Unsullied Recap—Game of Thrones, Episode 806—“The Iron Throne”


Spoiler note: “A girl says nothing. A girl keeps her mouth closed. No one hears.” — Girls, boys, and everyone alike, Jaqen H’ghar has spoken, so please remember: Spoilers don’t make friends. Feel free to take book discussions over to our book-reader’s recap here at WIC, but keep all spoilers to yourself. Thank you!

Well, folks, here we are, at the end of an eight-season road. I don’t know whether to be emotional or relieved that I’ll be able to regulate my sleep schedule now that I won’t be writing these recaps ‘til the wee hours of Monday morning. I think it’s a bit of both. Either way, I can’t stop crying, so let’s get into it before the tears — sad, happy, whatever they are — obscure my vision completely.

We begin in the aftermath of Daenerys’ attack on King’s Landing. Tyrion leads the walk into the city, littered with the debris of fallen buildings, charred corpses, and small fires still crackling here and there.

Despite Jon’s insistence that he not venture further unaccompanied, Tyrion breaks off from the group. He heads to what remains of the Red Keep, where he wanders, continuing to survey the destruction of Daenerys’ wrath. He goes down into the castle’s depths, perhaps with the hope of evidence that Jaime and Cersei escaped, per his instructions. Any hope is dashed when he spots Jaime’s golden hand and then, after shunting aside a shallow layer of rubble, he finds his siblings’ bodies.

Aside from the whole “being dead” bit, they don’t look all that much worse for wear, considering they were crushed to death. But then, anything gory would have detracted from the poetry of the scene, so I’m not complaining.

Tyrion mourns them, maybe even blaming himself for their loss. His grief is not discussed, so we can only guess based on our own understandings of Tyrion’s character.

Back in the city streets, Grey Worm is sentencing a small group of Lannister soldiers to death, as ordered by Daenerys. Jon and Davos try to stop him.

"DAVOS: “How much more defeated do you want them to be? They’re on their knees.”"

And yet, it’s not enough.

When Jon puts a hand on Grey Worm to halt him, the Unsullied heft their spears in warning. After a word from Davos, Jon leaves to speak to Daenerys about this particular decree. But it’s too late for the men who have already been captured; they’re executed on the spot.

Separately, Jon and Arya approach the castle steps. The Unsullied stand stoic as ever, and the Dothraki are cheering as they await their queen’s arrival. She doesn’t keep them waiting long, as she and Drogon fly overhead until they reach the near-demolished entrance of the Red Keep. At the top of the steep steps, Daenerys appears while, behind her, Drogon’s wings spread, framing her perfectly and giving off a major Angel of Death and/or Maleficent vibes. It’s actually pretty rad, as far as villainous fashion sense goes.

She addresses her gathered troops, and alludes to the speech she gave to them in season 6, which was itself a spin on the one Khal Drogo gave them in season 1:

"You kept all your promises to me. You killed my enemies in their iron suits. You tore down their stone houses. You gave me the Seven Kingdoms!"

Once she’s named Grey Worm her Master of War, Daenerys goes on to say that the war’s not yet done. Tyrion and Jon exchange looks of consternation as their queen speaks of liberation.

"You have freed the people of King’s Landing from the grip of a tyrant! But the war is not over. We will not lay down our spears until we have liberated all the people of the world! […] Women, men, and children have suffered too long beneath the wheel. Will you break the wheel with me?"

Here we see that Daenerys is intent on her mission to conquer, but not necessarily to rule. Now that she has the Iron Throne, it’s not enough. She won’t stop until she has the entire world under her thumb. The backdrop to her grand speech does not present the picture of the better, more peaceful world she claims to want: Smoke hangs heavy in the air, the castle is crumbling, her dragon is screeching, and her armies — both of which either crave violence (the Dothraki), or were raised to live by it (the Unsullied) — wield their weapons still.

As her troops cheer, Tyrion approaches until they stand side-by-side.

"DAENERYS: “You freed your brother. You committed treason.”TYRION: “I freed my brother. And you slaughtered a city.”"

