[This story contains spoilers for the series finale of HBO’s Game of Thrones, “The Iron Throne.”] As series creators David Benioff and Dan Weiss once wrote, and as a very evil and very dead man once said: “If you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention.
” Game of Thrones viewers came to understand those words all too well in “The Bells,” the series’ brutal penultimate episode in which Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) stormed King’s Landing with fire and blood, killing thousands and thousands of innocent lives in the process.
Given the shocking act of violence, any illusions about Game of Thrones ending on a happy note were well and fully eviscerated, rendered ash much like the rest of Westeros’ central city. At the same time, it felt inconceivable that Benioff and Weiss would allow Daenerys to remain on the Iron Throne after such a disturbing conquest, certainly not when author George R.R. Martin and so many others in the Game of Thrones inner circle have described the ending with a single word: “Bittersweet.” An ending in which Jon Snow (Kit Harington), Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) and the others stand idly by while Daenerys rules with fire and fury would land too firmly on the side of bitterness. Even in an unhappy ending, there must be some measure of sweetness, right?
“Be with me,” Dany implores Jon. “Build the new world with me. This is our reason. It has been from the beginning since you were a little boy with a bastard’s name and I was a little girl who couldn’t count to 20. We do it together. We break the wheel together.”
“You are my queen. Now, and always,” Jon tells her, kissing her deeply — before burying a knife in her heart.
“I’ve had nothing to do but think these past few weeks,” says Tyrion. “About our bloody history, about the mistakes we’ve made. What unites people? Armies? Gold? Flags? Stories. There’s nothing more powerful in the world than a good story. He is our memory, the keeper of all our stories. The wars, weddings, births, massacres, famines. Our triumphs, our defeats, our past. Who better to lead us into the future?”
Of course, Martin’s unwritten ending to A Song of Ice and Fire and the Game of Thrones series finale are sure to diverge in meaningful ways, though it’s believed the critical landing points are the same — and there’s no landing point more critical than Bran as the king of King’s Landing.