Spoiler alert: This column contains details about the fifth episode of the final season of “Game of Thrones.”
In case you haven’t heard the faint screams emanating from your Twitter feed, the ending for “Game of Thrones” has not been going well. While nobody has suffered quite so much as those trapped in King’s Landing as a furious Dragon Queen rained death from above last week, the series has seen a noticeable dip in its approval ratings, dropping out of its long-held perch in the 90% range and into the low 70s. Some have viewed the surprise twists as all part of the game in watching a show end that was never in our control; others have lamented seemingly sudden character shifts and storylines that either led to dead ends or were left unexplored entirely.
And with less than 80 minutes left in a series that at times seemed to occupy half the internet’s bandwidth with speculation and confrontation about its many turns, the chances of landing on an ending that would please everybody are extraordinarily slim.
For all its rushed pacing and unearned character turns, this is the series the creators of “Game of Thrones” made, and is the only one we’re going to get — at least until George R.R. Martin finishes those next novels, which are enjoying an unbeatable marketing campaign, both for their implied promise of “the ending you couldn’t see” and the bonus of a focus-grouped, first-draft ending. (The less said about that absurd, fan-driven signature campaign for HBO to remake the series with new writers the better.)
Still, with that one episode left to go, we can dream. Below are seven last, perhaps futile hopes for the series finale.
Let’s see Dany the human at least one more time: There are a compelling few seasons of “Game of Thrones” storytelling that might have tracked the steady descent of a just and hopeful leader into a tyrant who breaks bad and unwittingly emulates her father “The Mad King.” That isn’t the show we got.
Last Sunday was either Daenerys choosing to be the dragon Olenna Tyrell encouraged her to become or, as the showrunners have argued, her anger at the sight of the Red Keep so violently taken from her family years before. Yet after leveling the surrounding city, there must be something left of the queen whose heart earned the loyalty of Jon Snow, Ser Jorah and Tyrion Lannister. Seeing that person reckon with the aftermath of her siege would be interesting. Seeing a cartoonishly evil Mad Queen further unleashed would be far less so.
Give Bran something to do. Please: Poor Brandon Stark. Him being pushed out a window helped start this mess, and for all his sanguine responses to Jaime Lannister a few weeks back, his subsequent journey led to the deaths of the original Three-Eyed Raven (give it up for Max Von Sydow), the kid from “Love, Actually” and, bless his heart, Hodor. All that drama has so far added up to less than the sum of his parts.
Bran became a time-traveling mystic to discover Jon Snow’s real parents, and as intriguing as that was, it could’ve also been accomplished by following Sam Tarly to the library. Was his transformation only in the service of finding that information?
Sansa isn’t finished: The show has been building up Sansa as a possible contender to the Iron Throne, with her Littlefinger-esque management of the message of Jon’s parentage. And while she sat out the fight for King’s Landing, odds are she won’t be far away from the action this week. Daenerys, now in tyrant mode, is likely to look for vengeance against Sansa for spreading the story around about Jon — which will surely split Jon’s loyalties and perhaps grant Sansa rule of the kingdom after Jon rises to defend his “sister.” That feels like a potentially tidy finish, but let’s hope the show grants Sansa more agency in the game’s final round than that.
Let Aegon be Jon: Jon Snow — er, Aegon Targaryen — has long said he doesn’t want to be king. Let’s take him at his word. In the wake of the destruction of King’s Landing, the whispers around his claim to the throne should gain traction even without help from the late Varys. And as inevitable as that seems, Jon coming around to the idea would feel like another unlikely leap. He’ll surely have to reckon with Daenerys, but hopefully that’s the extent of his royal ambitions. Unless his Targaryen genes turn him nuts as well, which is a perversely intriguing thought.
Tyrion is still smart, right? He’d better already be gone: A favorite among fans, his author and Emmy voters, Tyrion Lannister was among the smartest people in Westeros. But for the past two seasons, he’s been a born-again fool. His brotherly love was beyond question in freeing Jaime last week, but his continued belief in his sister’s capacity for surrender was among the toughest to swallow given Cersei again placed a price on both of their heads (and Jaime is a forgive-and-forget type too, evidently).
Tyrion should be accustomed to Cersei trying to kill him, but after again defying his supposed queen, Tyrion’s presence in Daenerys’ court expecting anything but violent, dragon-borne retribution would be his most foolish choice yet. Especially knowing Bronn can’t be far behind with his crossbow. Tyrion being on his way toward wherever Arya is headed might be a good start.
Did you know Arya can switch faces? Does she?: This isn’t a plea for Arya to again save the world by killing a tyrannical ruler — twice in a few weeks would feel a little rich. But like her brother, Arya has acquired strange powers, which haven’t really come up in the past few episodes despite all the desperate situations. Arya’s escape from the assassin’s life and her fascination with the God of Death feels like a well-earned development, but letting her talents again be tapped for the greater good would at least put that white horse at the end of last week’s episode to good use.
Send in the wolves: Come on. Let Jon have a proper goodbye to Ghost and maybe even let Arya’s Nymeria get a curtain call. Or just give them both a spinoff that follows their side of the past few seasons and beyond. Whatever else happens, we’ve earned that, haven’t we?