Fire, ice and fate: Endgames arrive for 'Game of Thrones'
LOS ANGELES — When season eight of "Game of Thrones" began, The Associated Press examined the arcs of the major characters who had survived the bloody series until its final season. With Sunday's finale of the HBO show looming, here's an update on where those characters stand after an action-packed season of zombie-mobbing, dragon-torching and secret-revealing. Will Daenerys end up ruling the Seven Kingdoms? Jon? Sansa? No one? And how many really want to anymore? Warning: MAJOR SPOILERS throughout.
Is there anything more powerful than the Mother of Dragons aboard her favorite son firebombing the city of King's Landing into oblivion? Maybe the fan backlash. Daenerys went from flawed heroine to heel in the season's penultimate episode. That spawned Twitter outrage, a petition demanding a do-over, and perhaps regret among the hundreds of American parents who, according to the Social Security Administration, named their daughters Daenerys or Khaleesi back when she was breaking chains instead of burning innocents. Many viewers, however, thought it a logical, even inevitable, turn of events. The daughter of the Mad King had just seen her best friend beheaded, her longest-serving retainer killed in battle, and her cherished birthright cast in doubt by the man she loves. Now, having conquered the capital, with a ruthless army still intact and her dragon seemingly unstoppable, she has everything she once wanted, except Westeros' love. Having horrified her closest allies, will she hang on to it all? Fall to the sword of an angry Stark? Can her conscience return as quickly as it left?
Is it possible that after eight seasons, Jon Snow still knows nothing? Even after he rose to become lord commander of the Night's Watch, united enemies to fight the army of the dead, came back from death himself, and learned he's not a bastard but a Targaryen who should be heir to what's left of the Iron Throne, Jon appears to be as confused and aimless as when he began. He refused to force his birthright, yielding power to his queen, aunt and apparent ex-girlfriend Daenerys, and then watched helplessly as she burned King's Landing and most of its inhabitants. Will he find a way to rise once more and fight back against this destroyer version of Dany? Will he use his newfound dragon-riding skills to somehow hijack Drogon into triumph? Such a heroic end would require more of him, but the narrative of the show has never given up on Jon.
Arya could have wandered into the woods and disappeared halfway through the season and she would have retired a legend. She used her years of assassin training to kill the Night King when all seemed lost at the Battle of Winterfell, snatching the savior-of-humanity role from her big brother Jon Snow. She's killed most of those responsible for her mother and brother's slaughter at the Red Wedding. She even lost her virginity on her terms in a moment of mature empowerment rarely afforded to women in this world. (The thousands of parents who named their daughter Arya are feeling just fine.) But her role has become uncertain since. She turned away from her attempt to assassinate Queen Cersei in the last episode, and seemed to have sworn off a life of revenge. But then she became a firsthand witness to Daenerys' atrocities. Is there one last name on her kill list?