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Game of Thrones: Season 8 - Episode 6 (The Iron Throne) - Review

Game of Thrones

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

AND so the end has come. Game of Thrones, that most epic of series, has delivered its conclusion. And while many – including myself – have lamented the hurried nature of the final episodes thus far, it’s fair to say that series co-writers [turned directors] David Benioff and DB Weiss delivered a conclusion that was as satisfying as it was bittersweet.

The Iron Throne, at times, echoed the very best that Game of Thrones has had to offer. Early on, especially, it was extremely tense, emotionally gripping and highly relevant. Indeed, there were times when it appeared that Benioff and Weiss were holding a mirror up to our own broken world.

And while the second half of the finale couldn’t quite match the intensity of the first, it still delivered some fitting resolutions to the survivors’ story arcs, which is where the spoiler element of this review kicks in!

For major characters such as Jon Snow (Kit Harington), Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and Brienne (Gwendoline Christie), in particular, personal ‘triumph’ was soaked in tragedy. The cost of survival was great. Not one of this trio got a fairytale ending.

But in delivering something inescapably bittersweet – banishment to the Night’s Watch, a lifetime of servitude as The King’s Hand, the loss of the love of a lifetime – Game of Thrones remained true to its core principals: delivering what felt true to the story, as opposed to what fans might have been hoping.

And there was a certain poetry to seeing Jon Snow riding off north with the Free Folk, Tyrion overseeing a meeting of a bickering council and Brienne lovingly honouring the memory of Jaime Stark by recording the more heroic side to his nature.

Likewise, there was something that felt right about Bran the Broken being named ruler of the six kingdoms, Sansa (Sophie Turner) declaring a state of independence for the north and ruling over her own people, and Arya (Maisie Williams) heading off on her own adventure, to discover what lies west of Westeros. If anything, she could now even be the beneficiary of one of the in-development spin-off series.

The climax of a show of the magnitude of Game of Thrones was never going to satisfy everyone and, in truth, Benioff and Weiss, didn’t try. They remained in service to the characters and to the story. And while a fair few people would have settled for Jon Snow’s rule, the alternative carried its own integrity.

But while those final closing moments delivered on its own terms, there were some truly great moments that paved the way for them. The opening 45 minutes, or so, were mesmerising viewing – Game of Thrones at its very, very best.

I loved the opening scenes of Tyrion surveying the wreckage of Dany’s fiery wrath – ash falling over the rubble and bodies to evoke memories of similarly devastating historical events from Pompeii to 9/11 via The Holocaust – all evidence of man’s inhumanity to man, of his potential for folly, as well as the corrosive nature of power.

And there was something paradoxically heart-breaking about the scene in which Tyrion found the bodies of Cersei and Jaime lying amid the rubble. We felt Tyrion’s profound grief.

Game of Thrones

Similarly, the first shot of Dany (Emilia Clarke) made the spine tingle – her dragon opening its wings behind her, announcing her as a new dark angel of death. It was striking imagery.

The conversation between Tyrion and Jon that followed Dany’s declaration of intent to continue ‘freeing’ the world was a classic too – writing at its very best. It touched at the heart of the themes of Game of Thrones, while also shining a light on the world too. What is the cost of doing right? Are we really freeing people by dropping bombs [or reigning fire] upon them? When does love get in the way of duty?

Tyrion, humbled, broken and repentant, was back to his eloquent best. He put the cast for right, no matter how hard it would be to deliver, thereby setting in motion the events that would form the basis for the conclusion that followed.

And his wisdom prevailed. As bittersweet as the fate of certain characters remained, Game of Thrones opted to end on a note of optimism. The rulers of the Six Kingdoms would, in future, vote for their overall leader… a first step towards a fairer system for the people. It is a lesson that ought to echo beyond the mystical confines of Westeros.

Jon Snow, too, finally had another great moment, having been reduced to a frustrated eyewitness in the previous episode. His final scene with Dany – although inevitable – still remained potent, even Shakespearean for what it represented. His decision to plunge the knife into his lover’s heart was the only viable option for the character at that point.

And what followed was terrific, too, as Dany’s final dragon laid fiery waste to the Iron Throne. It was highly emotive stuff, spectacularly delivered. And it gave rise to the last truly great moment in Game of Thrones history.

So, having flirted perilously close to disaster upon entering its final episode, Game of Thrones did manage to end on a high and in a way that did not betray its central characters. It was intelligent, exciting, tragic and even – just occasionally – humorous as it brought down the curtain on one of modern television’s greatest shows. And for that, we can all be extremely grateful.

Read our verdict on the previous episode