Who won the ‘Game of Thrones’: Questions the finale resolved, opened, and raised

Paolo Abad

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Who won the ‘Game of Thrones’: Questions the finale resolved, opened, and raised


[SPOILERS INSIDE] In season 8, the Great War against the Army of the Dead has been won, and the Iron Throne has been taken from Cersei Lannister. But who gets to rule over Westeros now?

With the final episode of Game of Thrones, our watch has ended.

It has been a long 8 seasons – shocking deaths, destroyed cities, plot twists, cliffhangers, and clever politicking that captured the imagination of fans all over the world. This is the last note of the Song of Ice and Fire, and it was – for better and worse – quite a ride.

Even at the last moment, we know the show too well to expect that all loose ends will be tied neatly. Like Cersei, we won’t ever get our elephants. Nor will we be like Grey Worm, will we get to spend that happy day on the beach with Missandei.

The series always has – up to the bitter(sweet) end – defied expectations, but did we get the closure we needed? The answer could be as polarizing as the rest of the eighth and final season was. (READ: How will ‘Game of Thrones’ end?: Your primer to the final season)

The finale, titled “The Iron Throne,” details what happens after the endgame – now that the Realm’s seat of power is within literal, physical reach of the game of thrones’ final players. This, is of course, the overarching question. But there are others, too, that need to be addressed.


The night is dark and full of spoilers.


Who sits on the Iron Throne?

“All hail Bran the Broken, first of his name, King of the Andals and the First Men, Lord of the Six (Yes, six) Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm.”

Another, more important thing though: there’s no more Iron Throne left for Bran Stark to sit on.

The previous episode had confirmed that the Dragon Queen was certainly not fit to rule, and here, it’s Jon who did the duty to end the “greatest threat to the people now.”

Drogon, in his grief for his mother, melted that uncomfortable chair, depicting a sort of poetic break from Westeros’s past and a look into its future.

Amid the salt of Blackwater Bay and the smoky embers of King’s Landing, a new era of governance dawned upon Westeros, and it was not the utopia that would-be liberator Daenerys Targaryen wanted to forge in the embers of her fiery slaughter. 

In front of a council of Westeros’s most powerful people – as Samwell Tarly had suggested before him – Tyrion proposed, “From now on, rulers will not be born. They will be chosen on this spot [the dragonpit] by the lords and ladies of Westeros to serve the realm.” So now, we have the beginnings of a sort of democracy – or at least what passes for it in the universe of Thrones.

KING BRAN THE BROKEN. Isaac Hempstead-Wright as Bran Stark in the season 8 premiere. File photo by Helen Sloan/HBO

Why Bran Stark?

Jon, the one true King by birthright, was out of the running. Not only did he not want the throne, but because of his queenslaying deed, he would divide the people of Westeros – those loyal to the Targaryen cause as well as those who aren’t. So, a council of the remaining lords and ladies of Westeros decide to ship him back to the Night’s Watch as a sort of compromise.

Tyrion Lannister doesn’t want to rule either, so who’s left?

Sansa Stark became Queen in the independent North, which seceded from the former Seven Kingdoms. So, no.

Arya Stark? The Hero of Winterfell decided to be Arya the Explorer. After conquering the Night King – Death personified, she sailed across the Sunset Sea to conquer the uncharted lands beyond Westeros. 

There are a couple of other (unlikely) contenders, but there’s a compelling case for Bran, not only because he hails from House Stark, which proved to be one of the most resilient. 

But there’s also a symbolic resonance to his rule. 

“There’s nothing more powerful in the world than a good story,” as Tyrion said. “And who has a better story than Bran the Broken?” He’s the cripple who survived the odds and the dangerous lands beyond the Wall. He is the Three-Eyed Raven, the world’s “memory, the keeper of [their] stories.”

“Who better to lead us into the future?” asked Tyrion, who also reluctantly accepted his appointment as Hand once more. (WATCH: Isaac Hempstead Wright talks Bran Stark’s return, ‘GoT’ deaths)

Bran’s rule also ties neatly with the series’ thematic preoccupations. Vox’s Todd VanDerWerff argued, “One of the obsessions of this series is the impossibility of just leadership, because we are all limited by our human passions, intelligence, and blind spots.”

“Well, Bran, who can see everything that has ever happened, kinda-sorta isn’t human any more. The implication, then, is that a just and wise ruler is someone who is so disconnected from humanity that his dispassion becomes an asset, even if it kinda weirds people out.”

Long may he reign.

