Rhaegar Targaryen's Ghost

The Bittersweet Ending That Must Be

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Daenerys dying, especially while still carrying her and Jon's child, and Jon ending up on the Iron Throne, something he really doesn't want, doesn't fit with the bittersweet ending imo (not to mention the lotr-ending, but I'd take that with a pinch of salt), it's a tragic ending. 

Witcher 3 has a happy ending, a bittersweet ending, and a tragic ending, where the bittersweet ending is actually something I would consider bittersweet:

 


Happy ending: Ciri survives and becomes a witcher like Geralt. She wants to become a witcher. She's happy.
Bittersweet ending: Ciri survives, but doesn't become a witcher. Instead she becomes Empress, something she really doesn't want, but she does it out of necessity, for the greater good. She's unhappy, but alive.
Tragic ending: Ciri dies.

Bittersweet doesn't necessarily mean that protagonists die left and right, it more often than not means that they are prevented from having the happy ever after-end that a happy ending would normally give them.

 

Edited by MinscS2

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Whatever happens in the battle against the dead army, there's no point for Night King to kill all living people on the continent. He would soon have no army left. He needs new-born babies to make WW.

He is on his way to get himself a successor, who will then return to rule land beyond the wall. Sam and Gilly will be taken with them to become the new Crasters delivering babies for NK. (Tongue-in-cheek reply.)

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47 minutes ago, MinscS2 said:

Daenerys dying, especially while still carrying her and Jon's child, and Jon ending up on the Iron Throne, something he really doesn't want, doesn't fit with the bittersweet ending imo (not to mention the lotr-ending, but I'd take that with a pinch of salt), it's a tragic ending. 

Bittersweet doesn't necessarily mean that protagonists die left and right, it more often than not means that they are prevented from having the happy ever after-end that a happy ending would normally give them.

 

I guess I don't really see it that way. I find it highly unlikely that both Dany and Jon survive to the end. I think that the rest of the main protagonists -- Sansa, Arya, Tyrion and Bran will survive (although Bran may be something that is not really human by that point). The bittersweet ending that I suggested above is fairly close to the bittersweet ending your Witcher 3 bittersweet alternative had (just replace Ciri with Jon and it is almost identical). The biggest difference, of course, is that Jon suffers a bigger personal loss during the battle (and of course, for Dany, it is tragic -- but ASOIAF has multiple main protagonists, so all of them don't have to survive for a bittersweet ending -- and at least one of Dany or Jon seems destined not to survive).

So I don't think that protagonists will die left and right -- but there are 5-6 main protagonists (people differ on whether Sansa counts -- I think she does so I include 6 main protagonists), and while most of them won't die, at least one of them can and I think probably does. The last book is supposedly going to be called A Dream of Spring -- which suggests that the book will end with the hope of a better tomorrow -- but the readers won't actually get to see that better tomorrow. Jon being the reluctant King of Westeros, organizing the rebuilding of the Kingdoms after defeating the WW, seems like a Dream of Spring to me.

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10 hours ago, btfu806 said:

Maybe that's the GOT ending, Jon is scarred by everything and has to ride out on a ship to Valinor with some elves ... or errr ... freefolk or something?

Well, we know Planetos is round, not broken like Arda, and presumably there's no heaven across the Sunset Sea.  More likely it's a bunch of islands and then Essos, or maybe a scattering of islands, then Americos, then an even bigger sea with more islands, and then Essos.

But after Bran describes his vision of their distant ancestor Brandon the Shipwright reaching the islands of Polynesios and never coming home because fish and fruit are so plentiful that nobody has to work, and it's so warm every day of the year that nobody wears anything but a grass skirt, and everyone believes in free love so there's no such thing as bastards, and the women all look like tan versions of Dany… maybe Jon will decide that's good enough for him. And I'm sure he wouldn't have a hard time rounding up a crew, with Tormund as his first mate, once he describes that vision.

And then the bittersweet ending is that they don't make it all the way to Polynesios, they run aground on Icelandos and are forced to settle there, basically like the Land Beyond the Wall all over again except without the rest of Westeros next door, but at least they build a thriving society there and invent democracy centuries ahead of Dany's descendants and eventually they have Bjork.

