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Sunday night’s Game of Thrones Series finale left millions of fans gasping a collective “what the actual F$*K?”… this fan included. I’m not ready to sign a petition for a Game of Thrones Season 8 do-over like many millions of fans have today, yet I can’t escape the feeling that the entire episode, perhaps even the entire season was half-baked.
I’m not alone. Every news outlet from The New York Times, Time Magazine, The Washington Post, even FOX News and Vogue have posted an opinion piece on the overall disappointing end to an otherwise epic story.
If you read the books (you have read them right?), you might feel the same. People immediately are comparing this to the Sopranos less than stellar ending. The Sopranos was a great series, but it didn’t have the pedigree of 5000+ pages of text to draw from.
At its worst, the Sopranos was a conglomerate of wiseguy stereotypes taken directly from Robert Deniro mob vehicles like ‘Good Fellas’ and ‘Analize This’ …at it’s best, it gave the late James Gandolfini a long overdue chance to show his meaty acting chops. Sorry, but The Sopranos is no Game of Thrones. Not even close.
GOT – Best Series Ever?
Game of Thrones was wholly original in a way we haven’t seen on TV before. Fans of the ‘Song of Ice and Fire’ books have long praised George R.R. Martin’s ability to craft a character driven story that strayed away from the campy stereotypes of his contemporaries while keeping one foot in the pool of Tolkien-esque fantasy and lore that defined a genre.
HBO threw more money at this series than any TV show in history, and it showed. Big budget Hollywood blockbuster production values, top notch acting and that source material… Martin’s epic (at the start of the series) 4 volume saga with a 5th, ‘A Dance of Dragons’, soon to follow.
Even after the disappointing finale, I still feel it was the best show ever.
Where Game of Thrones went wrong
Show runners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff did an admirable job of adapting this seemingly unadaptable story into arguably the greatest series of all time… when they had that source material. Unfortunately for them (and the fans), Martin failed to deliver the 6th volume, ‘The Winds of Winter’, before the promised season 6 deadline.
Season 7 was good because they had the basic framework of the story (provided by Martin). It was easy to fill in those blanks. There was at the very least a blueprint from which to draw from. After Martin failed yet again to deliver an end to the story, even skipping a year of production, the producers and HBO had no choice but to go ahead with Season 8 production.
Look I get it, I write. I write a lot. It’s not as easy as you think it is. I miss my own deadlines, I’m no George R.R. Martin. Yet, here we are in 2019 and Martin has again pushed the estimated delivery date of the 6th Game of Thrones book into 2021. The 7th and final installment, ‘A Dream of Spring’ … who knows? 2031? I mean that’s the timeline he’s been following, right?
Trying to write a Game of Thrones Season 8 without a new book is akin to doing a Van Gogh paint-by-numbers with only a black and white photo for reference. The outline is there, but you’re going to miss something.
I mean, if Martin can’t write one book in 9 years, will he (at age 70) live long enough to finish two more? I wouldn’t hold your breath Ironborn.
So where does that leave HBO, Weiss, Benioff and the legions of loyal fans? Well, you just watched it. A rushed and inconsistent hodgepodge of ideas that neither make sense nor offers any kind of satisfying closure worthy of the texts. Book or no book, Season 8 had to be delivered, albeit a year later than planned. The colors are ALL WRONG.
The Game of Thrones Ending
My wife Celeste didn’t read the books. That’s OK. Not ideal, but I was able to fill in the blanks early on in the series sufficiently enough that by season 6, she was reminding ME of things that had happened earlier in the saga.
The first thing she said when it was over was, “That was worse than Rocky V”. In the moment, I thought it was kind of a funny statement. After some thought (it’s now been roughly 14 hours since the end) I realize how spot on she was in her comparison.
For those that missed it (it’s ok, you really don’t wanna watch it), Rocky V found our hero Rocky Balboa back where he started in Philadelphia. After 10 years as Boxing Heavyweight Champion of the world, millions of dollars in prize money and endorsements, lavish mansions and Ferraris, the Balboas found themselves penniless and destitute.
It would seem that Adrian’s (Rocky’s wife) brother Pauly had inadvertently made some bad investments and lost ALL of the Balboa fortune.
Yesterday millionaires, today living in squalor in the Philly projects. Adrian even got her old job back at the Pet Store.
Yes, it’s ridiculous.
In our Game of Thrones finale, Jon Snow saves the world from a clearly disturbed and potentially mentally unstable and murderous tyrant. Jon Snow, A.K.A. Aegon Targaryen, the rightful heir to the Iron Throne, the Heavyweight Champion of Westeros….wait for it…
…Takes the black on the Wall (moves back to Philly) and gets his old job back in the Night’s Watch.
Like many Game of Thrones fans, I have some burning questions that need answered.
- Why is there still a Night’s Watch?
- Wasn’t the whole friggin’ wall mostly destroyed by the Night King?
- Aren’t we finally at peace with the Wildlings?
- Is there any threat to the North remaining?
- Why didn’t Drogon try to kill Jon.
- Why didn’t Grey Worm try to kill Jon.
No, no, NO.
