For better or worse, Game of Thrones is now officially done. The Game of Thrones series finale caps off a wildly controversial final season that many fans of the series have been quite vocal about. But the scathing complaints surrounding the final season didn’t come solely from a vocal minority — Game of Thrones season 8 has had some of the lowest-rated episodes of the series’ decade-long history. A petition asking HBO to scrap the entire season and remake it has amassed more than 1 million signatures, meaningless though it may be. Even some of the cast members themselves have been uneasy about the show’s final season when discussing it in interviews.
What the heck happened? We may never know exactly why the quality of writing was so bad in the show’s last season, but it has certainly been on a downward trajectory that began in season 6. Even at its worst, however, Game of Thrones is still better and more entertaining than most shows out there. Millions upon millions of fans tuned in to see how the series would wrap up on Sunday night, and to see who would end up on the iron throne. Here, we’ll recap the five most shocking things that happened in the Game of Thrones series finale. Several big spoilers follow, so bookmark this post for later if you haven’t yet seen Game of Thrones episode 806, “The Iron Throne.”
1. Tyrion lived
There were plenty of odd things about the opening sequences in last night’s episode. An entire castle crumbled atop Jamie and Cersei, but their bodies barely had any scratches on them? Jon Snow, whose entire arc has been about honor, thought he might continue to serve his queen after she destroyed an entire city full of innocent women and children? We could go on and on, but the most shocking thing about those first few minutes may have been the way Dany dealt with Tyrion.
Even when she was still sane, Danaerys had a very itchy trigger finger. Remember when she executed Samwell’s father and brother just because they wouldn’t bend the knee? Remember Slaver’s Bay? Well now she’s the Mad Queen, she roasted an entire city of innocent people, and she plans to lead her armies to more cities to roast more innocent people. But when her hand admits to committing treason by freeing his brother Jaime — and publicly humiliates her in the process by ripping off his Hand of the Queen pin and tossing it down the steps in front of her entire army — she just tosses him in a cell? Mmmkay.
2. Dany becomes the Mad Queen
As touched upon above, it was pretty shocking when we learned that Danaerys had indeed become the Mad Queen. Riding Drogon and massacring an entire city of innocent people wasn’t just a fit of rage or a temporary lapse… Dany went full Targaryen.
Her speech to her army of Unsullied and the remaining Dothraki sealed the deal. She’s full-on crazy. Decimating — sorry, “freeing” — an entire city of unarmed men, women, and children who she felt served her enemy Cersei wasn’t enough. Danaerys planned to march her army across Westeros and “free” countless more unarmed men, women, and children in countless more cities.
3. Jon kills his queen and rejoins the Night’s Watch
This might be the least shocking of all the shocking moments in the Game of Thrones finale, considering that the entire second half of the season led up to that moment. In the context of the series as a whole, however, it was still pretty jarring to see Jon Snow, ever the man of honor, become the Queenslayer. We all know it had to be done, though.
And then Jon is sent by the new king to rejoin the Night’s Watch? Why the heck is there even still a Night’s Watch? The explanation that was quickly offered during the episode was that “the world will always need a place for bastards and broken men,” as Tyrion put it. Umm, is there nothing else that can be done with them? What are they even “watching” for? The Night King is dead. The White Walkers are dead. The wights are dead. Winter is over, dudes.
4. A new king is crowned
After laughing at Samwell’s idea for a democracy in yet another scene that was so heavy-handed it was embarrassing, the newly formed council of lords and ladies name “Bran the Broken” the new king of Westeros. Ugh. We knew it was coming because of the huge leak a couple of weeks ago, but it was still beyond painful to watch blank-faced Bran win the iron throne.
5. The series finale was actually pretty good
With a few notable exceptions, the final season of Game of Thrones has been bad. Very, very bad. David Benioff and D. B. Weiss proved that they’re just about incapable of writing dialogue without having the books to base it on, and season 8 has been a cringefest as a result. The battle with the wights in episode 3 was great. Seeing Dany break inside when she realized the people of Westeros would never love her was great. There were a few other gems here and there, too. But as a whole, the first five episodes of the final season were just awful.
“The Iron Throne” was the opposite of the rest of the last season. Instead of being a huge dumpster fire with a few good moments, it was a good episode with a few moments that made us cringe. The response to Samwell’s democracy pitch was quite heavy-handed, and Bran being named king was lame. Gray Worm demanding justice and then instantly stepping aside was ridiculous. Drogon melting the iron throne after Danaerys was murdered was among the most heavy-handed moments of the entire show. But the events of the episode wrapped up the series quite well, and even the dialogue picked up a bit. Dany’s speech to her army was a good one. Tyrion had several monologues that were better than they had been this season. Even Jon and Danaerys’s final moments together were less cringey than we thought they would be.
The Game of Thrones finale wasn’t on par with the first five seasons of the show. Not even close. But it was far more satisfying than we thought it would be given how bad most of season 8 has been, and it wrapped things up reasonably well. And given how bad the rest of the season was, the fact that the Game of Thrones finale was actually pretty good is easily the most shocking thing about it. That said, we couldn’t be happier that the show is now over and we can put it all behind us.