Imagine If Game of Thrones Had A Good Ending?

Alex Turner-Cohen’s ‘Imagine If’ column looks at implications for the future, and radical experiments from the past. Image: UTSoC Creative

Alex Turner-Cohen’s ‘Imagine If’ column looks at implications for the future, and radical experiments from the past. Image: UTSoC Creative

Were you disappointed with how Game of Thrones ended? Alex Turner-Cohen writes an alternate ending to the fantasy epic that went terribly wrong. Also: major spoilers alert.

As I watched the GoT finale in my pyjamas while clutching a fluffy blanket, I couldn’t get the bitter taste of disappointment out of my mouth.

I have two words for you. King Bran. *shocked expression* I’m sorry, what? He’s arguably the most boring and lifeless character on the show (literally not even human anymore), and he ended up with the position that everyone has been fighting for.

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I understand the writers didn’t want the ending to be predictable. But ultimately, no one could have predicted how bad it would be.  

With the petition to rewrite GoT reaching over 1 million signatures, suffice to say that everyone shared my sentiment.

Rushed endings, character assassination and implausible scenes. In only two episodes, the writers utterly destroyed the genius of the previous seven seasons. That, in itself, is quite an achievement.

But I’ve come up with the perfect ending (with a little help from the internet).

First of all: What went wrong

To rewrite a satisfying ending, I first have to identify what went wrong. Everything started to unravel in the last two episodes. The second last episode, ‘The Bells’, and the finale ‘The Iron Throne’ committed writing suicide, though both for different reasons.

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The Bells

 This episode was utter character assassination. After watching Daenerys grow from being a timid victim to a force for the good, all of her character development was thrown to the wind.

Daenerys became arguably the worst villain of all time, certainly the worst villain on Game of Thrones. She burned hundreds of thousands of people to death FOR NO REASON.

Game of Thrones has dragons, faceless men and armies of the undead. But I find that more believable than Daenerys’s actions in the penultimate episode.

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 Daenerys is the breaker of chains. She imprisoned her dragons for a year after they recklessly killed a child. This is the woman who lost her khalasar because she defended a rape victim. Daenerys had just risked her life, and the lives of all her soldiers, to fight against the White Walkers.

Only two episodes later, she’s burning people to death because she can.

 Granted, she was grief-stricken. She’d lost two dragons. Jorah Mormont, her most devoted supporter, had died protecting her. Jon no longer loved her romantically because he wasn’t a fan of incest. And finally Missandei was beheaded on Cersei’s orders.

 This still doesn’t explain Daenerys’s sudden descent into tyranny.

 The city had surrendered. King’s Landing had rung the bells. And then Daenerys decided to burn everyone anyway. Surrendering enemy soldiers, innocent men, women and children and even her own troops got caught in the cross-fire (or cross-dragon-fire).

If she hated Cersei so much, why didn’t she make a beeline for the Red Keep? Why didn’t she kill Cersei? Instead, she systematically scissored her way through the far end of King’s Landing, burning everyone in her wake, and also giving Cersei ample time to escape.

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 Think about Jaime Lannister. He had a massive character arc. Over the space of several seasons, he went from being the ultimate bad guy (Kingslayer, screwing his sister, pushing Bran out the window, crippling Ned Stark) to being someone we sympathised with. He was captured, he lost his hand saving Brienne, he was justified in killing the mad king, he betrayed Cersei to fight against the White Walkers.

 But Daenerys had a much bigger character shift, and a much smaller amount of time for it to happen. And I’m just not buying it.

The final episode: The Iron Throne

 This episode wasn’t so much a finale as it was a wrap-up.

The story lost all momentum the moment Jon plunged a knife into Daenerys’s heart. Writing tip 101: NEVER PUT A TIME LAPSE IN YOUR FINALE! It kills all the energy. Even though ‘The Bells’ had a huge character problem, it still had all the tension and drama that kept me literally on the edge of my seat (and sometimes even hiding around the corner.) But this episode lacked all the life that usually makes GoT such a standout.

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 Right after Jon killed the love of his life, we jumped ahead. The writers completely skipped over the moment when Jon had to explain himself. What would he have said to Grey Worm? How did Grey Worm not kill Jon on the spot after admitting he murdered the queen?

