GOT 8.6: “The Iron Throne” Recap & Commentary

And with that, our watch has ended. Game of Thrones’ series finale, “The Iron Throne” brings the historic franchise to an underwhelming close. What had been a downward trajectory since the start of Season 5 steepened into freefall the past two abbreviated seasons.

Some of the events in “The Iron Throne” would have worked well in a vacuum. Dany standing over a burnt King’s Landing flexing her military might while the Targaryen banner is draped over the rubble is a stirring shot and moment to behold. Jon and Tyrion discussing the “right” thing to do is equally as captivating. Jon’s ultimate betrayal of Dany is also a powerful moment.

What sucks is that it should’ve been… bigger. The underlying problems of the show, notably the sloppy writing and rushed pace, left the show devoid of any emotional weight and believable plot development.

That’s how you get developments like Bran taking the throne despite undergoing little to no character development throughout his time on the show. In fact, he’s not even in Season 5. As King, Bran arguably could be a capable ruler for the Realm and might even be what George R.R. Martin planned for his books — but it left many viewers wanting more

Everything ties together nicely at the end of this one. Jon is with the Wildlings, Sansa is Queen in the North, Arya is going on an adventure, Tyrion is Hand of the King, Davos is Master of Ships, Sam is the Grand Maester, Bronn is Master of Coin, Brienne is the head of the Kingsguard, Podrick is a Kingsguard member, etc. Everyone left gets a happy ending. That’s not completely unfathomable, but it’s also not meaningful either. What’s unfortunate is that, by rushing to its conclusion, the show feels like it ended in too convenient of a manner.

These moments should’ve felt like we were witnessing TV history. Instead, we were left apathetic and dissatisfied. That’s the worst possible feeling a viewer can have. I’d rather be angry, but the show’s dip in quality is so clearly the result of overconfidence/arrogance by the show’s head honchos that it just makes you feel empty.

Did this season suck? Relative to the rest of TV, absolutely not. The visual production, acting, and music are all on their own level. We were receiving movie quality fantasy on TV, and that accomplishment shouldn’t be overlooked.  

But relative to what we should have gotten, yeah it sucks. It’s a shame. Dany should’ve become the Mad Queen, but over a couple of seasons to give it time to breathe and for us to believe in it. The Night King shouldn’t have been killed off mid-season by a deus ex machina meant to subvert expectations. A speech about “the power of stories” shouldn’t have convinced the council as to who to anoint King. Don’t get me wrong, Tyrion’s waxing monologue held truth and importance, but it felt cheap for the show to wield the idea for plot advancement after seemingly ignoring it and abusing our faith these past few years.

Anyways, here is our last Game of Thrones commentary section. Thank you for reading.

What did you think of Dany’s victory speech?

Sam: I think the writers should’ve included more scenes like it throughout the season. It would’ve made Dany going from someone who refuses to open up the fighting pits to killing thousands of innocents slightly more believable.

Nick: It was an effective speech to rally her troops, but cripplingly hypocritical. Presiding over ashes and speaking of liberation, the Dragon Queen showed her true colors. “Break the wheel” Dany! Her address was very reminiscent of the speeches a real-life tyrant gave in 1930s/1940s Germany.

“What they see is just, the end of the Dothraki essentially”- David Benioff, GOT Showrunner after the Battle of Winterfell. How many Dothraki can you see in this episode?

Sam: Too many. Like the rest of this season, it seemed way too convenient and unrealistic that so many were left after seeing them slaughtered by the dead. Instead, they seemed to regenerate and make Dany seem more powerful.

Nick: It’s stupid how many are left. They, and the Unsullied, seemed to regenerate as the plot needed them to. That’s not how you ground a fantasy show. It was lazy and a symptom of greater problems. But the Dothraki, and the showrunners’ comments on them, show a lack of care and consistency that is unacceptable for any show. They straight up lied just so they could have the cool shot of “all” the Dothraki’s demise.

Was Jon right to kill Dany?

Sam: Yes. If he hadn’t, Dany would have “liberated” the rest of the Seven Kingdoms just like King’s Landing.

Nick: Yes, just as Jaime was right to kill the Mad King.

Are you satisfied with Dany’s death?

Sam: Yes. This was one of the few moments this season that felt like earlier seasons. Do I wish the build up had been better? Of course. Dany’s descent into the Mad Queen felt rushed. Had this been building up over a season or two, it would’ve been one of the great moments in the show’s history. Instead, it’s satisfying, but nothing more.

Nick: On its own, yes. In the context of the whole season, not so much. This is the moment the show had been building towards, but since it’s really difficult to buy Dany and Jon’s romance, it’s fairly obvious what he’s going to do and you feel nothing. It’s not a man torn by love and duty being forced to end his soulmate’s life because of her delusional and imposing view of paradise. It’s just main character A kills main character B because that’s what had to happen with how the show was structured this season. It’s really too bad.

What did you think of Drogon’s reaction?

Sam: It felt weird. I get that he’s mad his mother was murdered but it didn’t feel right. I’m not sure why Drogon didn’t kill Jon. While the Iron Throne burning did look amazing, it once again felt off, like the rest of the season.

Nick: I get that he was angry and in pain, but it was surprising that he didn’t go for Jon. Obviously that’s what the writers wanted us to think, so expectations = subverted. I don’t hate him burning the Iron Throne (it being the ultimate symbol of the power lust that overtook his mother and led to her demise), but it was done in a strange way that didn’t work as well as it should’ve. That’s a theme here.

