This is it.
An end of an era.
Are you thinking about it? The realization that one of the most watched series in TV history is now over can bring about random bursts of heartaches and withdrawal symptoms. In this case, however, we can’t say there has been much sorrow as it has disappointment.
It’s no surprise that Game of Thrones has left its many fans distressed and, for a lack of a better term, “completely pissed” with the ending. I can hurl my opinions into the same traffic and talk about the final season for days. However, I want to instead revisit a previous article I wrote about our four badass women of royalty in Westeros left standing and how they would impact the tides of the game in season eight.
Now that the series is over and we know their fates, we can go over the things we surmised that came to pass and those that went out the window entirely.
As always, let’s first start with the WINS!
Sansa Stark, Finally A Queen!
Tension Between Two Royals
Of all the things that went wrong, there was one main arc that managed to do things right – give Sansa Stark the crown in the North. She deserved the title for as long as we can remember, but it was more relevant once she started to take charge like a boss in season seven and eight. As I predicted in my previous article, Dany’s arrival to Winterfell definitely sparked serious tension between her crew and the North, particularly with Sansa. I’m going to say it again – it’s a damn shame that the media enjoy pitting two powerful women against each other, because Sansa and Dany would have been great co-leaders in their own right, using their combined wit and forces to bring down Cersei. But that is a rant for another day.
Back to the tension – it wasn’t pretty. In fact, it turned Sansa into a little tattle-tailing rat. We love that she has learned to play the game and be more of a Northern leader than her brothers, but having to see her reveal Jon’s Targaryen line to bring Dany’s downfall has brought mixed receptions. For one thing, the North could be a little more grateful that their foreign allies helped to save their home from the Night King, but then again, this show is anything but peachy-keen bonding. This season wasn’t really Sansa’s glowing moment. Even in the Battle of Winterfell, she remained in the crypts, dropping facts and not using the knife her sister gave her (seriously, why did they delete her and Tyrion’s tag-team attack a White Walker scene?).
Playing The Game Like A Boss
However, she has been one of the very few who made any practical sense in a season that butchered everyone’s intelligence and development for some reason. It was nice to see her be reunited with old faces – not just Tyrion but the Hound – and have them point out that she is truly a survivor, a ‘little bird’ no longer. In the end, she has shifted the game by rising above all her abusers and other Iron Throne-hogging enthusiasts to make the North an independent nation after thousands of years. All the die fell in her favor at the right time, with Bran becoming the new king of the six kingdoms and allowing their family to finally have rights!
And then the shining moment – the sweet Stark montage of all the siblings (minus Bran) walking to fulfill their place to the beloved Stark theme, and Sansa – in her weirwood leaf-adorned coronation gown – being crowned the first Queen of the North! Yes, I definitely got chills. All and all, if there is anyone who ultimately and deservingly won the game of thrones, it was definitely Sansa Stark.
Arya Stark, Pretty Much The Hero of Everything
Yes, I said it
Oh what, Arya Stark saving the entire world by being the sneaky little assassin with a brain? It’s more likely than you think! In fact, who even saw that coming? Hardly anyone expected her to be the one to finally finish off the Night King, even though at the end of the day, she was definitely the most qualified and logical choice!
Let’s talk about the fact that when I wrote my previous article, I had absolutely no idea that Arya was going to play a main role in changing the game this season. All my words about her using her lethal skills to bring down White Walkers here and do some war-efforts there before going for Cersei’s throat can now be eaten raw! It’s interesting how her intro in the season eight trailer made her seem to be a likely candidate to die or meet some kind of doom, when in fact, it was showing the true slayer of one of death’s faces – a.k.a, The Night King.
Arya, the Azor Azhai?
The fact that she was the Prince(ss) that was Promised to end the Long Night could have come off as a surprise to many, but it was also nothing far from logical. She had the most training when it came to being swift, silent, and deadly. Unlike everyone else with a sword, Arya knew how to maneuver without a sound through a library of White Walkers, and apparently even a bunch of the Night King’s henchmen by the weirwood. We saw signs that the Red Woman had a particular interest in her, and had sealed her fate when she pointed out that she would kill those with three eye-colors – one being ‘blue eyes.’ The Lord of Light brought back Beric multiple times, and if it was all to protect Arya in his final moments, then that at least had some significance.
Arya’s whole path being associated to Death being the final enemy came down to her epic act of heroism, and let’s admit it, that scene was badass! But in terms of the other details in the prophecy of Azor Azhai – how it kept referring to either Jon or Dany being the savior with glaring and obvious clues – I guess we are to accept that as a red herring? Game of Thrones, right?
