Game of Thrones 8.06

Game of Thrones Series Finale Recap: “Will You Break the Wheel with Me?”

Game of Thrones is over, and I’m sure no one’s happy about it. Those fans who still like the show are sad that it’s over, and the series finale was never likely to change the minds of those who’ve complained all season about how much they hated this last batch of episodes.

Let’s be frank, people in the latter category were never going to be satisfied by anything the finale could possibly deliver. Still, the very understated nature of the episode is bound to be a disappointment for anyone hoping for one last burst of action. The climax of the series happened last week. The last episode is all dénouement.

Ashes, Ashes

King’s Landing is a pile of rubble covered in a layer of ash that continues to drift down from the sky like snow. Charred corpses fill the streets. Tyrion, Jon, and Davos walk through the ruins silently until separating. Tyrion needs to confirm his brother’s fate. On the way to the Red Keep, he walks past the wreckage of the bell that was supposed to signal the city’s surrender.

Jon Snow comes across Grey Worm executing captured Lannister soldiers. He argues that the men should be taken prisoner, but Grey Worm insists that anyone who followed Cersei Lannister must die. Davos has to pull Jon away before he picks a fight. He tells him to go talk to the queen.

The ceiling to the map room in the Red Keep is open to the sky, making literal a vision depicted earlier in the series. Tyrion finds a torch and descends into the basement. He has to climb through some rubble and do a little digging, but soon spots Jaime’s metal hand poking out from between some bricks. Tyrion cries as he uncovers his dead brother and sister.

The Dothraki celebrate their victory while the Unsullied stand at attention, awaiting instructions from their queen. Jon Snow walks through the army and up a large staircase. Grey Worm is already there ahead of him, which makes me think that some scenes got cut from the episode. Daenerys emerges with the mighty Drogon at her back. She gives a victory speech praising her Dothraki and Unsullied, naming Grey Worm her new Master of War, and vowing that “The war is not over” until all the people in the world are liberated from their oppressors. She specifically name-checks Winterfell in the list of territories that need liberating, which makes both Jon and Arya (watching from nearby) particularly uneasy.

In what seems to be very ill-advised timing, Tyrion walks up to Daenerys on the stage. She accuses him of treason for freeing Jaime. He retorts that she slaughtered a city and removes the Hand pin from his jacket, tossing it to the ground. Daenerys orders him taken into custody. Jon cannot believe what he’s seeing. He catches Dany’s eye. She looks angry and walks away without speaking to him.

Jon is surprised to see Arya in the city. He wasn’t aware that she was there at all. She warns him that Daenerys will consider Sansa a threat and treat her accordingly, and likely Jon as well. “I know a killer when I see one,” she tells him.

Jon visits Tyrion in a dungeon cell. Tyrion says that he chose his own fate and doesn’t regret it. He admits that Varys was right: “Our queen’s nature is fire and blood.” Jon still tries to defend Daenerys, but he can’t argue with the truth of Tyrion’s words. Tyrion implores him to kill her for the benefit of all the kingdoms. Jon is of course reluctant. Echoing what Arya had said, Tyrion insists that Jon’s sisters will be next on Dany’s hit list, and insists, “You have to choose now.”

Jon next walks to the remnants of the Red Keep. What looks like a big snowbank outside stirs and reveals itself to be Drogon covered in ash. The dragon gives Jon a sniff and lets him pass.

The throne room has no walls or ceiling (another callback to Daenerys’ vision from a prior season), but the Iron Throne itself is still conveniently intact. Dany smiles as she touches it. She finally won what she has always most coveted. Could she possibly be happy for a moment?

Jon immediately deflates the mood, yelling about the soldiers being executed and dead children filling the streets. Crying, he begs Dany to forgive Tyrion and have mercy on her enemies, but she remains firm. As Tyrion had warned, Daenerys is more certain of herself and the righteousness of her actions than ever. She asks Jon to be with her, to reshape the world with her. “You are my queen, now and always,” Jon defers, embracing her and allowing the kiss he’d resisted the day before.

Jon silently stabs Daenerys in the heart with a dagger. She dies in his arms. The very brief reign of the Dragon Queen ends, not with a battle or a war or even so much as a struggle, but with a moment of quiet inevitability.

Sensing his mother’s death, Drogon roars and flies up to the open throne room as Jon cries over the body. The dragon nuzzles Daenery’s corpse, screams, and charges up its fire breath. Jon stands before the beast, awaiting his fate. The dragon lets loose its blast all around him, furiously torching the room and melting the Iron Throne his mother died for into a pool of molten metal, but lets Jon himself live. Jon staggers in disbelief. Drogon then gently picks up his dead mother and flies off into the distance.

