The series finale of Game of Thrones defied pretty much all the predictions as to who would emerge triumphant and sit on the Iron Throne, in what has proved to be the most polarizing and controversial season yet. (Over a million fans have even signed a petition demanding that HBO re-shoot the entire final season, which—c’mon, people. That’s not how any of this works. Save it for the fanfic.) Personally, I thought the series as a whole provided a gripping, trope-bashing narrative arc that was imperfectly executed in the crucial last two seasons. Showrunners David Benioff and David B. Weiss got the plane on the ground in the end—but it wasn’t a pretty landing, and there’s bound to be a lot of grumbling from dissatisfied customers. Ramsey Bolton did warn us: “If you were hoping for a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention.”
(WARNING: It’s impossible to write a meaningful wrap-up analysis of this incredibly influential series without going into specifics, So there are MAJOR spoilers below, especially for the final season and last two episodes.)
Let’s get the controversial plot turn from last week out of the way up front, since it drove much of what transpired in the finale, and pretty much encapsulates the best and worst aspects of this final season. In the penultimate episode, “The Bells,” Daenerys and Drogon, her surviving dragon, make short work of Cersei’s forces to conquer King’s Landing. (That showy Golden Company? Not so tough after all.) As the bells ring to signal surrender, we see a flurry of conflicting emotions play across Dany’s face before hardening into steely resolve. She proceeds not to just incinerate the Red Keep where Cersei has been watching the battle from afar—which is what everyone expected—but to rain down dragon fire on all the innocent civilians who Cersei brought in to serve as a human shield. Her decision lit up Twitter and launched a thousand hot takes, as disappointed fans howled in rage at seeing the Mother of Dragons break bad.
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