Editor’s note: spoilers to follow.
Games of Thrones … Many of the things you didn’t want to happen happened. It was telegraphed in the previous two episodes, definitely in the last — Lord Varys was right. He could easily be nominated as the bravest character in the series. For a while — a long while — I always thought it was Lord Tyrion Lannister.
How much shit has he taken over the course of his life and his selfless acts of bravery: defending King’s Landing against Stannis Baratheon, walking into the Red Keep to convince his malevolent sister to speak with the Dragon Queen knowing he could be killed, walking up to the walls of King’s Landing — with the archers of Cersei aimed at his head — to speak directly with his sister
Then in this penultimate episode, freeing his brother Jaime in hopes of somehow avoiding a fiery bloodbath — knowing the consequences of his actions. Tyrion Lannister is one of the bravest characters in this series.
Yet we cannot forget Lord Varys who first thought Daenerys Targaryen would be the savior of Westeros, until she began to resemble her father, the Mad King, more and more every day. And for that he became fodder for the last remaining dragon, Drogon.
“What if there’s someone else, someone better,” Sansa Stark asked of Tyrion. Everyone assumes — Lord Varys even made it clear to Jon Snow — that the former Commander of the Guard, the Lord of Winterfell — the King in the North— would be the best ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. He swore his allegiance and obedience to Daenerys many times since they first met, even after he found out he is the true heir to the Iron Throne. How can he stay with Daenerys after what happens to King’s Landing? Don’t ask for whom the bells toll, tens of thousands of lifeless eyes will answer.
We have not seen the last of Sansa, or the free folk led by Tormund Giantsbane and Ghost. Someone has to save everything and restore order to the land and Sansa is the strong character to do it.
The question is: Will Jon Snow/Aegon Targaryen betray the woman he swore was his queen forever and side with his true sisters? They are true due to Jon growing up a Stark, a relationship that runs deeper than blood. We saw it with Theon Greyjoy in the end, when he died defending Bran Stark, the Three-Eyed Raven. Can Jon Snow stay aligned with a murderous tyrant?
Blood lines travel only so deep and for what it’s worth Jon Snow’s mother was a Stark. The northern blood flows as deeply as that of the Targaryen’s and probably deeper, considering where Jon Snow grew up.
We know Jon Snow breaks oaths when he sees the need. He broke his oath as a member of the Night’s Watch, renouncing his title as Commander of the Guard; subjugating the throne of Winterfell to the Mother of Dragons.
Let’s not judge Jon Snow too harshly. All of us fell behind Daenerys during this exciting and twisting tale. She began as a vulnerable pawn, traded away by her brother, her sex for a kingdom, and then she birthed the dragons and began gaining strength and confidence … until she went over the edge. It was a subtle transformation. We saw it when Daenerys executed the Tarlys, Randyll and his son Dickon, also the father and brother of Samwell Tarly, Jon Snow’s closest friend. We saw it every time she had to be talked out of a murderous rage.
For the last two episodes Daenerys has been musing about how people love Jon Snow more than her and in this episode she says she is only feared by the people. Cersei had a lot to do with that, in her bid to make the populace more afraid of the foreign woman with the dragons. Ahhh, xenophobia at its best. Years ago Daenerys once said, “I didn’t come here to be queen of the ashes.” How times and sentiments have changed.
People do rally around Jon Snow. He has the charisma to win over enemies and make them allies, he has the gravitas to deliver the eulogy for all those that died fighting the White Walkers. That was a great soliloquy. It’s like George R.R. Martin channeled William Shakespeare— in modern English — for that one.
We have to wonder though: did Jon Snow align himself too closely with Daenerys Targaryen to ever be trusted by all those people again? He unflinchingly threw his support behind the Dragon Queen over and over again — against the wise counsel of his Stark sisters.
The Lannister soldiers threw down their weapons, the bells sounded, they surrendered to Jon Snow and the northern soldiers, Grey Worm and the Unsullied, the Dothraki.
Until Daenerys and her dragon, upon hearing the bells, rose into the sky and began laying waste to King’s Landing. Not just the Red Keep, but thousands of innocent non-combatants, men, women and children. Burned to death by Drogon, or raped and murdered by the rampaging invading forces.
All Tyrion Lannister could do was watch in horror. Same with Jon Snow, who saved one woman from attack by a northern soldier.
Caught in the maelstrom? Sandor, “The Hound” Clegane and Arya Stark. When the guard at the camp surrounding King’s Landing asked who she was, Arya replied, “I am Arya Stark and I’m going to kill Cersei Lannister.”
As the Dragon Queen leveled the city about them the Hound and Arya rushed to the Red Keep so they could finish their business. Arya to kill the Lannister Queen, Sandor to kill his big brother, Sir Gregor The Mountain. With the Red Keep all but a pile of rocks, Sandor stops Arya and tells her the realities of a life built on revenge. She will end up like him; a loathsome figure, full of anger and spite, unable to enjoy even the most fundamental of pleasures.