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Bittersweet ending could mean that Jon and Dany get each other and a family but not the throne.

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6 hours ago, Deminelle said:

Bittersweet ending could mean that Jon and Dany get each other and a family but not the throne.

That would probably be bittersweet for Dany, since she has always wanted the throne. 

For Jon, I think that would just be a happy ending, since he never wanted the throne.

 

I think this is part of the problem with the bittersweet ending. It depends who the "main protagonist" is in the eyes of GRRM and, for now, the show runners. Because that person (most likely) is the only one to get the bittersweet ending while the rest would either end up with tragic or happy endings, because of the fallout from the bittersweet one. They couldn't have that many characters have bittersweet because I don't think any two character's story arcs are similar enough to do that. Though maybe they will shock me with the ending and have something planned.

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The more I read into this discussion, The more I question whether or not a Bittersweet ending is possible. 

4 hours ago, btfu806 said:

I think this is part of the problem with the bittersweet ending. It depends who the "main protagonist" is in the eyes of GRRM and, for now, the show runners.

I agree. As of now, we could say the ending is bittersweet if Robb was your guy. He's dead, his family is dead before it even fully formed, but at least he gets avenged. I honestly don't think that people are gonna agree on the ending when it comes to pass. Some will be happy, most may be mad, but only a small portion of folks will actually feel the bittersweet emotion that GRRM claimed.

Unless of course the WW win. "Bittersweet" could also mean "Cheap but Logical". Cause we all know an ending where the "bad guys" win would feel cheap, but it may make sense.

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18 minutes ago, MrJay said:

The more I read into this discussion, The more I question whether or not a Bittersweet ending is possible. 

I agree. As of now, we could say the ending is bittersweet if Robb was your guy. He's dead, his family is dead before it even fully formed, but at least he gets avenged. I honestly don't think that people are gonna agree on the ending when it comes to pass. Some will be happy, most may be mad, but only a small portion of folks will actually feel the bittersweet emotion that GRRM claimed.

Unless of course the WW win. "Bittersweet" could also mean "Cheap but Logical". Cause we all know an ending where the "bad guys" win would feel cheap, but it may make sense.

Ha that is very true about Robb. I mean, he at least got that? haha.

But yeah, regardless of what it is, people will be upset. They can't write an ending for this show that is going to appease everyone, or even the majority of people.

I think if the WW won, I would actually be happy with that. It would make sense with everyone just bickering for power and nothing is left in the end.

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37 minutes ago, MrJay said:

The more I read into this discussion, The more I question whether or not a Bittersweet ending is possible. 

I agree. As of now, we could say the ending is bittersweet if Robb was your guy. He's dead, his family is dead before it even fully formed, but at least he gets avenged. I honestly don't think that people are gonna agree on the ending when it comes to pass. Some will be happy, most may be mad, but only a small portion of folks will actually feel the bittersweet emotion that GRRM claimed.

Unless of course the WW win. "Bittersweet" could also mean "Cheap but Logical". Cause we all know an ending where the "bad guys" win would feel cheap, but it may make sense.

Assuming that we can trust GRRM and D&D to tell the truth (and on this score I think we can), as has been stated, GRRM has said that the ending will be bittersweet, while D&D have said that the ending (after being told the ending by GRRM) is bittersweet but also "satisfying." Of course, different people have their own sense of what these terms mean. I doubt, however, that the WW winning would be viewed as bittersweet or satisfying to GRRM or D&D (although I understand it could be for you). I know there is a contingent out there who are rooting for the WW, but I strongly suspect that they will have to write their own ending if they want the WW to be victorious over all of Westeros.

I get the feeling from this post of yours that your personal definition of bittersweet (and probably satisfying) is quite different than mine (and I suspect GRRM's or D&D's). I think that Jon or Dany dying (but not both -- and not other major characters, like Tyrion, Arya, Sansa and Bran) and a victory over the WW after massive (but not total) devastation in Westeros -- with the beginnings of rebuilding -- definitely has the makings of bittersweet and satisfying if done right. While such an ending might seem largely predictable and not trope-breaking, I think people who expect that GRRM was ever going for a trope-breaking ending misunderstand what GRRM is all about.

