Game of Thrones series finale: references, callbacks & what you missed
This is it. The end. There will be no more Game of Thrones, but series creators David Benioff and D. B. Weiss had a lot to do in “The Iron Throne,” not the least of which was direct the series finale, too.
The final episode poses many questions, provides many answers, and ties a pretty little bow on those who survive. So, for the last time, let’s walk through this Game of Thrones episode scene-by-scene, connecting dots to the past and ending the show together.
Tyrion Lannister, Hand of the Queen, walks toward King’s Landing, aghast at the devastation that the woman he served and believed in caused. He crosses the threshold through a hole in the outer wall that Daenerys Targaryen blasted with dragon fire and enters a wasteland.
Until a few hours ago, the capital of the Seven Kingdoms was a city of earth-toned stone buildings capped with roofs of dark red clay. Now it’s a graveyard, a sprawling crater of rubble the desaturated gray of ash, pocked with the occasional orange flickers of still-burning dragon fire.
A dazed man wearing only a loincloth and covered in crimson blood shuffles out of the city, past the Hand. Tyrion notices that most of his back has been scraped or burned away. Ser Davos Seaworth the Onion Knight and Jon Snow follow several yards behind, taking their own silent looks.
Death is everywhere. On every street, down every alleyway, underneath every roof, there is rubble and ashen corpses.
In the middle of one of the countless decimated streets, Tyrion finds the charred remains of the little girl and her mother from the last episode. She still holds her horse toy in her hand, though it’s turned black with soot. It is an unambiguous reminder that Daenerys Targaryen declared everyone in King’s Landing her enemy, killing soldiers and civilians alike in her conquest.
The three men and a small contingent of soldiers behind them stop their procession.
“I’ll find you later,” Tyrion says.
“It’s not safe,” Jon says. “Let me send some men with you.”
“I’m going alone,” the Hand says and walks away. Jon doesn’t argue.
Tyrion Lannister continues his walk of shame, passing the corner where Arya Stark survived the flames that killed the woman and her daughter. A gigantic cracked bell that rang to signal King’s Landing’s surrender — and that Daenerys Targaryen ignored — sits on the street.
He looks up into the far distance, and sees what’s left of the Red Keep, the castle from which is sister ruled the Seven Kingdoms (and into which he just sent his brother to save her).
Davos, Jon, Grey Worm, and the soldiers
Jon, Davos, and a small contingent of soldiers continue walking through the streets, when they stumble upon Grey Worm and a dozen or so Unsullied. Half a dozen soldiers who defended King’s Landing for Queen Cersei kneel defenseless on the street. They are prisoners of war.
“In the name of the one true queen, Daenerys Targaryen, I sentence you to die,” Grey Worm says.
“Grey Worm!” Jon says, interrupting the execution. “It’s over. These men are prisoners.”
“It is not over until the queen’s enemies are defeated,” Grey Worm says.
“How much more defeated do you want them to be?” Davos asks, dripping with incredulity. “They’re on their knees.”
“They are breathing,” Grey Worm says.
“Look around you, friend. We won.”
“Look around you, friend,” Davos says. “We won.”
“I obey my queen’s commands, not yours.”
“And what are the queen’s commands?” Jon asks.
“‘Kill all who follow Cersei Lannister.’ These are free men. They chose to fight for her.”
Grey Worm pulls a dagger from his coat, and turns to carry out his sentence. Jon grabs his arm, and as soon as he does, the silent Unsullied ready their spears. So do the soldiers who arrived with Davos and Jon.
Davos eases the men and plays diplomat.
“Jon,” he says. “We should speak with the queen.”
Jon looks down at the prisoners and assesses the situation. No matter what he does, someone loses. If he challenges Grey Worm further, the allies will fight on the street. If he does nothing, the prisoners of war will die.
He releases Grey Worm’s arm. The Unsullied retract their spears and stand at attention. The leader of the Unsullied carries out his self-proclaimed death sentence, cutting the soldiers’ throats one by one.
Davos, Jon, and their soldiers walk away.
Tyrion, Cersei, and Jaime
Tyrion is in the Red Keep now, walking through the rubble that fills the cracked floor map room. He approaches the table where the Small Council of the king or queen’s closest advisors assembles — where he thought he’d sit as the Hand of Queen Daenerys Targaryen. Behind him, snow is falling through the newly open-aired map room.
