“Death is the enemy. The first enemy and the last… The enemy always wins. And we still need to fight him.” – Lord Beric Dondarion (Beyond the Wall).
As I stated in an earlier post, George R.R. Martin’s work of a A Song of Ice and Fire is so vast that the fifth book, A Dance With Dragons was too big to be bound by modern printing technology. So was this preview, which is why I had to divide it into two parts. In this, we’ll actually delve into what the story so far has been about and what to expect in the final season of Game of Thrones.
From the very first scene of Game of Thrones, we’re shown the characters that will become the very existent evil of the story (THEY’RE LITERALLY IN THE FIRST TEN MINUTES OF THE SHOW). The age-old theme of “good vs evil” has been draped over the show since then like a dark curtain, and we’re reminded every time a Stark says the words “Winter is coming”. The real danger has been inching its way closer to the realm and our heroes, slowly, but as surely as night follows day.
However, as the White Walkers have snailed their way south for the past 7 seasons towards The Wall, we’ve watched other schemes and plots (yes they’re the same thing) play out over the years. The quality of the story has always relied on the many interactions between the different characters on the show. Through their dialogue and actions, several themes have manifested themselves over the show’s existence. The importance of family roots. Predestined fate vs the freedom to choose. Deciding where one’s loyalties lie. What must one do to find one’s place in the bleak world our heroes reside in. Each character the show introduced us to displayed their different philosophies through their choices as they attempted maneuvers that would inch them closer to their goal, while also trying to figure out what that goal was.
As complicated and unique as this epic might be, it still hits certain fantasy-genre tropes that help us understand the characters and their motivations better, as well as how their arcs might end. Jon Snow (played by Kit Harrington) has been the clear hero of this story since he led the battle in The Watchers at the Wall episode. Jon follows the arc of the unlikely hero. A bastard with no claim to anything but has leadership thrust upon him even though he doesn’t want it. Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) is the exiled royal who wants nothing more than to reclaim her throne. Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) is the girl who shunned “girly” things in the quest to be a warrior just like her father and brothers. Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) is the broken boy who always wanted to be a hero, but found he was much gifted at something else (magic). And Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) is the unwanted child that must make his name outside of his family’s legacy. I think back to a Season 1 conversation Arya has with her father Ned (RIP) when he tells her that she would grow up to marry a lord and be the lady of his house and she responds vehemently with “no! That’s not me.” This is a story about cripples, bastards and broken things that went on their respective journeys to find who they really were whether they wanted to or not, with the underlying idea that power is best suited to those who have never sought it.
In the final season, the playing ground has become much smaller and more focused for what I believe will be an ending that follows the traditional fantasy story arc. There’s simply not enough time left for the sort of nuanced story-telling we’ve come to expect from the show. The Night King, as the overall big bad still doesn’t have a backstory that would make us find him compelling other than his obvious past life as an Olympic level athlete. The more interesting part of the show has always been the human characters and their interactions with one another. Is Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldeu) going to be the one to fulfill Cersei’s (Lena Headey) valonqar prophecy after his redemption arc is complete? Is Daenerys going to be the one that actually breaks the wheel or is she going to keep flambeing everyone that doesn’t agree with her rule? How is the truth of Jon’s parentage going to be proven to the rest of Westeros? Is Jon even going to survive this story (probably not). Who is going to sit on the Iron Throne? Will there even be an Iron Throne considering the very large army of the undead marching on the Seven Kingdoms?
I hope that in these last 6 episodes, Benioff and Weiss are going to be able to channel Martin’s ability to continue subverting our expectations. As the show has moved past its source material and plot scaffolding, one might say it’s fallen into the typical sword and magic story that it was initially designed to avoid. Regardless, the above quote from Beric can be used to summarize the goals of all our characters even though their perspectives vary. It’s an idea that you can find in almost every story about surviving against insurmountable odds. It’s a reminder that no matter what, we must stay committed to our objectives and keep fighting so that those who come after us will have an easier time carrying on that fight. “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” were the words J.K. Rowling decided to engrave on the gravestones of Harry Potter’s parents. “What do we say to the god of death? Not today.” is a mantra Arya has carried on her scrawny shoulders since the first season of the show. Samwise Gamgee’s heartfelt speech to Frodo at the end of The Two Towers captures the essence of this beautifully because if we keep pushing, “even darkness must pass…. and these are the stories that stay with [us]”.
The show has set itself what should be the biggest television series event in history. Here’s hoping they’re able to stick the (King’s) landing. Ba-dum-tsss!
- I’m looking forward to several reunions over the next few episodes. Jaime and Brienne, Arya and The Hound, Arya and Gendry, but most importantly Jon and Arya. I mean, they haven’t seen each other since the second episode!
- The character I feel that has the best chances of surviving the story is Samwell Tarly. Mainly because someone has to chronicle this epic story (fantasy trope). Otherwise, Vegas has more fun ways for you to lose your money.
- Westeros becomes a democracy breaking the wheel and ridding themselves of the Iron Throne. Okay I don’t know about democracy, but get rid of the damn chair already. It’s brought nothing but despair for too many generations.
- If Bran is actually the Night King, then throw the whole story away.