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39 minutes ago, UnmaskedLurker said:

Assuming that we can trust GRRM and D&D to tell the truth (and on this score I think we can), as has been stated, GRRM has said that the ending will be bittersweet, while D&D have said that the ending (after being told the ending by GRRM) is bittersweet but also "satisfying." Of course, different people have their own sense of what these terms mean. I doubt, however, that the WW winning would be viewed as bittersweet or satisfying to GRRM or D&D (although I understand it could be for you). I know there is a contingent out there who are rooting for the WW, but I strongly suspect that they will have to write their own ending if they want the WW to be victorious over all of Westeros.

I get the feeling from this post of yours that your personal definition of bittersweet (and probably satisfying) is quite different than mine (and I suspect GRRM's or D&D's). I think that Jon or Dany dying (but not both -- and not other major characters, like Tyrion, Arya, Sansa and Bran) and a victory over the WW after massive (but not total) devastation in Westeros -- with the beginnings of rebuilding -- definitely has the makings of bittersweet and satisfying if done right. While such an ending might seem largely predictable and not trope-breaking, I think people who expect that GRRM was ever going for a trope-breaking ending misunderstand what GRRM is all about.

Everyone's definition of bittersweet and satisfying is going to be different though. I can almost guarantee the majority of people on this board won't agree with each other or with D&D and GRRM on what is a bittersweet/satisfying ending. 

Just speaking personally, the ending you state is bittersweet for Jon and Dany. But I wanna hear about Jamie, Bran, Arya, Sansa (I like them all a lot more in the books than the show though, so I care more about their book version than show version). I don't care for Jon and Dany in the books or even really in the show (show Jon is not bad to me).
To me, what will be satisfying with the ending is, do they have a bittersweet ending for just Jon and Dany and everyone else gets either a happy/tragic ending depending on the fallout from the "main" ending. Or, do they try to have a bittersweet ending for everyone? For me it's the latter. 

The other interesting thing to me is that while the show has obviously kinda whittled it down to us just caring about Jon, Dany, Cersei and White walkers, I am excited to see the approach the books take. I hope it is a lot more expansive than the way the show seems to be going, so the endings of each of those characters can feel really satisfying, vs. they just feel like the fallout of the main, Jon and Dany ending.But obviously, if you just really care about Jon and Dany, then you won't be as satisfied with an ending that really goes into all those characters. 

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I would define a bittersweet ending as one where the conflict is resolved, but at a cost that the protagonist wasn't prepared to pay.  With this definition I think a bittersweet ending could be done for most of the characters.  Obviously Cersei will have a tragic end and it's hard for me to determine what the overarching conflict is for each character is.

But let's take Dany and Jon since they are a bit more obvious to me.  Dany's arch is leading to her becoming queen of Westeros so not obtaining that would be tragic not bittersweet.  However from her perspective (in the books at least) becoming queen won't make her happy, since what she seems to really want is a home (a house with a red door, so to speak).  And she doesn't seem to like ruling, or at least doesn't like the type of ruler she is, she wants to plant trees and leave the world better than she finds it.  But she is a dragon and all she leaves is a trail of fire and blood.

Jon's conflict on the other hand is centered almost entirely on the army of the dead and winning the War for Dawn.  So as long as he is the one to kill the Night King his arch has a satisfactory conclusion.  Especially when he realizes that he is legitimate since being a bastard is one of his main hang-up.  Because of this I think him dying at the end makes the most sense for a bittersweet ending especially since his loss wouldn't undermine the resolution of his conflict like death would for other characters but also since his loss would be the most poignant from the perspective of the other characters.  So that sense of loss would permeate into all (or at least almost all) of our main characters.