He finds a torch on the ground, picks it up, and ignites it. He walks down the winding staircase, retracing the steps that his twin brother and sister took in the previous episode. He discovers more rubble in the basement.
And in the rubble, he discovers first his brother’s metal hand and then, after removing bricks, the bodies of his dead siblings, Jaime and Cersei Lannister, lying in repose as they surely did in bed throughout their lives.
Tyrion, who was not able to save them, and is now the last Lannister, weeps.
The Mad Queen addresses her troops
Jon walks through hundreds of Dothraki and Unsullied troops and up a long staircase toward Daenerys. Her only remaining dragon child, Drogon, flies overhead and the troops erupt in a cheer.
Arya watches from a distance.
At the top of the staircase, Grey Worm awaits his queen. On his right, draped over the ruins, is an enormous black banner, with the sigil of House Targaryen emblazoned in red — an unambiguous symbol of Daenerys’ fiery conquest of King’s Landing.
Daenerys Targaryen walks out. Behind her, Drogon roars and spreads his wings. They might as well be hers.
The Dothraki cheer. She begins her speech in Valyrian.
“Blood of my blood,” Daenerys Targaryen says and the troops quiet down. “You kept all your promises to me. You killed my enemies in their iron suits. You tore down their stone houses. You gave me the Seven Kingdoms!”
Just then, Drogon lands on a nearby ruined wall and roars. The Dothraki cheer, raising their curved blades into the air.
“Torgo Nudho,” she says, addressing Grey Worm. “You have walked beside me since the Plaza of Pride. You are the bravest of men, the most loyal of soldiers. I name you commander of all my forces, the Queen’s Master of War.”
The Unsullied pound their spears three times into the ground, a more subdued cheer than their Dothraki allies, but very Unsullied. The do it again, and Grey Worm smiles and nods at his queen.
“Unsullied,” Daenerys Targaryen says as Tyrion approaches the queen from behind. “All of you were torn from your mothers’ arms and raised as slaves. Now you are liberators! You have freed the people of King’s Landing from the grip of a tyrant!”
The Unsullied pound their spears three times.
“But the war is not over. We will not lay down our spears until we have liberated all the people of the world!”
The Unsullied pound their spears three times.
“From Winterfell to Dorne, from Lannisport to Qarth, from the Summer Isles to the Jade Sea!”
The Unsullied pound their spears in triplets again and again. Jon and Tyrion listen, realizing what’s happening. The massacre at King’s Landing was not an aberration. It was the Daenerys Targaryen’s first step in her conquest of the world.
“Women, men, and children have suffered too long beneath the wheel. Will you break the wheel with me?”
They pound their spears, no longer in triplicate but in a long stream of agreement. The Dothraki cheer. It is the drumbeat of future war.
Tyrion approaches the queen who catches him out of the corner of her eye.
“You freed your brother,” Daenerys Targaryen says, not looking at him. “You committed treason.”
“I freed my brother,” Tyrion says. “And you slaughtered a city.”
She turns to face him. He removes his Hand of the Queen broach and throws it down the staircase, where it lands at the foot of an Unsullied soldier.
The pounding stops. She looks at her former Hand with contempt, swallows hard, and says “take him” in Valyrian. Two nearby Unsullied soldiers escort him away. He passes Jon with a knowing look. And then Jon catches Daenerys Targaryen’s eye. They say nothing. She walks away.
And then, somehow, Arya is standing next to Jon.
“What are you doing here?” Jon asks. She doesn’t answer. He takes his little sister by the shoulder. “Hey, what happened?”
“I came to kill Cersei,” she says. “Your queen got there first.”
“She’s everyone’s queen now.”
“Try telling Sansa.”
The North will never kneel, and Sansa’s said as much before.
“Wait for me outside the city gates,” Jon says. “I’ll come find you.”
Jon starts to walk away, but Arya grabs him by the arm.
“Jon,” she says. “She knows who you are. Who you really are. You’ll always be a threat to her. And I know a killer when I see one.”
Jon and Tyrion
Jon leaves his weapons with the Unsullied soldiers guarding the room where Tyrion is imprisoned. He walks in and finds the former Hand of the Queen sitting down against a crate the far end of the room, resigned to his fate.
“Did you bring any wine?” Tyrion asks. (Priorities.)
“No,” Jon says.
