Arts Take: How ‘Game of Thrones’ should have ended

Arts staff writer Dominic LeRose shares his take on how the final season of HBO's "Game of Thrones" should have been written. 

Image By: Helen Sloan/HBO

Arts Take: How ‘Game of Thrones’ should have ended

It may have ended over a month ago, but I still have a broken heart over the massively disappointing, horribly paced and written the final season of HBO’s fantasy epic “Game of Thrones.” With an ending that felt not only empty but poorly planned, let’s go over what went wrong and how the final season should have actually played out.

First, instead of six episodes, the last two seasons deserved to be ten episodes. season eight felt particularly rushed, covering what would at least be an entire season's worth of storytelling in the final three rushed episodes. This not only would have allowed time for the story to flow more smoothly, but we would have gotten to see the final developments of our characters’ journeys in a more intimate and moving fashion. 

Additionally, the big payoff action sequences would have felt more special. What makes sequences like the Battle of the Bastards and Hardhome so magical is how much buildup was given to them, thus making them more impactful and intoxicating for the audience once we finally got to engage in their intensity. In the final season, we had the Battle of Winterfell in episode three and then the destruction of King’s Landing in episode five. This juxtaposition of the action sequences made them less effective due to the action and CGI feeling repetitive as opposed to fresh and special. 

In terms of the actual plot, the first two episodes of season eight were completely spot on. Not only did we get to spend precious time with our remaining characters, but we saw them vulnerable and fearful in a time of dooming peril when on the cusp of facing the Army of the Dead. However, the third episode in which we saw the Battle of Winterfell is when things started to fall apart. The vast majority of episode three was spectacular, offering visually miraculous action sequences and a continuous intensity that was entertainment at its peak. 

Then the Night King died.

The death of the Night King was not only unfulfilling, but it happened too quickly. The threat of the White Walkers was the very first sequence of the pilot episode and ever since then the show has been growing on this impending threat and building it up as the ultimate enemy. It was supposed to be the ultimate climax that tied "A Song of Ice and Fire" together, but instead, it happened as if it were getting rid of just another conflict.

The Battle of Winterfell should have ended differently. First, Bran should have been warging in the past at the time in order to try and learn more about the Night King. While in his visions, we should have gotten the shock that Bran caused the Mad King to go mad. We saw previously in season six Aerys Targaryen yelling, “Burn them all!” in reference to the people of King’s Landing. Similar to how Bran caused Hodor to go insane, it would have been shocking and fulfilling to see Bran warging in the past and causing the Mad King to hear the words “Burn them all!” from someone during the Battle of Winterfell and result in the Mad King going mad. This would have been a tremendous shock and a great twist that further expressed just how powerful and influential Bran is in time.

Next, the episode should have ended with Theon facing the White Walkers in the Godswood, but surviving. Yara should have died instead back in the second episode of season seven at the hands of Euron, therefore excluding the plot of Theon rescuing Yara from Euron, which felt unnecessary to the overall story. Theon would fight his way against the Dead, while the Night King approaches Bran. Instead of the Night King drawing his blade to kill Bran, he would bow to Bran and simply touch him, turning him into the new Night King.

The reason the Night King had such a desire to find Bran isn’t that he wanted to kill another Three-Eyed Raven, but because Bran is a Stark in addition to having his Three-Eyed Raven powers. We learn in a brief vision from Bran that the Night King was actually Brandon Stark I, an actual historical figure in this saga known as “Bran the Builder” for creating the Wall. Bran the Builder was a heroic warrior who tried to defend humanity from the White Walkers thousands of years ago, yet we would learn that the Children of the Forest captured him specifically and turned him into the Night King (as seen in Bran’s vision back in season six) because he already had tremendous power, which allowed him to magically create the wall. The Children would be able to use a powerful figure and turn him into a seemingly unstoppable force as the Night King, who obviously ended up becoming a villain.

The Night King wants to pass his powers down to the next Brandon Stark. By touching him and holding his hand, Bran becomes the new Night King and the original Night King crumbles to ice. Bran, now the Night King, rises from his chair and leaves Theon in shock. The rest of the living are forced to flee. In addition to Jorah Mormont, Beric Dondarrion, Ed Tollett and Lyanna Mormont dying, Podrick Payne, Grey Worm, Yohn Royce and Tormund Giantsbane should have met their heroic ends as well. 

