Pulitzer prize-winning author of “The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York,” Robert A. Caro is widely considered one of the world’s foremost experts on the subject of power. Caro won the Pulitzer for nonfiction in 1974 by revealing how New York City urban planner Robert Moses, despite never having been elected to any public office, was able to slowly and steadily accrue so much power that not only did he become the greatest shaper of New York City in the 20th century, he also exerted massive influence on all American cities. Widely liked and respected in his time, “The Power Broker” destroyed Moses’s reputation, painting him as a power-hungry totalitarian that destroyed communities, and he died in disgrace some ten years later. But according to Caro, it was not his profile of Robert Moses that truly revealed to him the nature of power, but his acclaimed chronicle of the life of Lyndon B. Johnson, which currently stands at four volumes and 1.5 million words. According to Caro, “We’re taught Lord Acton’s axiom: all power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. “I believed that when I started these books, but I don’t believe it’s always true anymore. “What I believe is always true about power is that power always reveals. “When you have enough power to do what you always wanted to do, then you see what the guy always wanted to do.” So, what was the point of all that? And by “all that,” of course, I mean the thing we’ve spent the last eight seasons obsessing over, and are now months late getting to our spicy hot takes… That’s right, bitches. The Funyuns are back. And some say that stories don’t need to have a point, or weren’t intended to have a point, but I have to assume this one was intended to have a point, since it ended with a dragon burning the symbolism. But for such a character-driven show, really, the main issues boil down to that — the characters — and we will start with the fact that by the end of the show So, it seems like D&D outlined a lot of plot points without giving much thought as to how characters might be motivated to reach those plot points. So a huge chunk of season eight is spent on dialogue rationalizing plot points that don’t really make sense. TYRION: ‘There still won’t be half as many as our beautiful Queen slaughtered in a single day.’ JON: ‘Since you left her no choice.’ TYRION: ‘The moment the gates fell, the battle was over.’ JON: ‘She saw her friend beheaded!’ JON: ‘She saw her dragon shot out of the sky –‘ TYRION: ‘And she burned down the city for it.’ And they kind of know they don’t make sense, so they have to spend a lot of time rationalizing them. TYRION: ‘He is our memory, the keeper of all our stories.’ In order for the plot to progress as outlined, everyone, especially characters who in earlier seasons were defined by their cunning and intelligence, decay into total dummy-wummies by season eight. This was, you might say, foreshadowed in season seven by Littlefinger’s downfall, which only works if every character involved in this subplot took a bunch of stupid pills. LITTLEFINGER: ‘Sansa, I beg you…’ Littlefinger doesn’t like that Arya’s back so he tries to pit the two sisters against each other and it looks like Sansa bought it for some reason despite knowing what an untrustworthy asshat he is.
But ah, no! Switcheroo! SANSA: ‘You stand accused of murder. ‘You stand accused of treason. ‘How do you answer these charges… ‘Lord Baelish?’ And lo, everyone, knocked down many an intelligence unit, watches this worthless subplot bleed out on the floor because the character of Littlefinger is redundant now and we don’t know what to do with him, so goodbye. LITTLEFINGER: ‘Sansa–!’ So it takes Arya and Sansa an entire season to realize they’re being played over… nothing, basically, but here in season seven everyone caught a case of the dum-dums, which only worsens in season eight. DAVID BENIOFF: ‘Well, Dany kinda forgot about the Iron Fleet…’ And the idea that the sisters were onto Littlefinger and were just playing along the whole time is good headcanon in theory, but… Well, here’s a quote from Isaac Hempstead Wright, who plays Bran: “We actually did a scene that clearly got cut, a short scene with Sansa “where she knocks on Bran’s door and says, ‘I need your help,’ or something along those lines. “So basically, as far as I know, the story was that it suddenly occurred to Sansa that she had a huge “CCTV department at her discretion, and it might be a good idea to check with him first before she guts her own sister. “So she goes to Bran, and Bran tells her everything she needs to know and she’s like, oh, sh–” And oh, Sansa, you have been done dirty… I know that after the shitshow that was season five some Sansa stans are happy that at least one of the women got to be in charge without having to be put down like Old Yeller, but if we may for a moment be honest with ourselves, her entire character has been one massive train wreck ever since season five, when Littlefinger’s like, “Heeeey. Marry the son of the guy who murdered your entire family,” and she’s like, “Nooooooooo– Okay!” Then it’s the fast track to rape town, escape, and then in season seven, she completes her evolution into Ladyfinger, stripped of all pathos, because to D&D, female empowerment is shedding your humanity until you are a stone-cold badass. But, you know, the kind who only does SOME hideously inhumane executions. [ ♪ I’m a bitch, I’m a lover ♪ ]
LINDSAY: Feminism! To be clear, I am NOT on the Sansa hate train. I just think they popped a squat over her character arc just like they did everyone else. By season eight, everyone’s gushing over how smart Sansa is, she’s evolved into her final form, but unlike in earlier seasons, where her intelligence would come out through these moments of her being more quick-thinking than people expected, JOFFREY: ‘Did you say I can’t?’ SANSA: ‘I only meant… ‘It would be bad luck to kill a man on your name day.’ Or by her playing into her enemy’s arrogance, SANSA: ‘So you’ll be outside the gates fighting the vanguard?’ JOFFREY: ‘A king doesn’t discuss battle plans with stupid girls!’ SANSA: ‘I’m sorry, Your Grace. You’re right. I’m stupid. ‘Of course, you’ll be in the vanguard. ‘They say my brother Robb always goes where the fighting is thickest, and he’s only a pretender.’ She now gets these cool-girl badass moments that build not at all on the lessons she learned in King’s Landing, but instead on violence and a need to humiliate her enemies. One of Sansa’s earlier defining attributes was her compassion, that she cared about people despite the pain she was put through. In the books, she never loses that sense of compassion, but gets smarter about figuring out who is worthy of it, and who’s playing her for their own advantage. Here in the show, that warmth is totally extinguished. Sansa’s compassion and appeals to goodness are framed not as a strength, but as immature weakness that she needs to outgrow. SANSA: ‘I’m stupid. ‘A stupid little girl with stupid dreams who’ll never learn.’ New Empowerment Sansa doesn’t act like someone who would take pity on a drunk knight, risking Joffrey’s wrath, or someone who would have any ounce of empathy for someone like the Hound, like she did in season two. Sansa in the crypts doesn’t bother trying to calm the other women and children like she did during the siege of King’s Landing in Season Two. New Empowerment Sansa spends the whole battle trash-talking Daenerys, SANSA: ‘It wouldn’t work between us.’ TYRION: ‘Why not?’ SANSA: ‘The Dragon Queen.’ who, unlike Sansa, is out there risking her life. MISSANDEI: ‘Without the Dragon Queen, there’d be no problem at all. We’d all be dead already.’ Season eight keeps telling us what Sansa is; ARYA: ‘She’s the smartest person I’ve ever met.’ that she’s smart, that she’s shrewd, but nothing in her actions support that. Earlier Sansa would know to keep her mouth shut about someone she was suspicious of; meanwhile, New Empowerment Sansa won’t shut the *bleep* up about how much she doesn’t like Daenerys. SANSA: ‘Why her?’ During Sansa’s entire King’s Landing storyline, she keeps herself alive by feigning loyalty to Joffrey and Cersei. CERSEI: ‘What are you praying for?’ SANSA: ‘For the gods to have mercy on us all.’ CERSEI: ‘Even me?’ SANSA: ‘Of course, Your Grace.’ Even if she did plan on undermining Daenerys, I guess D&D kind of forgot that one of Sansa’s most important lessons is when to feign respect and fidelity. SANSA: ‘What do dragons eat anyway?’ DAENERYS: ‘Whatever they want.’ Sansa’s evolution mirrors the Starks as a whole. The compassion and nobility that defined the Starks is one of their biggest assets, but in the end, they’re no better than the *bleep* Lannisters. JAIME: ‘Fuck prophecy. Fuck fate.