“Ah. Well thank you for coming to see me. Our queen doesn’t keep prisoners for long. I suppose there’s a crude kind of justice. I betrayed my closest friend and watched him burn. Now Varys’s ashes can tell my ashes, ‘See? I told you.’
“It just occurred to me. I’m talking to the only man alive who knows where I’m going. So is there life after death?”
“Not that I’ve seen.”
“I should be thankful. Oblivion is the best I could hope for. I strangled my lover. I shot my own father with a crossbow. I betrayed my queen.”
“I did. And I’d do it again, now that I’ve seen what I’ve seen. I chose my fate. The people of King’s Landing did not.”
“I can’t justify what happened,” Jon says. “I won’t try. But the war is over now.”
“Is it? When you heard her talking to her soldiers, did she sound like someone who’s done fighting?” Tyrion stands up and approaches Jon. “She liberated the people of Slaver’s Bay. She liberated the people of King’s Landing. And she’ll go on liberating until the people of the world are free and she rules them all.”
“And you’ve been by her side, counseling her. Until today.”
“Until today. Varys was right. I was wrong. It was vanity to think I could guide her. Our queen’s nature is fire and blood.”
“You think our house words are stamped on our bodies when we’re born and that’s who we are? Then I’d be fire and blood, too.”
This hits Jon where it counts. Those are House Targaryen’s words. Tyrion is endorsing the first part of the nature versus nurture argument. What would that mean for Jon, who’s both Stark and Targaryen — and in his reconing, a living argument for nurture over nature, thanks to the late Ned Stark.
“You think our house words are stamped on our bodies when we’re born and that’s who we are?” Jon asks. “Then I’d be fire and blood, too. She’s not her father, no more than you’re Tywin Lannister.”
“My father was an evil man. My sister was an evil woman. Pile up all the bodies of all the people they ever killed — there still won’t be half as many as our beautiful queen slaughtered in a single day.”
“Cersei left her no choice.”
“The moment the gates fell, the battle was over.”
“She saw her friend beheaded. She saw her dragon shot out of the sky.”
“And she burned down a city for it.”
“Ah, it’s easy to judge when you’re standing far from the battlefield.”
“Would you have done it?”
“You’ve been up there, on a dragon’s back. You’ve had that power. Would you have burned the city down?”
Jon pauses for a moment to consider it. “I don’t know,” he says.
“Yes, you do. You won’t say because you don’t want to betray her, but you know.”
“What’s it matter what I’d do?”
“She believes her destiny is to build a better world for everyone. If you believed that — if you truly believed it — wouldn’t you kill whoever stood between you and paradise?”
“It matters more than anything. When she murdered the slavers of Astapor, I’m sure no one but the slavers complained. After all, they were evil men. When she crucified hundreds of Meereenese nobles, who could argue? They were evil men. The Dothraki khals she burned alive? They would have done worse to her. Everywhere she goes, evil men die and we cheer her for it. And she grows more powerful and more sure that she is good and right.
“She believes her destiny is to build a better world for everyone. If you believed that — if you truly believed it — wouldn’t you kill whoever stood between you and paradise?”
This is the argument against Daenerys Targaryen stripped to its essentials. She sees herself as the engine for destiny, and she’ll burn down the forces she deems evil or unworthy on her path to create a better world, as she defines it. That used to be OK. Ugly, sure. Messy, yes. But the old Daenerys Targaryen burned evil men, and we understood. The new Daenerys Targaryen burns all men, women, and children without remorse. There’s no coming back from that.
Jon sits down and buries his head in his hands for a moment, shielding himself from the truth of Tyrion’s question. He exhales in frustration.
“I know you love her,” Tyrion says. “I love her, too. Not as … successfully as you. But I believed in her with all my heart. Love is more powerful than reason. We all know that. Look at my brother.”
“‘Love is the death of duty’,” Jon says.
“You just came up with that?” Tyrion asks, surprised.
“Maester Aemon said it a long time ago.”
Tyrion pauses, purses his lips, and chews on the wisdom.
“Sometimes duty is the death of love. You are the shield that guards the realms of men,” Tyrion says, echoing the vows of the Night’s Watch (and also pretty perfectly describing Jon Snow). “And you’ve always tried to do the right thing. No matter the cost, you’ve tried to protect people. Who is the greatest threat to the people now?”
