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Category Archives: Game of Thrones
Family is everything. That was Tywin Lannister’s lesson, even if his interpretation of the sentiment left something to be desired. More than the moment, more than a fleeting grievance, he tried to teach his children that the Lannister name was their legacy and that their family is what truly mattered. “The Dragon and the Wolf” plays with this idea, the concept of who genuinely cares about the blood of their blood, who’s willing to put their own ambitions above the same, and what it gets each of them.
As Game of Thrones draws to a close, the set pieces are bigger, the stakes are higher, and the conflicts are grander. Gone are the days when different characters could be forever wandering across the map while the audience waited with baited breath for them to cross paths. More and more, our good guys and bad guys are clumped together, fighting the dead, their nearest adversaries, or one another, but now doing so in big groups rather than scattered pairings.
And yet, as the show starts to reach its climax, unveiling meetings and match-ups the fans have been salivating over for ages, I find myself relishing the moments that feel more like the show’s long middles than its grand finales. Those were the days of Game of Thrones where our favorite (and least favorite) characters would schlep all around Westeros having conversations with one another, facing the occasional dust up, and wondering what it all meant and about their place in these big events.
Game of Thrones is about opposition, shifting alliances, and rivals stabbing one another in the back. But in a weird way, it’s also about teamwork and cooperation. The events that have ravaged Westeros and turned king against king against king have also produced no end of unexpected allies and strange bedfellows.
From the beginning of the series, when Catelyn Stark forged an uneasy alliance with Tyrion Lannister, to the present where warring queens agree to talk armistice, bastards become brothers in arms, and blacksmiths fight alongside the men who once bought and sold them, the series has always shown that interests sometimes align and serve to unite people who, under other circumstances, might be at one another’s throats.
Game of Thrones likes to have its cake and eat it, too, especially when it comes to war and its wide-ranging consequences. It’s a show founded on a sense of anticipation. When will the Starks reunite? When will Daenerys Targaryen lay siege to Westeros? When will The White Walkers breach The Wall? But it’s equally founded on depicting the horror and unexpected costs of those convergence points.
That means its heart-pumping battles and heart-warming reunions are always in a state of superposition. Those moments are exhilarating but also harrowing. Home is a sanctuary, but home has changed. And war is glorious, but war is also hell.
Westeros isn’t much for poetry. The Seven Kingdoms seem to have produced a grand total of two songs, give or take the musical stylings of Ed Sheeran, which are so very beloved by the Game of Thrones fanbase. Despite that, there is great poetry in these contentious lands, a call and response that echoes across seas and across ages. But true to the character of the place, it finds its form in death and vengeance rather than in meter and verse.
One of the great hopes and great fears in life is that the people around us will see us for who we truly are. When push comes to shove, the masks we wear, the titles we bear, the icons and ornaments we surround ourselves with, can be pierced by those perceptive enough to see past them. In Westeros, as in all places, that means sometimes those closest to us see the best and most human parts of who we are; sometimes it means they see us at our weakest and worst, and sometimes they see who we used to be and are no longer.
“Dragonstone” is a homecoming. For Game of Thrones, that means something very different than for the standard alma mater. In Westeros, it means throne rooms, dead bodies, and lush locales in which to do the same thing we do every season — try to take over the world. But the show starts its seventh season with an episode about being away, coming back home, and reflecting on what’s changed, within and without, since you left.
Game of Thrones, as a series, franchise, and brand, is always going to stand in the shadow of The Red Wedding. More than Ned’s beheading, more than Joffrey’s demise, more than the battles of Blackwater Bay or The Wall or Hardhome or the bastards, the Red Wedding is the event that defined the series in the popular consciousness. For a long time, it felt like everything in the show up to that point had been building to that moment, and everything that came after was a consequence of it. The third season in particular was a focal point of the larger story Game of Thrones show was telling, with that mortal matrimony as its zenith.
Season 6 of Game of Thrones has felt more like a sequel to Season 3 than an extension of the work that the show did in Seasons 4 and 5. It is the season of resurrection, one where we’ve witnessed the returns (and, just as often, the demises) of those we knew long ago: The Brotherhood Without Banners, The Blackfish, Osha and Rickon, Benjen Stark, Walder Frey, and more. Whether it’s the freedom that comes from no longer being constrained by George R. R. Martin’s novels, or the knowledge that the end is nigh, Game of Thrones spent much of its sixth year tying off loose ends that been dangling for years, often in a characteristically lethal fashion.
The culmination of that spirit comes in “The Winds of Winter,” a season finale of beginnings and endings. It is the close of one epoch of the show — the one which spun out from the Red Wedding, scattered our heroes across oceans, and brought more and more characters into the fold — and the beginning of another. The monarchs from the War of the Five Kings are dead. Winter is here. And now it’s the future that’s coming.
Game of Thrones is a show that thrives on violence. Its past installments featuring that sort of visceral thrill — from Ned Stark’s beheading to the various battles that have made up the series’ “special event” episodes — certainly tell complete stories, but they don’t skimp on the swords and sangre to help fill them out. Westeros is a world founded on violence, one where those in power gained it and kept it by waging war, killing, and trafficking in the kind of brutality that wins kingdoms and helps break ratings records.
So when Dany mounts Drogon and leads her tripartite crew of dragons off to destroy the slavers’ fleet, it initially feels new and different, since the winged-beast confrontations in the show so far have largely been limited in scope. It is, however, part and parcel with the show’s standard M.O. when it comes to death and destruction. The dragons’ attack on the fleet works well as a fist-pump moment, not only because it’s the first time the show’s depicted all three of them engage in this type of badassery (give or take a Qarth), but because the audience largely believes in Dany and her cause. Flames raining down from the sky, dispatched to guarantee that Meereen never again becomes a land of slavers, feels righteous.
But then there’s that little voice in the back of your head, the one that says the people on those ships are probably slaves too, not devoted perpetrators of evil. The attack may be a necessary evil. It is a show of force to ensure that the other masters of Slaver’s Bay don’t get any ideas and meant to guarantee that they think twice before challenging Dany’s regime.