Where the Chips Fall

Tyrion awakens in his cell. Grey Worm comes to fetch him and drags him out in chains, presumably to his execution. For a moment, it seems like this scene takes place immediately after the last one, but Tyrion’s longer beard and disheveled appearance signal a time jump.

The sun is shining. It’s a lovely day. Grey Worm brings Tyrion outside of King’s Landing, to the Dragon Pit arena that last served as the location for the armistice talks between Daenerys and Cersei in the Season 7 finale. Sitting on the stage are a council of kingdom leaders and important players, including Sansa, Bran, Arya, Yara Grejoy, Brienne, Davos, Sam, and a few others. It’s revealed that the Unsullied have held both Tyrion and Jon Snow prisoner since Daenerys’ death. Davos makes an offer to end the standoff by giving the Unsullied a kingdom, but Grey Worm wants justice for his queen. With no new king or queen to replace her, there’s no one to decide how to end the dispute.

Tyrion speaks up. He urges the council to simply choose a new regent right then and there. Sansa assumes that he’d want the position himself, but Tyrion has been humbled by his mistakes and defeats and says that he has no such aspirations.

Edmure Tully (Tobias Menzies), the aggrieved bridegroom from the Red Wedding, stands and begins a rambling speech as if to nominate himself. Sansa cuts him off and tells him to sit his ass down.

In what is almost the biggest eye-roll moment of the series, Sam says that the people of Westeros should have a say in who rules them, and nearly invents democracy by proposing an election. Fortunately, this is quickly undercut when the others on stage laugh him off. Someone scoffs, “Maybe we should give the dogs a vote too!”

Davos asks Tyrion whom he’d pick. Saying, “There’s nothing in the world more powerful than a good story,” Tyrion nominates Bran and lays out a case for why he’s the best choice. The fact that he doesn’t have any interest in being king would make him a fair and impartial leader, and his inability to have children (and thus leave an heir) would be an asset. Going forward, rulers should be chosen not by birth, but selected by the lords and ladies from among the most qualified candidates. It’s not quite democracy, but it’s a step in that direction, and it signals a breaking of the wheel of oppression that Daenerys fought so hard against.

Tyrion casts the first vote. One by one, the others agree, except Sansa, who declares that the North will remain an independent kingdom. Bran accepts. A cheer rises out: “All hail Bran the Broken!”

Bran names Tyrion as his Hand. Tyrion is reluctant to take that role again, but Bran insists that he will spend the rest of his days learning from his mistakes.

Grey Worm is not happy. He still doesn’t have justice for his queen’s murder. As a compromise, he agrees that Jon Snow should receive the traditional punishment for disobedience in Westeros, and will be sentenced to servitude in the Night’s Watch, where he will hold no title and have no family. It seems like a slap on the wrist, but apparently it’s enough.

When Tyrion informs Jon of his punishment, Jon expresses surprise that the Night’s Watch even still exists. Jon also questions whether they did the right thing killing Dany. He’s still torn up about his role in it.

Time for Goodbyes

Grey Worm and the Unsullied set sail for the Isle of Naath, as he had promised Missandei they would.

Jon bids farewell to Sansa, Arya, and Bran with hugs all around. Arya announces that she’s not going back home to the North. She intends to ride to where the maps stop and discover what’s west of Westeros.

Brienne pages through a book with the histories of knights of the kingdom, until she finds Jaime Lannister’s page only half-completed, leaving off at the death of Joffrey and coronation of Tommen. She writes in a few brief and flattering sentences, concluding that he died in service to his queen.

Tyrion readies for a meeting of the Small Council, nervously straightening chairs. He’s joined by Bronn, Sam, and Davos. Sam presents a thick tome called A Song of Ice and Fire which contains the official written history of Westeros by Archmaester Ebros. (If his bid for democracy wasn’t he eye-roll moment of the entire series, this one certainly is.) Tyrion flips through the pages to find out whether the archmaester has treated him flatteringly or not. Bronn lets out a laugh when Sam reveals that Tyrion isn’t mentioned in the book at all.

King Bran enters, accompanied by Brienne and Podrick, who is now a knight. The council briefly discusses the need to name new Masters of Whisperers, Laws, and War. It’s mentioned that Drogon was last spotted flying east and hasn’t been seen since. (Spinoff series potential!) After some other pleasantries, Podrick wheels Bran out. Discussion and some friendly banter then resume among the others on topics such as feeding the people, rebuilding the navy, and (of particular interest to Bronn) reopening the city’s brothels.

Jon Snow rides to Castle Black, which he finds populated by Tormund and the Wildlings. Yes, his direwolf Ghost is also there, and Jon gives him a petting.

