Tyrion, Davos, and Jon meet privately outside King’s Landing to discuss what to do about Dany and Drogon. They agree that she can’t be allowed to rule, but they don’t know how to stop her. Tyrion and Davos tell Jon that his parentage and his claim to the throne put his life in danger, and convince him to flee north to reunite with Sansa, Arya, and Bran in the relative safety of Winterfell. In any case, Tyrion realizes, the people will not accept any other Targaryen on the throne, and now that Jon’s parentage is common knowledge (thanks to Varys’ little birds), it’s a liability, and he cannot rule, either. Davos and Tyrion try to convince Dany that she has created too many enemies with her destruction of the city and that she cannot rule over a kingdom she has just destroyed. They try to convince her to flee south. She accuses them of treason, sentences both to be executed, and makes Grey Worm her Hand.
Sansa wants all the Starks to remain at Winterfell, to take care of one another and the North, and forget this mess ever happened—unless the North is threatened again. Arya wants to go assassinate Dany. Jon wants to return to try to talk Dany into abdicating, but to Sansa or Tyrion, not to him. Bran says smug incomprehensible shit, implying that her rule will not last and that assassinating her will not be necessary. Sansa persuades Jon that if he returns to King’s Landing, Dany will murder him on sight, and she won’t allow another Stark to die out of naïveté. Bran convinces Arya not to go murder Dany with some cryptic message about how he has seen her death and it will come. Back in KL, as Tyrion and Davos are about to be executed, Bran wargs into Drogon, and when Dany says “Dracarys,” Bran-as-Drogon kills Dany and destroys the still-remaining Iron Throne with dragon fire. Bran-as-Drogon flies out of King’s Landing and heads North to Jon, the last Targaryen. The Unsullied and Dothraki are stunned, and first accuse Tyrion of orchestrating this, but he and Davos convince them that they are as stunned as anyone. It’s agreed that no one will take the destroyed Iron Throne but that Tyrion and Davos will preside over the rebuilding of King’s Landing together. Bronn gets a cameo, wherein Tyrion does give him permission to preside over Highgarden. Bronn says he’d rather be Hand of the King or head of the Kingsguard, but Tyrion tells him he is not king; There is no king or queen. Still, he persuades Bronn to stay and help protect and rebuild the city, and to keep Tyrion’s loneliness at bay. With Dany dead, Grey Worm decides that his people do not belong in KL, and he leads the Unsullied and Dothraki back across the narrow sea to rule themselves farther south in peace. Basically, this is how the wheel is broken. The Seven Kingdoms are Balkanized.
Drogon arrives in Winterfell. Jon decides to leave day-to-day rule to Sansa and Brienne and, rather than lead, to basically retire and take care of Drogon, and keep him healthy and protect the North. The penultimate scene shows Sam in the Citadel. He is reading about the first White Walker. And a blanched look crosses his face. Bran is suddenly there too, they look at each other, and Bran says basically, like, “It is happening again.” There’s a smash cut to the Children of the Forest. They approach the body of someone who died at the Battle of Winterfell, or a dead body of someone we know but we thought survived, like Tormund. They do some kinda magic, and they turn him into a White Walker. That’s the end.
First, a disclaimer: I am pretty terrible at predicting what will happen on this show. I somehow convinced myself Bran would warg a dragon. And I thought the battle at King’s Landing would go in a very different, albeit still tragic, direction: “My prediction for this week’s Game of Thrones: Dany destroys King’s Landing and the Red Keep, fulfilling her Season 2 vision, but loses Drogon in the process, leaving her bereft, childless, and without her only real remaining source of authority as a ruler.”
At least I got one part right! With my personal benchmarking out of the way, it seems quite clear that Arya will try to kill Daenerys, given that she literally rode out of the ruins of King’s Landing on a white horse, and Melisandre prophesied that she would close brown eyes, blue eyes, and green eyes (like Dany’s). So one potentially happy-ish ending is that our girl Maisie Williams finds Westeros’ platinum-blond war criminal and assassinates her, leaving Jon the option of claiming the Iron Throne. Jon declines—King’s Landing is in ruins anyway—ending the monarchy. And thus will Daenerys have posthumously broken the wheel.