Fuck everyone who isn’t us.’ ARYA: ‘We don’t trust your queen.’
JON: ‘You don’t know her yet.’ ARYA: ‘I’ll never know her, she’s not one of us.’ Change their house motto from “Winter is Coming” to “*bleep* You, Got Mine.” Because that’s female empowerment to these showrunners. I’m glad I got raped actually, Mister the Hound; it made me a cool girl badass. SANSA: ‘Without Littlefinger and Ramsay and the rest, I would have stayed a little bird all my life.’ [ ♪ I’m a bitch, I’m a lover ♪ ] So Sansa is a northern separatist now for some *bleep* reason even though now is not the time. TYRION: ‘They remember what happened the last time Targaryens brought dragons north.’ Yeah, nothing. Nothing happened. When Aegon the Conqueror invaded, the North bent the knee immediately and joined the Seven Kingdoms without a fight and nobody died. The countryside was not burninated. The king at the time was called “The King who Knelt” for a reason. I guess someone ‘kind of forgot’.
[BENIOFF: ‘kind of forgot about–’] TYRION: ‘They remember what happened the last time Targaryens brought dragons north.’ DAENERYS: ‘But I could have sworn I read the last king in the North was Torrhen Stark who bent the knee to my ancestor Aegon Targaryen? There are cases to be made for an independent North doing well in the past, but this whole situation in Winterfell we have written for Season eight, it, uh, it actually makes a pretty good case for United Seven Kingdoms. AYRA: ‘We needed her army. Her dragons.’ Yep. You sure did. SANSA: ‘How we meant to feed the greatest army the world has ever seen?’ Good thing we’ve got the Reach, a part of the Seven Kingdoms which also happens to support Daenerys’s claim. And it wasn’t even that they had it on lock before Daenerys showed up with all these mouths to feed. SANSA: ‘They’re telling me we don’t have enough food. ‘Especially not of the armies of the North come back to defend Winterfell.’ “How are we going to feed our own people?” was a problem at the beginning of the season that is set up and promptly ignored. SANSA: ‘What do dragons eat anyway?’ You know what, Sansa? It doesn’t matter. Don’t worry your empowered little head about it. Enjoy those dragons and supplies from other regions now that it’s *bleep* winter and you all have a common enemy. TYRION: ‘You seem determined to dislike her.’ Like they did Daenerys dirty, and we’ll get to Daenerys. But what they did to Sansa is just depressing. Sansa’s only purpose this season is to have an unfounded suspicion of Daenerys, which only proves to be founded when Daenerys does something completely nonsensical. Otherwise, Daenerys has essentially given all of her resources to defend Winterfell based on the promise of the guy in charge and Sansa is still like “Hmm… I don’t know. I don’t like the cut of her jib.” SANSA: ‘Why her?’ By the end of the stupid, dumb Battle of Winterfell, Daenerys has proved herself worthy of being a queen about as well as one can expect in this universe. She’s forging alliances, doing battle, keeping her promises to her followers and to her allies. So Sansa’s stink-eye over Daenerys makes no sense. She never even lived through the Targaryens hurting her family. The–operative word–‘Mad’ King burned her grandfather and uncle to death, but she sure did Cersei. You know, their common enemy whose family wiped her own out. Sansa’s mistrust of Daenerys only makes sense if you’re writing from the end forward. Telling us she is smart when her intelligence is really just writer clairvoyance, giving Sansa suspicions without giving her any reason to have them other than the writers know how the show will end and they want Sansa to look smart. LITTLEFINGER: ‘The dragon queen. ‘is quite beautiful.’ SANSA: ‘What does that have to do with anything?’ Or maybe, I don’t know, Sansa is jealous because Daenerys is pretty, which surely they would never–? Oh, come on! Anyway, moving on. Bronn is a fan favorite. BRONN: ‘Rickon.’ DICKON: ‘Dickon.’ BRONN: [laughing] But by season eight, hell, by season five, he has nothing to do and no reason to be here, but people like him, so here he is. It seems like they were planning a different ending for Bronn, like one that had some… character development? In season seven, during the loot train attack, Bronn loses his gold in a very symbolic moment. He then leaves it to risk his life in a big way to save Jaime with no mercenary reason for doing so. Is this a sign of character development?
Is Bronn changing his ways? TYRION: ‘It’s good to see you again.’ BRONN: ‘Yeah, you too.’ Nope! And guess who gets the worst subplot of all time? You do, you do! BRONN: ‘You boys are a pair of gold-plated cunts.’ So Cersei asks Bronn to go murder her brothers, as you do. QYBURN: ‘What would she do for the man who rids her of her treasonous brothers?’ Bronn fast travels to Winterfell and holds them at arrow point and tells them he thinks their side will win because dragons, so he blackmails Jaime and Tyrion into giving him… TYRION: ‘Highgarden. You could be Lord of the Reach.’ JAIME: ‘Highgarden? Are you mad?’ TYRION: ‘It’s better than being dead.’ Okay, so for those of you playing the home game, Highgarden is the capital of the Reach, seat of the now-extinct house Tyrell and the breadbasket of the Seven Kingdoms and the most populous. Yes, there are probably still many Tyrells next in line to claim the Reach, to say nothing of the other Great Houses in the Reach with a much better claim to the seat. But. Yeah. We’re gonna install Sir No-Name as Lord of Highgarden because of blackmail under a queen that was only a queen for five minutes. And yeah, that’s going to go over well with all these other lesser houses in the Reach. BRONN: ‘Highgarden.’ But okay, we do not see Bronn again until the finale, where not only is he now the Master of Coin… BRONN: ‘I’ve never borrowed money before. ‘I’m not clear on the rules.’ But Tyrion has apparently made good on that whole promise made at gunpoint thing. TYRION: ‘Sir Bronn of the Blackwater, Lord of Highgarden, Lord Paramount of the Reach and Master of Coin.’ You should have ridden off into that good night like Daario Naharis, but okay. Here he is still. Cool. And in a season that has turned pretty much all of its characters into stupid dumb-dumbs who can’t read a situation for shit because the plot needs them to be stupid, there’s one character whose tactical nosedive probably hurts the most. If there’s one character who was arguably done dirtier than Daenerys this season, its Lord Varys. VARYS: ‘Have you considered the best ruler might be someone who doesn’t want to rule?’ Varys, the Master of Whispers, becomes the Master of Loud Treasonous Conversations. CHILD: ‘The greater at the risk the greater the reward.’ VARYS: ‘Go on.’ Like Bronn, Varys is a fan favorite but the showrunners clearly had no idea what to do with him after season four because his character starts wildly deviating from his path in the books. TYRION: ‘You know what it’s like to stuff your shit through one of those airholes?’ VARYS: ‘No. ‘I only know what it’s like to pick up your shit and throw it overboard.’ [background canned audience laugher & applause] I guess in his case they’d figured they’d write around this later and they did so by making the smartest guy in the realm a total dum-dum. Varys in the books wants to install a guy on the throne who may or may not, and probably is not, be the lost son of Rhaegar Targaryen, aka Aegon Targaryen aka the next in line to the throne if we have a Targaryen restoration. Fans call him Faegon. In the show we don’t have Faegon, but Varys needs SOMETHING to do. Soooooo at the beginning of season five, he and Tyrion crossed the Narrow Sea with the express intent to support Daenerys now, even though Varys totally tried to have her assassinated in season one. DAENERYS: ‘Who sent word to Essos to murder Daenerys Targaryen?’ VARYS: ‘Your Grace, I did what had to be done.’ Apparently, she’s willing to move past that. DAENERYS: ‘And I swear this. If you ever betray me, I’ll burn you alive.’ You know, in a world where executions are routine, this seems like kind of a reasonable threat. He has tried to have her assassinated before, and whooop. Here we are one season later again with the poisoning. CHILD: ‘She won’t eat.’ VARYS: ‘We’ll try again at supper.’ But then in season eight, he… um… Well, she make a sad face at dinner. [ audio clip overlaid on sad piano music]
[ “They ask you how are you are and you just have to say that you’re fine, and you’re not really fine, and you just can’t get into it because they would never understand…” ] I guess she does ignore his shitty advice, which has, you know, been consistently shitty ever since they got to Westeros and is, in this case as it turns out, wrong from a tactical perspective. They do win the battle easily and with minimal casualties. And no, they didn’t actually need to rest and no, food was never an issue and resources were never an issue, so why bother having those conversations? But then Varys finds out that Jon Snow is the actual Aegon Targaryen. VARYS: ‘It’s worse than that.
