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Game of Thrones "The Iron Throne" (S08E06)

For this final season of Game of Thrones, Team Experience members Ben Miller and Eric Blume have been alternating on coverage. Now they're joined up for the final wrap. - Editor

BEN MILLER: Alrighty Eric.  We are at the end of the line.  Before we get to the final episode, are you happy with the final season leading up to the finale has gone?

Personally, I feel it's been pretty fulfilling.  The problems everyone seems to be having are more related to the spectacle and anticipation as a whole.  This might be the last piece of monoculture we have for a while, so everyone has strong opinions about what it should and should not be.  I also believe our culture does not lend itself to objective criticism.  Instead of watching an episode and forming your own opinion, you watch the episode while the rest of the world is simultaneously tweeting about it.  After the episode, you watch the immediate reaction videos and fiery blog posts.  The next day, you laugh or scoff at the thousands of produced memes, read seven reaction articles and reviews, take in another dozen YouTube videos, then you suddenly have an opinion.  I started my personal media blackout until my opinion was formed after episode 2 of this season.

ERIC BLUME: While I agree with your assessment of how movies and TV are now consumed, I think there's a more disturbing trend at hand with this season:  armchair criticism.  Obviously it's cool to be disappointed with this final season in whatever way you're disappointed.  But the ugly dismissal of Benioff and Weiss by viewers is deeply gross to me...

The amount of hard work, careful thought, intelligent judgment, and sheer love these two men have poured into this series over the last eight years is staggering, and the lack of respect many viewers have given them shows a very lousy side of human behavior.  Half a million people signing a petition for HBO to redo the entire season is just such a hideous impulse.  Again, be disappointed and be sharply and smartly critical, but please don't pretend like you (the collective you) could have done this better.  

I'll admit this viewpoint is personal as someone who works actively in the field and knows how hard it is to get ANYTHING right, let alone accomplish what Benioff and Weiss did, including this season, when their task was monumental, and so many people's expectations were impossibly high.

The episodes leading up to the finale were emblematic of the series:  beautifully directed, gorgeously shot, and smartly acted.  I think the writing was weaker this season than in years past, and some of the plot mechanics were creaky, but I liked that they wrapped up many plot details in the penultimate episode, so that this finale had room to breathe and stay so low-key.

Were you satisfied with the finale?

BEN: I said when we started that I wanted one of two possibilities for a finale.  Either a Breaking Bad finale where everything is perfectly neat and wholly satisfying, or one like The Wire where storylines are wrapped up as well as they can be and there is an openended-ness to further explore.  We got The Wire ending last night.  The big question was: who would be left to survive and pick up the pieces?  The answer was everyone except Daenerys.  Emila Clarke really sold her stoic mania in that final throne room scene, and it was made plenty clear as soon as Jon entered what was going to happen.  I think Jon killing her is the right thing and I think Jon not becoming king is also the right thing.

Now, on to the more interesting question...are you happy with the new king and how the new king was chosen?

Personally, I see Bran as a terribly boring character with zero charisma who speaks like a beat poet.  Bran on the throne is not exciting, but the more I think about it, boring is the way this kingdom needs to be run.  Robert Baratheon wasn't boring.  Neither was Joffrey or Cersei.  Maybe it's time for a boring monarch to restore some normalcy to the kingdom?  The high council is filled with people who do not seek further power.  Bronn is the most devious of the group, and he seems content with whoring and drinking.

I also thought Sam's suggestion of a democratic vote was going to be the solution, and I was SO happy it got shouted down as ridiculous.

ERIC: Ha! Nobody wants a scene where the Wildlings go the ballot box.  Indeed, I thought the choice of Bran was a bit of a wee-wah, as he's a snooze as a character... but seeing the many traps the writers could have fallen into on resolving that issue, it feels right, partly because of your smart rationale.  It would have been too obvious had Jon gotten on the throne (well, the new non-melted one), and I liked that they brought it all back to the Stark family, as it's really their story from the beginning.  

Emilia Clarke did fine work in these last three episodes.  Her character got very tiresome in the two prior seasons, where her scenes were often repetitive, but she has several moments this season with no dialogue where she has to carry a lot of psychology and emotion, and get away with scenes in a made-up language where it all could be completely ridiculous.  The specific kind of acting Clarke had to do in this show was different than what was required of most of the others:  in lesser hands, the entire role could be preposterous.  

What did you think of Peter Dinklage's work this past season?  Is he headed for Emmy number four?


