Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 6 Review

 In Game of Thrones Reviews

Westeros Has Been Liberated…

…Right? The Breaker of Chains has taken down the tyrannical Cersei Lannister and freed the people of the seven kingdoms. Shame that it only took the deaths of hundreds of thousands of these freed innocents to do it. As the ashes settle over the ruined King’s Landing, what now? What will the surviving lords, ladies and queen of Westeros do now the long battle is won? We find out, and end this mixed season but phenomenal series, with “The Iron Throne”.

Turning The Wheel

“I’m not going to stop the wheel; I’m going to break it.”. This declaration from Daenerys all the way back in season 5 seems to have fallen to the wayside as she has gained more power. Yet, it has never been more prevalent. As the characters look upon the destruction left behind by their new queen, they must be asking what has really changed. The answer, it seems, is nothing as Daenerys declares her intention to “liberate” the entire world. Now from her point of view, this is for the greater good. However, as Tyrion finally sheds his blind denial and looks upon her, he sees only a tyrant and would rather die than follow her.

Arya also comes to a similar revelation, telling a still hopeful Jon that she will kill him as competition to her throne. The change is obvious. The wheel is still turning and House Targaryen just another spoke in the never-ending cycle of death. Now, this reviewer can see the intention behind this. Daenerys’ speeches about how she genuinely believes she is what is best for the world strengthening this point, but for the wider audience? It’s going to mean almost nothing thanks to the biggest problem with season 8: it’s all too rushed.

Rushing To The End

Season 8 has been a race to the end and it shows. Remember why Jon being a Targaryen was such a big deal? Apparently, the writers didn’t because it’s a footnote for most of the series. Remember why Daenerys wanted to be a queen of the people? But that would get in the way of making her a twist villain. Remember the political intrigue that set the show apart from any other series before it? The series got ahead of the books, so the show resorted to fan-baiting and easy tropes so they wouldn’t have to think up interesting plots and arcs. I don’t want to be saying these things. The first two episodes of season 8 were promising and I wanted to like the rest just as much. However, it all comes down to one rushed, if admittedly well-done scene where Jon kills Daenerys.

If this season was anything like previous ones, the questioning of Daenerys rule would’ve been the entire plot of a season 9. How would an almost new generation of lords and ladies cope? Who would side with who? Would there be another rebellion on the cards? But we don’t get to see answers to those interesting questions as Daenerys’ reign ends after only 30 minutes of screen time. It’s rushed and squanders potential, making the episode feel lesser. Also, Drogon is somehow smart and nuanced enough to understand influence and corruption? As instead of crisping the man who murdered his mother, he melts the Iron Throne and flies off with her body. Can he rule Westeros instead? I think I’d rather be ruled by a fire-breathing dragon than whatever idiot takes the seven kingdoms next…

Finding A New King

Getting to the second half of this episode now and it picks up a few weeks later. All the remaining lords and ladies of Westeros have gathered in the Dragonpit at King’s Landing. They’re not only to discussing Tyrion and Jon’s fates, although I still don’t understand how Jon was caught considering he was alone in the throne room, but who will be the King or Queen to decide it.

Again, in an earlier season, this kind of discussion would’ve taken an entire episode. It would have taken time for each individual character to understand how it affects them and their story arc. Here we’ve only got 35 minutes and once again its shockingly rushed. Everyone’s allegiances are spat out in brief moments of dialogue and what could’ve been genuinely funnier moments are stormed over (sorry Sam, sorry Edmure). The bulk of the talking here is left to Tyrion and while it is rushed, I’m glad the speech was his.

If I had to pick the best, most consistent character/actor duo through-out the series it would be Tryion Lannister/Peter Dinklage. They both give it their all no matter what, even when faced with out-of-character moments or bad writing. Dinklage sells Tyrion and Tyrion sells himself, as he not only creates an oligarchy to let the lords and ladies of Westeros decide future kings and queens, but is the first nominate a candidate, Bran the Broken.

Rising Only Ever So Slightly From The Ashes

“There’s nothing more powerful in the world than a good story… And who has a better story than Bran the Broken?” says Tyrion as he suggests Bran become King of the Seven Kingdoms. At first, I expected this to be laughed off like Sam and Edmure were, but as the gathered lords meekly agree, except for Sansa who makes the North an independent kingdom to no protest, I realised what the show was trying, and failing to do.

An “Everything Remains” ending is hard to pull off. I can only think of a handful of shows that have done it right and while it is the most logical ending for the themes of the books, it doesn’t make sense for the themes of the show. The show changed its themes to tell its audience that great change does happen. So, seeing the Small Council meet and discuss the running of Westeros without their King, like they did under Robert Baratheon, falls short of thematic expectation. Even if this new council are far less corrupt. For now. We’ll ask again in 10 years.

Although I am very happy for Brienne of Tarth getting to be head of the Kingsguard and honour Jaime’s memory. Her story arc needs to be one of the things remembered most fondly from this show, just because its character writing done right.

Drifting Apart

Let’s talk writing beyond your source material. This is nothing new. Anime is notorious for leaping ahead of the manga it’s adapting in what are known as “filler arcs” until the manga catches up again. But Game of Thrones couldn’t make a filler arc. The next book was nowhere to be seen so the writers had to continue with the plot and by the looks of season 8, and 6 & 7 for that matter, they didn’t have the talent to pull it off.

It’s for this reason I find the parting of the Stark siblings/cousins to be so amusing. It illustrates just how much the show has departed from its source material. Every Stark got what they wanted. Sansa is a queen. Arya is a free woman. Bran is fulfilling his duties as the Three Eyed Raven from a more useful position. Jon is home on the Wall (even if it is technically a punishment). By the standards of the source material, two of those ending shouldn’t happen. Arya was too revenge driven, which has killed every other character with similar motives (Oberon, The Hound) and Jon would’ve lost his life just as Ned did because he was too good.

I’m not saying the adaptation should only be loyal to the book, but when you build a show on its source material’s unapologetically bleak, realistic yet strange world, you set an expectation, and this season and episode’s breaking of it is too much to ignore.

Final Thoughts

While this episode ties everything off quite neatly, with wiggle room for spins-off, this episode’s and this season’s problems bring a grand finale down to passable. What’s done is done and the wheel keeps on turning with less of a crushing blow. Pity the writing couldn’t make us feel something from this conclusion.

 

Our Stand-Out Moment

For all the character moments given to us towards the end of the episode, we found Brienne’s the most heart-warming. Finding Jaime’s entry in the book of knights, she had every right to slander him just as Joffery did, but she doesn’t. Exemplifying the true virtues of the knight, she makes an honest account of his bravery and rises above her pain. Best character ever? Best character ever.

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