The Game of Thrones Finale!

There are spoilers ahead if you haven’t caught up with GOT season 8 episode 5 as yet.

I speculated about the (then) upcoming HBO Game of Thrones final season in a previous article. Turns out that I was right that episode 3 would contain the epic Battle for Winterfell against the Army of the Dead. I was wrong in that I didn’t predict that the Night King would be defeated and the threat from the north tied up in that same episode.

From my speculation, the other thing I did get right was that there would be treachery and betrayal from Varys and Tyrion. As Tyrion says: “thoughts aren’t treason” so he hasn’t, in his view, crossed the line yet. Though, after the apocalyptic-scale destruction of King’s Landing that Daenerys instigated in episode 5, it remains to be seen if Tyrion will continue to side with her.

Paiting, Death on a Pale Horse
Benjamin West, Death on the Pale Horse, 1796, from the Detroit Institute of Arts.

At the beginning of episode 5, Daenerys told Jon that if she couldn’t have love then she would settle for fear instead.  She certainly achieved that in her rape of King’s Landing through her dragon Drogon. Too bad the Iron Throne is left under tons of rubble from the fallen Red Keep. What was she thinking? Rule from Dragonstone until King’s Landing can be rebuilt and the Iron Throne recovered? Is that even possible? Set up a grand tent in the rubble and ashes of King’s Landing, to rule from there? She’d better hope that Drogon’s fire-breathing abilities don’t wane from overuse if that’s what she hopes for.

Daenerys better not be thinking of ruling from Riverrun or Highgarden because those properties have been promised to Ser Bronn by Tyrion in exchange for Jaime’s (now deceased by other causes) and Tyrion’s lives.

It’s unlikely to come to that of course, letters from the deceased Varys about Jon’s claim to the now buried Iron Throne are out there. Surely even Jon is reconsidering his view on not wanting to rule Westeros after what he witnessed in the rape of King’s Landing?

Then there is that white horse that Arya was seen riding at the end of episode 5. That must be the most heavy-handed metaphor in TV history. Not much subtlety there: Arya is going to ride back on a white horse to conquer anyone who stands in her way, and to be given a crown.

Then I saw when the Lamb broke one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying as with a voice of thunder, “Come.” I looked, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer. Revelation 6:1-2 NAS [1].

After all, the heroine of the Battle of Winterfell Arya has become a legendary figure of the stature of the ‘Hero’ from the stories that Old Nan told Bran back when Game of Thrones started; or the heroine princess Nymeria who led the Rhoynar people to Dorne centuries past.

In case you forgot,  Arya has a direwolf living wild somewhere in the forests of the Riverlands called “Nymeria’. So very likely we’l be seeing Arya return as a legendary heroine, riding a white horse with her direwolf, Nymeria [2]. The symbolism of a heroine princess risen from the ashes of King’s Landing is too strong for anyone to ignore. Will Jon/Aegon and Arya decide to rule together as King and Queen [3] and rebuild Westeros? Will Sansa continue to rule as Queen of the North?

When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies, but the pack survives Sansa quoting her father Eddard Stark

Before this can occur, of course, there is the matter of Queen Daenerys, what remains of her armies and her dragon to deal with: Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men, Protector of the Realm, Queen of Meereen, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Mother of Dragons, The Unburnt, Breaker of Chains, Lady of Dragonstone and Destroyer of King’s Landing.

Jon/Aegon has shown that he is a dragonrider with the now deceased Rhaegal. Can he command the living dragon Drogon as well? In any case, things are not looking good for Daenerys: she’s set for meetings with judgement, vengeance and hell. Will Jon/Aegon carry out that judgment upon her in the way that he was taught by Eddard Stark? Will the sight of Arya, her white horse and direwolf, stir the smallfolk to rise up and tear Daenerys and her armies to pieces?

My questions are rhetorical with regard to what I think but only next week’s episode will tell.


[1] The exact interpretation hinges somewhat on whether you consider the horse to be a white or a pale one. In the apocalyptic visions in Revelation, there is a vision of a white horse, as given here. There is also a vision for a pale (or ashen) horse:
“I looked, and behold, an ashen horse; and he who sat on it had the name Death; and Hades was following with him. Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by the wild beasts of the earth.” – Rev 6: 6-8.

To me the horse was white but covered with reddish dust and ash from the fall of the Red Keep. It may have been the same white horse that Harry Strickland was seen riding earlier in the episode, see the article by Eljana Dockterman in Time magazine, for more details.

[2] I’m speculating that the prospective reunion between Arya and her direwolf, Nymeria, in the final episode, is why the showrunners Benioff and Weiss had Jon’s direwolf, Ghost, travelling north with Tormund Giantsbane to The Wall.

[3] My thinking up until the last episode was that since Games of Thrones is loosely-based upon The War of the Roses, that Daenerys would wed Jon Snow/Aegon Targaryen similarly to the way Henry Tudor (who became Henry VII ) returned from across the English Channel (=Narrow Sea) to marry Elizabeth of York – but with the gender roles reversed (i.e., Daenerys = Henry Tudor). However, after episode 5 it’s clear Daenerys is unfit to rule.

My thinking now is that GRRM may skip ahead in history to coregents Wiiliam and Mary, also first cousins, similarly to Arya Stark and Jon Snow/Aegon Targaryen. A marriage that established a new dynastic order in England. Nevertheless, I don’t think that Benioff and Weiss feel bound by historical parallels. So it probably won’t happen – Arya is too much of a free spirit. But who knows?

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