The final episode of Game of Thrones is upon us, accompanied by a multitude of leaks, updated leaks and last-minute theories centered around those so-called leaks. Most of what I’ve heard or read, I do not like. Much of that would leave me feeling quite disappointed. Hopefully most of that stuff is wrong. I feel there should be payoffs to certain scenes and themes, some of which appear to have reached conclusion and others that have simply been left hanging. I feel we need one final big reveal that will shake us to the core, one worthy of the long anticipated “bittersweet ending.”
So, here’s how I would lay out the last episode. It’s not a prediction. It’s simply an ending that would satisfy me personally.
Breaking Daenerys’ power
As far as the Unsullied and the Dothraki are concerned, Daenerys is at the height of her power. With her loyal army still convinced of her superiority, assassinating her does not seem such a good idea. Grey Worm did away with sentiment by burning Missandei’s slave collar, embracing her cry for revenge – Dracarys. She made good on the Stallion that mounts the World prophecy and has delivered on her promise of burning cities to dust. The Dothraki only bow to strength and these horselords are all blood-of-Daenerys-blood. Daenerys embraced their culture and won them to her cause because she proved herself worthy as a Khaleesi. And she achieved that on terms that they could absolutely relate to, for how does one Khal overcome another if not by taking the current leader’s life and slaughtering the defeated’s Khalasaar for good measure?
For the Dothraki to give up on Daenerys, she must lose power; she must “fall of her horse and be unable to ride.”
The situation with the Unsullied is a bit different. They are loyal to her but they are no longer slaves. She gave them freedom, freedom not tied to her, real free will, with the option to leave if they so desired – she said so herself in Astapor, and she gave them her word.
Missandei was also convinced her queen would respect her desire to leave, should she ever decide to. For Grey Worm to truly exercise his freedom of choice for the first time, he must come to the realization that he is supporting a queen whose cause he can no longer identify with. There are no chains to be broken in Westeros. Grey Worm himself spoke of leaving after Daenerys achieved her goal of taking the Iron Throne. She has done this. Perhaps he will be content to take the Unsullied back to Essos, or to fulfill his promise to Missandei by offering to protect Naath.
Drogon is the dragon queen’s main source of power and strength. He is also bonded to her. Would Drogon simply look on if he saw his mother’s death coming? Would he not come to her rescue, or in the event of her being killed, wreak havoc on all enemies in sight? Precedents for this scenario:
Drogon’s appearace at the Fighting Pit in Meereen. Hidden amidst the crowd of spectators, the Sons of the Harpy materialize and begin assassinating all Daenerys’s supporters. Even Hizdahr ends up a casualty. Drogon, whose whereabouts are hitherto unknown, descends upon the arena, torching all who endanger his mother. She rides him for the first time, flying herself to safety.
In S07 E04, The Spoils of War, Drogon again saves his mother from Jamie’s headlong attack, brandishing a lance tourney style to take her out. I don’t recall her even mouthing the magic command but Drogon was ready with a fiery mouthful anyway.
In my opinion, overcoming Drogon would be the key to breaking Daenerys’ hold on power, one that like the killing of the Night King, would cause a domino-effect, effectively convincing her army to lay down arms.
Three are three possible scenarios for this:
1.Arya manages to take out Drogon with the weapon Gendry made for her. Motivation: she experienced the destruction of King’s Landing firsthand, there is a real possibility of Winterfell being next on the list. Arya will try to prevent this.
2. Bron fells the dragon to save Tyrion from certain death. He is motivated by the promise of High Garden. He is only interested in collecting the debt owed to him by the last of the Lannisters.
3. Drogon fails to obey Daenerys. This scenario appeals to me the most. There are several precedents for this, both in the books and from the show.
The key thing here is: “A dragon is not a slave.” This implies that though bound to their human counterparts, dragons do exercise free will when so inclined.
Past histories speak of wise old dragons living for a thousand years. Martin’s latest book, Fire and Blood, gives an account of Queen Alysanne visiting the Wall. When she tries to fly beyond the Wall, her dragon Silverwing refuses. For whatever reason, her dragon had no intention of flying further north and there was nothing she could do about it. On the show, Daenerys cannot convince Drogon to fly her back to Meereen. This eventually leads to her capture by the Dothraki.
The dragons have an affinity for Tyrion and for Jon. Recall Tyrion taking the chains off Viserion and Rhaegal and surviving to tell the story. A pay-off for that scene would be nice. Jon of course has successfully approached Drogon and has ridden Rhaegal.