After that, it’s montage time. Arya sets off on a boat with a wolf’s head sigil on its sail. Sansa is crowned Queen in the North. Jon and the Wildlings leave Castle Black through the Wall. Some plants are visible sprouting through the melting snow. Spring is coming.

The gate in the Wall closes behind them. Jon, Tormund, and the Wildlings ride off into the woods.

Cue credits. The end.

Questions

Why did Daenerys allow Jon to kill her? Given how betrayed she’d felt by him recently, and how paranoid with everyone she’d been, why would she trust him at the end and allow him so close to her, especially clearly armed? Was her love for Jon so strong that she couldn’t even conceive of him harming her, or (having survived fire on multiple occasions) did she simply believe herself invulnerable to any harm?

Why didn’t Drogon kill Jon? Was it Jon’s Targaryen blood, or the fact that the dragon considered him a friend previously? Or did the dragon, on some level, understand that his mother needed to die?

Did the council straight-up lie to Grey Worm about sending Jon to the Night’s Watch? Clearly, there is no more Night’s Watch, and I’m sure everyone on that stage understood that they were actually allowing him to run off and live with the Wildlings. Was Grey Worm a dupe for believing them, or did he understand as well and simply needed a story he could bring back to pacify the Unsullied?

I don’t necessarily need answers to these questions, nor do I consider any of them to be deal-breakers, but they nag at me a little and I can understand other viewers being more bothered by them.

Episode Verdict

Viewed only as an episode unto itself, the series finale is, I’ll be frank, kind of underwhelming. Not much happens in it, some of the key characters are underserved, and a lot of the resolutions feel pat and tied up too neatly.

However, taking a step back and looking at it as the concluding wrap-up chapter in an epic eight-year-long story, I think it serves its purpose as the falling action. Arya and Brienne, for example, already had their spotlight moments earlier in the season and didn’t really need any big, dramatic last hurrahs. We just had two gargantuan battles back-to-back. Another would be overkill. I consider the quiet nature of Daenerys’ death a strength of the series, not a failing.

I’m not entirely satisfied with everything that happens in the finale, but it sends most of the characters out on fitting grace notes. Perhaps too much so, but I’d rather that than the opposite.

Viewer outcry against this entire season has been practically deafening, and I’ve been dismissive of most of the complaints. It seems that fans expected and demanded an entire season devoted to war with the Night King, featuring one epic battle after another, followed by another season of war against Cersei handled the same way, and then yet another tying up the Daenerys arc. The shortened, expedited nature of storytelling this season has really pissed a lot of people off.

Personally, the prospect of ten episodes of watching soldiers swing swords at CGI skeletons and zombies in front of a green screen would have bored me senseless, and I’m relieved that whole storyline was resolved quickly. Likewise, we had seven-and-a-half seasons of Cersei’s scheming. The point was made. It’s time to finish off the story.

I wouldn’t call it flawless, but by and large I found this to be a very good season that managed to squeeze in some strong character moments amidst some really amazing spectacle. I’m not sure what more I could reasonably ask for.

27 comments

  1. Timcharger

    Josh’s title: “Will You Break the Wheel with Me?”

    Talk about a line that went nowhere. The “wheel” analogy was so misunderstood. Dany breaking the wheel to replace it with her “streamroller” going street by street. Yeah, the populace prefers the wheel if that’s the alternative.

      • Timcharger

        Claiming irony…

        I must have missed the scene where a monster truck rolled over Dany and killed her. Or were they at a swanky casino, and Dany died from a tragic roulette wheel mishap.

        Math teacher: “Sorry Josh, the answer isn’t 13; it’s 10.”
        Josh: “Clearly I was being ironic.”
        🙂

        For your interpretation to be evident and significant in the episode, that Dany became the wheel that she was going to break, that would be some strange metaphoric dialogue for Jon to convey your interpretation:
        Dany (saying to Jon): “Will you break the wheel with me?”
        Jon: “From my perspective, you’re the wheel! And the wheel is about to get punctured!” (Stab!)

        [“From my perspective, the Jedi are evil!” -the great philosopher Anakin Skywalker]

        On a serious note, it was a metaphor that went nowhere. It had no real significance to the episode or the show. But maybe if this fantasy series was called the Wheel of Time?

        • Josh Zyber
          Author

          Literally nothing you are saying makes any sense. It’s an overarching theme of the entire show that power corrupts. Daenerys wanted to free all the people of the world from their oppression, only to become the oppressor and mad tyrant herself. She was unable to see it, and still believed in the righteousness of her actions even as she slaughtered thousands of innocent people out of spite for not loving her.

