Game of Thrones: An Ending Reimagined
I must admit to a certain level of bias when it comes to Game of Thrones. I’ve been reading the novels (and re-reading and re-reading) since 2005. The HBO television show is my favorite of all time. And of course, I’ve been waiting for George R.R. Martin to publish The Winds of Winter for over ten years now.
The final season was, shall we say, polarizing? Many felt the season was rushed, character decisions nonsensical, and Dany’s descent into villain territory unearned. And don’t even get me started on Bran becoming king. That way lies madness.
Recently, I re-watched the series from start to finish for the third time. (I know I need to get out more. Then again, considering what’s going on right now…) Unlike the millions who cried foul on the final season, my take was that the conclusion was perfectly fine. Not awesome. Not awful. Fine. Of course, the refrain against those who detested season eight was essentially, “If you don’t like it then you write something better.” For the longest time, this statement rang true for me. Most of the people bitching about the ending wouldn’t know a good screenplay if Aaron Sorkin hit them in the head with a typewriter.
However, as I watched Game of Thrones this last time, something odd happened. Call it the passage of time, call it closer critical analysis, call it a sudden surge in creative juices, but for whatever reason, I began to formulate an alternate ending to Game of Thrones. I don’t presume that what follows is somehow better. In fact, this could very well be an exercise akin to me sitting in a hermetically sealed room inhaling my own flatulence. Yet my resolve to do this echoes the words of House Martell: “Unbowed, unbent, unbroken.”
For starters, I would keep everything the same up to the end of episode seventy, “The Long Night.” With one exception. I would completely redo the lighting scheme of this entire episode. I get that Miguel Sapochnik was going for a natural lighting approach, which I can appreciate. However, it does no one any good if they can’t see what the Hell is going on.
Where my ending diverges begins in the following episode, “The Last of the Starks.” Rather than have Jon have Bran tell Arya and Sansa about his true lineage, Jon wisely decides to honor Dany’s request and keeps the information to himself. However, knowing that he is the true heir to the Iron Throne and weary of impeding Dany’s ascent, Jon decides to keep his distance from his queen.
On the advice of Varys and realizing the importance of strong support from the North, Dany heeds Sansa’s suggestion and agrees to wait a full month for her armies to recuperate. In that time Dany, through Sansa, begins to develop relationships with the Northern lords, learning their customs, needs, and desires. While Sansa and Dany do not develop a friendship per se, a mutual respect and admiration grows as Sansa begins to see that Dany cares about understanding the people she intends to rule.
The day before Dany is set to depart for King’s Landing to take back the Iron Throne, she finally decides to confront Bran in the Godswood, having avoided him altogether since Jon’s revelation. Bran tells Dany that the future of her rule balances on the edge of a knifepoint and that she will have to decide if vengeance is more important than the Iron Throne. When Dany asks Bran to clarify and if he knows her future, Bran replies only that a choice will need to be made soon. When Dany asks, “What choice?” Bran replies, “Between love and fear.” Confused and afraid, Dany retreats from the Godswood but before she leaves, Bran says, “Wait. While I cannot tell you the future, I can see the present and if you wish to rule the Seven Kingdoms, there’s something you need to know.”
Jamie and Tyrion are confronted by Bronn in an inn. Tyrion offers to give Bronn Highgarden once the war is won. Bronn agrees and decides to wait out the war until the fate of the Seven Kingdoms is decided, much like he did in season eight. Jamie leaves King’s Landing and Brienne behind as normal.
Dany sails for Dragonstone with her dragons while Jon begins to lead the Dothraki, the Northmen, and the Unsullied south along the Kingsroad. Jon’s direwolf Ghost travels with him. Just like the events of “The Last of the Starks” both the Hound and Arya head south, the Hound bent on killing his brother while Arya intends to kill Queen Cersei. Following a similar path to the actual season eight episode, Dany’s fleet comes up on Dragonstone but before then we cut to Euron’s Ironfleet about to ambush Dany, scorpions at the ready and prepared to cut down Dany’s dragons. Unfortunately, Euron only sees Dany’s fleet – no dragons…until he hears the screech of Rhaegal approaching from behind. Using Bran’s insight as the Three-Eyed Raven, he revealed to Dany that Cersei was planning an ambush to kill her dragons and devastate her fleet. Instead, Drogon and Rhaegal decimate the Iron Fleet, killing Euron in the process.