Sadness drips from Tyrion as we inches closer to the inevitable question that doesn’t want to ask. Jon knows there’s no easy answer and stares at the floor.
“It’s a terrible thing I’m asking,” Tyrion says. “It’s also the right thing. Do you think I’m the last man she’ll execute? Who is more dangerous than the rightful heir to the Iron Throne?”
“That’s her decision,” Jon says, standing up, defending his queen. “She is the queen. I’m sorry it came to this.”
He puts his hand on Tyrion’s shoulder for a moment in a touching gesture of sorrow. He knocks on the door to leave the room.
“And your sisters?” Tyrion asks. “Do you see them bending the knee?”
“My sisters will be loyal to the throne.”
“Why do you think Sansa told me the truth about you? Because she doesn’t want Dany to be queen. ”
“She doesn’t get to choose.”
“No. But you do. And you have to choose now.”
Jon thinks about it and leaves.
Daenerys Targaryen and Jon in the throne room
His sword returned, Jon walks through the ruined halls of King’s Landing. Outside, it is snowing. He passes a pile of rubble that moves, revealing itself to be Daenerys’ dragon. Drogon sniffs Jon and lies back down.
As Jon makes his way to the throne room, Daenerys enters it for the first time.
Snow falls through the missing ceiling in the castle she destroyed. She looks around a room where she’s never been, sees the empty Iron Throne, and walks toward it. She approaches the Iron Throne, walks a few steps up to it, and holds out her hand to touch one of the sword hilts that forms an arm.
She touches it and smiles, feeling the weight of all she’s done to arrive at this moment. It’s hers. It’s finally hers.
She turns round to sit when she sees Jon enter from the far side of the throne room. Daenerys Targaryen smiles.
“When I was a girl,” she says, “my brother told me it was made with a thousand swords from Aegon’s fallen enemies. What do a thousand swords look like in the mind of a little girl who can’t count to 20? I imagined a mountain of swords too high to climb. So many fallen enemies, you could only see the soles of Aegon’s feet.”
Not one for small talk, Jon changes the subject to the horrors he’s seen.
“I saw them executing Lannister prisoners in the street,” he says.” They said they were acting on your orders.”
“It was necessary.”
“Necessary? Have you been down there? Have you seen? Children — little children — burned!”
“I tried to make peace with Cersei,” Daenerys Targaryen says, cool as lemonade. “She used their innocence as a weapon against me. She thought it would cripple me.”
“He conspired behind my back with my enemies. How have you treated people who’ve done the same to you, even when it broke your heart?”
She’s not wrong. Jon has executed people.
“Forgive him,” Jon says.
“You can. You can forgive all of them, make them see they made a mistake. Make them understand. Please, Dany.”
“We can’t hide behind small mercies. The world we need won’t be built by men loyal to the world we have.”
“The world we need is a world of mercy. It has to be.”
“And it will be,” she says and approaches Jon wearing a smile. “It’s not easy to see something that’s never been before. A good world.”
“How do you know?” Jon asks. “How do you know it’ll be good?”
“Because I know what is good. And so do you.”
“You do. You do. You’ve always known.”
“What about everyone else? All the other people who think they know what’s good.”
“They don’t get to choose,” she says, sealing her fate.
Daenerys Targaryen has become the self-appointed arbiter of what is good and proper in the world. A queen with unlimited power, with a living weapon of mass destruction, with salivating armies at her command, utterly convinced that what springs from her mind is decent and de facto good, perfectly willing and able to repeat the firestorm of King’s Landing across Westeros, just as she told her assembled troops earlier.
“Be with me,” she says. “Build the new world with me. This is our reason. It has been from the beginning, since you were a little boy with a bastard’s name, and I was a little girl who couldn’t count to 20. We do it together. We break the wheel together.”
“You are my queen,” he says. “Now, and always.”
She kisses him. He kisses her back. He pulls back his arm. Jon stabs Daenerys Targaryen in the heart with a dagger.
The surprise on Daenerys Targaryen’s face is matched only by the horror on Jon Snow’s face. She falls back, but he catches her. A small stream of blood trickles out of the right side of her mouth. She breathes heavily, dying. Another trickle of blood appears, this time from her right nostril. Daenerys Targaryen dies, and Jon weeps for the love he’s lost and the life he’s taken.
