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Game of Thrones Series Finale Photo Recap: Is This Really How We're Picking Kings Now?

We question this new system

Tim Surette

[Warning: The following contains spoilers for the finale of Game of Thrones. Read at your own risk!]

Love it or hate it or so disgusted by it that you signed a stupid petition to get it completely remade with new writers and directors because you are a crazy person, Game of Thrones' final season has come to a close. At least there's one thing we can all agree on: It was, indeed, an ending to a television show.


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And through and through, that's what "The Iron Throne" felt like... an ending to a show. No more, no less. As I watched loose threads being tied up and the characters we've spent nine years getting to know find their final resting places where we shall remember them for eternity, I couldn't help but feel like I was watching David Benioff and D.B. Weiss' to-do list being checked off. There was nothing particularly awful about it, and there was nothing particularly great about it. It was just there. It was an ending to a television show. I remain entirely neutral on the ending, which is probably not the reaction the showrunners were going for. I can't imagine Benioff and Weiss thought to themselves, "I really want people to watch the final episode of Game of Thrones and then immediately check their email after. I want them to see the culmination of this vast project and then immediately get on with the mundane tasks in their lives." Oh well. What did YOU think?

Let's relive this entirely fine, possibly mediocre, maybe even awful series finale! (I'm still processing, OK?) Things got off to a tough start.

After Dany (Emilia Clarke) turned King's Landing into a filthy ash-hole, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) walked the streets to witness the carnage, and it wasn't just time for Tyrion to reflect on all the horrors he and the peasants of King's Landing had gone through to get to this point, it was a nod to the journeys that we, the viewers, have taken to get here.

There were still some dopes who thought Dany did the right thing in mass murder, led by Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson, aka R&B panty-dropping superhunk Raleigh Ritchie), who has always been awful when you think about it. I would say it's a miracle he's still alive, but I guess Game of Thrones needed a prominent character to side with Dany in order to bolster the argument that Dany's whiplashing descent into power-hungry pyromania made any sense. Mr. Worm, fueled by mindless loyalty and rage from seeing his lover go from Missandei to missin' da head, executed Lannister bannermen who had already surrendered, despite the pleas from Aegon Jon Targaryen-Stark-Snow (Kit Harington) and Mr. Onion Pirate (Liam Cunningham). I would have been fine if Jon killed Grey Worm right there.

Tyrion opted to go check on his bro and sis inside the ruined Red Keep, but how did he expect to find them inside a pile of smoldering rubble when he didn't know where they would be? It's an impossible task that-

Well I stand corrected! Tyrion found out that Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Cersei (Lena Headey) did not make it to the boat, and instead were dead under a few rocks. Did anyone else think these underground chambers took a lot more damage in the last episode? Yet here was Tyrion just waltzing through the rooms unimpeded. It's almost like Cersei and Jaime were standing in the only spot that could have killed them! And all Tyrion had to do was pull off like five stones to uncover his siblings. I was expecting Cersei and Jaime to look something like cartoon pancakes, but they looked like they were taking a nap and the rocks were one of those weighted therapy blankets.

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The thing that made me most mad about this scene was that Jaime clearly played "paper" with his golden hand, and paper always defeats rocks, yet the rocks killed Jaime! OK, that joke was terrible and I regret it but it's out in the world now and there's nothing I can do about it.

Dany was holding a victory rally to celebrate the squashing of her enemies, and I don't know about you, but I felt like I had just been transported to 1945 Nuremburg. The crumbling brick, the Targaryen black-and-red flag, that massive army that somehow survived the fight with the wights despite us seeing all of them die, the long steps from which Dany practically held her left hand up while promising to introduce her version of "good" to the rest of the world... the parallels were disturbing, but apt. Dany built a militaristic dictatorship and was preparing to take over the world. Someone needed to time travel to the past and kill Dany as a baby!

You weren't alone in thinking Tyrion was inching closer to Dany to whoop her upside the head with a sock full of quarters or stab her in the nose with his pin (which would be pretty cool), but instead he resigned as Hand of the Queen and was taken into custody for treason. Jon had had enough, well sorta, because Jon couldn't really figure out which side he was on in this mess. He was loyal to Dany but conflicted by his morals. He wanted to do the right thing because it was his duty, but he also was smitten by that fine auntie booty. Jon was in a dill of a pickle!

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Jon sought counsel from a wise man, but instead he went to see a guy who is wrong about everything half the time. Tyrion begged Jon to stop Dany, but Jon remembered that boat ride with Dany and the fact that he's really a wuss when he has to disappoint someone close to him, so he really didn't want to do it and spouted off all the talking points about why it makes sense that Dany went nutso as a last-ditch attempt to convince viewers that Dany's change was organic and totally believable. Again! It still didn't work.

