Send the Ravens: Jon Snow’s Future, the Mad Queen and the End of Game of Thrones

In our Send the Ravens column for the Game of Thrones finale, we answer your questions about the last episode and what comes next in this universe…

By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer

It has been just over a week and a half since ‘Game of Thrones’ came to an end and opinions on the final season and the last episodes are still as divisive as ever.

While much of the cast has spoken about the finale and even George R.R. Martin briefly weighed in on the last episode compared to the ending that will happen in his books, showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss have stayed in seclusion as planned to avoid the fallout, although the praise and/or criticism will undoubtedly be waiting for them once they finally resurface.

Huge swaths of the final season of ‘Game of Thrones’ hit the mark including arguably the best episode of the six titled ‘A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms’ when Brienne of Tarth was knighted, Jon Snow was forced to tell Daenerys Targaryen about his true parents and the North prepared for the looming battle against the Army of the Dead.

The episode titled ‘The Long Night’, which featured the epic Battle of Winterfell that took 55 days to shoot had several highs and a few lows as well — particularly the dark look to the nearly 90-minute episode that made it tough to differentiate between the living and dead fighting for survival. Even the ending of that episode had more than a few people up in arms — not so much because Arya Stark was the person who got the final kill shot on the Night King but the seemingly quick way the army of the dead was dispatched in a single episode.

And then came the most divisive episodes of the entire series with ‘The Bells’ and ‘The Iron Throne’ where Daenerys broke bad, went mad and burned down King’s Landing. Jaime and Cersei Lannister met their fates in a manner than many fans felt was unsatisfying considering how far those two characters had come since getting busted shagging in a tower at Winterfell back in the pilot episode.

The final episode was certainly the most discussed and debated for obvious reasons.

There were a lot of decisions made in that finale that had people questioning both the showrunners and perhaps even George R.R. Martin if this was the way he always intended his story to be told.

The biggest criticism of the finale mostly came down to Bran Stark being named King in a bit of a bizarre twist after he was nominated by Tyrion Lannister mostly because he knew the entire history of Westeros and that somehow made him the most worthy person to take the throne.

Of course it didn’t take long for folks to remember a few episodes earlier when Tyrion asked Bran about being the Lord of Winterfell and he said he wasn’t going to be the lord of anything much less that he actually took the name Bran Stark any longer after he was transformed into the Three-Eyed Raven. The decision to crown Bran also came with a collective groan because his story was largely the least popular of the entire series as he spent several seasons traveling north of the Wall and only after he began learning from the last Three Eyed Raven did his narrative start to fit into the larger puzzle of the overall show.

Still in the end, Bran’s role in the final season came down to confirming Jon’s true parents — which then largely played no part in the show — and telling everyone that the Night King was coming to specifically kill him because he knew the entire history of the Known World as the Three-Eyed Raven. Outside of that, Bran didn’t really offer much intel or insight that helped anyone win the war or take the Iron Throne outside of showing up to the final parlay and saying that’s why he went there in the first place so he could be king.

Did it make sense? Was Bran the right person to rule in the end?

That’s always going to be a matter of opinion but the crowning of ‘Bran the Broken’ was met with far more confused looks than cheers after he was chosen as the person to ultimately rule over the six kingdoms (minus the North, which was once again set free for the first time in hundreds of years).

At least Sansa Stark got her rule on after she was crowned Queen in the North, which was undoubtedly the highlight of the final episode.

Regardless of the way ‘Game of Thrones’ ended, the one criticism that seems universal across the board was the unnecessary rush to the finish by making the final two seasons last for only 13 episodes.

Perhaps two normal sized seasons of 10 episodes each would have allowed more exploration into Daenerys going mad or the Night King coming to kill the living or Jon’s claim to the Iron Throne  that supposedly drove a wedge between him and the dragon queen or even building up Bran Stark into a character that made sense to rule in the end rather than the inquisitive looks that choice received after Tyrion uttered his name in the first place and then no one else seemed to have a problem with it.

