Friday 24 May 2019

TV Review: Game of Thrones S8E6 - 'The Iron Throne'

Game of Thrones aired its final episode earlier this week, and after giving it some time to digest, I put my thoughts on 'The Iron Throne' into words. Here we go...

Well, that's that. Done and dusted. Nine years, eight seasons and 73 episodes later, the curtain fell on HBO's Game of Thrones on Monday night. This eighth and final season has been divisive to say the least – come within five feet of any Internet-enabled device and you're likely to come away with third-degree burns, courtesy of the heated outrage spewing from Twitter.

To this humble writer and fan, Game of Thrones' final lap has been mixed, but still erring towards positive. I can't say it's been great, or even good sometimes, but overall I've been left satisfied by its ending. But let's backtrack a little, and unpack some of what unfolded in 'The Iron Throne'.

We open on a King's Landing coated in ash. What's left of Dany's posse are horrified by the destruction she has left in her wake, most notably Tyrion, who was only one episode ago convinced Dany would do the right thing. Once again, the scope ands scale of Thrones is impressive; in these opening scenes, you truly get a feel for how much death and destruction Dany has caused.

This shot is brilliant and should be shown in any film study class.

Peter Dinklage, who hasn't had an awful lot to do in recent seasons, acts his arse off in this final episode. First, when Tyrion unearths the bodies of Cersei and Jaime; and second, when Tyrion and Jon debate the merits of knifing Dany while they still can from his prison cell. Dinklage was hailed as the MVP on Thrones for years, especially during Tyrion's meatier seasons (three and four spring to mind), and it was great to see a return to that in the final episode.

Similarly, I think Emilia Clarke delivered some of her best work in the entire show during 'The Iron Throne'. Critics have labelled Clarke stoic or wooden in the past, but I think she's been one of the best things about the last couple of seasons. As absurdly fast as Dany's retreat into darkness has been in season eight, Clarke has taken it in her stride.

The scene Clarke shares with Harington in the throne room was brilliant, for example. Still wide-eyed and hopeful, but with a hint of delusion and desperation, I really liked how Clarke was able to convey so much given the sketchy writing she was handed. Her death was quiet and tragic; a low-key farewell for a character that brought so much bombast to the show.

After Jon knifes Dany and Drogon melts the throne, we flash forward a couple of weeks to the bit we we're really looking forward to – establishing a new status quo for Westeros now that 90 per cent of the continent is dead. Spoiler alert – things are really looking up for House Stark.

Long story short, Bran is king, Tyrion is his hand, Sansa rules an independent North, Jon is banished to the Night's Watch, Grey Worm plots a course for Naarth, Arya sails west to land's unknown and Brienne is commander of the Kingsguard. It's an interesting outcome; I don't think many people saw Bran becoming king. It's a fitting choice – or at least, it would be if the show had taken more time this season to sow some seeds beforehand. I don't mind where they went with it – but like a lot of things, it would have felt more natural if the pace was a lot slower.

Sansa and Arya both get a fitting ending, but my favourite of all was Jon's. It feels so right to send Jon north once again. The hero who fought to defend the realms of men, a chosen king who never wanted power, forced to serve penance by ending right where he started. I don't feel like Jon is complaining too much though; he's back in his natural habitat with Ghost and Tormund. It's a simple life.

Trying to praise Game of Thrones' final season out there on the internet is a bit like pissing in the wind at the moment, but someone has gotta do it. Now that the whole season has wrapped, I'm left with mixed feelings. I liked a lot of what went down, and even though the pacing was about 30x faster than it needed or should have been, I think they stuck the landing. Honestly, there was enough content in both season seven and season eight for 20 episodes – they should have stuck to their established formula.

But when all is said and done, Game of Thrones is a unicorn. It won't be replicated or surpassed for a long time. A medieval fantasy show with dragons, magic and feudal politics as the biggest show in the world? Its popularity is a testament to its craft, across the board. As a complete story, it's one of the best TV shows ever made. And now its watch has ended.

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