Due to some technical difficulties, we weren’t able to finish our Game of Thrones discussion last week, so we combined the final two episodes. And with everything that happened, we’re going to forego the episode summaries because, honestly, you should probably watch the final episodes instead of finding out from us. So watch them and then come back here for EJ and Myndi digging in and somehow making it about Mad Men.
EJ: Well, that was polarizing. You weren’t kidding around last week when you said this was going to be the wild episode. Just to start off, what’s your general impression of the episode – I know there are some vocal fans who hated it, but as much as disliked what was happening, I felt like it made sense and I was fully on board for the experience. I mean, like Leslie Jones said, all those parents who named their kid Dany of Khaleesi are probably having some regrets. But where did you land on it?
MYNDI: Well, as I’ve thought about it more, I feel like it was pretty overwhelming to watch, but it made some sense. Dany just went absolutely insane–The Mad Queen–and it was bound to happen. Two of her children were killed, along with her best friend. Her boyfriend just dumped her when he found out she was his aunt and Varys (and sort of Tyrion?) betrayed her. She was bound to get pushed over the edge.
EJ: And there are about a million articles from Buzzfeed and the like listing all the times this outcome has been foreshadowed. But it all comes down to “The person who keeps threatening to burn cities to the ground burned a city to the ground.” If I’m not mistaken, we didn’t really see Daenerys after her rampage began, other than a far-off blob on top of a dragon. And I think that’s a good move because, well, I don’t think we needed to see her delight in destruction. It gets us back to the Game of Thrones idea that anybody who wants power should absolutely not have it. It’s crazy that she wiped out maybe a third of the main cast. And so the question is, which of the dead are you going to miss the most? (I mean, you’ll only miss them for one episode, but you know what I mean.)
MYNDI: One more quick note about not seeing Dany after the destruction started…during the Inside the Episode tag, Dan and David mentioned that it was intentional to follow the action on the ground, seeing it from the point of view of the innocents who suffered rather than the vantage point of the person who considers themselves a hero, especially when we no longer do once we realize the consequences of what they’re doing and how gratuitous it is. But as far as who I will be miss most, I guess I’d have to say Varys. He hadn’t had as much cool stuff to do the last couple of seasons, but he was so integral to the story and I wanted him to be there for the end of it.
EJ: Varys was a heartbreaker – I think especially because he’d become so much more human over the course of the series. He was entertaining at the beginning but he felt like somebody who’d die soon and it would be satisfying. And I think his friendship with Tyrion and his service to Dany made him so much more sympathetic. It would have been so nice to see him seated at the table at the end of the finale. Now, for me, one of the highlights was what they call Clegane Bowl. I love the Hound so much and his fight with his brother was so bonkers. The flaming staircase and the Mountain just ditching his armor because why not – it felt like it belonged in a video game and it would have been the best part of that game. But more important was Sandor showing genuine concern for Arya at the end there. That was such a good moment, and the fact that it actually sunk in with Arya – she backed off from her mission for the first time because of him, and I liked that. I feel like history will point to Arya and Tyrion as the MVPs of the series, and her relationship with the Hound was so formative. I don’t know what point I’m making but I’m really just thinking of how much I liked those two whenever they shared a storyline.
MYNDI: Oh, for sure. They were a great duo! I also found that whole sequence very satisfying, and Clegane Bowl was suitably off the hook. When The Mountain did the same move he did on Oberon back in the day, I was pissed…I didn’t want The Hound to lose, and especially not that way! I loved that he realized his life was basically over, so he’d just take Gregor down with him. That was a cool shot. But what about Cersei slinking away without anyone caring? That seemed like a bit of an odd choice, didn’t it?
EJ: It was weird, but it was also a very funny moment – just walking past those Clegane boys and going off to do her own thing struck me as kind of a comedy beat. There’s something kind of appropriate about her fate – all of her manipulations since Day One and all of the people she’s fooled consistently. I feel like she could have talked almost anybody out of killing her (I mean, probably not Daenerys), so she had to die under a pile of rubble. She can’t win over a falling brick, you know? I do wish she’d had a little more of an active role this season – as great as it is that Lena Headey was mostly getting paid to look out a window and sip wine because dammit, she earned it, Cersei just wasn’t a presence this season. I wish there’d been time to give her more to do, and maybe tell us how the people of King’s Landing feel about her as a queen. I mean, I assume they’re not on board with her contempt for them, but maybe her economic policies are really good?
MYNDI: Sure! I bet she was a real economic trailblazer! But seriously, there was absolutely some poetry in her death, being that it was ultimately in Jaime’s arms. I’ve gone back and forth with how I feel about Jaime’s arc. While I’m still super pissed about what he did to Brienne, it made sense that he’d go back to Cersei, because it was always his primary motivation, always. He needed to be there for both his love and his sister. That may be messed up, but it’s powerful. I still wish that someone got to stab her through the heart, but I think you make a good point that she probably could have talked almost anyone out of killing her. She knew her strengths!