Sometime between Jon talking to Tyrion and Jon arriving in the throne room to see Dany, Jon changed his mind about his boo, because when they made out and Jon cooed, "You will always be my queen," he stuck her with the pointy end, and that is unfortunately not sexual innuendo. Let that be a lesson to everyone out there: Never, ever kiss anyone! You can die and it's gross.

Dany was dead! She died as she lived (and turned into a totally unrecognizable character) in Season 8: incredibly fast. Literally the very scene before, Jon was defending Dany and recognizing her power as the one, true Queen of Westeros, and in this scene he jumped all the way to regicide and girlfriendicide. Check another character's end off the box, D&D, the tock she is a clickin'.

Then things got weird! Drogon rolled up and got metaphorical as all heck by smelting the Iron Throne into a puddle of black goo.

He did it! The Iron Throne is gone, and everyone's problems were solved. The symbol of greed and power was roasted. It's possible Drogon is the smartest person in this show, really. He grabbed Dany's limp corpse in his dragon toes and flew away, and I wish everyone got taken away by their house animal when they died. Wouldn't it be awesome to see a dead Robert Baratheon get scooped up in a stag's horns, or a direwolf drag Rickon's lifeless body by the foot into the woods, or a trout (or many trouts) pull the Blackfish into a river? Just a thought in case the petition to remake Game of Thrones bears fruit. Also, I don't mean to call Jon out again for his treatment of animals, but he did not pet Drogon goodbye.

Then came my favorite part of the entire episode! Tyrion was brought out to the Dragonpit where representatives from all over Westeros were waiting to get some bureaucracy done. What made this so radical was it was the first time we've seen any type of congress or powwow of the lords from Westeros, and what made it extra special was there were lots of familiar faces we haven't seen in a while as well as some new ones we just met!

There was lots of confusion about who these people were, so as an expert on Game of Thrones, let me give you the entirely accurate rundown of who's who starting from left to right: There was Samwell Tarly of House Tarly, possibly representing The Citadel (though seeing as he's a confessed library book thief, highly unlikely); Ser Whatshisname of House Whateveritscalled, the somethingth of his name and lord of the Whereverlands (series debut); and Edmure Tully (Tobias Menzies), the very much alive Lord of Riverrun, ruiner of weddings, star of Outlander and The Terror, and nominator of self (last seen in Season 6 as a prisoner of Walder Frey).

Then it was the Starks: Arya Stark (Maisie Williams), master of convenient plot devices; Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright), the Three-Eyed Raven, liker of turtles, master of warging except when it actually makes sense to warg; Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), who once ate so many lemon cakes that her tummy-wummy had a case of the hurties. Why was Arya here, seriously?

The next group was Ser Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), lord of House I'm Still a Main Character So That's Why I'm Here; Davos Seaworth, whose love of the ocean is so great that he keeps a plastic bottle of seawater under his chair and who is definitely not Lord of the Fingers because he barely has any; Gendry Baratheon (Joe Dempsie), lord of Storm's End, wearer of leather now that he's a rich, hunkindanorf; Ser Flapjack of International House of Pancakes, rooter and tooter of fresh and fruiters (series debut).

Then there's Barry Strickland, father of Harry, partner in the accounting firm of Strickland, Strickland & Thunderchomper (series debut); Yara Greyjoy (Gemma Whelan) of House Greyjoy, ruler of the Iron Islands, incredibly disappointing character now that it's all said and done; DJ Tan Man of House Music, dropper of beats, and prince of Dorne (series debut).

The final group: Robin Arryn (Lino Facioli), simpleton of the south, sucker of teet, mental capacity of a stoned baby, Lord of the Vale; Yohn Royce (Rupert Vansittart) of the Vale and diaper-changer to Robin Arryn; and Crazy Uncle Clarence (series debut).

With Dany's dead body stowing away in the landing gear of a dragon, the group convened to name a new king or queen... I think? Or to figure out what to do with Tyrion and Jon? The important thing is they were all there and they couldn't decide what to do. There were a couple ill-timed comedy bits that were funny on their own, but out of place after the death of Dany and with Tyrion's and Jon's lives on the line. Edmure was nominating himself for king when Sansa was all, "Zip it," and then he banged his sword into a pole while he was trying to sit. Ha! I was trying to take this finale seriously when out of nowhere it turned into slapstick! Sam was next, and I gasped in horror when he essentially tried to found democracy in Westeros. I won't lie; I secretly wanted Sam's solution to be approved and the series to end with the people of Westeros entering polling plazas and filling out ballots, with election night news coverage covering the whole shebang. But everyone laughed it off because this is a fantasy world where oligarchy rules supreme. Good thing this isn't reality!

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However, the idea of democracy sure looked a lot better than what the show came up with, because Tyrion -- who I might remind you was the prisoner here -- took over this council of dunderheads and created a fool-proof solution to picking the new king: whoever had the best story. That was his idea. To give the crown to the person who had the best story. And he thinks Bran had the best story. WHAT? Only a bunch of self-absorbed writers would come up with that solution. STORIES! I say the king should be the person who had the best special effects! The most important decision of the kingdom was decided because some kid was an oaf's backpack for a while? You know who else has a pretty great story? Jon Snow! He DIED and came back to life! He lived among the Wildlings and convinced them to help the Northerners! He had cave sex! Make him king.

