stupid. The war of the Five Kings began because Tyrion’s dagger was used in an attempt to assassinate Bran. Tyrion became the hand of the King, married the woman who would become the Lady of Winterfell (never annulled by the way), killed the subsequent Hand of the King, who was the most powerful man in Westeros and father of the last King who Tyrion was accused of murdering at his own wedding. That seems newsy. (Those events led Sansa to marry the usurper of Winterfell — the first non-Stark to rule the North in thousands of years — and eventually led to Sansa orchestrating the victory in the Battle of the Bastards and Wexit). Tyrion then escaped King’s Landing after his proxy lost a trial-by-combat that killed a prince of Dorn, led to the Mountain being turned into an undead Golem and led Tyrion to become the Hand of the Queen who successfully invaded Westeros, burning King’s Landing in the process and breaking the “Wheel” of power politics and primogeniture. What on earth is in those pages if Tyrion isn’t? Recipes?
It’s like Benioff and Weiss left to go make a Star Wars movie and told the interns to wrap things up for them.
I’m pretty forgiving about many of the complaints that are most prominent out there. It doesn’t bother me that Jon killed Dany (I even predicted it). It doesn’t bother me that Dany went bonkers, that was foreshadowed than critics claim. In short, my problem isn’t with the plot developments, but how they were implemented. It all became almost allegorical in its mad rush to wrap things up. And it’s a shame.