Why 'Game of Thrones' Should Have Used 'Breaking Bad's Finale as a Template
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Season 8, Episode 4 of Game of Thrones, "The Last of the Starks."]
I'll be the first one to admit that not all series finales are going to please viewers — if everyone was satisfied, then it may mean the episode wasn't as memorable as those that polarize (aka The Sopranos). There's the downright disappointing finales — we're looking at you, Dexter and How I Met Your Mother. But there's one finale that stands out among the rest (at least for myself) as the best series finale to date: Breaking Bad.
The final half of Season 5 delivered near-perfect episodes up until the very end, saving what some may say was the best for last with "Felina." What made it the best? The balance between fan service, heartbreak and tied loose ends made for an installment steeped in perfection, which has us wondering, can we expect the same from Game of Thrones?
Between Walter White's (Bryan Cranston) return to Albuquerque to secure his family's payment through former friends Elliott (Adam Godley) and Gretchen Schwartz (Jessica Hecht) and his Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) break-out moment, so many scenes served to please while staying true to the plot. Sure, there was bloodshed along the way, and it wasn't always pleasant — especially when it came to Hank's (Dean Norris) "Ozymandias" desert death, but it made sense, and that's not the case for Game of Thrones right now.
The latest installment of the highly-praised final season, "The Last of the Starks," delivered less-than-stellar plot lines for many of its characters. How so? Many of them were portrayed in uncharacteristic ways. While the show did its best to serve fans with long-awaited pay-offs such as Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Brienne's (Gwendoline Christie) post-battle activities, there was still a lot that went wrong.
Thrones fans aren't under the impression that a happy ending is in the cards for most of its players, but they deserve some solid send-offs, and with only two episodes left in the season, we're nervous. In "The Last of the Starks," the crew at Winterfell prepared for battle in King's Landing with Jon Snow (Kit Harington) setting off to join the fight.
In his departure he bid farewell to friends Tormund (Kristofer Hivju) and Samwell (John Bradley) along with Gilly (Hannah Murray) and his direwolf Ghost. To say that the goodbyes were lackluster would be an understatement and somewhat disrespectful to the characters that appear to be leaving the action. If those were Tormund, Samwell, Gilly and Ghost's last moments on screen then we're feeling pretty hollow considering the major roles they've played throughout the series.
The same could even be said of Gendry (Joe Dempsie), who was left heartbroken by Arya's (Maisie Williams) rejection. Despite the scene being the most believable for Arya's character — she never wanted to be a lady — it played out rather lame for Gendry if it's his last scene in the series, considering he's been part of the show since Season 1.
Also, Arya's departure with the Hound (Rory McCann) was anti-climactic when she didn't bid farewell to any of her family. After years of life on the run, Arya just returned to Winterfell only to depart soon after without saying goodbye to her siblings? It seems awfully strange, and if she were to die, fans would never receive any closure.
Really, the Thrones writers could have taken a cue from Breaking Bad's final moments between Walter and Skyler (Anna Gunn) or Walter and Jesse for these "goodbyes," which prove that you don't have to part on great terms, but that there needs to be a sense of finality in the end. Hopefully that won't be the last we see of these characters in Thrones, so we can see them have a proper send-off.
Meanwhile, Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) was faced with some major hurdles in the episode, between Cersei's (Lena Headey) refusal to surrender the throne to the murder of Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel). While the "Mad Queen" theme seems to be coming into play, her behavior could follow suit with Walter White's in the Breaking Bad finale.
As Missandei spoke her final word, "Dracarys," she's asking Daenerys to attack King's Landing, and at this point why wouldn't she? Daenerys' whole arc since the beginning has been to claim the Throne, and when Walter White massacred Jack (Michael Bowen) and his crew of neo-Nazis it was considered great by Breaking Bad fans. So the same should be said for Daenerys' attack of King's Landing, right?
No, it seems the writers want the characters to question her actions, as Varys (Conleth Hill) and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) consider Jon's claim to the Throne instead. If Thrones chose to follow Bad's "perfect" finale, Daenerys would at least wreak havoc on Cersei's kingdoms, but also take out the most hated characters in the process. Hopefully that means we'll see Daenerys bring down Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbæk) at the very least, maybe leaving Cersei for someone that will have a greater impact. But if she does as Walter White did, she may find herself fall in the process, because Walter White's mission ultimately was a suicide one.
If we're lucky, Cersei's potential death should be as satisfying as when Jesse choked Todd (Jesse Plemons) to death with his prisoner shackles — revenge for killing his innocent girlfriend Andrea (Emily Rios). Of course, Jaime may best be equipped for the job if he survives the fight, but Arya is also a contender in this category.
Then there's Jaime and Brienne — when he left her in their final scenes of the episode, he basically threw away years of character development. That is, unless the move was reminiscent of Walter White's call to Skyler in "Ozymandias" — a diversion to maintain her innocence in his drug activity. We hope Jaime's motivation could have been keeping Brienne out of the fight in King's Landing.
And if their goodbye in that moment was their final scene, we'd say that's disappointing as well. Brienne's character isn't one to cry over a man, yet that's exactly what happened as Jaime rode off for King's Landing.
Could Game of Thrones go out on a sour note? Considering its popularity and critical success, we'd love some fan service in these final episodes, but only enough to satisfy before the final moments. Even if they all die in the end, we can't help but hope for some last minute pay-offs.
Ultimately, with roughly 3 hours left of screen time, Thrones has the potential to reroute a ship that took a serious detour in Episode 4. It just needs to follow some of Breaking Bad's helpful hints for a good series finale.
Game of Thrones, Sundays, 9/8, HBO