Television Reviews

REVIEW: Game of Thrones – Season 8, Episode 6 “The Iron Throne”

"Sometimes duty is the death of love."

*SPOILERS*

In “The Iron Throne,” the Unsullied execute Lannister prisoners in the street, to the horror of Jon Snow, Ser Davos, and Tyrion. Tyrion tosses aside his Hand of the Queen pin and confesses to releasing Jaime, precipitating his imprisonment. Jon and Daenerys discuss the slaughter, which she believes was necessary to create a new world. The two embrace, kiss, and Jon kills Dany. Drogon burns the Iron Throne and flies away, carrying his dead mother. A council of Lords and Ladies, including the Starks, discuss the fate of Tyrion Lannister and who the new ruler will be. Ultimately, Bran is chosen as King, with Tyrion as his Hand. Jon is banished to the Wall as punishment for killing Daenerys, and the North remains an independent kingdom with Sansa as their Lady. Arya sails to find what’s West of Westeros. Brienne completes Jaime’s page in the White Book, then she, Davos, Sam, and Bronn join Tyrion on Bran’s small council. Sam shows everyone a book called A Song of Ice and Fire, a chronicling of the War of the Five Kings.

Alex: After “The Bells” and the ridiculous trajectory the put the story on, I was dreading the final episode of Game of Thrones like a root canal appointment. I suppose it’s a small consolation that “The Iron Throne” isn’t as bad as I feared. It isn’t great, and there are plenty of things that don’t make sense, but I liked parts of it, some very much. The tragedy of this rushed end run, though, is that even some of the things I like don’t have the weight they could have, and you actually start rewriting the past in your head as you watch.

Virginia: That’s true. There are several lines and character interactions in “The Iron Throne” that could have been bone-chilling if they had the proper build-up. For example, when Tyrion tosses aside the brooch, it’s somewhat underwhelming because he’s only changed his mind in the last episode or so. I really wish they had ordered the full 10 episodes for this season, as well as season seven. That being said, did you have a favorite scene?

A: That one you mentioned is one, and the other is when Tyrion finds the bodies of Jaime and Cersei and breaks down crying. There’s not a word of dialogue, which is perfect. Peter Dinklage is the star of this episode through and through. He sells these scenes by bringing an incredible amount of humanity to a character that will always be his. His renouncing his title is a great example. You’re absolutely right; that scene needed much more build-up, both for Tyrion and Daenerys, but Dinklage manages to make it mean something, even though it should’ve meant more. He was always a great actor, but Tyrion may be his best role, even this season.    

V: That’s another frustrating aspect of this dash to the finish line: the actors. They’re so good, and they’ve been trying every bit as hard as they were in season one. It’s a real shame the writers decided they no longer needed to build things or flesh out character development because everyone else is working their butts off trying to pull this finish off. I think my favorite scene in “The Iron Throne” has to be Sansa being crowned in the North. She’s been my favorite character for years, and she is finally getting her due. Her people owe their freedom to her, not to Jon and certainly not to Dany.

A: That was perfect, and one of the things that worked the best in “The Iron Throne.” Sansa has had a wonderful arc over the course of the series, and her running the North is exactly the right place to leave her character. Fortunately, her growth happened in seasons past, and she was never ruined along the way (like, say, Tyrion), so she came out of season 8 pretty much unscathed. I’m also mostly happy with where Arya ends up; I wish she’d gotten to kill one more person, particularly as so much was made of that prophecy about the eyes of her victims – not to mention she only used the face ability once to kill the Freys. But I’m glad she got to help set things right with Sansa, then went off on her own adventures. That feels right for her, despite her abandoning revenge so easily.

The Iron Throne

V: Sansa had the best character development, and I’m so glad she made it to the end. Tyrion and some others (Varys is another) really got dumbed down this season, and I’m glad they let Sansa stand against Dany like she did. I liked Arya’s ending too, though I agree that she should have done the Faceless Man at least once this season. I thought she’d use it on the Night King, then Cersei, then Dany, and she never once did it. And that’s emblematic of a lot of issues this season. Things that happened weren’t properly set up, and things that had been set up never happened at all.

A: I wonder if they were trying to make a point about prophecies not coming true, but they never really dealt with it. Jon Snow does nothing in the battle against the White Walkers, and Arya doesn’t fulfill her foretold killing sequence. But because it’s never mentioned, they just feel like dropped story threads. And there were others they seemed desperate to try to make fit, like Daenerys’ dream about the ice and snow. Clearly, it was meant to be about the White Walkers, but since they scurried through that as quickly as possible, they threw some snow into the finale.

