In the end, nobody sits on the Iron Throne. Forged by a dragon and destroyed by a dragon. Daenerys never got a chance to take her place on the throne as queen, as her lover/nephew/murderer, Jon Snow, listened to his conscience and the advice of Tyrion, putting an end to her reign before it even started. For all of the complaints about Daenerys in this season, this seemed to be the fate she deserved after taking out the entirety of King’s Landing.
So from Robert Baratheon to Joffrey Baratheon to Tommen Baratheon to Cersei Lannister to Daenerys Targaryen and finally to ... Bran Stark. (That list does not include Stannis Baratheon, who never sat on the Iron Throne but technically was the true king and I will continue to believe that forever.) “Game of Thrones” wraps with Bran the Broken starting his reign over the Seven — make that Six — Kingdoms. Sansa Stark takes what’s hers, Tyrion introduces modified democracy to Westeros and Jon Snow goes to where he truly belongs and takes Ghost with him, thank the Lord of Light. It’s the last one of these ever, so let’s get to it.
Jon Snow does what needs to be done; the death of Daenerys
Daenerys burned down King’s Landing, but her rampage isn’t over. Grey Worm, who has taken after his queen and become a remorseless killing machine, is set to execute a bunch of King’s Landing prisoners over the protests of Jon Snow; Grey Worm says that the war isn’t over until the queen’s enemies are defeated. “How much more defeated do you want them to be?” wonders Davos. Grey Worm answers that question by slitting the throat of a prisoner as Jon and Davos go off to find Daenerys and see if she can be reasoned with.
Before they find her, Dany emerges to address her subjects for the first time as queen. She thanks the Dothraki for keeping all their promises. “You killed my enemies in their iron suits. You tore down their stone houses. You gave me the Seven Kingdoms.” Drogon emphasizes her words with a mighty roar, while Jon does his “this doesn’t seem right” look. Dany names Grey Worm her Master of War and proclaims the Unsullied the liberators of King’s Landing. Dany promises to “liberate” lands from Winterfell to Dorne, from Lannisport to Qarth to the Summer Isles (Drogon should have done a Howard Dean scream here).
Tyrion interrupts Dany’s “Westerosi carnage” speech and she’s none too happy to see him. She accuses him of treason for freeing Jaime, and Tyrion counters with the fact that she slaughtered a city. Tyrion rips off his Hand of the King brooch and sends it flying down the staircase before being taken prisoner. More cutaways to Jon, more flashes of his “I know this is wrong, but will I actually do anything about it?” face. Dany walks away after a brief stare down with Jon, and all of a sudden Arya is next to him because that’s just what Arya does. “She knows who you are,” Arya tells Jon. “You’ll always be a threat to her. I know a killer when I see one.”
Jon visits Tyrion in his holding cell, but he brings no wine and also has bad news about the lack of afterlife, and he’s the only one who can speak with authority on the subject. Tyrion decides oblivion is the best he can hope for seeing as how he strangled his lover (Shae had double-crossed him, but that was still a very painful scene to watch), shot his own father with a crossbow (while he was on the john, no less) and also betrayed his queen. Jon can’t justify the actions of Daenerys but is hoping that now that the war is over, she will change.
“Varys was right and I was wrong. Her nature is fire and blood,” Tyrion says. Jon makes a half-hearted effort to defend Dany — she saw Missandei beheaded, her dragon shot down, she was bound to act out — but Tyrion has an easy way to counter these weak excuses. “Would you have done it?” Jon claims not to know, but he knows. “It doesn’t matter what I’d do,” Jon says. “It matters more than anything,” Tyrion responds, and the message is delivered but not quite received. “It’s a terrible thing I’m asking. It’s also the right thing,” Tyrion says. “Do you think I’m the last man she’ll execute?” When Jon still refuses to accept what he must do, Tyrion knows what will work and invokes Jon’s sisters, and how likely they will be to bend the knee, and what might happen when they refuse.
The King’s Landing throne room has, like pretty much every other room in any dwelling in King’s Landing, been reduced to rubble. But the Iron Throne itself is still a beautiful sight for Daenerys, who places her hand on it and feels the rush of power, the fulfillment of her journey. All that time spent going from Vaes Dothrak to Qarth to Astapor to Meereen … she finally has her prize. Jon finds her in the throne room. She’s beaming and reminiscing about childhood stories about the Iron Throne, but he interrupts the trip down memory lane by confronting her about the continued killings taking place in the city. He also asks her to forgive Tyrion, but she refuses, even if she does show a little humanity in that refusal. Dany has become a conqueror and a killer, but it doesn’t seem quite right to call her the Mad Queen at this point. Her actions are perhaps repugnant, but they are calculated.
Her love for Jon seems sincere, and she wants him to break the wheel — that repetitive cycle of tyranny — with her. “You are my queen,” he tells her before a deep makeout session that is followed by a deeper stab right through her heart. There are no final words for Daenerys. Blood trickles from her mouth as Jon holds her and she takes her last breaths. Jon Snow, ever the Stark, took things into his own hands and carried out the sentence himself.
Before Jon can get too distraught, he has to deal with the immediate fallout of his actions, which makes itself known in the shape of one very large dragon. Drogon’s attempts to rouse Dany are unsuccessful, and he lets out a great roar, one which Jon thinks might be the last thing he hears. But Drogon’s target isn’t Jon, it’s the Iron Throne itself, which he manages to melt entirely before staring down Jon and then simply scooping up Daenerys and flying away. And that’s our farewell to Khaleesi; Mother of Dragons; Daenerys Stormborn; Breaker of Chains — a lifeless body whisked away in the claw of a dragon.
Bran the Broken, eh?