And what’s more, Grey Worm allows Tyrion to decide EVERYTHING at the meeting between the lords and ladies of Westeros. Tyrion, who conspired to kill Queen Daenerys, chooses who should sit on the iron throne!

They conclude that BRAN has the most interesting story to tell. Ironically, Bran sits between Sansa — who survived not one but two engagements to powerful psychopaths and reclaimed her homeland Winterfell — and Arya — who became a faceless assassin, killed the Night King and saved the entire world. But yeah nah, Bran the Broken who lets others die to save him and can turn into a crow definitely has the best story.

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Grey Worm accepts Bran as King, even though Bran is the brother of Queen Daenerys’s murderer. The Unsullied General had no say at all even though he holds all the power (the armies, ownership of the capital and Jon Snow’s life in his hands.)

Further, the entire message of the previous eight seasons is disregarded when all the lords of Westeros agree wholeheartedly that Bran should be King. If it was that easy for people to relinquish power, then why have we watched 80 hours of GoT that say otherwise?

 A Stark imprisoned for treason in King’s Landing. Does this sound familiar? This is exactly what happened to Ned Stark in season 1, starting the conflict that took 73 episodes to resolve. In the final episode, the exact same situation is fixed within half an hour.

 Not to mention all that wasted potential. Was there any reason for Jon Snow to be Aegon Targaryen, the rightful heir?

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 Also, what’s going to happen to the Dothraki now? There’s no way they’re going to accept a cripple as a leader and Grey Worm has no control over them. Are they just going to pillage and rape Westerosi?

 Also, the Unsullied sailed to the other side of the world. So why tf is Jon still exiled?

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 Here’s my favourite characters’ endings:

  •  Daenerys: knife in the heart.

  • Arya: sailing west.

  • Sansa: Queen of the north, BUT with no likelihood of ever seeing any other Starks again.

  • Jon: banished for all eternity in the far north, never to rule or love again.

  • Tyrion: Somehow is the hand of a THIRD monarch on the iron throne. BUT the writers added that he’s not mentioned at all in the history of the Seven Kingdoms. This accentuates how dwarves, bastards, women and all other ‘down-troddens’ (as Tyrion calls them) are still forgotten in history, and nothing has changed from the beginning of the show.

Rumour has it that the GoT writers are in hiding. So perhaps this is how they could have satisfied disappointed fans.

Alternative ending

 Imagine that I have the same constraints as the writers. Only six episodes to wrap up the entire series.

 I would keep the first two episodes of Season 8 untouched. However, ‘the Long Night’ and the three episodes afterwards have to change.

Four episodes. Altering four episodes, in my opinion, ensures a satisfying ending to the epic fantasy saga.

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Ep 3 Rewritten: The Long Night

 Game of Thrones started with the White Walkers so it should also end with them. The very first scene of the hit TV series wasn’t a court intrigue, or an introduction to the Starks, or a tale about the iron throne. It began with three men in a forest getting killed by the undead.

 Although I thought episode 3, ‘The Long Night’ was a fantastic episode (especially the bad-ass ending with Arya), it shouldn’t have happened halfway through the season. The Night King should be defeated much later.

Picture this.

The White Walkers attack Winterfell. Everything happens as in the original episode. The Dothraki charge with fiery swords, and their lights go out one by one. Daenerys and Jon ride the dragons. Lyanna Mormont kills a giant then dies herself. Beric Dondarrion dies saving Arya (the significance of this is not lost on anyone). Jorah dies for Daenerys. Theon dies for Bran (a fantastic redemption arc).

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Except in this version, Arya doesn’t kill the Night King. He wins. The survivors of Winterfell have to flee. Grey Worm’s Unsullied hold the retreat as the survivors escape. Surprisingly, the White Walkers don’t follow. They watch the living run away.

That’s because Bran has been the target all along. The Night King wants to kill Bran, because somewhere in Bran’s vast knowledge, he knows how to stop the Long Night. Once the Night King has killed Bran, he can kill everyone else at his leisure.

 Right before the Night King is about to kill Bran at the Weirwood tree, Daenerys and Jon attack on their dragons.

