Game of Thrones' final episode aired on Sunday, leaving fans with a lot to sort through in the end.
Warning! Spoilers for the Game of Thrones series finale lie ahead!
It will be quite a while before we can return to Westeros — either on the page or on the screen through one of HBO's future prequel series. That means that Sunday night's conclusion will be how the fantasy world of George R.R. Martin stands for fans. There is a lot to consider in the grand finale, with long-running plot lines coming to an end, and a few shooting off into new and exciting territory.
One thing is for certain, the Westeros we glimpsed at the end of the series will be far different from the one we watched on TV for the last decade. The Seven Kingdoms as we know them are no more, and for the first time since Ned Stark's head was removed, there seems to be a real chance for peace in the realm.
All things considered, a surprising number of main characters survived until the very end. In a show known for its brutal realism, many heroes came out of the various wars unharmed, and may go on to influence society for generations to come.
Of course, others were killed, tragically or otherwise, but their absence will have an impact as well. Fans will undoubtedly be speculating for years to come about what might happen next after the series is over.
First, one of the last major confrontations of the series came in the finale, between Tyrion and Daenerys. The two have been at odds for a while now, with Tyrion repeatedly failing his queen with bad council, and Dany more bloodthirsty than Tyrion was comfortable with. Still, it was starting to seem like they would never truly stand up to one another, until this week.
The finale began with Daenerys confronting Tyrion over his "treason" — freeing Jaime and attempting to help him escape. In response, Tyrion called Daenerys out for her unnecessary destruction of the city, and resigned from his post as Hand of the Queen. Not for the first time in his life, Tyrion's idealism and sharp tongue landed him in a prison cell, and ended his relationship with Dany for good.
Many fans were horrified by the death of Daenerys, which finally came in this episode. The queen went from a savior to a tyrant in the short space of this season, and for many it was hard to see that as truthful character development. Still, going into the finale there was little doubt that she would answer for her crimes.
Daenerys was taken out by a reluctant Jon Snow, who killed her for the good of the realm. Many fans expected this, though perhaps not in this way. Some thought that Jon and Daenerys would play out the myth of Azor Ahai, where the hero tempers his sword in the blood of his love. Instead, Jon killed Daenerys with a dagger.
The queen's remains were taken by her last living "child," Drogon, who flew off. Before he left, however, he melted the Iron Throne, fulfilling Dany's promise to "break the wheel."
Daenerys' armies of Unsullied and Dothraki, who had come so far with her, were now lost. Grey Worm led the forces, and while he took some aggressive measures, he did not hold too tightly onto control of King's Landing.
As Grey Worm mentioned previously, the foreign armies did not want to stay in Westeros. Before long, they took to the sea again, sailing back to Essos to free more slave cities as they had done under Daenerys' command early on.
Grey Worm left the city rather than bow to the new Council, which took over in place of Daenerys. The group included leaders from all over the realm, who gathered to determine what should happen next.
Among them was Samwell Tarly, who essentially invented democracy on the spot. He proposed that they should vote on their king, as the Night's Watch voted on their Lord Commander. The various lords and ladies decided on Bran Stark as their king, and seamlessly formed his new Small Council.
Sam took the role of Grand Maester, while Davos Seaworth became Master of Ships. The realm is now ruled by a number of familiar faces, including Sansa Stark, Robin Arryn, Yara Greyjoy and Gendry Baratheon. We are led to believe that power is more balanced and dispersed in the realm now, although it is not clear what kind of systems are in place for that.
Meanwhile, the simple answer to the biggest question on everyone's mind is that Bran Stark sits on the throne. The wheelchair-bound magus is a good fit for the role, all things considered. With Bran's greenseer abilities, he truly can know what is going on all over the continent, and his knowledge of the past gives him an unbiased perspective that no one else living seems to have.
In one shot, we see Bran being wheeled around in his chair by Podrick Payne, suggesting that the loyal squire has been promoted to the King's Sworn Shield. This is another welcome happy ending for a beloved character.
In spite of the dawning peace, our favorite assassin cannot sit idle. Arya takes off shortly after stability is restored to the realm. She tells Sansa that she intends to explore west of Westeros, to the Sunset Sea that no ship has ever returned from.
This may be an interesting nod to the books, where author George R.R. Martin has recently given us some big information about the mysterious western horizon. In last year's Fire and Blood, he wrote about a figure named Elissa Farman, who sailed the Sunset Sea about 250 years before the main storyline.
Elissa is one of the most interesting new characters from Martin's fictional history book. The restless sailor stole three dragon eggs from Princess Rhaena Targaryen, then fled to Braavos where she had a massive ship built for herself. After that, she returned to Westeros, gathered two more ships in her voyage, and sailed west, where no ship had gone before. Elissa was never heard from again, although a generation later, another sailor claimed to have seen her ship docked in the far-eastern port of Asshai.
Elissa Farman may be a good parallel for Arya, and may tell us a bit about what is in store for her. Now free from her quest for vengeance, she is able to go out searching for the wonders of the world, and a place where she can truly be herself without the strictures of society holding her down.
While Daenerys Targaryen may have died in the end, it is important to note that her magic did not die with her. The last of her dragons, the great black beast Drogon, flew off with Daenerys' remains for parts unknown. The council later notes that the firebreathing monster could be a threat, and Bran promises to keep an eye on it going forward.
When Game of Thrones begins, magic is mostly gone from the world of Westeros. The story starts with dragons having been extinct for 150 years, Bran's greenseer magic as a thing of the past, and the White Walkers being a myth from 8,000 years ago. In the series, we saw all three of these and more return to influence the world once more, and in the end, it is nice to see that they did not have to die to restore the balance.
Finally, the series ends with a shot of Jon Snow back in the north, with his direwolf Ghost and the Free Folk. While it seems right that he should return to his post at the Wall, it is unclear how Jon intends to operate the Night's Watch going forward. We see him ranging north with Tormund, indicating that he will not sit idly in Castle Black as the soldiers before him did.
Fans are left to make their own interpretations of Jon Snow's ending, and they will undoubtedly argue about it for years to come. When George R.R. Martin's novels are finished, we may get a more complete idea of what Jon is doing at the Wall and beyond, but for now we know that he is back with Ghost in the land of the old gods.
Next week, in place of the show HBO will air a feature-length documentary on the making of Game of Thrones titled The Last Watch at 9 p.m. ET. The next novel in the series is expected sometime soon, although no release date has been announced yet.