This is the end (of Game of Thrones).
Ok. Here goes. I’m going to do it.
***Spoilers*** for Game of Thrones ahead. If you’re not poised on the brink of madness, waiting for the final episode, you might want to look away now.
This is going to be a long one.
Twitter did what it always does last night — exploded with indignation, smugness, laughter, mocking, shitposting, and all that other stuff Twitter does so well. There were several specific points that I feel motivated to address, here, and I’m going to start with this one:
“OMFG they just COMPLETELY undid Jaime’s whole redemption arc!”
I… honestly don’t get this perspective at all. I mean, yeah, he rode back to King’s Landing to help his sister, but I don’t see how that completely invalidates his character arc. Jaime may have become a better person, but good people don’t leave their family behind to rot, especially not when their unborn son or daughter is at risk. Let’s be real: Jaime loved Cersei his whole life. She was his sister, his twin, and she was basically the romantic love of his life for a good portion of that time. She was also, in theory, carrying his baby. Again. The guy who could callously turn away from her and just leave her to die at the hands of her enemies… would that really be the good version of Jaime?
Bottom line: Yes, Jaime did hurt Brienne, but I think people did get one thing right — he probably did it to keep her from going with him, because I think Jaime already had a feeling he wasn’t getting out of this one alive. Cersei would probably have ordered Brienne’s death if she set eyes on her again. Remember that look Cersei gave Brienne/Jaime during the meeting at the dragon pit? Cersei knew something was up, even if it hadn’t actually, umm… been up… yet. Hell, Bronn saw it coming a mile away. And I seriously doubt that Jaime thought of himself as a good partner for Brienne. He knew how screwed up he was.
“WTF Arya went all the way to King’s Landing for nothing!”
She really, really didn’t. Not all that long ago, she was making it clear that she, like Sansa, didn’t trust Daenerys. Now, Arya has a whole city’s worth of evidence in front of her. She experienced what the citizens of King’s Landing experienced. Her misgivings about Daenerys just got seriously real, and we all know how Arya responds to bullies, tyrants, and murderers.
“NOOO YOU JERKS DAENERYS WOULD NEVER DO THAT!!!”
Confession: I’ve never really liked Daenerys much. There was a time when it looked like she might turn out to be a good person, but I never trusted that, or her. She’s been trending toward this for a long, long time now. There have been too many times when something didn’t go her way and she leapt straight to, “KILL EVERYBODY!” She either didn’t have the power to actually do it, at the time, or she had to be talked out of it. And good grief, has she made bad decisions. She’s constantly haranguing Tyrion about his mistakes, but when she admits her own lately, it’s usually something like, “Yes, I made a mistake… listening to you when you told me not to burn everybody.”
Daenerys spent a lot of time demanding that people respect her, largely (loudly) based on a claim to being the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. That was literally all she had in the beginning, but she expected people to acknowledge her, anyway. The second it turned out that she wasn’t the rightful heir, she did the right thing and gave the actual rightful heir the respect he deserv… oh, wait.
My take? This wasn’t a case of “Missandei dies and Daenerys suddenly does a 180 and goes apeshit,” it was a case of, “Well, yeah, she’s been on the edge for a really long time, of course it only took the right push to send her over the edge.”
Let’s put it this way: At no point would I have given her my loyalty.
So what the bleeping hell is going to happen now?
I’m not going to make a prediction, but I have a couple of theories. Here’s how I think things could end:
– Daenerys kills some or all of those who’ve betrayed her or opposed her (Jon, Arya, Sansa, Tyrion, etc.) and reigns as Queen of the Ashes.
It could happen. I don’t think this is where we’re headed, but it could be.
– Jon kills Daenerys, and then is killed by her people.
Jon doesn’t break his word, but I think he will if he decides that it’s for the greater good. This would bring him full circle back to Eddard Stark’s arc: Ned put his family’s well-being above his own honor and falsely confessed to treason… and then immediately lost his head. Jon might decide to save the world from another tyrant, knowing full well that he won’t walk away from it. This may be why the Lord of Light brought him back — and maybe killing Daenerys after she’s gone full-on Mad Queen is what really brings the dawn for the seven kingdoms.
– Arya kills Daenerys.
After what happened at King’s Landing, Daenerys has probably made Arya’s list. Arya could do it as herself or while wearing someone’s face. She could do it with a blade, or with poison, or in some other inventive way. She may or may not get away with it.
– Sansa arranges Daenerys’ death.
Also a possibility, but I’d consider this one a little less likely (unless it involves Arya). Unless Sansa sent an assassin or two along with the army, there isn’t much time left for this sort of maneuvering. I think it’s more likely that if Daenerys dies, she’ll die at the hands of a major character, though I think it might be more poetic if it occurred at the hands of a nameless hired killer. Daenerys has always made a big deal about Robert trying to have her murdered by assassins, so dying that way in the end would bring that whole thing full circle, too.
– A surviving citizen of King’s Landing kills Daenerys. They certainly have a reason to. She might get magnanimous and bring some of them before her, and get shanked in the process. Given how closely she’s guarded, though, it’s not likely. Of course, she has those moments of confidence/arrogance where she walks through crowds of strangers like she’s invulnerable, so it’s not entirely impossible that something like that could happen.
