Game of Thrones – 60 (Season Finale)

“The Winds of Winter”

I think, in the end, what’s happened on Game of Thrones this season was fairly predictable.  Effectively what we’re watching now is fanfiction, and it plays like fanfiction.  Except it’s fanfiction with the biggest budget in TV history and a team of professional writers and directors at the helm.  But this happens a lot when a very strong mythology veers away from the narrative voice of the writer who created it (not least in anime, for that matter).  I guess the only real surprise would have been if things hadn’t gone in this direction.

These last two episodes have certainly been the apex of this trend, a combination made up almost entirely of pure spectacle and audience wish-fulfilment.  Lots of big set pieces, a huge body count, old baddies dying badly with old goodies smiling over them.  Last week’s denouement of the Ramsay Bolton storyline may have been held the crown for a while, but what we saw in “The Winds of Winter” gave it a pretty good run for its money.

Got 10 4

If such things still mattered in the TV version of the series, I’d be very curious to see what Jaime Lannister is going to do now that he’s confronted with what his sister-lover has become.  But this Jaime has long since left behind the conflicts and complexities of the one that he’s based on, so it doesn’t really matter a whole lot.  In this version, the characters are mostly here to drive the story – they magically appear where they need to appear and when, they say whatever the plot needs them to say, and do what it needs them to do.  There are still a few holdouts like Davos, whose sheer courage in choking down his rage and heartbreak in order to do what must be done before confronting Melissandre is totally in-character with the Davos I know.  But moments like that are few and far-between now, like the dying echoes of lost voices in a cavern long after their owners have gone.

To sum it up, Cersei completely left behind any semblance of sanity and killed, well – almost everyone.  Margaery and Loras, their father, the High Septon, and indirectly her son – an act for which she seems completely remorseless.  That’s how you know Cersei has totally left her original behind – her love for her children was the only really human thing about her.  No doubt the notion of a Cersei completely without anchor is a pretty terrifying one, and it is kind of humorous that we spent a whole season with the High Septon and Margaery and Olenna playing mind games, only for Cersei to render them all meaningless by being so batshit nuts she’s free to go off-plot.  But long arcs that come to nothing have become something of a specialty of Game of Thrones. Characters don’t really matter now – it’s all about blowing shit up.

Got 10 5

Up North, all kinds of stuff happened.  First off, R + L = J was confirmed – one point GoT is sure to share with A Song of Ice and Fire.  What does that mean in the big picture?  Well, that’s undeniably an interesting rabbit hole to wander down.  Jon and Sansa are still clearly askew in their relationship (Benioff & Weiss’ explanation of why Sansa didn’t tell Jon about the Knights of the Vale was her saying “I should have told you, I’m sorry”) and I have to wonder if she’s going to be a little resentful of his being hailed as King of the North.  Littlefinger certainly will be, and he’s still doing his best to sow discord between them.

The irony here is that even as Jon is being de facto legitimized as a Stark by the lords who spurned him (complete with more inspirational loli Mormont), the truth is now out (to us, thanks to Bran) that it’s not the North he’s the legitimate heir to – it’s the Seven Kingdoms.  I could certainly see this posing a problem for Daenerys, since as a male Targaryen he has a better claim to the throne than his aunt.  This effectively confirms that Jon is the “Ice” and Dany the “Fire”, but they certainly aren’t the only game in town.  In addition to the madwoman sitting on the throne we also have Dorne, Highgarden and the Iron Islands – which while in theory are all now in league (Varys officially joins the time warp club), are also full of people with way too much ambition to sit by smiling as Dany rules Westeros and spoils their fun.

Got 10 6

There’s that, and then we have the Stark story.  Arya turns up for her bit of fanservice, finally putting an end to the late Walder Frey and reminding us that she’s still a lost soul.  Bran is headed south of The Wall, leaving Benjen (who cannot pass, being dead) behind.  That technically makes Bran the rightful Lord of Winterfell, though with being Three-Eyed Raven as his day job and the Army of the Dead approaching I doubt he’ll file a claim.  At some point before this is all over I would imagine the surviving Stark children will have to get together – perhaps swapping rueful stories about how much of what their father told them was a pack of lies.