Photo courtesy of HBO

What is the fate of ‘Mad Queen’ Daenerys Targaryen?

“You have freed the people of King’s Landing from the grip of a tyrant! But the war is not over,” Daenerys told her audience, the Unsullied and the Dothraki, in an incredibly sinister Star Wars-like scene. It became clear that she had bigger, more chilling ambitions of world domination astride her last dragon and her ruthless soldiers.

“We will not lay down our spears until we have liberated all the people of the world! From Winterfell to Dorne, from Lannisport to Qarth, from the Summer Isles to the Jade Sea! Women, men, and children have suffered too long beneath the wheel. Will you break the wheel with me?”



With Tyrion’s urging, Jon Snow did the “terrible” but “right” thing. While his queen was deep in his embrace, he plunged a dagger into Daenerys. Like her vision in the House of the Undying, she never got to sit on the throne forged with Balerion the Black Dread’s breath.

On Daenerys’s tragic final moments, here’s what the actress herself had to say in a tell-all interview with The New Yorker:

“I wanted to play a game with what the scene was about. It’s not that I wanted to show her as ‘mad,’ because I really don’t like that word. I don’t enjoy fans calling me ‘the Mad Queen.’ But she’s is so far gone in grief, in trauma, and in pain… I wanted Daenerys to be there. I wanted to show her as we saw her in the beginning: young, naïve, childlike, open, and full of love and hope. I wanted so much for that to be the last memory of her.”

After destroying the Iron Throne, where did Drogon fly off to and where did he bring Daenerys’s body?

One joke making the rounds is that Drogon didn’t incinerate Jon because he associated the pointy dagger used to stab Daenerys with the pointy Iron Throne, which he melted instead (Although as part Targaryen, Jon probably could survive the flames).

Daenerys’s last dragon, however, did show a sign of sentience, as he rushed to his mother as she lay there bloody and dead. One can only assume things about the great beast’s thinking as to why he destroyed the Iron Throne, considering what the great chair meant for his mother.

God knows where the last dragon flew off to, but Bran could probably warg into him to find out – just as he hinted in front of his Great Council.

Photo by Macall B. Polay/HBO

Tyrion betrayed Daenerys. What happened to him?

Tyrion went straight to the cellars of the Red Keep, with the faint hope of seeing signs of his siblings’ escape. Yet he found only their dead, entwined bodies and mourned.

That wasn’t probably the last straw, but when Daenerys confronted him about his treasonous act freeing Jaime in the penultimate episode, he snapped back at her: “I freed my brother, and you slaughtered a city.”

He was thrown in a makeshift dungeon for that, and looking back at the mistakes he made serving the wrong people, he felt that he was no longer up to serve as an advisor to the new King, Bran.

Bran was the third ruler he would serve as Hand, and for a moment, he had wanted to refuse his appointment. But the Three-Eyed-Raven-turned-King pointed out, that he, too, had wanted to concede his election in the Dragonpit.

The new king dropped the mic on Tyrion: “He’s made many terrible mistakes. He’s going to spend the rest of his life fixing them.”

Jon gets shipped off back to the Night’s Watch. But what’s the point, now that the Army of the Dead is gone?

Jon made his way back to Castle Black where good boy Ghost finally gets all the pats and boops he deserves.

But with the Night King, the White Walkers, and the wights all gone – and the peace with the Free Folk – what’s the point of guarding the Realm of Men at the Wall?

The last shot ever in this grand epic sees Jon and Tormund Giantsbane leading the Wildlings back north of the wall. Is he going to live the rest of his life as his first love Ygritte (played by Kit Harington’s wife, Rose Leslie) once did?

Photo by Helen Sloan/HBO

What was the point of the Great War against the Night King and his Army?

The eighth and final season began by building up to this Great War of apocalyptic proportions. But with one stab of the Valyrian catspaw dagger from Arya, that was all over.

The show took great lengths to depict this lore – all the way from the very beginning in the pilot episode to the introduction of the Children of the Forest, the creators of the Night King – the progenitor of the Army of the Dead. Visual symbols were scattered here and there, but all of that were hardly addressed.

Perhaps the prequels will.

Who is the ‘Prince/Princess that was promised’?

“The Long Night is coming. Only the Prince Who Was Promised can bring the dawn,” Melisandre, the Red Priestess of the Lord of Light, once said. “Prophecies are dangerous things. I believe you have a role to play, as does another – the King in the North, Jon Snow.”

