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Tag Archives: Jon Snow
“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.
The battle lines are being drawn in Game of Thrones, not between the Starks and the Lannisters, or between the good guys and the bad guys, but rather between the old and the new. The side of history, of tradition, of the way things have always been, stands poised against the onslaught of the novel and disruptive ideas that threaten to “break the wheel” and introduce a new order. “Book of the Stranger” sets up these conflicts between the past and the future as it darts across Westeros and beyond.
“I fought. I lost. Now I rest…You’ll be fighting their battles forever.” Alliser Thorne’s last words hang over “Oathbreaker.” The grand stories we tell both eschew and crave finality. A good journey has a beginning, a middle, and an end, but when we’re truly invested in it, we don’t want the ride to stop. We crave the spills, chills, and surprises. So heroes come back from the dead, siblings thought long lost reappear, and like the white walkers headed toward the gate, the story marches on.
Be kind to your dragons. Be kind to your giants. Be kind to your enforcers and lieutenants and underlings. Be kind to the nobodies, to the downtrodden, and to the “little people” who, unbeknownst to you, can loom quite large. Because these individuals have power–power that you may not recognize, power that you may take for granted–but power that may be turned against you or that, at some difficult moment, you may even sorely need.
No one is kinder, if still cautious, on this front than Tyrion. His quiet scene with Dany’s two remaining dragons was the highlight of an eventful, action-packed episode because of its simplicity and tension in the moment. Perhaps Tyrion is uniquely suited for dragon taming, particularly attuned to earning the trust of superior beasts. He is, after all, someone who has had to get by on disarming the powerful with his wits and charms rather than with his sword (though he’s occasionally used his pocketbook instead). And as Tyrion noted when we first met him, he has a particular appreciation for the unique and broken things across Westeros.
Empathy can pull us in strange directions. When we see someone who has been wronged, we want justice for them. We want the people who have perpetrated that wrong to pay for their crimes. We share in the victim’s anger and root for their revenge. But show us someone suffering and we will empathize with them just as strongly. We pity the person in pain, and want their suffering to end.
What makes these impulses peculiar is that sometimes they conflict. Sometimes the person suffering is the same perpetrator of the original wrong, and yet we still feel for them in their anguish. Show us someone being broken, physically, mentally, or spiritually, and we cannot help but feel sorry for them, even if the ills they’re enduring are wholly deserved and well-earned.