One of the most anticipated finales in TV history ended Sunday with a twist few fans predicted and fewer wanted, while ensuring that "Game of Thrones" might be over but the battles have just begun.
In the one expected if hardly welcome-by-all twist, Queen Daenerys Targaryen, otherwise known as Stormborn, mother of dragons, Lady of Dragonstone, protector of the Seven Kingdoms, or just Khaleesi to her friends and admirers, was finally and emphatically dispatched.
Her executioner was none other than her nephew, Jon Snow.
And then that other twist. With Dany gone, her dragon too, and Grey Worm off to fight more battles and "free" more cities (or whatever that was called last week), "Game of Thrones" was at long last forced to resolve the question that has energized and divided fans from the earliest episodes. Who will take the Iron Throne, or at least rule the Seven Kingdoms? Who will win? Who will lose? Who will die? Or deferring this matter to now-departed Cersei, "When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground."
As it turns out, there was middle ground after all, and he’s called Bran Stark. Rather than passing the crown reflexively or logically to the last living Targaryen — Jon himself — the new leadership council of liberated Westeros, led by Tyrion, took a vote instead. And the winner by unanimous consent was the last of the male Starks. At the demand of Grey Worm, Jon headed back north to the wall or what's left of it, a member of The Night's Watch to the end. His sister Sansa held on to the Kingdom of the North, leaving Bran king of six kingdoms, while Arya headed west across the Sunset Sea. (Why? To see what's on the other side of course.) Tyrion ends this journey as hand to the king.
And just to be clear, Jon finally petted Ghost, who is doing just fine.
Meanwhile, let those battles begin.
Endings are the toughest act in television because showrunners can reliably expect that some part of the fan base will be disappointed. Nevertheless, the showrunners for "Thrones" almost seemed to ensure that much if not most of the fan base would be annoyed (or enraged) with this outcome. First, take dearly departed Khaleesi: A feminist icon and civil rights activist through the first seven and three-quarters seasons, she turned into a dragon-straddling psycho-killer nutjob over the course of just one episode last week.
To be sure, there had been plenty of “Mad Queen” hints — or “foreshadowing” to use the word everyone throws around with “GoT” — but none quite foreshadowed that King's Landing torching. For fans, especially Khaleesi fans, the long knives came out and from that point on, nothing “GoT” could do could salvage last week. “GoT” didn’t even try.
In defense of Bran — and there are, or conceivably should be, defenders — he does complete that wide circle, which was drawn from the earliest episodes. As philosopher king and Three-Eyed Raven he brings that which has been missing from these tortured lands — kindness, wisdom, insight, and especially foresight. And as “GoT’s” own Fisher King, he brings a touch the Arthurian legend, too. The last of the royal lineage, the Fisher King was charged with caring for the Holy Grail, and like Bran, was also disabled, and whose name (in Welsh) quite literally meant “Raven.”
Maybe we should’ve seen this coming all along — maybe, except for the fact that Bran still seems a bit of a letdown.
The future, or rather the past, could offer either resolution or salve. A “GoT” prequel is in the works, a deeper dive into the intricate mythology of this tale is ensured. The fan battles have just begun. They might never end.