This article contains spoilers for the series finale of Game of Thrones.
It went, roughly, like this: The queen who had presented herself as a reformer and savior revealed herself to be, in the final countdown, the opposite. Airborne and seated on her dragon, Daenerys looked down at the populace of King’s Landing, at all those people caught in the crosshairs of others’ political struggles. She heard the bells, their clangs making clear that the city had surrendered. She gave a snarl of rage, and then, acting either on a cruel whim or on a cruel martial assessment—Daenerys’s thought process in that moment was one of many mysteries this season that the Game of Thrones’ writers kept gallingly vague—she opened fire. The queen wielded her weapon, and the people below her burned.
That was “The Bells,” the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones. Sunday’s series finale, “The Iron Throne,” begins with some of the few survivors of Daenerys’s decision—Arya, Jon, Davos—surveying its aftermath. They see rubble. Ash. A mother and child, their bodies frozen in a charred embrace. Fast-forward to slightly later in the episode, however, and there is a decidedly new feeling in town. The most iconic structures of King’s Landing have been rebuilt by the labor of hands unknown. A new king has been installed to rule the now–Six Kingdoms, via an ad hoc collective that’s a little bit Great Council and a little bit prom committee. That king’s advisers, in their first meeting, are rearranging furniture and making jokes. The whole thing has the feel of a sitcom, my colleague Spencer Kornhaber noted, and there is, in particular, a strangely Seinfeld-ian quality to this latest plot twist—a show about knowing nothing and being nothing ending as a show that is about, simply, nothing. What’s the deal with plumbing?