Change #1: Tyrion and Dany
The first thing that would be essential to change would be the relationship between Dany and Tyrion. We see this becoming rather stretched and fragmented throughout season 7 and season 8. From as far back as season 6, I would have had Tyrion be the advisor we all imagined he would become. Even before he had gained valuable experience as hand of the king, he was naturally good at his job.
His advice wouldn’t always be perfect, and he wouldn’t always succeed, but more often than not his advice would be sound and lead to a favourable outcome. At the very least, he would just be outsmarted rather than simply making questionable decisions. As of season 8, we’ve watched the character become a bit of a moron, something Peter Dinklage himself addressed.
If Tyrion had been true to his character and remained an intelligent and strong-willed hand, Dany would trust him, and they would develop a deeper friendship. She would not only rely on his advice, but also turn to him when in need of emotional support. By the time we get to The Dragon and the Wolf (S7E7), Tyrion would be wary of Cersei (as he has every reason to be based on his entire life experience). Despite the episode unfolding in the same manner as it originally did, he wouldn’t be so easily convinced, urging his allies to assume that Cersei’s forces from the south would not be joining them, making him all the more surprised when Jaime turns up.
Change #2: The Tarlys
I would make a minor change in the Eastwatch episode (S7E5). When Dany is giving soldiers the choice: bend the knee or burn (a choice that ultimately leads to Randall and Dickon Tarly being burned alive), I would have Tyrion step in.
Cut due to character limit. In summary: Randall Tarly dies but Dickon Tarly does not.
In later episodes (maybe as far ahead as when Dany and Ser Jorah meet Sam in Winterfell), Dany will consider the advice that Tyrion gave her to be evidence of his wisdom, but also as a control for her temperament. This will serve as evidence that Tyrion is capable of stopping the Mad Queen, should such a time ever arrive. Whenever the news is broken to Sam, he learns that his brother is still alive at least. This moment would remind Dany of her humanity and would demonstrate to Sam that she isn’t a monster, causing him to be less antagonistic regarding Jon’s claim to the throne (something that only really existed due to Dany killing Sam’s brother in the first place).
Change #3: Jon and Dany
The next aspect, one that only develops in season 7 and then unravels in season 8, is the relationship between Dany and Jon. I wouldn’t change a great deal in regard to season 7 itself, I think that setting up the relationship in the manner they did made sense. I think the only real issue was Jon’s blind loyalty. There’s no denying that Jon is loyal and honourable, it’s something we’ve seen in him time and time again, but he also knows when to stand up for what is right. He doesn’t go against his own morals simply because someone carries the title of ‘King’ or ‘Queen’.
Going into season 8 and the discovery of Jon’s true parentage, I’d suggest a few major changes take place. Dany has always wanted the Iron Throne, it’s her birth right, but she’s also wanted a family. Jon is family: both in terms of blood and romantic interest. Rather than her becoming a paranoid, controlling mess, she should become more torn between the notion of choosing between love or the throne. Rather than just showing Dany to be heartbroken because she wants the throne, let’s show her struggle to decide which is more important to her, and as a result work towards a solution WITH Jon, not against him.
Jon’s love life has always been a bit forbidden. Ygritte was a wildling, the sworn enemy of the Night’s Watch, and yet he couldn’t stop being in love with her. I would have that same idea take place with Dany. Rather than having Jon begin to reject her after discovering that they are aunt and nephew, they would be madly in love for all of season 8, eliminating the need for ridiculous political plots, dodgy whisper exchanges, and shade being thrown left, right, and centre. Jon would view Dany as his Queen, sure, but he’d also be in love with her and wouldn’t see the Mad Queen signs beginning to appear. You could say that he is blinded by love!
Change #4: The Battle of Winterfell
For starters, I wouldn’t have all the Dothraki be sent in at once. We discover in the episodes following this one that half of the Dothraki and Unsullied survived, even though both appear to get well and truly annihilated. Not to mention that in the finale episode trailer, her army seems to have actually grown. So, either you send less in and that explains why more survive, or you don’t have as many survive in the first place. Either of these makes more sense that what happened. One solution would be to have half the Unsullied inside Winterfell. After all, it makes no strategic sense to have that many outside the walls. Strategy is a whole other issue that I’m not going to get into now.