In an open act of defiance, he removes the Hand of the Queen pin Daenerys had bequeathed him in season 6 and tosses it down the steps. Tyrion has seen her burn a surrendering city, he’s lost what was left of his family because of it; his faith in Daenerys is irreparably broken, and he won’t pretend otherwise. She has him taken prisoner, just as she said she would if he ever failed her again.

When she walks off, Arya meets Jon at the top of the castle steps. She warns him against keeping an alliance with Daenerys: “She knows who you are, who you really are. You’ll always be a threat to her. And I know a killer when I see one.”

Jon goes to see Tyrion in his makeshift cell. They speak at length of Daenerys’ moral standing and her leadership capabilities, and how important it is that they decide what’s to be done immediately. There is no longer time to debate the nuances of right versus wrong, but debate it they do.

"JON: “I can’t justify what happened. I won’t try. But the war is over now.”TYRION: “Is it? When you heard her talking to her soldiers, did she sound like someone who’s done fighting?”"

Nope, she literally said “the war is not over,” although I suppose Jon couldn’t understand that part.

Despite his claim that he won’t try to justify what Daenerys did, Jon sure does offer up a lot of defense for her actions, as well as her character on the whole. From “she’s not her father” to a reminder of some of her trials, he doesn’t leave any stone unturned. This all comes on the heels of Jon’s obvious horror as he watched the city fall to fire and blood, and now suddenly he’s got an explanation for all of it?

You know, my one big beef with this season is what’s up with Jon. Maybe he’s just in the angsty throes of an existential crisis, but he can’t seem to make up his mind. It’s as though he abandoned his sense of self somewhere in season 7. There was so much emphasis on him not following in the shadow of Ned and Robb’s mistakes, of not becoming a “Northern fool,” and yet… here we are.

I think Ygritte really had something there with that whole “You know nothing, Jon Snow” thing. I miss her. But I digress.

Tyrion asks Jon if he would have done the same as Daenerys. He has Targaryen blood, he’s felt the power of flying a dragon, but the question is — would Jon embrace that madness? Would he abuse that power?

Tyrion then quite succinctly sums up Daenerys’ development:

"When she murdered the slavers of Astapor, I’m sure no one but the slavers complained. After all, they were evil men. When she crucified hundreds of Meereenese nobles, who could argue? They were evil men. The Dothraki khals she burned alive? They would have done worse to her. Everywhere she goes, evil men die and we cheer her for it. And she grows more powerful and more sure that she is good and right. She believes her destiny is to build a better world for everyone. If you believed that, if you truly believed it, wouldn’t you kill whoever stood between you and paradise?"

And there it is — when one is constantly lauded for their triumphs, how will they ever see it on those occasions when they go wrong? Fire and blood has worked in Daenerys’ favor all along, so how can she be convinced to stop the cycle of violence when it’s consistently gotten her what she wants?

Jon quotes Maester Aemon’s words: “Love is the death of duty.” Tyrion counters, “Sometimes, duty is the death of love.” And once again, I can’t even begin to get in Jon’s head here. I don’t know this guy, who would sacrifice innocent lives for the sake of one person’s ambition, regardless of his feelings for said person. It’s like he’s been bodysnatched. Or maybe I’m just too tired to try to figure him out.

In a last-ditch effort to make Jon see some sense of the greater good, Tyrion implores him to think of his sisters — what they want, and the unlikelihood that they’ll bend the knee.

"JON: “[Sansa] doesn’t get to choose.”TYRION: “No, but you do. And you have to choose now.”"

As Jon makes his way to do just that, we see that the Red Keep is covered in ash. It blankets the grounds and the castle like a snowstorm, obscuring even Drogon from view at first look.

Daenerys is within, approaching the Iron Throne, which has been left standing even as the walls around it have fallen. She looks at it the same way I look at Kinder chocolates whenever I manage to get my hands on them, so, like, I get it.