What do you make of Tyrion’s speech on the “power of stories”

Sam: I liked it. However, in the context of the rest of the season, it didn’t feel nearly as powerful as it should’ve. It was also weird that after shutting Tyrion up immediately after he starts talking once, Grey Worm is fine to just let Tyrion go on a long-ass monologue.

Nick: While definitely a true sentiment, it was way too self-serving for a show that cut its story by at least seven episodes. It wanted so desperately to be profound, but in the context of the show’s disappointing end, it fell flat.

Is Bran the right choice for the Realm? Is it a satisfying choice by the showrunners?

Sam: It was a pretty uncontroversial choice. However, I do think he’s right for Westeros given the current circumstances. He can literally see everything that happens in his kingdom whenever he wants–unlike the previous kings and queens who would almost never leave King’s Landing.

Nick: For the Realm, I can see the logic. He can see everything, so he will be very useful as he doesn’t have to adapt because he already knows. He doesn’t want to be king which is also a major plus. He can’t have heirs though, so expect a power struggle when they have to choose a new one. Is he a satisfying selection? No. Bran’s character development got left by the wayside awhile back. The writers’ failure to adapt and develop Bran is what makes it unsatisfying, not the actual idea of someone like Bran being King.

What do you think of Bran’s new small council?

Sam: I think it’s the best possible. For once, it seems the members of the Small Council will be more concerned with keeping Westeros safe than their own personal interests. But most importantly, it was pretty awesome to see Davos as the Master of Ships, Sam as the Grand Maester and Bron as the Master of coin.

Nick: It’s pretty solid. Seeing my man Davos as the Master of Ships was one of the most satisfying moments of the season. Bronn is also a fun choice for Master of Coin, though I’m not sure it’s a prudent one. Brienne as Kingsguard makes sense even though her protection rate is not great. Sam was always going to be a slam dunk for Grand Maester, so I’m happy for him.

Which character got the best ending?

Sam: Sansa. She got everything she wanted this season. They defeated the dead, the North is now independent and she can rule how she sees fit.

Nick: Ghost. He finally got his pet and gets to live out his days with Jon and Tormund. Sounds pretty good to me.

Who was the star of the episode?

Sam: Jon. Kit Harington has done an absolutely fantastic job as Jon Snow in the past eight seasons. His raw emotion and conflict was palpable for every viewer.

Nick: Tyrion. He convinced Jon of what he had to (in what was a very good scene). He showed Dany up, which took balls. He also shaped the future of Westeros and became Hand of the King. His speech was unearned, but he did the most legwork in this episode.

If there was one thing you could change about this season, what would it be?

Sam: Slow it down. The past two seasons needed to be 10 episodes. Everything in the last two seasons felt rushed. Troops and main characters made journeys that used to take weeks in just a few days. Dany descended into the Mad Queen in just two and a half episodes. Had it been slowly over two seasons, scenes like Jon killing Dany would’ve felt much more powerful. Everything just happened way too quickly which made emotional scenes lose their value.

Nick: This is pretty obvious, but make it ten episodes. We had no time for anything to develop, so it all made only a little sense. Breaking Bad had the motto: “no half-measures.” This is relevant with Game of Thrones’s self-inflicted collapse. By not giving the show the time or attention it deserved, the product became a shell of its former self. Nothing was executed in its proper entirety. We needed more time for Jon and Dany to fall in love, for Dany to go mad, for Cersei to maneuver against Dany, for the Night King to be evil, for the Starks to reunite, for Jon to reckon with his heritage, for Dany’s army to actually have time to recover, for Missandei to be captured, for Varys to conspire, for Bran to get any character development at all, for Tyrion and Sansa, for Sansa and Theon, for Sansa versus Dany, for Arya and the Hound, for Jaime’s redemption and ultimate fall, for so many other things that the show couldn’t touch on properly. But our watch has ended, so perhaps in 20-25 years they’ll remake it.

Are you satisfied with this as a finale?

Sam: Not really. I’m fine with where each character’s story arc ended up, but how it got there didn’t feel right. Characters switched motivations and allegiances much too quickly. Scenes that should’ve been legendary fell flat.

Nick: I’m sure this will come as a surprise, but no. It made me feel nothing, other than mild frustration. I was happy for it to end, which isn’t exactly the mark of a good finale. Every big reveal didn’t live up to the hype. It was always going to be this way. Cutting the series short was a terrible mistake and likely taints the show’s legacy.

What happened to the Lord of Light and the Prince that was Promised?

Sam: I guess the writers didn’t have time for it!

Nick: I guess the writers kinda forgot about that.

Did you sign the petition to remake the show?

Sam: No. While I hate that this is how one of the greatest TV shows of all time is ending, signing an online petition will do nothing.

Nick: No. At the end of the day, this is just a TV show. Was this season underwhelming? Absolutely. Will we get a remake because of this petition? Absolutely not. If you want better closure, read the books. That’s what I’m going to do.

Rate the season on a scale of 1-10:

Sam: 3. After the fourth episode, this season didn’t feel like Game of Thrones. While the technical aspects were flawless, the story felt rushed and unrealistic. Previous character motivations felt completely irrelevant and the plot was predictable.

Nick: 5. The production was movie quality. The acting was phenomenal. The music was consistently brilliant. Everything else fell apart. I wish I could give it a higher grade, though this might actually be a generous rating.

Game of Thrones Character Power Rankings

Sam:

  1. Davos Seaworth
  2. Tormund Giantsbane
  3. Arya Stark
  4. Jon Snow
  5. Tyrion Lannister

Nick:

  1. Davos Seaworth
  2. Jon Snow
  3. Tywin Lannister
  4. Robert Baratheon
  5. Tormund Giantsbane

-Sam Shiffman and Nick Shiffman

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