Game of Thrones season 8 episode 6: One change to make finale brilliant
SPOILER ALERT. We’re discussing the Game of Thrones series finale here. If you haven’t seen the episode yet, this is your one and only chance to back out.
Still here? OK then, let’s get stuck in.
The finale was fine. Not terrible. Not fabulous. Just fine. In truth, it turned a bit limp from the moment Daenerys died onwards.
I was strongly reminded of the final Lord of the Rings film, which has about seven different endings, each less interesting than the last.
And that feels like a fitting comparison, given how great an influence Tolkien’s work had on series author George R.R. Martin.
There are all sorts of interesting parallels between the two fantasy sagas, which I won’t go into in great detail here, because Vanity Fair’s Joanna Robinson got there first weeks ago. Give her piece a read when you have a spare 10 minutes.
But let’s get back to the matter at hand. While Peter Jackson obviously should have cut out a few of the notoriously long ending scenes from Return of the King, I think Game of Thrones desperately needed to add one more.
We wanted one last mind-rending shock from the show which used to specialise in them, and it never came.
One change to the finale would have made it brilliant instead of merely passable — revealing Bran, or more accurately the Three-Eyed Raven, to be the ultimate villain.
As it’s currently written, the conclusion of Bran’s character arc makes very little sense, because he seemingly has no motive whatsoever for becoming king. In fact he appears to have no desires at all.
“I don’t really want anymore,” he told Tyrion earlier this season.
Tyrion obviously sees that as a qualification, rather than a problem. The logic is that if Bran does not crave power, he cannot be corrupted by it.
It’s the same reason Tyrion and Varys were drawn to Jon, who never wanted power throughout the story but always accepted it out of a sense of duty.
But Bran is not a passive participant in this situation. He even says as much when Tyrion asks whether he would accept the crown.
“Why do you think I came all this way?” he says.
Whether he really wants to be king or not, the fact is Bran has actively placed himself in the perfect position to take the job, clearly knowing what would happen ahead of time.
Take that realisation to its natural conclusion and you have the makings of a great twist.
What if Bran has been quietly manipulating the other characters, methodically setting up everything that has happened throughout the story to manoeuvre himself onto the throne?
We know he is able to influence the past, because we saw it happen when Hodor died. That seemingly important time travel mechanic has never been used again since.
Fans have long speculated Bran could have been responsible for King Aerys Targaryen going mad, having planted the suggestion to “burn them all” in his mind. The Mad King’s actions led directly to pretty much every event in the story.
So he has the power to do what I’m suggesting. The question is still motive. Why would nice, innocent Bran scheme to become king? Let’s speculate wildly.
Since he left that cave north of The Wall, Bran has repeatedly told other characters, from Meera Reed to Jaime Lannister, that he is actually no longer Brandon Stark.
Instead, he is the Three-Eyed Raven, which seems to be a sort of hive mind containing, at the very least, the memories of every other Raven who came before him.
I would argue he is actually the collective memory of the entire world, as remembered through the Weirwood trees. Bran himselfs hints at that.
“He wants to erase this world, and I am its memory,” he told the other characters of the Night King’s motivations.
So here’s a curly question for you. Why would the world’s memory be on humanity’s side? The obvious answer is that it wouldn’t.
According to the lore of the show, men arrived in Westeros thousands of years ago and went to war with the Children of the Forest — those little green people we saw a few seasons ago. They also started chopping down the Weirwood trees.
In other words, men were the enemy of nature. And the Three-Eyed Raven is nature’s memory.
How can nature possibly fight back? It has no soldiers. I’ll tell you. By infiltrating humanity from within. By sowing discord and tension and starting wars.
The easiest way to do that is from a position of power, and no one is more powerful than a king.
We are set up to sympathise with Bran from the very beginning of the story. He is the first point of view character in the books. Episode one culminates in his fall from the tower, which leaves him disabled. There is no more innocent or pitiable character, and therefore no better candidate to be a Trojan horse for a secret villain.
What better way could there be to subvert our expectations than to gradually turn that innocent boy into the story’s malevolent puppetmaster right under our noses, without us realising?
We have no particular reason to believe the Three-Eyed Raven is a good character, and once his (its?) consciousness is put in Bran’s head, we have no reason to assume Bran is good either.
His predecessor, Bloodraven, was morally grey at best. Before he became an omniscient tree man, Bloodraven was known as Brynden Rivers — an ambitious, scheming Targaryen bastard who served as Hand of the King.
Maybe part of Brynden lives on in Bran, and is using him to fulfil his own ambition.
One last question is bugging me. Why was Bran so insistent that Jon be told of his heritage? He can obviously see into the future. He must have known the revelation would lead to Daenerys snapping and murdering thousands of people, and Jon being exiled.
Why put that chain of events in motion? Maybe Bran’s reasons were selfish.
I don’t know. I’m spitballing here. But imagine a final scene focusing on Bran travelling through time, moving all the pieces of the story we’ve just watched into place, paving the way for his own route to power.
Sign me up for that ending.
Game of Thrones became such a phenomenon because it shocked us like no other show on television. It could have finished with its biggest surprise of all.
Come and tell me why I’m wrong on Twitter: @SamClench
As the show comes to a close, stars of the hit series Game of Thrones took to Instagram to farewell their beloved characters and fans.
Game of Thrones cast farewell their characters
Originally published as Change the finale desperately needed