BEN: I am a huge Dinklage fan and thought his first two Emmy wins (Seasons 1 and 5) were very well deserved.  He didn't have very much to do in Season 7 but he won the Emmy anyway, because everyone loves him.  I thought he would receive a token nomination this year, but after that speech he gives to Jon before Dany's death, I think he has Emmy #4 wrapped up.  Just think about it in terms of eyeballs.  Two of the most viewed pieces of serialized television in the past year were episodes 5 and 6 and Dinklage had major showcases in both.  If we want to get into a little prognostication, who is going to beat him?  Nicholaj Coster-Waldau or Jonathan Banks are probably his biggest competition, but there is no one who came out of nowhere to take it from him.

On the Emmy front, I can see a world where the show gets SEVEN acting nominations from this season.  Dinklage and Coster-Waldau are pretty locked in, as is Lena Heady.  Assuming they are going lead, I would think Kit Harrington and Clarke will be nominated as well, with a less-than-zero chance to bring home the gold.  I think the really interesting part is to see if they will put Maisie Williams and Sophie Turner in alongside Heady.  I think Williams is solidly in, but Turner has had some late steam.  If you were to put a gun to my head, I think they will end up with six nominations, with Harrington missing out.

ERIC: Dinklage will win Emmy number four.  He had really meaty material this season, especially in this finale.  I had hoped Lena Headey would get a more juicy scene somewhere in her last episode, but she's superb with what she has to do.  I think nominations will go to those two, plus Coster-Waldau, Clarke, and Williams.  I love Sophie Turner, though...we literally watched her learn how to act from start (no clue) to finish (sublime).

BEN: Which storyline conclusion did you find most satisfying? 

ERIC: I found Jaime Lannister's storyline the most deeply satisfying.  As you mentioned in our first post, his arc was colossal, and as frustrating on some level as it was watching him return to Cersei at the end, it felt right.  Him being literally entombed with her is pretty perfect.

Was there anything about the finale episode that made you feel truly disappointed?

BEN: As we laid out, it all makes sense for Bran to be the king...but it's just such a bummer.  No one in the world is clamoring for Bran to be the king.  This is also a problem with fan service and Weiss and Benioff trying to appeal to the opposite of fan service (because we all know that Bran doesn't rank in the top 15 of favorite GoT characters).

My disappointment doesn't stem from how everything ended up, but the uneven timeline of how we got here.  Episode 1 was reminding everyone where they were and setting the table for the battle against the dead.  It's my least favorite episode of the series, but it only spans a few days of story.  Episode 2 might be in the top five of all time GoT episodes, but that was only a few hours, just like the battle in episode 3.  The timeline in episode 4 could be anywhere from days, to weeks to months, while episode 5 takes place over a few hours.  The finale had the same problem.  How much time has past between Dany's death and Tyrion's "trial'?  How much time between Bran being crowned king and the first gathering of the King's high council?  Some episodes were incredibly patient while others could not wait to get a move on.  I would have loved at least two or three more episodes of Dany being the Queen of Ashes and fleshing out whether she really thought she was defeating evil or if she had truly gone mad.

Alright, time to get a little silly.  What is your reasoning for why Drogon decided to melt the Iron Throne?  And what kind of future do you see for the last dragon in the world? 

ERIC: Poor Drogon!  He was pissed about Mama.  I thought that moment had a sweet poetic justice about it...perfect way to eliminate the actual throne altogether.  I mean, it was kind of convenient for everyone...once he liquidated that item, everyone was forced to move on.  But it was the best use of the CG in that you could "feel" Drogon's anger and pain there, and it's cool that he flew away, maybe never to return again, and he remains mythical.  That's pretty awesome.  I see him on a beach somewhere with a daquiri, as he didn't take kindly to the cold.

Okay, in keeping with the silly, three quick questions: 

1) Who are the two characters you'd wanna have a beer with? 
2) Who would you wanna hook up with?  
3) Who do you hope to never think about again?

BEN: Have a beer with - I would have to include Tyrion because he has consistently shown that he is a solid drinking buddy.  Bronn would be on the list as well because he always seems like he'd have some wild stories

Hook up - pour one out for Mrs. Jon Snow because I have a special place in my heart for Rose Leslie.  Ygritte is definitely my A #1.  I never had much of an affinity for Dany. 

Never want to think about - plenty of characters on the show have been of the lowest character, but no one makes my skin crawl more than Walder Frey.  I've never been happier to have Arya kill another character.

ERIC: Oh lord yes, Walder Frey...I literally blocked him out of my mind, as he was the most abhorrent character on the series.  You're right:  he literally makes your skin crawl! 

Fun surprise on the Ygritte choice.  That storyline wasn't my favorite, but she had moxie for sure.  The hookup for me is a three-way tie:  Richard Madden (Rob Stark) with those eyes(!), Joe Dempsie (Gendry) with those shoulders, and Michiel Huisman (Daario Naharis) with that, well, everything.  If only these were life's choices.

