Opinion | The Game of Thrones Finale is an Excellent Conclusion to the Series
I remember it clear as day. Exactly one year ago, 05:30 am, the screens blackens for the very last time in a Game of Thrones episode with the HBO static logo while Ramin Djawadi’s beautiful “A Song of Ice and Fire” reaching its crescendo. I remember standing up knowing that a big chapter of my life just ended- it might be a TV show but for many of us it was much more than that. It practically defined many of the things I spent my time doing in the last decade. And gladly for me it finished with a huge sense of satisfaction.
Of course, at first all you feel is emptiness. It takes time to process that thing that was so important to you just finished its run for good. However knowing how tightly everything got concluded- even if it’s not exactly how I wanted or expected- gave a great sense of relief- relief that lasted only a few minutes until I made the mistake of going to the internet and seeing reactions to it. The point of this article is not to make offences to the people that were left dissatisfied with the finale, but to merely present my approach of the episode and why I think it’s one of the best series finales Iv’e ever witnessed.
The episode starts with Tyrion going through the wreckage of King’s Landing, trying to figure out if Jaime and Cersei managed to escape the carnage. If their death scene in the previous episode wasn’t heartbreaking enough, now comes another emotional blow accompanied with the chilling Violin rendition of “the Rains of Castamere” by Djawadi and a brilliant performance by Peter Dinklage, that in part eventually earned him a well deserved Emmy Award. Most people would say Cersei is a purely evil character- yet somehow the creators manage to make her death scene- her and Jaime’s, and the entire event around it- one of the saddest moments of the show, at least for me. Much of it is probably due to the poetic sense in the fact she and Jaime died together in such a horrible way- which bring closure to yet another tragic character in the story. This scene, as the opener of the episode, really gave me a feeling of closure. It served as an amazingly effective mood-setter for the beginning of the episode. Watching Tyrion seeing his brother and sister dead in the destroyed capital made me actually realise this is the end. The story is wrapping up and we are witnessing the consequences of every single scene we followed so closely in the last 8 years.
Some credit must be given to Benioff and Weiss for also directing this episode on top of writing it, that despite not having long experience as directors managed to do an amazing job setting the atmosphere for the finale of the show and directing the aftermath of the destruction of King’s Landing- ultimately giving them their first Emmy nomination as Directors. Jonathan Freeman is the Cinematographer of this episode, and he’s a pretty big name in the industry in that regard. He won several Emmys for shows like Boardwalk Empire and managed to create some beautiful shots and sceneries throughout the episode. During the first half, the wintery presentation of King’s Landing surely gives a dark and hopeless atmosphere that suits the dark turn of Daenerys and the devastative state the realm is in at that moment. However ever since the scene cuts to black after Drogon is carrying Daenerys’ body to the east the colours ‘liven up’ significantly to give the audience the feeling of a dream of spring.
As you probably understood from my mention before, one of the things I like about the most in this episode is Ramin Djawadi’s brilliant score. It is known that the GoT soundtrack isn’t merely background music- but every piece of music tells a story on all it’s own. As the seasons progressed- the familiar themes gradually built alongside our characters while new compositions always found their way into the mix as well. It is only right then, that along with the story coming to a climax so will the music corresponding to it. And in that sense Djawadi absolutely nailed his job and brought his musical story to an end. A good example for that can be one of my favourite scenes from the episode- Daenerys entering the throne room for the first time and touching the Throne. This part is completely without dialogue yet it’s one of the most powerful scenes in the show. This is it. This is what it was always about- the Iron Throne. As Daenerys walks through the destroyed hall a choral version of the main title theme plays calmly- and when she finally achieves her goal and touches the Throne a beautiful musical cue hits that makes you excited about the much-hyped event yet scared about it’s consequences at the same time.
The following scene, Jon killing Daenerys followed by Drogon burning the Throne, in my view serves as the climax of the entire series. The symbolism of Drogon destroying the cause of all the suffering and conflict in the realm for the last couple of centuries was beautiful — led by a magnificent music by Djawadi that in itself feels like a climax to the 8 years long musical journey we’ve been through during the show. For me it’s one of the most emotional scenes in the entire show that brings closure to the most burning conflict in the series, both narratively and symbolically. Everything that comes afterwards is simply epilogue.
This brings me to yet another one of my favourite scenes from the episode, that was dominantly led by the soundtrack. The scene where Brienne of Tarth is writing Jaime’s deeds in the White Book after his death, which served as a beautiful culmination to Jaime Lannister character arc, with music incorporating key elements from “I Am Hers, She is Mine” that was originally featured in Rob Stark and Talisa’s wedding back in season 2- almost as if Ramin married Jaime and Brienne all on his own. In its context, for me this scene might be the most emotionally impactful combination of music and visuals in the show’s entire run. A fitting ending to one of my most favourite characters of the show accompanied with a music that makes you wonder how things could have been different if Jaime hadn’t sacrificed himself to protect his queen.