          Dany wanted to break the wheel. It took her death to break it. That’s a pretty significant f’ing metaphor crucial to the events of this episode.

          • Timcharger

            So Dany got corrupted from the zero seconds she sat on the Iron Throne? The bells literally counted the number of seconds that it took for power to corrupt her after her victory, transforming her to the “wheel,” she wanted to break, you say.

            Since the “break the wheel” metaphor was such a big deal, you claim, it was only brought up in Season 5 or 6? Was only mainly discussed between Dany and Tyrion, and with no one else, ICBW.

            And speaking of irony…
            Josh, what was Jon’s response to Dany’s request to go wheel-breaking together?

            “You are my Queen, now and always.”

            The very next line is a better irony candidate. And it also has a meta-comment that some fans could not get over Dany’s turn. Better choice for recap title, than a minor line of a wheel-breaking metaphor.

          • Josh Zyber
            Author

            What show were you watching for the last eight years that you missed the countless scenes foreshadowing Dany’s darker nature, or the countless discussions other characters had worrying about her going full Targaryen like her father, pleading with her not to be cruel when her instincts all told her to? We spent a whole season in Meereen learning that Dany didn’t really like the mundane business of being a ruler and really just wanted to be a conqueror.

            Given that you left about 80 comments on last week’s post, I’m pretty sure you saw her crispy-frying thousands of innocent women and children for no reason whatsoever. None of that clued you in that maybe she’s not gonna be a great queen?

          • Timcharger

            What does foreshadowing darker nature have to deal to wheel-breaking? Wheels as a metaphor, is confusing here. The flipping a coin metaphor is so much better.

            “She’s the wheel, she’s trying to break”??? Not the best use of irony or metaphors. That’s it. Can’t all be winners. You didn’t stick your landing with a final recap title. Many haters say the showrunners are guilty for worse.

          • Josh Zyber
            Author

            I feel like I’m talking to a wall here. I am at a loss to understand what you’re not getting.

            You don’t have to like my choice of quote in the headline, but I have done my part in explaining it and feel no need to defend it further.

  2. cardpetree

    The finale was fine. It was pretty much blah but I’m not sure what would have made it anymore satisfying. I enjoyed the final season over all other than a bit of nitpicking. It’s going to be interesting to see how R.R. Martin actually ends things if he ever finishes the books. I think people are just upset that GoT is over. I would like to know why Drogon did not kill Jon. They’ve definitely set things up for multiple sequels, spin offs, and prequels. GoT is a huge brand and money maker so I’m sure they will milk it for as much as they can.

  3. Timcharger

    Josh: “The shortened, expedited nature of storytelling this season has really pissed a lot of people off.”

    You say “shortened, expedited.” Others say truncated and rushed.

    Josh: “the prospect of 13 episodes of watching soldiers swing swords at CGI …”

    You argue to go from 6 episodes to 13?! How about the usual 10 for a starting counter proposal?

    And to feel less rushed, no one is asking for more CGI spectacle. Most are asking for more connective tissue to transition the big turns.

    You have a defendable position Josh, without the need to falsely define your opponents to wanting to more than double the episodes from 6 to 13, and want Michael Bay to direct them.

  4. eric

    The time jumps really threw me off. I didn’t like those earlier in the season and I didn’t like them in this final episode. There was so much opportunity to push the story forward without those, it just felt like Dan and Dave were done and wanted to move on.

    Having Cersei be the bad guy for so long and then only giving her one or two scenes that moved the story forward this season didn’t make sense. This should’ve culminated in a show down with Dany, not a killed by some falling rocks. Dany didn’t even go after Cersei at all when it came down to it.

    If the plan of attack from Dany was going to be “doing it alone with the dragon” then that should’ve just happened immediately after Cersei executed her closer friend. She should have stormed off to get on her dragon, shot straight up in the sky and came back raining hell on all of them. Then we could’ve watched Cersei trying to survive in the streets of Kinds Landing while all hell booked loose

    Or, the previous episode, Dany should have bee kill Cersei in the Red Keep immediately and then burn the city down in a lust of blood (and fire) rage. Dany knows Cersei doesn’t care about her people, so having her watch them burn didn’t matter.

    If they were just gonna make Bran, a character who did nothing, except prove Jon’s lineage, since “Hold the door!” then they should’ve just faded to black right then and there after nominating him… don’t even tell us what happens next.

    Why couldn’t they have had a meaningful battle at Kings Landing, with some real struggle against the Golden Company, and then have the Prince of Dorne and Howland Reed make an appearance at the last minute and save the day for Jon and team. Then once Dany takes the throne, Howland tells Jon about his true parents.