Being a badass warrior, becoming an assassin, has saved Arya to this point, but is it time to put all of that behind her? Cersei is surely dead, or very nearly, so there’s no point, no reason, for Arya to continue a life of revenge. As she makes her way out of the demolished castle, the seat of the Iron Throne, she turns one last time to Sandor Clegane and says, “Thank you.”
Is it revenge that fills her heart when she comes to in the middle of the destroyed city, covered in dust and blood? Maybe it’s a sense of justice and duty, those same feelings conveyed by Lord Varys. She sees the thousands of innocents dead, many of them burned by the dragon and thinks of the one who is responsible for this carnage.
The Hound can now satisfy his revenge as he confronts his brother, The Mountain, descending a crumbling staircase with the defeated queen and her maester, Qyburn. He knows the end is coming for all of them, especially after Sandor kills the last remaining mortal guards. But his end is unexpected. Qyburn gave life to Sir Gregor, so to die at the hands of his unholy creation is a shock to him — and poetic justice.
Cersei creeps around The Hound who then attacks his undead brother. There’s will be an epic battle: a mortal man against a beast that has been given the ability to survive most any form of death. Most, but not all. Sandor has overcome his fear of fire.
It is over for Cersei. She is finally alone with no one for protection or comfort, in a home that is crumbling around her. Until Jaime appears. He takes Cersei to the catacombs in hopes of using a secret entrance out of the Red Keep. Their final moments of life are tender, filled with love and dammit, we feel happiness as the two get to end their lives re-affirmed in their love for each other. It was the one true and lasting love story in the whole damn show.
Once again it is Tyrion Lannister who makes this one last moment possible, when he defies his queen and frees his brother who has been captured by the Targaryen forces.
“You were the only one who didn’t treat me like a monster,” Tyrion tells his brother, before they hug each other for the last time.
Daenerys told Tyrion that if he failed her again, it would be the last time. The dwarf has signed his own death warrant.
Everyone we wanted dead at the end of season 1 is gone. What we saw coming in the previous seasons happened and what is left is a profound sense of sadness. The end of the final war feels nothing like the defeat of the Night King and his zombie army.
I don’t watch the zombie shows on AMC, nor do I see zombie movies. They’re stupid. But how I was suckered into it by Game of Thrones. I have resisted using the term, but there it is. But this was not a show about zombies so I can compromise. Especially now that all the zombies are finally, once and for all, dead.
Will this once again be the end of dragons? Drogon had his way with Euron Greyjoy’s fleet, and Euron Greyjoy met his end trying to slay the King Slayer. Drogon destroyed the ramparts of King’s Landing, making a way for the Unsullied and Dothraki to enter the city to destroy the Lannister army.
Can a dragon be trusted after what it did to King’s Landing, after the bells had tolled? What is Jon Snow’s connection to Drogon? There is one, we saw it in several episodes.
With one, long episode remaining, we shall find some answers. Who finally lives and dies, what becomes of Sansa?
Many parts of the Seven Kingdoms are untouched by the war, prosperous places and institutions, like the Iron Bank, the House of Black and White and Dorne, which had seen its prince murdered and then his murderer killed be Cersei. “Before the Seven Kingdoms, before the Iron Throne, there was Dorne.”
The Citadel has stood for thousands of years, writing and collecting books written by thousands of maesters through time. All the wisdom of the ages can be found in the Citadel. We remember the Grand Maester’s words to Sam Tarly: life will continue, it always does because life-threatening entities and armies have their limits.
In the next and final episode of the show, we will find out the limits on Daenerys of the House Targaryen, the First of Her Name, The Unburnt, Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men, Queen of Meereen, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Protector of the Realm, Lady Regent of the Seven Kingdoms, Breaker of Chains and Mother of Dragons.” Well now she appears to be the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, not the Lady Regent.
Arya, the hero of Winterfell, is still out there and she is not happy. Arya has probably contacted her sister, the smartest person she knows. One thing feels certain: the reign of Daenerys Targaryen will be short. A murderer of innocents cannot rule, not after what the world of Essos and Westeros have been through.
Episode Six should be epic.
This isn’t the end though. HBO is planning a prequel starring Naomi Watts. When you have a hit that’s coming to its end, create spinoffs.
Photos courtesy of HBO
Tim Forkes started as a writer on a small alternative college newspaper in Milwaukee called the Crazy Shepherd. Writing about entertainment issues, he had the opportunity to speak with many people in show business, from the very famous to the people struggling to find an audience. In 1992 Tim moved to San Diego, CA and pursued other interests, but remained a freelance writer. Upon arrival in Southern California he was struck by how the business of government and business was so intertwined, far more so than he had witnessed in Wisconsin. His interest in entertainment began to wane and the business of politics took its place. He had always been interested in politics, his mother had been a Democratic Party official in Milwaukee, WI, so he sat down to dinner with many of Wisconsin’s greatest political names of the 20th Century: William Proxmire and Clem Zablocki chief among them. As a Marine Corps veteran, Tim has a great interest in veteran affairs, primarily as they relate to the men and women serving and their families. As far as Tim is concerned, the military-industrial complex has enough support. How the men and women who serve are treated is reprehensible, while in the military and especially once they become veterans. Tim would like to help change that reality.