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Reply All — A Game of Thrones Email Exchange: “The Iron Throne”

Image Credit: Helen Sloan/HBO

If you missed the podcast for the series finale, check it out here. You can also click here to see Matt’s Top Moments.

KEITH: Nick, this is one of the hardest emails I’ve ever had to write. Since we began this feature several years ago, we’ve spent every week post-Thrones airing analyzing what was and speculating on what might, could, or should be. And much like the experience of watching the show itself, every moment of it has been a joy. Well, that was until these final two seasons showed us that, for all of our speculation and no matter how insightful our analysis, it was all largely for naught. When all was said and done, it just didn’t seem like anything mattered. We’ve spoken at length about how upsetting these final two seasons have been, but at 10:45 pm on Sunday evening, I wasn’t sad or even angry; merely hollow. In the grand scheme of things, it just didn’t seem like anything that had previously made the show special mattered.

But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything for us to talk about. Perhaps the most obvious place to start is in King’s Landing with Mad Queen Daenerys. She delivered a speech, and instead of sounding like she was content with finally winning the Iron Throne, her attention was turning toward the rest of the world. In a lot of ways, it sounded like one of her speeches from earlier in the series, full of talk of liberation and freedom; however, her actions in King’s Landing have us reading these words less as a manifesto and more as a series of buzzwords and political talking points. We know now that she’s no longer the breaker of chains, she’s a war hawk looking to burn it all down. In some ways, it almost seems like she recognized that violence is all she was ever really good at (look at her incredible failure in Meereen) and decided that her only way to maintain her newly-won power would be to continue forging her path of destruction. Fire and blood indeed.

Elsewhere in the episode’s opening moments, we saw Jon and Tyrion walking through the burned-out streets, with Tyrion paying a visit to Cersei and Jaime’s bodies. What did you think of the opening moments of “The Iron Throne”?

Image Credit: HBO

NICK: I have to hand it to Peter Dinklage. For the seemingly abrupt downturn in his character’s arc, he reminded me in the finale that he’s still a phenomenal actor. From his slow walk through the city to uncovering his siblings brick by brick, Dinklage’s sad eyes bared Tyrion’s grief of not just losing his family, but losing Daenerys. The look he gives Jon after tossing aside the Pin of the Hand of the Queen says it all, and their discussion soon after is Jon’s turning point against his Queen (but, you know, not when Daenerys BURNED AN ENTIRE CITY). 

So let’s get into The Scene in the throne room. Jon, whom Daenerys called a traitor one episode ago, walks freely into the room with nary a guard in sight. She’s expressed concern over Jon’s better claim to the throne (it was the first thing she thought of after he told her) and yet she welcomes him and begins her liberation dissertation. As Jon tests her during their conversation, the scales are tipped when Jon asks her to forgive Tyrion’s crime:

Daenerys: “We can’t hide behind small mercies. The world we need won’t be built by men loyal to the world we have.”

Jon Snow: “The world we need is a world of mercy. It has to be.”

Daenerys: “And it will be. It’s not easy to see something that’s never been before: a good world.”

Jon Snow: “How do you know? How do you know it will be good?”

Daenerys: “Because I know what is good — and so do you.”

Jon Snow: “I don’t.”

Daenerys: “You do. You’ve always known.”

Jon Snow: “What about everyone else?” All the other people who think they know what’s good?”

Daenerys: “They don’t get to choose.”

So yeah, not exactly a hard choice for Jon, but a difficult one nonetheless. Then Drogon comes in like “hey mom, I’m starving, what’s for din…WHAAT?” and burns the throne and flies off with Daenerys’s body. The next moment was truly a spectacle, as Jon is arrested for killing the queen and not killed on the spot… oh wait, we didn’t get that. Instead we jump ahead a few weeks with no warning to a party at the dragon pit. 

What did you make of the Great Council scene? It was a strange scene, to be sure, but did the wheel really get broken, or just reinvented? 

KEITH: Not broken. Well, we did get a new King of the Andals and the First Men, Lord of the Six(!) Kingdoms, and Protector of the Realm in the form of Bran the Broken, but the wheel of power rolls on, if in a moderately more egalitarian manner.