He has the better claim to the throne.’ TYRION: ‘He doesn’t want the throne.’ VARYS: ‘I’m not sure it matters what he wants.’ And you know what, ’tis the season for some treason! VARYS: ‘But if you let me live, I will serve you well, ‘I will dedicate myself to seeing you on the Iron Throne because I choose you.’ CHILD: ‘She won’t eat.’ VARYS: ‘We’ll try again at supper.’ And the best rationale they can come up with for Varys wanting to support Jon over Daenerys is the philosophy that the best person to rule is the person who specifically doesn’t want to rule. VARYS: ‘Have you considered the best ruler might be someone who doesn’t want to rule?’ VARYS: ‘Robert was neither mad nor cruel. ‘He simply had no interest in being king.’ Well, I mean, I guess Jon keeps failing upwards, so that tracks. Imagine nominally being for the good of the realm and then immediately reversing your stake the moment you see a young guy whose neighborhood townies love him and be like, “Wow, yeah, that’s some leadership material right there.” VARYS: ‘He’s a man, which makes him more appealing to the lords of Westeros.’ So here’s the problem. This only makes sense if you’re the audience and you’ve seen Jon Snow’s temperament for the last eight seasons. Varys, on the other hand, has not. Varys has no reason to like or trust Jon Snow other than he liked and trusted Ned, I guess, who wasn’t actually his father anyway. Varys only just met Jon Snow and in-universe has no reason to think that he’s a better, more tempered choice than Daenerys unless he knows what the audience knows. We, the audience, know about Jon Snow, but from the outside looking in, the narrative’s all over the place. Jon Snow has only been in charge of the North for like, a week. And it’s kind of been a shit show. LYANNA: ‘You left Winterfell a king and came back a– ‘I’m not sure what you are now.’ For the first three episodes of the season, she’s a war hero with dragons that has sacrificed half her troops and one of those dragons to save humanity. The only thing she does in episode four that’s mildly questionable is… be impatient about wanting to take King’s Landing. Except, she’s not wrong about anything. SANSA: ‘The men we have left are exhausted. They’ll fight better if they have time to rest and recuperate.’ Well, clearly they don’t. VARYS: ‘I promised you I would look you in the eye and speak directly ‘if I ever thought you were making a mistake.’ Well, maybe your advice shouldn’t have been so uniformly bad. Yeah, maybe he was mad that she went against his advice, but that particular advice, again, ended up being wrong. King’s Landing was stupid easy to take because battles are easy now because we need to Wrap! This! Shit! Up! JAIME: ‘Go–’
TYRION: ‘I defended the city last time it was attacked, ‘I know it better than anyone; it will fall tomorrow!’ Based on what?
Those dragons have the fortitude of hummingbirds. Up until now, it seemed pretty evenly matched But ugh, you know, whatever. So Varys, who has sacrificed all to rally a bunch of power to Daenerys, immediately switches sides the second he discovers that there’s a pouty, indecisive male alternative with great hair. But Daenerys has, at this point, done nothing to make Varys logically want to switch sides. The one time she went against her advisor’s advice before this was to save Jon Snow, you know, that guy that Varys wants to betray Daenerys for. And so he starts telling *bleep* everyone
who Jon Snow is and in doing so, makes more or less the exact same mistake that Ned Stark did in season one,
only way stupider. This is way more reckless and way less motivated than what Ned did in season one. Jon fucking abdicated, that is a thing you can do. JON: ‘I don’t want it. I never have.’ Hell, Jon Snow knew a guy who did abdicate. JON: ‘You’re Aemon Targaryen.’ AEMON: ‘I’m a master of the Citadel.’ Speaking of Jon Snow… Oh, Jon Snow… There’s a scene in the second episode of Game of Thrones season one in which Jon Snow asks Ned Stark about his mother, and Ned responds with this restrained, burdened emotion. NED: ‘Next time we see each other ‘We’ll talk about your mother. ‘I promise.’ Like this is eventually gonna come to something emotionally charged and important. So, where do we even start with this? -My mom is actually from Napa.
-I didn’t know that.
-I never knew my mother. In many ways, Jon Snow is emblematic of everything wrong with the way this series handled its resolution. A big emotional profound setup LYANNA: ‘His name is Aegon Targaryen ‘You have to protect him. ‘Promise me, Ned.’ With a flaccid, confusing and meaningless payoff. And from a plot perspective, most of the major let downs from all of the momentous set up are pretty much tied in with Jon Snow. The white walker plot, of which Jon was the key point of view character, R+L=J aka the mystery of Jon’s parentage, which kind of indirectly kicked off the plot of the whole show, Jon Snow being brought back from the dead by the Lord of Light, and of course, Jon’s love for Daenerys culminating with her, um, murder done in an uncharacteristically dishonorable way. After Jon Snow’s resurrected they keep making this big deal about how he must have been brought back for a reason MELISANDRE: ‘The Lord led you come back for a reason. BERIC: ‘He wants you alive.’ JON: ‘Why?’
BERIC: ‘I don’t know.’ What, indeed, was the point? Well, considering the *bleep* all you did during the long night, I’m guessing the Lord brought you back so you could blue-ball Daenerys, making her go crazy, and ultimately install *bleep* Bran the Broken on the throne. Good job, Lord of Light. The white walker plot was this existential threat that had been built up for eight seasons, predicated on a historical long night that lasted an actual generation and nearly wiped out humanity. OLD NAN: ‘There came a night that lasted a generation. ‘Kings froze to death in their castles, same as the shepherds in their huts.’ The Night King was Jon’s principal antagonist and his main motivation for the run of the show. But not only was the big boss easily stabbed away by a character who had nothing to do with the white walker plot, but The Long Night was about as long as a viewing of ‘Titanic’ with a couple of bathroom breaks thrown in. And instead of nearly wiping out humanity, it wiped out about one half of one army. D: ‘What they see is just the end of the Dothraki, essentially.’ Question mark. Wait Lindsey. Did you steal my joke again? And we learned that after that’s done, it doesn’t matter that the world of men was too preoccupied with political squabbles to worry about an endless horde of ice zombies, because all you needed to end the existential threat is the one special knife of no importance. This is a recurring problem, which ties in with what we were talking about in the last episode. Subverting expectations, despite the fact that it doesn’t work for the story. Arya’s training as a faceless man builds not at all to this. It could have been anyone with a strong 10-yard jump. And yeah, the fact that the Night King focuses his wrath on Bran and Jon Snow means that Bran and Jon Snow should have been involved here. Doesn’t mean that Jon Snow needed to do the stabbening, but he needed some resolution other than spending the battle screaming at his new archenemy, zombie dragon. Tangent, I also saw one idea that it should have been Jaime who kills the Night King. You know, bring that old King Slayer thing full circle, you know? That would have been cool and give Jaime a reason for existing, but you know, I don’t know what else would have made sense… Jon’s main motivation is farted out of existence without any of his involvement, and after it’s over, the only thing that has materially changed, apart from the bloodletting of a couple of supporting characters, is that Daenerys finds out about John being a Targaryen. Which not only has nothing to do with the White Walkers or the effect they have in this world, It probably would have happened eventually anyway. But with regard to Jon learning the truth about who he is, he never really reacts to it. SAM: ‘You’re the true king. ‘Aegon Targaryen, sixth of his name, protector of the realm, all of it.’ A revelation this momentous, especially to someone like Jon Snow whose entire identity was wrapped around his bastardness, TYRION: ‘You’re Ned Stark’s bastard.