V: That’s true. Who is Azor Ahai, anyway? Surely it’s not Bran since he already gets to be a god (Three-Eyed Raven) AND a king. I guess they thought it would be boring to go through with all the prophecies being true. If so, fine, but as you said, do something with it!

A: What was the point of Jon Snow being a Targaryen? Nothing at all came of that, aside from a bunch of people talking about it behind closed doors. Daenerys said the secret would eventually get out, but after “The Iron Throne,” it looks like it never will. And they made a lot of hay out of that one. It may as well have never happened.

V: It would have been cool if he and Drogon had some kind of moment after Dany died, be it good or bad. But nope, Drogon flies away never to be seen again, and Jon gets sent right back to the Wall. Although, honestly, I’m OK with Jon being Lord Commander again; he never wanted to be king, and I’m not convinced he’d have been good as one.

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A: Yeah, Jon had a good ending as well. And he finally pets his goddamn direwolf! I have this image of Benioff and Weiss (or, more likely, HBO; they seem to care more) looking at the fan reaction to their goodbye and saying, “Fly Kit Harington the hell over here and get his wig out of storage!” I liked Drogon flying off with his mother’s body, but it did kind of seem abrupt for such a major character. That whole scene is another one in “The Iron Throne” that’s very cool in the moment but should have been more. I get it; Drogon burned down the real cause of his mother’s death. But how does he have the ability to reason that? He’s just an animal. He wouldn’t get that. And they could have helped it by having Drogon slowly start developing cognitive abilities beyond a normal dragon; maybe they get smarter as they grow or something. Like, for example, when Dany is killing all those innocent people because she saw a building; Drogon could have shown a bit of hesitation, and maybe turned his head very slightly. That shouldn’t have even been the first one, but a later example of it. But, like almost everything else this season, it’s unearned and makes no sense.

V: They also could have had Jon (being a Targaryen) command Drogon to melt the Throne. That would have fixed two of these issues with one short scene. This is kind of random, but I found Grey Worm (on whom I previously had no strong feelings) very annoying in this episode. I even thought maybe they should kill him because he became a real threat in “The Iron Throne.”

A: I felt the same way. I used to like Grey Worm, but they made him really villainous in these last two episodes. I understand his loyalty to Daenerys, and that could’ve been a good reminder of what she used to be, but that would’ve had more weight if he wasn’t a murderous lunatic. And he always seemed like a noble guy, despite his ruthlessness in battle; in fact, he was reflective of Daenerys’ attitude toward war, a liberator who deals harshly with the enemy. Maybe they were trying to have him reflect the change in her, but again, it wasn’t set up enough in either of them. And now he gets away with helping her massacre all those people.

V: Seriously. How does Jon get banished and Tyrion made Hand as punishment, while Grey Worm and his war criminals get to do as they please? Jon saved many more from dying!

A: That Tyrion thing, while ultimately where I’d like him to be, is such a slap in the face too. He’s the new Hand (same as the old Hand) so he can make up for all his mistakes. So, we’re never actually going to see him make up for his mistakes? There’s not going to be some kind of payoff for mishandling his character for two years?

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V: And, again kind of changing the subject, why does Bran need a Hand since he already knows everything? How can you advise a person like that?

A: I’m not sure I understand what’s even going on with Bran in “The Iron Throne.” They seem to insinuate that he maneuvered things so that this would happen and he would become king (“Why do you think I came all this way?”), but nobody cares. This isn’t a little troubling to anyone? All these people died just so Kevin Spacey from Seven could rule Westeros? I would think this would make Bran the true villain of the series, but they brush it off like it isn’t important because Tyrion thinks he has a good story.

V: And the thing is, that’s true. On paper, Bran does seem like an inspirational figure, but he’s not that inspirational or even lovable in the show. He makes sense as a choice, but he wasn’t set up, and we have less emotional investment with him. I’m fine with him being the king; I just think they should have done some things differently if this was their plan.

A: Like not make him a little weirdo, or have him do something important this season besides use crows to look at the Night King. And that’s ultimately what’s wrong with a lot of “The Iron Throne;” they could have pulled off these plot points, but they didn’t do the work to make them feel like the logical conclusions.

V: Yeah, they should have made him more sympathetic overall before and during this final season. As is, he’s just not that easy to root for like some other characters. To jump ahead one more time, I didn’t care for Brienne writing the rest of Jaime’s history. I just have never understood why she admires him so much, and now more than ever. Even after the years of character development, he abandoned her to be with his sister. How can Brienne think he’s worthy of being honored in this way? I feel like they didn’t really know what to do with her as a character this season.

