A tumultuous set of days have ensued following the airing of last weekend’s episode of the highly acclaimed, widely loved, Game of Thrones. Critics and fans alike have come out in full force, complaining about the shortened span of the final season, as well as the later seasons’ departure from the narrative of the novels. It’s been made clear the show’s degradation is at the hands of writers David Weiss and Dan Benioff (known to fans as D&D). There is little hope for a satisfactory finale after the complete disregard for logical narrative structure and the absolute character assassination of, largely, Daenerys Targaryen and Jaime Lannister. However, Jon Snow, Cersei Lannister, Tyrion Lannister, and other major and minor characters have fallen prey to the poor writing and planning of the show’s creators much to the dismay and heartbreak of the hundreds of thousands, if not millions of fans around the world.
George R.R. Martin gave an example of how writing cannot be undone due to the cleverness of a readership. If in a well-built crime story it’s planted that “the butler” is the one who committed the crime and someone follows those clues and assumes he’s whodunnit, it’s now possible for that one person to share this conclusion on the Internet. Then other readers discover that poster’s deductions. Now that theory is floating throughout the internet, but after all the set-up leading to the yet-to-be-revealed killer, the author must not deviate from the plan and suddenly place the blame on “the chambermaid” as that loses the trust of his readership. This is precisely what D&D have done. After creating their own (lamely-built) path to the finish, they have also abandoned what GRRM set up to undermine and surprise the intelligence of the show’s devotees. This tears apart years of good storytelling and, as currently evident, disrupts and distresses its devout audience.
It’s painful to predict what will occur in the remaining eighty or so minutes of the finale. It’s inevitable that Dany will fall, killed by Jon or Arya. Unless a fan theory linked to Khivara, the Red Priestess who visited Dany and her counsel in Essos comes true. Should Dany be killed? There are those who hope Drogon will take her body to be revived by the Priestess in the name of the Lord of Light, the slaughter of King’s Landing being seen as some kind of sacrifice he views worthy in order to resurrect her.
However, even this feels too complex for D&D, especially after they brutally ignored the foundation that George R. R. Martin set in place with the Azor Ahai prophecy, also known as the “prince (or princess) who was promised,” the one meant to end the Long Night. I really believed Jon or Daenerys would take part in the final battle against the Night King and his army of the undead, ice and fire come together, Melisandre’s mission complete. All that build-up seems for naught. Why was Jon brought back from the dead if not to take part in defeating the Night King? Why have Dany’s dragons? Why have her be “the last dragon?” The series is literally titled “A Song of Ice and Fire,” and yet D&D let the glory fall into Arya’s hands, tying into Melisandre’s icy prediction that Arya would “shut many eyes forever” as the catalyst. I believe, this scene only foreshadowed her journey to the House of Black and White, nothing more. Time and time again, D&D have disobeyed the rules of the storytelling game and it’s only lead us further and further into chaos.
Dany certainly won’t fall before killing Tyrion. She’ll surely want to see and dispose of Jaime, who she’ll think is still being held captive at Dragonstone. When she learns that Tyrion freed him, that’ll be the end of the Hand of the Queen. At this point, D&D have certainly butchered every major and well-loved character on the show, including Tyrion, replacing his wit and cleverness with misstep after misstep following season 5.
After what appeared to be Jaime seeking redemption and becoming a more honorable and moral man after losing his hand and being influenced by Brienne, all that work was lost when he returned to Cersei. Admittedly, as my loyalties conflict and I hate to love and love to hate Cersei, it was bittersweet watching her die with her brother. However, it still felt off. Such a great character (and villain) dying beneath a pile of rocks is cheap. Not to mention, it was heartbreaking to watch a pregnant woman die on Mother’s Day (in the United States), whether this was purposeful or not, it only adds to the long list of sexist and negative actions towards women on the show.
It’s numbing now to watch character after character go, where it was once an excruciating ordeal to watch scenes such as The Red Wedding. When Daenerys dies though, it’ll be painfully unearned. Her securing of the throne always felt too obvious to me, especially after it’s been her sole goal from the pilot episode. Yet, there was — without a doubt — a better way for this to play out. She could have died as Azor Ahai, sacrificing herself to save the world from the Night King, she could have earned going “mad” with a better set-up and more episodes, or could even have gotten the throne and made all the Targaryen supporters happy.
