“A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse!”–William Shakespeare (Richard III)
I’ve finally gotten myself caught up on Game of Thrones, as the saga hurtles towards its end–just before the show’s grand finale episode on Sunday.
It seems like most are somewhat disappointed with the showrunner’s attempt to wrap things up. I count myself among the masses on this front. And after all, what show hasn’t come to and end (with the exception of Breaking Bad) that didn’t disappoint the most loyal viewers? I’m specifically thinking about Seinfeld, The Sopranos, Dexter, and Lost. There are plenty more. The road doesn’t go on forever, but the list does.
However, true to form, the episodes I didn’t like stand in stark (ah, pun intended) contrast to the episodes most folks liked–and vice versa.
For instance, I wasn’t a big fan of the epic battle between the White Walkers (those supernatural beings that can’t seem to be killed and are on some sort of a mission without a cause) and the notherners/wildlings/Daenery’s forces. Like almost all the episodes this season–it went on forever. And it contained numerous cliffhangers and melodramatic plot contrivances that insult the viewer’s intelligence if they have any.
Long and Boring
What made Game of Thrones great in the early seasons was the long, witty dialogue and exquisite character development. In the last two seasons, and somewhat previously as well, that’s been thrown out the window in lieu of blockbusteresque battle scenes.
Fortunately, that returned the next episode. In episode 4, we see interesting dialogue between Tyrion and Varys, Tyrion and Sansa, and between Arya, John, Sansa, and Bran. The battle scene, which saw Daenery’s second dragon lose its life, was short and straight to the point. That left some room for a bit more character development.
Particularly, we got to see Daenery’s get setup to make her full heel turn–as they say in wrestling (go from good to bad).
Which brings us to episode 5, the most recent episode. That episode began with the execution of Varys, the long-time Westeros power broker who was beginning to warn everyone that Daenery’s was becoming a mad tyrant–her father’s daughter. That got him roasted like a marshmallow.
He was just the first of so many main characters to either get roasted or crushed by rubble.
Roasted and Crushed
Yet one character who seemed to face her end once again found a way out–as she has so many times. Arya Stark was on a mission, along with “The Hound” Sandor Clegane, to kill Queen Cersei Lannister. She never got to it. No matter. Like I said before, rubble.
In a relatively heartwarming scene, Clegane convinces her to end her quest and turn away. It was a full-circle turn for Arya, since a major theme of the show was the loss of her humanity due to all the violence she’d witnessed.
Yet as she attempted to leave, she is once again confronted with so much death and violence. This time, it’s at the hands of Daenry’s.
For so long, so many have considered her their favorite. I get it. You go, girl. Feminism, and all that. But to my discerning eyes, the writing has been on the wall for quite some time. At least 4 seasons, to be exact.
She’s always had a hot streak (another pun). In season 5, she intended to put a member of a faction opposing her rule in another land on trial for treason. When that man was murdered, she puts to death his suspected murderer–without a trial. That never sat right with me. Neither did her penchant for telling folks that they would obey her…or else.
Not So Surprising
Early in the episode, her actions were foreshadowed when Tyrion beckons her to hold off on an attack since there were so many innocent civilians in the city. She refuses.
Her logic is interesting, and it’s not totally unseductive either. She reasons that since Cerseis’ subjects allow her to rule, they’re not without guilt or responsibility for what’s to come. Tyrion asks her what happened to her desire to free those people from tyranny. She doesn’t have a good answer, but basically states that they didn’t want to be freed so they’ll get what’s coming to them.
Do citizens deserve responsibility for the actions of their leaders? Is she correct that rulers couldn’t rule if there wasn’t some implicit encouragement from their citizens/subjects? Should not only those who “follow orders” be held responsible, but also those who don’t try to stop those who do follow the evil orders? The Mad Queen would say yes.
I would say no. I, on the other hand, tend to side with Pope Francis (he’s not wrong about everything), who said, in 2013, “where there is no mercy, there is no justice”.
At first blush, it seems her advisers have convinced her to show some. She then claims she’ll stop the attack once the city surrenders (the ringing of the bells).
Yet that doesn’t come to pass. Instead, she torches the city, and kills so many innocents.
That brings us back to Arya. She’s covered in ashe and soot. She’s bloody, as usual. Once again, this is dire straits. But Arya’s nothing if not a survivor. Once again, she says “not today” to The God of Death.
A majestic looking white horse, covered in blood and ashes as well, but with hair that’s clean, appears. She’s able to mount the horse and leave the ruined city.
Presumably, she’ll meet her brother (well, cousin now, technically) Jon Snow–who, like her, is appalled at the turn of events.
Here’s hoping the series finale will be long on dialogue and character development and short on cheap cliffhanger action and boring melodrama. I’m not optimistic, but I’ve been wrong before.