Game of Thrones is over. The tyrant is dead, the king by right exiled, a new king installed by acclamation, and now life in Westeros returns to the business of rebuilding ships and brothels rather than destroying cities.
We know fans aren’t happy. A glance at the Game of Thrones Twitter hashtag during the screening was brutal, but the thrust of their anger was, ‘This is lousy. I’ll never watch anything HBO again’.
The train of thought should have been, ‘Here’s what show runners Messrs Benioff and Weiss should have written.’
I watched the Game of Thrones finale again after the morning viewing. Free from the sun’s glare and the din of Twitter, it was quite satisfying. Things ended as they should have, more or less.
There were annoyances and narrative missteps but in the broad, fans got what they needed – closure – if not what they wanted.
Firstly, what worked?
Tyrion the kingmaker: Making ‘The Imp’ the intellectual and emotional heart of the episode was a long overdue welcome return.
Tyrion confronted and absorbed his sadness at the necessary deaths of his siblings, persuaded Jon to embrace duty over love and navigated his way through the best path to a permanent peace.
Drogon the redeemer: Why didn’t the dragon kill the Queenslayer? Because Drogon accepted the throne killed Daenerys so he destroyed the agent of her death. It was an ‘a plague on both your houses’ moment, and it worked.
Brienne the true: Jaime betrayed Brienne but not because he didn’t love her. He just loved the destructive flame drawing him back to Cersei more. In editing the Kingslayer’s page, Brienne preserved Jaime’s nobility and displayed her own.
Jon the exile: There was a sense of initial frustration over Jon’s fate. The fact he is true heir to the Iron Throne (melted or otherwise) meant nothing? The most important imperative turns out to be not Jon’s succession, but sending him to witness protection on the Night’s Watch?
But Jon knew he would be damned after slaying Daenerys and did it anyway. Since returning from death it has been as if Jon materialised for a purpose. When he served it, there was little option but to return him to a kind of suspended life, albeit one with Ghost trotting by his horse.
Jon might not have won the game, but he didn’t lose it either.
So, what should have changed?
For one, there was another avenue for Brienne to preserve Jaime’s memory that could be manifest in nine months. Perhaps we can reward ourselves by assuming this will happen anyway.
Grey Worm probably needed to be dealt with more permanently. Ser Davos was right in renouncing further violence, but perhaps just once more. Ser Bron is right there with an enhanced suite of responsibilities.
But foremost, the Throne itself.
We’re to accept Bran the Broken should rule because he had the most interesting story? Tell that to the shape shifting assassin who killed the Night King or the man who returned from the dead. Or the man present at every major Game of Thrones conflict who was key to instilling peace.
Maybe it sounds twee, but here was the opportunity for House Lannister and House Stark to unite under one Northern crown. Sansa and Tyrion could have remarried with her as queen and him as consort.
She told him at Winterfell he was her favourite husband, and their marriage would have shown her authority came from her own nature, foresight and strength as a Stark wolf.
What Joffrey intended originally as a cruel joke, Sansa and Tyrion could have embraced from political necessity and maybe even love.
So there it is. A possible pathway from an elegant sufficiency to a food coma in terms of satisfactory series consumption.
One thing I can say for certain, as season eight ended with Jon disappearing into the woods with Tormund I knew I would miss the Game of Thrones violence, pageantry, incest and drama that became a ritual.
But was the fact that Jon rode into the sunset surrounded by wildlings a clue of another chapter to come? The stars still need to work. Let’s take a breath, break out the boxed set of Rome, and live in hope.