EJ: I was rooting so hard for Jaime for so long. It felt like he was growing and changing, and while I think he became a better person (knighting Brienne is such a great moment), he always had the same core principles and he followed them to the end. And it feels weird because we had years of Jaime apparently growing and Cersei steadfastly refusing to do so. Other than her storyline with the High Sparrow and the Shame Walk where she was really pushed to her limits, she has been the same person this whole time. If time travelers from the future visited you after you watched the first season and told you what Cersei was going to do, you’d probably be like “Yeah, that tracks”. I love her for it, but Cersei was never going to be anything but Cersei. Now, since we’re covering the finale also, I think we’ve mostly hit the big ideas, but I just want to say how beautifully made this episode was. Everything looked amazing, even when it was horrifying. Drogon belching those horrible quantities of fire, and the devastation on the ground with the ash falling like snow, it was a legitimately gorgeous episode. I don’t know if that’s down to the director or the cinematographer, but it looked incredible. Anything you want to hit before we get to the finale?
MYNDI: I would certainly echo what you said about the episode visually. The only other thing I wanted to add was about Arya, and how it seems a bit implausible for her to survive so many close calls, but of course she did, because she’s Arya. Last week, that white horse seemed like a giant metaphor, but it turned out to be just a pretty white horse, so no need to pontificate further. On to the finale!
EJ: The horse! That’s right. I don’t know if you were watching the same shows I was last year, but there were a bunch of series that tried to invoke that “good guy on the white horse” image, either earnestly or ironically and I saw maybe ten shows that did the white horse bit all of a sudden. So it was hilarious that they underplayed that so much to the extent that, yeah, it really was just a pretty horse. And the finale. First off, I apologize to everybody because I was without Internet all week and that’s why we’re combining episodes right here at the end. Second, and I’ll just tip you off right now that I really enjoyed the finale, but the structure of it was very weird. The big moment happens comparatively early on and then the rest of the series is made up of conversations about politics. I never would have expected that, but it also really made if feel like, yeah, this world is still going to go on and they’re getting down to business. Before we get to specifics, where did you land on the finale? Good? Bad? Better than The Leftovers? (That was a trick question, since that’s the best finale.)
MYNDI: I enjoyed it! I don’t know if I could rank it, exactly, but I couldn’t put it ahead of, say, Mad Men, which I thought was darn near perfect. The structure was absolutely odd, but I think it was a byproduct of the entire season feeling strangely rushed. I mean, in order for everything to unfold accordingly, Dany had to be taken out fairly quickly, but such a tremendous event doesn’t seem to fit so early in an episode. Then again, this is the show that broke all the conventions, starting with Ned Stark being killed off in season one. I’m more perplexed as to why Drogon didn’t at least try to incinerate Jon (which my sister helpfully reminded me wouldn’t have worked anyway) before he went for the Iron Throne. It was another super cool visual, seeing all that iron melt away, but I didn’t think the dragon actually understood the symbolism of what he was destroying. He sure was sad about his mom dying, though, which was oddly endearing.
EJ: I always wonder how smart the dragons are supposed to be, and I also wondered why it didn’t do more than roar at Jon. Are they so loyal to the Targaryens as a family that he gets a pass? And, yeah, he wouldn’t have burned but Drogon could have just bit him in half. Targaryen blood can’t stop that! There’s something so heartbreaking to me about Drogon losing his siblings (I don’t think they’ve ever referenced dragon gender, but Dany named them after the formative men in her life, so that always makes me think of them as male. Which is dumb, but it explains my pronouns.) and then his mom, and he’s truly alone now. He is the most alone of anything in that world and there is a part of me that hopes he’s flying off to a place far away where there are more dragons and he can be at peace. And since you mentioned the awesome Mad Men finale, the structure here is if Don came up with the Coke ad twelve minutes in and here, but it totally shouldn’t have. I hope this is doesn’t sound weird, but I think it was the best move to have Jon Snow be the one who killed her – not only was his moral dilemma really interesting (and when Tyrion was trying to talk sense into him I finally realized that Ygritte was right and he really doesn’t know anything), but I’m glad they didn’t have Arya as a death dealer. She’s such an interesting character and there’s so much to her and I’m glad this season didn’t turn into “Arya kills everybody who needs killing”. She’s not the Punisher, you know?
MYNDI: Good point! I agree that Jon was the right choice. You could see that when he walked into that throne room, he didn’t know for sure what he would kill her. He was trying to get her to show some kind of sympathy for all the innocents she killed, but the more she talked, the clearer it became that she’d changed forever. The was no mercy, there was no benevolence. She had to be stopped, so he did what he had to do. I was less than thrilled at his sentence, but the more I’ve thought about it, the more I realize that he really got what he wanted all along. All the Stark children did, actually.
