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Game of Thrones season 8 finale: All the unanswered questions


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Game of Thrones season 8 finale: All the unanswered questions

The Game is over but there are still plenty of loose ends in Westeros and beyond.

 
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Drogon the loose.

HBO

Tying up Game of Thrones in a neat, little package was always going to be difficult. It's a sprawling fantasy epic with dragons and magic and a cast of characters that rivals 10 years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

 

After the credits rolled on The Iron Throne, the very last episode ever, and a wave of relief washed over everyone, there were still some glaringly obvious questions left to answer. We've met so many characters over the years and had so many intertwining threads to tie up that Game of Thrones was always going to leave us scratching our heads a bit.

 

We're diving into all the questions the series never answered here, so take note: You're entering Spoiler Town.

 

Of course, if you're over asking questions and would rather get answers, you can read our full recap of the final episode which goes deep on the fate of the Iron Throne or head to our look at where every character finished up now the show is finally over. 

 

Without further ado, here's some of the lingering threads we'll likely never see tied up.  

Dro-gone

Hey, uh... the realm's most powerful weapon is just roaming in the East. The equivalent of a nuclear bomb with wings. Just roaming around, presumably eating all the sheep and goats that graze in Essos. That can't be safe for anybody. We've seen Drogon torch little boys! What if some enterprising magician or pirate works out a way to catch Drogon? The Game of Thrones just starts all over again.

 

Bran does tell us in the final episode his desire to track Drogon down, presumably with his warging abilities. Why can't he just warg into Drogon and then dive as far down in the ocean as possible and leave him there? We'll never know. 

The Dothraki Horde

There are a few burning questions from the final episode that relate to the Dothraki, the horse-bound warriors who eat hearts, and seemed totally obliterated by the Battle of Winterfell. Remarkably, they still have a significant force and are complicit in Dany's torching of King's Landing.

 

The Dothraki only make their way to Westeros under the guiding hand of Queen Daenerys, who finally helped them cross the narrow sea. They've been unflinching in their loyalty to Dany so after Jon kills her in the Throne Room it seems bizarre we don't get to see any repercussions of that action and how it affects the Horde. What we do see, eventually, is Jon has been captured and held prisoner by the Unsullied. He's alive, totally fine -- just a little more beardy. Jon better have thanked the Lord of Light for that save because the Dothraki just leaving him to rot in a cell is decidedly not Dothraki.

 

Second: The entire Dothraki horde are now in Westeros. Are we to believe they just... go home? Their leader is so dead and they just let it be? What are they going to do now? Who is going to give them ships to leave Westeros? These dudes are petrified of the water!

 

The Dothraki problem leaves behind one of the most confusing questions of the show. Even though it was problematic, it would have been easier to say goodbye to the horde at the hands of the Night King's army, back in episode 3.

Daario Naharis

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Daari-no more.

HBO

Remember ol' Daario Naharis? The Tyroshi mercenary that was once Dany's adviser and lover boy? At the end of season 6, as Dany readies her assault on Westeros, she leaves Daario in Mereen with a small army to defend the Bay of Dragons. That's the last we hear of him besides an off-handed mention in season 7. Daario was a pretty noble warrior and handy with a blade but his love of Dany inspired her to leave him in the East -- it would become too much of a problem as she made a tilt at the throne.

The Honeycomb and the Jackass

One of the series long-running secrets, Tyrion's story about bringing a honeycomb and a jackass to a brothel, is a legend in its own right. The joke has been teased two times before the finale -- when he is a prisoner at the Eyrie, in season 1, and during a scene in season 6 where he shares wine with Grey Worm and Missandei. 

 

At the small council meeting in the finale's final minutes, he starts the story again and -- for a fleeting moment -- it seems that we are poised to finally hear how the story ends. Then the camera cuts away. Boo.

Bran the Bro

There's a ton of questions about our new King, but let's stick to the easy one: What on Earth is Bran's purpose in this world?