They manage to kill the Night King’s dragon. Jon falls from his dragon and has the much-anticipated sword fight with the Night King. Jon is about to die, so Daenerys takes a gamble and gets Drogon to breathe fire. Jon survives (because of his Targaryen blood).

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Unfortunately the Night King also survives. Jon stabs the Night King while he’s distracted by the flames, but nothing happens. He pulls the sword out of himself. Dragon glass and/or valyrian steel cannot defeat him.

Bran, Daenerys and Jon escape on the two dragons, and live to fight another day.

The episode ends when the Night King raises the dead. The lifeless eyes of Jorah, Theon and Lyanna turn blue.

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Ep 4 Rewritten: Southward-Bound

The survivors flee south. But as we all know, nothing good happens when Starks go south.

 Daenerys, Jon, Sansa, Varys and Tyrion decide to make their last stand at King’s Landing. It’s the only place big enough to hold back the White Walkers. Cersei’s huge armies plus Daenerys’s two dragons are now their only hope of protecting Bran until he discovers the truth about the Night King.

 Although the living had a head start, it’s still a race to reach King’s Landing in time. Jon burns bridges once they’ve crossed them hoping to slow down the White Walkers.

Jon tells Arya and Sansa the truth about his parents.

Daenerys and co. finally arrive at King’s Landing, wounded and exhausted. Their army is a pitiful size.

A massive arrow hits Daenerys’s dragon Rhaegar (the one originally killed by Euron Greyjoy.) Two more arrows follow. The dragon drops, dead.

Watching from the ramparts, Queen Cersei is about to give the order to kill everyone.

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 Jaime begs Cersei to stop. He explains what has happened. Cersei’s troops surround the survivors and Cersei walks through them. She says she will allow them into King’s Landing, but only if Daenerys bends the knee.

 Daenerys must swallow her pride and put the greater good before herself. In an excruciatingly painful moment, Daenerys bows to Cersei.

The Lannister troops then take Daenerys, Jon, Tyrion, Varys, Grey Worm, Sansa, all other leaders and even Jaime into custody. Cersei imprisons them in the Red Keep. 

Drogon is also captured. Daenerys watches her dragon trussed up like a pig.

Then the moment we’ve all been waiting for: Daenerys and Cersei have a one-on-one conversation. Queen to queen, enemy to enemy, woman to woman. Daenerys speaks through the bars of her cell.

Ep 5 Rewritten: Ice and Fire

This will be the final battle (I promise), which will occur during daylight.

Cersei puts the northerners and Daenerys’s Unsullied (as well as the very few remaining Dothraki) on the front-lines, with Lannister commanders.

While everyone prepares for battle, Bran is in a trance-like state in the Red Keep, desperately searching for clues about how to kill the Night King.

The battle begins. It’s chaos without Grey Worm, Daenerys and Jon controlling their troops.

Cersei comes to the dungeons and orders everyone be released, including the dragon, as they need everyone they can get. Jon is confused by Cersei’s actions. Cersei removes her face to reveal she’s Arya.

Jon commands the northern troops and Daenerys rides her dragon. It feels like the tide is turning. Fewer and fewer dead men are coming through.

Tyrion and Sansa sense something isn’t right. They climb the bell tower, and to their horror, see that White Walkers are attacking from behind.

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It’s so cold that the sea water has frozen. Blackwater Bay has become an ice pond. And now the undead are marching over, heading for King’s Landing’s unprotected rear.

Word gets to Daenerys. Drogon breathes fire on the icy waters. The ice melts and the undead sink to the bottom of the ocean, never to be seen again.

Back in the Red Keep, Bran has discovered an important memory. Centuries ago, the Night King was dipped in a magical, swirling river by his left foot (Hence all the swirly symbols.) Bran believes the Night King’s left foot is his only weakness.

This news spreads across the living. The Night King retreats behind his army. The living have thousands of White Walkers standing between them and the Night King.

Daenerys flies towards the Night King but Drogon gets badly wounded. She has to fight on foot. Drogon flies away. It now appears impossible to reach the Night King.

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Arya is on the battlements of the Red Keep. Melissandre tells Arya about how she can change her eye colour to ice-blue. Arya’s face lights up in understanding.