Jon isn’t too far behind. When he arrives, Daenerys starts to tell him of how magnificent the throne sounded to her when her brother told her stories of it, but Jon is, finally, all business. He demands to know why the execution of prisoners was “necessary” and he wants to know whether she’s seen the city since the attack: “Have you been down there? Have you seen? Children, little children, burned!”

I’m glad you understand the magnitude of the situation, Jon. So is this the part where you start making excuses for her again, or what? I don’t know what angle you wanna work this time, I can’t read minds!

As it happens, this time, Daenerys makes her own excuses. She blames Cersei for “[using] their innocence as a weapon against me,” which is true, but the city also surrendered itself, so it’s hard to point fingers here.

Jon begs her to grant Tyrion forgiveness, to do one merciful thing so that he can keep believing she’s as good as he wants her to be. She insists that her world will be right and just, because “I know what is good.”

It’s all very Because I said so, that’s why.

"JON: “What about everyone else? All the other people who think they know what’s good?”DAENERYS: “They don’t get to choose.”"

She says it as though it’s a given, that her sense of right and wrong is uncontestedly the truly right way of thinking. Just one scene ago, Jon said something similar (that Sansa didn’t get to choose), but hearing that sentiment from someone else makes him realize how wrong it is. Where there is no choice, there is no liberation, no matter how adamant Daenerys is that that’s what she’s doing.

She proposes that Jon be with her, that they “break the wheel together.” Jon tells her that she is his queen, they kiss, and before the music can really swell to its romantic crescendo, Jon stabs Daenerys, killing her almost instantly.

Daenerys dies with no grandiosity; rather, she is reduced to being just like everyone else, just as easily cut down by a sword, dragons or no. Just as her season 2 vision in the House of the Undying foretold, she fell short of the Iron Throne at the last moment.

As she bleeds out, Drogon appears to nose at her lifeless body. In a surprising turn of events, this tugged at my heartstrings a bit; it’s the first time I’ve felt sympathy for the dragon, when most of the time I thought he was just the spoiled, clearly favored child. While this is still true, it still got a little “aw” out of me.

It seems as though he might burn Jon, but instead Drogon destroys the Iron Throne, as the desire for it and all it represented destroyed his mother. He flies off into the sky with Daenerys’ body in his grasp, disappearing into the fog to places unknown. If we subscribe to the notion that he embodies Drogo’s spirit, this may symbolize Daenerys reuniting with him and their son in some kind of afterlife, which was another one of her visions during her time in Qarth.

Some indeterminate amount of time after Daenerys’ death, Grey Worm escorts Tyrion to the Dragonpit, where the lords and ladies of Westeros are gathered. Named characters include the Starks, Samwell Tarly, Yara Greyjoy, Robin Arryn, Yohn Royce, Edmure Tully, Gendry, Davos, Brienne, and Podrick. Others remain unidentified representatives of other houses.

Sansa demands to know Jon’s whereabouts, as he was meant to be brought forth as well. Grey Worm informs her that he is a prisoner of the Unsullied, which she already knew. So she makes the North’s position on the matter a little more clear when she tells him, “If you look outside the walls of your city, you’ll find thousands of Northmen who will explain to you why harming Jon Snow is not in your interest.”

Mess with the wolf, you get the fangs. Sansa, you’re doing great, sweetie!

Yara, too, wants Jon dead on the grounds of treason. This time it’s Arya who nips that in the bud with an out-and-out threat: “Say another word about killing my brother, and I’ll cut your throat.”

My heart goes out to you, Yara Greyjoy, but I’m with Arya here. Theon didn’t die fighting for the Starks just so the two families could go to war with one another all over again.

Davos is in a similar frame of mind, as he intervenes before things can get bloody again. He offers the Reach to the Unsullied, but Grey Worm rejects it as a form of payment; he wants justice for Daenerys instead.

The group turns to a discussion of how they’re meant to decide anyone’s fate, without a monarch to declare the final word. Tyrion reminds them that they’re all in charge, so they can simply pick a new one. No one seems to have considered this at all, as silence falls and Edmure almost throws his hat in the ring, but Sansa saves her uncle from further embarrassment by bidding him to sit.