The Crypts of Winterfell
I had to delete this section to reduce character limit. In summary: Gillie dies and Baby Sam is left in the snow, alone (mirroring the other son's of Craster).
Cut due to character limit: In summary, these character's die:
-Mellisandre (her death was moronic; she should have died lighting the trenches)
-Brienne of Tarth
These deaths are important for a number of reasons. For starters, they would reflect the threat of the Night King and leave the show feeling emptier (in terms of character number) and harder hit by the threat that has been building for 10 years. Losing Ed, Beric, Theon, and Ser Jorah didn’t really pack that much of an emotional punch. Speaking of Theon, we have the next change.
The Night King
Everything about Arya killing the Knight King was stupid. Yes, it tied into what Melissandre said seasons ago (although tying that into the Faceless Men felt good enough for me). Yes, it tied into why Bran gave Arya the dagger. Yes, it tied into her fight with Brienne, as well as several other moments. But why Arya? Her killing the Night King changed nothing about her story at all. It was meaningless! So, who should have killed the Night King? Jon? Bran? The Little Bear? A dragon?
The answer? Theon! Assuming we’re keeping the Night King’s death relatively similar to how the events unfolded, I would have Theon try to fight the Night King (although less in the manner he did on the show). Theon’s fight would be fantastic, and it certainly wouldn’t be long lasting. He would get stabbed, fall to the ground, still alive and about to be finished off by the Night King. At this point, if you want Arya to come flying out of nowhere like Spider-Man jumping through one of Doctor Strange’s portals in Infinity War, that’s fine. But have the Night King grab her by the throat and even if she manages to strike him, she hits the armour and fails. This opens up a small gap which allows Theon (who is in the final moments of his life) to stab him.
The way the Night King was defeated was incredibly anti-climactic. You can’t claim that you want a show to be surprising, unique, and distanced from the usual clichés, and then employ the same ‘kill the leader and the soldiers fall’ trope used in every similar battle where the allies are outnumbered.
Change #5: Rhaegal
Episode 4 could largely unfold the same way as it did, but more on that in a moment. We have to consider the death of Rhaegal. Not only was this moment stupid beyond belief. Not only were the 3 shots, over miles and miles of distance, while Rhaegal is on the move, all without being seen, and simply being explained with “Dany kind of forgot about the Iron Fleet…” But this move was entirely for the shock-factor and nothing more.
Rhaegal needs to survive in order for the rest of my changes to make sense. Jon and Dany would be riding the dragons together at this moment (as they are madly in love), and they would see the Iron Fleet (because they are fucking miles in the air and away from a large squad of very noticeable ships) and would try to attack. The threat of the scorpions would be too high, and Jon and Dany would realise that they can’t attack the fleet with the dragons, not only because they can’t risk losing the dragons, but because they can’t risk losing each other.
It kills them to do so, but they have to fly away, and can only watch in horror as their ships are then destroyed by the Iron Fleet. Dany and Jon fly down and take as many survivors away before the Iron Fleet catches them, including Tyrion, but many get captured (including Messandei).
This could happen in a number of slightly different ways, the important part being that Tyrion and Rhaegal survive, while Messandei is captured. Although, I have to say that the whole idea of her being captured and taken back to King’s Landing seemed absolutely moronic and again served no purpose beyond shocking audiences later in a more dramatic way.
Change #6: Mad Queen Set-Up
Towards the end of episode 4, when Dany and Tyrion stand before Cersei to discuss her surrender, Jon would be there as well. They’d be standing much further back than they were in the episode. Rather than only Missandei being held by Cersei, there would be a number of prisoners (perhaps including Varys, but that would depend on the later changes), all lined up for execution. Again, I feel that this scene is moronic, but when you only have 6 episodes to reach a specific plot point, you have to work with what you’ve got. Tyrion, realising that Dany is breaking at the sight of seeing one of her few remaining friends being prepared for execution, pleads to Cersei.