 

Bran takes over as the Three-Eyed Raven and, according to Samwell, becomes the world's memory. He stores all of the realm's stories and histories in his brain. He can also "warg", taking control of other living beings, but his eyes glaze over and he becomes useless. Bran the Broken has stated, multiple times, that he is no longer Brandon Stark. But that power opens up even bigger, scarier questions.

 

Could he see all the death and destruction that Dany was going to rain down on the people of King's Landing? If he did, isn't he somewhat complicit in that genocide? That's accessory to murder! Bran's seen war crimes and just let them go unpunished. Don't give me the sob story "he can't change things that will happen" either. He turned CNET's second favorite character Hodor into the man he ended up becoming.

 

Bran's powers also seem, in a way, to suggest that no one has any free will. It's best not to think about it.

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Just thinking about all those war crimes I forgot to stop.

HBO

Varys' birds

Although some of the most powerful lords and ladies in Westeros make the decision to sit Bran on the new seat of power, it's not immediately clear if this is the will of the entire continent and all its houses. If Varys did get some ravens away before being dracarys'd, then the word of Jon's parentage will have filtered throughout the kingdoms. There's surely going to be some that don't want an all-powerful god-man that can literally control human bodies with his magic as the almighty ruler. They've seen this kind of thing go poorly before.

No Iron Throne, but an Iron Bank

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Throne gone.

HBO

The Iron Bank of Braavos was introduced early on in Thrones' story, but it's only in season 4 when it really comes into its own. The bank is notorious for collecting on its debts and works with both Stannis and Davos and eventually Cersei. In season 7, the bank sends Tycho Nestoris to collect on the debts that the Lannisters owe.

 

The need to pay the bank off helps spur Jaime and Bronn to head to Highgarden and ransack the place. They squirrel their riches back to King's Landing before Dany's forces attack in the famous LOOT TRAIN battle. Before the battle, we see Tycho for the last time, chatting away with Cersei in Maegor's Holdfast. Cersei explains to him that Qyburn has asked for the services of the Golden Company to help her win the coming war and he's more than happy to.

 

"Rest assured, Your Grace," he says. "You can count on the Iron Bank's support, as soon as the gold arrives."

 

So we're led to believe Cersei required more assistance from the Iron Bank to hire the (useless) Golden Company and the dashing Harry Strickland before being crumpled by bricks. Did she pay the bank back? With what money? We know there's not a lot of gold left for the King because the final small council meeting in the finale sees bickering between Davos and Bronn. Will the Iron Bank come to collect their debt from Tyrion, the last Lannister -- or will they lead another uprising against the Broken King?

Arya's White Horse

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Plot horse.

Helen Sloan/HBO

Two words: glue factory. Wait, no, I mean: plot hole.

 

After finding a white horse at the end of the penultimate episode, Arya rides out of King's Landing at a gallop and then... we see her watching Jon from a distance in King's Landing in the next episode? It's a jarring about-face I suspect will only seem more preposterous should you ever decide to binge watch the final season. It's easy to argue that it doesn't matter (and, well, it doesn't), but if you were wondering what happened to Shadowfax, you'll have to keep wondering.

Flat Earth Theory

If the theory of planetary formation holds true for Westeros, the world they live on should be round. If you continue to sail West, eventually, you'll find yourself back in Westeros. Arya's journey could be remarkably short, depending on how vast the world is. In a realm that has dragons -- gigantic flying beasts that roam wherever they want -- and power-hungry tyrants, isn't it just a little strange that no one has ever ventured West? 

 

Even in the exploration days in the real world, people were sailing boats into the unknown almost as soon as we could sail. According to the books, the Sunset Sea is particularly dangerous, but... uh... dragons?

 

That might mean the world of Game of Thrones is entirely flat and exists on the back of four elephants, themselves resting on the back of a giant turtle. I wonder what Kyrie Irving thinks.