    Or… when Bran takes the throne he has his entire family executed and keeps the armies for himself.

  5. Art A

    LOL…complaints, complaints, complaints. The emotion this caused is hysterical Bottom line…I was sad to see the series end. Is there a better testament to a series than that? It’s been a good companion for these years. Yes, we can almost unanimously agree that the way they rushed through the last season and a half was a disservice to everyone, but that’s life. Winter is over. Spring is here.

  6. Joseph Levitt

    It was clear that when HBO ran out of GRRM content, the series would take on its own life. Did it please me? No, it didn’t. I believe that GRRM has been waiting for this series to end, so he could publish his final two books. That’s my hope at any rate. I appreciate the time you took, Mr. Zyber, all these years, and while I didn’t always agree with your assessment, I looked forward to reading your commentaries. Now, I have to find the courage to get through the second half of this last season of TWD…UGH.

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      I think Martin has simply lost interest and was happy to hand the story off to somebody else to finish for him. I’ll have a good laugh when the final books come out and they turn out to be straight novelizations of the TV screenplays.

      • Shannon Nutt

        I’m with you, Josh. George RR Martin is 70. Thanks to HBO, his wealth (already pretty comfortable beforehand) is enormous. Why would he want to spend his final years slaving away at two huge novelizations? Even if those books do come out, I bet you he pays someone else to ghost-write them.

          • Joseph Levitt

            I don’t believe it. I am convinced that GRRM is much farther along with books six and seven than he has let on. Logistically, it would be impossible to continue along the HBO storyline, because the books are in a COMPLETELY different situation, involving every major character. I find it hard to believe also that you, Mr. Zyber, have even read the books, otherwise you wouldn’t have made the ridiculous statement about novelizations of the TV screenplays. If Kirkman, et al can stay true to their storyline in TWD, so can GRRM. “Books six and seven are coming…”

          • Josh Zyber
            Author

            I have not read the books. I have never claimed to have read the books. I do not need to have read the books to notice that it’s been eight years since the last book was published and Martin does not seem to have much interest in writing anymore.

        • João Lima

          “Why would he want to spend his final years slaving away at two huge novelizations?”

          Because he likes to write?

  7. Timcharger

    Josh: “Yes, his direwolf Ghost is also there, and Jon gives him a petting.”

    I felt much better. The strategy of showing neglect to a cute puppy, only to reveal affection and kindness later. Okay, showrunners, I fell for it. All is forgiven. Best. Season. Ever.

  8. Shannon Nutt

    Bran taking the throne is irritating on many levels, not only does he make a challenge to his authority almost inevitable (what, we’re suddenly to believe there are no baddies remaining in Westeros?) but the idea that he KNEW he was going to be King, yet didn’t mention it to anyone (which would have perhaps saved a lot of lives) is laughable. So too is the idea that Grey Worm, whose army just helped defeat the Night King AND the army at King’s Landing, would say “Sure, pick a King and I’ll listen to whatever he says.”

    • YESSSS!! The idea that Bran ultimately wins the game is the most ridiculous and frustrating thing to watch. I’m still processing how it makes any sense at all and what foreshadowed Bran as even being an option. I’m literally going through the series again in an attempt to understand the utter absurdity of this, the possible logic that set this conclusion in motion. I’m only on S01E03, and already, there are various clues and allusions foreshadowing future seasons and the direction of many characters/story arcs, particularly the Jon and Arya relationship.

      Also, I’m with Josh on the Daenerys arc and eventual demise. A quiet, romanticized death is completely fitting given everything she’s done and accomplished throughout the series. Personally, of all the characters, Daenerys and Sansa are the two who have experienced the worst and grown over the years to be stronger, deserving to be the two sides of the strong-leadership coin given what they’ve gone through. It’s only right to see one go quietly in piece, almost as if she knew she needed someone to stop her, while the other should be crowned.

  9. Nagara

    I still liked this season. But it is by far my least favorite. I don’t have a problem with most of the way things turned out, but a lot of it felt forced and too quick. Anakin had a more believable turn in episode 3 than Dany did.

    Those extra four episodes could have been used to put more emphasis on how she felt after the loss of Jorah. Then the loss of Misande. Then the betrayal of Varys. Given time to let those simmer a little bit and sink in, would have made her dramatic turn in Kings Landing more meaningful and understood. Those emotions were there, but they were just glazed over at breakneck speed.

    I barely felt any emotion towards these characters this season because of the lack of time to spend with them and their mindsets. The only time I felt anything this season was during the few scenes with Tyrion and Jamie. Peter D was at the top of his game.

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