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Let us now decide whether Drogon is a smart dragon or a stupid dragon

Screenshot: HBO

[Spoilers for Game Of Thrones season eight, episode six.]

The best way to enjoy Game Of Thronesseries finale is as an unexpected punchline to one of the world’s most expensive, meticulously produced jokes. Aside from a few scenes of genuine drama, the majority of the episode played out like a lavish parody of the show’s earlier seasons, its tone veering wildly between self-seriousness and goofy jokes about, say, brothel rebuilding and how absurd the concept of democracy is in its fantasy world (before, moments later, electing the the creepy, DMT-evangelist boy wizard as the lands’ first non-hereditary ruler.)

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Viewed in this way, the best gag in the entire finale was the appearance of Drogon The Dragon, Daenerys Targaryen’s Seussian-named murder-pet, just moments after Jon Snow stabbed its master to death in front of the Iron Throne. The dragon flew on down to the crime scene, saw its dead human mom, then, after a few fake-out bursts of angry firebreath that made it seem like maybe the show had some sense of restraint left instead decided to turn its flames on the throne, melting it down to a puddle of boiling goop in an attempt at powerful symbolism.

Editor and writer Nate Scott found this a noteworthy scene, too. In his excellent episode recap at USA Today’s For The Win, Scott zooms in on a lot of the silliest shit from the finale, including a quick summary of what seem to be the only two possible readings of Drogon’s choice to ignore Jon and burn the throne up in his place. Basically, the dragon’s either a genius or a total dolt.

The first interpretation is absolutely what the show wanted to communicate. Drogon, a poetic soul, understood, as Scott puts it, “that it was the corrupting power of the Iron Throne that led to Dany’s downfall” and so directed its dragon-y rage not on Jon, the actual murderer, but toward this symbol of Daenerys’ all-consuming ambition.

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This is funny in its own right, considering what it implies about the capacity for abstract thought Thrones’ dragons must possess. (Did Drogon also paint expressionist art after being forced to slaughter the people of King’s Landing?) Even better, though, is Scott outlining the alternative, which is that “it’s the stupidest dragon in the world.” Having seen “a knife in Dany,” Drogon “assumed it was the evil chair made of knives who stabbed her, and then had its revenge.”

This view, which paints the dragon as just a tremendous dipshit, has other supporters, too.

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The “stupid dragon” reading has a certain beauty to it, even suggesting a metatextual framing of Game Of Thrones as a whole. Could there be a more perfect snapshot of how this series has devolved than an ending that attempts poignant imagery about the nature of political power but ends up instead suggesting its mighty dragons are as bright as a dog biting a sidewalk after its human trips and falls?

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About the author

Reid McCarter

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Reid's a writer and editor who has appeared at GQ, Playboy, and Paste. He also co-created and writes for videogame sites Bullet Points Monthly and Digital Love Child.