Who sits on the Iron Throne?
That depends on who lives, who dies, and who does the killing.
I have a hard time believing that Jon would kill Daenerys and then step over her corpse to take the throne. Breaking his oath to save the people is one thing; breaking it and then allowing himself to be elevated for it is something else entirely. If he does it, he’ll probably do it in such a way as to guarantee he’ll die for it.
Jon might end up on the throne if Arya kills Daenerys, especially if she arranges for the blame to fall elsewhere. He might also end up ruling if Daenerys dies in any way that leaves the Starks blame-free for her death. If a Stark is responsible, I don’t think Jon will want to take it.
If Jon and Daenerys both die, there’s still a legitimate heir to the Iron Throne left — one that Daenerys literally just created herself. Gendry’s not a bastard anymore, and since it was Daenerys who legitimized him, her people might accept him. With the right help, he might even be a hell of a good king. Given the insanity that followed Robert’s death, the people of Westeros might be damned relieved to put his actual son on the throne. All the Lannisters brought was murder and death and murder, and all those Targaryens have brought is… murder and death and murder. The city surrendered.
Some people have speculated that Tyrion could end up on the throne. His sister was queen, so he could potentially press a claim that way, but I don’t think it’s likely. At this point, I don’t think he’d want it — Tyrion’s pretty broken, and he’s going to be really broken when he finds out that Jaime didn’t make it. Since it’s extremely unlikely that he’ll deliver Highgarden to Bronn, he might die at the end of a crossbow bolt. Since he freed Jaime, thereby betraying Daenerys, he might even die for that (even though it literally made no difference whatsoever).
Some people have also theorized that Sansa could end up on the throne. Given that she’s the rightful heir’s cousin, there’s even a reasonable blood claim, if Jon and Daenerys are both dead — though whether her claim outweighs Gendry’s depends on whether you consider the Baratheon or Targaryen lines as carrying more weight at this point. While the North would accept her, it’s unlikely that the rest of the kingdom would, given that most of them probably still think of her as the daughter of a traitor.
What’s my theory?
Game of Thrones only makes us happy occasionally; the rest of the time, it does horrible things to the people we like. Looking at it from that perspective, here’s my best worst ending — the one that would make sense, while making nearly everyone unhappy:
Daenerys, having gone full-blown Mad Queen, has Jon wrongly executed as a traitor (callback: Ned). He’s the single biggest threat to her rule, and he betrayed her, as far as she’s concerned, by telling Sansa and Arya the truth. He also tried to prevent the troops from slaughtering everybody and called a retreat from the city, which she’ll use as her excuse for branding him a traitor.
Arya’s Westerosi revenge kick started with her father’s death, and it’ll end with Jon’s death when she kills Daenerys. Given that there won’t be any Targaryens left to control him, she can’t leave Drogon out of the equation. It would be exceptionally cruel (and therefore fitting, from her perspective) if Arya killed Drogon (possibly by poisoning) first. While Daenerys is mourning over him, Arya kills her, wearing Grey Worm’s face. It’d be smart to take him out first, as well, and he’s one of the few people who can get close to Daenerys without anyone suspecting a thing.
Tyrion is killed by Bronn (wielding the crossbow Tyrion used to kill his father), thus putting an end to the Lannister main bloodline, giving Cersei her revenge from beyond the grave, and putting him out of his misery over losing his family, failing to temper Daenerys’ worst instincts, and betraying Varys to his death.
Gendry ends up on the Iron Throne with Ser Davos as his Hand. Daenerys’ people support him, because she legitimized him (or they just give up and go home after she’s dead, or a mixture of both). Gendry’s a pretty decent guy, Davos is a pretty decent guy — they have a pretty decent chance at rebuilding things, and they’re not likely to start oppressing the people. It’s also a postmortem dig at Cersei’s plan to kill all of Robert’s bastards so that they could never become a threat, as well as a final “Could anyone be more wrong?” dig at Melisandre, who reeeeally wanted to kill Gendry when she was supporting Stannis as the “Prince That Was Promised.”
How many times did Gendry escape death? Maybe he was the one bringing the dawn to the people of Westeros all along? It wouldn’t be the first time a prophecy was misinterpreted, and there are a number of ways you could argue that Gendry could actually fit. (Some of the more obvious: nobody pulls more swords out of fires than a smith… he was “born” as a legitimate heir from the smoke and tears/salt of the Long Night… there’s a lot of salt and smoke in general in Gendry’s past… Melisandre was certain it was Stannis she was seeing in the flames, but she may have mistaken Gendry for Stannis — Gendry’s definitely sporting a more Stannis-ish look these days…)
Sansa wants the North to remain separate, and I think Davos would see the sense in giving them their freedom, and thus keeping them as allies. (Also, I think Sansa would probably scare the shit out of Gendry in general.) The North gains legal autonomy, and Sansa becomes Queen in the North — completing the power-grab that Littlefinger was angling for, except Arya’s now on Sansa’s side and Littlefinger’s too dead to take advantage of anything.
Arya might return to Winterfell, but I think she might set off to see the world and kill assholes, instead. There’s no shortage of assholes out there.