Tyrion has two motivations: 1) He wants to help Dany by saving Missandei. He views it as his duty as hand to the queen, but he also loves her (maybe as a friend, maybe more) and wants to do whatever he can to end her suffering and make her happy. 2) He knows what will happen if Dany is pushed to the edge. He’s seen her snap, he’s seen the flames in her eyes when things don’t go according to plan (such as her burning fleets, the convoy from High Garden, and Randall Tarly). He wants to save the innocent people of King’s Landing, but he also wants to save Dany from becoming a monster.
It’s important to note that in ‘The Dragon and the Wolf’ (S7E7) when Cersei agrees to Tyrion’s terms and lets him live, it isn’t out of some hidden affection, love, or respect for him, it’s because it’s a necessary step in her plan. She wants him to suffer and she wants everyone he is with to die, but the only way she can save herself and King’s Landing from experiencing the Mad Queen right then and there, is to make him believe that she’ll send troops north.
This isn’t the case anymore, and so Cersei (who has tried to kill Tyrion in the past and has made her desire to kill him clear many times) has no reason not to kill him now. Most of Dany and Jon’s forces are still marching down from Winterfell at that point, so forcing them to attack now would offer a strategic advantage to Cersei. So, Cersei kills the prisoners (including Missandei) and as Tyrion starts to realise that he’s in danger and begins his journey back to his own forces, Cersei turns the scorpions on him and kills him, beginning to fire in the direction of Dany, Jon, the dragons, and their forces.
Change #7: Character Changes
This change actually takes place on either side of #6 and #7. I wouldn’t have Jaime hook-up with Brienne, since she’d be dead. But as he suffers her loss, he would begin to continue along towards the end of his character arc. Jaime has come a long way, and it’s only recently (starting with destruction of the Great Sept of Baelor and ending with Cersei’s lie about sending troops north) that he’s began to accept that his love for her has allowed him to turn a blind eye to both their immoral actions. He’s already snuck into King’s Landing at this point and is making his way to Cersei.
The importance of the relationship between Dany and Jon would become apparent in the next change. In the real version of events, there is a gap where Dany returns to Dragonstone to sulk after Missandei dies, and then returns to King’s Landing. She goes from Mad Queen, to depressed, to Mad Queen again. One of my changes would have her get angry and thirsty for revenge immediately. Jon would now be the only person left to keep Dany from becoming the Mad Queen. Episode 4 would end much in the same way it did, but episode 5 would start exactly where the previous one left off: with fire in Dany’s eyes and revenge on her mind.
Change #8: The Mad Queen
With no other choice, Jon follows Dany (on Rhaegal) as she begins to wipe out the scorpions that are on the walls. They blast open an entrance to King’s Landing, in order for Dany’s remaining forces to enter. Working together, they destroy much of the Iron Fleet. As Jon goes to kill Euron, Rhaegal is killed and Jon flung from him, landing in the sea. Dany only sees this at the last moment and believes that Jon has been killed. In a fit of rage and without thought, she swoops down and kills Euron, who accepts his death, laughing hysterically as Dany swoops down to incinerate him.
With the small army of remaining Unsullied and Dothraki left, and with a gap in the wall having been blown open, the Golden Company begin their defence and are succeeding in defeating the attacking forces. Dany begins wiping out the defence, including much of the Golden Company, but she doesn’t know where Cersei is. Her rage is growing and she’s losing control. She begins just burning the place down, believing that the love of her life, one of the few people left in this world who she loves and trusts, has died. With most of her army gone and the loss of her dragon and Jon, she knows that no risk can be taken, so she burns everything, getting revenge on those who have brought her so much pain but also securing her victory, as she knows this is the one and only chance she’ll get.
Change #9: Arya and Jaime
In the midst of all of this, we have a few other characters whose role we need to consider. Arya and the Hound were on their way to kill Cersei, and with Cleganebowl in full hype, I think we need a way for Arya to cross people off her list. Yes, having the Hound kill the Mountain with fire in order to symbolise the fact that his hatred for his brother is more powerful than the fear of fire that his brother created makes sense and is a satisfying conclusion.