The only thing even I had a small issue with first upon watching the episode is the choice to make Bran the King of the Seven (now six) Kingdoms. I’m still not 100% at peace with that, but I grew to understand it more as time passed from the story point of view. I guess the reason it resonated strangely on many of us at first was that this, in fact, was the most burning question of the story throughout the entire show, and in traditional terms of storytelling, from a viewer’s point of view, it might feel a little… rather anticlimactic? But when you think about it in the context of the story and nothing else, in the context of why the characters made that choice inside the universe of the show, it makes much more sense.
“Breaking the wheel” was never about replacing a monarch with another one that thought she was better than all the ones preceding her. The realm needed a change. Not another warrior king or queen that won a war to rule over them. Maybe a bunch of nerds sitting around the council table discussing politics, if you will? Bran story’s was never meant to be advertised by Tyrion as the best story for millennial audience of the HBO hit series existing in some parallel universe, but as a good narrative they could sell to the common people and make them rally behind and genuinely support. Maybe even with a touch of some divine supernatural intervention in it, since people seem to always just constantly devour each other if it’s up to them. Like with every other subject in the final season, the conclusion of the game of thrones didn’t try to give the audience payoffs in the traditional terms of storytelling, but rather to stay as true as possible to the humanity and the complexities of the story inside the context of the show.
On the other hand, the character that got perhaps the most fitting ending of them all is Jon Snow. After betraying his Queen and killing her, he was sent to exile north of the Wall. Some thought he was gone off too easily with what he done, and some thought he should have taken the Throne, or whatever left of it. I find the fact that half of the viewers believe he was supposed to take the Throne as the rightful Targaryen heir and find his exile redundant while others believe he should have been completely executed is an exact demonstration as to why they needed to find such a middle ground in finding a solution like exiling him. The seven kingdoms were just as divided about this as the fans. And the fact that no one is happy with this arrangement probably shows it is a good compromise. As for Jon, he never wanted titles and to rule anything, and he said that time and time again throughout the show. I think’s it’s a very fitting end for him to go beyond the Wall, perhaps leading the Free Folk in the footsteps of a character he admired, Mance Rayder.
To be completely honest, the GoT finale spoiled me. In fact, perhaps the entire final season. It’s one of the most controversial entertainment events in recent culture, but the reasons that make it that way is exactly why I find it so special and captivating. When I watched other series finales after watching the GoT finale, even if the episode was amazing and a great wrap-up to the story, something always felt missing. Perhaps it’s good, but it’s not groundbreaking. The GoT finale on the other hand, makes you put the entire show in a different context, and changes your entire perception of the events of the show. If you come open minded, you’ll find the show basically pulling exactly the opposite of what you always expected- in a ways that completely makes sense and connects with all the events preceding it — to a degree that makes you wonder “how didn’t I think of it before?”. We all had high hopes for Jon Snow- perhaps the King on the Iron Throne even, but is there a more fitting ending to his character than leading the Free Folk beyond the Wall, where he always felt he belongs? How could we not see that quietly Sansa beat everyone in their own game, without even lifting a finger? Or that Arya is indeed a free spirit, and she would never marry Gendry and be the Lady of Storm’s End?
In that way, the GoT finale managed to achieve an ending that perhaps raised a few eyebrows, but remained as faithful as possible to the universe and characters of the show, without other considerations getting in the way of logic. Many series finale often try to please their viewers almost completely, and give them a wholesome feeling, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, like the brilliant finale of “Breaking Bad” proves. But the ending of GoT is, in my view, more reminiscent to the ending of “the Sopranos”. It’s unconventional yet incredibly original- and presents concepts in storytelling and show-running that are being seldom done.
Game of Thrones could have easily ended differently. Entire season fighting the White Walkers, Jaime Killing Cersei and becoming a ‘hero’, Jon killing the Night King and taking the Throne, etc. And that would be, without a doubt, a more popular and loved ending among the viewers. But the way I see it, it would have been rather bland. And most of all — betraying everything the show established throughout the years. That kind of ending just wouldn’t work for a show like GoT established itself to be. As Johanna Robinson once mentioned in a podcast, it seems like Benioff and Weiss inserted an extremely meta line in the script of the episode. “Was it right? What I did?” Jon asks Tyrion about their assassination of Daenerys Targaryen. “It doesn’t feel right”. To which Tyrion replies “Ask me again in 10 years”. The ending of the show surely took a lot of brave choices from Benioff and Weiss, some that didn’t seem right to some people at first — and I imagine they already knew it back then. They chose to proceed in this direction nonetheless, and pursue their and Martin’s initial vision. From all the possible ways of ending this story Martin started decades ago, they chose perhaps the less trivial one of them all. Thankfully, they got the recognition they deserve at the Emmy awards, with a Writing nomination for this episode and a record-breaking total of 12 wins for the season, including Best Drama Series.
Personally, I do believe they did the right thing. And I surely hope that 10 years from now more and more people will join me in thinking the ending Benioff, Weiss and Martin chose for the show is exactly the one that keeps all the principles that made the show so unique in the first place. I think that much like the Sopranos’ finale, in years from now time will be kind to the finale of the show, and to the final season as a whole- so that open minded individuals might see the literary beauty in it.