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3 minutes ago, Bran the Shipper said:

I would define a bittersweet ending as one where the conflict is resolved, but at a cost that the protagonist wasn't prepared to pay.  With this definition I think a bittersweet ending could be done for most of the characters.  Obviously Cersei will have a tragic end and it's hard for me to determine what the overarching conflict is for each character is.

But let's take Dany and Jon since they are a bit more obvious to me.  Dany's arch is leading to her becoming queen of Westeros so not obtaining that would be tragic not bittersweet.  However from her perspective (in the books at least) becoming queen won't make her happy, since what she seems to really want is a home (a house with a red door, so to speak).  And she doesn't seem to like ruling, or at least doesn't like the type of ruler she is, she wants to plant trees and leave the world better than she finds it.  But she is a dragon and all she leaves is a trail of fire and blood.

Jon's conflict on the other hand is centered almost entirely on the army of the dead and winning the War for Dawn.  So as long as he is the one to kill the Night King his arch has a satisfactory conclusion.  Especially when he realizes that he is legitimate since being a bastard is one of his main hang-up.  Because of this I think him dying at the end makes the most sense for a bittersweet ending especially since his loss wouldn't undermine the resolution of his conflict like death would for other characters but also since his loss would be the most poignant from the perspective of the other characters.  So that sense of loss would permeate into all (or at least almost all) of our main characters.

I kinda agree with you, in a few ways.

Dany to be bittersweet I see that she could rule but she can't "break the wheel" or rules but has to sacrifice her dragons or the child she is bound to be carrying soon. Like she won, but at what cost kinda thing.

Jon's death after defeating the WWs wouldn't be bittersweet to me. I mean, from our perspective it is but from his it isn't. His to be bittersweet from his perspective would be something like, that he lives at the end of it and the world isn't that much of a better place. Or that he has no idea what to do now with his life. If he dies a hero, who defeats the WWs that seems like a pretty happy ending to me. Now, if he realizes that family is the most important thing and doesn't want to raise a bastard but ends up doing so accidentally from his death against the WW, even if he kills them all in the process, then I could see that being more bittersweet.

 

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9 minutes ago, btfu806 said:

Everyone's definition of bittersweet and satisfying is going to be different though. I can almost guarantee the majority of people on this board won't agree with each other or with D&D and GRRM on what is a bittersweet/satisfying ending.

This is the problem with the term "bittersweet." It's complicated, and it's subjective. "Tragic" would be easier, as would a simple happy ending within the parameters of the novels/show. Main problem is that I no longer care much for these characters to feel for them, either novels or show. I dislike Dany. I'm starting to dislike Jon, as the series is perfecting him for Dany. Tyrion and Arya are no longer recognizable as the characters I loved. Davos is disappearing into the "wise old mentor" trope. Cersei and Jaime are the two left whom I enjoy as characters (Cersei only in the show) but she's a villain whose death will not be bittersweet, and Jaime...idk. Bran is past bittersweet into tragic: he's lost himself.

Frankly, at this point I'm so disappointed in both novels and the show that the disappointment, in itself, could qualify as bittersweet, just not in the way either GRRM and showmakers would want it.

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1 minute ago, kimim said:

This is the problem with the term "bittersweet." It's complicated, and it's subjective. "Tragic" would be easier, as would a simple happy ending within the parameters of the novels/show. Main problem is that I no longer care much for these characters to feel for them, either novels or show. I dislike Dany. I'm starting to dislike Jon, as the series is perfecting him for Dany. Tyrion and Arya are no longer recognizable as the characters I loved. Davos is disappearing into the "wise old mentor" trope. Cersei and Jaime are the two left whom I enjoy as characters (Cersei only in the show) but she's a villain whose death will not be bittersweet, and Jaime...idk. Bran is past bittersweet into tragic: he's lost himself.

Frankly, at this point I'm so disappointed in both novels and the show that the disappointment, in itself, could qualify as bittersweet, just not in the way either GRRM and showmakers would want it.

Agree so much on the bold. It is highly subjective. 

While I don't have as many issues with the book as it appears you do. I share a lot of your same pain with the show. I see the show going toward those generic tropes. I get that at some points that some of it has to, there is just no way for it not to. But I didn't expect for every.single.character and action to go into a trope. 