Bran was named king after a round of ayes (plus one "aye-aye" from Davos), Sansa declared the North an independent kingdom, and the other lords were probably all, "Wait, we could do that?" Then they all made fun of Bran's handicap by calling him Bran the Broken, which just seemed wrong and unnecessarily mean. And they taunted him by standing up in unison! The man can possess animals and see the future but they focus on his disability? Apparently alliteration is the most important factor in creating titles.

Bran the Brizoke needed a right-hand man, so he got payback on Tyrion for appointing him king by making him his Hand. It's a good move on Bran's part; not only does Tyrion possess experience as the Hand to two rulers, but he also has a physical condition which might relieve some of the ridicule aimed at Bran the Busted. How does it feel, Tyrion!?!?!?

As for Jon, he was banished to the Night's Watch, which I'm pretty sure isn't even needed anymore. Jon got shafted, if you ask me. He spares the kingdom from a tyrant at the behest of others by doing the one thing no one else was brave enough to do, and then he gets punished with a lifetime of celibacy in the Arctic. And all because Grey Worm was bitching about it? So Grey Worm gets his justice by seeing the man who committed treason against his queen become Hand of the King and the man who murdered his queen sent to the North where all his friends are? What kind of justice is this? No one at this council cared about any of this. These were the dumbest negotiations I've ever seen. F Grey Worm. I hope he and his army get very sullied!!!

Then the parade of goodbyes began! Brienne continued her descent into pathetic codependency with the first man she slept with by filling out Jaime's story in the official Knights of Westeros for Dummies book. She wrote good things about him, which further cemented her legacy as a female character who became defined by a male character. At least Dany was able to hold on to some sort of agency when she flipped out. Brienne, reduced to a heart-eyed girl with a crush, had the worst character arc of anyone in Season 8.

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The new small council convened, and if this is the future of Westeros, then Arya has the right idea by getting as far away as possible. Tyrion is Hand, Davos is Master of Ships, Sam is the Grand Maester, and Bronn (Jerome Flynn) is Master of Coin? Bronn immediately set funds aside to rebuild the brothels of King's Landing, because he is trash. Whatever happened to that bit where he was supposed to kill Tyrion and Jaime? Why did we need that if all he was going to do is go to Winterfell and then immediately turn around? Did they just need to separate Flynn and Headey because of their steamy romantic past?

The series ends with a Stark montage; Sansa is crowned Qweenindanorf, Arya boats west to lands unknown, and Jon heads north where he's to stay for good. For all the Stark reunions everyone clamored for throughout the series, Game of Thrones ends with the Starks headed in different directions all over this world, some possibly never to see each other again. Is that we really wanted?

But the best was saved for last, as Game of Thrones' most expensive shot ever comes in the final moments. Jon arrives at Castle Black to a few familiar faces: Tormund and, more importantly, Ghost! Jon gives his pooch a scratch on the chin and it's the most electrifying moment of the series! Clearly the money required to pull off this special effects bonanza was too expensive to do twice, which would explain why Jon only gave Ghost a head nod earlier in the season in one of the cruelest scenes in television history. You know some accountant saw the scripts had two direwolf pettings and decided one was all that HBO would pay for. (But hey, let's throw in a pointless shot of a dragon coming to from underneath a pile of loose ash, because I'm sure that only cost like five bucks.) But after all our complaining, we got what we wanted with Jon and Ghost.

All is forgiven, Game of Thrones. All is forgiven.

Was it a happy ending? Was it a sad ending? I'm not sure, but I can definitely say it was an ending. I know we gave this show a lot of guff for how it handled its final season, its penultimate season, female characters, sexualization, George R.R. Martin, literacy, television as a whole, rape, dismemberment, children, doggos, Lyanna Mormont, cliffhangers, spoilers, that first guy who played the Mountain, that second guy who played the Mountain, the original Daario, eunuchs, and my man Harry Strickland, but I thought this was a pretty great show and I'm going to miss the sh-- out of it. No show is perfect, but this came pretty close to being sorta perfect for a little while at one point in Season 3. I unapologetically love this show through and through. Goodbye, Game of Thrones, there will never be another show like you ever times infinity.

The Game of Thrones special airs Sunday, May 26 at 9/8c on HBO, and if you don't watch it, you are not a true fan.

More Photo Recaps:
Episode 1: Weird Bran Stole the Game of Thrones Premiere
Episode 2: Arya Gets It on Despite Having Zero Game
Episode 3: People Could Have Died Better, To Be Honest
Episode 4: Drunk With Power and Just Plain Drunk
Episode 5: Give Drogon a Spin-Off Already