The reincarnation of Azor Ahai was one of the significant mythologies partially lifted from the books, and it’s arguably the biggest prophecy in George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire.

But the show is now over, and the next installments in the book series have yet to arrive. The final episode’s big twist of Jon killing Dany, however, seems to have parallels in the legend.

Here’s what Melisandre prophesied in the second book, A Clash of Kings:

“There will come a day after a long summer when the stars bleed and the cold breath of darkness falls heavy on the world. In this dread hour a warrior shall draw from the fire a burning sword. And that sword shall be Lightbringer, the Red Sword of Heroes, and he who clasps it shall be Azor Ahai come again, and the darkness shall flee before him.”

As it was Arya Stark who had killed the Night King and ended the Long Night, there was enough reason to believe that she was the savior of legend.

But perhaps, with Daenerys’s recent villainous turn, it can be said that the prophecy played out and fulfilled differently, against common belief. What if Daenerys is the “darkness” spoken of? Is Jon Snow the Prince That Was Promised, then?

There is also another character in that myth, however, that seems to fit squarely in this episode’s climax: Nissa Nissa, Azor Ahai’s wife, whom he was supposed to kill in order to imbue Lightbringer with its full power.

Read more about the Azor Ahai prophecy’s ties to the final episode in this explainer from Time.

Was there even a point to Jon being revealed as half-Targaryen?

In one of the series’s biggest fulfilled theories, Jon Snow – formerly known as Ned Stark’s bastard son – was revealed to be Aegon Targaryen, the trueborn son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen.

He was a threat to Daenerys’s rule over Westeros, if it wasn’t cut short, that’s for sure. She could’ve executed the sisters he knew while growing up in Winterfell.

But the oath he once again swears to the Night’s Watch entails that he would “take no wife, hold no lands, father no children.” So, at least in the show’s universe, that could be the end of the Targaryen line – or maybe he’ll be naughty again, as he was with Ygritte.

Photo by Helen Sloan/HBO

What happened to the others left in the North before the Fall of King’s Landing?

Sansa was crowned Queen in the North – as she should, having seceded from her younger brother’s realm as an independent kingdom, as it once was.


Brienne is now head of Bran’s Kingsguard (Podrick Payne, her former squire, is under her command). Even after her heartbreaking separation from Jaime Lannister, she saw to it that his heroic legacy was written about in the Book of Brothers.

Davos Seaworth became Bran’s Master of Ships, and he was tasked with rebuilding the royal fleet. (READ: Liam Cunningham talks Melisandre, season 7, and the end of ‘Game of Thrones’)

What about Grey Worm, the Unsullied, and the Dothraki?

The Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea just got murdered, and the Dothraki were seen at the docks in King’s Landing – presumably to join the Unsullied as they sail away from Westeros.

Grey Worm, meanwhile, revealed that he and the Unsullied were sailing to Naath, Missandei’s island home south of Essos (of which little is known about.)

Maybe these former slaves will stand as defenders of Missandei’s home. Maybe they’ll continue the legacy of the late Daenerys, Breaker of Chains.

Photo by Helen Sloan/HBO

Yara Greyjoy?

Actress Gemma Whelan who played the Ironborn queen managed to dodge any response to this question in Rappler’s interview, and this is most likely because she was seen at the Dragonpit council formed in the wake of Daenerys’s death.

The Queen of the Iron Islands managed to escape from her dastardly uncle’s grasp, thanks in part to her brother, Theon. At the council, while she affirmed her allegiance to Daenerys, she nonetheless took part in Bran’s election as King.

Bran also said he lacked a Master of War and Master of Whisperers in his council, so maybe she could also be part of it?

Tyrion promised to pay Bronn of the Blackwater double what Cersei promised: Highgarden. Did the Lannister pay his debt?

Yes, he was named Lord of Highgarden, Lord Paramount of the Reach, and above all these titles: Master of Coin in King Bran’s Great Council.

What happened when Tyrion brought a honeycomb and a jackass into a brothel?

Again, while telling this to Bran’s Great Council, he gets cut off. Obviously, there’s no more chance we’ll get to hear the rest of the punchline on air.

Don’t miss Game of Thrones: The Last Watch, an in-depth feature documentary on the making of the entire hit HBO series. It premieres on HBO and HBO Go next Monday, May 27, at 9 AM in Manila – the same time as the US. There will also be an encore telecast at 9 PM. – Rappler.com

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Paolo Abad

Paolo Abad writes, edits, and shoots for a living. He is one of the founding partners of the online radio platform Manila Community Radio.