To even begin to break down the character assassination of Daenerys is draining in the wake of the last episode, crudely titled “The Bells.” Her transformation into “the Mad Queen,” was rushed, cheaply presented as hand-me-down “Targaryen madness.” The problem is her descent into darkness was not earned, it makes no logical sense after establishing Daenerys early on as a leader who worked to free and protect innocents from tyrants, after cementing her as a queen who loved her people, a leader who was strong, but merciful and just. Even D&D previously stated she was a “good Targaryen.” Have viewers so easily forgotten her terror at the thought of being like her father when Ser Barristan shares with her stories of when he served under her family? Or when she freed countless slaves in Essos? When Drogon flew off and accidentally killed a toddler, Dany tearfully locked up her two remaining children, Rhaegal and Viserion to prevent any more harm from coming to the people. When she killed before, it was not without reason and she worked to avoid as much bloodshed as possible. She risked everything to help Jon, to fight his war and lost almost everything in the process. Her fall from grace is an unfair one, to the character, to the fans, and significantly, to Emilia Clarke who expertly has taken the recent script and made it work.
If D&D wanted to make the “Mad Queen Dany” narrative work they needed to better plan it, they needed more time. The final season should never have been a mere six episodes, much less season 8. A similar story as what we’ve witnessed this season could have been told over two, maybe even three years – thus becoming a better story. HBO would have been more than willing to secure money for it and we could have had a better-timed ending.
Characters now travel from Winterfell to King’s Landing at lightning speeds (remember how Cersei and Robert complained of how long the journey was during the first season), those who should fall due to poor military strategy and planning are magically rescued in the nick of time where this was once not the case, coffee cups and cameramen manage to land in scenes, and characters act completely out of character. It’s a complete and utter mess and a slap in the face to fans who have loyally dedicated themselves to the show, hoping all their invested time and energy was worth it. The ending is looking to be… a farce.
I myself, alongside many fans, found strength in Daenerys, one of the most beloved characters on the show, who sadly was forced into the most devastating narrative. D&D justified her “madness” by saying it’s been a long time coming, one of the examples they used being her “chilling” reaction to Khal Drogo, her late husband, killing her brother. Viserys abused and tormented Dany, it makes no sense that she would be emotional over his demise. Sansa had a similar reaction to Ramsey’s death after enduring his horrors.
When Daenerys falls, either Drogon will somehow be slain (though the lack of Scorpions, the weapons Cersei and Qyburn planted throughout the city, and the unknown number of Northern forces make this hard to see) or fly off. Jon doesn’t want the throne, though after Varys shared the secrets of his parentage, those remaining in the realm may want to see him upon it. The sudden sexist take towards women ruling shared by Varys make Dany’s fall and the support of Jon even stronger, and the show only more absurd. Jon will likely refuse, though he has no purpose now that the Wall has fallen, the Night King has been defeated, and Dany is dead in this scenario. Will he kill himself? Or wander aimlessly in grief? Maybe he’ll shack up with Tormund and Ghost in the “real North.”
This leaves Arya, Sansa, and Bran from House Stark. Sansa has made it clear she wishes to remain in Winterfell, and rightfully so, though Sansa is another character D&D have never understood. Arya has no wish to be a lady, much less be the queen, if she doesn’t give up her fighting days forever after that encounter with the Hound, she’ll likely be the head of the royal guard or wander as a warrior seeking justice elsewhere.
Bran is the unlikely contender and has been the most silent. It’s possible that he could take the throne, even after showing no interest in it. However, his powers as the Three Eyed Raven (though never properly explained) have given him an advantage over the others in the game. His revealing of Jon’s parentage seems to have done no good. He could have shared this information in order to corrupt the remaining players, setting them against each other. This also means he could have held back much that would have helped. If Bran is king, it’ll be a disappointing, frustrating, and pointless end. All the complexity and intricacies of the earlier seasons (excellent due to their basis on the books in the series) are already for nothing, as David and Dan have sacrificed structure and logic for shock value, entertainment, and believed “fan service.” When you play the Game of Thrones, you win or you die. It seems we all have lost, witnessing the death of one of television’s greatest shows.
The Game of Thrones series finale airs this Sunday the 19th on HBO. And be sure to catch the 2-hour documentary, Game of Thrones: The Last Watch, on Sunday the 26th.