The great thing about art in a democratic world is that it’s not made to please people. It’s made to challenge them.
The ultimate we could hope for as an audience to storytelling is a satisfying ending. That doesn’t necessarily mean an ending that is happy or sad, just an ending that makes sense and an ending that ends at a reasonable moment, where all conflict is resolved and everything is essentially back into a normal rhythm. But satisfaction is not shared equally. Over the season finale, we conducted four polls questioning our readers on specific plot points in the narrative. We will share the results of what our readers thought would happen, and then outline why it had to happen the way it did.
It needn’t be said, but there are MAJOR SPOILERS ahead.
Let’s start with Bran becoming the officially-chosen King of Westeros. Interestingly, none of our readers picked Bran, which could probably be because we never added his name specifically in our questionnaires, only a simple “Other”. We also predicted a few weeks ago that it would be Sansa, but how silly we were! We failed to see the family-oriented demeanour of Sansa. She would never give up on the North – that would cause pandemonium. In our final survey, 38% of our readers picked Jon, 25% picked Sansa and 13% chose a shared rule between Jon and Dany.
Sticking with Jon, he did have the birthright to take the Throne, but he forfeited that right when he pledged himself to Daenerys. Also, let’s not forget that he died and came back to life. We’re not sure about you, but we would feel a little cheated if he became king. For logical reasons, him ending up back on the wall is the best we could hope for. At least he’s not dead. And he got to pet Ghost again!
Plotting is not a concrete art; there are thousands of ways to tell a story. But there are points to consider when plotting. First, you must never introduce something in the plot if you’re not going use it. As Chekhov’s Gun Theory goes, “if you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off.” That’s why Jon would never have been king. He had died and came back to life, which was essential in the plot for him to leave the wall and save his family, but it’s definitely not to make him king.
In our final survey, 13% of our readers predicted Tyrion to take the Throne, but even that’s a bit troublesome. Firstly, he has never wanted to be king; also, throughout the whole show, he has proven himself to be a better advisor. He would not have been satisfied as a king, because as a king you simply get to decide what happens next. A hand of the king gets to discuss it all, which is what Tyrion is good at. There’s also a good reason why he chose Bran to be king. Because Bran has had no desire for the Throne. Who better to give the Throne to than someone who had no desire to rule, but knows it must be them to keep the country sane? No war would be started, no-one is attempting to kill him, he is essentially a lone ranger with ties to a great family.
But who sits on the Iron Throne (or how it melted to the ground thanks to Drogon) was not all we have to worry about in order for the plot to end satisfactorily.
A lot of fans around the world were torn up about Dany going all Mad Queen, just like her father, but thankfully half of our readers have a clever mind, successfully picking that Dany will indeed kill the innocent in Kings Landing. On top of that, 75% of you said she would die by the end. If you think she was a good ruler, go back and watch the entire show again. The foreshadowing was there. She overtook Slavers Bay, killing the masters who had folly with the system; she killed people because they wouldn’t “bend the knee”, even innocent ones; she constantly said she would take the Iron Throne “with fire and blood”. As Britney Spears would say, she’s not that innocent, hence why she had to die. Speaking of her death, a lot of fans were hoping it would be Arya, which would be immediately satisfying, but would not create a satisfying ending with complete resolution. If Arya were to kill Dany, it would very likely cause a war between the North and Dany’s army. Or if not a war, then at least the deaths of the remaining Stark family. Also, how would Arya get past a dragon?
Another death that felt blasé was Cersei’s (and perhaps Jamie’s, too). Here we were hoping Arya was going go all creeping ninja on her, which was 44% of our readers, but in the end, she decided to save herself. It’s the most beautiful character curve that we’ve ever seen. If Arya did kill Cersei, she’d have to contend with Tyrion, who (no matter how much he tried to distance himself) was still the blood relative of Cersei and Jamie. The conflict would continue to fester. Cersei and Jamie dying together is also a powerful message. They were born in this world together as twins and they died together as twins. Considering how evil Cersei was, her heart was in the correct place. She was not to be hated, just pitied.
And finally, before we conclude, Drogon deserves a round of applause for ending the insidious power of the Iron Throne! It allowed the story to end satisfactorily.
What we witnessed as a global collection of fans was the epitome of satisfaction. In our view, it ended peacefully, without conflict, in a manner where everything felt normal again; and that can only arise from expert storytelling. For a magnum opus such as this, it’s the best we could hope for. If you don’t believe us, then tell us how else it should have ended, while taking into consideration the entire several seasons prior to this finale?