May 19th, 2019, saw the end of Game of Thrones, after eight tumultuous years. Through this final season, one refrain in particular has resurfaced time and again: well, it won’t be like that in the books. Right? Arya won’t kill the Night King, Daenerys won’t burn innocent people after the Others are defeated, Jon won’t retire beyond the Wall in true superhero fashion. Right?
Before I get into why I think this is the same ending we’ll get in the books, I do want to lay out one important caveat:
I understand I might be wrong. I do! I am going to argue my opinion and my case as persuasively as I can. But I understand that the only one who really knows is George R. R. Martin, and he ain’t talkin’.
Okay. With that said. I think this is the ending we’re getting in the books, almost 1:1. I wasn’t convinced at first. But I’ve had time to sit with this for a while, to mull it over, and to read up on other critics who saw the art in the story. And I do truly believe that:
Game of Thrones is, overall, a good story
This is the same story we’ll see in the books
I won’t try to convince you of #1 here. But #2? Hell yes. I’m tackling that bad boy from three different angles. In the first section, I will look at what GRRM himself (more…)
Outwardly: dumbly, I shamble about, a thing that could never have been known as human, a thing whose shape is so alien a travesty that humanity becomes more obscene for the vague resemblance.
Inwardly: alone. Here. Living under the land, under the sea, in the belly of AM, whom we created because our time was badly spent and we must have known unconsciously that he could do it better. At least the four of them are safe at last.
AM will be all the madder for that. It makes me a little happier. And yet … AM has won, simply… he has taken his revenge …
I have no mouth. And I must scream.
This episode was masterpiece.
In Harlan Ellison’s I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream, the main character is reduced to little more than a puddle of jelly, stripped of all visible humanity. Yet his mind remains, and he must scream. Some interpret this as a depressing ending, purely horrifying – oh my god what have they done to this man, this is awful! Others, though, see it as almost a humanistic ending – despite all the unspeakable horrors wrought on our protagonist, the human, the bare, screaming, soul of man remains.
Anyway, Game of Thrones!
In this episode, our protagonists are stripped of the social constructs that once held them together, reduced to their barest, basest desires and impulses. Their masks slip, and the eerie light (more…)
Woah! Spoiler alert there, title of the episode! That makes it sound like we’re thinning out the Starks a little! Haven’t you ever heard of common decency? (Alternate titles for the episode include “No Country for Old Wolves” and “Last Day At Summer Camp BLOWOUT Extravaganza.”)
Before the episode aired, at least a few of the actors referred to the upcoming spectacle as “Shakespearean.” Spot-on. Tragedy runs bone-deep here, in every haunted look and half-earnest laugh. Romance and idealism burn and fizzle against the overwhelming bleakness like Dothraki candles in the wind. At the center of it all are Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow, the titular Ice and Fire, thrown into chaos and storm at last.
Every character in this episode tries to escape the shackles of the past. Dany sees herself becoming further and further removed from her people – and this time, she’s not in Meereen, where she can tell herself that her real goal is Westeros, that of course these people won’t like her. This is it, for her. She’s at the top, and it is hollow, and bitter, and she is growing more lonely by the second. You can see it in her face at the banquet: she’s so close to her goal, and so, so far from what she wants.
More like the long fight! Golly! What a lengthy battle!
With only three more episodes remaining, we are decidedly in the Endgame now. The time has come to confirm (or shatter) long-standing fan expectations for the story. In my writeup for episode 1, I mentioned how much of the show was now being written around those fan expectations. The writers anticipate audience reaction and either write to elicit that reaction or subvert it.
In this, the most earth-shattering battle scene ever put to film (in terms of human rights violations for the crew, i mean jesus), you can absolutely see the way the writers are working around what they think the audience will expect. It’s a game of double-bluffing. They can’t foreshadow things too much (or so they think), but they also can’t just ass-pull every plot point. They’ve said as much with regards to the Sansa/Arya conflict in season 7 – most of it was misdirection to build up to a very surprising twist (Littlefinger’s trial).
Perhaps no moment glistens with the silvery slime of fan expectations quite as much as (more…)
Last week, I wrote a great deal about the dialogue in “Winterfell.” I wrote about how it felt as though the characters were essentially static, just sort of saying things at one another without developing too much in any particular direction. Last week’s episode was written by Dave Hill.
Let me ask you a question. After watching Season 8 Episode 1, knowing everything you know about the show: what does Arya Stark want? What does Sansa Stark want? What does Bran Stark want?
Hard mode: answer that question without using “to defeat the army of the dead” in some form.
Last night’s episode was, from the first lines (a eunuch joke from Tyrion, if you forgot), all about reacting to the fans. We got a lot of long-awaited reunions, particularly for the Stark family. We got a bunch of jokes! Some about cocks and balls! We got dragons flying, we got Jon and Dany smoochin’, we got the Hound swearing at Arya, we got Gendry cheekily calling Arya his lady, we get Sansa trading barbs with Tyrion, we get Cersei cackling about stuff…what’s not to love?
The unifying idea that ran under all the stories in “The Spoils of War” was the return of magic – including both literal magic, like voodoo and dragons, and the magic of the story, as scattered plot threads are stitched back together like Beric Dondarrion’s flesh and bone.