– ‘Ned Stark’s bastard.’
– ‘Ned Stark bastard.’
JON: ‘I’m a bastard.’ – ‘Okay, but you don’t have to call yourself that though.’ Should merit more of a reaction than frowns. There’s no moment where he sits down and really parses this, discusses it with anyone. Sansa and Arya in particular don’t seem to care about the implication this has for their family history, that the stories they heard about their aunt their whole life were a lie, that their father lied to them, that the rift in their parents’ marriage was based on a falsehood, that Ned had remained faithful to Cat but sacrificed his honor and basically his marriage to protect Jon. No, in the end, Jon reacts to this news like he’s just been served jury duty. Learning that he was not only legitimate, but was loved and wanted from the moment of his birth has no effect on his identity or sense of self-worth and is only addressed in the utilitarian question of birthright and primogeniture, to which he immediately hops to: JON: ‘You are my queen.’ And not wanting it is his sole motivation for the rest of the show. They keep trying to force this ending to make sense visavis Jon’s motivation. JON: ‘Love is the death of duty.’ Cause if we had to have this ending, Tyrion is the one who feels responsible for the war crimes here. If we must put the bitch down like Old Yeller, it should have been Tyrion that did it, not Jon Snow. Instead of Tyrion being the Littlefinger to Jon Snow’s Lysa Arryn, TYRION: ‘I love her too.’ Yuck. By the end, Jon Snow’s character has been reduced to a gelatinous mess because he doesn’t want anything. He has no motivation after the Night King is gone. This is a problem. He has in common with Tyrion’s path from the book diverges around the beginning of season five. In the books, Tyrion’s departure from Westeros makes it pretty obvious he’s on the path to vengeance and drinking himself into an early grave. But around this point in the series, the showrunners decided that it’s more important for Tyrion to be an audience avatar, the voice of reason, a nice guy, and here he shall remain until the last agonizing moments of the series. TYRION: ‘There’s nothing in the world more powerful than a good story.’ And characters being wrong in a story is not bad. Character flaws are a good thing. But Tyrion over the course of these three seasons is so consistently terrible at his job, that he should have been, at minimum, fired a while ago. Instead Tyrion just hatches one bad plan after another, and Daenerys keeps him on for some reason. Let’s go invade Casterly Rock, a place with no tactical advantage. Let’s not attack King’s Landing now before they can bolster their armies. You’re too valuable. TYRION: ‘It’s too great a risk. You’re too important.’ Let’s trust Cersei. She’s pregnant, which means she’s good and trustworthy now. Let’s not go rescue Jon Snow. He’s not worth it. Let’s go hide in the *bleep* crypts while an army with the power to raise the dead is attacking us. PETER DINKLAGE: ‘He’s bringing all the dead people back to life, and they put the women and children in a crypt with all the dead people. ‘So…rah. ‘Tyrion is smart, but I guess not that smart.’ If you rewatch season seven, it seems like they’re setting up a Tyrion betrays Daenerys twist. Like actually betrays her, not this piddling squirt of nothing. A betrayal twist would have at least explained why his powers of deduction got pushed out of a window TYRION: ‘You’re not a monster.’ My expectations have been subverted! Kill me. I kept waiting for anything Tyrion did this season to make sense, especially with regard to Cersei. You crossed the Narrow Sea with the intent of dethroning your sister. How else did you see this ending? TYRION: ‘I watched the people of King’s Landing rebel against their king when they were hungry, and that was before winter began. ‘Give them the opportunity, and they will cast Cersei aside.’ Yes, a short, but violent siege is bad. Mass starvation is much better. And Tyrion, why are you so horrified with the prospect of killing innocent or honorable people all of a sudden? TYRION: ‘Those are brave men knocking at our door. Let’s go kill them!’ It’s only because dragon lady bad that Tyrion has a completely out-of-character concern for the innocents of King’s Landing. TYRION: ‘I saved this city. And all your worthless lives.’ And the opposing side and this pity party for Cersei where he keeps trying to save her life, even though it makes no sense for Tyrion to want to see his sister anything but dead. TYRION: ‘Your reign is over. ‘But that doesn’t mean your life has to end.’ Why? Why why why why why? Why do you care? Tyrion, you’ve given her like 200 chances to surrender. Who cares that she’s pregnant? Which she has been for approximately two years and has not yet started to show. Weird, that. Tyrion was likely originally intended to be a corrupting influence on Daenerys and/or play up both his and her vindictive tendencies. Especially after coming off his wildly successful kill everyone in King’s Landing speech. TYRION: ‘I wish I had enough poison for the whole pack of you. I would gladly give my life to watch you all swallow it.’ Hence this red priestess stink eye, here. Foreshadowing that ultimately goes nowhere. And I suppose this could have played nicely into the theme of vengeance as a self-destructive force, buuuuut Dang you, Peter Dinklage. You’re just so ding-dong-dang likeable. Sacrificing any gray area or moral ambivalence turns Tyrion into the worst thing he can be. Boring. And it begs the question: what does Tyrion even want? Why do you want Cersei deposed? Because it kind of seems like maybe you don’t. TYRION: ‘I don’t want to destroy our family. I never have.’ How much of this show’s the bit–? TYRION: ‘I will hurt you for this. ‘The day will come ‘when you think you are safe and happy, and your joy will turn to ashes in your mouth.’ Never mind this show dropping the Tysha subplot after season one, or TV Shae getting murdered or literally anything that would make you stop and have ambivalent feelings about Tyrion. Instead, Tyrion remains the ultimate centrist, the voice of reason in a crazy world. And at long hellish last, in the end, comes up with the worst idea ever. TYRION: ‘Who has a better story than Bran the Broken?’ Yeah, so let’s ignore the nonsense of A) this new system of government they’ve come up with. DAVOS: ‘I’m not sure I get a vote, but aye.’ B) The person on trial nominating the king, and everyone being like, “Yeah, that’s a good idea.” TYRION: ‘From now on, rulers will not be born. ‘They will be chosen. ‘On this spot by the lords and ladies of Westeros.’ This speech is also a thesis of sorts on the nature of narrative. I guess D&D decided that the show needed a thesis. And also needed it to be self- congratulatory instead of… relevant to the story they wrote. TYRION: ‘What unites people? ‘Armies? Gold? ‘Flags? ‘Stories.’ So Tyrion’s thesis is about the importance of storytelling and writing and how writers are the most important people alive, and please give us an Emmy! TYRION: ‘I have had nothing to do but think these past few weeks about our bloody history.’ – ‘Well, I’m sure glad that’s over with.’
– ‘Me too.’