Love is the death of duty, and sometimes duty is the death of love.
RIP Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen, the First of Her Name, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Protector of the Seven Kingdoms, Mother of Dragons, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, the Unburnt, Breaker of Chains, Mad Queen, who wanted to break the wheel but, in the only moment that really mattered, firebombed King’s Landing instead, and used that as a template to plan her conquest of the world. She died as a queen who never got to sit on her throne.
In the distance, Drogon screeches. He knows something is wrong. He flies into the room as Jon places Daenerys Targaryen’s head on the ground. Jon backs away from the WMD.
Drogon nudges his mother and realizes that she’s gone. In a fit of fire and fury, he burns the Iron Throne, thus ending the question of who would sit on it, once and for all. It melts to slag that runs down the steps that Daenerys Targaryen just climbed. The Iron Throne was made and unmade with dragon fire.
Perhaps because Jon’s a Targaryen, perhaps because he knows that his mother loved him, perhaps because he doesn’t know who killed her, perhaps for all of these reasons and more, Drogon lets Jon live.
He cradles his mother in his claw. With Jon’s dagger still protruding from her chest, Drogon flies off into the distance, disappearing into the gray winter storm clouds.
A few weeks after Daenerys Targaryen’s death at the blade of Jon Snow, representatives of the Houses of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros are gathered outside of King’s Landing. Grey Worm joins them, with his shackled prisoner, Tyrion Lannister.
“Where’s Jon?” Sansa Stark asks.
“He is our prisoner,” Grey Worm says.
“So is Lord Tyrion,” Sansa says. “They were both to be brought to this gathering.”
“We will decide what we do with our prisoners,” Grey Worm says. “This is our city now.”
“If you look outside the walls of your city, you’ll find thousands of Northmen who will explain to you why harming Jon Snow is not in your interest,” Sansa says.
“And you will find thousands of Unsullied who believe that it is.”
“Some of you may be quick to forgive,” Yara Greyjoy says. “The Ironborn are not. I swore to follow Daenerys Targaryen.”
“You swore to follow a tyrant,” Sansa says.
“She freed us from a tyrant,” Yara says. “Cersei is gone because of her, and Jon Snow put a knife in her heart. Let the Unsullied give him what he deserves.”
“Say another word about killing my brother,” Arya Stark says, “and I’ll cut your throat.”
“Friends, please,” Ser Davos Seaworth, aka Onion Knight, the consummate diplomat says and stands up. “We’ve been cutting each other’s throats long enough.”
In a sign of respect, he addresses Grey Worm using his real name.
“Torgo Nudho. Am I saying that properly?” Grey Worm doesn’t respond. “If it weren’t for you and your men, we would’ve lost the war with the dead. This country owes you a debt it can never repay, but let us try. There is land in the Reach. Good land. The people that used to live there are gone. Make it your own. Start your own house with the Unsullied as your bannermen. We’ve had enough war. Thousands of you, thousands of them. You know how it ends. We need to find a better way.”
“We do not need payment,” Grey Worm says. “We need justice. Jon Snow cannot go free.”
“It’s not for you to decide,” Tyrion says
“You are not here to speak!” Grey Worm screams. “Everyone has heard enough words from you.”
“You’re right,” Tyrion says admitting his guilt and his failures. “And no one’s any better for it. But it’s not for you to decide. Jon committed his crime here. His fate is for our king to decide. Or our queen.”
“We don’t have a king or queen,” one of the assembled says.
“You’re the most powerful people in Westeros,” Tyrion says. “Choose one.”
“Make your choice, then,” Grey Worm says to the nobles assembled.
Nobody says anything for a moment, and then Edmure Tully, Lord of Riverrun, brother of the late Catelyn Stark, stands up, takes a few steps forward, and begins to speak.
“My lords and ladies,” he says and clears his throat, “I suppose this is the most important moment of our lives. What we decide today will reverberate through the annals of history. I stand before you as one of the senior lords in the country. A veteran of two wars. And I like to think my experience has led to some small skill in statecraft and underst—”
“Uncle?” Sansa says. “Please sit.”
He pauses, and she gives him the world’s most patronizing look. Put right back in his place, he sits down, but not before banging his sword on his chair and looking like an even bigger idiot. Sam shakes his head in embarrassment.
“Well, we have to choose someone,” one of the assembled says.
