Warning: contains spoilers for series 8…(and a long post!)
Okay, so I’m a little late to the party on this, but after the final episode (which I watched several days late due to the hubby working and due to the school holidays have only just got round to writing this!), I think it’s taken me this long to process it and come to terms with the fact that a show I’ve watched for years is actually all over! In a small way, it was almost a form of grief.
So what did I think of the final episode? Did I get it? I think I was more surprised at the number of people who clearly didn’t get it after watching it for so long. The clue is in the very title of the program – A Game of Thrones. Whilst a shocking twist, the ending was pretty darn clever in its revelation that, quite simply, Brandon Stark played everyone, even us, the viewers, and had been doing so for quite some time.
Always sat in the background, seemingly so quiet, detached and innocent, yet with the uncanny ability to see all as the Three-Eyed Raven (past, present and future), Bran essentially engineered much of what happened throughout the last few series to put himself on the Iron Throne (so to speak, considering it was melted by Drogon the dragon). Whether Bran did so for the better of Westeros or his own evil intent will have to remain an individual conclusion.
In the final episode, Tyrion (certainly one of my favourite characters throughout) champions Bran, painting his life story as one of perseverance over his disability and dead themselves. He then asks Bran if he would wear the crown. With that faint, condescending smile, Bran answers, “Why do you think I came all this way?”, making it clear he knew that question was coming. It is in that moment where we have to reconsider everything we thought we knew about Bran throughout the saga, and realise that we, just as much as those characters around him, failed to see him as a threat.
Yes, it seems while Daenerys was worried about the lack of love from the North and Jon Snow’s sisters, she should have been more concerned with the quiet boy in the back of the room (it’s the quiet ones you have to watch, so goes the old saying!). It was Bran who truly put into motion the downfall of the Mother of Dragons.
At the beginning of series 8, Bran has known the truth of Jon Snow’s parentage for over a year and that he is the true heir to the Iron Throne. As the Three-Eyed Raven, Bran has previously studied the Targaryen bloodline and the madness and tyranny inherent within (such as seeing the moment when Aerys Targaryen shouted ‘Burn them all!’), which he knows extends to Daenerys, even if it hasn’t completely erupted at that point.
So who is the first person Bran tells of this secret? Samwell Tarley, Jon’s close friend and the person who’s entire family was burnt to a crisp by Daenerys’s dragons for failing to ‘bend the knee’ and accept her as queen. Why did he pick Sam? Bran tells Sam that he is a good man (funny that this was echoed by Bran to Theon under the wierwood tree during the battle for Winterfell), sensing that Sam was Jon’s friend without any conflict in his heart or ulterior motives. However, he could have also known through his abilities that Sam had the remainder of the information (such as the fact that Jon wasn’t a bastard after all) that would complete Jon’s claim.
This knowledge of Jon’s parentage was assumed by many to be the very thing that would install Jon on the Iron Throne, but it turned out to be the very fire that would come to consume Daenerys’ mind with fear and paranoia that her ‘right’ as queen is under threat. Knowing this truth would destabilize her claim and create insecurities that, in hindsight, were already there. After she receives a chilly reception in the North, Bran chooses this moment to insist Sam tell Jon about his lineage, knowing Jon won’t use this information as a stepping stone to the throne (he doesn’t want to be king of anything). Bran also knew that Jon, now clearly in love, wouldn’t be able to keep this devesating secret to himself; he’d tell the one person he shouldn’t – Daenerys.
Bran knew that it was only a matter of time until something tipped Daenerys over the edge, and rather than tell Jon she would eventually become the tyrant she denied she was (which he would never have believed anyway), Bran instigated her madness by taking away the one thing she treasured above anything else – her right to the Iron Throne. Her rationality crumbled, and she began in that moment to see everything around her as a threat, and every person as a traitor, and the loss of Jorah and then Missandei (who chillingly advises Daenerys to ‘Burn them all’ with the one word ‘Dracarys’), her two closest advisors, only served to solidify that belief.
It was a belief solidified even further as Jon got ever closer to her beloved dragons with ease. Once Stansa and Ayra, Tyrion and Varys discovered the truth, it was no longer a secret and became an even bigger threat, as pointed out to Varys by Tyrion.
In turn, Jon Snow’s perantage didn’t so much foreshadow his acension, but instead forewarned of Daenerys’s descent. It also allowed Jon the ability, as a Targaryen, to get past her dragon to stab his queen in the heart, after which Drogon melted the Iron Throne in a symbolic gesture, dictating that Jon would never sit upon it. After killing the Mother of Dragons, Jon was too politically toxic to ever be king, but that may have been the point all along.
In setting himself on the throne, Bran ensured that his only true rivals were very close family. He didn’t bat an eye at giving the North to Sansa. And what about Jon? The Unsullied wanted him dead, his family wanted him freed. Bran decided on a ‘compromise’ where Jon was condemned to life with the Nights Watch. However, with the White Walkers dead, there is no need for the Nights Watch anymore, so Bran if effectively setting Jon free anyway, giving him the Land Beyond the Wall, especially as winter is ending in the Land of Always Winter. The Night King is dead and the frozen kingdom he created is melting, allowing Jon and the Wildlings to explore this land without worry, knowing that the paradise that used to exist beyond the Wall before the creation of the White Walkers is returning.
Over all, I think the final episode is one you either get or you don’t, but personally I think it was extremely clever and maintained the manipulative essense of the entire show.
When you play the Game of Thrones, you either win or you die, and the Starks certainly made sure they won.