– ‘Yeah, but you know? I learned something today.’ So the show ends with what once was its strongest character not making decisions that make sense but instead, being carried along by the inertia of the plot. SANSA: ‘I used to think you’re the cleverest man alive.’ No revenge quest against Cersei, no quest for power of his own, just the voice of common sense who at some point on the boat ride over, adopted a pacifist ideology and a 21st century moral code. So, since themes are for eighth grade book reports, his character arc fizzles out and a little puff of whatever. But Tyrion is not the worst done by descendent of land the clever in terms of his ending Oh, Jaime. The heel with a heart of gold. The man who sacrificed his honor to save countless innocents from the madness of King Aerys by killing him and forever being saddled with the nickname Kingslayer. JAIME: ‘You all despise me. Kingslayer.’ For a principle player, a point of view character, and arguably one of the series’ protagonists, you sure didn’t have a point in the end. Jaime was instrumental in precipitating the inciting action in the beginning, nearly killed Bran and managed to make his way in the most of the major battles in Westeros. But after the beginning, he never really made much of a choice that impacted the story. When you break it down, he mostly spent all of his time going back and forth to Cersei doing her bidding. And by season seven, with good reason, it seems like he’s at long last finally over Cersei. But one key thing that is left out of the show is part of Maggie the Frog’s prophecy that Cersei will be killed by the valonqar which means like, little sibling. Cersei grows up thinking that is going to be Tyrion, but it is heavily foreshadowed that it’s supposed to be Jaime. So I thought maybe this was going to be like a bait and switch, and that’s why he was really going back to King’s Landing and he was going to kill Cersei. But instead, he doesn’t even do that much, and they both pointlessly get a rocks fall everyone dies death. So Jaime ends up being like the Nick Carraway of Game of Thrones Affecting the plot not at all except for being a prisoner of war/bargaining chip in the second and third season. And just kind of watching stuff go down, not really doing anything. But here’s the thing. Jaime not driving any action doesn’t need to be a bad thing. Not every character has to have a utilitarian plot purpose. Some characters have internal journeys, as we saw illustrated by Jaime in season 3, and that can make for great television. Many have bemoaned a redemption arc ruined, but I I actually agree with Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s take on Jaime. “I never saw him as a guy who needed redemption as such. The whole Kingslayer thing on the surface was about him being dishonorable. Ao now he needed to redeem himself because he did this horrible thing, when in fact, killing the king was probably his proudest moment.” Jaime didn’t need a redemption arc, per se. He displayed his bravery and selflessness when he killed the Mad King and was forever dishonored for it. Jaime’s story was more about learning to care about people who weren’t his immediate family. To grow beyond that Lannister *bleep* You Got Mine attitude. TYWIN: ‘A lion doesn’t concern himself with the opinions of the sheep.’ At some point, Jaime realized that Cersei didn’t really love him, but just kind of wanted to possess him and that she didn’t care about the type of person he was. CERSEI: ‘I told you no one walks away from me.’ JAIME: ‘Are you going to order him to kill me?’ If she thought about her brother slaying the Mad King at all, she saw it as a move to protect their family and not an act to prevent harm to the people of King’s Landing. Jaime’s arc in Game of Thrones was one of self discovery. Of actualization, not redemption. But there’s no motivation behind him abandoning all and returning to Cersei. It’s not like he did something selfless and got dishonored again. He did the right thing, showed up at Winterfell and was more or less accepted despite his transgressions. Pretty much everyone was on the path for giving him a second shot. Brienne gets it in. Hell, even Bran, the child he pushed out of a window is like, “You know you had to do you, babe.” “I gotcha.” BRAN: ‘You won’t be able to help us in this fight if I let them murder you first.’ So all this affirmation happens, and then Jamie just kind of leaves. JAIME: ‘She’s hateful. And so am I.’ A statement which is not supported by any of his actions even pushing bran out of a window was described as: JAIME: ‘The things I do for love.’ And that is why his ending is bogus. Not because he had a redemption arc ruined, but because he kind of forgot about rediscovering himself when there was nothing going on in the story that would actually make him go back on that. Jamie is not hateful. The revelation in season three is a testament to how he never was. So what the hell is this? JAIME: ‘She’s hateful. And so am I.’ And then in the penultimate episode, Jaime gets–well not the worst line, but his worst line: TYRION: ‘If not for yourself, if not for her, then for every one of the million people in that city, innocent or otherwise.’ JAIME: ‘To be honest, I never really cared much for them. ‘Innocent or otherwise.’ Then why… the fuck did you sacrifice everything? Your reputation, your honor, your oath to stabbinate the burn man? And I don’t want to hear any of “he’s in denial” crap. This is the end of the show. We ain’t got time for that. Jamie’s narrative being totally character-driven would have been fine if it went anywhere. But like Tyrion, like Jon Snow, Jamie’s motivation is driven into *bleep* nonsense in the service of keeping him sympathetic relative to dragon lady bad. We know what kind of a guy Jaime is based on his actions. So for him to say, JAIME: ‘She’s hateful. And so am I.’ without even really giving us a Why only serves as a cheap twist. It’s surprising, but not unexpected, isn’t it? After all, he’s explaining his motivation with words. And if motivations are explained with words, that means they de facto makes sense. Telling the audience the thing makes sense with your dialogue while not supporting the thing with the characters actions is kind of a trend in the last season of Game of Thrones So Cersei Lannister, one of the greatest villains not just in TV history, but arguably in all of literature… She sure didn’t have much to do by the end there, did she? All of Tyrion’s stupid mistakes and wildly out-of-character and unmotivated sudden trust in his evil sister served the purpose of keeping Cersei in the game. CERSEI: ‘Perhaps you’ll remember I chose to help ‘with no promises or assurances from any of you.’ Which feels even more insulting given that Cersei, post-blowing up the Sept faces no consequences nor has a secret evil plan beyond staring on a balcony and glowering over my domain with a glass of wine. Which, look, I get it. That’s my usual friday-night, but, um… That’s pretty much all she does in season eight. You know, besides, you know the thing with hot topic pirate. CERSEI: ‘You might be the most arrogant man I’ve ever met. I like that.’ And then the show makes Cersei sympathetic but it’s, like, in the most condescending way possible. CERSEI: ‘I want our baby to live. Don’t let me die, Jaime. Please don’t let me die.’ – ‘Cersei is one of the most horrendous ‘characters committed to film, yet somehow at the end, she’s just a girl. And she’s just scared and, and he’s there to comfort her.’ WHAT?? When the plot says so Cersei’s armies instantly crumble, and she dies a weirdly sympathetic death in Jamie’s arms (who was here for some reason) in a rocks fall everyone dies situation that feels more on par with, like, a C-tier Disney movie and less in line with someone who once said, CERSEI: ‘Power is power.’ But more than this, it’s important to look at Cersei for who she is presented as a monarch and what the show built her up to be before Daenerys torched King’s Landing. CERSEI: ‘Let the monsters kill each other. While they battle in the North, ‘we take back the lands that belong to us.’ The big thing here–and I mean big thing–as a defining action and Cersei’s rule is her effectively blowing up the in-universe equivalent of the Vatican as means to wipe out her enemies and flex on how many fucks she gives, which is… Zero. And yes, this scene was awesome, and yes, it feels like something someone as reckless and vengeful as Cersei would do when pushed to the utter brink. But! But… Prior to season 4, most of the plot of Game of Thrones is centered around the direct consequences of one guy, Ned Stark, getting his head lopped off in what pretty much everyone who wasn’t the child who ordered it, even Cersei, felt was a massive dick move. Meanwhile, post-season 6, Cersei not only blew up one of the largest buildings in Westeros and wiped out a decent chunk of the faith and its leader, but also decimated one of the most powerful wealthy and well-liked families in Westeros with a lot of loyal bannermen. And apart from a few stray remarks from other characters, OLENNA: ‘But your sister has done things I wasn’t capable of imagining.’ This major act of mass violence… it just kind of… we just move on. It’s…nobody cares. There are no consequences for this. She is crowned and life goes on. The only person opposing her is dragon lady who would have invaded no matter who was on the throne. So let’s break this down Why, in god’s name, would they set up Cersei finally exacting revenge on the faceless masses that threw literal feces on her during her walk of shame and weeding out religious extremism with impunity only to conveniently forget the internal logic of much smaller-scale political issues like Ned Stark’s execution causing massive upheaval? Not to mention, again, wasting someone Lena Heady’s talent? CERSEI: ‘I wanted those elephants.’ Well, here’s why. It’s because of how season 8 ends. This one act necessitates that, yes, Cersei would be considered an unparalleled top-tier Megatron-grade tyrant. She couldn’t have wiped out all of the faith militant or even most of them, let alone the countless followers of the seven in Westeros, who would feel understandably, very pissed and personally attacked by this maneuver. This is also to say nothing of all the people who saw her as 100% illegitimate or believed that her children were inbred bastards or who would want revenge on her for what she did to house Tyrell. So these dum-dums wrote a juicy situation which, in theory, could have led to some of the best acting from one of their most talented players, but the problem here is that it would have revealed her as a tyrant, leading to a situation where literally anyone with a claim to the throne would be looked upon by the people of King’s Landing as a liberator. Which leads us to the person, who, at least as far as everyone knows, has the best claim to the throne. And wouldn’t you know it, has already defined herself as a liberator. So if dragon lady shows up riding some dragons like, “Oh, hey, hi. I’m here to liberate y’all. “I’m the breaker of chains Love me, please.” It’s fair to say that D&D created a situation where, yeah, actually. That sounds pretty great for the small folk of King’s Landing and the vast, vast majority of the nobles who already support her and pretty much everyone who isn’t the iron bank of Braavos, to whom the Lannisters owe a lot of money. TYCHO: ‘You can count on the iron bank’s support… ‘as soon as the gold arrives.’ They wrote a situation where there’s no way Cersei would be able to maintain power after her move with the Sept without being a complete totalitarian who stomps out dissent before it even manifests. She created a situation where she’d have no choice, and she is the personality to relish that sort of thing. CERSEI: ‘I killed your High Sparrow… ‘because it felt good.’ Like, oh god, yes. Revenge please. I live for this. And I remember the face of every peasant who flung shit at me, and I will pull each of their fingernails out myself. And on a related note: like, you really expect me to think that like Cersei’s gonna, like, be upset that Daenerys is murdering the innocents of King’s Landing? After what they did to her, she should be like, “You go, girl.” So the only way to deal with the fallout of Cersei’s actions while still barreling full steam ahead to this predetermined ending, is to ignore them altogether. The show must maintain that the people of King’s Landing and, hell, greater Westeros are never affected by their monarch, and that they don’t care. That social trends do not apply to the rabble or the common folk, even though that was a huge chunk of the King’s Landing plot for seasons five and six. That, yes. The machinations of the powerful do have effect. And that politically savvy nobles like Margaery Tyrell have sound methods. And this development in later seasons, especially with Cersei, kills me because what set Game of Thrones apart for the first few seasons was how it was so conscious of how said intrigues–be they magical or otherwise– have realistic consequences that affect not only the lives of the major characters, but also the culture of the world itself. Like in season seven, during the loot train attack. Daenerys recklessly burns all that food from the Reach. That surely should have had some consequences, right? Maybe set off a touch of the old starvation? But like the destruction of the Sept, they wrote a situation that should have had consequences but didn’t. So I’m guessing that the existence of Faegon creates a situation where it makes perfect sense not only for the people of Westeros to reject Daenerys, but for her own sense of entitlement to make her descent into power obsession make sense. Not only based on the situation, but also based on the character that we know. Unfortunately, that is not the situation that these chuckle*bleep* wrote. So let’s deal with Daenerys. Daenerys came to power effectively from nothing. Not only because of an important name and some dragons, but because people believed in her. – ‘Because once in my life, if war is over, I want to know what it’s like to serve with pride. You believe in her?’ JORAH: ‘With all my heart.’ A lot of people, problematic writing or no, sacrificed a lot because they believed what she believed. DANY: ‘What about those who swore allegiance to you?’ JON: ‘They’ll come to see you for what you are.’ DANY: ‘I hope I deserve it.’ JON: ‘You do.’ And then she went and did some war crimes, and you didn’t even see it coming cause she’s pretty. Don’t you feel stupid? Tyrion, Jorah, Jon Snow: all big dum-dums who fell for her not because she was a charismatic, strong-willed leader who was constantly trying to balance her not-inconsiderable power with doing the right thing, but because they wanted to get into them panties. TYRION: ‘I know you love her. I love her too. ‘Not as successfully as you.’ *HURK* If your story is purporting to say something, which I assume this is because Drogon is burning the symbolism, it needs to have a basis of knowledge of what it is saying something about. I want to touch on the nature of power since the show is so centered around it. In the end the show has *bleep* all to say about power corrupting. One presumes because the writers did not think too hard about what leads to power corrupting. Here’s an anecdote. Back in the late 1930s, a man fresh out of law school was trying his first case when the judge threatened to disbar him. Said the judge, “I have serious doubts whether you have the ethical qualifications to practice law.” That lawyers name? Albert Einstein. Just kidding. It was Richard Nixon. Yes, that actually happened. At the time, Nixon admitted to taking questionable actions without his client’s authority. Decades later, we would discover that power did not corrupt him. He corrupted power. Being president revealed to the outside world who he was all along. NIXON: ‘I have always tried to do what was best for the nation.’ Said author Robert Caro, reflecting on Lyndon B Johnson, “Power doesn’t always corrupt. Power always reveals. When you have enough power to do what you always wanted to do, “then you see what the guy always wanted to do.” – ‘Your reign is over.’ DANY: ‘My reign has just begun.’ And in both the books in the series, we have a pretty good idea of what Daenerys wanted to do, because she did it. People point to speeches like this which, uh… DANY: ‘I am Daenerys Stormborn of the blood of old Valyria, and I will take what is mine. ‘With fire and blood, I will take it.’ Big speeches like this didn’t match her actions.
Daenerys had power. We saw what she did with it. Violence? Sure.
