So, on Monday night it was the last ever episode of Game of Thrones, so here is my now-traditional recap. Despite booking yesterday off work with the intention of doing this entry, I actually ended up pouring my feels into trying to finish my latest fic instead, hence the delay.
Actually, before I talk about the episode, here's a quick round-up of my GoT fics in case cloudsinvenice (or anyone else) wants to read them in context of the season as a whole... These are the links on AO3 but they're also on FFN and are the first three stories on my profile, here.
These form part of a series on AO3 which I have aptly entitled "Season 8 Braime Ship Spiral" and from that you should obviously assume they are Jaime/Brienne centric. The great thing about shipping is that massive fandoms with gigantic casts do not have to be impenetrable when you're only focusing on 2-3 characters at a time.
Wish Fulfilment - set after episode 8.02, “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms”. Jaime and Brienne and their greatest wishes, and Tormund as canon shipper rather than creepozoid.
we have survived all, we who knew we would not - a direct follow up to the above story, set after episode 8.03, "The Long Night". (Pretentious title is pretentious.) Standard hurt/comfort and fluff because my heart needed it after that episode. The AO3 version is split into chapters but I intended it as a long one-shot, which is how the version on FFN is formatted.
The Things We Do - a separate story / fix-it / alternative ending to episode 8.04, "The Last of the Starks", incorporating events of 8.05, "The Bells". Currently a WIP because I decided to give it two separate endings, only one of which I have so far finished. (Obvs.) In which Jaime is an Impulsive Idiot and Brienne is Not Having It. (Angst/fluff, mostly.)
I’ve been somewhat overwhelmed by the response to the latest story in particular: people really seem to like my interpretation of Brienne, and that’ll do me just fine. :)
Right, now that my
Right, so. I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it. At this point, that's honestly the best I could have hoped for.
(Also, there was a genuine moment of hysterics in our house when I accidentally started playing back episode 1. "It must be a flashback!" we said. "They're listing all the dead characters in the credits to mess with us!" Took me probably five minutes to realise what I'd done and we wasted all that nervous anticipation for nothing. :P)
As a general summary, it's safe to say that the cinematography, Ramin Djawadi's music, and the talent of the cast have saved some very, very poor writing this season, and the finale was no exception.
There were some parts I genuinely loved so I'll start by listing them before descending into negativity (these will not be in any logical order):
- That amazing shot of Daenerys with Drogon's wings spreading out behind her - a great ending for the Dragon Queen part of her story before she went full tyrannical Mad Queen with her speech only moments later.
- The visual metaphor of the ash falling over Kings Landing like fine snow ("winter is coming").
- Drogon melting the Iron Throne, then scooping up Dany's body and swooping off to who-knows-where; hammering home how pointless it was fighting over a glorified chair. (And him gently nudging her lifeless body, OH MY HEART.) I honestly thought Jon was toast at that point, and my first thought when the throne got melted was "if mummy can't have it no-one can".
(Sidebar, one of the Chairs at work is someone I know from the old Inline forum days, and last week he literally walked into my meeting room to throw a GoT theory at me and then left again, which was hilarious. The theory in question was that Jon Snow is impervious to fire and that nobody, including Jon, has ever noticed. So during that scene I was fully expecting Drogon to torch Jon and him to emerge unscathed.)
- Tyrion finding his siblings in the rubble and just breaking down (and, again, his unconditional love both for Jaime, who always treated him well, and for Cersei, who never did. Here, Tyrion, have the tattered remains of my heart, you’ve earned it.)
- Tyrion discarding his Hand pin and the ominous silence afterwards. I was 100% convinced he was dead at that point.
- Grey Worm telling Tyrion to keep quiet and him just continuing talking anyway, because he was convinced he was going to die regardless and wanted to go out fighting the only way he knows how.
- Sansa shutting down her uncle during his self-aggrandising. "Cool story bro, now sit down." Also Samwell suggesting democracy and being laughed at - equal parts uncomfortable and "actually, yeah, that’s a slippery slope to Wexit".
