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.DONATE
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