Monday, May 20, 2019

Game of Thrones - S08E06 Recap and Review

SPOILERS follow...

Picking up from sacking and burning of Kings Landing, we catch up with Tyrion and Jon Snow who are visibly shaken and in shock. Queen Daenerys finally lands on the ground with Drogon in the background taking off shortly, giving the image of Daenerys spreading her wings. She addresses her unsullied and Dothraki soldiers and tells them that the conquest of Kings Landing was just the beginning, and she plans to 'liberate' every city and kingdom on the map. Jon Snow is not quite comfortable with these sentiments, but as a man of his word, he does not dare question his queen. Tyrion, though, takes off the hand-of-the-queen pin and throws it away in disdain. Daenerys is of courses offended by this insult, and orders her unsullied soldiers to take Tyrion to a cell (rather than burning or executing him right there, which she should have).

Jon visits Tyrion in the cell. Both are concerned with the mental state of their queen. Jon is in love with Daenerys and is also loyal to her by oath. He remembers Maester Aemon (a Targaryen by blood) of the Nights Watch and his quote of "love is the death of duty". Tyrion flips it around and says sometimes "duty is the death of love". This wordplay, along with a reference to Sansa, is enough to turn Jon against Daenerys. He goes to the throne room and meets up with Daenerys. She is walking towards the Iron Throne and examining one of the thousand sword hilts that formed the throne; this image is an exact recreation of a vision that Daenerys had back in season 2... Jon voices his concerns with Dany's "liberation agenda", but she tries to convince him that they (the Targaryens) know best... Jon tells her that she is and will always be his queen and then proceeds to kiss her. Daenerys suddenly pulls back in horror and we see a knife piercing her heart. Jon's duty to the realm made him end the life of the woman he loved.

Drogon shrieks and comes to his mother's side. He nudges Daenerys hoping to wake her up, but soon realizes that it's too late... He contemplates burning Jon (or Aegon Targaryen VI), but decides against it and instead melts the iron throne with his fire breath. Maybe he sensed the Targaryen blood in Jon and couldn't bring himself down to executing him considering the fabled blood connection between Targaryens and dragons... Drogon grabs Daenerys and flies away, hopefully to Volantis where the red priests and priestesses believe in her and might be able to bring her back to life...

We catch up with an unkept Tyrion, supposedly months after the death of Daenerys, as he is escorted by Grey Worm to the dragon pit. All the lords and ladies of the big houses are there to decide the future of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. Tyrion takes the stage and says that the most important qualification for being a king is having a good story (and not benevolence, governance experience, or a competent track record...). Among all the people we know -- including Jon Snow the rightful heir who was thought to be a bastard for most of his life and served as the Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, who once died and came back to life to lead the war against the undead, or Arya Stark the master assassin who travelled the world and then single handedly killed the Night King -- Brandon Stark (or Bran the Broken)  is the person with best stories, and hence, he should be king. Bran's character development in the show included being thrown out the window in the very first episode, and from that point on has only been a plot device for flashbacks, In the books, Bran is a point of view character, so we get to hear his inner thoughts to some extent. But in the show, he has been merely an empty vessel. Even a few episodes ago, he said that he was not human anymore... Only a storage device for keeping the past history...

Tyrion asks Bran the Broken if he will accept the crown, and Bran responds "why do you think I came all this way down here?" (or something equally stupid to that effect). Starting with Samwell Tarley (whose proposal of a democracy was rejected a few minutes earlier), everybody pledges fealty to Brandon Stark. The only house that refuses to accept Brandon Stark as king is the Stark house. Sansa says that the North had been independent for thousands of years and it deserves to be independent again, to which Bran gives a nod. This logic applies to the six other kingdoms as well, as they all had been independent until 300 years ago when Aegon 'The Conquerer' Targaryen united all of those kingdoms. Hence, this was a legitimate enough reason for all the other lords to ask for independence as well. Moreover, why should they accept a member of a separatist house (or the citizen of a foreign country) as their new king? Wouldn't citizenship be a necessary requirement for ruling the united kingdoms? Obviously the plot armour is thick enough, and nobody bats an eyelash.

Bran the Broken is dubbed the King of the Six Kingdoms (Seven minus the Winterfell) and forms his small council (or cabinet) with Tyrion as the Hand, Bronn the sellsword as the Master of Coins, Sir Brienne (who had pledged to protect Sansa till her death) as the new Lord Commander of the King's Guard, Samwell Tarley as the Archmaester, and Sir Davos as the Master of Ships. Like an office sitcom, they gather to bicker and banter with one another about whether to rebuild the brothel or fund the navy. Bran the Broken decides that his top priority is wargging into (or hacking into the brain of) Drogon rather than concern himself with the boring chores of ruling the realm... Considering Bran's ability to see the past, present, and future, and also controlling animals and humans, I wonder why he did not do anything to stop Daenerys from burning all the innocent citizens of Kings Landing in the previous episode? Was it all part of his plan to become the king in the end? Is he any better than Daenerys who was accused of being a power hungry tyrant?

The show ends with a montage of Arya sailing to west of Westeros on a ship with a direwolf figurehead, Sansa wearing a weirwood themed robe and crowned Queen in the North, and Jon Snow (whose real identity did not matter at all during the whole show) arriving at Castle Black. He finally pets Ghost (his direwolf) and then rides with the wildlings beyond the wall. Is he fleeing from Castle Black to finally live a normal life with the wildlings, or is he just escorting them to their now-safe lands? This is left to interpretation by the viewers.

Final Words:
After the showrunners (David Benioff and D.B. Weiss) had lowered my expectations gradually with each episode of season 8, my disappointment is only moderate! Daenerys' extreme change of character in the last episode made no sense. She was not a merciful ruler, as she executed anyone who refused to bend the knee and refused to forgive mistakes, but neither was Ned Stark - the epitome of morality in the show. Daenerys was a pragmatic ruler for 71 (out of 73 total episodes of the show), and then suddenly turned into a blood-thirsty tyrant. Even Emilia Clarke (the actress playing Daenerys) thought it came "out of f**king nowhere" (according to this interview). Isaac Hempstead Wright (the actor playing Brandon Stark) was also caught off guard by the plot and thought Bran becoming king was a prank (see this article). The actors who embodied these characters for almost a decade know them better than almost anybody (except for George R. R. Martin who knows them better), and yet, these plot points did not make sense to them either, let alone us the viewers... I'd give this episode a 4/10.

I have been a fan since Day 1, and read all the books back in 2011. So, I consider myself in (at least) the 95th percentile of the fans who know more than enough about this universe. The poor execution of this final season (from illogical character changes to #woke agendas and thick plot armours saving all the major players till the end), ruined the whole show for me. There are also many plot points that were left unanswered, including but not limited to Children of the Forest, the Azor Ahai prophesy, the three heads of the dragon, the spiral shapes that white walkers left behind, and many more... Game of Thrones was a 10/10 for me, but these last few episodes knocked it down a couple of points to an 8/10.

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