In 2011, Game of Thrones premiered with the story of a vast continental kingdom wracked with political tension. Westeros was introduced as a collection of once-independent kingdoms, riven by ethnic and religious divisions, governed by a king who had no real desire to rule, and who, we would quickly learn, had no legitimate heirs. Immediately upon Robert Baratheon’s death, the Seven Kingdoms devolved into a war of succession between rivalrous, power-hungry nobles, some of whom took the opportunity to claim kingship for themselves. Now, many years of blood and strife later, our saga comes to a conclusion. Peace and stability have returned to Westeros, with Sansa Stark declaring the North’s independence and her brother Bran taking the throne. Eight seasons after the saga began, we leave a fractious, divided continent overseen by a ruler who, uh, doesn’t want to rule, and, hmm, has no natural heirs. How do you say plus ça change in Dothraki?
Westeros is screwed. I know that the viewer is meant to take away from the final scene of the High Council bickering over ships and brothels a warm feeling of familiarity and affection, but it mostly made me anxious for the future of the now-Six Kingdoms. For starters, Bran, the guy who knows what the future holds, is too busy warging in his room by himself to give anyone advice or heads-up warnings, let alone to rule. The most distinguishing feats of his top adviser in his previous position as Hand of the Queen are (1) getting utterly played by Cersei when she promised to bring her army to fight the White Walkers, and (2) being unable to prevent his queen from committing a major war crime. (Though, more on that in a moment.) That Tyrion’s first order of business as Bran’s Hand was to appoint the corrupt and unqualified Bronn of the Blackwater as Master of Coin is not reassuring.