"Many of the criticisms about 'The Iron Throne' are perfectly valid," says Jen Chaney of the series finale. "My concern about the rabid nature of the anti–Game of Thrones finale movement, which echoes the Lost backlash, is that it overemphasizes the importance of an ending. Everyone wants stories they enjoy to solidly land all their wheels on the runway and glide to a satisfying stop. But the last moment is not the only one that matters. If you enjoyed most of Game of Thrones up until this past season, then you didn’t waste eight years of your life watching it. It just didn’t end the way you wanted it to. Frankly, that is not a TV show’s job. A TV show’s job is to move you and transport you and make you believe in the world and characters it has built. Game of Thrones definitely struggled on that last front in its eighth season, but that shouldn’t negate what it accomplished and how enthralling it was for so many years." Chaney adds: "It’s inadequate to judge an entire TV show on its last episodes. To consider shows like Lost or Game of Thrones — both of which raised the bar for the scope and scale of television storytelling — solely on the quality of their finales is like assessing the value of a Shakespeare play based on its last page or the quality of Anna Karenina solely on the part where Anna throws herself in front of the train...To reduce either one to a bad finale or a bad season is, well, reductive, especially for series that are so deliberately sprawling." Chaney suggests letting the series finale sit in your brain before it ruins the entire series. "That’s another thing: Our view of how effectively a piece of pop culture achieves what it’s set out to achieve can shift, positively or negatively, as time progresses," says Chaney. "But we’re so conditioned to have knee-jerk responses to every blessed thing that we form quick opinions, and then, sometimes, we stubbornly cling to them. When those opinions harden into an overall reputation, that doesn’t fully capture what a show meant or what it did."
Tyrion subtly won Game of Thrones: "If the winner of Game of Thrones is the person who holds the greatest power at the end, Tyrion Lannister is our reluctant, diminutive victor," says Vlad Savov. "I would argue that this interpretation is the one the Game of Thrones writers want us to come away with. For literal years, they’ve been illustrating the toxicity of the throne, the way it ironically disempowers its occupier until they eventually die. When the young and recklessly vile Joffrey Baratheon sat on the throne, did he rule? Was his successor, Tommen, ever in charge? Conversely, when the elder Tywin Lannister ruled the kingdoms, he never needed to sit on the throne. Nor did the High Sparrow need to be in the throne room to control all of King’s Landing."
The choice of Bran could've worked brilliantly if he had told his story himself: "That narrative power is real, as in the case of Shireen, but it came not from having a story but from telling it and persuading others of its truth," says Amy Davidson Sorkin. "And we didn’t see a trace of that in Bran’s ascension. He generally fails to speak in anything other than fractured, gnomic phrases. He doesn’t tend to connect. And, to the extent that he filled people with awe, it was in dark rooms in Winterfell, the Starks’ castle. How do the other lords even know his story? And yet what’s frustrating is that the choice of Bran could have worked brilliantly if he had, indeed, become the teller of the story of himself—if, for example, he had addressed each of the paramount lords and ladies who served as electors in a way that revealed that he knew their secrets and desires. He might have taken a turn that showed him to be regal or ruthless, doling out just the right favors or threats."
Game of Thrones was an epic tale of incremental change: "The oddest aspect of the long-awaited, much derided, but actually pretty good finale of Game of Thrones is that it tries to sell an aristocratic coup as a glorious revolution," says Isaac Butler. "Convincing the Grey Worm, leader of the Unsullied and a former slave, that ending hereditary monarchy will break 'the wheel' of Westeros may be Tyrion’s greatest rhetorical gambit. It takes real chutzpah to tell a heavily armed man who wants to murder you that you’ve actually figured out how to fulfill the mandate of his beloved queen, whose assassination you planned. But convincing the show’s audience to see this as a happy ending is an even bigger task."
A British historian found the democracy joke "amusing": "Because instead of a huge leap forward, the final constitutional settlement took medieval history further backwards: to the Anglo-Saxon system of monarch-electing Witan councils instead of Norman system of hereditary primogeniture," says Greg Jenner, a regular on British history shows. "Worth remembering #GoT is set in a fictional world largely based on 15th century European history. So, the idea of a Florentine republic could have been suggested too. Democracy was a joke about modern fans, I think."
Christie discusses Brienne's sex scene with Jaime Lannister: "Brienne chooses to have sex with Jaime Lannister. In that moment, in the scene, what I thought was so useful about it was that it’s so clearly marked: There’s a moment where she chooses to be in charge and to take control of her own life. Throughout the series, we haven’t seen Brienne act on her own impulses very often. She’s not a self-serving character. And she chooses to do something for herself."