 

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38 minutes ago, btfu806 said:

Everyone's definition of bittersweet and satisfying is going to be different though. I can almost guarantee the majority of people on this board won't agree with each other or with D&D and GRRM on what is a bittersweet/satisfying ending. 

Just speaking personally, the ending you state is bittersweet for Jon and Dany. But I wanna hear about Jamie, Bran, Arya, Sansa (I like them all a lot more in the books than the show though, so I care more about their book version than show version). I don't care for Jon and Dany in the books or even really in the show (show Jon is not bad to me).
To me, what will be satisfying with the ending is, do they have a bittersweet ending for just Jon and Dany and everyone else gets either a happy/tragic ending depending on the fallout from the "main" ending. Or, do they try to have a bittersweet ending for everyone? For me it's the latter. 

The other interesting thing to me is that while the show has obviously kinda whittled it down to us just caring about Jon, Dany, Cersei and White walkers, I am excited to see the approach the books take. I hope it is a lot more expansive than the way the show seems to be going, so the endings of each of those characters can feel really satisfying, vs. they just feel like the fallout of the main, Jon and Dany ending.But obviously, if you just really care about Jon and Dany, then you won't be as satisfied with an ending that really goes into all those characters. 

Sure people have different perceptions regarding what qualifies as bittersweet -- and even more subject views on what qualifies as satisfying. But the people on this board are not representative of the average reader/viewer. The average reader/viewer is generally going to buy into whatever emotions the author/producers are pushing.

In that sense, calling whatever ending is planned bittersweet is relatively easy. To be bittersweet, there must be a mixture of sad feelings and happy feelings -- that really is it -- if that goal is accomplished, then the ending is bittersweet. So there will not be complete devastation (with WW winning) and there will not be a cost-less victory with every main protagonist getting whatever he or she wants. Anything in-between arguably is bittersweet. And a story is bittersweet for readers/viewers -- not the characters. So a main character can die -- and the story is bittersweet as long as other characters people care about survive.

So yes, the story will resolve the outcome for the main characters. And all of the main protagonists who survive will to some extent have some sort of hope of a better tomorrow but have suffered some form of cost as a result of the War -- but none is likely to get exactly what he or she wants. And even if one of the main protagonists dies (as I believe will happen), that does not make the entire story tragic because the readers/viewers have other main protagonists to identify with regarding their ultimate outcomes.

Bottom line is that GRRM does not primarily have in mind the readers who analyze ever words with intensity and muddle over every possible theory (i.e., the people on this board). When GRRM uses a term like bittersweet, he is not asserting that every reader will agree -- but rather than for the vast majority of readers, who follow the emotional arc that he personally is trying to lead them to, will view the story as bittersweet.

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9 minutes ago, UnmaskedLurker said:

Sure people have different perceptions regarding what qualifies as bittersweet -- and even more subject views on what qualifies as satisfying. But the people on this board are not representative of the average reader/viewer. The average reader/viewer is generally going to buy into whatever emotions the author/producers are pushing.

In that sense, calling whatever ending is planned bittersweet is relatively easy. To be bittersweet, there must be a mixture of sad feelings and happy feelings -- that really is it -- if that goal is accomplished, then the ending is bittersweet. So there will not be complete devastation (with WW winning) and there will not be a cost-less victory with every main protagonist getting whatever he or she wants. Anything in-between arguably is bittersweet. And a story is bittersweet for readers/viewers -- not the characters. So a main character can die -- and the story is bittersweet as long as other characters people care about survive.

So yes, the story will resolve the outcome for the main characters. And all of the main protagonists who survive will to some extent have some sort of hope of a better tomorrow but have suffered some form of cost as a result of the War -- but none is likely to get exactly what he or she wants. And even if one of the main protagonists dies (as I believe will happen), that does not make the entire story tragic because the readers/viewers have other main protagonists to identify with regarding their ultimate outcomes.