Arya Didn’t Have to Go To King’s Landing
She didn’t, because she ended up not doing what she intended to do at all! Trotting up with The Hound to the gates to finish their intended goals was everything I wanted from this buddy-cop duo, but then immediately after, Arya was told to leave. Having her around just to be caught in the middle of the gruesome destruction of King’s Landing was a move that could have led her somewhere, but it only made her a passive beholder to Dany becoming the new tyrant of a fallen kingdom. I suppose someone had to knock some sense into her brother, but at the same time, what happened with killing someone with green-eyes? Was that just intentionally left out to make a point that prophecies are dangerous things? Or were the writers really starting to slip with their foreshadowing?
Arya came out as the hero we did not see coming. At least I guessed one thing right from my previous article – she would live her life away from Westeros. As much as we want the pack to stick together, going off to explore the unknown West was very in-tune with her character. Yes she had to reject poor Gendry’s marriage proposal and leave him behind (my ship!), but there could not have been a more apt ending for the girl who called herself Arya Stark.
Time for the disappointments
So now with some satisfactory fates being fulfilled behind us, let’s move on to the disappointments! The could’ve, would’ve, should’ve-s…
Cersei, Wait – She Wasn’t the Tyrant Queen?
Where’s Her Focus?
Let me rephrase – yes, she definitely has been the biggest baddie to grace us with her superb villainy above all other grey antagonists, and we’ve seen this from the very beginning. But besides poor Missandei’s execution, and a few sniveling chit-chat with Euron on top of her holy tower about what she plans to do with the dragon queen and her crew, her role this season became so… passive. Cersei just didn’t do much at all? Which is upsetting considering that after the Night King, she was supposed to be the biggest and most highly anticipated focus in the show. And her death – oh yes, let’s not forget how after eight seasons, her long awaited demise fell short of everything we expected and deserved.
Final Threat Where?
From my previous article, I guessed that Cersei was probably going to be the final boss standing, and that bringing Euron’s fleet and the Golden Company to King’s Landing would mean the White Walkers was not the overarching threat (which is a shame because how awesome would it have been to see the dead come to the Red Keep?). With that in mind, the great showdown against Dany and her army should then have been something above any other showdowns we have seen so far – i.e, the Battle of Blackwater Bay, Battle of the Bastards, and The Battle of Winterfell – with two legions going head to head for the last time. I mean, isn’t that what final conflicts are all about?
Instead, we got the quickest and messiest wipeout of the century. Okay fine, we have to consider that all the budget and time had to go into the Battle of Winterfell. Not to mention Dany is just not going to have any mercy now that all her closest and most loyal friends are dead, which at least makes the total head-on offense from one side plausible. But Cersei herself? Clearly she should have moved her witty little fingers more, put her sinister brain to the test just how she did by blowing up the Sept of Baelor and the Tyrell line. As much as gazing from your power-fort like a badass bitch is alluring, it does not do well when it’s just all you get to see in their final season on screen.
Oh, and speaking of gazing, were we supposed to feel sorry for her tears once she saw all her ‘defense’ and confidence be destroyed to smithereens? In one flick of a moment, the tides turned against her completely, but whereas the feeling of well-deserved justice that should have followed every step of her imminent downfall, we instead saw her as the victim to the very end. And yes, this is where her last moments took a frustrating turn.
Before anyone says anything, yes I am aware that the prophecy of the Valonqar – where the ‘little brother’ was more or less supposed to kill Cersei – was not stated in the show. But I have to ask – why? Why deprive the audience of this powerful piece of Cersei’s downfall that could have been both satisfying and melancholy at the same time? The pieces were perfectly placed. Jaime and Cersei reunited among the falling debris. It would have been the perfect moment to prove Cersei’s ambition one last time before Jaime made his peace and (with grief) ended her life for good within the Red Keep. Cue the falling rocks to end him as he wept over her dead body. It would have been a testament to both their relationship and development, while holding true that these two Lannister siblings would die together as they were born.
We did not get that satisfying ending, true, and it still feels like a deceiving move when other great antagonists of the past like Joffrey, Ramsay, House Frey, and Littlefinger got their due ending and made fans rejoice. Nevertheless, the fall of the Red Keep with Cersei and Jaime getting crushed to death in each other’s arms was still poetic enough, showing that Cersei’s own construction became her undoing as she died with the only person who knew every part of her from beginning to end.