“Um, ahem,” Samwell Tarly says as he invents democracy. “Why just us? Um, we represent all the great houses, but whomever we choose, they won’t just rule over lords and ladies. Maybe the decision about what’s best for everyone should be left to, well, everyone.”
After a moment of silence, the assembled nobles burst out in laughter.
“Maybe we should give the dogs a vote as well,” Edmure Tully says.
“I’ll ask my horse,” one of the assembled says.
Sam nods and sits back down.
“I suppose you want the crown,” one of the assembled asks Tyrion.
“Me? The Imp? Half the people hate me for serving Daenerys, the other half hate me for betraying her. Can’t think of a worse choice.”
“Who, then?” Ser Davos asks Tyrion. Even though Tyrion just admitted that he’s failed, everyone still wants his council.
“I’ve had nothing to do but think these past few weeks. About our bloody history, about the mistakes we’ve made,” he says and steps forward.
“What unites people? Armies? Gold? Flags? Stories. There’s nothing in the world more powerful than a good story. Nothing can stop it. No enemy can defeat it. And who has a better story than Bran the Broken? The boy who fell from a high tower and lived. He knew he’d never walk again, so he learned to fly. He crossed beyond the Wall, a crippled boy,and became the Three-Eyed Raven. He is our memory, the keeper of all our stories. The wars, weddings, births, massacres, famines. Our triumphs, our defeats, our past. Who better to lead us into the future?”
“Bran has no interest in ruling, and he can’t father children,” Sansa says.
“Good. Sons of kings can be cruel and stupid, as you well know. His will never torment us. That is the wheel our queen wanted to break. From now on, rulers will not be born. They will be chosen on this spot by the lords and ladies of Westeros to serve the realm. I know you don’t want it. I know you don’t care about power. But I ask you now, if we choose you will you wear the crown? Will you lead the Seven Kingdoms to the best of your abilities from this day until your last day?”
“Why do you think I came all this way?” Bran asks with a light dusting of actual, human emotion.
“To Brandon of House Stark I say aye,” Tyrion says.
Almost everyone agrees.
“I love you, little brother,” Sansa says. “I always will. You’ll be a good king. But tens of thousands of Northmen fell in the Great War defending all of Westeros. And those who survived have seen too much and fought too hard ever to kneel again. The North will remain an independent kingdom, as it was for thousands of years.”
Bran nods in agreement.
Tyrion salutes the new king.
“All hail Bran the Broken, First of His Name, King of the Andals and the First Men, Lord of the Six Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm.”
The assembled echo Tyrion, who bows and turns to leave, but King Bran interrupts him.
“Lord Tyrion you will be my Hand,” he says.
“N— No, Your Grace, I don’t want it.”
“And I don’t want to be king.”
“I don’t deserve it. I thought I was wise, but I wasn’t. I thought I knew what was right, but I didn’t. Choose Ser Davos. Choose anyone else.”
“I choose you.”
“You cannot,” Grey Worm says.
“Yes I can. I’m king.”
“This man is a criminal,” Grey Worm says. “He deserves justice.”
“He just got it,” the new king says. “He’s made many terrible mistakes. He’s going to spend the rest of his life fixing them.”
“It is not enough,” Grey Worm says. Tyrion bows his head in defeat.
Jon and Tyrion in prison
The Hand of the King visits the Queenslayer in prison, where he explains Jon’s fate.
“Giving you to the Unsullied would start a war.” Tyrion says. “Letting you walk free would start a war. So our new king has chosen to send you to the Night’s Watch.”
“There’s still a Night’s Watch?” Jon asks. It’s a reasonable question. There is no more Night King. There are no more White Walkers. What’s the point of a Night’s Watch?
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“The world will always need a home for bastards and broken men. You shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. The Unsullied wanted your head of course, but Grey Worm has accepted the justice of a life sentence. Sansa and Arya wanted you freed, but they understand our new king needs to make peace. No one is very happy. Which means it’s a good compromise, I suppose.”
“Was it right? What I did?”
“What we did.”
“It doesn’t feel right.”
“Ask me again in 10 years,” Tyrion says, having no idea.
Consider, for a moment, the difference in reactions between Jon and Tyrion on the one side and Daenerys Targaryen on the other. To her, there was no room for doubt. She massacred thousands, probably tens of thousands, maybe millions, and she dismissed their deaths as so many eggs to crack in her omelette. Jon and Tyrion (and before them poor Varys) conspired to kill one person, and it’s killing them.
