The Greek philosopher Heraclitus once quipped – “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” As our decade long journey with Game of Thrones ends, we realize that none of the characters were the same individuals that we had grown up to know. The journey had changed them. We won’t ever be the same again as well for it has changed us too. As Jon stuck that knife into Dany’s body, he became something else in that moment. His righteousness had to die before he killed his queen, his love, and his blood. Was he ‘The Prince that was promised’ ? Was he Azor Ahai ? Or maybe we had just misinterpreted the prophecy like so many before us.
“There will come a day after a long summer when the stars bleed and the cold breath of darkness falls heavy on the world.”
Tyrion made sure that Jon realized this. If he didn’t stop her then, he would be solely responsible for the fate of the Seven Kingdoms.
“In this dread hour a warrior shall draw from the fire a burning sword. And that sword shall be Lightbringer, the Red Sword of Heroes, and he who clasps it shall be Azor Ahai come again, and the darkness shall flee before him.”
Maybe Jon was Lightbringer himself. A few weeks after Dany’s death, the council of the Lords and Ladies anoints Bran the Broken as the chosen King of the Six Kingdoms as he has the collective wisdom of all men being the Three-Eyed Raven. Bran allows Sansa to rule on an independent North. In order to keep the peace within the military ranks of the Unsullied and the Dothraki, Jon is once again sent away to the Night’s Watch or whatever remains of it. Arya leaves for unknown lands towards the West of Westeros. It is, however, the parting words between Jon and Bran that point towards an interesting conclusion – When Jon apologizes to him for not being there when Bran needed him, Bran replies that Jon was exactly where he wanted him. So, if we assume Jon to be Lightbringer, was Bran Azor Ahai – the wielder of the sword or in this case Jon ? We can only speculate.
This last bittersweet finale was in no manner perfect and did have its own shortcomings. For instance, why did Grey Worm not kill Jon immediately after he learned about Dany’s murder ? He surely couldn’t have cared less about keeping him alive until the council meeting. Secondly, why did the council accept Tyrion’s argument about making Bran the king so easily ? Including Robin Arryn, the heir to the Vale of Arryn and a spoiled brat who, if I remember, didn’t care about anything except himself. Bran was the Three-Eyed Raven, yes but had he explicitly shown his power to anyone ? In fact, he barely gave out any information at all even to people who needed it. How did people understand the significance of him being the Three-Eyed Raven ? Maybe if he warged into Drogon and brought him back but that’s again something that we would have to assume. Lastly, how did The Song of Ice and Fire get written so quickly with the latest events and without Tyrion Lannister ? This are just some open questions that we may never find answers to..
Despite the emotional roller-coaster that the last season has been with the show coming awfully close to ruining its fan-base for eternity, we can’t help but reminisce about what the show has given us through the years:
Machiavellian Politics: In a show that primarily fell into the genre of fantasy (Dragons, hello), it was heartening to watch mind-games and strategic politics that were intricately woven around the characters. Before Dany, before the Night King, before anything else, this was the true ‘Game’ of thrones that we had been partaking in. One of Lord Varys’s quotes to Tyrion right after he poses him a puzzle, defines the concept of power precisely:
“Power is a curious thing, my lord… Power resides where men believe it resides. It’s a trick, a shadow on the wall. And, a very small man can cast a very large shadow.”
Villainous Masterminds: Even though we rooted for our protagonists, GOT gave us some of the most well-written antagonists who added delicious plot-twists keeping us on our toes trying to guess the next trick up their sleeves. Characters like Petyr Baelish and Varys, underscored their presence through inimitable schemes that would put Sun Tzu to shame.
Petyr: Always keep your foes confused. If they are never certain who you are or what you want, they cannot know what you are like to do next. Sometimes the best way to baffle them is to make moves that have no purpose, or even seem to work against you. Remember that, Sansa, when you come to play the game.
Sansa: What… what game?
Petyr: The only game. The game of thrones.
Character Subversions: One of the most significant things that separated GOT from other shows was how it treated its character arcs. While other narratives had a rock-solid foundation for their main characters, here they had fluid personalities with ever shifting morals. Jaime who we had started out to hate became a completely different person as he lost his arrogance and his ego, and even gathered the courage to go against the only person he ever loved. Brienne’s addendum to the King’s Guard record book, changed his reputation of Kingslayer for posterity. We saw a similar subversion with Theon Greyjoy who survived a tough journey, losing himself in the process completely, and finally dying a valiant death.
