I’m sure there’s some concept in the 17th chapter of Capital or whatever that describes how capitalism inevitably mashes all art into pink slime so that it slides more quickly down the conveyor belt that turns intellectual property into money, but the editorial calendar under the Game of Thrones Content cottage industry is as merciless as Daenerys Targaryen torching Kings Landing, so you’ll have to imagine I opened with it.
One of the myriad problems with the late seasons of Game of Thrones is that we don’t even get to enjoy a bog-standard chicken nugget in the end. Instead, the powers that be sacked all the writers, scribbled a call list on the back of a napkin, and sent the inglorious result down to special effects to let them pad out the rest of the season.
Why build a narrative arc when you can just CGI a dragon and set a lot of things on fire?
Anyway, ever since the TV show surpassed the content of the books, the whole narrative has been so bad that the only pleasure I can derive is to use it as an exercise. How could it have gone better? Let me count the ways.
GRRM has long since abdicated his creative control to enjoy a life of fabulous wealth and fawning convention fans, but it is well-documented that the did tell Benioff and Weiss how the series ends (if not how to get there).
If we accept the following premises as GRRM’s stated ending:
Here are five better ways for the last two episodes to go.
Crouching Dragon Hidden Crossbow
At the Kings Landing gate, Missandrei says dracarys as her last word, and Dany is so enraged by her death and the revelation that Jon Snow betrayed her that she immediately strafes the city wall and continues on to the castle. Cersei, atop the red keep, watches the dragon flying toward her, then at the last minute before it breathes fire all over her spot, steps aside to reveal a giant crossbow behind her. Drogon gets an arrow to the eyeball, goes down hard, and wrecks a large swath of Down Under the Red Keep Overpass. Trapped behind enemy lines with only a wounded dragon for protection, Dany keeps telling Drogon to spit fire in all directions. Lots of civvie casualties, even some kids if you want, while the retinue of Unsullied try to penetrate the city to get to her. Drogon rallies and finally manages to take off. Except now he has no depth perception so it’s a bumpy ride.
Army from the North shows up, just a tad late because lol there’s no travel time this season. Jon, never one to do anything but run directly at an enemy, takes them through the hole in the city wall. The Golden Company, being not complete idiots, have shed their uniforms and start urban guerilla warfare. Northmen and unsullied, after taking some early casualties to soldiers popping out of vegetable stalls and upstairs apartments, get paranoid that everyone is Golden Company, and go My Lai massacre with a side of William Tecumseh Sherman and march to the sea, leaving even more horrifically dead civilians in their path. Arya can be caught on the wrong side of this if we still need a war is hell revelation.
Whomever you want kills Cersei on her way out the back door, and Dany takes the Iron Throne. She subjugates the shit out of everyone but remains restless and unfulfilled.
Someone (maybe Bronn, or War Is Hell Arya) comes upon the partially blinded dragon recuperating in the hillside or dungeons under the red keep and stabs or crossbows it from its blind side. Without her last dragon, Dany loses the tenuous support of the Northmen. While Jon is standing around with his mouth open, the Northmen rebel against Dany, open the gates and let in the pissed off Kings Landing citizens. Either the mob kills her there or Jack Ruby extrajudicially assassinates her on her perp walk.
Tyrion drags Jon to the Iron Throne and tells him to sit his dumb ass down and shut up.
Fuck This, I’m Out
After Jon declines to deep dick Dany—thoroughly in character because Jon Snow is nothing if not narcissistically devoted to the idea of himself as an honorable person, even when the stakes are telling one white lie to the most dishonest enemy you have or the extinction of the entire human race—she realizes that no one in Westeros will ever love her, they will only fear her. (And that everyone that claims to love her will betray her). If she can’t have the Iron Throne, let Jon Dumbfucking Snow be king of ashes. She burns the entire ungrateful city and fucks off back across the Wide Sargasso Sea.
Deja Vu All Over Again
The penultimate episode is a race to see who will get to Cersei first, Arya or Jamie. Jaime can still get captured trying to cross the lines, and Tyrion can still release him, but instead he gets to the city in time to maybe actually do something.
Jaime sneaks Cersei out the back door, probably only once she realizes all is definitely lost. Arya arrives just in time to see that she’s missed her chance to finish her to do list. Dany torches Kings Landing per usual, not quite as My Lai as previously stated, but once she’s on the throne she rules those ungrateful Westerosi with an iron hand that Jon has no hope of tempering. She marries him to keep him around as a figurehead/sex slave and crushes all dissenters before they have a chance to break out into rebellion.
The Lannister twins make it to Braavos or wherever, and safely raise their incest baby in exile. 20 years later, that baby is mad pissed about losing his rightful place on the throne, and begins his quest to go take it back. The Ciiiiircle of Life. Arya can assassinate one or both of his parents along the way for an added Batman level of motivation against house Starkgaryen.
Just Die Already
Dany kills Jon because she’s furious that he betrayed her, and jealous that the Westerosi like him more despite the fact that he is the most useless dumbass in the Seven Kingdoms. It’s his fault two of her dragons are dead, and he explicitly disobeyed her to blab about his dad to everyone. No doubt about it: Jon Snow got to go. Maybe she tries to make it look an accident and fails, or maybe she just straight shoves him out her non-OSHA complaint boardroom balcony.
Either way the Northmen get wind of it and predictably turn on her. She tries to take Kings’ Landing with basically just one dragon and a few Unsullied/Dothraki, but without a support army there’s no way she can occupy a city of that size. Arya assassinates her in revenge for her brother’s death.
(OK I realize this doesn’t meet the criteria of Jon Ends Up on the Throne but fuck that guy, I hate him so much.)
Siege You Later
Tyrion convinces Dany not to blow her wad with a frontal assault just yet. They have a regular fucking siege but with the caveat that Dany says for each day they don’t surrender she will start torching neighborhoods. (Dany thinks that the people will turn against the evil queen that is sacrificing their lives, with a “look what you made me do” mad king vibe. She can even roof knock thinking it’s somehow less evil to give them a little heads up before she obliterates an entire neighborhood.)
The Northmen are real pissy about sieging, the Kings Landingites are mad about the civvie massacres and infrastructure damage. Someone gets an itchy trigger finger and fighting breaks out. Dany takes the city easily.
The siege had gone on long enough that Cersei’s baby has just been born. Cersei dies (maybe in childbirth, maybe in the fighting, maybe by Arya) and now they have to make a decision what to do with the baby. Dany wants to kill him, John doesn’t. Either Dany does have the baby killed or Jon gets Tyrion to help him fake the death and smuggle the baby out, but either way Jon is really horrified by Dany’s Machiavellian cruelty.
BONUS: Massive proletarian uprising
Self-explanatory. (This is also wholly unearned but it would be an incredible break from the zeitgeist.)
I just realized that I didn’t write any endings in which Bran has any effect on the action. Oh well, keep on creepin’ on, ya weirdo.
I’ll see you all this Sunday, when we’ll find out how this actually ends, and our long national nightmare will finally be over.