BEN: One final thought - where would you rank this season in the seasons of GoT?  I would personally rank it near the bottom, but that's mostly because I enjoyed so much of the earlier season.  Season 5 and 7 were pretty awful, so those might be lower.  Also, where does Game of Thrones place in the annals of great television?  I would rank it along the lines of Lost with a ton of memorable moments, touching greatness but some overhyped expectations near the end.

ERIC: Season 5 especially was weak ...that Jonathan Pryce story was illogical and awful, and the only time the show truly went off the rails.  But I thought the final season was superior to the very first season (the artistry is just in another league now).  The Red Wedding episode will probably always remain the single most shocking thing I've ever seen on a television show.  I couldn't even speak for ten minutes after that played out. 

As for its legacy in the annals, I think it will always be viewed as a watershed, particularly for the production values.  Even before this season, each episode was truly like a movie.  The technical craftsmanship of the show is unparalleled and untouchable.  And in sheer scope, it was enormous.  I think it expanded network executive minds on how far a show could go in narrative scale and practical achievement.  It's not in my personal top ten of all time, but I stand awed at what Benioff and Weiss were able to do with this material.  They paid tribute to genre and transcended it, fleshed out the characters in surprisingly complex ways, and kept the level of creativity and expressiveness at virtuosic levels for a decade.

Any final word you'd like to add?  

BEN: I very much enjoyed the show and I dont think we'll see anything like it on TV for a while. It doesn't crack my all-time dramatic TV list (The Wire, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, The Americans), but it falls into a second-tier. Some episodes reached true greatness,  while falling into a lot of issues. 

Thanks for going back and forth with me these last six weeks. Now, to find something else to watch and obsess over.

How about you dear readers? Are you content with the finale or were you screaming into the void with so many on the internet?

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Reader Comments (23)

That shot of Dany appearing to have literal wings instantly became iconic.

I agree that Clarke did a great job and was the season's VIP in terms of acting. She has expressed in interviews disappointment to put it mildly to her character's fate, but she somehow worked past that and gave a remarkable performance. However I think Maisie Williams, the Night Kingslayer will end up with Emmy wins/nominations. That episode was a cultural phenomenon and she also gave a heartbreaking performance in this episode.

May 21, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterTom G.

I am actually dubious anyone from this season will end up with an Emmy. The finale for me was the weakest episode. Full of bad writing and boring speeches. There was no dramatic tension. The death of Daenrys was actually boring. Maybe all the best actors had been killed. I do agree that social media is a waste of time with millions of keyboard sycophants that are deluded into thinking their input matters.

May 21, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJono

The most disturbing thing to me is the response coming back from those who worked on the show that any criticism is unfair and disrespectful because of the hard work put in by the cast and crew. Without criticism, there is no onus put on anyone involved to try and strive for better in the future. If every piece of art was judged solely on the amount of work involved, then aren’t we suggesting a world where everything an A for effort? The collective ‘we’ may watch a series like Game of Thrones in the context of the hype, but at least speaking for myself; I can only watch in the context of what has come before. While I never expected a wholly satisfying ending. I at least expected one that made sense to the narrative and characters. An ending with a hundred loose ends would have at least been spiritually in keeping with the unwieldy nature of the show. What we got was an over simplification of the show’s themes and an ending that betrayed so much of what went before. And that is my opinion. It is not the only opinion but it is valid and valuable.

May 21, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterTim

Sansa looked pretty but when you turn the finale over to weak characters like Grey Worm and Bran, it's going to seem low rent. This was not well written. I even found Dinklage to be strained and unconvincing. But a petition to redo it is disturbing. Do these people have realistic priorities?

May 21, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterFaye

I don't get my opinions from social media, podcasts, or any tv critics. I am going to criticize both this season and most especially the finale, please rest assured, these are my opinions.
After you wrote your first post on the series I expressed my enthusiasm for the series and my hopes that Weiss and Benioff would be able to bring this epic series to a conclusion. (Something which GRRM has been unable to do.)
Yes the production values have been fantastic, and the acting has been at the highest level.
Unfortunately the dialogue has been basic and below the standards set during other seasons.