Let’s back up a bit…
Everyone who had to die in the Game of Thrones Series Finale:
- Grey Worm
She had to die. I’m fine with that. As soon as she went crazy like dear old Dad (in the events immediately preceding the season 1 storyline), you knew she had to die… and you knew who had to kill her.
It had to be Jon Snow.
It really doesn’t matter how he did it. A more dramatic and cinematic approach would have had her at the steps of what remained of the Red Keep. The Mad Queen perhaps is giving her victory speech to the Unsullied (led by Grey Worm) and the Dothraki army. This was something that seemed evident from the episode 5 ending and episode 6 previews following the airing. (See picture above).
A Better Game of Thrones Ending
I really believe just about anyone could have written a better ending to this show. I’ve been challenged indirectly on my Facebook feed to do just that. Now, I didn’t say I could film a better ending.. I said I could write a better ending… and I just did. Honestly though, anyone who read the books could have written a better ending.
My ending goes something like this:
Pan to the steps of the Red Keep. Unsullied, Dothraki and what’s left of the crispy-fried citizens of King’s Landing gather in front of their Mad Queen, Daenerys Targaryen…..
Jon stabs Dany, mortally wounding her as the crowd looks on.
Grey Worm, loyal to his Queen, immediately moves to avenge her by attempting to kill Jon Snow.
A dramatic fight ensues with Jon overcoming and killing Grey Worm.
As Dany lies dying on the steps of the Red Keep, Drogon can be heard in the distance stirring.. becoming uneasy… he senses what has happened to his mother…
…the sounds move closer.
Dany’s dying words to her last remaining dragon as foreseen and perhaps misinterpreted by Melisandre (also her last word) and vision in the flames.
Drogon unleashes his dragon fire on Jon Snow.
Seconds pass over the crackling flames of Jon’s burning body as Tyrion, Sir Davos and others look on in bewilderment over what has just come to pass…
Jon emerges from the flames, naked, armor smoldering into a molten pile beside him…
He picks up his sword Longclaw and impales Drogon in the eye, right down to the wolf pommel.
Drogon dies, your rightful King revealed.
The last Unburnt. The last Targaryen. The Rightful King.
The Unsullied kneel along with what remains of the Dothraki. Their King revealed.
It’s what had to happen in the only way it truly could have happened.
This is the crux of the story that Game of Thrones fans yearned for. What happens beyond is far less important. I’d even say, I’m mostly content with what happens to the remaining characters. Although, I’d offer some slight divergences.
Of course Sansa Stark, a most qualified and proven leader, becomes the Queen in The North. Jon grants her the independence of Winterfell per her wishes and reluctantly accepts his position as King…..
After all, who better to be King than the one who neither seeks, nor wants it, yet has the bloodline (and wisdom) to inherit it rightfully. (Why wasn’t this discussed by Tyrion and all of the Lords of Westeros when they chose Bran (!?) as their King in the series ending?)
Arya is knighted by Brienne and becomes the leader of Jon’s new King’s Guard. after all, they were the closest of the Stark siblings from the beginning. Arya would stay near Jon.
Arya marries Robert Baratheon’s bastard and first love, Gendry.
Bran goes back to Winterfell with Sansa. Winterfell is the only place south of the wall that has those stupid trees he likes to stare at… a fitting end to arguably the least interesting and certainly most confusing character in the series. P.S. – Nobody cares.
Hand of the King indeed. For all of Tyrion’s shortcomings, he has proven loyal and wise. Any mistakes he made as hand to Daenerys were for the good of the realm. Jon needs Tyrion and thus he reluctantly accepts Jon’s offer to remain his Hand in the new 6 Kingdoms.
Whorehouses can be rebuilt, the finest red wines can be imported from Dorne.
Lord Vary’s – The Spider, The Master of Whisperers
He didn’t have to die, nor should he have. In my alternate ending to episode 5, Vary’s ravens made it to their intended destinations with the news and truth of the one and true King, Aegon (Jon) Targaryen.
By the time this news reaches the remaining houses, Jon has killed Dany and his ascension is complete.
Backed by newly appointed Grand Maester, Samwell Tarly, Bran’s visions and the physical documentation available at the Citadel, no one in the realm disputes Jon’s claim to the throne. Jon is unchallenged.
The remaining Lords of Westeros gather in Kings Landing for the crowning ceremony.
Varys would undoubtedly take his seat on the King’s Small Council advising a King he actually trusts and believes in for the first time in his storied career. For the Realm. Always… for the realm.
Brienne of Tarth
Brienne honors her original oath to Catelyn Stark and looks over and protects Sansa. She too would travel back to Winterfell where she would remain as the Queens Guard in perpetuity.
She would never love another…
After news of the war ending reaches Castle Black, Tormund and what remains of the Wildlngs travel south. Many settle peacefully in Winterfell and are welcomed by Sansa as friends and allies safe to face the Winter ahead...together.
Tormund joins his friend Jon in Kings Landing, eventually becoming Master at Arms.
Although Jon is a Targaryen by blood, in the years to come, the sigil that flies over a rebuilt and rejuvenated King’s Landing is not of a dragon, but the Wolf of House Stark.