This article isn’t about spoilers. We should get that out of the way up front. Perhaps you’re here looking for the latest Reddit leaks or my breakdown of what the season 8 “For The Throne” music album says about how things will end for the Stark family. These are perfectly reasonable ways to pursue the answer to the question we all have — How does Game of Thrones end?
You may also be aware of the fact that I am one of three parts of A Storm of Spoilers, a podcast that just dropped an episode in which season 8’s most delicious spoiler was pushed out into the sunlight. Long may it reign. How can we even begin to have an honest conversation, given what I know? Because we’re not here to talk about that, dear reader.
What I’m admitting today is that it’s time to let that part of it go. I’ve spent a lot of time in my life trying to unwrap my presents before Christmas morning, especially where this show is involved. But my relationship to Game of Thrones is far more than that of a child waiting to unwrap a new toy. I fucking love Game of Thrones. With my whole heart. It’s a piece of entertainment, yes. One that noted philosopher Ian McShane once said was “just tits and dragons.” But for me, it’s also been a source of economic opportunity, a pathway to a warm and inviting community of friends, and a thing people actively like talking to me about (which is great because I have a lot of anxiety). It’s impossible for me to separate the two.
So I don’t want to talk about leaks and spoilers. Instead of that sweet nectar, let’s talk about what this story is all about. I can’t promise that it won’t get a little weird, but I think we should do this together. Considering how long we’ve been at this, it might not even be that hard.
What I believe is that the story of Game of Thrones is about the transcendent moments that face any civilization, be it real or fictional. And the heroes who break free of their histories to meet those moments. It’s a real classic. The difference is that in the world George R.R. Martin built, equal time and attention are given to those who can’t break free from the structures of their society. For as many heroes as this story may end up having, it will take with it an equally large number of victims, villains, and plenty in-between.
The “Song of Ice and Fire” is about the two foundational families of Westeros — the Starks who share blood with the First Men and the Targaryens, who brought fire and magic from Old Valyria. We meet these two houses at a point where they’ve both been almost decimated by a rebellion started because of a love triangle between Robert Baratheon, Rhaegar Targaryen, and Lyanna Stark. We know that Rhaegar and Lyanna’s decision almost destroyed both their houses. And as we’ve watched seven seasons of this story, it’s clear that the baby born of their choice — our reluctant, broody King in the North — is one of the story’s heroes.
Of course, there’s this thing about George R.R. Martin. Just as the world-building of Westeros and Essos is expansive, so too is George’s appetite for complexity. Why have one hero’s journey with a clear path of destiny when you can have two? By splitting The Prince Who Was Promised (for all you book nerds) into two characters, Game of Thrones is now telling us the story of Jon and Daenerys. They both were born as the least among their family. He was a bastard; she was a pawn to be sold off by her brother. They’ve both endured heartbreak, made bad leadership decisions, and both have come back to life from certain death. More importantly, they earned their power in separate, but similar ways.
They should be the ones to finish it. That’s the simple answer.
Maybe the simple answer is right. Maybe it’s Jon and Daenerys, and no one else matters. Everyone else is meat for The Night King’s army.
But what if it’s not that simple?
Finding freedom and power in an unjust world is at the core of the hero’s journey. And this story has two shining examples. We should be ready for the others to die in service of the ending. That is if you believe this story only has two heroes. If we look a little harder, we’ll find more. Like the woman whose father had to teach her to fight because she wouldn’t stop getting beaten up, only to become the noblest knight The Seven Kingdoms have ever seen. Or about the girl, similarly afflicted with a tendency for violence, whose father bought her the right kind of dancing lessons. Or The Lady of Winterfell, whose rise to power was faced with constant, overwhelming odds. An example of how punishing the rise to power can be, her path is littered with lessons learned.
Perhaps the response to the moment requires the coming together of all the wronged parties — Stark, Targaryen, and Baratheon. At every turn, it’s good to have Gendry around.
What I’m saying is that we should expect plenty of surprise heroes to go along with all of the shocking death and destruction. Game of Thrones is littered with heroes who have already risen to the moment.
That’s not to say that there won’t be people we love who aren’t able to escape the game as the real storm closes in. For now, they are a series of question marks. Will The Hound break free of the power fire holds over him? Will Jaime Lannister’s soul be redeemed? What has Tyrion Lannister learned? What is Cersei’s move? What is the place of magic in this world? Did Dorne ever really exist in the first place?
Ok, that last one is a bit of a stretch, I’ll admit. For the rest, I expect some answers. More importantly, these are the answers I believe we’re going to get. That’s what excites me. Not the spoilers. The execution.
How will Game of Thrones end? It will end with six episodes of the most finely crafted show on television. David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, two writers who went from relative obscurity to adapting George R.R. Martin’s novels into the pop culture event of a generation, will deliver the ending that George promised all along. A bittersweet dream at the end of the war between life and death itself. With every dollar on screen and plenty of devilish details. Bitter because this story has always been about consequences. They can fulfill all the prophecies, melt the Iron Throne, and break all the wheels, but there will be a cost. Sweet because we know that this story has plenty of heroes. Heroes who have survived the unexpected, the unthinkable, and the unsurvivable.
It’s going to be difficult to say goodbye to Game of Thrones in six weeks. But just as there will be more from this World of Ice and Fire in the future, I expect that this story will end with the promise of rebirth.
In this series…
- Before season 8 starts, read our guide to where every character left off.
- The most beautiful shots of Game of Thrones, curated by One Perfect Shot.
- Every episode of Game of Thrones, ranked by our own resident Maester.
- Read our in-depth breakdown of the Game of Thrones season 8 trailer.
- We rank the best duels in Game of Thrones.
- Explore our guide to the best Game of Thrones scenes by season.
- We rank the 50 most important props from Game of Thrones.
- Gather your tunics and explore Game of Thrones in 50 Costumes.
- We also ranked the villains on Game of Thrones.
- Brush up on who’s left on Arya’s kill list.
- We try to answer the unanswered questions of Game of Thrones season 8.
- The unlikely victors of Game of Thrones and how they might win.