En masse against peasants? No. Daenerys’s entire arc deals with the fact that small folks suffer when lords flex military might. And her questioning when violence was worth the cost. The main reason she was doing so badly at the invasion initially was because she was trying to be more humane than Aegon the Conqueror. DANY: ‘I am not here to be queen of the ashes.’ So she understandably is like, “Well, maybe I should just Aegon the motherfucker.” DANY: ‘Enough with the clever plans. ‘I have three large dragons. I am going to fly them to the Red Keep.’ She wasn’t just one of the few people with a modicum of power that was concerned with the plights of the lower classes, that was how she defined herself. Breaker of chains, protector of the innocent. DANY: ‘I will not let those I have freed slide back into chains.’ And this is why I think the whole “power corrupts” thing is bogus where it pertains to Daenerys. She’s had power. She’s had it for a long time. If power hasn’t revealed the real Daenerys by now, when the *bleep* will it? After she wins her trillionth battle? No, actually, the slaughter of unarmed civilians is not a logical progression. Varys talks about her coin still being in the air, and it’s like, VARYS: ‘They say every time a Targaryen is born, the gods toss a coin, and the world holds its breath.’ Really, dude?? You know what kind of leader she is. She’s demonstrated it over and over, and she’s been pretty consistent about when she’s been punitive, when she’s been inhumane to her enemies, and when she’s done the right thing. Until this episode. When she reveals that she’s actually super Hitler. The Hitler that flies! – ‘And then she sees the Red Keep. ‘It’s in that moment, on the walls of King’s Landing, when she’s looking at that symbol of everything that was taken from her ‘when she makes the decision to… ‘to make this personal.’ You said–you said it was ’cause she wanted to rule through fear! DANY: ‘Let it be fear.’ You said that in that in the text that you wrote. You explaining it makes it worse. Now it’s a 30 rock skit. JENNA: ‘I’ll now take questions. Oh no my period. Let’s nuke England!’ I think we all knew there was no way Daenerys was going to end up getting what she wanted. The first time I read about Faegon, my visceral reaction was, “Oh. Oh no. This is going to make Daenerys do something stupid.” Problem is… Ain’t no Faegon in the show. But with regard to the idea that power doesn’t corrupt, it reveals, I think you learn what you need to know about the way Daenerys handles power in season 1. Khal Drogo is ready to do some pillaging because they need resources to go after that iron throne, and Dany is okay with it until she sees the human cost. So she pulls a white savior, saves this woman, and is betrayed by this woman because, of course she is. DANY: ‘I spoke for you. I saved you.’ Dany doesn’t put two and two together that she is the reason this woman lost everything. So when the woman is insufficiently grateful, she burns her alive and gets three dragons out of it. So that Daenerys turns to darkness because the people of Westeros don’t fall over themselves in worship is a perfectly logical progressio–on paper. Problem is, they put her in a position where, logically the people of the North should have been grateful . TORMUND: ‘To the dragon queen!’ The people of King’s Landing should have been like, “Hell yes! “Thank God. Literally anyone but Cersei.” But then they keep explaining it like it makes sense what happened. But before she breaks, she’s sad that the people of the north prefer Jon Snow, a native of the north. And I guess Dany kind of forgot that despite losing the Reach with the Tyrells, she still has the support of the North, the Vale, the Iron Islands, Dorne and presumably Storm’s End now that she’s legitimized Gendry. But she decides that she’ll never be loved because the people of the North prefer their hometown boy to dragon lady. DANY: ‘Far more people in Westeros love you than love me. ‘I don’t have love here.’ Sure. What they foreshadowed is Daenerys doing awful things WHEN she thought she had a good reason for doing them. Not, you know, no reason. She was ruthless, sure, and she made some bad decisions. But she never surrounded herself with yes-men, the main hallmark of a corrupt leader. Instead, seeking out dissent from her advisers and actually listening to them, even when they were giving her shit garbage advice. Tyrion. TYRION: ‘Cersei thinks the army of the dead is nothing but a story, made up by wet nurses to frighten children. ‘What if we proved her wrong?’ But defenders of the show insist that Daenerys was meaningfully different as a ruler from anyone else, because the framing said so. See, Tyrion make a sad face because suddenly we’re concerned with the cost of war because fire as a battle strategy is… immoral now, I guess. How much of this show has happened while I was like putting it off because I meant to read the books? Should I read the books? Leave a comment in the description…of Lindsey’s video. No, Daenerys wasn’t always compassionate, but she made rational decisions, negative or positive. You can’t have this sort of medieval wartime code that the characters all live by, and then in the last three episodes have everyone suddenly concerned with the cost of war. Especially when there is apparently no material cost. No mass starvation. No uprisings. Nothing. Why is Tyrion, who blew up an entire fleet with horrible magic fire, all of a sudden like, “But, your Grace, what about the Geneva Conventions?” Now we’re treating what Daenerys does in this scene as somehow morally worse than Jon Snow’s mass execution, which included a child in season six. Or what Ned Stark did to a scared teenager who’s running from ice zombies in season one. So that’s all noble then, but in season seven, it’s foreshadowing some war crimes, I guess because she used a dragon and not a giant *bleep* sword. None of these people wanting to betray her except arguably Sansa, the separatist, who is a separatist for some *bleep* reason. SANSA: ‘What about the North?’ Is rooted in any motivation that is based on what has materially changed during season seven and eight. Only hunches that just kind of appeared one day because the plot needed it to. But here’s the thing that was never foreshadowed. Dany being irrational. Dany denying reality. If someone said, “Here is Y,” never once did she go, “No, that is very clearly X.” You buried the lede too deeply. This was just not the character you wrote. In the end, it’s not just cynical. It’s meaningless. It’s one big reason why the ending left people feeling so hollow. It doesn’t say anything about the nature of power and the descent into corruption and cruelty. Just that some people’s genes are a time bomb. Daenerys doesn’t have a character progression that ends with her tragic descent into authoritarianism, her Targaryen genes were dormant for a while, but wouldn’t you know? Dem bells. That Red Keep. Just triggered those genes, and suddenly out of nowhere, Daenerys is denying reality. – ‘And then she sees the Red Keep.
When she makes the decision to make this personal.” And I’ve seen countless reinterpretations of this episode where people try to make it make sense. To make her rampage a little more in-character and justified and motivated. D&D might be hacks. But they aren’t stupid They could have easily made her rampage makes sense in any dozens of ways. But that was not the point. The point was to make her as monstrous as possible for one reason only Tyrion and Jon Snow have to remain sympathetic. Daenerys’s murder has to be seen as totally morally justified. Even though having a victim of physical and sexual abuse rise to great power only to be lured into a false sense of security and murdered by the man she loves in a moment of physical intimacy… *HURK* She goes on a nonsense rampage so then she can then soap opera die at the hands of a sympathetic hero by way of the worst of tropes JEAN GREY: ‘Save me.” WOLVERINE: ‘I love you.’ You’ve gone Dark Phoenix. You’ve become too powerful It’s so sad what I have to do to the woman I love, but it has to be done. It’s for your own good. Don’t you see? I had to do it. Look what you made me do, Daenerys. I had to do it Look what you made me do. Her actions have to be indescribably monstrous because the narrative has to justify the violence Tyrion and Jon Snow do to her body while keeping these characters sympathetic to the audience. And that’s all there is to it. Much attention has been paid to the bad writing in the Emmy-nominated final episode. But to me, this is the ultimate summation of what failed about the ending: arguably, the most insulting line in television history. TYRION: ‘Everywhere she goes, evil men die and we cheer for it.’ They’re doing, like, a thing. See? Oh, you liked Daenerys. You supported her when you should have seen it coming. She’s showing all the hallmarks of a fascist. Like a red and black color scheme. And Nazi clothes. That’s what fascism is, right? TYRION: ‘When she murdered the slavers of Astapor, sure not one but the slavers complained. ‘After all, they were evil men. ‘When she crucified hundreds of Meereenese nobles, who could argue? They were evil men. ‘The Dothraki khals she burned alive, they would have done worse to her. ‘Everywhere she goes, evil men die. And we cheer her for it.’ So D&D are invoking Niemoller’s “First They Came” poem to equate Daenerys killing slavers and rapists to Nazis persecuting socialists and Jews. And you, the audience, were cheering her on, you enablers. You lovers of bloodsport. Tyrion, and by extension, the audience, supported Daenerys’s slip into fascism because we agreed with her politics even if the means were kind of iffy. She othered the bad guy, and we cheered her on because we agreed the bad guy was bad. But then she turned her ire on innocents. So really the audience needs to confront what authoritarian they support. Now here’s why that’s fokken stupid.