- Brienne as Kingsguard. Well deserved; Jaime would be so proud of her. <3
- SER PODRICK. Legitimately squealed at that. "Any knight can make another knight" and Brienne is going to make damn sure she follows that advice. I'll take that as a subtle nod to episode 2 and Jaime/Brienne being canon despite being mostly unseen (more on Braime later, obviously).
- Tyrion tidying all the chairs before the Small Council meeting and his disappointed face when everyone moved them again. I FEEL YA, MY DUDE.
- Jon getting reunited with Ghost; HE IS SUCH A GOOD BOI. (Though apparently the writers care more about man-and-his-dog companionship than relationships – romantic or otherwise – between actual humans.)
- Sansa as Queen in the North - CALLED IT. Also loved that Tyrion did not even argue with her about it and just named Bran "Ruler of the Six Kingdoms" - again, I will take this as a subtle nod to Sansa/Tyrion being unseen canon.
- Brienne finishing Jaime's entry in the Book of Brothers got me totes emosh and I actually needed a moment to compose myself (more on this shortly).
Okay, so actually there was a lot of good in this episode, as the above demonstrates. But there were also a few WTF moments and a lot of still-unanswered questions.
Let’s start with King Bran. His unofficial title (“Bran the Broken”) honestly made me uncomfortable. I get that it’s a call-back to Tyrion saying he has a soft spot for “cripples, bastards and broken things” but yeah… really? You’re just gonna reduce his entire arc to that? Literally anything would have been better. Bran the Reluctant. Bran the All-Seeing. Bran the Enigmatic. You get the idea.
Also, that seemed like a bit of a weird decision to make. I think I would have preferred Jon, TBQH, even though he wouldn’t want it either. Or even Samwell – he’d make a great and just ruler (though I forgot to mention above that seeing Sam in all his Grand Maester garb also got me right in the feels). Tyrion sold it well, but that’s what Tyrion does, after all. He really should have anticipated that he would become Hand again after that. (You will never be free of that title, Tyrion.)
I know I’m hung up on this, but we’ve still never had confirmation of whether Cersei was actually pregnant. Some of the other unanswered questions (like the connection between the Three-Eyed Raven and the Night King) I’m assuming will be addressed in the prequel spin-off that’s in the works, but Cersei’s supposed pregnancy was the one thing I really wanted clarified just for the sake of character arcs being fulfilled. At this point I’m mostly of the opinion that she was never pregnant at all.
I’m assuming that Selwyn Tarth (Brienne’s father) is dead in show canon now, considering Brienne was in the line-up with everyone else at the Dragon Pit as the heir of her House. Again, would have been nice to have clarity on that, as everyone else’s back-story is clearly known in canon.
I’m not totally sold on all the Starks getting separated, either; “the lone wolf dies, the pack survives.” All of their individual character endings were satisfying, but I would have liked more closure than them just hugging at the dock in Kings Landing. Bran and Sansa were both crowned separately without their families there to see, and it would have been nice to have a bit more closure on Gendry/Arya before she went off adventuring. Jon going More North with Tormund and the other Wildlings was nice (and I’m glad they didn’t shove Tormund/Brienne at us like a consolation prize) but literally every single character has essentially ended up alone. The writers warned us the ending would be “bittersweet” but I don’t think they know what that actually means or how to deliver it effectively. For me, “bittersweet” implies that there’s some distant future hope. Not just “everyone dies alone, redemption is fake news, deal with it”.
Tyrion as Hand to the Queen in the North would have been amazing, incidentally, and I wish he’d suggested that instead of being Hand to King Bran – I imagine he’s sick of the sight of Kings Landing by now and it would, again, have given us a bit of something more for Tyrion/Sansa. I’m sure someone else is suitably qualified to be Hand in Kings Landing, and given there were already some missing posts in the Small Council they could have just doubled up on jobs for now. Ser Davos would have been a good advisor, maybe even Samwell (and it’s not beyond the realm of possibility considering Cersei elected Maester Qyburn as her Hand).