Gathering her war council on Dragonstone, Varys suggests sending an envoy to King’s Landing to parley with Cersei and negotiate a peaceful surrender. Believing he knows Cersei, having served her in the past, Varys offers to go himself. Dany agrees, sending Varys, Missandei, and Grey Worm along with 100 Unsullied. Cersei honors the envoy agreeing to meet in the Dragonpit. However, it ends up being a trap. Varys and Grey Worm are captured but twenty Unsullied are able to escape with Missandei to Blackwater Bay and return to Dragonstone. Jamie meanwhile re-enters the city via the catacombs Tyrion used to escape in Season 4 and rejoins Cersei.
The confrontation at the gates of King’s Landing echoes the events of “The Last of the Starks.” However, rather than Missandei being a prisoner it is now Varys and Grey Worm. Tyrion delivers a similar speech but to no avail. Cersei gives Varys and Grey Worm the opportunity for last words. Grey Worm like Missandei from season eight says “Dracarys” while Varys says “Mhysa.” This reflects the dichotomy of what Dany will need to choose – using fire to destroy her enemies or being a caring mother to the people she intends to rule. Ser Gregor beheads both Varys and Grey Worm. Dany stalks off in a rage.
Depressed and distraught at the death of Grey Worm and Varys, Dany retreats to Dragonstone and refuses to eat. Tyrion becomes increasingly concerned that Dany is losing her grip on reality and descending into madness much like her infamous father. Tyrion implores Jon to talk to Dany. Jon and Dany talk but the discussion soon escalates into a fight with Dany accusing Jon of seeking to usurp her power. Jon vehemently denies this and reaffirms his devotion to her as his Queen, but Dany is dismissive. Jon leaves Dany, ending the conversation by declaring that Dany is going to have to choose between leading by fear or leading through love, echoing Bran’s previous message. Jon leaves Dragonstone and returns to the Unsullied, Dothraki, and Northmen who have now gathered at the gates of King’s Landing.
Dany prepares to attack King’s Landing intent on destruction and vengeance. Tyrion reminds her that if the bells are rung that means the city has surrendered and there is no need for slaughter. Drogon wipes out the Golden Company and the scorpions along the battlements. The Dothraki, Unsullied, and Northmen enter the city, killing the Lannister army as they go. In the fighting, Ghost is tragically killed defending Jon. Both Arya and the Hound sneak in, both intent on killing Ser Gregor and Cersei respectively.
Knowing that all chance at victory is lost, leaders of the Lannister army decide to ring the bells and surrender the city. Much like in the season eight episode “The Bells” Dany is poised on the brink of destroying the city. Recognizing the look of desperation on Dany’s face, Jon races away from the troops. Dany begins to attack King’s Landing but before she can destroy more than a few buildings, she is blocked by Jon on Rhaegal. Jon entreats Dany not to choose the path of her father, to choose love rather than fear and hate. He reaffirms her love for her and that he has no desire to rule the Seven Kingdoms. To prove his convictions, Jon climbs down off Rhaegal and positions himself in front of Drogon. He tells Dany that if he truly believes he’s a threat to her power to have Drogon burn him here and now. Returning from the brink of despair and realizing she is about to kill the man she loves, they embrace and cry in each other’s arms.
Dany decides to go among her troops and walk through the city to show the people of King’s Landing that she is a true liberator, not a dictator like Cersei. Jon commands several of Dany’s forces to move on to the Red Keep in order to take Cersei into custody. He remounts Rhaegal and heads for the Red Keep.
Cersei meanwhile seeing that the people of the city have betrayed her, commands her Queen’s Guard, including Ser Gregor, to defend the Red Keep from the attackers. They confront Dany’s forces outside the Red Keep and Ser Gregor kills dozens, seemingly invincible. Out of the crowd, the Hound emerges to confront his brother but before he does that, he implores Arya not to be like him and let her vengeance for Cersei go. Arya agrees. The Hound battles his brother and events play out much the same way as they did in “The Bells.”
Cersei decides that Dany shall be nothing but Queen of the Ashes. Like the Mad King before her, Cersei commands Qyburn to unleash the caches of Wildfire upon King’s Landing and burn it to the ground. Before he can escape the throne room, however, Jamie kills Qyburn. Recognizing that Cersei has truly descended into madness, Jamie kills Cersei. Shortly thereafter Jon rushes into the throne room to see Cersei dead at the foot of the Iron Throne and Jamie sitting on it, much like he did so many years before. Addressing Jon he says, “Well Snow I’m now a Queenslayer as well as a Kingslayer. May the next Queen rule more justly than both.” Jamie then impales his throat onto one of the swords of the Iron Throne, taking his own life.
