Long live the king or queen.
After it all, it's come to this: the end of Game of Thrones. With the final episodes of Season 8, HBO's fantasy epic wrapped up the Last War with the destruction of the Lannisters, the torching of King's Landing, and the embrace of madness by a key protagonist. But as was evidenced by the fact that the conflict with the White Walkers wrapped up halfway through the season, there remained one core matter to resolve that has been central to the series: the titular game of thrones to decide who would sit on the Iron Throne and rule Westeros. Below, we're recapping the finale's ending, and specifically who ended up as ruler of Westeros--the prime motivation for many of the show's characters dating back to the very start.
Of course, one final warning: There are massive spoilers for the Game of Thrones finale beyond this point. Read on at your own risk.
The finale episode resolved the conflict between Daenerys Targaryen and the rest of Westeros after her turn in King's Landing, in which she used dragon fire to kill thousands even after the city had surrendered. Daenerys chose to rule Westeros through fear since she thought she'd never get the people's love. Turns out, that wasn't a great choice either, as it caused some of her most trusted allies to turn on her.
In the end, Jon Snow took matters into his own hands and killed Dany to stop her from becoming the Mad Queen. Drogon melted down the Iron Throne in his grief before bailing with Dany's body--so while there still needs to be a monarch, there's no longer an Iron Throne per se.
That left Jon as the last Targaryen in Westeros to rule, but assassinating a queen is something a lot of people frown upon in a ruler--to say nothing of the fact that Jon has repeatedly said he doesn't want to rule Westeros. The survivors of the war formed a council to democratically choose a new ruler, finally landing on someone who's highly qualified, if a little weird: Bran Stark.
With his powers of the Three-Eyed Raven, Bran is easily the wisest person in all of the Seven Kingdoms, and the fact that he has no desires at all anymore means he's a solid choice for a leader, if you're looking for someone who will make good decisions for all of a country's people. Where other rulers get petty, paranoid, or vindictive, Bran's general distance from other humans makes him pretty objective. As Tyrion dictated, from now on, there will be no succession for the throne based on heredity; instead, the lords and ladies of Westeros will choose a new leader by vote. Bran also created a strong small council of people who want to make the realm a better place, led by Tyrion Lannister as his Hand of the King. But they won't lead the North. As Sansa said, the North will now be an independent kingdom (of which Sansa is now queen). That leaves Bran to be the king of the Six Kingdoms.
So what about Jon and the other Starks? As a compromise with Grey Worm and the Starks, Jon was sent back to the Night's Watch and then went beyond the Wall with the Freefolk. Sansa Stark is Queen in the North, and Arya Stark departed Westeros to explore the world. Grey Worm and the Dothraki also departed the continent and were headed back to Essos to free more slaves. Daenerys might be gone, but she still left behind a powerful influence, one that should lead to a better world for her people on both continents. At least, that's the hope.