As we see in “First They Came,” yes, fascists create an enemy and use it as a rallying point. The OG Nazis started with socialists and communists and worked their way out from there. And the German people were ok with it because, hey, ends justify the means and, hey, maybe the Socialists and the Communists and the Jews and the gays and the disabled people are actually the problem. And then they turn around and act all surprised when that ends in genocide some ten years later. But Daenerys isn’t scapegoating just anyone as the enemy. DANY: ‘How many slaves are there in Yunkai?’ JORAH: “200,000. If not more.’ DANY: ‘Then we have 200,000 reasons to take the city.’ The other she uses to justify her authoritarianism isn’t a political party or dissidents or an ethnic group. It’s the institution of slavery itself. So in the end, her tragic authoritarianism is rooted in the fact that she wants to end all forms of slavery… too much. DANY: ‘It’s not easy to see something that’s never been before.’ She wants to break too many chains. The ultimate “What if woke, but too much?” TYRION: “When she crucified hundreds of Meereenese nobles, who could argue? They were evil men.’ First she came for the slavers, and I did not speak out because I was not a slaver. Then she came for the slave masters that crucified a bunch of slave children and I did not speak out Then she killed a bunch of fucking innocent women and children, so really I’m the idiot, I guess. One two progression, should have seen that coming. It really makes you think. We live in a society. TYRION: ‘Everywhere she goes, evil men die. And we cheer her for it.’ Like hey, assholes. “First They Came” is a poem about Gentile complacency during the *bleep* Holocaust. You can’t make an argument about Daenerys’s methods being cruel or unusual when she’s more or less been on the level with every other marginally decent leader in this universe. Sansa feeds her enemy to his own dogs Jon hangs all of the insurrectionists including a child. Heads on spikes. Wow. It’s a thing in this universe. CERSEI: ‘Put their heads on spikes outside the stables as a warning.’ Arya murdering an entire house and then baking them into pies and then feeding them to their father, but… ARYA: ‘They weren’t easy to carve.’ Execution by dragon is a bridge too far. It’s effectively calling the audience hypocrites when you hold your own damn characters to a weird double standard. Daenerys, who spent more or less the entire series having discussions on her political aims vs. the ethics of her means, is the one we really need to look into our hearts and be like, “Wow. I guess her reacting coldly when her abusive brother does something stupid she knows will get him killed was a warning sign.” – ‘You know, when you look back to season one when Khal Drogo gives the golden crown to Viserys, and her reaction on watching her brother’s head melted off. There is something kind of chilling about the way that Dany has responded to the death of her enemies.’ Wow. We live in a society. It really makes you think. But if we’re following the worst-case scenario of fascism that ends in genocide, then the worst case scenario for Daenerys is what happens in season 4. The indiscriminate crucifixion of her enemies the wise masters of Meereen some of whom were complicit in crucifying slave children, some of whom were not. Genocide against the randos of King’s Landing for absolutely no reason doesn’t follow any meaningful progression of fascism or authoritarianism. So Tyrion “it-really-makes-you-think”-ing the audience because they considered her enemies acceptable targets only to be shocked when she slaughters innocents isn’t just insulting. It’s meaningless. If you read the script for the final episode, “The Iron Throne,” which leaked when Emmy voting started, the moment where Tyrion throws down his hand of the queen pin is paired with the script direction: “If this is liberation, he doesn’t believe in Liberation Theology.” Which is so revealing with regard to the “point” that these guys are going for. Why did people follow Daenerys? Was it just because she was powerful?
Or because they wanted in her panties? Or was it because they agreed with her politics? TYRION: ‘Everywhere she goes, evil men die. And we cheer her for it.’ Yes, Tyrion. Yes, you cheered her on. Not just because she had dragons, but because you agreed with her politics. Raping and pillaging: bad. Unjust hierarchy: bad. Slavery: bad. TYRION: ‘And she grows more powerful and more sure that she is good and right.’ The argument Tyrion is making is that if someone has the power, with enough encouragement and enough self reassurance and if they believe in their cause enough, this sort of thing is inevitable, isn’t it? The righteousness of your beliefs don’t really matter. What matters is the strength of those beliefs, and that’s what’s dangerous. And that’s what you have to watch out for. And that is why good King Bran is good. That is why the best ruler is someone who doesn’t really want it. Bran has no politics. Bran believes in nothing. Impartiality and emotionlessness are the qualities of a fine leader. Because dragon lady believed in herself and building a better world too much. And women are just too emotional to lead, which is why the only good woman leader is the one who’s been sapped of her humanity. Believing in a righteous cause turns dangerous if you believe in it too hard. And really, in the year of our Lord, 2019, does that add anything of value? ROMEO: ‘See how she leans her cheek upon her hand. ‘Oh, that I were a glove upon that hand that I might touch that cheek.’ The cultural endurance of any story has much to do with the desire to retell it, despite knowing how it ends. JULIET: ‘There rust, and let me die!’ Breaking Bad is not devalued by knowing the ending. The Sopranos is not devalued by knowing the ending. Romeo and Juliet tells you the ending at the beginning of the play. – ‘From forth the fatal loins of these two foes, a pair of star-crossed lovers take their life.’ Making a case not just for this tragedy, but for the endurance of tragic stories in general. Romeo and Juliet, Orpheus and Eurydice. We tell and retell these stories despite knowing how they’re going to end. I bring this up because… knowing how the show ends, are you going to begin to watch it again? What is the legacy of Game of Thrones going to be? Because there are endings that ruin a story in hindsight. I used to watch and re-watch the earlier seasons of the show. But now, knowing how it ends, knowing what they’re building towards, knowing how nihilistic and stupid and mean it ends up being, there’s just no enjoyment in the journey even anymore. Even in the very long process of making these two episodes, re-watching old Game of Thrones was just an exercise in frustration because you know now that the build-up that they’re going towards has little or no payoff. The enjoyment of experiencing a story should not be ruined by knowing how it ends. I think that after the dust settles and all the hot takes are taken–and I recognize I’m probably at the end of this train–the answer is going to be no. It’s not going to be remembered for the journey we all undertook. It’s going to be remembered as a thing that was ruined by its ending. One of the greatest examples of that… maybe ever. Hmm. Well. this is kind of a downer ending. I’ll take off the Cinnamon Toast Crunch. So there is one thing that I feel has kind of gone underreported, and that is the nature of the backlash.
And I feel like there’s kind of a false equivalency comparing it to other backlashes in recent memory. Like, uh… Well, Star Wars. Because, in this case, most of the ire kind of remained where it was deserved. In this case, the showrunners, who wielded absolute power against the wishes of the author they were adapting and even the network that was funding them. The nature of the backlash mostly stuck to what was relevant: the writing, the characters. And it didn’t spill over into, like, misogyny and toxicity as it usually does. You didn’t see any actors being bullied off of social media. But I point this out because the backlash wasn’t completely negative. A lot of people who were disappointed with the way the show ended wanted to make it clear that they really did care about the show, and they didn’t blame the cast or crew or especially the actors, who tend to be the people that bear the brunt of backlash. So there was a Reddit user named El Ilaria, who decided to start a fund raiser for Emilia Clarke’s charity. Since earlier this year, Emilia Clarke came out about having two brain aneurysms and nearly dying during the earlier seasons of Game of Thrones, and a bunch of Reddit users, most of whom were in the crowd that was really disappointed with the way the show ended, came together and had a big fundraiser for Emilia Clarke’s charity, Same You Because through all of this, people like Emilia Clarke and Kit Harington have an unbelievable pressure on them for a thing they really can’t even control. I think it’s pretty obvious that Emilia Clarke was not thrilled with the way things ended. EMILIA CLARKE: ‘Best season ever!’ So I have a link for the fundraiser in the comments that’s still ongoing, and I hope that if we take a lesson from this it’s that if there is negativity and it does become organized in the way that it has, take inspiration from the fact that sometimes that organized… anger can be turned to a good thing. Because at the end of the day, you have to love something a lot to be this disappointed. ‘Why does it have to be a king on the Iron Throne? Why can’t we be an autonomous collective?’ ‘You’re fooling yourself. We’re living in a dictatorship, a self-perpetuating autocracy in which the control of the dragons–‘ ‘Oh, there you go, bringing Dragons into it again.’ ‘Well, that’s what it’s all about!’ Why have stories at all? What purpose do they serve? Well, they bring people together… I guess. And Bran’s story is better than everyone else’s, which would make him a good ruler… ‘I’m your king!’ ‘Well I didn’t vote for you.’ ‘You don’t vote for kings!’ ‘Well I could become king then.’ TYRION: ‘And who has a better story than Bran the broken?’ ‘That is why I’m your king.’ ‘Listen, strange dwarves sitting in councils telling good stories is no basis for a system of government.’ ‘Be quiet.’ ‘You can’t expect to wield supreme executive power just cause some rhapsodic dwarf strung a narrative together.’ ‘Shut up!’ ‘I mean if I went ’round, saying I was an emperor, just cause I could recount the entire plot of Anna Karenina, then put me away!’ ‘Shut up. Will you shut up?’ ‘Now we see the violence inherent in the system!’