Jon and Daenerys fight side by side.

A White Walker approaches Daenerys and she realises it’s Jorah. Anguished, she hesitates. They start fighting but it’s obvious she’s outmatched.

Jon single-handedly fights a White Walker giant, but he’s losing.

The director cuts to all our favourite characters. We see Sam fighting a White Walker. Brienne and Jaime fight beside one another, backed into a corner. Sansa and Tyrion are fighting nearby. Euron dies (Yay!) Cersei is in the Red Keep, drinking wine and looking sad. Grey Worm and Missandei are near each other.

The Night King looks satisfied with his handiwork. Then, completely out of the blue, Arya attacks, screaming. The Night King stops her just in time. She switches her dagger to her other hand and uses her bad-ass knife-throwing skills to hurl the dagger into his left foot. It plunges inside the flesh. The Night King shudders then shatters.

Every White Walker disintegrates.

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 Ep 6 Rewritten: The Iron Throne

 While everyone is celebrating and/or mourning, Cersei orders the slaughter of all those loyal to Daenerys.

Jaime reaches her side and tries to dissuade her. In answer, Cersei tells the Mountain to bring back Daenerys’s head.

 Jon and Daenerys are with their followers. At some point Daenerys says to Jon: “I have to tell you something.”

 Cut to Gregor Clegane heading towards Daenerys, killing any northerner/Unsullied/Dothraki in his way. Having not been involved in any of the fighting, Gregor is not battle-weary or wounded.

 Before Daenerys can finish telling Jon whatever she wanted to say, Lannister troops start surrounding them. Wounded, Drogon is nowhere to be seen. Cersei’s soldiers vastly outnumber the rest. There’s a standoff, both sides holding their swords warily and wearily.

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Jump back to the Mountain. He’s cutting down everyone in his way. Then out comes the Hound. Sandor Clegane charges at his older brother.

Cersei talks to Jaime back at the Red Keep. They can rule together, she says. They’ve vanquished all their enemies.

Cersei and Jaime kiss. Then we hear a stabbing sound. Jaime has killed her (much like how Jon killed Daenerys in the original.) Cersei dies in his arms, looking shocked. Cersei’s guards wrestle with Jaime and stab him as they do so. Brother and sister die beside each other.

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The Mountain and the Hound are still fighting. The Hound realises he can’t win. So, taking his brother with him, they plummet off the high walls of the Red Keep.

The bells ring. News of Cersei’s death reaches them, killed by the ‘Queenslayer’. The soldiers hesitate.

Melissandre looks at Arya, standing beside Jon, and says: “Here she is. The Princess that was promised.” Melissandre announces how Arya is the reason they won.

 The Lannister bannermen hesitate, then one man sheaths his sword. Others follow. Everyone begins to applaud. It’s unclear whether they’re clapping at Arya’s heroism or Cersei’s death.

Melissandre keeps speaking, saying her time is over. The Lord of Light achieved his goal. Now He will take his magic back.

She removes her necklace and dies before everyone’s eyes from old age.

Jon clutches his chest. The magic that brought him back to life is being undone. Blood starts to come through his tunic. He collapses.

Arya and Sansa are beside Jon, as is Daenerys.

Daenerys reveals she’s pregnant. Yes, in my version, Daenerys can have children.

Sansa, knowing Jon’s true heritage, announces that this unborn child has two claims to the throne — both from Daenerys’s side and Jon’s. The baby is Stark and Targaryen.

The north finally bows to Daenerys.

“My watch has ended,” are Jon’s last words.

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Everyone’s endings:

  • Arya: sailing west

  • Sansa: Warden of the north

  • Jon: dead (sad but necessary)

  • Tyrion: Queen’s hand

  • Sam: Archmaester on the small council

  • Brienne: head of the Queensguard

  • Varys: Master of whispers

  • Bran: advisor on the small council

 Last shot is of Daenerys sitting on the iron throne.

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Alex Turner-Cohen is a second-year journalism and creative writing student. A huge GoT fan (or was), she wants to write her own fantasy epic one day. When she isn’t writing you can find her at home, trying to persuade herself to go to the gym.