Basically, having just one of the ships actually sailing in some fashion would have been better than sinking LITERALLY ALL OF THEM
Also, I was totally convinced that Jaime was climbing back out of that rubble or that Tyrion would find him barely alive. It has been utterly hilarious watching the Braime (and Jaime) fandom on Tumblr simultaneously shifting from rage/despair to absolute denial in the space of two days since episode 5 (the aptly named “Jaime Lannister is Alive Clown Club”), as well as the fact all the fan theories went viral. TBF there was a lot of evidence to suggest it would happen. As it turns out, NCW and Lena Heady literally got credited just to be corpses in episode 6. So yeah, I’m disappointed that everyone was wrong, but also not surprised because this season has ignored pretty much all of Jaime’s foreshadowing and even if he had somehow survived I didn’t trust D&D to do any better with him than they already had.
And yes, I am very disappointed that Jaime and Brienne’s last scene together was that mess from episode 4, though both actors did their best to save it from the terrible writing. (I’m sure I read somewhere that they may have filmed multiple endings, so maybe there was originally a scene on Tarth like we all hoped… fingers crossed when they release a full-show box set they’ll be there as an extra!)
Actually, this brings me nicely onto the main thing (as ever) that I want to focus on, namely Jaime/Brienne.
As I said above, the scene with her finishing Jaime’s entry in the White Book got me right in the feels, though it didn’t properly set me off until I read a post on Tumblr which pointed out that the last thing in the book before that was Jaime being named Kingslayer, and the last thing Brienne wrote was that he died protecting his Queen. So she literally was his redemption. Once I realised that I legit nearly started crying because I hadn’t quite realised how invested I was in Jaime being redeemed until that moment.
It also reinforced how utterly stupid Jaime’s actions really were; I’m still basing this on the assumption that he deliberately broke Brienne’s heart to try and keep her safe and so she wouldn’t mourn his inevitable death. Evidently, she did mourn him, as she was blinking back tears whilst finishing his entry in the book, but it would have been nice to see her reaction to the news. (And indeed Sansa’s, as she would clearly be happy/vindicated about Cersei’s demise but possibly torn over Jaime’s purely on the basis of Brienne being heart-broken. I feel like Sansa was probably mostly indifferent to Jaime, TBH, but would have grown to accept him because of Brienne; I don’t recall Jaime ever being directly awful to her during the brief period they were simultaneously in Kings Landing.)
The music in that scene really helped, TBH. Apparently it was a mash-up (for want of a better word) of two different themes, namely “I am his/hers and s/he is mine” (i.e. wedding vows in the GoT universe) and “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms”. Admittedly, I am not very au fait in identifying the various musical themes within the show, but perhaps on some unconscious level I recognised it. Anyway, the point is, the writers may not have been invested in Braime but the actors and the director and the composer quite evidently were (as was Bryan Cogman, who wrote episode 2, for which we are eternally grateful), and IMHO they were effectively married in canon even though we never saw it.
(I’m sure I mentioned in a previous post that they might as well have been: swords as wedding rings, knighthood as a marriage ceremony, post-battle feast as wedding breakfast. They were definitely married, and canon can’t take that away from me. :P)
There are so many elements to the White Book scene that I love, TBH. Like the fact that she’s permanently recording all of his good deeds, when two episodes ago he could only see the bad things he’d done for Cersei. Brienne is making sure he’s remembered as a good man even if couldn’t see it for himself.
There’s a passage where it mentions that he was “returned safely to Kings Landing by Brienne, Maid of Tarth”, and that’s the only time Brienne refers to herself within Jaime’s narrative. (We see her writing “Lost his…” which presumably refers to his hand, but we never get to see the rest of it; I imagine she would make that part deliberately ambiguous.) It’s the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard’s job to fill in the Book of Brothers, and now that Brienne has knighted Podrick there’s every likelihood that post will pass to him in the future, which means that Podrick will be responsible for filling out Brienne’s entry in the book. At that point, it will inevitably retell the tale of how Jaime knighted her and led to her becoming Kingsguard in the first place, and indeed their joint participation in the Battle for Winterfell, thus tying their two stories together for future generations to read. Honestly, that just warms my heart so much; that even though circumstances conspired against them, their story will become legend. There might even be songs about it!
