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Game of Thrones Series Finale: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Enjoy the Mess

Game of Thrones Series Finale: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Enjoy the Mess

Moral quandaries salvage an otherwise lackluster finale.

The general consensus following these last two seasons of Game of Thrones has been universally negative. Fans are mad at the large stretches in logic, characters teleporting across Westeros for the convenience of the story, intelligent characters getting written off and for entire character arcs being disregarded at the last minute to further the plot.

At the same time, however, Game of Thrones is still the greatest high concept fantasy series in television history. I cannot deny that this season has done a series of disservices to most of what it promised. The Siege of Winterfell was built up as a climactic encounter with the Night King that only resulted in a few minor characters dying. Jaimi and Brianne’s brief romance was pointless to the conclusion of the story. As a whole Jaime’s arc wasn’t well served by his actions during the final assault at King’s Landing. Still, I found myself highly compelled by the new episodes and rushed to catch them every Sunday night.

Before this season premiered I wrote a piece at my other website Geeks Under Grace wherein I posited that the ending of Game of Thrones would be one of the most important and interesting statements a television show would ever have the opportunity to make. In between the vast horrors of man’s inhumanity to man, war, child sacrifice, adultery, and rape that’s defined the show’s infamously bleak plot, there has always been a story about the nature of humanity.

I can’t help but make the same comparison to Return of the Jedi I made in my review of Avengers: Endgame. Much like those movies in between all the epic climactic battle scenes and rushed character interactions, that original Game of Thrones is still alive deep in there. The embodiment of that beating heart really came in the form of the relationship between Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen.

Even while most of this season faltered I’d argue that this central core of the season held true. Jon Snow was the man who didn’t want power, who had a strong claim to power and Daenerys wanted power but couldn’t control it without succumbing to madness. At the core of their tense relationship lay the most interesting thematic layer of this final season.

At the core of Daenerys’ arc of the past eight seasons has been the question of whether she could bring about her revolution of “breaking the wheel” that has held the world in oppressive violent tyranny for all time. With her destroying King’s Landing with her dragon, the show seems to suggest the answer is a definitive no. In seeking the power to destroy oppression she had to embrace power. It’s a brutal expression of Lord Acton’s overquoted “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Tyrian points this out beautifully in one of his rare intelligent soliloquies during the finale. She was always a woman fighting evil men through brutal violence. She wasn’t wrong in pointing out the world was a cruel place. In attempting to overcome that cruelty she was consumed by her vision. Much like real life revolutionaries of the Russian Revolution and the French Revolution, the purity of her vision became so all-encompassing that no amount of bodies would ever be enough to prevent her from achieving paradise.

As a conservative, this is a positive message to consider. In an age of runaway progressivism, Game of Thrones is affirmatively stating that standing for social justice doesn’t make you invulnerable to criticism. On the contrary, unrestrained ideologies blind us to obvious injustices we commit in the name of justice.

Thus the irony of Jon Snow tragically having to betray her and kill her. Drogon destroys the Iron Throne and flies away with Daenerys’s body. Ironically, killing Daenerys symbolically does more to break the wheel than letting her live to reign would’ve. It’s a Shakespearian ending wherein its characters are undone by their own hubris.

I fully understand anyone who is totally frustrated with the show and has been since Season Five when the plot started diverging from George R.R. Martin’s books. At the same time though, I’d prefer to accept it for what it is. Game of Thrones as a television series is now effectively complete and while it’s mistakes are legion I can’t help but still admire D.B. Weiss and David Benioff for even attempting to make sense of the cliff that Martin’s inability to finish the series left them hanging over. That certainly wasn’t their fault.


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kenoshamarge | May 20, 2019 at 3:29 pm

I stopped being a fan of Game of Thrones sometime ago. Perhaps because seeing the sex, nudity and blood-letting was worse than reading about it.

So I’ll stick to fantasy series like “The Wheel of Time” and if I want Dragons, and who doesn’t – Anne McCaffrey did it best.

Am I the only one who has never seen/couldn’t care less about the Game of Thrones?

Try “Lord of the Isles.” It’s a David Drake series, so author does not shy away from horror, but ultimately it is about people overcoming that horror to make a better world. (Or at least keep what’s left of civilization from going smash.)

Admittedly, there’s only one dragon in it, and he died long before recorded history began. Heck, he’s only in one book. (Another wizard is using his corpse. The dragon is not amused, and would like them to stop.)

Also has the best zombie sequence I’ve ever read. (You’ll know it when you see it.)

American Human | May 20, 2019 at 3:49 pm

I’ve never seen an episode and won’t either. If it were a movie, wouldn’t it be rated NC-17 or worse?
Perhaps the final season didn’t have enough explicit sex in it for most people.
I’m hoping now that people will just buy the DVD set or watch it on Netflix and lay off about a TV show for just a little bit.

The makers of Harry Potter had better luck. They were able to age their stars realistically, and only had to fudge a year or two.

I think people have forgotten just how big that phenomenon was.

I recall seeing 10 year old kids leave the theater just before a scary part. They knew when it was coming because they had read the book. I also saw kids in the theater following along with their books.

GeorgeCrosley | May 20, 2019 at 4:00 pm

Never watched it and don’t understand the attraction. It sounds like Harry Potter for grown-ups.

    The Greeks wrote crazy stuff about flying rams and gods embodying humans and sieging cities and shooting magic bows and immoral behavior and murder and rape and and and SEX WITH NON-HUMANS!