Some characters who were forgotten and should have been featured are Meera Reed and her father Howland, who was with Ned Stark at the Tower of Joy when Jon was born and could thus clarify further that Jon is truly Aegon Targaryen. 

With the Night King victorious, he raises all the dead soldiers and continues marching south. Completely forgotten after their brief appearance in season seven, the pack of direwolves led by Nymeria who rescued Arya ends up saving her from a group of wights as well. With the direwolves are Melisandre and Kinvara, the red priestess from Mereen briefly seen in season six, who was an intriguing character that was completely forgotten about. This would be a tense reunion for Davos and Melisandre, and Arya and Melisandre would have been reunited as well. 

All the remaining characters would be fleeing south to Dragonstone until episode six. Up to this point, Cersei and Euron have used the Golden Company to suppress a rebellion in King’s Landing from the townspeople due to Cersei’s attack on the Sept of Baelor back in season six and her rejection of their welfare needs. Cersei would further become a vicious dictator and allow her character to be more developed as a power-hungry villain, instead of being ignored and forced to sit around like what actually happened. 

Before reaching King’s Landing, Jaime, Jon, Howland and Theon would get the support of Edmure Tully in Riverrun, while Tyrion, Sansa, Varys, Missandei, Meera and Gilly would reach the Eyrie in the Vale first. All of these characters would meet at Dragonstone at the beginning of episode seven along with Arya and the Hound and Samwell, Davos, Brienne and Gendry. Jon informs everyone that Bran is the new Night King (as witnessed by Theon in the Godswood). 

Melisandre informs everyone about Azor Ahai, the legendary savior she has been alluding to throughout the entire show and how he or she encompasses the Song of Ice and Fire. Additionally, Azor Ahai is to yield the flaming sword known as Lightbringer, which must be generated by Azor Ahai stabbing it through his Nissa Nissa’s (which means “Lover”) heart. She reveals that in order to defeat the Army of the Dead for good, Jon or Daenerys must be offered to the Lord of Light as a sacrifice in order to save humanity, for together they are the Prince That Was Promised and A Song of Ice and Fire.  

Jon and everyone thinks Melisandre is out of her mind, yet Daenerys is convinced. Melisandre reveals that the reason she was immune to fire all these years has nothing to do with her Targaryen lineage (which is proved by Jon being burnt on the hand and being hurt by it despite being a Targaryen) but due to being guided by the Lord of Light. He has been guiding her to this heroic moment and she is convinced she needs to save the world by being sacrificed. 

Suddenly, Euron’s fleet attacks Dragonstone and kills Rhaegal after he Cersei plan their attack earlier in the season. Euron uses Dragonbinder, the horn with the ability to tame dragons that he shows in the book series, to tame Rhaegal and allow for an easy shot. Daenerys realizes that their army isn’t equipped to defeat the dead. 

In the eighth episode, Daenerys agrees to be sacrificed, to which everyone is reluctant. The remaining characters agree to head to King’s Landing to warn the people of the incoming Army of the Dead. In a sacrificial ceremony, Jon stabs Daenerys with Longclaw, and she dies. His sword is dull at first, but the episode ends with Longclaw bursting into flames as Lightbringer.

Daenerys' character was butchered in the eighth season. Having her torch King’s Landing to the ground was absolutely ridiculous, for not only did this betray what her character stood for, but it was boring and uninteresting. There was nothing poetic or mind-bending about it, but rather was a rushed shock scheme used by the writers to get through the rest of the season quickly. This version would have Daenerys sacrifice herself for what she always wanted, the peace of the Seven Kingdoms and would allow her to fulfill the savior figure that she always represented until her character arc went south.  

The ninth episode involves Jaime speaking to Cersei to let the army in. She tells him that she plans on killing them all due to being traitors, but Jaime is appalled. Suddenly, the Army of the Dead arrives. Jaime orders the Lannister soldiers to let everyone in and a giant battle erupts. The Starks, Targaryens and Lannisters are all fighting on the same side, which ironically expresses how the Night King and Bran united all of the divided houses together. Bran’s mission as the Three-Eyed Raven all along was to unite Westeros and end the wheel that Daenerys tried to break. 

Cersei tries to convince Jaime to flee and let the city burn, to which he refuses. She then orders Qyburn to light the remaining Wildlife hidden underground to destroy everyone and the Dead. Jaime refuses and ends up stabbing Cersei in the heart and killing Qyburn as well. 