For women it hasn't been a great season. The books and the show have always had sexist overtones but instead of a female queen who "breaks the wheel" of the standard power dynamic, we get a woman who is overcome by her biological destiny. (madness in the family) Such a hackneyed trope, another woman who can't handle power. So disappointing that in the finale she gets the full Hitler at Nuremberg treatment. Yet another mad Targaryen.
Of course the man who is also part Targaryen is solidly sane.
Cersei was also a mad queen, with a brother/lover who was also solidly sane. (see a pattern here?)
Thankfully we do get Sansa as queen of the North, Arya goes exploring, and Brienne writes faithfully of the accomplishments of Jaimie.
Meanwhile breaking the wheel means the small council session is all men with the exception of Brienne. Naturally re-building brothels is considered a priority. Lame jokes and bro humour along with 2 mad queens. Oh and Sam is already a Maester in 3 months? In spite of dropping out of the citadel.
Bran get's to be king because....he is supposed to be attached to a tree. At least all the other 3 eyed Ravens were, but why worry about logic or consistency? It's only the end of the series.
God what a mess.
Martin gave the essential plot points for his ending to Weiss and Benioff after season 3. So we have Martin to thank for most of this. The bad pacing and dialogue would seem to be all Weiss and Benioff. Including the ridiculous choice to have Bronn as a master of coin. Fan service really did go way, way too far in that instance. (I only hope that the Queen of Thornes and Margery haunt Bronn and make his life a misery.)

Enough, I can't be bothered to go on with this rant.
As far as I'm concerned the show ended at episode 3, the death of the Night King.
Btw. If anyone else out there is experiencing a reaction like mine, try cleansing your palette with
a better written series - I have been binge watching The Good Fight, season 3, for the last 3 days. Christine Baranski (and the entire cast) are a great tonic against failed fantasy worlds.
When I've finished with this I plan to move on to Fleabag, Killing Eve, Gentleman Jack...
There is so much good work out there being done by women, why give Game of Thrones another second of my time.

May 21, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

LadyEdith: 'we get a woman who is overcome by her biological destiny. (madness in the family) Such a hackneyed trope, another woman who can't handle power. ' -May I ask where this trope has been used before in a television show? Your response, and to some extent other responses, makes it sound like we see it all the time, but I can't recall any instances of a character quite like Dany. A woman we rooted for 'breaking bad' as it were.
You would think people might celebrate an interesting, flawed and ultimately tragic figure like this since women so often fall into the easy good or evil characters in fiction. I also find it odd that we end the series with two queens (Sansa and Yara), a woman leader of the kings guard (Brienne) and one of the strongest young women in contemporary fiction (Arya) heading off into her own adventure (and spinoff??) and yet we are still somehow labeling the show as sexist because all of its women characters weren't one of the good guys? Depressing that in 2019 we still need our women in such easily digestible roles and can't handle it when their stories don't turn out how we expect.

May 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterParker

Parker: It's a trope when something is common. Here is one list with 250 films with Neurotic, disturbed, psychotic women. List includes - Black Swan, Carrie, Rebecca, Fatal Attraction, etc.
Or try this list of 12, "Deeply Disturbed Females": (Girl Interrupted, Single White Female, etc)

They took a complex female Queen and turned her into a cardboard, stereotypical, psychopath in the space of 2 episodes. Because...??
Your happy with 4 female characters in all of Westeros. Really? And the small council meeting has lines like... "We have to rebuild the brothels..."

Fine you liked GOT - final season, great. We can cheerfully agree to disagree - I have moved on to better things. I do celebrate interesting, many sided and flawed female characters which is why I'm currently watching "The Good Fight". Cheers.

May 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

This idea that any criticism of the sexist tropes that GoT deployed in its final season is somehow disingenuous is gross. Numerous female critics have pointed this out. Maybe we should listen a bit more carefully to them.

May 22, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterben1283

Everything felt random to me.

Cersei deserved a better death scene.

The last shot was awful.

Dinklage has another Emmy in the bag.

May 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

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May 22, 2019 | Unregistered Commentermoni

"The amount of hard work, careful thought, intelligent judgment, and sheer love these two men have poured into this series over the last eight years is staggering, and the lack of respect many viewers have given them shows a very lousy side of human behavior. Half a million people signing a petition for HBO to redo the entire season is just such a hideous impulse. Again, be disappointed and be sharply and smartly critical, but please don't pretend like you (the collective you) could have done this better. "

THIS. Thanks Eric for summing up what I've been feeling about all of this. We can be critical without being so disrespectful and dismissive of all the other great things the show has given us over the years.

May 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRon

I think the problem with Dany’s storyline was they tried for years to walk the line of hinting that she might go mad but not wanting to give it away, which made the heel turn feel unearned. I think in the books the ending will make more sense because there are characters and storylines not in the show that should play a role in her change especially the young griff storyline. Also the chapters in the book are told in first person which means we will get more info on what Dany is thinking. For me the show started to decline when they broke away from the books and started rushing towards the action. The slow burn of the books and earlier seasons is what made it great imo

May 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Troutman

FYI: Bran is actually my #3 favorite character, just behind Tyrion and Arya.

