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One Year Later​: revisiting the Game of Thrones finale


Next month will be one year since the Game of Thrones series finale polarized audiences across the world. Many hated the finale before it even aired because of what happened in the previous episode. (If you’ve somehow forgotten, Daenerys went all Mad Queen on King’s Landing and burned that sucker to the ground.) The finale did have its defenders, though. At the time, I was fairly disappointed with the final season as a whole, mainly because I viewed the Night King as the series’ ultimate foe. Not Cersei Lannister. But time has past and the wounds have healed, so I thought it might be a good idea to revisit how it all ended and see where my feelings land today.

I’m a big fan of the concept of series finales in general. The idea that a show, either popular, long-running, or both, gets to wrap up their story is a beautiful thing, as opposed to being cancelled and never getting to give its characters a proper send off. Of course, when I love a show it pains me to see it end, but it’s selfish to force something to go on just because I want it to. That’s when stories get stale. Some of the most powerful finales are when shows decide to call it quits in their prime rather than drag on for several more unnecessary seasons.

When judging a finale I mainly look at two things. 1) The story’s climax and whether everything they’d been building towards was satisfying. And 2) What kind of place the characters are left in once the credits start rolling. In a weird sort of meta way, the story really doesn’t end when the show ends. Obviously characters’ lives don’t stop just because the show stops. They keep on living, and a finale gives us an idea as to what that life will be like without us watching.

So where does that leave Game of Thrones? On the climax side of things it was a bit of a painful letdown. It wasn’t that I disliked the way it all played out, with Jon having to kill the woman he loves (who just happened to be his aunt) and the dragon burning down the throne before flying off with her body. After such a brutally unforgiving episode of fire and death, this subtle act was contrastingly quiet yet just as dramatic. But it denied fans the true clash of hero and villain that we’d been waiting for all this time. Instead, it cast the role of villain onto a hero we’d been rooting for, and I was left unsatisfied because of it.

That leaves the second half of my finale metric: where the characters were left off. As time goes on, and the specific details of the finale fade from memory, the biggest point I’m left with is that Bran is king with Tyrion as his Hand. Yes, we can go and on about all the other characters but this is the one that stuck in my mind the most. Why? Because of the show’s title: Game of Thrones. It’s a game, and if you had told me that the crippled boy who was tossed out the window in the very first episode would win it…I wouldn’t have believed you. And the thing is…he wasn’t even playing. And that’s kind of the point. Everyone who was playing ended up dead. Bran even said it himself that he didn’t want it. And Tyrion was the one who gave it to him. Tyrion. The lewd, obnoxious, drunken dwarf who outlived every member of his family made the case for a crippled to be king and (as a punishment) was placed to serve by his side. It’s poetic justice at its finest.

So while Game of Thrones might have let me down in a number of ways, it was this final act that salvaged some of that for me. I wasn’t happy that Dany burnt it all down, but it looks as if hope rose from the ashes. And that will have to be good enough for me.

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