There's an SNL sketch from 2012—when Game of Thrones was less a cultural phenomenon and more that show your fantasy-obsessed cousin was always saying you had to check out—that imagines a behind-the-scenes world where the show's sex scenes were run by author George R.R. Martin and a teenage boy (played, of course, by Andy Samberg). Martin was there to ensure character integrity and narrative continuity; the teen was there to make sure every scene had GoT's signature overload of topless women.
Even if you consider the two sex scenes that were hyped in this too-brief season—Ayra and Gendry's, and Brienne and Jaime's—they were a major departure from the graphic nature of most hook-ups in previous seasons. There was little that couldn't be shown on network TV, and the emotional resonance was really found in the moments after.
But what about the lack of romantic pairings set up in the final moments of the series? What separates this finale from most goes beyond any kind of "happy-ending couples," but the fact that even ones created in fans' imaginations call for the creation of completely new characters. Jon Snow plus some unnamed member of the free folk. Sansa plus one of the Northerners who actually survived both wars. Tyrion and someone he meets in the newly restored brothel, probably. Any characters with even the suggestion of romantic chemistry have been separated by the finale via distance or death.
Maybe Game of Thrones is, in the end, a testament to finding happiness with yourself, and yourself alone.
Of course, in a penultimate scene, the king's advisors discuss as a top priority the possibility of rebuilding the brothels destroyed in the battle. Maybe that's the takeaway the writers really want to leave us with. Whole houses might be wiped out, dragons again disappeared, families scattered, unlikely kings installed and the entire system of succession disrupted. But when the dust settles and the people of Westeros are ready to go on, the orgies will always come back.
With GoT now gone, TV junkies are considering not just the fantasy series' legacy, but what impact it will have on the medium's landscape overall. GoT's sexless finale might be heralding, if not a more chaste world of TV, then at least one that really considers if a graphic sex scene is what the story needs. The show got a lot of well-deserved criticism for using sexual violence to an unnecessary degree, and in the #MeToo era, it seems showrunners are now much more cognizant that any sex scene isn't just about sex—it's also about power. TV post-Game of Thrones won't be devoid of all sex, but it might just use sex scenes in smarter, more careful ways.