Bottom line is that GRRM does not primarily have in mind the readers who analyze ever words with intensity and muddle over every possible theory (i.e., the people on this board). When GRRM uses a term like bittersweet, he is not asserting that every reader will agree -- but rather than for the vast majority of readers, who follow the emotional arc that he personally is trying to lead them to, will view the story as bittersweet.

Ahhh ok I gotcha. Yeah I am on the same page with ya.

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On 9/7/2017 at 5:04 AM, MinscS2 said:

I've heard this as well, and I agree: LotR has a happy ending, not a bittersweet ending.
The Scouring of the Shire isn't really bittersweet, because only a few non-named hobbits actually die in that final battle.

The only bittersweet part of the LotR-ending imo is how Frodo is so scarred by the ring that he has to leave his friends behind forever and travel with the elves to Valinor.  It's a sad farewell between Frodo, Sam (who later joins him), Merry and Pippin, but it's still a happy ending imo.

Edit: I don't really buy the "there must always be a Lich Nightking"-theory were Jon somehow will become the next Nightking, but that's the only way I can see GoT have a similar ending to LotR: Evil is vanquished, the realm of men is saved and the future looks bright, but Frodo had to leave his friends behind and was prevented from having his happy ever after with them - and Jon has to leave Daenerys and their child behind when he becomes the new Nightking, leaving a heartbroken Daenerys with a throne she no longer really wants.

But that is exactly the example GRRM sites when he talks about what Bittersweat means. 

I saw him say once that Frodo is the example and that his characters will feel a sense of loss at the end. 

Based on that definiton and example from GRRM, a great example of a bittersweat ending is what we got in the last episode. Arya and Sansa reconnecting as sisters but both of them deeply missing their father. 

I expect based on that, core characters - Dany, Jon, Arya, Bran, Sansa and Tyrion - basically everyone from episode 1 we were introduced to with their own arcs - will survive and succeed but be permanently changed and scarred by the experience.

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Here are some good quotes from Martin:

but I always say to expect something bittersweet in the end,” he said. “You can’t just fulfill a quest and then pretend life is perfect.”

https://www.google.com/amp/amp.timeinc.net/time/4101276/game-of-thrones-ending-george-r-r-martin/%3fsource=dam

“I think there’s a difference between a loose end and something that’s deliberately left by the author ambiguous, or something for the readers to think about and worry about and debate about,” he revealed. “For me, that’s part of the fun of reading and writing is having stories that maybe have a little ambiguity to them, a little subtlety to them, and everything is not crystal clear and laid out. You have to think about some things and put clues together and see what it all adds up to.

“So some of that is gonna be left there deliberately. But first I have to finish the damn thing.”

https://www.google.com/amp/hellogiggles.com/reviews-coverage/george-rr-martin-teased-bittersweet-ending-winds-winter/amp/

 

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Based on the above quotes and the fact Martin in his original outline said the core characters live through the series i could see the ending being: 

Dany and Jon: they rule as king and queen buts its left ambigious as to whether they will be good rulers. Jon afterall is a warrior and do warriors make good kings? Dany has all these aspirations about transforming the system but are they viable, what happens when she is gone? or now that she is in charge with a kid and no longer a revolutionary with no possibility of heirs does she become reactionary and want to preserve the status quo? 

Tyrion: he becomes their hand but is burdened by the destruction of his family and the Lannister name and power and its unclear if he will be able or willing to hold Dany to her ideals 

Bran: he is forever changed by being the three eyed ravin

Arya: she is a killer. How does she reintigrate or function in society? 

Sansa: she rules the north as wardeness but is incapable of every trusting a man given what she lived through and its an open question if she ever finds love

Edited by jcmontea

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^ I'm hoping for quite a bit more ambiguity than wondering whether Jon will make a good king or whether Sansa can ever trust men again *yawn* (thank god you're not the one writing ASoIaF).

A satisfyingly ambiguous ending would be the Others being defeated only after they've wiped out most life on Westeros and completely destroyed all seats of power, including King's Landing.

This would raise the interesting question - what now? There's no throne to sit on, and no seven kingoms to rule. How do the survivors start over and build a better world?

Edited by Khorkalba

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