‘Game of Thrones’ Season Eight, Episode Six Recap: Queen of the Ashes
Welcome to our recap of the series finale of Game of Thrones, which used to be one of the most compelling shows on television. With one of the worst finales in television history, Game of Thrones has become an elegant argument against letting men write anything ever again. Let’s break it down.
The episode begins in the aftermath of Daenerys’ massacre at King’s Landing. Basically, it’s several minutes of Tyrion walking around and looking sad. Despite the beautiful cinematography and Peter Dinklage’s wonderful acting, the moment falls flat due to the suddenness of Daenerys’ turn last episode.
Also part of the group walking through the city toward the Red Keep is Jon. He finds a group of captured Lannister soldiers kneeling at Grey Worm’s feet as Grey Worm pronounces their death sentences. Jon tells Grey Worm not to kill prisoners (reasonable) but Grey Worm says Daenerys’ orders are to kill all those who followed Cersei (unreasonable). Davos convinces Jon to talk to Dany rather than starting a fight in the street, and Grey Worm slits the prisoners’ throats as they walk away.
Walking ahead, Tyrion goes straight to the crypts under the Red Keep, where he finds Cersei and Jaime’s bodies in the rubble. Meanwhile, Arya has inexplicably lost her white horse and is also approaching the ruined castle. Jon and Davos push through ranks of Dothraki and unsullied to get to the steps of the Red Keep, where Daenerys makes a showboat entry on dragonback to speak to her soldiers. She thanks the Dothraki and the Unsullied for their service, then makes a rousing speech (in Valyrian) inciting them to continue conquering with her. It is clear from this speech that she intends to continue making war and to build an empire, and though they can’t understand the words, her Westerosi advisors clearly understand the sentiment. They are troubled.
Tyrion approaches and stands by Daenerys’ side. “You freed your brother,” she says to him. “You committed treason.” “I freed my brother and you slaughtered a city,” he responds, and tears off his Hand of the King badge. Unsullied guards take him away at Daenerys’ command. She walks into the Red Keep, passing a troubled Jon.
Arya finds Jon and warns him that Daenerys will always consider him a threat, adding, “I know a killer when I see one.” Jon, clearly on a mission to find all the most aggressive advice he can, next visits Tyrion in his cell. They have a long and dull argument about whether Daenerys has committed a war crime, with Jon (very uncharacteristically) denying the obvious. Finally, Tyrion asks him, “would you have done it?” and Jon, or whatever awkward replicant has replaced him, responds, “I don’t know.” “Yes you do,” says Tyrion. They talk a bit more, and Tyrion convinces Jon Daenerys must be stopped, pointing out that she will execute him and his sisters and subdue countless citizenries if she is not. Given that the show is in the Twilight Zone anyway, this is reasonable enough.
Jon walks past Drogon to find Daenerys in the throne room. She is touching the Iron Throne, staring into it as if into a mirror. When she notices him, she begins a nostalgic ramble about how she imagined the Throne as a little girl. Jon brusquely interrupts, “I saw them executing Lannister prisoners in the streets.” She easily talks him out of his concern and tells him she blames Cersei for the deaths of the innocent people of King’s Landing. Jon then asks her to spare Tyrion, and she says she can’t: “The world we need won’t be built by men loyal to the world we have.” Jon asks why Dany thinks that world will be good, and she says it’s because she and Jon know what’s best. When Jon asks about the others that think they know what’s best, Dany points out they won’t be making the decisions. It’s tyrant logic, but coming from Dany, it feels hollow.
But, you know. Women.
Dany asks Jon to rule at her side, and Jon says “You’re my queen, now and always,” then kisses her. And as they kiss, he stabs her. REALLY?! Really.
Dany dies. Drogon flies in, realizes she is dead, growls at Jon, then breathes flames right over his head, melting the Iron Throne. Melting the Iron Throne. He cries out in grief, then picks up Dany’s body and flies away. This scene officially makes Drogon the only being on the show still acting in character.
