In the series finale recap for ‘Game of Thrones’, Jon faces the reality of Daenerys’ destruction of King’s Landing and a new ruler is finally crowned…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
“I’m not going to stop the wheel. I’m going to break the wheel”
Those words spoken by Daenerys Targaryen back in season 5 when she’s first being introduced to Tyrion Lannister continued to ring throughout the final season of ‘Game of Thrones’ and ultimately served as a prophetic footnote for how this series would end.
On Sunday night, ‘Game of Thrones’ came to a close with a new ruler over Westeros but not the person anyone really expected.
Instead, Brandon Stark — the rightful heir to the North — but more importantly the person who knows and understands the history of the Seven Kingdoms more than anyone else was chosen by the Lords of Westeros to serve as its new ruler.
Now this was obviously a divisive choice that will almost certainly be criticized even if that really was the ending that George R.R. Martin always intended but stick with me when I attempt to explain why Bran Stark was not the king we wanted but perhaps he’s the king we need.
When Robert Baratheon started a rebellion against the crown, he wasn’t attempting to become the king but rather he was launching a war against the family who he believed was responsible for kidnapping, raping and ultimately killing the woman he loved. Robert’s war was one of vengeance and it really had nothing to do with him wanting to sit on the Iron Throne but that’s where he ended up.
Long before Robert was king, the Targaryen dynasty lasted more than 300 years with the crown being passed down father to son (in most instances) and if you read the history of this family in Martin’s recently released book ‘Fire and Blood’ you’ll begin to see that there were far more unworthy rulers than those who were just and beloved by the entire kingdom.
The reality is a king or queen isn’t great based on their bloodline but rather their qualifications for the job itself. But for centuries in Westeros, the next king was chosen purely based on bloodline.
Daenerys Targaryen believed she was the rightful heir to the Iron Throne because she was the last remaining child of the previous king — her father ‘The Mad King’ Aerys II Targaryen. Jon Snow was then told he was the rightful heir to the Iron Throne because his father Rhaegar Targaryen was the crown prince, who would have been king had he stayed alive rather than being killed by Robert Baratheon.
The only problem is Jon Snow never wanted to be king.
And it’s not like Daenerys just handed over the keys to the kingdom after finding out that her brother had a child who should have been the ruler to sit on the Iron Throne. Instead, Daenerys still believed she was the right person for the job because she had the best of intentions to rule as a benevolent leader — at least up until the moment when she started roasting innocent men, women and children alive for the sole crime of living in the capital city where Cersei Lannister once stood as queen.
Power corrupts and over time it did that to Daenerys Targaryen as it did to so many of the relatives who came before her.
In the end, Bran Stark was elected knowing that he would sire no children, which would then lead to the next ruler again being chosen by the Lords of Westeros. That means the passing of the right to be king (or queen) would no longer be based on blood relation but rather selecting the best person for the job.
When Daenerys talked about the wheel, she said ‘Lannister, Targaryen, Baratheon, Stark, Tyrell, they’re all just spokes on a wheel. This one’s on top, then that one’s on top and on and on it spends, crushing those on the ground.”.
By electing Bran Stark as king, the wheel has truly been broken for the first time since Aegon Targaryen conquered Westeros on the back of his mighty dragon Balerion the Black Dread because this is a ruler who wasn’t born into it.
He became king because he was most worthy.
With that said, let’s get to our recap for the series finale of ‘Game of Thrones’…
Queen of the Ashes
Daenerys Targaryen always promised that she would take what is hers by fire and blood and that is exactly what she unleashed on the people of King’s Landing while taking back Westeros from Cersei Lannister.
In the aftermath of burning down the majority of the city, Daenerys is finally ready to take her rightful place on the Iron Throne while she’s having her soldiers execute the last remaining members of the Lannister army despite the fact that they’ve already surrendered. This doesn’t sit well with Jon Snow, who tries to stop Grey Worm from carrying out the executions but soon realizes this is not the battle he needs to fight right now.