May 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterIrvin

The common criticism is the only one that's truly justified - the quick pacing and character resolution. HBO and the Daves could have easily stretched this story into a 10-episode season without spending more money, and we could have had more build-up to Dany's descent, Varys' decision, Arya's turn from vengeance, Jaime's self-loathing, etc., making each of their choices more justifiable.

Otherwise, outstanding acting, underrated writing, and a mostly satisfying conclusion to one of the greatest TV shows of all time. Thanks for your hard work Ben and Eric.

May 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSawyer

As with the "The Last Jedi", I can't stand the butthurt manbabies with too much time on their hands... As for the Emmys, I think Handmaid's Tale, Big Little Lies, etc, are kicking themselves that they delayed their seasons!

May 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPete

I echo Tim. Who cares how much work was put into a show? If it’s bad, it’s bad. And this idea that audiences could not have written a better ending is ridiculous considering most of people in entertainment are watching this show. If D&D had been receptive to criticism, the writing would not have been as bad. Bad is bad is bad is bad. If people want to express their displeasure in the form of a petition, then so be it. Shows are made for the viewers, not the writers.

May 22, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterbeyaccount

I find the first paragraph of this post extremely disrespectful and disappointing. As disrespectful as that petition to remake it. There are valid criticisms to be made, asking for art to be re-created to suit people's needs is not one of those. Just as claiming the sole reason people are being harsh on it is because they can't think for themselves and are reading blog-posts elsewhere. Insinuating those who do not criticize it as harshly are somehow more enlightened.

May 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAlex

I think someone who has been largely evading criticism is George R.R. Martin. The books are even more convoluted and chocked with characters and subplots than the series, which has prevented him from tying it together and getting to a conclusion (he estimates there are thousands- thousands!- of pages to go!). He turned over a rough outline of character arcs for D&D to work off of, but without much detail. Of course the earlier seasons were better- they were adapted from actual novels of substantial length, not SparkNotes of a manuscript of a novel! Of course issues lie with the work D&D did, but they were hobbled from the start once the series moved past the books.
And now Martin gets to see which stuff flies and which stuff doesn't, for a series that, at this point, he doesn't even have to conclude and will flourish as a lucrative franchise.

May 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAustin

Everyone -- I'm surprised people are still upset by the show's sexism. I'm not excusing it, mind you, but I stopped watching the show after season 1 (though I admit I tuned in for the final season) but everyone whos complaining about it. Don't you vote with your eyeballs (that's what keeps shows as hits) so if you've been watching for 8 years, don't you kinda deserve what they served up from the beginning? The show was always sexist... as least from my recall what with the constant exploitation of women's bodies while the men nearly always stayed covered up (with what I think were three notable exceptions)

As for Dany, I was glad she was taken out. I never understood why people loved the character or thought of her as a hero. She's pretty violent in the book if I recall. (and from my understanding she has been in the series as well) So why were people looking past that to think she'd be a good queen?

Michael Troutman -- but perhaps its what you said, the show trying to have it both ways. I only watched the first and last season in full and I always thought she was insane.

Irvin -- i also love Bran... but again I only watched 2 of the 8 seasons so maybe he was boring inbetween. What surprised me most in this final season was loving Sansa who I thought was the worst character on Season 1.

May 22, 2019 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Game of Thrones sexist!? A bad and outdated take if I may so, Nathaniel. And a bit like judging a film only having watched an eighth of it. This series was set in a medieval world and yet we ended up with a host of fantastic and varied female characters. Men and women were equally rewarded and punished in this universe because that's the real world, folks.

This criticism is all hot air. There is some pacing issues in Season 8 and I would have loved a few more episodes but this is still amazing television.

May 22, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterevangelina

Sansa had the best arc.

This final season was conservative and corny

May 23, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMarcel

Lena Headey must win the Emmy. Cersei has always been my fave character and she performed the hell out of it.

May 24, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterFadhil

Is this defense of Benioff & Weiss meant to be...satire? LOL

Horrible ending and a rushed ending and final season by two writers who wanted nothing more than to MOVE ON TO THEIR NEXT PROJECT. Should have been 20 episodes for seasons 7 and 8 and not 13. The entire finale was LAUGHABLE it was so rushed and so horribly written. Best part was Drogon nudging Dany. I cried. And felt the same because of how they SLAUGHTERED Daenerys these past two seasons.

May 28, 2019 | Unregistered Commenteroscarsights

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