So how could this go down? Imagine both Tyrion and Jon on trial for betraying their queen. They face the inevitable dragonfire. There’s nothing anyone can do about it because Daenerys is still omnipotent. But in the crucial moment, Drogon fails to respond to the Dracarys command and nothing his mother does will change his mind. This would fit well with the theme of children showing their parents that they have minds of their own. The idea of being a lady of a castle and bearing some lord many children turns Arya off and she tells Ned so. That’s not her. Cersei is in defiance when Tywin orders her to marry Loras. Joffery, nasty as he was, put Cersei in her place several times when she tried to impose her controlling will over him. The direwolves will not play retrieving games with their owners. Letting children go, allowing them to make their own choices empowers them to learn from their successes and failures. This is an important part of parenting. I would love to see Drogon defying his mother. If Drogon could feel jealous of Jon, what other feelings and opinions might be going through his mind?
Drogon’s refusal to burn Tyrion and / or Jon would signal Daenerys’ loss of control over her greatest source of power. If Jon then had the courage to approach the beast and claim it for himself, Daenerys would be beaten. With their leader no longer able to ride, the Dothraki would withdraw their allegiance. Grey Worm and the Unsullied could take this as a cue to finally make their own true choices. I have not felt much of a positive pay-off for Jon’s status as a Targaryen so far. The revelation has caused nothing but strife. Claiming Drogon to bring about Dany’s fall would be far more satisfying to me than watching her being killed Nissa Nissa style.
Once her power is broken, Daenerys should be tried for the crime of killing the innocent citizens of King’s Landing. Though she is clearly guilty, standing before some semblance of a court of law seems like the right thing to do. No trial by combat, no doing it the Old Way, no one person passing the sentence and swinging the sword. We’ve seen enough trials by combat to know we cannot rely on justice dispensed by the gods. The person passing the sentence and swinging the sword is of no use either. It is a credo that should be swept away along with other outdated traditions. This principle places power over life and death in the hands of a single person, one who acts as the judge, the jury and the executioner all rolled into one. The injustice of this is illustrated during the very first episode of a GOT. Ned hears Will words and looks him in the eye and all that. Will tells the truth but there are no witnesses around to support him. There is no one around to inject that notion of doubt into Ned’s head. The question is, would Ned have executed Will if he had heard Benjen’s report on the missing brothers and rumors of the white walkers prior to Will’s capture? Jon deserted the Night’s Watch to join in Robb’s war. The honor of his brothers brought him back. Alliser Thorne may well have demanded his head for deserting but Lord Commander Mormont judged otherwise. Desertion alone did not justify the death sentence. So yes, I would hate for Dany to be simply killed by Jon. Dany herself adheres to this creed. She passes the sentence and lets the dragon, an extension of herself, perform the execution. This is why I want to see Drogon defy her and why I want to see her trial.
As to who should execute her, who better than Brienne? Brienne swore to protect Catelyn’s daughters. Sansa is definitely on Daenerys’ list, Winterfell is in danger. Brienne executing the dragon queen after an honorable trial to become the Queenslayer seems a fitting epilogue to Jamie’s arc, while granting Brienne some solace in respect of avenging the man who swept tradition aside to grant her the knighthood she deserved, a man who saw the beauty in her and loved her for what she really was.
Bran’s Final Vision
One last reveal, one last twist, that’s what I want in this final episode. My vision of this centers around identity and “otherizing”, important themes in both the books and the show.
In my imagination, I see Bran dropping a bombshell by revealing that Daenerys is not the daughter of Mad King Aerys. My favorite is Dany being the daughter of Ned Stark and Ashara Dayne. Many readers have reason to believe Dany’s origins are not what they appear to be. Besides the callback to Ned resigning over Robert’s command to have Dany and her unborn child assassinated, I’m not sure how the show could incorporate this so late in the game. Alternatively, Dany being Rhaegar and Lyanna’s child and twin to Jon Snow could work for the show. But let’s look at the implications of the former, Dany as Ned’s lost daughter.
A perfect example of Otherizing.
First, we consider the parallel to the white walkers. From what we know, they take Craster’s baby sons and turn them into one of theirs. Why do they want babies, rather than older children or even adults? The answer to this lies in the importance of identity, i.e. the lack of identity in a newborn babe. A newborn can be viewed in terms of a clean slate, a fresh soul free from the experience life brings, free from attachments, even to family, no conflicts of conscience – yet. Many in Westeros do not even name their babies until they reach their second year. The Freefolk wait two years before officially naming their kids, believing it bad luck to do otherwise. Craster’s wives do not name their sons prior to handing them over either. Not having a name is analogous to not having an identity.
