RTF Reviews The Final Season of GAME OF THRONES: ‘Episode 6 – The Iron Throne’
Duty is the Death of Love
By Thomas L. Kelly (@WriterTLK)
As a note, this review contains spoilers from the episode. Please watch and enjoy before diving in.
Well, the end is here. Game of Thrones, a show watched by more viewers than any other in HBO’s history, concluded, but not with the storytelling punch that it was known for. The resolution was flat, an uninspired finish to a show once so full of flair.
Over the course of its final two seasons, I’ve often wrestled with the meandering direction of Game of Thrones. For a series that had been so calculated in its approach to the climax, things had seemed to go awry. The story—as well crafted as any ever translated to television—had begun to take shortcuts. The connective tissue that had bridged the sprawling tale—and was really the backbone of the writing—had gone missing.
Thus, as the opening credits of The Iron Throne—the show’s final episode—scrawled across the screen and the familiar tones of Ramin Djawadi entered my ears, there was a knot deep in the pit of my stomach. I couldn’t conceive of a possible resolution that would redeem the haphazard handling of the season; one that had started with much promise.
Suffice to say, I was correct in that assumption. Though it shined in moments—Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) and Jon Snow’s (Kit Harrington) painful conversation, Tyrion’s heartfelt mourning for the brother he’d lost, Ser Brienne’s (Gwendoline Christie) deserved promotion, and the unlikely destiny of Jon—it ultimately failed to deliver.
There was too much left unseen. For a show that had taken such care in crafting its complex narrative, The Iron Throne fell into the same trap that had plagued the three episodes preceding it. It was abridged. It’s as if we were watching the CliffsNotes version of what the finale was meant to be.
It’s maddening to know that they were given more time to flesh out these episodes, yet somehow said less. Not once over the course of these six episodes did I find that 15 or so extra minutes to provide the minutiae we’d been treated to while there was still source material to mine.
Major Spoilers Ahead…
I’m certain it was never the writers’ intention to eschew much of what they’d built for the sake of cheap pop, but that is what it felt like as we witnessed these big moments just sort of happen. There was either too much build for too little payoff—the overall threat of the Night King—or too little build to a payoff that deserved more—Daenerys’ (Emilia Clarke) cruel decision to burn the city that her ancestors had once lorded over to the ground, innocents and all.
In circumventing the careful instances of character contemplation that had been the show’s hallmark, much of what occurred didn’t land. There is no greater example of this than Bran ‘The Broken’ becoming King of the Seven Kingdoms.
For much of the show’s run, he was less consequential than most other characters—to the point where one season didn’t even bother to feature him. Then, as his arc gained steam and he seemed to be the key to unraveling the larger mystery behind the ominous threat of the undead, they opted to be ambiguous about what he’d become. Again, an incredible build that had no payoff. Why did the Night King want him dead? Why was his survival so crucial?
To make an analogy: If the show were a Choose Your Own Adventure, then every choice that was made in the run-up to its culmination appeared to have no consequence. We were always headed to this precise destination, no matter what the story beats or logic would’ve had you believe.
Tyrion’s justification for nominating him as King was even flimsy. All these characters, particularly many of those sitting on the panel to decide who would rule, had stories to tell. Each of them had experienced something that another would never.
To single Bran out, as Arya (Maisie Williams)—who’d slain the Night King, once gone blind, and apprenticed as an assassin—looked on and Jon Snow—the rightful heir (which inexplicably is never brought up at this treatise), the man who’d survived an onslaught of the undead multiple times, and who’d won the ‘Battle of the Bastards’—rotted in a cell, rang hollow.
Couple this with The Iron Throne‘s utter abandonment of the ramifications of Daenerys’ death, and there’s this distinct absence of proper closure. Her turn was a major moment, yet when she died roughly 40 minutes of airtime later, it was an afterthought—no glimpse of the fallout from Jon’s gut-wrenching choice to kill the woman he loves or the reaction of the Dothraki and the Unsullied to the news their Queen had been slain. It just fast-forwarded two weeks.
Thus, as we close, it’s impossible not to acknowledge if this ending will tarnish the show’s legacy. It will; that’s unavoidable. Six brilliant seasons devolved into shiftlessness—careening from one major plot point to another with no clear vision as to why—at the most inopportune time.
That said, it’s important to be conscious of just how monumental the show actually was. The heights it aspired to—in terms of sheer size and scope—are incomparable to most of its peers. From the set design to the effects to strength of its core cast, Game of Thrones was a marvel of modern show making.
That, more than anything else, will be what I remember it for. It took fantasy and made it mainstream; over 19 million people tuned in to its finale. If that doesn’t speak to its colossal influence and place in the cultural zeitgeist, then I’m not sure what does.
So as we bid adieu, I offer this, “The North remembers,” just as I will always recall fondly the immense highs this show provided. It was epic, it was grand, it was equal parts infuriating and validating, but most important, it was damn good television.
I Drink and He Knows Things – Capt. Cash and I return for a solemn look at the final episode of Game of Thrones, The Iron Throne. We offer our overall impressions, as well as share our favorite episodes and characters. Though this season may have underwhelmed, we both agree that this was a tremendous, groundbreaking series, and we will miss it dearly.
Caution: This brief podcast is dark and full of spoilers.