    Just like Harry Potter. But for adults.

“I’d prefer to accept it for what it is. Game of Thrones as a television series is now effectively complete and while it’s mistakes are legion I can’t help but still admire D.B. Weiss and David Benioff for even attempting to make sense of the cliff hole that Martin’s inability to finish the series left them hanging over.”

Absolutely. Once the TV series passed the book source material, the show became a road map of plot points… “this happened, then this, and these people went there, etc.” It became pretty clear that the show-runners hadn’t signed up for that, and wanted out. But I thought they did a great job with what they had, and I liked the ending – Dany was murderous when she was murdering awful people such as slave traders and dragon-kidnappers, and she was no less murderous when the audience was sympathetic to her victims – the population of Kings Landing. It was the acquiescence of the audience in justifying the former that was exposed by the latter. That said, it was all far too rushed without the build up one gets in books.

For a bingeworthy, sprawling succession struggle, “The Rise of Phoenixes” might be better, always provided you can stand reading subtitles.

You wouldn’t know it from reading the online reviews, which apparently have been mostly written by 14-year-old girls. All they are interested in is one of the romances, and they recommend collapsing a few of the plot lines to make room for that one romance.

Why are people bragging about not watching Thrones? Why bother commenting? Who cares about ya’ll not caring?

The show was okay; not horrible, not great. I wasn’t shocked by the immoral behavior. It’s HBO. They do that. It’s cheap, tawdry filler. I don’t like watching people having sex or closeups of throats getting slit – so I look away from the screen for seven seconds. No big deal. I’m an adult and can manage it, thanks.

Two of the GoT books were pretty good, the rest were tiresome. Not much different from Wheel of Time and the McCaffrey ‘dragons and lasers’ dreck. Talk about tedious! Ugh.

I rate HBO’s Rome series by John Milius higher than GoT. Deadwood, too. Lost was ten times better than GoT – and we got to watch 18 episodes per season. A character study of Ben reveals more about the human capacity for cruelty than any single GoT character. And yes, Lost was a logics mess. John Locke sacrificing Boone? Opening the Hatch? Best. TV. Ever.

    Tom Servo in reply to Tiki. | May 20, 2019 at 7:35 pm

    I’m commenting because I have a real good idea how to do that remake of series 8 that 1,000,000 fans are demanding. They should do it all over, but this time with Chimpanzees, a la Lancelot Link.

    And the Finale would be a musical, and all the chimps would lock arms and dance!

    Massinsanity in reply to Tiki. | May 20, 2019 at 8:30 pm

    Because this is a site about the law and politics albeit with some pop culture thrown in… not really where I expected to read about GoT.

    FWIW, I didn’t read the article… just skipped to the comments.

I haven’t seen the show, I have read the books. I can’t think of a single move or television show that was better than the books they were based upon.

daniel_ream | May 20, 2019 at 6:55 pm

Game of Thrones is still the greatest high concept fantasy series in television history.

Bollocks. Westworld is better by far. So was the Battlestar Galactica reboot. The first two seasons of Heroes. On the strength of the writing alone, I’d put the bloody Sci-Fi Channel mini-series Tin Man above it. People ooh and aah over Game of Thrones because they’ve never read any English history, or Shakespeare’s War of the Roses tetralogy, and they think they’re seeing something fresh and original and avant-garde.

It’s like raving about Battle Beyond the Stars because you’ve never seen a Star Wars film.

Original Wizard of Oz, the movie, comes close

Just spectacular and to this day, my very favorite

I am a GOT junkie and I must say I was disappointed in Danys arc. Jon’s too, he was so sad, he’s been sad and unappreciated the entire series I think

He gave his life to save the people of the World only to be brought back to be dishonored again.

Here he is sadly riding to the Wall, for what, Tryion telling him to take the Nights Watch was a laugh, there is a Nights Watch of one, him, and telling him, “you’ll never marry, hold lands, all the BS… he’s The Nights Watch of One, and the Night King is dead

Jon sacrifices everything, including the women he loved.

They had a 3 minute conversation and that was the final straw. Total BS

The heart wrenching scene of the dragon mourning his Mother of Dragons did break my heart. Maybe he took her to a Red Priestess and she will rise again

And we end with Bran on the throne, what a joke and what a joke Tryion ended up. Then the Council deciding on the leader, how crazy was that mixture

No, it was a terrible way to end it all, just terrible

    DaveGinOly in reply to gonzotx. | May 20, 2019 at 9:59 pm

    As poorly as it may have been handled, Dany’s arc was always going to end there. I never trusted or liked her, thought she was a nascent tyrant from way back, and figured she’d end up dead for her excesses. Anyone who didn’t see that coming hasn’t been paying attention. (And I only watched YouTube clips!)


There must be Dragons

Stopped watching tv a couple of years ago.

It’s great.

Ann in L.A. | May 21, 2019 at 11:41 am

I wanted the complete break up of the 7 kingdoms (why are both Dorne and the North ruled from King’s Landing?) and the end to the high king entirely. I only got a little of it, when the North broke off.

Don’t suppose the show runners had Brexit in mind?

I wanted Jamie and Cersei to have this loving, even if incestuous, embrace, and then for Arya to skewer both of them with Needle.

And the Hound’s brother defied the laws of neuroscience, at least as far as I understand them. Or maybe he was just one of those “right brained” kind of people.

As for tyranny, I was wondering if Cersei was going to be wearing a pants suit in her final scene.