What do we want out of the end of HBO’s Game of Thrones?
For years, if I’ve thought about that question, my answer has been simple: I want a) the secrets at the show’s center to be satisfyingly revealed, b) Jon Snow to defeat the White Walkers, and c) Daenerys to ride in on a dragon and take over Westeros. Right? She’s awesome, he’s awesome, that would be awesome, that’s clearly the whole point of the show. What an ending!
But through this sixth season, it’s become less clear to me that such an ending would be happy or even satisfying. Is Daenerys any good at ruling people? If current plans come to fruition, Westeros is looking at a dragon queen on the Iron Throne, thousands of Dothraki roaming the fields, and scores of Ironborn ships floating off the coast. Doesn’t seem like a recipe for domestic peace and prosperity, really.
But of course, what could a happy, or even satisfying, ending look like for a show whose central themes are so dark? Power corrupts. All men must die. The night is dark and full of terrors. What is it I actually want out of Game of Thrones? What would I find satisfying at the close of this epic (leaving aside the tits and dragons I’m sure to get)?
It turns out that despite the show’s title, I don’t really care that much about the game of thrones. I care about the characters. I care about reunions for characters who mean something to each other: The on-the-next–Game of Thrones encounter between Jaime and Brienne; Arya’s reunion with Jon, should it ever happen; Tyrion reuniting with Bronn. And I anticipate meetings between characters who I think would throw off sparks together: I want Arya to find out that Tyrion is an all-right dude. I want the Hound to meet Daenerys and cast a skeptical eye on her human-rights campaign. I want Tormund to swing a sword side by side with Grey Worm.
So. Here’s my wish. This is not a prediction or a fan theory—there’s no way this is actually how the series will end. It’s just what I would enjoy most of all. Remember the end of Angel? Our four remaining heroes, united in a rainy alleyway in Los Angeles, facing the legions of hell with no hope of survival but plenty of esprit de corps? A few quips, the fight is joined, and cut to black.
That’s basically what I want from Game of Thrones. Winter is coming, guys, and the lesson of Westeros is that death comes for us all. I don’t care about seeing armies of Dothraki or Knights of the Vale or wildlings fighting the wights. I want to see the best characters team up and face insurmountable odds. Give me a superteam: Jon, Arya, Sansa, Daenerys, Tyrion, Grey Worm, Bronn, Yara, Dolorous Edd, the Hound. Sam? Sure. Jaime? Maybe. Brienne and Tormund, giggly and postcoital, faithful Pod at their heels. Two of the three dragons. (Not the jerk dragon who ate that poor shepherd’s kid.) They all gather in Mole’s Town, grab an ale, laugh together about the horrible thing that happened to Ramsay Bolton. Then they strap on their swords, hike a mile or so north, and meet the armies of the dead. High fives all around. Tyrion gets the last word. Cut to black.
Dumb? Yes. Juvenile? Extremely. It’s imaginary fan service, this ending, for a show that has reveled in giving the audience precisely what they don’t want. As it happens, I am somewhat more confident in the ability of George R.R. Martin and the HBO showrunners to craft a surprising, memorable finale than I am about most storytellers. But just in case they come up empty, they can use my stupid ending. I’d watch that.