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A: That’s true too. All she really did was get knighted; that was a great scene, but it would’ve been nice to see her actively do something. She had no cool moments in the Battle of Winterfell; she got surrounded, magically survived, and that was about it. I sort of get her writing Jaime’s history; she still probably respects him for saving her life, and her own sense of honor would push her to make sure he’s recognized for the good he did as well as the bad. But, like you said, it’s all she really does outside of sit at a table and banter with Tyrion’s new posse. She and plenty of others deserved to do more. Although I have to say, outside of how silly it was, I mostly enjoyed that scene around the table.

V: Me too. Honestly, for all my gripes, I really liked this episode. It’s my second favorite this season, after “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms.” I’m happy with a lot of the resolutions, even if I don’t think they were properly developed along the way. And I really liked the last few scenes.

A: I thought it was okay. It wasn’t the complete disaster I was anticipating, and I also liked where a few of the characters ended up. But the massive missteps from earlier weighed “The Iron Throne” down too much for me, and kept it from being the monumental ending it should have been. Now I’m going to start reading the books and hope they turn out better, should they ever be finished.

***

And now our watch has ended. Thanks for watching with us, and don’t forget to follow Geeks + Gamers for more reviews and news! Valar morghulis!

Game of Thrones - "The Iron Throne"

Plot - 6
Acting - 8
Progression - 5
Production Design - 8.5
Intrigue - 6.5

6.8

Okay

Some satisfying character endings and excellent acting – especially from the great Peter Dinklage – keep "The Iron Throne" afloat, but the damage done from earlier in the season and many narrative inconsistencies ruin what should have been an epic finale for Game of Thrones.

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3 Comments

  1. I think the reason I’m not as invested in the outcome of GOT is because I didn’t follow the series faithfully over eight seasons. I watched the whole series over the last couple of months mainly because DirecTV gave us HBO for six months at a reduced price as part of a promotional package so I was able to see what everybody has been making such a fuss about.

    So I’m looking at it as an outsider, which is what I consider myself to be because I’m not a fan of the show. I have SERIOUS issues with the whole Great White Savior aspect of Daenerys and the depiction of POC in the series (A white woman worshipped by an army of deballed black men? REALLY?) I liked how the series started with the Starks and ended with the Starks. I never really expected Jon to end up as King or Arya to end up as Queen. I always expected Daenerys to die (my money was always on Tyrion ending up killing her) and I think that Cersi got way too easy a death at the same time I thought it fitting that she and Jaime went out together.

    I notice in your review the complaint about the dragon destroying The Iron Throne and I’ve heard that from a lot of people. “They’re just animals” Really? I saw plenty of instances where it was clear to me that the dragons did indeed demonstrate intelligence and independent thought. Who’s to say that they not only served Daenerys but a Higher Purpose as well?

    1. I came to the show fairly late as well. I don’t typically like high fantasy (Lord of the Rings bores me to tears), so I assumed I wouldn’t like this either. After season five, I decided to give it a try because it had become so popular. The first couple of episodes were hard to get into, but I resolved to watch at least the first season, and by the end I was hooked; I think it was the Golden Crown that really wowed me.

      I didn’t expect there to be a king or queen when it was over. I figured they’d destroy the Iron Throne somehow and each of the seven kingdoms would be given its autonomy instead of being ruled by a central monarch. It was kind of weird how just the North broke free while everyone else was fine with submitting to Bran.

      Drogon melting the throne of his own volition still doesn’t seem believable to me; they’re a smarter breed of animal, but recognizing the throne as the symbol of his mother’s downfall is too far a stretch for me to buy.

      Cersei definitely got off way too easy. I’d have liked to see Arya kill her, or at least for Daenerys to have roasted her.

      It’s funny you mention the white savior narrative, because I just saw a video where George RR Martin talks about that: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5X_0PSvGhvc

  2. Fascinating, several good points. But I have a couple of thoughts:
    1) Brienne didn’t “admire” Jaime, she LOVED him. That’s a huge difference, and it explains all of her actions. I thought that part was consistent with her character.
    2) I think Daenerys was always fanatical and self-righteous, this season only confirmed the fruits of that character type. I don’t think her actions were out-of-step with other things we knew about her. I, personally, never liked her (or any conqueror, no matter what their motivations are) or thought she was heroic, and am glad they didn’t turn her into some kind of “good person.” I think she had good intentions in her mind, as self-righteous people who wish to determine how everyone else in the world should live always do, but their good intentions are highly destructive and murderous. I approve of the show’s interpretation of that character.
    3) I think it’s too simple to say that North is free because of Sansa. They would all be dead, actually, if Daenerys did not come to the rescue. You can’t deny Daenerys that.
    Having said all that, I will agree that much of the season was rushed and unexplained. It would have been better if the Seven Kingdoms were abolished altogether, and local principalities went back to doing their own thing. It’s not like they were benefitting from a central rule, ever.

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