As for Tyrion Lannister, he sees the broken and burnt bodies of children laying in the street as he’s horrified to see what his queen did in the name of taking back the Iron Throne.
He makes his way inside of what remains of the Red Keep before walking down to the basement, just hoping that he won’t find anything, which means that his brother and sister may have escaped Daenerys’ wrath. Sadly once Tyrion makes his way through the rubble, he spots a golden hand sticking out in the rocks and he knows what he’s going to find underneath.
He removed a few pieces of debris and he finds his brother Jaime and his sister Cersei dead, crushed underneath the falling rubble that brought down the building that helped put Daenerys into power.
Meanwhile outside, Daenerys finally appears as she addresses the army that helped her win the war. Jon Snow looks on, trying to take in everything he’s just witnessed while Tyrion is still trying to reconcile in his mind all that has unfolded in the past day.
Daenerys speaks to the Unsullied and the Dothraki, still celebrating the spoils of war after defeating Cersei Lannister and the armies that stood before them. While this battle was won, Daenerys then proclaims that the war is just beginning because she doesn’t want to just free the Seven Kingdoms from a tyrannical ruler — she wants to offer the same kind of ‘freedom’ to everybody in the entire known world.
“But the war is not over. We will not lay down our spears until we have liberated all the people of the world. From Winterfell to Dorne, from Lannisport to Qarth, from the Summer Isles to the Jade Sea. Women, men and children have suffered too long beneath the wheel. Will you break the wheel with me?”
~ Daenerys Targaryen
While her soldiers are on board to support the queen with whatever she wants, Tyrion Lannister has finally seen enough. When he finally stands next to the new queen, she knows that he committed treason by releasing his brother from captivity against her explicit orders. Tyrion readily admits that he freed Jaime and then tells Daenerys how he saw her murder thousands of innocent people who wanted no part of this war.
With that, Tyrion takes off his Hand of the Queen pin and tosses it to the ground before Daenerys orders him taken into custody.
As for Jon, he’s still watching all of this happening before his eyes and out of nowhere Arya is there standing next to him. He’s stunned to see his sister there amongst the carnage but she’s not there for moral support. She’s there to offer her brother a warning about his loyalty to the dragon queen.
“She knows who you are. Who you really are. You’ll always be a threat to her and I know a killer when I see one.”
~ Arya Stark
Arya tries to warn Jon that his true parentage will always put him in Daenerys’ crosshairs because he is the rightful heir to the Iron Throne.
Many believed Jon’s parents being revealed as Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark would lead to him eventually sitting on the Iron Throne but it turns out his claim as the rightful heir was more about serving as a threat to Daenerys Targaryen more than anything else. Ever since her twit of a brother Viserys had his head melted by a pot of gold, Daenerys believed she was the last remaining Targaryen and the only person with a claim to the Iron Throne.
Jon’s existance puts that into question and Arya does her best to warn her brother that for all the ways Daenerys may actually love him, she seems to love the power of being the queen of the Seven Kingdoms a whole lot more.
Jon goes to visit Tyrion in the room where he’s being held as the two of them hold a conversation about everything that’s happened.
Tyrion knows he’s fated to die but Jon can offer him no peace while telling him that there was no afterlife, at least not based upon his own time being dead. Tyrion has reconciled with what’s about to happen to him but he still can’t wrap his head around what Daenerys did to the innocent people in King’s Landing.
Jon doesn’t really believe in what Daenerys did but he tries to justify it by saying that at least the war is over now that she’s won. But Tyrion reminds Jon of the words that Daenerys just spoke to an audience of soldiers who would follow her to hell and back while following whatever commands she gives. Daenerys didn’t appear to be a queen ready to rule — she sounded like a despot who wanted to grow her kingdom with even more wars to come.
Tyrion then reminds Jon that for all the ways that it appears that Daenerys just had a momentary lapse of reason when burning down King’s Landing that in reality these tendencies had existed for quite some time. Tyrion essentially explains what has been mentioned several times since Daenerys burned the city to the ground — she’s had this darkness inside of her before but in those situations, she was going up against those deemed evil so it was always justified.