Or maybe Arya dies in her attempt, and Jon Snow—bereft and enraged—kills Dany, before her dragon lights him on fire (I assume he can burn, right?), thus mercifully leaving Sansa and her witless new husband, Tyrion, to consolidate power.
Or maybe you get a full Stark pile-on, where Arya goes after Dany, Jon decides to seize power after all, and Bran finally wargs the fucking dragon. I dunno.
Also, Bronn and Tyrion have a final drink together.
I can’t tell if this is something I expect to happen or merely hope will happen, but I’m betting the Seven Kingdoms will be no more, by which I mean it will revert from a confederation of small realms to a cluster of them. One of the reasons why Westeros has been so hard to govern and cohere into a unit (e.g., to fight the White Walkers) is that it is a huge swath of land populated by warring clans with their own histories, religions, and, most importantly, sets of grievances. I used to be convinced that Game of Thrones would see the excesses of feudalism inexorably give way to modernity, but that was when I had a lot more faith in the show’s thematic wealth and narrative teleology. What seems most logical now—and the best way to fulfill the promise of “breaking the wheel,” if that’s something the writers even still care about—is for the Iron Throne to crumble because no single individual should hold its power (just as, arguably, no one should be able to direct a dragon to do its bidding). Turning the throne into a MacGuffin would be appropriately bleak: Too many people have died for so little.
Daenerys, fresh off roasting most of the population of King’s Landing, is installed upon the Iron Throne—the melted chunks of it that they can find, anyway. Tyrion attempts one last time to talk sense to her and is executed or exiled. A disillusioned Jon takes off for the North. Queen Daenerys’ plan has worked: She’s feared by the people, and no one openly threatens her rule. But the people murmur: Shouldn’t there be someone better? The lords wonder: Why is this queen in charge? In Winterfell, Sansa weathers the winter and prepares for war in the spring. In Storm’s End, Gendry has advisers whispering in his ear that he should be king. And in the North, who knows what Jon and Tormund will find the Children have been up to?
Bran wargs into the dragon and kills Daenerys with dragon fire, then installs himself as king but still refuses to admit he’s anyone or even has a name. No one knows how to express loyalty or what to do since all he does is stare. Fast forward 24 years and Westeros is an anarchist collective. Bran is still staring.
First, Jon Snow won’t be king. His catastrophically bad judgment in allying his forces to the mass murderer Daenerys has destroyed his claims to leadership, and the news of his Targaryen blood—which Varys succeeded in getting out before being dracarysed—ironically makes it impossible for him to take the throne. If Jon’s a Targaryen, that means there’s an even chance he’ll go mad someday too, and Westeros can’t survive another coin toss.
Dany can’t stay queen either—both because it’s too pessimistic an ending and because she’s no better at ruling now than she was in Meereen. She’s given up on having the people’s love, but she can’t give up on Jon’s. (Remember, this is how I think the show will end, now how it should.) She may be queen, but she’s still alone, and he exploits her vulnerability to get close enough to kill her by doing the one thing he’s never been good at: lying. Arya offers to do the job, but Jon reminds her of Ned Stark’s lesson: He who passes the sentence should swing the sword. But as a traitor and now a queen slayer, Jon is permanently disqualified from ruling, and broken at heart. He abandons King’s Landing and goes to join Tormund and Ghost in wildling country. Sansa rules the North and Tyrion reluctantly takes over what remains of King’s Landing, not as king but as a kind of governor. The Seven Kingdoms are no more, and the Iron Throne stays empty, excavated from the ruins of the Red Keep but left vacant as a monument to the foolishness of believing in rulers.
Get ready for a snoozefest.