Months later the great lords and ladies of Westeros as well as many commoners gather for Dany’s coronation at the Dragonpit. Before she can be crowned by the High Septon, Dany addresses the lords and ladies of Westeros saying, “For too long the people who rule have done so through lies, deception, and deceit. As long as I am your Queen, I will keep no secrets from any of my people whether it be noble or common.” Dany then brings out the Archmaester as well as Sam. The Archmaester reads the private entries of the Septon who dissolved the marriage of Rhaegar Targaryen and Elia Martell and married Rhaegar to Lyanna Stark. Dany then proclaims the story of how Ned Stark took Jon from the Tower of Joy and raised him as his own and that Jon’s actual name is Aegon Targaryen, a trueborn son and not a bastard.
While the lords accept the marriage of Lyanna and Rhaegar, they doubt Jon’s trueborn nature. Dany then brings out Bran and using his power as the Three-Eyed Raven he is able to show those gathered in the Dragonpit the flashbacks proving the truth of Jon’s heritage. A tense moment ensues as the people gathered realize that by the laws of Westeros, Jon is actually the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. Jon steps forth to address the multitudes saying, “I know many of you believe that the Iron Throne is mine by birthright. That because I am a man, it is something I’m entitled to because that’s tradition. Why? It seems to me the men who’ve ruled over the last few decades have only caused unfathomable pain.” Jon then takes his sword and kneels before Dany. “I hereby renounce any claim to the Iron Throne and pledge my sword, my life, and my loyalty to the one true queen of Westeros, Daenerys Targaryen!” Thus the practice of male primogeniture is eradicated.
A thunderous roar goes up from the multitudes. Dany is crowned Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. In her first act as Queen, she calls forth Sansa Stark. Dany declares the North a free and independent kingdom, making only one request of Sansa. Should enemies ever rise up against the realm, the North will assist. Sansa graciously accepts and boldly claims that House Stark and the North will answer the call should the need ever arise. Sansa is proclaimed Queen in the North. Arya departs across the Sunset Sea seeking adventure, and never to return.
Dany offers Bran a spot on the Small Council feeling that his contributions could be invaluable in helping the kingdoms of Westeros. Bran declines, believing that people would find a way to manipulate him to forward their own personal interests. Bran instead retreats to beyond the Wall finding a new Heart Tree and watching over Westeros as the Three-Eyed Raven.
Free to pursue her heart’s desire, Dany marries Jon. Tyrion steps down as Hand of the Queen and takes his rightful spot as the Lord of Casterly Rock and Warden of the West. He finally takes a wife and fathers seven children. Dany names Missandei as the new Hand of the Queen.
For ten years, Dany rules as Queen of Westeros. Not since the days of Jaehaerys Targaryen the Conciliator, has the kingdom prospered so well, with Dany enacting many social and economic reforms. In fact, she becomes known as Good Queen Dany much like Jaehaerys’ wife Alysanne. Yet the issue of succession remains a problem. Thus far Mirri Maz Duur’s prophecy has held true, as Dany has not conceived. However, in what would become known as the Year of the Two Miracles, Dany conceives on the ten-year anniversary of her coronation and Drogon turns out to be a female, bringing forth a clutch of dragon eggs. Sadly, Dany dies in childbirth, delivering a daughter, whom Jon names Lyanna. Jon is confirmed as Lord Protector of the Realm until Lyanna comes of age. Missandei steps down as Hand of the Queen and returns to Naath to rule in Lyanna’s name.
Sixteen years later, Lyanna Targaryen ascends to the Iron Throne. Like her mother before her, Lyanna commands three dragons: Drogon, and two from the clutch of eggs brought forth by Drogon, whom she names Starfire and Sonar, the latter being the Valyrian word for Winter. Lyanna marries Tyrion’s eldest son Tytos. Thus, the bloodlines of House Targaryen, House Stark, and House Lannister are all joined. Lyanna asks her father to be her Hand of the Queen but Jon declines, instead suggesting Tyrion, who accepts. Jon heads home to the North with Rhaegal, rebuilding the Last Hearth and taking it as his seat. From there he helps govern Sansa’s northernmost areas and ensures peaceful co-existence between the Wildlings and the other Northmen. Jon never remarries but returns to King’s Landing frequently to visit his daughter and grandchildren. At the age of 100, Jon dies in his sleep. However, before his body can be burned, Rhaegal seizes the body and files it away, presumably for old Valyria.
Again, I don’t in any way presume to think that my above reimagining is somehow better than what we received in season eight. There’s a reason Benioff and Weiss just signed a multi-million deal with Netflix and I’m still laboring at a 9-5 job. Yet sometimes the creative juices flow and you just need to get the words out on paper.
And now my Watch is ended.