She’s quenched her thirst for vengeance with blood on more than one occasion but because the people she burned alive or just straight up murdered were considered evil so we all cheered rather than took note of her cruelty.
“When she murdered the slavers of Astapor I’m sure no one but the slavers complained. After all, they were evil men. When she crucified hundreds of Meereeneese nobles, who could argue? They were evil men. The Dothraki khals she burned alive? They would have done worse to her.
“Everywhere she goes, evil men die and we cheer her for it. And she grows more powerful and more sure that she is good and right. She believes her destiny is to build a better world for everyone. If you believed that, if you truly believed it, wouldn’t you kill whoever stood between you and paradise?”
~ Tyrion Lannister
Tyrion’s words ring true in Jon’s head but he still doesn’t want to believe it. Then again, Jon remembers some wise words spoken to him by Maester Aemon many years ago when he was serving as a member of the Night’s Watch.
“Love is the death of duty”
~ Jon Snow
Jon loves Daenerys but does that mean that he shouldn’t do everything in his power to stop her if she’s truly become the thing she hated most when coming to conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He doesn’t want to believe that Daenerys has gone mad but the charred ruins of a city destroyed say otherwise.
As for Daenerys, she finally walks into the Red Keep and finds despite the room being demolished, the Iron Throne built by her ancestors is still there. She walks through until finally reaching the Iron Throne — the thing she’s wanted more in her life than anything else and now it belongs to her.
The scene is a throwback to the season 2 season finale when Daenerys has a vision inside the House of the Undying when she sees a scene very similar to this one. The Red Keep has been destroyed and the floor is covered in snow when she finally sees the Iron Throne. In the prophetic dream, Daenerys gets close to the Iron Throne but never touches it because she hears the cries of a baby in the distance and that pulls her away.
This time in reality, Daenerys touches the Iron Throne for just a moment and it seems her pursuit of this powerful goal is what ultimately was her undoing.
Jon arrives and she tells him a story about how her brother used to describe the Iron Throne as a monstrous structure built out of thousands of swords taken from the enemies who stood against Aegon Targaryen during his conquest. She couldn’t even count to 20 at the time so she could only imagine what the Iron Throne actually looked like in her own head.
It’s a nice story but Jon is more concerned with what happened during the fighting as he immediately berates her for killing all of those innocent people but she responds by saying that this was all the doing of Cersei Lannister for refusing to surrender peacefully when she had the chance. Daenerys believes in what she did as the greater good and now she will be able to move forward as the leader that Westeros and the rest of the known world deserves.
And she wants Jon by her side.
“Be with me. Build the new world with me. This is our reason. It has been from the beginning since you were a little boy with a bastard’s name and I was a little girl who couldn’t count to 20. We do it together. We break the wheel together.”
~ Daenerys Targaryen
Jon kisses Daenerys passionately and tells her that she will always be his queen — and then he plunges a dagger into her heart.
Daenerys doesn’t speak another word as the life runs out of her and she dies in Jon’s arms as he begins to weep over killing the woman he loved because it’s what is best for the realm.
A few moments later, Drogon flies into the Red Keep and sees Daenerys laying there dead. He attempts to move her but she is already gone. He lets out a mighty cry and then stares down at Jon. He believes he’s about to be burned alive but instead, Drogon roars and unleashes hellfire on the Iron Throne, burning it down to a pile of molten ruin. Drogon then picks up Daenerys in one of his claws and carries her out of the Red Keep before flying away.
Jon is stunned yet heartbroken at what he just did. He knew that Daenerys wasn’t going to be satisfied just being the queen of the Seven Kingdoms. She wanted more and that meant more bloodshed and death.
And that was more than Jon Snow could abide any longer so he was forced to kill his queen.