Arya wants to kill Cersei, yet the Hound convinces her to fight the Dead instead and put her fighting abilities to better use. The Hound ends up fighting the Mountain like he originally did, the two both dying as the Hound tackles him into the burning ruins of King’s Landing from the dragon flame between Drogon and the undead Viserion.

Theon ends up fighting Euron, getting revenge for murdering his sister Yara (which would have happened in my vision in season seven). The actual fight between Jaime and Euron felt weak and empty. Neither character had any motive to hate each other, and the conflict between Theon and Euron was abolished sadly. 

Jon rides Drogon and faces Bran (now the Night King) on Viserion. Bran destroys the Red Keep and burns the Iron Throne, and the two cousins end up fighting each other in the Throne Room. Howland Reed is killed in front of Meera, and Meera fights Bran. This would make the Night King not just a speechless ice figure but would give the villain depth. The Night King is now someone Jon grew up with and loved, making the conflict more powerful. 

Jaime enters the Throne Room fresh after killing Cersei and is killed by the Night King. This would be poetic as well since Jaime tried to kill Bran in the very first episode when he was caught having sex with Cersei. In full circle, Bran gets revenge of sorts by killing Jaime. Brienne witnesses his death and fights off wights in the Red Keep in order to get to Jaime.

Arya would still get her big moment, but instead of killing the Night King, she’d kill Viserion. This would be an epic moment, and we would get to see her use her faceless men talents from all the grueling training she did to maneuver her way around a dragon. 

Jon would win and defeat the Night King, yet it isn’t a glorious moment like we would expect. Jon has to kill Bran, making the defeat of the Army of the Dead bittersweet. However, Bran kills Drogon while riding Viserion beforehand. We later learn from Missandei that Drogon laid three eggs, since dragons reproduce asexually. 

Brienne goes to a dying Jaime, and Jaime dies in the arms of the woman he loves. Sansa finds Cersei’s body and is fulfilled knowing the woman who tormented her and brought chaos to her family is finally dead. Similar to how it actually happened, Melisandre walks away and takes her necklace off, as does Kinvara, crumbling to ash now that the Army of the Dead has been defeated and her service to the Lord of Light has been fulfilled. 

In the final episode, Jon is hailed as King due to being born Aegon Targaryen and the rightful heir to the Throne. However, as King, Jon ends the monarchy of Westeros and enacts a policy that makes the Seven Kingdoms and the Iron Islands independent nations, thus breaking the wheel of power like Daenerys wanted.

Sansa still becomes the Queen of the North and Lady of Winterfell while Tyrion becomes Lord Paramount of the Westerlands and the Lord of Casterly Rock. Both Gendry and Edmure Tully would remain Lords of Storm’s End and Riverrun respectively. While not anyone’s favorite, Robyn Arryn stays Lord Paramount of the Vale and the Lord of the Eyrie. Instead of becoming the new Grand Maester, Samwell Tarly becomes the Lord of Highgarden and the Lord Paramount of the Reach (as opposed to Bronn, who should have died in the battle in season seven against Daenerys). 

The newly introduced son of Doran Martell, Quentyn Martell (from the books) becomes the Prince of Dorne, and Theon Greyjoy becomes King of the Iron Islands instead of Yara. Varys goes with Tyrion to be his permanent advisor, while Brienne becomes Sansa’s knight. Davos returns to his wife and becomes Gendry’s advisor in the Stormlands, Gilly stays married to Sam and is now pregnant (like she actually became) and Missandei sails back to her home island of Naathe. 

Sansa has a resemblance statue built of Bran in the crypts of Winterfell to honor him, while Brienne writes the good deeds of Jaime in the history book of the Kingsguard like she originally did in the show. Arya sadly leaves Gendry and instead goes sailing the world, which was her original ending that felt right. Arya and Gendry share a sweet farewell and the two have a mutual understanding. Jon, now that the monarchy is over and he ended his rule as king, rides North beyond the wall with the wildlings and direwolves along with the dragon eggs, living with the people he freed in the land he belongs in. The snow has melted and winter is over. 

This is an ending that not only would have offered more exciting twists, but would have paid tribute to the characters we’ve followed for so long in a more meaningful way. Character arcs wouldn’t have been butchered, the plot wouldn’t have been rushed or forced and most importantly, the greatest TV show of all time wouldn’t have been ruined by poor writing. 

Dominic LeRose is a staff writer for the Daily Cardinal. To read more of his work, click here.

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