From "hold the door" to the Red Wedding, Game of Thrones has delivered some of the most iconic plot twists in entertainment. While the final season has proven divisive for many fans, it certainly hasn't backed down on its plot twists. The best of season 8's twists are rooted in the satisfying, yet in some ways unexpected culmination of rich character arcs.
The less effective twists--some of which have been received with excessive backlash--were less effective as they leaned too heavily into the surprise factor and not enough on the journey of the actual story or characters.
9 Hurt: Bronn's Mission
As a fan-favorite and with Jerome Flynn being a phenomenal actor, Game of Thrones has found creative ways to keep Bronn central to the story, while also finding ways where his character won't share scenes with Cersei. In recent seasons this was successfully done with stories like the Siege of Riverrun, but season 8 was not so successful. Being given a mission by Cersei Lannister to hunt down and kill Tyrion and Jaime with a crossbow felt forced.
As much as Bronn was always focused self-preservation, he also had connection and loyalty to Tyrion and Jaime that transcended any lucrative promises made by Cersei. There was never any real possibility Bronn would kill either of the Lannister brothers and the scene where he confronted them at Winterfell just ended up feeling awkward. If the end goal was to have Bronn became Master of Coin and Lord of Higharden and the Reach, this mission wasn't exactly the smoothest way of getting him there.
8 Saved: Arya's Role At The Battle Of Winterfell
One of the most satisfying moments in season 8 was Arya Stark being the one to slay the Night King and thereby defeat the Army of the Dead. All that time spent training to become a master assassin--including nearly 2 seasons spent at the House of Black and White in Braavos--felt like it all paid off with this moment. After serving the Many-Faced God--also known as the God of Death--it was fitting for Arya to now defeat the Night King, a living embodiment of death.
She took her skills as a master assassin and fused them with the loyalty and devotion toward her family, illustrated in the moment when she saved Bran's life with the same Valyrian steel dagger used to try and assassinate Bran toward the beginning of the series. It was also fitting, yet surprising for the ultimate fate of Beric Dondarrion to be tied so strongly to Arya. The Lord of Light-obsessed Beric's story began when Arya encountered the Brotherhood Without Banners in season 3, and it ended with Beric sacrificing himself to save her life.
7 Hurt: The Iron Fleet's Surprise Attack
When Daenerys and her forces landed at Dragonstone, they somehow didn't expect that Euron Greyjoy and the Iron Fleet would be waiting for them. This surprise attack led to the sudden death of the dragon Rhaegal, not to mention the capture and murder of Missandei. Showrunner David Benioff asserted that Daenerys "kind of forgot about the Iron Fleet."
Beyond the fact that Daenerys had just had a conversation involving the Iron Fleet in an earlier scene, it's important to remember that in season 7 Euron Greyjoy's ships devastated Daenerys' fleet, decimated her Dornish allies, and trapped the Unsullied at Casterly Rock, none of which Daenerys would've forgotten. The loss of Rhaegal and Missandei ended up feeling more like a careless tactical oversight when these moments could've been powerful and done a better job paving the way for Daenerys to become the Mad Queen.
6 Saved: Cersei Lannister's End
After ensuring the Iron Throne was Lannister-controlled and remaining one of the show's strongest characters since season 1, fans expected Cersei to go out in a blaze of glory. After being on top of everyone else for so long, it was actually more of a poetic and ignominious end for Cersei to literally be crushed to death at the bottom of the Red Keep. Now stripped of all the power and formidable allies she'd had for so long, it was also fitting for her to die scared like any other person and in the arms of Jaime, the only person she ever loved outside of their children.
5 Hurt: Mad Queen Daenerys
Game of Thrones planted many seeds for a Mad Queen twist over the years, making fans wonder if the twist would feel more brilliant or problematic if it ever ended up happening.
The foreshadowing for the twist was excellent, but the final development toward this turn wasn't executed well, which made it feel more problematic than brilliant. There wasn't enough time spent on the isolation and internal despair Daenerys was feeling as a result of her many losses this season. Instead, the show prioritized the shock value of her deciding to torch King's Landing and its people, which made the twist feel forced when it could've been earned naturally.
4 Saved: Cleganebowl Saves Arya's Life
Fans had long yearned for an epic showdown between the Hound and the Mountain, which fans dubbed "Cleganebowl." It sometimes felt just like a popular fan theory that held little value other than spectacle, yet season 8 gave it far greater purpose by saving Arya's life and providing one of her character's most important moments.
The Hound made Arya realize she wouldn't survive if she pressed on in her mission to kill Cersei, just as the Hound knew he was going to die when finally facing his brother. He not only helped save Arya's life in doing so, but he also made her realize there is far more to life than revenge, a crucial revelation that Arya needed at this point in the story. Cleganebowl was epic, but the best thing it did was provide an emotional and fitting culmination of the relationship between Arya and Sandor Clegane, and to push Arya's story in a refreshing direction for the series finale.
3 Hurt: Jaime Lannister's End
While Cersei Lannister's ending worked for her character, it didn't work for Jaime as it negated most of his character development since season 3. Particularly through his experiences with Brienne, Jaime found the desire to be honorable and do the right thing. It took him a long time, but he ultimately grew beyond Cersei's hateful toxicity, finally abandoning her in the season 7 finale so at least he could honor the promises made by House Lannister.
With Brienne, Jaime was in a relationship of mutual respect, trust, and love, a moment best exemplified when he knighted her. It's understandable that a part of him would always love Cersei, yet throwing away what he had with Brienne was a forced decision that only would've worked with Jaime several seasons ago.
2 Saved: Drogon Burns Down The Iron Throne
The Iron Throne was the source of so much pain and a symbol of the wheel Daenerys wanted to break. The end of her story is incredibly tragic, but her death was not in vain. Drogon burning down the Iron Throne in reaction to her death symbolizes the end of all the pain and the end of the wheel Daenerys wanted to break. Drogon's rage and anguish was representative for all of Westeros, of countless people needing to heal and finding a way to move on past all they've lost in what will hopefully be a better world.
1 Saved: Exile, A King, A Queen, And An Explorer
In the end the Stark children are no longer together, but they are all where they belong. Sansa ending up as Queen of the North is no surprise, but the endings for the other Starks were far less expected. As King of the Six Kingdoms, Bran will be wiser and far less prone to greed than any of his predecessors. Although he was officially exiled to the Night's Watch, Jon is now freer than he ever was, no longer burdened by titles or impossible choices and able to roam the "real North" with Ghost, Tormund, and the rest of the Free Folk. Arya's story rose above vengeance and ended with her exploring the mystery that lies west of Westeros.
Which plot twists do you think hurt or saved season 8 of Game of Thrones? Let us know in the comments!