Next, we see Grey Worm escorting Tyrion from his cell. He takes him to the amphitheater where, just last season, the notables of Westeros met to discuss the threat of the Night King (remember him? Good times!). The lords and ladies of the Seven Kingdoms are there, as well as Sam, Brienne, and Davos, apparently just ‘cause. Grey Worm demands Tyrion’s and Jon’s executions, but Sansa, speaking for most of the lords and ladies (Yara is still a Daenerys stan, bless her), refuses to allow that. Tyrion says the King or Queen of Westeros should decide Jon’s fate, and tasks the lords and ladies with choosing one. Edmure Tully (Catelyn Stark’s embarrassing brother) offers himself, and Sam suggests democracy; both are laughed down. Edmure says to Tyrion, “I suppose you want the crown,” but Tyrion refuses.
Davos asks him who his pick is, and Tyrion starts monologuing. It used to be fun when Tyrion monologued, but those halcyon days are long past. This is a grizzled Tyrion, and he gives a grizzled monologue, halfway between Machiavelli and Reading Rainbow. He explains that stories are the most important thing, and that the person among them with the best story is…Bran? Bran Stark? His pick for the throne, when given the almost absolute power to choose literally anyone, is Bran. He gives a speech about how Bran has overcome adversity or whatever, then asks Bran if he will accept. Bran, bafflingly, says, “Why do you think I came all this way?”
Well, sweetie, to be real, we thought that was about the Night King. Or, you know, some other thing with the cosmic significance you’re always going on about.
Well, the lords and ladies of the Seven Kingdoms vote him in unanimously, even Yara. Whatever. We’re so done at this point, she might as well. When it gets to Sansa, she says Bran will make a great king (nepotism), but that the North will never bend the knee again. Bran agrees that the North will remain independent, and Sansa votes him in as well. Tyrion declares him “Brandon the Broken, First of His Name, King of the Andals and the First Men, Protector of the Realm, Lord of the Six Kingdoms.”
Actually, I don’t think Tyrion even manages to get all those titles in there. But that’s what he should properly be called. Except that calling the one wheelchair-bound character on a show that’s been heaped with criticism for its portrayal of disability “Brandon the Broken” is a terrible thing to do and Tyrion should have known better.
In retaliation, Bran…names Tyrion Hand of the King and does not accept his refusal. He argues to Grey Worm that this will be sufficient punishment for Tyrion’s treason, forcing him to spend the rest of his life fixing his mistakes. Right.
Tyrion visits Jon in his cell to tell him that he has been sentenced to return to the Night’s Watch. Jon asks if he did the right thing, and Tyrion says, “Ask me in ten years.” Is this what the showrunners were saying to themselves as they wrote this? Is that why this script is so off the rails? Did they just get high and record their own insecurities?
Grey Worm sails the Unsullied for Naath, Missandei’s home, which in a previous episode Missandei mentioned had no army and needed protectors. It’s not that touching, though, considering all the atrocities the Unsullied have committed. Meanwhile, Jon meets Sansa, Arya, and Bran on the docks before sailing for the Wall. He expresses his faith in Sansa as Queen in the North. He invites Arya to visit him, but Arya says she’s going away. “What’s west of Westeros?” she asks, repeating a question she asked in the first episode when she was a little child. She says she’s going to sail and find out. Eight seasons of a character arc dedicated to her realizing the value of home, family, and love over power and revenge? No need. She’s doing the exact same thing she said she’d do when she was nine.
Sure. Why not. At this point, why the fuck not? If Weiss and Benioff were my gods, I’d sail off the edge of the world, too.
Jon bends the knee to Bran, and they exchange words of no particular importance. Seriously, Frodo’s departure at the Grey Havens this is not. Then Jon sails off.
We see Brienne in the chamber of the Kingsguard. She looks through the book of their great deeds, and it looks as though she’s going to add her own name to the next blank page. Instead, we get something much less satisfying: she finishes Jaime’s entry, ending it, “He died protecting his Queen.” That’s it. That’s pretty much all we get as an ending for her. And if you’re not demanding a refund yet, there’s more.