What else?  Well, I give credit to Olenna Tyrell for finally giving us a watchable scene in Dorne and saying what most of the audience have been saying since those sisters first showed up.  Tyrion is now officially hand of the Queen, his first act being to throw Dario over the side as a potential liability.  I’m not crazy about seeing Tyrion waxing poetic over a woman I consider only marginally less unfit to rule Westeros than Cersei Lannister – I think Tyrion is too smart to be so taken with her power (unless all that wide-eyed stuff is an act, which I don’t think it is).  With Daenerys we at least know what she wants – absolute power.  But my feeling is that anyone who wants that as badly as she does certainly shouldn’t have it.

Got 10 7

This is the corner the TV version of this story has written itself into (we’ll see about the print version), it seems to me.  No one in this cast who wants to sit on the Iron Throne is fit to do so.  Dany certainly isn’t, and Jon certainly doesn’t want to.  Where does that leave us? The madowman on the throne certainly won’t finish the story there.  Are we going down the path of some kind of gender revolution, where the sins of medieval male rule are laid bare and the women of Westeros liberate the Seven Kingdoms, or will a candidate for the throne emerge from nowhere and take the story by storm (that would be in-character with Benioff and Weiss’ track record).

When we came into this season, I felt sort of unburdened in knowing we were headed into new territory – unburdened by foreknowledge and comparison. To be honest, now I feel unburdened by expectation.  For a while this season it seemed as if things were still on-track, that Martin’s vision still survived in the unfamiliar events we were seeing.  Now I realize that A Song of Ice and Fire will only ever be a book series, not a TV show – whatever connection existed between it and Game of Thrones is effectively severed, and it would be pointless to look for it.  In that context I approach the final two seasons (which will be a total of 13 episodes, if early indications are to be believed) with a sense more of mild curiosity than anything else.  I’ll watch, I’ll gape when it unleashes an amazing spectacle, but I won’t really be looking for the feelings I had in reading the books. That’s less painful, but it’s still kind of sad.

 

 

 

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20 comments

  1. D

    I think I know why they call it King’s Landing now.

  2. Well played.

  3. You Sir make laugh after a terrible night (for unrelated reasons), Thank you!

  4. R

    It’s like the show just gave me a major middle finger salute after I said last week that I could watch the politics of King’s Landing all day. They literally blew all that sh*t up, just to have a “cool” scene of Cersei the Dark taking the throne. What a waste of Margaery, one of the very few characters I had left to root for… Arya, girl, why did you have to start with those small-Freys? You need to hook up with Gramma Tyrell, asap (while you’re there, why not also take care of the Indira Varma character and her dumb daughters)!

  5. Too many broths spoil the cook.

  6. p

    ” Characters don’t really matter now – it’s all about blowing shit up.”
    thank you! Almost all of my friends love this season but every time I watch another episode, I feel like a fool, or like the writters and directors take me for a fool. I really like your reviews and how you too see through the fanfiction that they throw in our faces.

  7. It’s felt like fanfiction most of the season and much of last year too. Welcome to the club.

  8. Y

    Well, fuck. There goes my idea that there was more to Sansa’s decision than just “Please forgive me, I was confused, derp”. This season could have been amazing for both her and her sister, yet the writers made both of them look like fools in the span of a single episode each (this one for Sansa, “The Broken Man” for Arya). Also, I’m kind of gutted about Margaery, I was really looking forward to the development of her plan and mind-games with the High Sparrow. For her to go like that was, I think, a disservice to her character. Oh, and speaking of the High Sparrow, is it just me, or did he behave like a complete idiot this episode? That’s so unlike him, WTF!!

    On a brighter note, I loved the scene in Oldtown — it genuinely felt magical, and I was very happy for Sam. I also enjoyed seeing Olena roast the Sand Snakes; while I don’t vehemently hate them the way most fans do (I just find them prissy and annoying), I admit that an alliance between them and House Tyrell/Targaryen/Greyjoy/Varys seems like an interesting prospect. How will everyone fit within such a diverse dynamic, both morally and politically? I want to know.

    Also, now that Sansa’s fucked up Littlefinger’s plan and supports Jon as king, I worry for our new Warden. Isn’t there a way for the little bird to get rid of Baelish without the North suffering any major adverse consequences? I don’t think so, but maybe I’m missing something? I really didn’t like that look in his eye, and it didn’t seem like Sansa much approved of it, either.