Before we get to the person who will sit in whatever will replace the Iron Throne, there’s the matter of how the news of Dany’s murder was handled. Mainly the question of how anyone knew Jon killed Dany. Did everyone see Drogon take off and just assume the worst? We can bet that Jon confessed to his act of regicide, but are we really to believe that the Unsullied and Dothraki didn’t just tear the city to shreds even more after finding out their queen was murdered?
And then there was what followed in the dragonpit, where Tyrion — still a prisoner, in handcuffs — leads a “Seinfeld” finale-esque group of characters in a roundtable discussion on who should be the kingdom’s next ruler. (Edmure Tully is Bania and Robin Arryn is the Low Talker who made the puffy shirt.) The great lords of Westeros are all there, and yes that does include the aforementioned Edmure and Robin. It’s a good thing we got to see them one more time. (Actually, I guess it was kind of heartening to see Robin Arryn existing as a mostly functional adult. That was certainly not a given.)
The assembled superdelegates of Westeros begin their decision-making process with some sniping, mostly the Starks against the rest. Arya stares down Yara, Sansa warns Grey Worm to stop making threats on Jon Snow’s life. Edmure Tully takes it upon himself to give the first speech of the gathering and Sansa takes it upon herself to mercifully cut that speech short with a brutal three words: “Uncle, please sit.”
Samwell Tarly has the radical suggestion of letting the people decide, which gets a good chuckle from everyone and even the suggestion that maybe dogs should vote as well, which would probably poll in at least the low 30s if Quinnipiac called 1,000 people this week. Tyrion dismisses a suggestion that he should rule, since half the people hate him for serving Daenerys and the other half hate him for betraying her. He says he’s had nothing to do but think these past few weeks (so that tells us how long it’s been since Jon killed Dany, and how long the realm has been without a protector). Nothing in the world is more powerful than a good story, and who has a better story than Bran the Broken? The boy who fell from a high tower and lived, he knew he’d never walk again so he learned to fly, he is our memory, the keeper of our stories, etc. it sounds like Michael Buffer introducing the defending middleweight champion of the world.
Sansa chimes in with the strong points that Bran has no interest in ruling and that he can’t father children, which is the polite way of saying — wait, out of the three surviving Stark children you aren’t choosing the one whose tactical decisions have led to multiple battle victories, or the one who saved every living person by killing the Night King, but instead the one who sits around inspiring people to ask, “Is everything all right with that kid?”
Tyrion argues that it’s a good thing that Bran can’t have children — the one-term promise is a feature, not a bug; he will have no son and therefore no stupid son to inherit the throne and torment his people. And he will be the first ruler to be chosen in the new way — all of the most privileged lords and ladies of Westeros will decide who gets to serve the realm from here on out. Hooray for some modified version of democracy.
Everyone is unanimous in accepting Bran the Broken as their new king — everyone, that is, except Sansa, who we can all agree is much more deserving of the gig. She politely informs Bran that while she’s very sure that he’ll be a good king, the North will be seceding so Bran’s job just got a lot easier — only six kingdoms to rule. Bran chooses Tyrion to be his Hand, much to Tyrion’s chagrin. No amount of strategic blunders or traitorous behavior will ever stop Tyrion from continuing to land important jobs.
Besides Tyrion, the new small council includes Bronn (Master of Coin), Davos (Master of Ships), Brienne (Kingsguard), Samwell (Grand Maester) with a few TBDs on Master of Whisperers, Wars and Laws. Bronn wants to rebuild the brothels, Davos wants to correct everyone’s grammar, and Bran just wants to get away from the meeting and go do some warging to try to find where Drogon has flown off to. It seems like Westeros will be in great hands.
Jon Snow goes beyond the wall
For the crime of killing the queen, Jon gets the lenient sentence of heading back to Castle Black and the Night’s Watch. Tyrion delivers the news to him while Jon wonders if what he did was right. “Ask me again in 10 years,” Tyrion advises. Jon says his goodbyes to his family before riding north to the Wall, where he’s greeted by two friends once he arrives — Tormund and Ghost. And yes, Jon pets that good boy, which means we’re down to 194 things to complain about in the past six episodes.
Jon’s stay at Castle Black is a short one, as he heads off with Tormund, Ghost and the rest of the free folk to live beyond the Wall. It’s not the Iron Throne that some had envisioned for him, but perhaps it’s more appropriate. Jon’s time spent beyond the Wall with Mance Rayder and Ygritte was arguably the truest version of Jon that we saw. A Targaryen by nature, a Stark by nurture, but a free folk in his heart.
The Queen in the North
Maybe this was the best outcome for Sansa, too. She gets to be a beloved ruler of her native kingdom and knows that her brother will leave her be. She doesn’t have to deal with the continued fallout from Daenerys’s murder and she never has to worry herself with what’s going on in, say, Dorne, like Bran will as the ruler of the Six Kingdoms. She’ll forever be a hero in the North for winning back the region’s independence, and now that the White Walkers have been eliminated and the free folk are allies, she can feel safe from all the most serious past threats the North faced. Maybe Bran officially “won” the Game of Thrones, but Sansa will live the best life.
The best of the rest
— Arya is sailing away. She wants to find out what’s west of Westeros.
— Grey Worm is taking the Unsullied back to Naath, which is where he and Missandei said they would go until she was murdered by Cersei and the Mountain. Naath is a peaceful place and they could use some unpeaceful people like the Unsullied to protect their land.
— Brienne took it upon herself to burnish the legacy of Jaime Lannister in the White Book, filling almost an entire front and back page, single spaced, with his deeds of valor. The final line in his entry? “Died protecting his queen.” (And if there was any doubt about the fates of Jaime and Cersei, their deaths were confirmed early in the episode when Tyrion found their bodies in the rubble of the Red Keep.)
— If you’ve been reading these recaps at any point over the past six seasons I’ve been writing them, thank you for that.