Game of Thrones: The Ending of ‘The Iron Throne’ Explained

The ‘Game of Thrones’ finale delivered on what’s been promised all along: a bittersweet conclusion.
By  · Published on May 20th, 2019

After 8 seasons and 73 episodes, Game of Thrones has finally come to a close. Like many of the show’s season finales before it, “The Iron Throne” set characters onto new paths while ending the journey’s of others, but this time for the last time.

Spoilers below through the Game of Thrones series finale “The Iron Throne.”

Laststarks Spoilers

The driving conflict of the entire show since the first season has been the matter who should rule, who deserves the Iron Throne, and whether or not that should be based on birthright. And if so, who’s birthright gives them the best claim?

We finally got a definitive answer to that question, but what the end of “The Iron Throne” suggested is that issues of birthright, whether Baratheon, Lannister, or Targaryen, were the wrong focus all along. All of the many characters who led us to this moment; Cersei and Tywin, Littlefinger and Varys, Stannis and Melisandre were all playing the wrong game. The destiny that both empowered and burdened Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow, in the end, mattered not.

As it turns out, the show was always about the Starks. And apparently, it had to end with them apart from one another, yet again.

Bran is now both the Three-Eyed Raven and King of Westeros. Sansa reigns as queen of an independent North. Arya sets sail for whatever is west of Westeros and Jon makes his home again in the far North with the Wildlings, after being sentenced to spend the rest of his days at the Wall.

As for the rest? The seven kingdoms are now six. The Iron Throne that drove the entire series has been burned to the ground. “A Song of Ice and Fire” is now written (even if a bit on the nose). And Westeros is a democratic republic, sort of?

King’s Landing

In the end, the wheel was really only half broken. The Iron Throne may no longer be a threat, a driving motivator, or an object of desire, but the idea of it still remains. Bran, while a new king of Westeros is still the king. He is not a tyrant as Cersei was, a dictator as Dany was becoming, or a reluctant and neutral king like Jon Snow, but he is not just an elected official either.

Technically, he was elected, and as Tyrion makes a note of in the episode because he cannot produce heirs, his successor will not be someone of “birthright.” But he still rules over the six kingdoms after Sansa’s succession. His small council still proclaims “long may he reign” when he leaves the room.

Bran becoming king was a mostly unpredictable outcome. After turning down his position as Lord of Winterfell, and expressing no real desire for anything once he became the often emotionless Three-Eyed Raven, it was a surprise to see him actively take up the role. Though to be fair, it appears he did so more out of obligation to the past and future he knows rather than out of any real desire for the position personally.

Tyrion, as his hand, now leads the small council, as a repentance for his own crimes. It is probably not the worst punishment he could consider, but when he is offered the position, it is clear he holds a severe lack of confidence in himself and his wisdom. Not only will this role allow him to right the wrongs of the world, some of which he has been a part of creating, but it allows him to restore faith in himself.

The small council scene at the end of the episode — where Tyrion leads Bronn, the new Master of Coin, Sam, the Grand Maester, Brienne, presumably the head of the Kings Guard, and Davos — was a moment reminiscent of a time in Game of Thrones history when individuals such as Varys and Littlefinger and Tywin paved the way at that very table. After all, it has been a long while since we’ve visited the King’s Landing small council room. This time, however, the council is good-natured, with a genuine desire to do better. Other than maybe Bronn, who now is in charge of Westerosi funds and still, inevitably is looking out for himself. It is astonishing that he has a position on this council at all, and put in charge of the money, no less.

Bran exits the small council meeting with plans to find Drogon. One can only assume he will use his warging powers, as he has with the ravens, to track down Dany’s last dragon and perhaps fly through him. Ice has been thawed, but there’s still some fire lingering out in Westeros.

Arya Stark

Each of the Starks in this episode remained true to the core of the characters they were from the very beginning. Arya, even after training to be a badass assassin and using that skill to defeat literal death, never let go of her Stark name. But with Sansa as Queen in the North and Bran as King of the Six Kingdoms, and with no real desire herself to conform to all of the formalities within those spheres, Arya set out on a journey that no one had probably considered up until this point. Heading west of Westeros to discover new territories may feel a little anticlimactic for such a character, but before this somewhat random outcome, Arya’s arc already came full circle.

She didn’t want to be a lady all along, and she is not. She wanted to be a fighter, and she was. She kept her list and desired her revenge, but in the end, no longer felt that she needed it. Those on her list were taken care of by their own fate anyway.

Arya got the closure she’s always needed. She reunited with her family, saved Winterfell, and helped the Starks get back on track. While she is no longer an assassin, she is not one to settle down in one place either. And I am assuming that on the journey that lies ahead, her fighting skills won’t be totally out of use.

She will, after all, always have needle.

Sansa Stark

Within this ending, Sansa possibly got the best, most satisfying conclusion of all.

She takes her throne and is given her crown as the Northerners yell “Queen in the North,” as they have for Jon before and Robb before him. This time, however, it is for someone who wants it, deserves it, and has worked toward it over the years, proving herself time and time again to be an effective and empathetic leader.

She fought for the North more than anyone, and she won over the North in the end. While it would no doubt be interesting to see how she reigns going forward, we can rest assure that Winterfell is in good hands.

Jon Snow

After killing his aunt/lover, and experiencing the weight of power and destiny at his fingertips, Jon’s ultimate fate is to be sent back to the Wall, as a peace offering to the Unsullied for his crime against Daenerys. As someone who began the series a young, bastard boy voluntarily signing himself up for service, he essentially returns as a Targaryen Queenslayer, who is shaken up by the events of this season but for the most part, seems at peace with himself by the end.

It is not his choice to go back, but it is most likely the one he would have made anyway. He really belongs nowhere but the far North now. If he is not going to press his claim for the non-existent throne or take control of Winterfell, then the only other place for him is with Tormund and the Wildlings.

Tormund told him he had the real North in him a few episodes back. And what we know now is that Jon Snow was always destined to embrace that part of himself.

What this also confirms, however, is that the Wall (presumably a new Wall) still exists. The purpose of it now that the Northern threat of White Walkers has been resolved is unclear, and Jon doesn’t actually seem to stay there for too long, but it is up and running again.

Signs of spring seem to be creeping up underneath the snow as Jon embarks on an unknown and possibly more relaxed future in the final shot of the entire series. A swelling score with the show’s main theme plays as he rides off with the Wildlings beyond the Wall. He knows who he is now, with no type of bastard-status or magical fate burdening him down anymore.

It was a bittersweet ending, with the Starks being separated once more even in their moments of triumph, and the heroes we thought were destined to succeed in the endgame, like Dany, were destroyed. Ice and Fire had to get us to this point, but it was not the end all be all of the story. It was only a precursor to all the journey’s that the Stark kids especially will embark on next.

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