    I’m curious about how they plan to wrap all this shit (and more) up in just 13 episodes. I’m disilllusioned, but still interested, so like you, Enzo, I’ll be back for Season 7. I just don’t know if the majority of the elements that made this show more layered in the past can be salvaged at this point…

  9. F

    Well, if im completely honest with you, you seem to fall in the category of Fans (at this point let me call you viewer ). Whom cant appreciate a TV-series without trying to compare every single part in how it was made or how it differs from the Book. You blame the Producers of what the show has become but in reality, G.G. Martin created a story so convoluted, he fail to grasp how to make all the plot points collide into one. Now we have two episodes that the majority of people loved. But your discomfort is rather obvious. I dont know what you expected sincerely, finally the good guys are winning so much misery is finally paying off but well. In the end you cant please everyone i guess.

  10. N

    Sorry, but this is Bullshit. A lot of us who dislike the show now have been very supportive of TV-original elements for many seasons.

    Even if we pretend that the books don’t exist, the last two seasons suffer from pointless killing off characters, soulless wish-fulfillment, glorification of rape,violence&revenge, failure to understand its own characters, wasting character development and many other story-telling crimes. The Dorne Arc and the whole High Septon arc are 99% TV-original yet still GOT treats it like a bad fanfic author treats someone else’s work. The writers don’t understand, or maybe just don’t care about, even THEIR OWN stories.

  11. I thought that showing how Cersei reveled in inducing misery immediately after Jon’s and Sansa’s own episode of vengeance was an interesting juxtaposition.

    All in all, while I do feel like there is a lack of “complexity” with the grand spectacles in the past two episodes (and in the season in general), I wonder if it’s really a writing “mistake” or it’s just how things go. The events happening could just natural outcomes after 5 seasons of world building, introducing characters, etc. It’s just the cogs churning as intended. Maybe I’m just looking for complexity (the expectation), when humans and life are actually just simple.

    Maybe I shouldn’t think about it too much and just watch.

  12. I think your last line sums up how you have to approach GoT now in order to enjoy it. I honestly don’t believe Martin’s story is going to go in this broad and predictable a direction – it has its own sorts of problems, but they’re different kinds of problems.

  13. D

    I’m assuming that was a typo and you meant to say “I honestly don’t believe…” unless I’m totally misinterpreting your line of thinking here. I honestly disagree, yes, now that we’ve passed Martin in the books, the details are definitely being filled in with less skill, but this is pretty much the direction the books are going to go as I see it.

  14. Y

    What are some of the problems you identify in AFoIaF, Enzo? I’m genuinely curious to hear your opinion on the flaws of the books, since you rarely go into depth about them on your show reviews.

  15. Well, of course I avoid talking about that much for a reason – although that reason has become less important now that spoilers are not an issue.

    I would argue that in the last couple of books, Martin has lost control of the narrative a bit. Some of the plotlines simply don’t work, and it has a diluting effect on the overall narrative. There’s also a bit of plot drift – some things just go on and on, and resolution never seems to get any closer.

    Martin himself effectively admitted this when he split up the 4th and 5th books, which were originally one volume, into two concurrently running narratives (which actually weren’t concurrent). There’s just too much irrelevant stuff, minor characters get too much oxygen, and things became somewhat cumbersome. In a sense, what’s wrong with ASoIaF is the opposite of what’s gone wrong with GoT. Given the choice I’d probably deal with the problems in the former than the latter, but that’s personal taste.

  16. I wasn’t disappointed like last episode but it still felt very bad to see Margaery go that suddenly. What was the whole hint that she was really playing the Sparrow even for? Was she *actually* playing the Sparrow? We’ll never know. Also did the Sparrow go full retard there? I think he did – how could he not imagine that Margaery must be right, Cersei had to be up to something?

    Anyway, besides that, yeah, the usual slew of teleporting characters. Varys being the most prominent example – going from Mereen to Dorne back to Mereen just to ride in the same ship as his queen back to Westeros. Yeah. Arya too is a bit perplexing, but whatever, we finally got to see her do something, I was beginning to suspect Qyburn’s rascals were more skilled assassins than her.

  17. Also I just realised – how did Varys’ former “little birds” turn into savage assassins again…?

  18. I know it’s repeating, but in this Game of Thrones the characters do whatever the plot requires them to do.

  19. L

    I was also a bit perplexed by why Kevan Lannister was at the Sept without King Tommen or any Lannister men.

  20. Gotta say I’m gonna really miss Jonathan Pryce as the High Sparrow as, beside Olenna who thankfully made it out, he was the most interesting character in Kings Landing this season. I hope next season his death isn’t overlooked and there are some major ramifications for it as he did have a massive amount of sway with the common people who already hated Cersei before the psycho killed him, destroyed their holy site, and caused widespread collateral damage.

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