Bran the Broken
Following Jon killing the queen, a few weeks have passed when Tyrion Lannister is taken out of his holding cell and brought to the Dragonpit for a meeting where all the lords and ladies of Westeros have now gathered. We see many faces that haven’t been seen in some time including Lord Edmure Tully of Riverrun, Yara Greyjoy of the Iron Islands and even Robin Arryn, the Lord of Vale.
They’ve all gathered to discuss the fates of Tyrion Lannister and Jon Snow, who was taken prisoner after it was discovered that he killed the queen.
Amongst the people gathered at this meeting are Jon’s family including Sansa, Arya and Bran Stark as well as his best friend Samwell Tarly.
Many of the people there want justice for Daenerys including Yara Greyjoy, who pledged her loyalty to the queen and believes justice needs to be dished out to her murderer. Arya Stark answer that back by telling Yara one more word against her brother and she’ll get her throat slit.
With Grey Worm and the Unsullied commanding King’s Landing and thousands of Northmen just outside the walls ready to invade at a moment’s notice, the two sides are at a stand still regarding what happens to Tyrion and Jon.
The only way to make a decision now is to declare a new king or queen to rule over Westeros. Samwell suggests that perhaps the people should have a vote on who rules over them but that gets him laughed out of the meeting by everybody involved. Edmure Tully attempts to speak but he’s just as quickly mocked by the other lords.
Finally, Tyrion offers his suggestion after explaining what unites people the most — and it’s not armies or gold or flags but rather stories. It’s a story that can bring people together or even tear them apart. A story about Jon’s true parents drove a wedge between him and Daenerys that was never repaired. A story about a crown prince kidnapping and raping the daughter of a Stark led to Robert’s Rebellion. And who knows more stories about the history of Westeros than the boy who should be king.
“Who has a better story than Bran the Broken? The boy who fell from a high tower and lived. He knew he’d never walk again so he learned to fly. He crossed beyond the Wall, a crippled boy, and became the Three-Eyed Raven. He is our memory, the keeper of all our stories. The wars, weddings, births, massacres, famines. Our triumphs, our defeats, our past. Who better to lead us into the future?”
~ Tyrion Lannister
Tyrion’s suggestion starts to ring true when you think about what Bran knows about the history of Westeros and all the multitude of mistakes carried out in the names of kings and queens of the past. Who better to ensure those same atrocities never happen again?
When Tyrion asked Bran about being the rightful heir to the North because he was Ned Stark’s oldest son, he didn’t want it because he wasn’t really Brandon Stark any longer but now it’s clear he was holding out for an even bigger job. In fact, Bran doesn’t seem all that surprised when he’s suggested as the next king.
“Why do you think I came all this way?”
~ Bran Stark
All of the lords agree that Bran should be the next king of the Seven Kingdoms except there is one lone holdout — his sister Sansa Stark.
She says that the North needs to return to become its own Kingdom again, outside of the purview of the rest of Westeros. Bran agrees and with that the Seven Kingdoms becomes six with the North as it’s own territory again for the first time in more than 300 years. Following his first decision as king, Bran is coronated by the Lords of Westeros.
“All hail Bran the Broken. First of his name, King of the Andals and the First Men, Lord of the Six Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm.”
In one of his first acts as king, Bran decides to name Tyrion as his new Hand of the King, a job he really doesn’t want anymore. Bran believes that Tyrion has always had the best of intentions when acting as Hand of the King and that’s going to be his penance from now until his last days — serving his king for the good of the realm.
As for Jon Snow, he’s still being held captive and both sides are steadfast on either punishing him or setting him free. Grey Worm wants him dead but Sansa Stark would unleash the armies of the North on King’s Landing if her brother was harmed. In the end, Tyrion goes to reveal Jon’s fate to him.
Rather than being executed or set free, Jon will find a middle ground by being sent to the Wall where he will once again be allowed to take the black and become a member of the Night’s Watch. He will own no lands, hold no kingdoms and sire no children but he will be alive.
As for Jon’s own psyche, he’s still not convinced what he did by killing Daenerys was the right thing to do and Tyrion can’t make him feel any better by saying it was justified. The proof of his choice will be shown in the leadership that his brother Bran offers the six kingdoms now that he rules.