Of course, how we got there is a pretty serious question. How long have Tyrion and Jon been prisoners of the Unsullied? Is Grey Worm the ruler of the new Unsullied Nation? When did Robin Arryn get so hot? These are all serious questions that will, of course, go unanswered. Such is life post-season-six-Westeros.

I make jokes because this scene was basically a joke for me. Sansa’s going to just decide that the North is an independent kingdom and nobody will argue with her? Okay, whatever. Jon gets to (re)join the Night’s Watch, despite the fact that his work has resulted in the Watch being needless? Sure, I guess. Power in Westeros being determined by a microscopic group of incredibly wealthy people who, when all is said and done are remarkably unremarkable (looking at you, Edmure)? That one hits far too close to home that I’m not crying these are tears of laughter stop looking at me oh god why.

Had we built to this, I would have been happy. I honestly have no problem with Bran winning the game of thrones and think that it could have been a sensible conclusion had the legwork been done in earlier episodes (or seasons). Instead, we got this:

Season Seven Bran: I’m not Brandon Stark. Not really. Not anymore.

Tyrion, naming Bran King: All hail Bran the Broken.

Season Eight Bran: *Channeling Walter White* You’re God damn right.

It’s a worse deus ex machina than Arya killing the Night King. At least her badassery was something we were familiar with. But here, Bran isn’t even Bran, but suddenly he is again? Or is he going to rule as a nameless, faceless husk and let Tyrion do all the hard work? Why am I even asking these questions? It’s not like we’re getting answers. The Seven (six!) Kingdoms needed a king, and they got one.

The more important stuff for me happens afterward. As the curtain closes on our time in Westeros, what do you make of the state of the realm?

NICK: I’m not hopeful for the future of the realm, I’ll say that much. The Targaryens used a Great Council to determine kings in the past, and we see how that’s turned out. Removing two maniacal threats from power is a step in the right direction, but there’s still One King To Rule Them All. As you said, the wheel isn’t broken, it just changed direction. How long until there’s another war for power? Yara wasn’t exactly happy with the situation, what if another house joins her distaste?

I did enjoy the Stark montage that took us out. The quick shots of Jon, Sansa, and Arya prepping their respective forms of weaponry as they embarked on this new phase did get help the lull of the second half of the episode. Jon’s goodbye to Arya tugged the heartstrings, only to be outdone by his REUNION WITH GHOST. 

I’m mostly happy for Arya. I know there’s been jokes of her going to discover America or some land that she’ll name Westereros, but she’s an adventurer and there’s something to be said for exploring the unknown. 

Arya went West, Sansa went North, and Jon went North of North. Tyrion stayed put and has a new small council to oversee. What do you make of this ragtag crew of council folk and their qualifications (or extreme lack thereof)?

KEITH: It’s an interesting group, to be sure. Clearly, Tyrion is qualified to be Hand of the King, and I think he’ll appreciate the opportunity to make up for his many mistakes and failures. Brienne is well situated as Lord Commander of the King’s Guard, a position that she’s no doubt wanted since she first joined up with Renly. Likewise, I can’t think of anyone more qualified for the position of Master of Ships than Ser Davos Seaworth. These two are going to do some excellent work in service of the realm.

But then there’s Bronn. Ser Bronn of the Blackwater. The same Bronn we’ve seen steadily climb the social ladder of Westeros, becoming Lord Commander of the City Watch, an anointed knight, and now Lord of Highgarden. Why in the name of all old gods and the new did Tyrion think it wise to name him Master of Coin? Bronn knows an awful lot about fleecing people out of their coin, but managing the finances of the realm? Seriously?

It’s a decision that reeks of the “let’s get him onscreen once more before the series wraps” kind of logic and I don’t like it. But it’s the kind of logic we’ve been following since Cersei blew of the Sept of Baelor, so I can’t say it’s especially surprising. I’m just glad that we seem to be leaving Westeros in moderately good hands now, because Weiss and Benioff sure did a number on things.

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Nick Hershey

The author Nick Hershey

Nick was born and raised in Amish country, has a beard, but isn’t Amish. He’s a fan of winter as long as he’s at the top of a mountain with a board under his feet. He’s an avid sports fan, movie junkie, tv bum, and music enthusiast who still purchases CDs for some reason.