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The AchieVer

Game of Thrones season 8 finale: Subtle details you may have missed

This is the last episode ever, so you may as well soak in the details.

 
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Bran thinking hard as usual.

HBO

Warning: Spoilers aplenty below. 

It's all over. The game has been played. On Sunday HBO aired The Iron Throne, the last ever episode of Game of Thrones

 

If you've seen it, you probably have strong feelings about it. It saw the death of Daenerys Targaryen and the ascent of Bran the Broken. It saw Sansa Stark become the Queen of the North and Tyrion Lannister the Hand of the new King. It saw Jon Snow pat Ghost.

 

Over a million people have signed a petitionto have the last season be remade, although such petitions are all the rage these days, so it's very much a "love it or hate it" affair. But with nearly 20 million viewers, it was among the biggest events in episodic TV history. Here are some of the details and callbacks to previous seasons you may have missed.

Targaryens in the Keep

One of the two big moments of the episode was the death of Daenerys. Tyrion, imprisoned by Daenerys, convinces Jon that she's officially mad, and that Jon and his sisters are sure to incur her wrath sooner rather than later. Jon confronts Daenerys and, gauging her to be insufficiently repentant about massacring an entire city, stabs her right in the heart.

 

This scene, apart from being one of the best in season 8 and arguably the whole show, featured many callbacks to moments in previous seasons.

 

Before Jon confronts her, we see Daenerys ascending the steps to the Iron Throne. She gazes upon it covetously and grasps a hilt of one of the many blades that comprise it. This is a direct throwback to the vision she sees in Qarth back in season 2. The vision, also referenced in The Bells, shows Daenerys wandering into a snow-blanketed, ransacked Red Keep. In it, she walks to the Throne and begins to reach for it, but at the last moment she shies away from touching it.

 

It of course turns out that the Red Keep wouldn't be blanketed in snow, but rather ash. Daenerys did make her grasp for power, grabbing onto the Throne, so I guess the Targaryen coin had yet to land in her vision. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In her vision she's distracted by the cries of a dragon. In episode 6, her attention goes to Jon Snow, who enters The Great Hall.

 

Daenerys is notably less crazed here than in The Bells, but she won't free Tyrion and she said she had to kill all of those innocent civilians to prove Cersei wrong. Or... something. Jon sweet talks her, says she's his queen forever, and then stabs her right in the heart.

 

The last Targaryen to rule, Aerys II, was famously stabbed in the same spot by Jaime Lannister during Robert's Rebellion. There was similar treachery afoot there: Aerys' Hand of the King was Tywin Lannister, who requested King's Landing's gates open so that his army could protect the crown. Aerys opened the gates but Tywin's army turned on Aerys and sacked the city, similar to Daenerys razing the city even after the bells rang in surrender. 

 

Aerys died in front of the Iron Throne when Kingsguard head Jaime Lannister, appalled by the Mad King's demands that the whole city be engulfed in wildfire, impaled him from behind. Daenerys died when her most trusted ally, appalled by her engulfing the city in dragonfire, impaled her from the front.

 

Jaime told Brienne back in season 3 about how little he enjoyed killing the man he was sworn to protect. Jon was naturally even more conflicted about what he had to do. He cried as he lowered Daenery's body to the floor. She is the second partner to die in his hands; Ygritte, his wildling lover, would also die while looking into the eyes of Jon Snow.

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Daenerys died in the arms of Jon, her alleged lover. 

HBO
ygritte

Ygritte, Jon's alleged first love, also died in his arms. Rough go, this guy's had. 

HBO

And finally, Daenerys' death roused Drogon, who flew into the Great Hall. Drogon, presumably in a rage against the symbol of the power that corrupted his mother, burned down the Iron Throne. Fittingly, the Throne was forged by Balerion, the first dragon the Targaryens used to conquer the Seven Kingdoms, and melted by Drogon, the final (?) dragon used by a Targaryen to conquer, well, anything.