Being that this is Game of Thrones, we are constantly provoked to not always rely on the ‘good,’ or see the ‘bad’ as just ‘bad,’ and Cersei has both pulled at our hearts and ignited our rage to the best of her prowess. For that, it’s hard to say if her ending was truly powerful enough or not. Perhaps George R.R. Martin had the same idea for his books. Maybe the Valonqar prophecy is not even about Jaime killing Cersei, but the two of them dying together (thus crushing countless of age-old fan theories).
Cersei Lannister still, without a doubt, changed the game as the tyrant queen we loved to hate, bringing the complex antagonists of any series to a whole new level. It was just disappointing to not see her play an active role in the final season. We can continue to speculate her ending the way we want to, but she deserved a more thorough demise – to go down as the true mad queen whose world crumbled around her due to her own doing rather than be painted as a mere victim of someone else’s madness in her last moments.
Which brings us down to that ‘someone else’ – the one and only…(sniff)…mother of dragons.
Daenerys, Queen of the Ashes, Ruler of Nothing, Victim of Dumb Decisions and Bad Writing….
Let me start off by saying this – I saw it coming. The signs of her slowly succumbing to the dark side of being a complete authoritarian were sprinkled throughout and were bound to get worse. And let’s face it, this is Game of Thrones – were we really expecting her to take the throne and rule all the lands harmoniously for years to come? Especially when her plan to break the wheel has just been to make everyone bend the knee and accept her because of her ancestral right? Definitely not!
However, it isn’t so much as to why Dany’s fate was what it was, but how. The final season forced us to change our allegiance immediately in a blink of an episode. For the first half, seeing Dany becoming increasingly isolated provoked a sympathetic response from many, including myself, and I am a Stark fan all the way. It is not enough to see your closest friends dying in front of your eyes and your loyal advisors turning their backs on you, but then to bring your dragons and army to help the North go against Death himself, only to be ignored for someone else to get the credit – it’s no wonder that her descent to madness looked almost justified.
One can say that Sansa faced the same unsympathetic struggles, but at the end of the day, she was always destined to return home. Dany was trying to be queen in a foreign place entirely – a place that saw her as ruthless as anyone else – and for that she had to pay the ultimate price. Only that the payment seemed undeserved and brutal within the six-episode timeframe we were given.
You Guessed It – The Pacing Sucked
Consider Dany’s journey for a sec, and how she came onto her own by bringing down slavers, abusers, and vile people in power. Being a victim of abuse herself, it’s no wonder that she won the heart of many viewers over the years. To undo that loyalty needed some time and substance. It needed her to do a merciless act to someone closest to her – not Varys who started plotting against her anyway, but maybe Jon or someone close to him – to deliver her final descent before burning down King’s Landing.
Some noted that she should have at least attained the Iron Throne and saw the fruits of her rule go downhill in another season before her demise. It would have defeated that prophetic dream she had seen in an early season with King’s Landing under snow (or as we know now, ash), but some sufficient time to make her slowly deem unworthy would have been ideal. Otherwise, her quick change into the mad queen felt like more of a product of her intense (and justified) grief, rather than the illusions of her destiny cracking away.
Not So Remembered
Nevertheless, the last episode did manage to make her death heartbreaking, with her beloved Jon Snow delivering the tragic stab to serve duty over love, and Drogon crying over her body before burning the Iron Throne (thank goodness!) and flying away with his mother’s body. It just took a severely messy way to get to that point. And the aftermath was not as clean as we would have liked either, with the survivors already discussing the next political move without the audience having time to process that Daenerys was really gone. I do have to bring up constantly that this is Game of Thrones, and somehow the shock of things unfolding beyond your expectations is more important than giving an important character like Dany her due remembrance.
It is a shame that she had to be vilified to the very end. Fans will just have to remember Daenerys as a tragic hero – someone who relied too much on her blood-right and the people around her who didn’t really advise her on the inner politics of Westeros and the North. Maybe even blame the writers and D&D for dumbing down the characters enough to have them start making stupid decisions entirely. Everything I surmised from my previous article went out the window, turning the Mother of Dragons into the final antagonist as quickly as the sword that came down on Ned Stark’s head.
Clearly there are justifiable reasons as to why many fans were left utterly disappointed and robbed with the ending of Game of Thrones. The pacing this season fell short immensely, concluding a popular franchise in a way that left mixed feelings and less-than-satisfied reactions. Even now I can argue whether the way our four badass women of royalty attained their fates were truly justified, but in the end, their fates alone were believable. The bittersweet ending we were promised made its point. Let’s just hope George R.R. Martin gets there better in his books.
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Featured image credit: HBO