Sadly, we’ll never know what those additional seven episodes would have added but ‘Game of Thrones’ is over and there is no going back now. Well at least until George RR Martin releases ‘The Winds of Winter’ and eventually ‘A Dream of Spring’ and then we will all find out how his ending compares to the one on the show.

With that said, let’s get to your final questions about the last season and the last episode of ‘Game of Thrones’…

This version of ‘Game of Thrones’ is finished and it’s highly unlikely they will ever carry that story forward with those characters unless something dramatic happens in the future.

Never say never because when there’s millions of dollars on the line — and ‘Game of Thrones’ was the most popular series in HBO history — it’s impossible to say it won’t happen.

If George R.R. Martin finishes his series of books and the ending is altered from the one we got on the television series, perhaps that could open some sort of door to return to that world again, although it seems unlikely.

What you can count on, however, is a return to the ‘Game of Thrones’ universe with several spinoff series already in the works.

The first of those series originally rumored to be called ‘The Long Night’ is already in production in Northern Ireland and it’s almost guaranteed that will get picked up to series. That particular story takes place thousands of years before ‘Game of Thrones’ at a time when the world was plunged into darkness that lasted for a generation as the White Walkers first emerged from the north in an effort to wipe out all life in the Known World.

In the original stories from the books, the Long Night led to the Battle of the Dawn when the First Men teamed up with the Children of the Forest to fight back against the White Walkers, driving them back north and eventually building the Wall to keep them from ever crossing over again.

The Long Night deals with a lot of magic and mysticism, which is one aspect that ‘Game of Thrones’ seemingly sought to avoid in the last few seasons. Also, we already know how this story ends with the White Walkers being defeated and the Wall being constructed — assuming that’s the version the new prequel intends to tell — which means there aren’t quite as many surprises in store outside of the alterations made in getting to that ending.

Stay tuned for more on that prequel as production gets deeper and we find out if HBO is going to pick it up as a series. There are also several more ‘Game of Thrones’ spinoffs in the works that could produce two or three more shows for HBO once it’s all said and done.

Well taking all opinion out of this answer, the reason Jon Snow is not king is because he never wanted it.

Looking back at the entire series of ‘Game of Thrones’ and the evolution of Jon Snow as a character, it’s easy to see that he never really wanted to be a leader in the first place but that responsibility was somewhat thrust upon him.

When he joined the Night’s Watch, he wanted to be a ranger just like his uncle Benjen so he could travel north of the Wall to deal with threats like the Wildlings or presumably the White Walkers. Despite his wishes, Jon was made a steward because Lord Commander Jeor Mormont saw something that made him believe the bastard of Winterfell would one day become an effective leader.

Jon finally ascended to the status of Lord Commander and what happened? The members of the Night’s Watch conspired to kill him. After he was resurrected, those co-conspirators were hanged and Jon gave up his role as Lord Commander to return home to the North.

As the leader of the Northern armies, Jon was soundly defeated by Ramsay Bolton at the Battle of the Bastards when it came to the strategy of the fight itself. Jon attempted to challenge Ramsay to a one on one fight, which was exactly what he wanted because ultimately that’s what he was — Jon was a fighter. He was a warrior.

Thankfully, Sansa Stark was the more effective battle commander and she helped lead her family back to their ancestral home at Winterfell.

Jon’s leadership led him north of the Wall to capture a wight to present to Cersei Lannister in hopes that would convince her to help fight back against the Army of the Dead but ultimately that only ended with Daenerys’ dragon Viserion being killed and then resurrected as the Night King’s personal pet. The wight that was captured might have been scary but Cersei ended up betraying Jon and Daenerys anyways so really that entire mission was pointless outside of handing the Night King the weapon he needed to bring down the Wall.

At Winterfell, Jon’s plans to stop the Army of the Dead were largely ineffective as well.

He put Daenerys’ best soldiers, the Dothraki, out front where they were immediately slaughtered by the Army of the Dead. While the eventual strategy of luring the Night King out by baiting him with Bran somewhat worked, the plan still failed by all standards because if not for Arya Stark’s last second heroics, the Three Eyed Raven would have been destroyed.

These are all examples of Jon’s poor leadership and why perhaps more people should have listened when he said he never wanted to be king.