Knowing this, it becomes clear that the white walkers prefer babies because they are easy to mould. These babies can easily take on the persona of what makes a white walker because they have neither name nor identity. They will never suffer the conflict Theon experiences – born a Greyjoy, raised a Stark, feeling the pressure of having to choose. Neither will the Night King need to go through a process of stripping such a baby off its previous identity. We watch as Theon undergoes this awful suffering. Ramsay tortures Theon into casting off both Greyjoy and Stark identities; he is physically and psychologically coerced into becoming Reek. To forestall even more pain, he tries to remember and internalize this new identity by way of rhymes – Reek, Reek, it rhymes with peek. You must remember your name. Yet after years of grief and misery, Theon embarks on a path that will not only redeem him but fully earn him back his name and identities, both as a Stark and as a Greyjoy. In the end, he chooses to fight for his foster-family and is indeed welcomed back into that family as one of their own. Theon showed how destructive an identity crisis can become to all involved but his arc also taught us that once formed, a person’s identity is not that easily destroyed. Given the right impulses, the old persona can recover and reemerge, possibly even stronger than before. What is dead can never die, but rises stronger and harder. The Night King played it safe. Converting babies and giving them new personas is much simpler way of creating white walkers than forcing adults to the task.
A Wolf in Dragon’s Clothing
The tragedy of Daenerys being a Wolf in Dragon’s clothing is thus apparent. Before I continue, I’ll offer an explanation as to why neither Ned nor Ashara could keep baby Daenerys. The main point would have been her distinct Targaryen features and the fact that she was probably born around the same time as Rhaella’s true daughter, a baby girl who probably died with her mother after childbirth. She would have been a target for Robert Baratheon. Also, Ned had already taken Jon Snow home. Confronting Catelyn with yet another baby would have been impossible. Spiriting Dany out with Viserys may have been the best option at the time. But it meant the baby would grow up believing in a false Targaryen heritage and Dany would take on this persona wholly and fully.
Dany’s frequent recollections of the house with the red door and the lemon tree outside her window reflect her deep yearning for a place to call home. Like Arya, she became a lone wolf without a home or loving family to call her own. Daenerys is like Nymeria. A lone direwolf away from her kind who leads a new pack with wolves who are not her kind. With her new pack, Nymeria is just as dangerous as Dany with her Dothraki and Unsullied.
Anyway, when Dany finally returns to Winterfell, to the house of her father, she is an Other. Her true family does not recognize her, does not even know of her existence. She does all she can to help the North in the fight against the Night King and though her efforts are appreciated, she doesn’t receive the love she craves. Like Craster’s babies, she internalized her new persona and was well and truly otherized. Her tragedy is even greater than Theon’s for he at least had an identity to go back to. Daenerys has only the one and like the Night King, there is no other option for her.
Herein lies both the bitterness and the sweetness of her journey. She achieved great things, she did return to the home and family she always longed for, she even avenged that family by destroying the Lannister monarchy, finally heeding the mute appeal of the man with a wolf’s head seen in her vision in the House of the Undying (books), but at what cost? Like Jenny, Daenerys is alone with her ghosts.
Howland Reed is probably the only person alive who knows the truth of the matter.
I hope he turns up.
I don’t expect this scenario to play out. It’s only a bit of wishful thinking on my part. As to who should lead the Seven Kingdoms, Tyrion would be my first choice. An election committee should also include characters who have been absent from the story for a while: Asha/Yara, Lord Glover, Edmure Tully, the Royces and Sweetrobin, the new Prince of Dorne, etc. I expect to see Sansa with Bran, Ser Davos, Sam, maybe the Archmaester of the Citadel and of course Bronn. Sansa remains Lady of Winterfell. Hopefully no last minute pregnancies revealed!
Jon’s fate? I’d like to see him as the Lord Commander of a newly formed Kingsguard. Ghost – the white shadow that guarded an heir to the throne. Jon, also a white shadow guarding the new king / leader. Or he could go up North, way North, to be with Ghost and the Freefolk, I suppose.
Oh well, perhaps it all ends like The Bodyguard. Our protagonists hug one more time, Daenerys flies off on her dragon, Jon takes up his new post as LC of the Kingsguard.
Wouldn’t it be fun if the Council decided on High Garden as the new seat of government and Tyrion was forced to give Bronn Casterly Rock? High Garden would make a very good seat and if Bran should end up on the ruling council, it would be perfect for him. Just recall those three weirwoods entwined with one another, known collectively as “The Singers.”
And now my watch is over.
Image credits: Screenshots from HBO’s A Game of Thrones