Jon Snow: “It doesn’t feel right”
Tyrion: “Ask me again in 10 years”
Jon is set free long enough so he can travel north to the Wall. Before leaving he says his goodbyes with Bran, Sansa and Arya.
Sansa will be returning to the North where she will be queen while Bran is obviously staying behind as the new King. As for Arya, she’s got an open invitation to come visit him at the Wall but she declines and says that she’s going to go exploring where no one has ever gone before.
“What’s west of Westeros? No one knows. It’s where all the maps stop. That’s where I’m going.”
~ Arya Stark
Arya boards a ship with Stark banners flying overhead as she sets sail to find out what lies beyond the maps of Westeros. Jon then leaves to head back to the Wall where much of his story began.
A Song of Ice and Fire
Inside King’s Landing, Brienne of Tarth sits down to look at the Book of the Brothers, which chronicles all of the leaders of the Kingsguard throughout history. When she finally makes it to Jaime Lannister’s page, Brienne decides to finish his story to tell of his heroics and how he ‘died protecting his Queen’.
Inside the small council room, Tyrion is back at the head of the table again as he assembles the rest of the members who will now help to rule the realm where Bran is king.
Samwell Tarly arrives with a book that Archmaester Ebrose wrote with his assistance that tells the story of the wars that have been fought following Robert’s Rebellion. The book is called ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’, although Tyrion is somewhat disappointed to find out he’s not even mentioned in the text.
As for the small council Ser Bronn of the Blackwater is now the Lord of Highgarden and the new Master of Coin. He has been paid back quite handsomely for his service to the crown. Ser Davos Seaworth is now the Master of Ships as he plans to rebuild the armada and watch over the seas. Samwell is now Grandmaester in King’s Landing and finally Brienne joins them as the new leader of the Kingsguard.
It’s largely back to business as usual with the small council deciding how to feed the people, rebuild the ships that were lost in war and provide clean drinking water for the citizens of King’s Landing. Bronn even manages to commit some of the coin of the city to rebuilding the brothels that were lost.
As for Bran, he’s going to go looking for Drogon after the mighty dragon flew away east and hasn’t been seen again. He’s led out of the room by Ser Podrick Payne, a proud member of the Kingsguard. On his exit, Tyrion leads the group in saying ‘long may he reign’, although they have some work to do when it comes to all being in unison.
Tyrion: “That will improve”
Bran: “I’m sure it will”
Following her trip south to the capital, Sansa Stark returns home to Winterfell where she will now rule as the ‘Queen in the North’. A celebration is held inside Winterfell with swords raised high for the new queen.
And finally there is Jon Snow, who arrives back at Castle Black where the doors open up and he finds the Wildlings waiting inside for him alongside his friend Tormund Giantsbane. He walks around the building he once called home and also reunites with Ghost, who gets a hug and a scratch from Jon this time around.
While Jon was designated to join the Night’s Watch as a solution for his punishment for killing Daenerys, it seems he’s going to break his vows a second time.
Jon leads the Wildlings through the gate and out to the other side of the Wall where he joins them going to the true North where he’s always belonged. Jon was most at peace when he fell in love with Ygritte and they spent that night inside the cave near the waterfall after he infiltrated the Wildlings.
When Tormund was leaving to return home, he said that Jon should come with him and he answered back by saying that he wishes that he could.
Tormund then told Jon that he was always welcome there because he had the real North living inside him. Now Jon will get to live out the rest of his days with the people from the true North where he’s no longer bothered with being king, Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch or even a Stark or a Targaryen.
He can just be Jon Snow.
As a small smile creeps across his face, Jon is finally free and now his watch is ended.
And with that comes the end of ‘Game of Thrones’ — and a massive thank you to the readers of this website who have been coming here since 2013 for recaps of this amazing series. Don’t get too sad because our recaps will return with the upcoming ‘Game of Thrones’ prequel expected to be released in 2020!