Incidentally, I think everyone is just assuming it was Brienne who knighted Podrick, but it’s a fair assumption to make. There’s no way she wouldn’t do that after the circumstances of her own knighthood, and it would make a fitting end to the story after Podrick was given to her as a squire by Jaime (along with the armour and the sword and her own knighthood). Plus it’s a lovely way of ending Podrick’s story/journey, whilst leaving it open for what the future could potentially hold for him.
I am actually surprised by how satisfied I am with Brienne’s ending, TBH, because I wasn’t expecting much after episode 4 (particularly as she wasn’t in episode 5 at all and they didn’t even bother to mention her in the conversation between Jaime and Tyrion) and I literally thought they would just leave that element of her story at her being knighted. I will forever be disappointed by how badly Jaime/Brienne were handled but thankfully there’s enough in the subtext to make it sting a little less.
I think that’s all I wanted to say about the episode itself. I should probably end this by saying that the past six weeks, and this final season, has been an unexpected rollercoaster and I’m really glad I was a part of it, even when I was cursing the writers and my heart was literally hurting out of anxiety for my OTP. It’s been a very, very long time since I was so consumed by a fandom, and indeed by a pairing, and I have to rank Jaime/Brienne way up there with my die-hard OTP’s – we’re talking the same tier as Mulder/Scully, Norma/Joe, John/Aeryn, Erik/Christine – the absolute best of the best. That’s not just on the basis of complexity/chemistry but for how much they have taken over my life in only a short space of time. I didn’t expect it, and I’ve loved every second of it, even when I was mired in the depths of despair and wanted to be put out of my misery. If it hurts, you know they’re doing it right.
My sudden descent into the Braime spiral also prompted me to write fanfic for them, completely unprecedented, and thanks to the UK air dates being hot on the heels of the US, it also kicked my writer!angst out of the window because I was using said air dates as arbitrary deadlines. And I SUCK at deadlines, so the fact I managed to stick to them should tell you everything. I haven’t been this productive since my Farscape fic-writing days (circa 2001-2003), particularly around season 3 when I was writing post-episode fics literally every week, and it has been GLORIOUS. My word count over the past four weeks is now somewhere in the region of 35K and I suspect there may be another few thousand still to come; I think the fandom’s collective rage will give everyone the momentum to keep going for a while. (My favourite part of fandom is that when canon fails, we rally as one to fix it and heal each other’s hearts.)
Quite aside from that, episode 3 (“The Long Night”) was honestly one of the best and most intense pieces of entertainment I have seen in well over a decade, and I knew full well the finale would never top it. I am so grateful I got to experience it “live” and spoiler-free, with all of the pants-wetting, edge-of-my-seat tension that came with it. I was shaking afterwards and completely drained, and it took me an entire 24 hours to fully process it. Even now I can’t find the words for how utterly impressed I was; it’s almost beyond description other than to say it was Epic Event TV.
For better or worse, this season – and indeed the show itself – will go down in pop culture history. For what it’s worth, I am not one of the many fans who have signed the petition to re-write the season, because I’ve been in fandom long enough to know that it won’t make a difference. Sadly, sometimes great shows have bad (or mediocre) endings. The finale of Game of Thrones was a mixed bag, and it’s impossible to please everyone (just ask Joss Whedon!), and whilst everyone is pretty much in agreement that some of the later writing was below par, we were given some truly great moments along the way. Canon is as canon does; canon is finite; fandom is forever.
And don’t forget: valar morghulis.
I think that about sums it up.
If Paul and I do a full re-watch of the entire show at some point, I may well do more of these posts in the future (even if it’s just yet more words of ship!flail). For now, I imagine my blog will become a wasteland of work-related moaning again, although I have an actual Real Life post to do very shortly.
Over and out.