“The Iron Throne” delivered perhaps the most disappointing finale in television history, mercy-killing Game of Thrones with a suffocating pillow of stupidity.
This Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 6 recap for the episode titled “The Iron Throne” contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is that. Frankly, I’m relieved. Which isn’t to say that the last-ever episode of Game of Thrones was any good — on the contrary, aside from that one shot of Dany looking like she suddenly sprouted dragon wings, it was appalling. But I’m definitely relieved that I no longer have to endure the absurd mental gymnastics of those trying to justify the show’s record-time plummet from lofty heights to smoldering wreckage in the space of one devastatingly truncated final season.
So, it’s over. But how did it end? The short answer would be terribly. The slightly longer answer would be terribly and nonsensically, but I have a word count to meet and it’s always good to show your work. What follows, then, is a more or less random collection of observations and complaints that occurred to me throughout “The Iron Throne” and for a little while after, as I scrolled through Twitter and laughed at the people frantically sharing gifs and thanking the show for all its determined efforts to betray and disappoint its ardent viewership. Not that they phrased it quite like that, obviously.
With King’s Landing now a charred ruin and Grey Worm happily executing every living man, woman and child he can find, it’s only right to have our morally upstanding heroes — that would be Jon, Tyrion, and Davos, if you’re keeping count — stroll through the carnage. As flecks of tumbling ash dapple their shoulders, they survey all that their queen hath wrought, and they are sad because at this point it’s apparently difficult to work out if Dany is going to be good for the Seven Kingdoms or not, despite the fact she’s clearly a cartoon villainess now. She barbequed an entire city! And she’s wearing all black!
I’ll happily concede that this has been the plan for Dany all along, of course, and I suppose the underlying subtext of the show in its entirety, which is that power — the lust for it, the accumulation of it, the right to it — corrupts even the best of us. But did we really have to do the whole Maleficent thing to get that point across? Did nobody in the writer’s room think that was silly? Then again, someone in the writer’s room had Tyrion develop what can only be described as a kind of imp sonar to locate the mangled corpses of his brother and sister, presumably so he could sob over how good this show was when Cersei didn’t spend an entire season looking out of the window drinking wine and then getting unceremoniously crushed by falling debris.
Tyrion gave speeches in “The Iron Throne”, just like the old days, and they were even relatively well-written. He got his moment to sassily toss his Hand of the Queen brooch away, and he was sure to make the show’s thematic underpinnings as explicit as possible. Jon, true to form, insisted that, despite her genocidal rampages and mental subtitled warmonger speeches, Dany was still everyone’s queen. So he went to interrupt her while she was getting unsubtly turned on by stroking the arm of the Iron Throne and shanked her in the middle of one last incestuous smooch. It was all very Anakin and Obi-Wan, just less romantic.
This is where the real stupidity arrived in earnest, beginning with Drogon waking up from his nap, finding Dany dead, and then somehow figuring out that the Iron Throne and the aimless pursuit of power were to blame for everything all along, turning his smelting fire on the chair in a knowing metaphor that might be the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life. What, we’re just supposed to accept that he implicitly understood this? All he does is sleep and eat sheep! He’s a big, dumb lizard. And don’t tell me about the supposedly colossal intellect of dragons as “confirmed” by a throwaway line of speculative dialogue in an earlier (much better) season, because this is the same dragon who, just a couple of episodes ago, couldn’t spot an entire fleet waiting in ambush despite being in the air directly above it.
I’d love to say that’s where the idiocy stopped, but I’d be lying. Fast-forwarding some indeterminate amount of time, Tyrion is on trial for betraying Dany, Jon is imprisoned for stabbing her, every major surviving character has made their way to King’s Landing to form a kind of ad hoc small council, and behind the scenes the decision has been made to render virtually all of the show’s on-going subplots, character arcs and political dynamics completely pointless. Hence Tyrion, despite being on trial, just says, “Tell you what lads, let’s just elect a king,” and everyone else says, “Okay, good idea!” Then he inexplicably says, “Let’s elect Bran!” And everyone else says, “Okay, good idea!”
Bran? Seriously? What possible indication has he given that he’d be any good at dynastic rule? The legitimate heir to the Iron Throne is rotting in a cell for selflessly saving the Seven Kingdoms from a tyrannical despot, and nobody even considers him. There’s an offhand line about how it would cause too much commotion among the Unsullied still loyal to Dany, but then after Bran is elected the Unsullied just leave anyway. So what’s the problem? Why have we endured the rigmarole of Jon’s parentage just for the entire thing to amount to nothing anyway? None of this makes sense!
On the subject of things that don’t make sense, Sansa decides on a whim that the North should a be a completely independent state that she’ll rule, and nobody has any issues with that, bringing the total number of kingdoms down to six. Bran’s small council is determined totally at random and populated exclusively with relatively well-liked characters who survived, including Bronn, who is inexplicably made Master of Coin, and Brienne, who is tasked with updating Jaime’s Wikipedia page. Sam becomes a maester and lugs around a massive volume called — all together now — A Song of Ice and Fire, which hilariously doesn’t make mention of Tyrion despite him having had a hand in all of the major political events across eight seasons and spent the entirety of “The Iron Throne” explaining the importance of stories. Jon is exiled to the Night’s Watch, where he finally strokes his dog.
And that’s it. Oh, Arya decides she’s going to venture off the edge of the map where she’ll presumably find a spin-off show, which I suppose is the closest “The Iron Throne” came to providing a satisfying ending. I’ll take it. In the meantime, it took eight seasons, but Game of Thrones finally managed to accomplish what nobody ever thought it would: It became rubbish.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.