SPOILER ALERT: if you haven’t seen the series and plan to, then this blog is NOT for you – it’s full of spoilers!
So, my wife and I just finished binging on the Game of Thrones series; we did not partake of all the excitement while it was originally airing, but this past spring we decided to give it a try and, well….we got addicted.
We watched the last episode last night and posted on Facebook that we had enjoyed the series very much. It didn’t take long that someone posted that they had not liked the last season, a sentiment that I had heard many times. I asked him why, and he raised the following points:
- Daenerys snaps in the last 2 episodes and destroys King’s Landing
- The Night King is killed too easily
- Bran becomes the King…WTF???
- Jaime Lannister was developing as a good guy but his end is too easy
Good points all of them, and too long to address in a FB comment, so I felt like having fun and addressing them here.
Disclaimer: I never read the books, or read any fan sites or wikis; these are just my thoughts based on viewing the series.
Daenerys is, without a doubt, one of the most interesting characters in the series. She starts as a slave to her brother, then the slave-wife of Khal Drogo, but eventually finds her freedom. She frees her servants, including Missandei, who stays with her throughout all her adventures.
It’s hard NOT to love this character: she exhibits strength, resilience, political cunning, and courage. She frees slaves, destroys the masters, and earns her followers’ trust and admiration.
I believe there are 3 reasons why she snaps and it ends badly for her:
- She yearns for the Iron Throne; she believes it is her “destiny”, and that no one else has a better claim to it (as Lord Varys points out, though, ALL rulers thought it was “their destiny” to claim the throne). When she finds out that Jon Snow is actually a Targaryen and has a better claim to the throne, she begins to perceive a threat to her claim, despite the fact that Jon is clear that he does not want to be King. Even if Jon doesn’t want the throne and tries to limit the number of people who know the truth, she fears that the news will spread and people will be more drawn to Jon as a leader than to her. I think at this point she feels that she needs to become a more forceful leader, as she disregards Jon and Tyrion’s advice NOT to destroy King’s Landing and massacre its citizens.
- Secondly, could there be some genetics involved? As my wife pointed out (credit where credit is due), she is, after all, the Mad King’s daughter!
- And finally, my take is that she really snaps when Cersei has Missandei executed on the castle wall. I think Emilia Clarke does a wonderful job of showing Daenerys’ state of mind at that moment. After this event, we also don’t see Daenerys wearing her familiar white dress, anymore; she goes into battle wearing black, another clue – IMHO – of her state of mind. She has gone to the proverbial dark side…
After 8 seasons and an epic story, with thousands and thousands of people fighting and dying to see who will rule that Iron Throne, and with the series keeping you wondering who the heck will claim it, it thought it was brilliant that Drogon melts the throne after Jon kills Daenerys. He clearly understands that his “mother” is dead because of the quest and the obsession for the damned thing, and figures no one else will get it if she can’t.
Death of the Night King
Sure, we expect some grandiose, climactic showdown with the Night King, but I absolutely cheered when Arya jumped him. Initially I thought that was the end of her, but a great twist with the knife and she ends up stabbing him – we know that Valerian steel kills the white-walkers, and he is, after all, simply their king. Is he “easily” killed? Maybe, but at some point someone had to get to him and do the deed. The story had to move on.
Bran Stark Becomes King
I think like many, if not most, viewers, I did not expect that! That was a wonderful twist to the end of this tale. I also think it was brilliant on Tyrion’s part to suggest him as the next King; we know that what saves Tyrion over and over is his political wisdom (after all, he drinks and he knows things!), and he’s had time to reflect on this while being held in prison.
Looking back, I think there were a few clues that led to this making a lot of sense. In the first episode of the series, when Ned Stark executes the Night Watch deserter, Jon & Bran are present, and Jon tells Bran not to look away, part of the lesson we hear about later that the one who pronounces the sentence should be the one to wield the sword. This is about duty, a lesson Bran learns at a young age.
To me, however, the biggest clue is about wisdom. Recall when Tommen is about to become king and Tywin asks him what makes a great King. The conclusion is that it is Wisdom. It would appear to me that out of all the characters in the series, Bran is the one who has been busiest acquiring wisdom – his encounters with the different characters that teach him how to “see” things and connect people and events have led to him being the wisest among all the people at the final council to select a king.
I also think that of all the people at the final meeting in the arena that Bran is the one with the least “skin in the game”, as it were – yes, he’s a Stark, one of the Noble Houses, but he’s not Lord of anything, does not command any armies, has never been able to prove himself in battle; he is essentially a “cripple”. All he has is his mind.
Which leads me to an observation about the denouement of the series: it is clear, through what happens to both Bran and Tyrion, that the writers’ message is that Mind and Reason triumph over brute strength and raw courage when it comes to the traits that make good leaders. Both end up in positions of power, but – as we witness in the final episode with the meeting of the new council – focused on rebuilding and serving their citizens rather than acquiring more power and wealth at their expense.
Jaime Lannister – Valiant Knight or Doomed Lover?
Ah, Jaime – is he a good guy? Or is he a bad guy? We never seem to be too sure, do we? My take is that Jaime wants – and tries – to do what’s right, but he is doomed by his love for Cersei.
When he finds out that Cersei has no intention of sending her armies north to help fight the Army of the Dead, he betrays her by leaving King’s Landing to go fight with the Starks, because that’s what he promised and that’s what he’ll do. Good guy.
However, even after it looks like a relationship has developed with Lady Brienne, he decides to go back to King’s Landing to be with Cersei, most likely well aware that it would not end well. But, as he tells Brienne, he “would’ve killed every man, woman, and child for Cersei”, and that love for her is stronger than anything.
There is a wonderful dichotomy around a phrase in the last episode, that Jon and Tyrion discuss in the jail cell. We had heard the phrase earlier in the season, I believe as it concerned Grey Worm and Missandei; Jon says, “Love is the death of duty”, meaning that once Love is involved, duty may take the wayside. Tyrion retorts with, “Duty is the death of Love.” Looking back, it would appear that Jon subscribed to the latter by killing Daenerys, his love, to uphold his duty as a leader who believes in fairness, justice, and peace. Jaime, on the other hand, might have forsworn duty in the name of Love. Which of the two is more noble is up to each of us to decide.
On a final note, I’m sure everyone has their favourite character on the series, and it’s all very subjective, but for what it’s worth, mine was Sandor, “The Hound”. He’s a disfigured warrior that no one can love, who constantly shows no fear and kills anyone who gets in his way, but in there somewhere, there’s a heart that cares. This is evident in his love-hate relationship with Arya. I was hoping he’d make it through the series alive, wondering what that one thing was that would make him happy; as it turns out, it was killing his brother, the giant Sir Gregor, who was responsible for his disfigurement at a young age. In the end, they fall together into the fire, the one thing Sandor feared.
All in all an epic series, very well done. I still disagree with those who claimed that the last season or two were not as good, that it felt like “they got tired” of working on it. I did not get that sense at all, but perhaps that is a result of watching it in a short time span and not having to wait for seasons to air.
My two cents…