Ser Jaime Lannister

During The Iron Throne's extended epilogue, we see Ser Brienne of Tarth detailing the full story of Jaime's exploits in a book. This is The Book of Brothers, which records the deeds of all the Knights to have ever served in the Kingsguard.

 

The Book of Brothers previously appeared twice, both times in season 4. In the first episode of that season -- the best season in the series, might I add -- Jaime is being reprimanded by his son/nephew, Jofrrey Lannister/Baratheon. Joffrey dunks on Jaime pretty hard, perusing the book and noting that Ser Duncan the Tall was decorated enough to take up four pages, yet Jaime doesn't even have a full page to his name.

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Ser Brienne is both a knight and a writer.

HBO

Jaime says there's still time, but Joffrey questions that. "Is there?" asks a bemused Joffrey. "For a 40-year-old knight with one hand?" Damn, roasted. 

 

Three episodes later, Brienne reads out Jaime's underwhelming entry. "It's the duty of the Lord Commander to fill out those pages. And there's still room left in mine."

Well, that's where Brienne comes in. In the finale, Brienne, now the Lord Commander, jots down the following tales under Jaime's name:

 

"Captured in the field at the Whispering Wood: Set free by Lady Catelyn Stark in return for an oath to find and return her two daughters." (Seasons 1-3)

 

"Took Riverrun from the Tully rebels, without loss of life." (Season 6) 

 

"Lured the Unsullied into attacking Casterly Rock, sacrificing his childhood home in service to a greater strategy. Outwitted the Targaryen forces to seize Highgarden." (Season 7)

 

"Fought at the Battle of the Goldroad bravely, narrowly escaping death by dragonfire. Pledged himself to the forces of men and rode north to join them at Winterfell, alone." (Season 7)

"Faced the Army of the Dead, and defended the castle against impossible odds until the defeat of the Night King. Escaped imprisonment and rode south in an attempt to save the capital from destruction." (Season 8 )

 

Died protecting his Queen." (Season 8 )

 

So it was Jaime who knighted Brienne in season 8 episode 2, A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms, but it was Brienne who ultimately gave Jaime a dignified legacy. (Also note that the sigil on Brienne's chestplate is that of a raven, for Bran the Broken.) 

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A wise man.

HBO

Flashbacks and foreshadows

Love and duty: There was another substantial throwback earlier in the episode, when Jon goes to see an imprisoned Tyrion. Tyrion, in the process of convincing Jon to put an end to Daenerys, says he loves her just like Jon does. "Love is the death of duty," Jon says. He mentions that it was something Maester Aemon told him. 

 

Maester Aemon did indeed tell him this, back in episode 9 of the first season after Ned Stark's head had been chopped off. (Aemon also said it to Sam in season 4.) "We all do our duty when there's no cost to it," he said. "Honor comes easy then. Sooner or later, in every man's life, there comes a day when it is not easy, a day when he must choose."

 

This sentiment was echoed by Tyrion moments later. Tyrion tells Jon that Sansa told him about Jon's true identity because she doesn't want Daenerys to be Queen. "She doesn't get to choose," Jon says.

"No, but you do, and you have to choose now," Tyrion powerfully replies. 

 

Aemon didn't know how prescient he was, and how Jon's hardest decision would not be whether to bail from The Night's Watch to join his brother Robb Stark, but whether or not he should betray his Queen -- who happened to be Aemon's great niece. 

 

Intro tidbits: Each episode of season 8 has aired with slightly tweaked opening credits. This week, for the finale, the Lannister Lion did not appear above the Iron Throne and the Map Room of the Red Keep had a fission line through it, the former representing the fall of Queen Cersei and the latter the destruction of the city. (Plus, the actual Map Room had a fission through it.) 

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This week.

HBO
hbo2

Last week.