Oh, Edmure. Some things never change.

Sam’s suggestion of a democracy is met with derision, as most present mock the idea that the common people should have a say in who rules them. The Westerosi one-percent are a real hilarious bunch.

Once the laughter at their bad, privileged jokes has died down, Tyrion spins some more choice dialogue in his nomination for the next ruler of the Seven Kingdoms.

"What unites people? Armies? Gold? Flags? Stories. There’s nothing in the world more powerful than a good story. Nothing can stop it. No enemy can defeat it. And who has a better story than Bran the Broken? The boy who fell from a high tower and lived. He knew he’d never walk again, so he learned to fly. He crossed beyond the Wall, a crippled boy, and became the Three-Eyed Raven. He is our memory, the keeper of all our stories. The wars, weddings, births, massacres, famines. Our triumphs, our defeats, our past. Who better to lead us into the future?"

For all the theories around Bran’s purpose, this is what he’s meant to do. He doesn’t want for anything, so he can’t be tempted for more. He has no desire for power or wealth or accolades. He only does what he knows needs to be done, plain and simple.

His inability to father heirs is yet another benefit to this new system. They will “break the wheel” of succession, so that from now on, people (the nobles, anyway) will have a choice in their leader. Right now, Bran accepts that their choice is him, as if he’d known it all along, as he tells Tyrion, “Why do you think I came all this way?”

Sansa stays true to her convictions when she voices her concern for the North, and what they have come to want after so many years of upheaval.

"I love you, little brother. I always will. You’ll be a good king. But tens of thousands of Northmen fell in the Great War defending all of Westeros. And those who survived have seen too much and fought too hard ever to kneel again. The North will remain an independent kingdom, as it was for thousands of years."

With a simple nod, Bran agrees. All three Starks share soft, fond smiles, perhaps knowing that they’ve finally achieved what Robb and Catelyn fought and died for. Their home is free, and so are they.

Bran names Tyrion his Hand. Neither of them particularly want their positions of power, but accept it as their duty.

And so, “Bran the Broken” is hailed as King of the Six Kingdoms. The Iron Throne, with all its pomp and power and violent history, is replaced by a humble boy in a wheelchair. It’s quite the satisfying end to that ugly old chair.

Now, the tables have turned, and Tyrion meets Jon in his makeshift prison cell. He comes bearing the news that Jon is to be sent to the Night’s Watch. Sansa and Arya wanted him free and the Unsullied wanted him dead, so exile is the compromise upon which Bran had to land.

They talk for a moment about whether what they did in betraying Daenerys was right, and come to no real conclusion. It was less a matter of right and wrong, and more of necessity if they wanted to end the war and usher in a true era of peace. Jon expects that he and Tyrion won’t meet again, but the latter disagrees as he refers to their journey north together back in season 1:

"A few years as Hand of the King would make anyone want to piss off the edge of the world."

Jon finally gets a decent haircut, and the Starks meet on the docks to say their farewells. Jon exchanges a meaningful goodbye with each of them, all demonstrating the different relationships he has with the respective members of his family.

He gives Sansa validation, acknowledging that she’s the leader the North needs. He makes sure that Arya still has Needle, as she means to head out on another adventure, to go find “what’s west of Westeros.” And he apologizes to Bran for not being there when he was needed, but Bran assures him that he was “exactly where you were supposed to be.”

I’m not crying, you’re crying.

In the Red Keep, Brienne sits with the White Book, where a record of all knightly deeds are kept. We last saw the book in season 4, when Joffrey mocked Jaime for his lack of recorded accomplishments. Now Brienne, the newly appointed Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, takes it upon herself to record all that Jaime had done in service to his queen. It’s a private romantic gesture, one last look at the relationship between Brienne and Jaime, before she closes the book — literally and metaphorically — and moves on.

