This story includes plot details from the final season of HBO’s Game of Thrones.
You can now read the script for the series finale of Game of Thrones. But you may not want to—especially if you are one of the many fans already irked by the HBO show’s divisive ending.
The Television Academy made all the nominated screenplays available (as pdfs) to the public ahead of next month’s Emmys. These include the Barry episode “ronny/lilly,” Killing Eve episode “Nice and Neat,” and two Russian Doll episodes: “Nothing In This World Is Easy” and “A Warm Body.” The database is a fascinating look at what makes for a compelling television screenplay, at least in the eyes of Academy voters.
Of course, one of these scripts is under a lot more scrutiny than the others. The Game of Thrones final season, which ended in May, was met with a mostly negative reaction from critics and fans, who blamed the inconsistent writing for the show’s downturn. The finale script, written by co-showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss (who also directed the episode), offers a glimpse into what the critics were talking about.
Not only is it confusing, but it also contains some really baffling bits of writing:
In describing the aftermath of the dragon attack that reduced King’s Landing to a pile of rubble in the previous episode, the script references Son of Saul—a Holocaust film that takes place in the Auschwitz concentration camp, where more than a million Jews were killed—and Hiroshima, one of two Japanese cities devastated by atomic bombs dropped by the US military during World War II. Both references are on the very first page of the script; the Son of Saul reference is in the script’s fourth sentence.
Benioff and Weiss describe Daenerys Targaryen as “Her Satanic Majesty’s Request”—presumably a reference to the 1967 album Their Satanic Majesties Request by the Rolling Stones, commonly regarded as among the band’s worst offerings. Some fans were upset by Dany’s descent into one-dimensional villainy in the show’s final season. They will probably not be pleased to know that the finale script likened her to the Rolling Stones’ worst album.
All Dothraki—the horse-mounted fighters loyal to Daenerys—can be described as “badass.” And yet, “badass-looking” was the only adjective the writers could come up with to characterize the warriors during a particularly tense scene:
First she addresses her Dothraki in their native tongue.
Qoy qoyi! Shafka vernish ei asqoy shafki anhaan. Shafka addrivish dozge anni ma khogaroon shiqethi mori! (Blood of my blood! You kept all your promises to me. You killed my enemies in their iron suits!)
The Dothraki scream and raise their arakhs into the air. We have some badass-looking Dothraki in the mix.
The phrase “dumb bystander” somehow wriggled its way into an Emmy-nominated HBO script. It likely refers to the Iron Throne, which the script reveals was accidentally burned down by the dragon Drogon after Dany’s death. (Fans had theorized that perhaps Drogon had a much better understanding of visual metaphor than previously believed. Turns out the throne was just a “dumb bystander” in the way of the grieving dragon’s wrath.)
The entire sequence, in which Drogon melts the Iron Throne in a fit of rage, is not among the show’s most evocative passages:
The dragon rises up on his hind legs, towering over Jon.
In a beautiful, terrifying tableaux, he roars to the sky, the embodiment of rage.
He looks down at Jon. We see the fire build up in his throat.
Jon sees it as well. He prepares to die.
But the blast is not for him. Drogon wants to burn the world but he will not kill Jon.
He breathes fire on the back wall, blasting down what remains of the great red blocks of stone.
We look over Jon’s shoulder as the fire sweeps toward the throne– not the target of Drogon’s wrath, just a dumb bystander caught up in the conflagration.
We look through the blades of the throne as the flames engulf it, and blast the wall behind it.
We see the throne in the flames, turning red, then white, then beginning to lose its form.
We get tight shots of the details melting in silhouette: the armrests, the iconic fan of swords on the backrest.
The fire stops. The smoke clears revealing a puddle of smouldering slag where the throne once stood.
Who will sit on the Iron Throne? No one.
There is nothing inherently wrong with the word “befits.” Employing its services again so soon after the first use, however? Any editor or proofreader would stand for no such thing. Perhaps it is intentional mirroring, but that’d be giving a lot of power to the phrase, “as befits a [blank].”
He heads out toward the eastern sky, flying over Blackwater Bay. It’s not a dusky beauty shot; it’s gray and lifeless, as befits a funeral.
We fade to black.
INT. TYRION’S CELL – DAY
Tyrion is in a proper cell now, as befits a condemned man.
During the scene at the dragonpit, where the remaining lords and ladies of Westeros attempt to choose a new leader, a pill bug crawls into Bran’s hand. The great tragedy here is that this little detail failed to make it on screen. (Instead, Bran just stares into the middle distance, as he always does.) Pill bug deserved so much better. Someone get that guy an agent!
As Tyrion speaks, Bran looks down at the armrest of his wheelchair. A tiny pill bug crawls along the wood.
Bran puts his hand down and lets the bug crawl into his palm.
In what is quickly becoming a popular meme among the Game of Thrones Reddit community, the script (sarcastically?) reveals that the reason Jon Snow and Sansa Stark seem unclear about what lies west of Westeros is because they both failed geography.
I’m not going back north.
News to Jon and Sansa both.
Where are you going?
What’s west of Westeros?
Jon and Sansa look at each other. They both failed geography.
After Bran implies he can figure out a way to find Drogon, the script’s omniscient narrator calls Bran “weird.” We don’t disagree.
Everyone sits. Brienne sits down next to Bran. He surveys the table.
We appear to be missing a Master of Whisperers. And a Master of Laws. And a Master of War.
Yes, your grace. Suitable prospects will be brought to you for an audience in the coming weeks.
And Drogon? Any word?
He was last spotted flying east.
The farther away the better.
Perhaps I can find him. Do carry on with the rest.
That’s weird. But so is the new king.
The script is also full of incomprehensible character motivations (it admits there are people Jon still loves and wants to protect, but moments later, says that he has “nothing to live for”), typos and spelling errors (“insure” when it should have been “ensure”), and bizarre point-of-view decisions (spoilers: no part of Dany’s death scene is told from her perspective—we have no idea how she felt in those final moments).
Some screenwriters have taken to Twitter to defend the script, arguing it’s unfair to judge stage directions and scene descriptions. After all, the script is not the final product, and much can be lost (or changed) between script and screen.
But it was the script itself nominated for an Emmy, making it fair game for criticism on its own merits, independent of how it ultimately translated to our TV screens (which many would argue was poorly). If Benioff and Weiss are troubled by this second round of criticism, they can cry about it into their upcoming $200 million production deal with one of Disney, Netflix, or Amazon.