Game of Thrones has proved such a letdown in its concluding season it was difficult to imagine in what way the final episode could any further tarnish a reputation already reduced to ashes and rubble.
But even with howlingly low expectations, the Iron Throne was hugely problematic, in both plot and execution. Especially egregious was how, having alternately enraged and numbed fans with its blundered Mad Queen Daenerys storyline, the show now bid farewell to our favourite characters without giving the viewer an emotional payoff.
Only Jon Snow (Kit Harington), it is arguable, received the long amble into the sunset he deserved.
Having killed Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) to prevent her inflicting upon the rest of the Seven Kingdoms what she had already done to King’s Landing, he was exiled to rejoin the Night’s Watch. Yes the Night’s Watch that no longer needed to exist now the White Walker threat had been snuffed out in a single installment.
But still, you did feel something as he and Tormund Giantsbane left the Wall and rode north, leaving behind the realms of men. Technically Jon was breaking his vows – he’d been exiled to the Wall, not beyond it.
Nonetheless, with Direwolf Ghost at his side, at least he received a respectable sendoff. Here, for a moment, Game of Thrones once again became the show we had obsessed over for years.
Elsewhere, however, the conclusion felt cobbled together in a rush by now all too familiar. Daenerys, having only just flipped out and nuked King’s Landing, was suddenly behaving like a life-long dictator. At least until Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) talked Jon into killing her and then Drogon flew away with the Mother of Dragons in his claws. But not before melting the Iron Throne and leaving Jon live, because it’s all about the symbolism with dragons apparently.
Then we flashed forward to Tyrion’s trial at the Dragonpit. Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) wanted him dead for his betrayal of Daenerys.
But then Tyrion had a brainwave – why not make Bran king, because he had a more interesting story than anyone else in Westeros (Sansa, Arya, Sam, Brienne and Ser Davos should have begged to differ but didn’t).
So it was all hail King Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) and a pat on the back for Tyrion who, having literally just begged for his life, was suddenly Hand of the King again. How did we know he wouldn’t turn on Bran as he had Daenerys? That’s a question with which Game of Thrones would once have been fascinated but was now hand-waved away.
Sansa (Sophie Turner), meanwhile, announced the North was independent. Her declaration of rebellion was passed through with barely a grumble – even by Yara Greyjoy, whose father had been driven mad fighting to free the Iron Islands.
And then came the Grey Havens-style long farewells. Arya (Maisie Williams) was sailing west into the great beyond, Sansa headed back North to rule her breakaway kingdom and Jon off to the Wall.
If you squinted it felt vaguely like the sort of ending George RR Martin might have in mind for his saga– though it’s impossible to imagine his denouement featuring the YouTube comedy channel level humour that attended the first meeting of the new Small Council.
There Bronn (Jerome Flynn) argued for the immediate rebuilding of the King’s Landing brothels and a suddenly jaunty Bran suggested he might warg into Drogon just to see what happened.
Martin hasn’t passed comment on the episode so we will for him: this was dreadful.