The new Small Council convenes, consisting of Tyrion, Bronn, Davos, Sam, and Brienne. There’s plenty of light comic relief in this scene: Tyrion is teased for not being included in an archmaester’s history of the post-Robert Baratheon wars (aptly named A Song of Ice and Fire); Bronn finally gets his lands and titles, so it looks like he won’t be shooting Tyrion with a crossbow after all; Davos channels Stannis’ spirit when he corrects Bronn’s grammar; and there is an overall sense of camaraderie around the table.

Bran notes that the council is missing a master of whisperers (as if anyone else needs to tell him secrets), laws, and war, and Tyrion assures him that CVs will be arriving posthaste. Bran then asks after Drogon’s whereabouts, of which no one is precisely sure, but: “Perhaps I can find him. Do carry on with the rest.”

Podrick, now in the Kingsguard, wheels him away to do Three-Eyed Raven things, and the Small Council is left to it. They begin to discuss the new world they’re building from the ashes — food supplies, ports and ships and sewers, brothels (if Bronn has his way), and funding for all of it. As the scene fades out, Tyrion once more begins to tell a story the audience has never heard the dirty details of: “I once brought a jackass and a honeycomb into a brothel…”

The series ends with the remaining major players in places of personal strength: Tyrion as Hand of the King, Bronn as an easily bought ally, Sam as grand maester, Davos as master of ships, Brienne serving a king worthy of her loyalty, Podrick just helping everybody out, and Grey Worm headed to Naath, just as he and Missandei had planned to do together.

As for the Starks, we have a couple of scenes left to go. While Bran fulfills his higher purpose in his reign as king, Jon, Sansa, and Arya have their own journeys to embark upon.

When he arrives at Castle Black, Jon is reunited with Tormund, Ghost (hooray for the good boy!), and a retinue of Free Folk. Once the gates close, we move on to cut-together scenes as we follow each Stark into their new life.

The Starks are all following their own paths now, instead of being forced into them the way they were at the beginning. This is a sort of positive mirror of where they found themselves in the early seasons, and offers a promising life for them all.

Bran is no longer a lost boy unsure of his purpose in the world, but rather the king who will bring that world into a brighter future.

Arya is off to find adventure. She’s not forced to flee under the guise of any aliases, nor is she motivated by revenge. Instead of seeking out to be a person she isn’t, she embraces this new chapter of her life as Arya Stark, and announces her identity loud and clear, upon a ship with a direwolf figurehead and her family’s sigil on the mast.

Sansa has earned her place as queen not through marriage or force or fear, but because her people love her for leading them out of war and setting them free. The North bows as she enters Winterfell’s great hall, a double-headed direwolf crown is placed upon her head, and her subjects raise their swords and declare her “Queen in the North!” And then there’s me, sobbing like that video of Kristen Bell when her husband hired a sloth to come to her birthday party.

Jon is farther North, as he and the Free Folk leave the edge of Westeros behind. He may be sworn to the Night’s Watch, but in a way he’s finally free, bound by neither a bastard name nor the burden of being the heir to the Iron Throne. I may not have understood anything this clown was doing all season, but this I get. He is neither Stark nor Targaryen, but has found where he belongs.

We end the story where we began: in the lands beyond Castle Black, only this time, the danger is done with. From one scene to the next, the audience is left with a sense of hopefulness for the future of Westeros and the characters within. Not all is settled, but the story concludes on the brink of change, of prosperity, and overall betterment.

So we are left with these and other questions to ponder: Is the world free of supernatural powers and threats for good? Where has Drogon gone? Will the Starks reunite again, and how will their line live on? Will Westeros ever become a democracy, or are all the rich people just going to keep making fun of the idea? And how many of my fellow Unsullied will be checking out the book series now? George R.R. Martin has said both the books and the show come to the same end, but what have us non-readers missed along the way? I’m planning to find out.

There is so much remaining for fans to explore. I don’t think we could have ended this series on a finer note than that — on the precipice of a better world for the characters, and so much unchartered territory for the fans to continue to enjoy. The show may be over and the books coming to a close with just two more, but we can keep this story going for ourselves.

As far as our Sunday nights are concerned, though… Our watch is ended.

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