So it’s come to this — the very last episode of “Game of Thrones.” The 73rd and final installment of HBO‘s massive fantasy epic premiered Sunday night, with only 80 minutes to close every storyline, satisfy every character arc and try to win back the more than one million grumpy fans who signed a petition to remake the season with “competent writers.”
Here’s what went down on the series finale of “Game of Thrones,” “The Iron Throne”:
We open with Tyrion Lannister, Jon Snow and Ser Davos Seaworth walking through the remnants of King’s Landing — burned to a crisp following Daenerys Targaryen’s “Mad Queen” moment last week, when she ignored the bells of surrender and laid waste to the city and its people.
Jon finds Grey Worm about to execute survivors and unsuccessfully tries to stop him. Meanwhile, Tyrion stumbles upon the rubble that crushed his brother and sister: Jaime and Cersei Lannister, confirmed dead.
Jon goes to meet with Dany while Arya Stark, following her dramatic escape last episode, watches him from afar. Before he can talk to her, Daenerys gives a victory speech to her Dothraki and Unsullied soldiers, and names Grey Worm her Master of War. She also declares that she won’t stop until all people in the world have been liberated from tyranny — which, as we’ve seen, involves a whole lot of dragon fire.
Following her speech, Tyrion sidles up beside Dany, who tells him he’s committed treason for freeing Jaime when he was her prisoner. “I freed my brother,” Tyrion admits, “and you slaughtered a city.” He rips off his Hand of the Queen brooch and throws it to the ground, and Dany orders her soldiers to take him away.
After a brief encounter with Arya, who doesn’t have kind words for Daenerys, Jon finds Tyrion in his cell. Tyrion asks if Jon would’ve done the same thing Dany did. He says he doesn’t know, but Tyrion isn’t having it.
“I doesn’t matter what I’d do,” Jon declares. “It matters more than anything,” Tyrion insists.
After some back and forth about the meanings of love, reason and duty, Tyrion appeals to Jon’s sense of right and wrong. “You always try to do the right thing, no matter the cost,” Tyrion says. “Who is the greatest threat to the people now?”
Still, Jon says he won’t betray his Queen. Tyrion makes one last effort, pleading with him to imagine what his sisters Arya and Sansa would think. “Sansa doesn’t get to choose who’s queen!” Jon yells angrily. “No,” Tyrion replies. “But you do.”
We then cut to Dany, who’s about to take her seat on the Iron Throne for the first time, when Jon enters the throne room. He begs her to forgive Tyrion and her other enemies, but she says she can’t — and that she and Jon alone know what will make a good world, a better world.
“What about everyone else, all the other people who think they know what’s good?” Jon asks. “They don’t get to choose,” Dany replies. Hey, that sounds familiar!
Dany appears to convince Jon that they can “break the wheel” together. It seems that they’re back in love — until Jon’s knife pierces her flesh and he kills Daenerys Targaryen. The Mother of Dragons is dead.
As Jon weeps over Dany’s dead body, her last living dragon, Drogon roars above him, mourning the loss of his mother. Jon prepares for the blast of fire that will now kill him, but Drogon directs his fire not at Jon, but at the Iron Throne, melting it into slag.
Drogon then gently picks up Dany’s body in one massive, clawed foot, and flies away with her.
After a fade to black, we return to Tyrion in his cell. Grey Worm brings him out in shackles before an array of unfamiliar and familiar faces, including Sansa, Arya, Bran, Sam, Davos and Brienne. It’s revealed that Jon is now a prisoner of the Unsullied, too, and Grey Worm wants them both executed. After some bickering and negotiating that goes nowhere, Tyrion speaks up. “You’re the most powerful people is Westeros,” he says to the assembly, and suggests that they just pick a king or queen to rule
Edmure Tully, uncle of the Stark children, stands and starts to list his resume, but Sansa interrupts him: “Uncle, please sit,” she says firmly. Sam suggests democratic vote by the people, which earns a hearty laugh from everyone else.
They then ask Tyrion who he thinks should be ruler. He gives a long speech about the power of “good story” — and no one, in his estimation, has a better story than Bran the Broken, aka Bran Stark. After all, as the Three-Eyed Raven, he’s the “keeper of all our stories.”
Everyone’s surprised by Tyrion’s suggestion. Sansa says her brother probably doesn’t want the title, and, besides, he can’t father children. Tyrion sees this as a good thing. Rulers will no longer be born, Tyrion suggests, but chosen. When Tyrion asks Bran if he’ll accept the title, Bran replies, “Why do you think I came all this way?”
Everyone votes yes to install Bran as King, until we get to Sansa, who declares that the North will remain an independent kingdom. That’s fine with Bran, who nods in agreement. And thus, Brandon Stark is named King of Westeros.
Bran then declares Tyrion Hand of the King, who says he’ll spend the rest of his days fixing the mistakes he’s made. Grey Worm, however, still demands justice — and here’s where Jon Snow comes back into the picture.
Jon Snow, it’s been decreed, will return to the Night’s Watch, which apparently still exists even after the Night King and the Army of the Dead have been defeated. So after eight seasons, Jon Snow is right back where he started.
Now clad once more in his signature giant hairy coat, Jon prepares to return to Castle Black. He walks beside Grey Worm, who tells his soldiers they’ll be sailing for Naath, the home of his late lover, Missandei.
Jon then meets with siblings Sansa, Arya and Bran to share a tearful goodbye. He offers Arya a chance to visit him, but she says she’s not returning North. She plans to travel west of Westeros, where “all the maps stop.”
Now we cut to Ser Brienne of Tarth, who’s flipping through a book of knights. She gets to Jaime’s page, and writes out his entire history. The passage ends, “Died protecting his queen.”
It’s now time for the first meeting of Bran’s new council, which includes Tyrion, Sam, Davos and even Bronn. Sam lays down a book titled “A Song of Ice and Fire” — which, of course, is the name of the George R. R. Martin book on which “Game of Thrones” is based. Sam explains it tells the story of Westeros following the death of King Robert Baratheon. After Tyrion asks how he’s represented in the book, Sam sheepishly admits that he’s not mentioned.
Bran arrives in the room, his chair pushed by Brienne, and comments that his council is still missing a few members. He also asks about the whereabouts of Drogon and suggests his time is better spent looking for the dragon, presumably by using his warg powers. Podrick, now a knight, then takes him out of the room.
The council then proceeds to discuss different matters, such as feeding hungry people, finding clean water, and, at Bronn’s suggestion, rebuilding the brothels.
Meanwhile, Jon arrives back at the Wall to find his old friend, Tormund Gaintsbane. Off they ride and, as Jon gives a final backward glance, the doors close behind them.
We then get a montage of Jon, Arya and Sansa preparing for their next journeys. Arya sets sail, Sansa is declared Queen of the North, and Jon finds Ghost, who’s missing an ear, and reaches down to pet his beloved direwolf, righting a wrong from an earlier episode.
The final shot: We see Jon and Tormund lead a group of Wildlings north of the Wall as the “Game of Thrones” theme song swells.
“Game of Thrones”‘ watch has ended, but Jon Snow’s has just begun.