Dany and her former allies reconvene outside the ashes of King’s Landing. Jon, Arya, Davos, and Tyrion wear Extremely Uneasy Faces. Dany orders Grey Worm and the Unsullied to search the former Red Keep for the Iron Throne, which turns out to be miraculously unscathed; they bring it to her, and she sits in it. Everyone shudders. Jon, Arya, Davos, and Tyrion meet secretly, late at night, to decide what to do. They decide Arya should kill Dany, but they need to kill Drogon first, because Dany (probably wisely) won’t leave Drogon’s side. Jon accomplishes this by playing on Dany’s remaining affection for him in order to enter her chamber, then poisoning her dragon (maybe by feeding him poisoned sheep?), thereby also symbolically “killing” his Targaryen blood and reconfirming that he doesn’t intend to rule. Then, Arya kills Grey Worm, wears his face to get into Dany’s chambers, and kills Dany. After some solemn handshakes, the remaining allies decide to split the rule of Westeros among them. Jon takes command of the Night’s Watch and disappears North. We don’t get to see him reunite with Ghost, though, because this show is CRUEL.
Although Game of Thrones delights in upending its audience’s expectations, there’s one thing that has remained fairly constant throughout the series: approved methods of capital punishment. Although there’s some room for dragon- or crucifix-based improvisation if you’re a Targaryen, generally speaking, state executions in Westeros follow a set of strict rules:
1. The execution is conducted by beheading.
2. The execution is carried out by the person who passed the sentence, or by an official executioner.
These are sensible rules: Decapitation is quick, unsurvivable, difficult to fake convincingly, and easily verifiable by a large crowd of observers without much need to carefully inspect the bodies. And entrusting the execution to an agent of the state or neutral third party ensures no one with an interest in faking the execution—or making it unnecessarily painful—is involved in carrying out the sentence. And yet the execution of Lord Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish observed none of these norms. Instead of being decapitated by a third party, his throat was slit by Arya Stark, the target of his schemes. Arya, of course, has theatrical training, and all it takes to fake a knife wound to the throat is a little red food coloring and Hershey’s syrup. All of this will play out in the Game of Thrones finale in the following ways:
1. A hard-boiled insurance investigator from the Golden Bank will arrive at Winterfell to investigate Baelish’s death before paying out his “Throat slit by Arya Stark” policy.
2. At a crucial moment, the investigator will reveal to Arya that he believes Baelish may be alive. At EXACTLY that moment, Baelish will appear in the shadows behind him and slit his throat, then raise one eyebrow and make some sort of quip like “Sorry, but the Winterfell Starbucks was out of red food coloring” or “You might say I … dyed,” except hopefully a better version of that.
3. With the military value of bankrupting the Golden Bank reduced to nil by Daenerys’ victory/war crime, and with the Bank already near ruin based on backing Cersei Lannister and insuring the homes of King’s Landing, Baelish, Arya, and Sansa will negotiate a settlement in which Baelish’s payout is voided and no charges are brought for the insurance fraud.
4. At the end of the negotiations, Arya will ask the Golden Bank if Baelish’s policy is still in effect. They’ll say it is, everyone chuckling at the idea that Arya Stark would slit her ally’s throat, but then she’ll slit his throat right in front of the Golden Bank representatives, but for real. Baelish will collapse onto the table, his blood spilling over the settlement contract that will now ruin the Golden Bank, ending the profiteering that has plunged Westeros into war for generations.
5. Arya and Sansa will use the insurance money to build a toboggan resort on what’s left of the Wall.
6. The final scene will be a big dance number set to Kool & the Gang’s 1980 smash hit “Celebration,” as performed by Florence and the Machine.
Game of Thrones fans have been waiting for the show to go through the details of a Westerosi life insurance policy, ideally line by line, since the season premiere. I confidently predict that on Sunday, they’ll finally get their wish.
Ghost and Nymeria survey the rubble of King’s Landing and decide to light out for the territory. On the outskirts of the forest, they run into a man mumbling about being hopelessly late. He is leading a group of elephants.
The Game of Thrones TV Club Recaps Season 8
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