What’s up, y’all? I’m coming out of blogging hibernation for a moment to accomplish a couple of goals (1) plug my book again, but (2) to discuss the final season of Game of Thrones, my favorite show of all time.
In a word or two, the ending left a lot to be desired. I’m not alone in that assessment.
I’m going to preface this post by admitting that not all criticism is constructive, nor should the person being criticized have to accept it as such. In my capacity at work, I know the feeling of putting months of time and effort into a project, only to have folks with half my skill spend 10 minutes trying to dissect it. I’m really trying to be careful not to do that here. However, given all the years of diehard allegiance I’ve given to the show, I feel like I’m more than qualified to offer an alternative ending worthy of a show that has become an international sensation.
I won’t get into what the show is about. If you’ve watched it with me, I obviously won’t have to elaborate. And, if you haven’t watched the show at all, I’ve already offered a basic rundown of what it’s about. So, this post will focus on how the show actually ended versus how I think the show should’ve ended. Let the debating begin.
How the show ended:
- After years of build-up, the Night King and his Army of the Dead were practically wiped out in one blow
- Jamie goes back to Cersei. What can I say? Families are complicated.
- Arya’s series-long plan to kill Cersei gets derailed after the Hound makes her self-aware of the lonely path that comes with being revenge-minded.
- Instead, Cersei and Jamie meet their fate by being crushed to death (literally and figuratively) by their crumbling empire.
- After witnessing Danaerys rise from nothing to being one of the most powerful people in the known world, a few significant losses on her end lead her down the path to becoming the Mad Queen, just like her old man. Again, complicated families and such.
- Jon, realizing Dany’s turn toward the darkness, kills her.
- A small council of powerful Westeroses convene and decide on Jon’s fate and who the new leader should be. It was decided that Bran’s knowledge of human history makes him a perfect candidate to be King (which he apparently knew would happen all along). Tyrion is his Hand. Winterfell becomes an independent kingdom, lead by now-Queen Sansa.
- As a punishment for regicide, Jon is sent to the Night’s Watch. He basically ignores that mandate and lives happily ever after with the Wildlings beyond the Wall.
- Arya goes from being a badass Faceless assassin to Dora the Explorer.
I know. WTF, indeed. Not the best way to end a story known for having 1000 moving parts.
Now that we’ve seen how the show actually ends, this is how I would’ve written the ending:
The first two episodes leading up to the Battle of Winterfell were fine and would stay as is. Dany arriving in Winterfell with Jon and her army. The unwelcome reception she received from the Starks, among others. Jon’s reunion with Arya. Jamie’s redemption arc playing out. All of that was fine. I’d probably include a battle at sea, where Yara finally avenges herself and the Ironborn by killing Euron. Something to wrap that story up.
But where I would’ve deviated significantly would be in episode 3, the start of the Battle of Winterfell. First off, instead of the Night King (NK) and his army being defeated (by Arya, no less), he would’ve won that battle, forcing everybody to retreat. That would then leave Arya to serve not as the one responsible for killing the NK, but as a protector and escort for the women and children fleeing from Winterfell (side note: being holed up in the crypt didn’t make any sense whatsoever. But if the writers absolutely insisted on them hiding out there, it would’ve been cool for Arya and Sansa to have to come across mumified versions of Ned, Catelyn, Lyanna, etc. Talk about an emotional scene). Theon would’ve still stuck around to defend Bran, who was using his greenseeing ability to go back in time for clues on how to defeat the NK. As the NK arrives (after being bested in a dragon fight against Dany and Jon), he moves in to kill Bran. Theon tries valiantly to protect Bran, but is overpowered and is eventually killed by the NK. Right before the NK closes in on Bran, Jon Snow jumps in, engages in an epic sword fight and ultimately ends up stabbing the NK with dragonglass. But, to the surprise of everyone, the NK is unharmed. He’s apparently impervious to dragonglass. As he picks Jon up by the throat to kill him (the same way he actually did with Arya), Dany swoops in to attack the NK with her dragon (or, heaven forbid, we finally get to see Bran warg into a dragon). Fire is also useless against the NK, but the distraction gives Jon and Bran enough time to make their escape with Dany on Drogon. Everyone flees to Kings Landing with Winterfell being overrun.
