Editor's note: This column contains spoilers about the series finale of "Game of Thrones"
It was always going to be hard to say goodbye to “Game of Thrones,” which ended its eight-season run Sunday night.
I’ve been dreading it since season eight began, but as the final credits rolled, instead of crying over the loss of one of my favorite series, I was shaking my head in disbelief.
Waking up Monday morning, I felt a bit more melancholy, but soon realized it’s the experience around the show I’ll miss more than the show itself at this point.
As soon as an episode ends, I’m looking for recaps and reviews to see how my favorite writers reacted (Vanity Fair’s Joanna Robinson is at the top of this list; if you’re a “Thrones” fan, her stuff is a must-read), and I have three or four different “Thrones”-related podcasts I listen to throughout the week.
I truly will miss the culture and excitement around this show.
So, about that ending.
Everyone has already bemoaned the ridiculous pace of the last few episodes, so I’ll try to keep my thoughts on that to a minimum.
Editor’s note: This column contains spoilers from Sunday night’s episode of “Game of Thrones.”
The second episode of this season, which featured our favorite characters pondering their fates on the eve of the battle against the White Walkers, was a series high point. Then came the actual Battle of Winterfell, which I criticized for its various plot holes and developments that just didn’t make sense.
Things only got worse from there, as creators/writers DB Weiss and David Benioff raced to the finale, giving most of us whiplash along the way. And for a show that has prided itself on subverting expectations, the writers sure did go the predictable route.
Dany went mad. Eye roll.
It’s been obvious what would happen for awhile now, but I was hoping they would surprise us again and have her not take the “burn it all down” route.
Maybe it would have been a bit more believable if we’d had more time to watch it happen; instead, she goes from helping save the world from the White Walkers to killing thousands of innocents — after Cersei’s forces had surrendered — in the span of a few episodes.
Dany had every reason to be reeling; she lost a good chunk of her forces, including trusted advisor Jorah, to the army of the dead, though not quite as many as it originally seemed from the looks of the assembled Dothraki and Unsullied in the finale.
Then, as she pivots to fight Cersei for the Iron Throne, she loses another dragon and her only real confidant and friend, Missandei.
But the final straw appeared to be Jon Snow spurning her affections. It’s understandable why Jon was freaked out and didn’t want to sleep with his aunt anymore, but maybe he could have explained that to her? Instead, he just pulls away when she tries to show him affection and goes with what felt like his only line of the season: “You are my queen.”
We never get to see him struggle with the idea that he’s a Targaryen or that he’s in love with his aunt, who now feels threatened by him because as a male heir, he’s got a better claim to the Iron Throne than she does.
Some would argue we didn’t actually see Jon and Dany fall in love, that we were told they were but weren’t exactly shown it.
As for Dany, before her attack on King’s Landing, she’d turned into a whimpering mess, begging Jon to keep the secret of his true lineage. Seriously? She’s a dragon-riding, conquering badass, and a man not returning her affections is the final straw? To have that be one of the lynchpins of her turn is tone-deaf and annoying.
In the finale, we open with the horrors she reaped upon King’s Landing, as Jon, Tyrion and Davos walk through the ruins and charred bodies.
They’re all horrified, but I was surprised to find Jon still defending her as the episode went on. That Jon Snow never has been the sharpest knife in the drawer.
Then Dany emerges in front of her soldiers for a victory speech. The shot of her walking toward the crowd just as Drogon flies away, making it look as if she has her own wings, was a pretty nice touch.
She talks of liberating cities and breaking the wheel, but everything she says feels ominous now. Yet, when Tyrion confronts her about her actions and throws his Hand of the Queen pin to the ground, she doesn’t execute him on the spot. She has him taken prisoner. Convenient, since he now has time to talk Jon Snow into taking her out.
Jon resists, even after Tyrion brings up Sansa and Arya, who we all know won’t be bending the knee to the dragon queen.
It isn’t until he and Dany are alone in front of the Iron Throne that he sees the true depth of her delusions and, with one last kiss, stabs her in the heart.
And you know what? I felt nothing. No heartbreak, no tears. Just annoyance. It could have had so much weight if we’d had more time to sit with it.
The coda that followed just felt silly.
Grey Worm, the Unsullied and Dothraki, who have followed Dany across the world, imprison Jon for her murder, instead of immediately executing him? And how did they even know it happened? Was Jon Snow stupid enough to confess? (Probably.)
Then, after an unspecified amount of time has passed, the leaders of the great houses of Westeros are gathered in the dragon pit to ponder the fates of Tyrion and Jon, negotiating with Grey Worm, who wants justice for his queen.
While I loved seeing this group of people together again — Sansa, Arya, Brienne, Davos, Sam, Gendry, even good old Robin Arryn — it also felt a bit silly, like a fan fiction version of how the story ends.
Tyrion gives an impassioned speech about why Bran — Bran?!? — should be king, and everyone is easily swayed.
Me, not so much. He’s cold, unfeeling and is quick to emphasize that he’s no longer human. And if he can see the future — his response when Tyrion asks him if he’ll take the crown is “why do you think I came all this way?” — that means he let an entire city and its inhabitants be burned to the ground. He’s really the best choice to lead?
And why was there so much emphasis on Jon’s true parentage, his identity as the real heir to the Iron Throne, if he doesn’t even get a say in who gets the crown? Was it only there to drive a wedge into his relationship with Dany? How lame.
The only solace for me was seeing Bran’s small council, who will probably do the actual ruling while he’s off warging into birds in search of Drogon and continuing to be generally useless.
It’s a who’s who of popular characters: Tyrion, Davos, Bronn, Sam and Brienne (oh, and hey there Ser Podrick!). Their banter at the end was a glimmer of “Thrones” at its height, and was the first time I felt sad about the end.
All of our Starks do get some version of a happy ending. Arya heads off in search of what’s west of Westeros (my nominee for a spin-off series!), Sansa is crowned Queen of the North after Bran agrees to let them keep their independence, and Jon, sentenced to rejoin the Night’s Watch for murdering Dany (huh?), gets to ride to the true north with Ghost and my man Tormund.
I’m still not sure how he can be punished for treason when he’s the true heir and she had just committed atrocious war crimes. But, hey, logic hasn’t been this season’s strong suit, and we all know Jon is happier when he’s brooding. Now he can do it forever!
I never expected a happy ending, where Jon and Dany got married and ruled together. We all knew that wasn’t in the cards. But what if we’d had a few episodes of Dany the tyrant, and more plotting among our other heroes to overthrow her?
I just can’t help but think about what could have been.
I’m not sure I’ll ever rewatch the series but, if I do, I’ll probably stop at the Battle of Winterfell. That was the last time I felt truly engaged and on the edge of my seat, wondering what would happen next.
For better or worse, it’s been a wild ride.