Instead though, I would have the Hound say goodbye to Arya as he leaves to take his brother on alone. We see her following him, unwilling to let him die. With all the falling debris, the Mountain would have an advantage and would be ready to kill the Hound. Arya would block the killing strike and would finish the Mountain off herself. With the Hound dying and the building caving in, he asks Arya to kill him. She doesn’t want to but realises that it’s mercy. So, she is able to cross both names off her list (not that she says as much for the Hound given that he was no longer on her list).
Next is Jaime, who has found Cersei, having entered the city much in the same way he did already in the show). The thing is, we know that Cersei has to die, but what would she do that would force Jaime to take such action? That’s possibly the only benefit of having them be crushed by rubble. My first thought is the approaching Mad Queen. With Jaime having witnessed people being burned alive by the dragons already, he knows that Cersei is going to die one way or another, and so he chooses mercy over suffering, knowing that Cersei isn’t going to surrender. You could have Dany nearing, perhaps even having spotted Cersei, and so Jaime has mere moments to act.
Another option would be some sort of “fail-safe” which would kill even more people than Dany already has. After all, we saw explosions of Wild Fire during Dany’s attack on King’s Landing in episode 5. Some have suggested that this was simply leftover Wild Fire from Aerys II’s “Burn them all!” moment, but what if it was actually another plan of Cersei’s? We know that she had some leftover from destryoing the Sept of Baelor, so what if she opened the gates not just to use innocent people as a human shield, but to allow Dany’s forces to enter and be melted by Wild Fire? As such, Jaime’s arc comes to a complete end. It starts with him killing the Mad King and ends with him killing one of the Mad Queens (Cersei). Jaime had changed so much as a person, and him standing up to Cersei at the end of season 7 was an important turn for his character. Having him return to that because “he loves Cersei” and having Dany killing everyone because “she’s a Targaryen” are just awful reasons for characters to do something.
One thing we would NOT have is Tyrion plotting against Dany and the others in order to save Cersei’s life, because he would already be dead by this point. Not to mention that that was one of the most illogical and out of character moments in the whole show.
The Iron Throne
For Cersei and Jaime, I would have Cersei refusing to give up the Iron Throne. This would still tie into what I mentioned earlier about Jaime having to kill her. He would do so in the same manner he killed the Mad King, and she would sit on the Iron Throne, dying there before Dany could reach her.
When Dany does get there, she uses Drogon to burn Cersei which in turn melts the Iron Throne. This would be symbolic in a number of ways, but would also be a good way to “break the wheel” by breaking the throne. Nobody would sit on the Iron Thron (at least not literally) ever again.
Change #10: Jon, Dany, and the Night King
The episode ends with Jon climbing out of the water, the city in ruins and in flames. Men, women, and children are all screaming. Dany can’t believe he’s alive, but she’s already lost a part of herself, and in destroying King’s Landing, has destroyed the person she once was. As her cruelty continues, driven by the fear of losing the throne, Jon would have no choice but to kill her. Jon would become King, abducating immedietly to leave it in the hands of someone he trusts to do a good job. The south isn’t for him, it never has been. His home is in the north.
At this point, if there was another season to go, I’d have Jon head north with the wildlings, possibly even with Drogon. Game of Thrones resonates with something that Mark Twain once said:
“History doesn’t repeat itself but it often rhymes!”
We got little to no information about the White Walkers and the Night King. We only saw the Lands of Forever Winter (or whatever they are called) once in a tiny moment showing what happens to Craster’s inbred sons. I would have Jon and some of his closest allies head all the way north in search of a new home, where they would make a shocking discovery, one that would set things in motion so that 5,000-10,000 years in the future, the world will face another threat. This keeps the cycle going.
What if the Night King and his army were motivated not by some random-ass motivation of killing everyone and making Westeros suffer an endless winter, but by the threat of Dany and her dragons? The Night King wasn’t evil, but rather a balancing force that was necessary to defeat an equally as destructive power?