“I don’t expect we’ll ever see each other again,” Jon says as Tyrion walks away.
“I wouldn’t be so sure. A few years as Hand of the King would make anyone want to piss off the edge of the world,” Tyrion says, recalling what he did in season 1 when he was a very different man.
The Stark children say goodbye
At the port outside of King’s Landing, the Unsullied board ships that will take them to their new home. Dothraki walk the piers outside. Jon and Grey Worm share an uncomfortable look, and the leader of the Unsullied gives the order to set sail to the Isle of Naath, where Missandei was from, where she wanted to return to and see the beaches when the war was over.
On the shores of King’s Landing, the three surviving children of Eddard Stark and Catelyn Tully gather to say their goodbyes. Jon’s dressed recalling his season 1 Night’s Watch attire.
“I wish there had been another way,” Sansa says to Jon. “Can you forgive me?”
“The North is free, thanks to you,” he says.
“But they lost their king,” she says.
“Ned Stark’s daughter will speak for them. She’s the best they could ask for.”
Jon turns to Arya next.
“You can come see me, you know, at Castle Black,” he tells his sister.
“I can’t,” she says, and Jon misunderstands.
“You think anyone will dare tell you women aren’t allowed?”
“I’m not going back north.”
“Where are you going?” Sansa asks.
“What’s west of Westeros?” Arya asks.
“I don’t know,” Jon says with a smile and a shrug.
“No one knows. It’s where all the maps stop. That’s where I’m going.” She’s excited and sad at once.
“You have your Needle?” Jon asks, referring to the sword he gave her early in season 1.
“Right here,” she says and tearily pats her weapon. They embrace.
Jon turns his attention to his youngest brother, Bran
“Your Grace,” Jon says, kneeling to the king. “I’m sorry I wasn’t there when you needed me.”
“You were exactly where you were supposed to be,” Bran says and damn near cracks a smile.
Jon stands, looks at his siblings, and walks way to his boat. Bran, Arya, and Sansa watch him leave.
Brienne and the story of Jaime Lannister
Ser Brienne of Tarth flips the pages in a book that tells the life stories of the important people of Westeros. She stops on a page titled Ser Jaime Lannister, the man she loved and who loved her back, if only for a night.
Squired for Barristan Selmy against the Kingswood Outlaws. Knighted and named to the Kingsguard in his sixteenth year for valour in the field: At the Sack of King’s Landing, murdered his King, Aerys the second at the foot of the Iron Throne: Pardoned by King Robert Baratheon:
Thereafter Known as the Kingslayer:
After the murder of King Joffrey I by Tyrion Lannister served under King Tommen I:
And that’s where Jaime’s story ends. For now.
With tears in her eyes, Brienne picks up a quill, dips it in ink, and begins writing.
Captured in the field at the Whispering Wood:
Set Free by Lady Catelyn Stark in return for an oath to find [obscured] and her two daughters:
Lost his [hand] …
She flips the page and continues.
Took Riverrun from the Tully rebels, without loss of life.
Lured the Unsullied into attacking Casterly Rock, sacrificing his childhood home in service to a greater strategy.
Outwitted the Targaryen forces to seize Highgarden. Fought at the Battle of the Goldroad bravely, narrowly escaping death by dragonfire. Pledged himself to the forces of men and rode north to Join them at Winterfell, alone.
Faced the Army of the Dead, and defended the castle against impossible odds until the defeat of the Night King. Escaped imprisonment and rode south in an attempt to save the capital from destruction.
Brienne pauses and looks up, thinking. She writes the last line.
Died protecting his Queen.
With tears in her eyes, Ser Brienne of Tarth closes the book, literally and figuratively, on Ser Jaime Lannister.
Tyrion and the Small Council
Tyrion Lannister, newly appointed Hand of the King, arrives alone at the table where the Small Council will soon meet.
He sits at the head of the table, in a chair reserved for those who hold his title. It was off-screen the death of Lord Jon Arryn, Hand to King Robert Baratheon, that served as Game of Thrones’ inciting incident. The king rode north to enlist his old friend Ned Stark as Hand. But Ned didn’t last long. Tyrion’s father Tyrion Lannister served as the hand under Joffrey I Baratheon. After Tyrion killed his father, the imp’s uncle, Kevan Lannister, became Hand. Most recently, Qyburn served as Hand of the Queen under Cersei I Lannister.