In the council chamber, Tyrion sits down in the Hand of the King chair, then gets up to straighten the other chairs. Davos, Brienne, and, for some reason, Bronn, come in to take their seats. Sam, in the robes of the Archmaester, follows, and presents Tyrion with one of the books he stole from Oldtown: A Song of Ice and Fire, a history of Westeros since Robert’s Rebellion. This is not only a dumb reference to the title of the book series the show is based on; it’s also a slap in the face to the books.
See, the joke is that Tyrion asks how he is portrayed in the book, and Sam says he’s not in it. Tyrion is, many fans agree, the protagonist of the series; he interacts with the most other characters, gets the most page space, has the strongest arc. Sam presents Tyrion with a hollowed version of the narrative, a story missing its primary character. It’s actually a depressingly good metaphor for what the show has done to Martin’s world.
Also, Sam is in no way qualified to be Archmaester of the Seven Kingdoms. The Archmaester is essentially Secretary of Education, head of the CDC, director of public works, and Secretary of the Press, all in one. Sam…has read a lot, fought in a few battles, treated one guy for a rare illness once, and has no formal education. This is nonsense and I DEMAND to speak to the manager.
King Bran arrives, asks after Drogon, and immediately leaves again to seek out the dragon. Which, leave Drogon alone?!? That poor dragon has lost his entire family and just wants to go hide. Let him! Anyway, after Bran leaves (wheeled by Podrick, now a member of the Kingsguard), the others assign tasks for the keeping of the kingdom, though the conversation quickly devolves into banter about brothels.
This is what it comes to: a bunch of white men (and one stoically silent woman) joking about prostitution as they divvy up the spoils of the new order. The wheel is broken. Long live the wheel.
There is a final montage following the Stark Children: Sansa is crowned before a crowd of cheering Northmen, while Arya sails off with her edge-of-the-world crew. Jon, meanwhile, is brought to Castle Black, where he is met by Tormund and the wildlings. Ghost is there, and Jon finally pets him. Then they — Jon, Tormund, Ghost, and a mass of wildlings following them on foot — ride Beyond the Wall and into the forest. That’s the end. That’s the end of the whole show.
Remember how, in every season but this one, every other sentence was, “winter is coming”? That referred to a long winter expected to last years, in which the land North of the Wall would be an uninhabitable wasteland and even the Stark territories would barely have enough resources to scrape by. That’s why there was so much conflict with the wildlings in previous seasons: not just because of the White Walkers, but because they had to get south of the Wall before the long winter or perish. So excuse us if Jon and Tormund riding into the sunset to become the ice husbands they were meant to be is (literal) cold comfort. They’ll all be dead soon.
And what are we left with? Two Stark women fulfill their ambitions, but become entirely isolated from their family in the process. The most powerful woman in the whole of the series is dead, her character ruthlessly squandered for barren shock value. Men rule Westeros, and in most cases, not even qualified ones. I mean, it’s not much of a fantasy arc. It’s just as disappointing as real life.
Note on the books: Bran Stark is still a viable candidate for the throne in Martin’s books. There, his character is different, richer, and he is the subject of a great deal of foreshadowing on the matter. In addition, the books show a field so crowded with contenders that have legitimate claims to the Iron Throne that the idea of putting a Stark on it doesn’t seem so ridiculous. That said, the show and books are different, and even if this is supposed to be the ending to the books, that still won’t justify it as an ending for the show.
Daenerys Targaryen. A girl who survived a great deal of abuse and learned lessons of compassion from it, going on to free slaves and do her best to empower the poor everywhere she went, Daenerys was a great Queen. Though young and bound to make mistakes, (she made many, some of them very cruel), she spent her teenage years honing herself into a ruler worthy of the Iron Throne, and she gained our love and the love of her people in the process. Her character was assassinated by D.B. Weiss and David Benioff (still at large), and her life taken shortly thereafter. She is survived by one pissed off dragon, and I hope he returns to burn this nonsense down.