HBO

A throne of a thousand swords: Before Jon brutally betrays her, the final tale Daenerys spins is of how her brother Viserys told her of the Iron Throne when she was young; how he said it was 1,000 blades-tall. The real thing, it turns out, is far less formidable. But George R.R. Martin has written about how the Iron Throne he envisions in his books is actually closer to what Viserys told Daenerys about.

 

"The way the throne is described in the books," Martin wrote in 2013 on his Not a Blog, in reference to HBO's depiction, "HUGE, hulking, black and twisted, with the steep iron stairs in front, the high seat from which the king looks DOWN on everyone in the court... my throne is a hunched beast looming over the throne room, ugly and asymmetric."

 

West of west, north of north: When bidding Jon farewell, Arya says she can't visit him up at The Wall. Not because of any rules, but because she's headed out to explore The Known World. She wants to find out what's west of Westeros. This was foreshadowed in season 6. Lady Crane, a Braavosi actress, asks Arya where she'll go next.

 

"Essos is east and Westeros is west, but what's west of Westeros?"

 

"The edge of the world, maybe," Lady Crane replies.

 

"I want to see it," Arya says. 

 

Jon's banishment to the Night's Watch was also foreshadowed, but not as long ago as season 6. In episode 4, The Last of the Starks, the one where Jon didn't pat Ghost, Tormound says he doesn't like "the south," in reference to Castle Black and Winterfell. He says he's going up north -- and adds that the north, "the real north," is where Jon belongs. 

 

Queen in the North: Bran won the Game of Thrones, but a close second may be Sansa Stark. Sansa refused to bend the knee to her brother, declaring the North a free kingdom. Shortly thereafter, we see Sansa crowned the Queen in the North in a scene similar to the ones enjoyed by Robb Stark and Jon.

 

Firstly, this is of course an arc-capping moment, as in season 1 Sansa fantasized about being a beloved queen.

 

Secondly, Sansa's coronation dress is actually insanely symbolic. There are details on it that represent each of her family members, as Pinterest member purplefloofs noted, like a one-arm cloak for Arya, a Weirwood pattern for Bran, the style of her tiara for Robb, and more. Check out BuzzFeed's extensive breakdown of it here.

 

TL;DR, Sansa Stark is so great.

 

As it begins, so it ends: The very first scene in Game of Thrones was a trio of Night's Watchmen venturing north of the wall, where they're killed by White Walkers. The very last scene in Game of Thrones sees Jon, Tormund and all the new Night's Watchmen venturing north of the wall, Wildlings and Crows living in peace and White Walker threat eliminated.

 

 

 

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The AchieVer

Game of Thrones finale was so disappointing I actually miss the books

I loved how the show distilled the novels. But I will stomach George R.R. Martin's bloated, rapey prose again if it can help me understand Daenerys.

 
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Daenerys may have got what she deserved, but viewers deserved to understand more of it.

HBO

The Game of Thrones finale achieved what I thought was impossible: I'm actually longing to know how author George R.R. Martin will write it.   

 

(It'll be a long wait. When Martin's Song of Ice and Fire books left off eight years ago, Daenerys Targaryen was still stuck in Essos, figuring out how to control her dragons -- and Martin's conclusion is still two books away.)

 

But after the first season of Game of Thronesaired, I was hooked. Daenerys rose from the ashes of a funeral pyre with three dragon babies, and I dove into Martin's series of novels to find out what would happen next on her journey to the Iron Throne. Reading in tandem with my husband, we blew through 3,000-plus pages. 

 

But somewhere halfway through Dance of Dragons, the fifth and latest novel Martin published, I put the book down and didn't pick it up again. And until this eighth and last season of the Game of Thrones, I expected I never would. 

 

The books, and Martin's world-building within them, were too bloated with characters. Too many obscure sigils. So slow. And crucially, for me, the books were too rapey. 