EJ: You reminded me of the part that absolutely sent chills up my spine – when Daenerys is giving her big speech and she talks about the cities she’s going to liberate and she mentions Winterfell. She’s been there. Her friends run the place. Who exactly is she going to liberate and who is she liberating them from? That was honestly scary. But as for those Starks, you’re totally right. They got the endings they wanted and deserved. Arya going off to find the rest of the world is such a great future for her. You know I’ve been pulling for Sansa to end up on the Throne, but the fact that she chose the North instead is perfect for her. Ned Stark never wanted anything more than King of the North either, and like him, she will be such a good ruler of the land that she loves. I’m a little confused as to what the Night’s Watch is supposed to do now – are they going to shoo kids away from the big hole in the Wall? But Jon just running off with the Wildlings was awesome. I wouldn’t have thought of that, but once he returns to Castle Black to see Tormund, it made so much sense. And I don’t think anybody guess where Bran was going to end up…
MYNDI: Um, no. I feel like, in that moment, everyone watching live collectively said, “BRAN???!!!” Yeah, I don’t love that he’s King, but it seems like having Tyrion as his Hand basically makes The Imp the King after all. He’s fully in charge at the council meeting at the end, and it’s his wisdom and rationale that gets the Lords and Ladies to select Bran in the first place. Sure, it’s weird for Bran the Broken to be the leader, but is it really that different from, say, FDR? He was also wheelchair bound, right?
EJ: Would I like to see fan art of Bran wearing tiny glasses and biting down hard on a cigarette holder? Yes, yes I would. Now, I need to get excessively nerdy for a second, if you’re cool with that. A complaint I’ve seen is that the guy who can see the future doesn’t need an advisor and so the writers are stupid blah blah blah. But I would point out that the Three Eyed Raven sees the future, as in, the future as it’s definitely going to happen. He’s not Dr. Strange using the Time Stone to see fourteen million different futures. Bran sees only what is going to happen, and that stuff is going to happen because Tyrion is at his side. They’re building the future that he can see. And beyond my obsession with how magic powers work, it feels very much like Bran knows that he’s a figurehead and it’s his team that’s going to change the world. I mean, he leaves them to have their meeting without any real input. He’s the image of the king, but it’s the very smart and honorable people and also Bronn who will bring Westeros into the future. (Yeah, Bronn was a weird choice but when he showed up I said out loud “Hell yeah!” I like Bronn a lot.)
MYNDI: Ha! Yeah, that guy is a riot, and I’m glad he made it to the end. I’m glad that everyone on that council made it to end, actually. Brienne is the best, and I was delighted to see Podrick is part of her King’s Guard. What a long way they’ve come together. Sam has had his dreams realized, and Tyrion is where he should be. And, by the way, so is Grey Worm. That guy has a really strange grieving process, but he and The Unsullied sailed for Naath as Missandei would have wanted. Am I missing anyone?
EJ: Well, Davos finally has the job he should have had all along. That’s not a guy who wanted to be present at all of the biggest battles in history. And I have to say, I really enjoyed Brienne finishing Jaime Lannister’s history. I think it said a lot about her that she cast everything in the best possible light right up until the end. And while one of my least favorite tropes is a story about how important stories are, between Brienne in that scene and the fact that Bran, the living history of Westeros is the King at the end, I think it’s a really effective take on what is sometimes a cliche. I think they already subverted it with that bit about how Tyrion was left out of A Song of Ice and Fire, which was very funny. But so much of the bad things that befell Westeros could have been avoided if people had any knowledge of their history. Either personal history or the history of the land. Would the Night King have made it so far if there’d been some real, institutional knowledge of him? And with the way that they end the series changing how rulers will be selected, it feels like finally people have looked at history and realized where they went wrong. Daenerys was always talking about breaking the wheel, and at the end, they actually did it. They’re in a place where they can rebuild their world and maybe avoid the mistakes they made the last time around. It wasn’t a perfect final season by any means, but I think the place where it ends is kind of perfect.
MYNDI: I tend to agree. I’m also guessing that the reason so many people are furious with the ending is at least in part because we waited so long for a bit of a rush job, at least as far as the storytelling. You can’t fault the people who create this show…they were making a movie every single week, for crying out loud! It looked absolutely incredible. I think the ending will age well once people stop taking offense at every single thing. Maybe someday we can debate the misogyny or that Dany went mad too quickly, but I think when it’s all watched together, without huge time gaps between seasons, it will hold up.
EJ: I think you’re right. There are definitely issues with the treatment of women, some of which were baked into the dough from the beginning by the books. And I think there’s going to be a lot to debate in the years to come. But man, right now, I just want to enjoy it as an accomplishment. Nobody could have guessed this was going to be a national obsession, and I think Game of Thrones did a lot to open TV up to more genres and storytelling styles. It was a game changer. And now I think Benioff and Weiss need to take a nice long rest before they start making Star Wars movies, because if they don’t like entitled fans yelling at them, sister, they picked the wrong franchise to move to.
MYNDI: Ha! You got that right, my friend. The internet is a cruel mistress…we didn’t even touch upon the fact that there was apparently a water bottle visible in one scene last night? I have to imagine that’s someone’s entire job; making sure the set is pristine. That stuff would never have happened on Mad Men. Matt Weiner re-shot a scene in a grocery store because the apples looked too big to be 1960 apples.
EJ: I’m trying so hard to make a Game of Thrones connection to Mad Men to wrap this up, but I am coming up blank. What a way to wrap up our recaps! Mad Men tangents!