There’s a lot of history within that chair.
Tyrion sits uncomfortably for a moment and looks around. He stands up and straightens the six other cockeyed chairs around the table. His job is to bring order to the realm, after all.
Just after he finishes, he hears the Small Council enter the room. Tyrion sits down and tries to look important.
The men yank the chairs with no regard to Tyrion’s straightening, but he lets it slide.
Sam, dressed in gray maester’s clothing, places a large book on the table, and Tyrion opens it.
“What’s this?” Tyrion asks.
“A Song of Ice and Fire,” Sam says with a smile. That would be the title of George R. R. Martin’s novel series. “Archmaester Ebrose’s history of the wars following the death of King Robert. I helped him with the title.”
“I suppose I come in for some heavy criticism,” Tyrion says.
“Oh, I wouldn’t say that,” Sam says with even more awkwardness than usual.
“Oh, he’s kind to me. Never would’ve guessed.”
“He’s not kind?”
“He what? What does he say about me?”
“I don’t believe you’re mentioned, ahem.”
Tyrion does a poor job of masking his frustration, and King Bran enters the room. The Small Council stands up and addresses him awkwardly. The king notes that they’re missing a Master of Whisperers (RIP Varys), a Master of Laws, and a Master of War (bye bye Grey Worm). Tyrion says they should have the positions filled within weeks.
“And Drogon?” the king asks, referring to the last remaining dragon. “Any word?”
“He was last spotted flying east, toward—” Sam says.
“The farther away, the better,” Bronn says. He is now, as the Lannister brothers promised him, Lord of Highgarden, Lord Paramount of the Reach. He’s also the Master of Coin.
“Perhaps I can find him,” King Bran says. And it’d be nice for him to do something useful with his ability to inhabit animal consciousness, honestly. “Do carry on with the rest.”
Ser Brienne of the Kingsguard calls Podrick (also of the Kingsguard) in to take the king away. There’s a bit more awkwardness as everyone gives a “long may he reign” at different times. Tyrion apologizes and says they’ll get better.
Bronn agrees that the crown’s debt to him has been paid. They decide to start some more debt to feed their people and rebuild their armada and repair their ports for Ser Davos, the Master of Ships. Archmaester Sam says it’d be good to build some sewers, and Tyrion commands it to be done. Bronn would like more brothels.
“Uh, the Archmaester is less than enthusiastic about the salutary effects of brothels,” Sam says.
“Well, I imagine he isn’t using them properly,” Bronn says.
“I think we can all agree that ships take precedence over brothels,” Brienne says.
“I think that’s a very presumptuous statement,” Bronn says.
“I once brought a jackass and a honeycomb into a brothel,” Tyrion says starting a very old joke. How far he’s come.
The Stark children go their separate ways
Jon Snow and his two escorts arrive at Castle Black. He’s not thrilled until he sees Tormund Giantsbane, the redheaded man who suckled at a giant’s breast and fell hard for Brienne, looking back at him from the empty fort.
Jon rides in and the gates close behind him. He picks up his sword.
Arya sheaths Needle.
Sansa puts on regal clothing.
Each of the Stark children walk through crowds of people who they lead: Jon at Castle Black, Arya in command of a ship, and Sansa at Winterfell castle.
At Castle Black, Jon and his one-eared direwolf, Ghost, are reunited. Jon pets his old friend who licks his face. The wall gate in the north opens, as Jon and Tormund wait on horseback for it to rise.
Sansa receives her crown and sits on her throne. “The Queen in the North!” her people chant.
Arya’s ship, whose sails carry the wolf sigil of Winterfell, sets sail. Arya looks over uncharted waters.
Ghost is the first to walk through the gate. Jon, Tormund, and the people of the north follow. There is no threat to defend from. There is no reason to populate Castle Black. Tormund is doing what he said he’d do and heading to the real north. Jon, though saddened to see the gate close behind him, is joining them.
He looks into the distance and, for a moment, allows himself the glimmer of a smile.
He and his companions travel north, past a notably green plant pushing it way up through the snow. It’s the very same forest where season 1 began, but there are no White Walkers anymore. The Starks saw to that, and now they head to adventures unknown.