Then again as it was noted several times by Tyrion and Lord Varys, the most effective king might be the person who doesn’t want it and that was definitely Jon Snow.

This was probably the question I received most after the final episode of ‘Game of Thrones’ and while there is no definitive answer, this is what I believe happened…

After Jon was ‘sentenced’ to take the black and return to the Night’s Watch as punishment for killing Daenerys, the Unsullied left King’s Landing with plans for Grey Worm to take them to the island of Naath where they would take up residency in Missandei’s home land. Once the Unsullied were gone, there’s no reason to believe King Bran or anybody else would have to cater to their demands.

It also has to be noted that the Night’s Watch really has no purpose now that the Night King and the Army of the Dead have been defeated. The last remaining Wildlings wanted to go back north anyways and the threat of the White Walkers is no more. Add to that, a huge part of the Wall came tumbling down so it’s not like that impenetrable defense is left standing anyways.

So by that account when we see Jon Snow arrive back at Castle Black, he’s reunited with his good friend Tormund and the goodest of boys in his direwold Ghost and together they lead the Free Folk back beyond the Wall where they will all live together again.

While Jon was acting as a spy when he teamed up with the Wildlings several seasons ago, that was also the place where he met the love of his life in Ygritte and they shared that moment in the waterfall where they both wished they could just stay forever.

In many ways, beyond the Wall felt like home to Jon — it’s where he wanted to go as a ranger in the Night’s Watch, it’s where he fell in love and it’s where he met one of his best friends.

Judging by the way that final episode came to a close, Jon was going to live with the free folk because his watch had truly ended.

Arya deciding to explore what’s west of Westeros was one of the more interesting plot twists with that final episode as she boarded a ship with Stark banners and set sail to places that had never been discovered before.

As far as flying the banner of House Stark — that’s just about Arya Stark representing her family and perhaps adding to the Stark legacy by becoming the first person to find out what is west of Westeros.

It’s not likely Arya is setting out to conquer these new places in an effort to expand the reach of her sister’s kingdom but rather just reclaiming her family name just as she did when she left the House of Black and White and said she was returning home.

She is Arya Stark of Winterfell and don’t you forget it!

There had been subtle hints throughout the seasons that Daenerys Targaryen had a dark side to her as she began gaining more and more power.

As it was noted by Tyrion in the final season, Daenerys killed a lot of people in the name of becoming queen but because most of those she burned alive or crucified were considered evil, no one really batted an eye at her actions.

“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

Even when Daenerys took one look at the Red Keep and saw the symbol of what had been ripped away from her family all those years ago and decided to unleash hell on Cersei Lannister to ensure she was defeated, that kind of made sense. Also remember, Daenerys had been told since birth that when the Targaryen’s returned to Westeros that the people would cheer for their arrival as they took back the Iron Throne.

Except for one problem — the majority of people living in Westeros never really gave a shit about who was king or queen unless it directly affected their own lives. So Daenerys returning as the conquering hero meant nothing to the average citizen of King’s Landing but she was somehow triggered that they didn’t cast Cersei out to crown her as queen that she decided to just burn them all alive.

Still, Daenerys’ actions — as sudden as they were — somewhat made sense when you look at the full context of her character over eight seasons.

That said, the dramatic shift in that moment just felt disenginuous to that character considering how Daenerys had always fought to free the common people from the tyranny of evil men.

The perfect trigger to finally set Daenerys off on a rage could have been watching someone like Grey Worm killed in battle, who was really the last remaining advisor and friend she had left. Imagine the battle being won, Daenerys has destroyed Cersei’s forces and the bells are ringing in King’s Landing and she’s looking down at the kingdom she will soon rule.

Then Daenerys witnesses a rogue commoner from King’s Landing stab Grey Worm in the back and as he dies, she has finally had enough and decides to just burn them all.

Just a thought.

And with that, ‘Send the Ravens’ come to an end at least for now with this series of ‘Game of Thrones’ but fret not we will return for the spinoff series not to mention whenever George RR Martin finally decides to release the final two books in his ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ series.

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