 

Martin is a master of fantasy world-building, and he invented a world where rape is so common he routinely describes it happening in increments of "half a hundred." It's a turn of phrase common throughout the novels -- half a hundred trees, half a hundred spells, half a hundred graves. But a world where that act of violence against a woman must be multiplied by 50 or 100 or more, for it to carry dramatic weight? It became a world I simply got tired of visiting.

 

I'm not giving the television series a pass. One of its biggest controversies was Sansa Stark's rape in the fifth season, a flashpoint in a larger debate about television's portrayal of sexual assault on screen. 

 

But I'll give the writer of that episode -- and the Game of Thrones generally -- credit for approaching the subject with gravity, at least. After the executive producers suggested closing the door on the camera, writer Brian Cogman advocated against blunting the reality of Sansa's nightmare, according to an interview with Vanity Fair: "I am the one, God help me ... who said, 'If we do this are we being dismissive of what that real horror would be behind that door?" Cogman said. "Are we being disrespectful of the severity of that situation?'" 

 

I prefer that over Martin's casual dismissiveness. 

 

It's telling that Sansa's season-five scene provoked an outcry, but pre-phenomenon Game of Thrones season one faced no backlash when it portrayed the same thing happening -- and more graphically -- to Daenerys. The audience was a fraction of the size then, but it was also when the Game of Thrones was most faithful to the author's world. A single rape is bad but let's not get all bent out of shape about it. 

 

So after 3,000 pages and with only a few hundred more to go, I stopped. More than that, I would routinely tell people who didn't read the books that they shouldn't start. Watching the TV series, which distilled the best parts of Martin's books with less drudgery, was enough. 

But Game of Thrones' last season wasn't enough. 

Here's your official warning:    

One reason the show's telling felt freer than the books' was that it broke from Martin's convention of point-of-view chapters. Each chapter of Martin's books is told from the perspective of a different character. On the downside, that slows down the narrative. But it has the benefit of giving readers intimate access to characters' minds and motivations. 

Daenerys, with her heel-turn to tyranny and her tragic end, is the mind I miss most in Game of Thrones' final season. I wish viewers had been afforded more scenes like the one between Sansa and Daenerys in Winterfell's library in this season's second episode, where we got one glimpse of Daenerys bristling at ceding any part of the Iron Throne's dominion. Or -- it nearly gives me hives to say it -- I wish we had more scenes between Daenerys and Missandei talking while they braid each other's hair, like season four. 

 

Would it have helped explain Dany's enraged snap decision to go on a genocidal dragonfire bender across King's Landing at the moment her quest for the Iron Throne was won? Maybe not. But I wonder whether Daenerys Targaryen's tragedy would make more sense if Martin writes it. Would it knock my feet out from under me, instead of making me scratch my head and shrug? 

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Watch the Throne.

In Tyrion's crowning monologue of Game of Thrones' finale episode, he questions what unites people. Armies? Gold? Flags? No, it's stories. "There's nothing in the world more powerful than a good story. Nothing can stop it. No enemy can defeat it," he says. "And who has a better story than Bran the Broken?" Oh really, show? It would have been great if you told more of the story behind Bran's mysteries then.

 

Martin said Monday that the book series' ending will mirror the show in some ways and diverge from Game of Thrones in others. 

 

The entirety of the Twitter, it seems, has already debated the quality of the Game of Thrones' storytelling as seasons progressed beyond the books and as they downsized to six episodes from 10. And people much keener than I am -- I bend the knee to Joanna Robinson at Vanity Fair and Mallory Rubin at The Ringer -- have discussed it insightfully. Like them, I don't have grave misgivings about where these characters eventually ended up. 

 

Going into Sunday's finale, it felt irreconcilable that fans could spend so much time watching eight seasons of the Game of Thrones series and yet still lack enough time to understand why they're ending up where they are. 

 

Now that our collective watch has ended, my reconciliation is to embrace that this last season deftly delivered some astonishing feats of television spectacle. That it was an unprecedented achievement. And that the last season's storytelling was also so bad it made me nostalgic for books I don't even like. 

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