Once at Kings Landing, Cersei offers refuge for the Northerners along with reinforcements from her army and the Golden Company, but only if Jon and Dany publicly bend the knee. Begrudgingly, they comply. As the Army of the Dead descends on Kings Landing, they give the combined forces of the North men, the Wildlings, the Unsullied, the Dothraki, the Lannister Army, and the Golden Company a challenge. And just when it looks like the NK is going to win for good, Bran finally emerges from his greenseer trance. In his vision (plus, using all the symbols as clues. And maybe confirming with the other red priestess who was only seen once before), he realizes that the NK’s life force is tied to the wierwood tree where he was created by the Children of the Forest. It was concluded that if you destroy that tree, the NK would be destroyed. Unfortunately, though, destroying the tree would consequently also nullify any magic as well…including Jon Snow’s resurrection by the Lord of Light. Dany is naturally conflicted because this could mean the death of Jon, her lover AND her unborn child’s father (um, yeah. In this story, Danaerys is pregnant). She wants to try other options. But Jon believes Bran’s vision and being the kind of person Jon is, he chooses to sacrifice himself for the good of the realm. As Dany heads back to the tree with Jorah (who, at this point, hadn’t been killed in the Battle of Winterfell) the NK (who has been following the plans, since he’s tied to Bran) is waiting for her. A fight ensues between the NK and Jorah. Jorah falls. Dany, angry and sad over losing Jorah, shouts “Dracarys” as a sign for Drogon to burn everything around them including herself, the NK, and the tree. Both she and the NK are unharmed in the fire, but the tree is destroyed. This leads to the disintegration of the NK and the Army of the Dead, but Jon also falls dead where he stands (he’s still in Kings Landing where he was fighting the Army of the Dead).
Now, moving on the Cersei storyline (which is actually happening at the same time as Dany’s conflict with the NK). Arya and the Hound make their way through the Red Keep, as they did in the actual production. Jamie has already made it back to Cersei and is making his final plea for her to change her ways. Meanwhile, Arya is sneaking into the castle. She identifies Qyburn as Cersei’s hand (from his pendant), sneaks up on him and quickly kills him. Taking Qyburn’s identity, Arya attempts to move in on Cersei as she is distracted in conversation with Jamie. But, as the wierwood tree is being destroyed by Dany (thus nullifying all of its magic, including that of the Many-Faced God), Arya’s faceless abilities are gone. This leaves Arya openly exposed in front Cersei, Jamie, and the Mountain. The Mountain grabs Arya by the throat (just as the NK did in the original production) and is set to kill her. Just before he does, the Hound jumps in. CleganeBowl happens and plays out exactly how it did. A weakened, but determined Arya still tries to make a move, before Jamie slaps her with his golden hand, knocking her unconscious and allowing Cersei to escape. Stunned both by Arya’s faceless ability and her own near death, Cersei becomes unhinged. She thinks Arya was sent by Dany, thus breaking her gesture of publicly bending of the knee. Paranoid over who else might be in cohoots with Dany, Cersei commands Jamie to “Burn them all” – soldiers, women, children, everybody – with wildfire deposits under the Red Keep. This hearkens back to when Jamie was forced to kill Aegon Targaryen for the same reason. So once again, instead of carrying out the orders of a “mad” ruler, Jamie contemplates stabbing her just like he did with Aegon. But he can’t put himself up to stabbing his pregnant lover/sister, so he opts to mercy strangle her instead. This fulfills the prophecy of Cersei being killed by her younger sibling while also satisfying the “Neck/Fingers” foreshadowing. As for Jamie, after being haunted by the title of “Kingslayer”, he now also finds himself being the “Queenslayer.” Unable to cope with killing his sister, he exiles himself. As he leaves, he tells the previously disabled Arya about his plans to leave; asking her to tell Brienne he was sorry.
With Jon (the true heir to the Iron Throne), the NK, and Cersei all dead, Dany is named Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. As tribute to Jon for sacrificing himself (and as a way to bury the hatchet with the Stark girls), Dany grants Sansa’s request to keep the North an independent nation. Whatever happens to all the other characters is insignificant to the story, so those storylines could play out however.
The last scene is a flash forward. Dany, with her now older son, visits Jon’s statue in the crypt (next to a statue of Ghost). As they walk away, the camera zooms in on Jon’s face, which is chiseled to look almost exactly like him (a nod to when Arya and Sansa mentioned how Ned’s statue doesn’t look like him at all). Fade to black.
There you go! Obviously, that was nowhere near the ending we actually. But, hey. It’s fun to imagine.