Tolkien-esque worlds: The world created by writer George R. R. Martin gave us an exhaustively detailed description of a new world that was based in the medieval ages but had an element of fantasy to it that reminded us of Middle Earth. The show-creators David Benioff and D. B. Weiss adapted this setting beautifully to the screen and gave accurate representation to our imagination. Complemented with Ramin Djawadi’s haunting music and some of the best on-screen character castings, we cannot imagine a better set of people coming together to create this series.
You can imagine why fans were so agitated in this season. When you are introduced to such brilliant carving of a narrative, you invariably get used to it. Every bit is thoughtful, logical, and consciously crafted from one plot element to the next. When it is taken away, it is like withdrawal for an opium addict, to put it bluntly. So, where did it go wrong ?
Under-written female characters: Even though GOT gave us some of the strongest characters in any show, by the time the show had reached its culmination, the show-writers didn’t know how to close their arcs deservedly. Cersei Lannister, who was married forcefully to Robert Baratheon, who lost her children, and who lost the only one who loved her truly, still found the strength to rule the Iron Throne. She twisted the arms of the Iron Bank to gather a massive army. She made alliances with rogues like Euron Greyjoy. One would think that she deserved a better death than dying in the arms of Jaime like a Shakespearean play. Daenerys Targaryen, another strong character who had grown up with the singular ambition of sitting on the throne having amassed an army of her own with no resources except for her dragons and her iron will, was transformed from a generous, merciful woman into a raving megalomaniac within a matter of a few episodes. Other characters like Brienne of Tarth, Yara Greyjoy, and Meera Reed started out with a strong presence but were reduced to plot-drivers.
Loss of Narrative Purpose: One of the unsaid rules of screenplay is that, when a certain idea is introduced into a narrative it essentially becomes a Chekhov’s gun which needs to be fired at some point later in the story. If it isn’t, it becomes a hanging arc that had no value to add from the get-go and is realized as an annoying distraction. Bran’s introduction as the Three-Eyed Raven held potentially huge repercussions in the story. Adding his ability to time-travel into the past and even manipulating things (reference – Hodor), immediately sparked a conversation as to how he could use it to defeat the Night King, or even if he could be the Night King himself. However, we never get to see him doing anything with it. Talking about the Night King – the muted character was introduced in Bran’s vision in Season 4 and since then has been a constant threat looming over Westeros. However, in this season, he is killed in a surprising attack by Arya who came out of nowhere to end an arc about which we knew hardly anything about. When important characters like these don’t fulfil their role in the story, the narrative loses its purpose.
Plot/Character Inconsistencies: If there is any cardinal sin that any screenwriter can commit, that is to have inconsistencies in his/her plot and characters. From a departure from the usual GOT that we had come to know, Seasons 7 and 8 held some inexcusable loopholes that just we just couldn’t digest. The killing of Rhaegal came as a huge shock and suddenly we realized that Dragons could be killed by humans too. But then we saw Drogon decimating Euron’s entire fleet and the city of King’s Landing without even one scorpion touching its hide. During the Battle of Winterfell, none of the battle strategists participated. Tyrion, who had been instrumental in winning the Battle of Blackwater Bay, was sent down to the crypts to hide from an enemy who had the power to raise the dead. When Lord Varys is caught for treason against Dany, we watch Jon and Tyrion stand by unfazed. This was highly uncharacteristic for both of them as they knew that all he wanted was the good of the realm. And these are just a few of the many.
You would see that most of these shortcomings are concentrated around the last two seasons, more so on the last season. Even so, we would remember Game of Thrones for the moments that made us gasp and forget our reality (not in chronological order) – the execution of Ned Stark, Dany’s rebirth with the tiny dragons on her shoulders, the Red Wedding, the origin of Hodor’s Name, Cersei’s Walk of Shame, Arya’s vengeance on Walder Frey, Jon’s revelation as a Targaryen and his resurrection, and finally Clegane Bowl. There are far too many of such moments for us to judge it on the basis of just one season that got bogged down with a mountain of expectations. We cannot say that we have gotten our closure but for now this is as good of an ending that we are ever going to get. And we have to make our peace with it.
Note: This article is in association with India Film Project.