[Warning: The following contains major spoilers for the Game of Thrones finale. Read at your own risk!]
There were a number of winners and losers in Sunday's Game of Thrones finale. And although the Starks — Sansa (Sophie Turner), Arya (Maisie Williams), and Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) — are considered to have come out on the winning end, their successes came at great personal cost. That's an important distinction to make when discussing the fitting, if also disappointing, conclusion to Game of Thrones, because there was at least one person who came out a winner without losing anything of himself in the process, making his own ending far more impressive. I am talking, of course, about Ser Bronn of the Blackwater (Jerome Flynn).
The fan-favorite character known for dispensing quick-witted humor spent the majority of the show's final season off-screen, his cunning ability to survive predicated on putting as much distance between himself and any kind of physical harm as humanly possible in the final season. This meant that he wasn't at the Battle of Winterfell, and he later sat out Daenerys' (Emilia Clarke) attack on Cersei (Lena Headey) and the people of King's Landing. A highly trained sellsword, Bronn isn't exactly afraid to jump into a fight, but the price has to be right. Clearly, it wasn't.
You'll recall Bronn nearly died in battle last season, when Daenerys' forces faced off against Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and the Lannister army. But without reason (i.e. payment) to be present in the show's major battles this season, he skulked in the shadows and waited until the danger had passed. It was a smart, if completely selfish, decision on his part, but in the end, Bronn was handsomely rewarded for his inaction.
After championing Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) way back when, Bronn found his fortunes slowly improving as the series progressed. By the end of the show, he had amassed a number of titles — including Lord of Highgarden, ruling Westeros' most prosperous region — and he had been elevated to the Master of Coin, which is either the best job for someone obsessed with money or the worst. And while we could, and maybe should, take a cynical view of Bronn's character, a skeevy dude who has continued to fall upward the way only men apparently can, we're mostly just... impressed?
Obviously, the show's main characters could not sit on the sidelines of the series' biggest events in its final season — could you imagine if Jaime or Arya or even Jon (Kit Harington) had stubbornly sat out the battle against the Army of the Dead? But Bronn — a man who has no connection to anyone or anything and who has never had to choose between duty or love — could lurk far from any danger until the all clear was given and emerge completely unscathed. And that's just what he did.
Maybe Bronn is the most selfish man in Westeros. Maybe he's the sanest and smartest of them all. How you look at the character and his trajectory likely depends on who you are and how cynical you are about the show's messages regarding power, the cyclical nature of history, and rewarding men who are undeserving. But to us, Bronn's ability to survive the final season by doing nothing at all makes him the real winner of Game of Thrones.
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