On the Scene 5/24: A Game of Disappointment

On the morning of April 14, critically-acclaimed author George R.R. Martin confirmed in an interview with CBS’ Anderson Cooper on “60 Minutes” that HBO’s series “Game of Thrones” would have a different conclusion than his book series, “A Song of Ice and Fire,” which the television show is based off of.

So, whether you worship the Many-Faced God, the Seven or R’hllor, the Lord of Light, himself, you do not have to pray very hard, because the atrocity that was “Game of Thrones’” final season will not be Martin’s official conclusion to his story.

The series, which began in 2011, has received approval from critics since the very beginning, earning 46 Emmy Awards through its first seven wonderful and well thought out seasons.

But what came to a conclusion this past May 19 did nothing but ruin the foundation that Martin’s books have built.

Martin, who began writing his series “A Song of Ice and Fire” in 1996, still has yet to finish the series. The fifth of a promised seven-book series was released in 2011 following the conclusion of the HBO series’ first season. Martin eventually stepped away from HBO’s writers’ room in 2014 to solely work on finishing his book series before the conclusion of the show. Martin left his story to be told from HBO’s D.B. Weiss and David Benioff, who had been working with him on the television series since its creation.

But it has been five years since those events, and we book readers are still left with nothing but HBO’s conclusion, which changed, and in my opinion – destroyed – almost everything that Martin had created.

The final season, which was comprised of only six episodes, was utter nonsense if looking at the story solely from a writer’s perspective. Yes, the acting, score and cinematography were, of course, brilliant. But the actual story was terrible.

Daenerys Targaryen did absolutely everything she could over the course of the series to claim back the Iron Throne from the families who usurped her father’s reign when she was just an infant.

Sent away to another continent, she spent her entire life getting back to the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros to restore her claim to the throne. Throughout the entire series we have seen the goodhearted girl grow into a powerful but just ruler. Freeing thousands of slaves and showing compassion for all of her followers, Daenerys’ main objection has been to “Break the Wheel.”

For an entire series, her character had done everything to prove that she was not her father, who was referred to as the “Mad King,” only to go absolutely crazy with power in the final two episodes and completely slaughter thousands of innocent lives.

As someone who has read all of Martin’s book series of over 4,000 pages combined, I have read the perspectives of each character from their point of view. I can say with 100% certainty: Daenerys would never become her father. She has never struggled between doing something good or evil. Everything that she has ever done was out of the goodness of her heart for the better of the world.

And yes, you could argue that the books are not the show, but the later seasons were formed from the books, which were its foundation. It wouldn’t make sense if the Daenerys that we see in the end was a completely different character than the one we get in the beginning.

The development that her character went through, only for it to be completely destroyed because Weiss and Benioff wanted to throw a twist into the plot, was a complete shame.

They began setting up Daenerys as a villain in the season premiere and it just went downhill from there. After finding out that her love, Jon Snow, was technically her long-lost nephew and had a better claim to the throne because he was a male, she went completely mad. Even though Jon had said he did not want the throne and would serve her instead, the story of love turned into a story of hatred and jealousy.

Jon, who eventually had to kill Daenerys as a way to save the kingdom, had his story end with him going off to live beyond The Wall and live amongst the wildlings. So, the big twist that has been building for almost a decade of him being the rightful heir to the throne was completely meaningless the entire time, right? Jon a.k.a. Aegon Targaryen, the true king, is happier living in the woods with wild people? How is that a just conclusion to one of the central characters of the series?

Jon was brought back to life by the will of The Lord of Light, because his duty to serve was not done yet. So, you mean to tell me his duty was to kill the woman he loved (again)?

Not only did their endings not make sense, but the person who did eventually become king was Bran Stark – the boy who was pushed from a tower window in the very first episode only to be stuck in a wheelchair for the rest of the series.

Eventually finding the Three-Eyed Raven, a mythical being who is essentially the human form of history textbook, Bran became the it. Now a talking, walking (rolling), encyclopedia, Bran gained the power to see everything that has ever been since the beginning of time – as well as go inside the minds of others and control their actions, commonly referred to as a warg.

You would think that someone with these unique abilities would have been able to do something in times of peril. But when faced with turmoil time and time again, all Bran would do was sit there.

What was the purpose of having this story of becoming this ancient being, if it did nothing to advance the overall story that was presented? Yes, Bran did confirm that Jon was actually a Targaryen and the true heir to the throne. But if Jon were to go off and live in the woods in the end, what is the difference if we had gotten the confirmation or not?

Now, Bran has become king. Another event that did not make sense. Does anyone remember when Bran was asked to be the Lord of Winterfell? He explicitly said he could not be a lord because he lives in the past and therefore could never rule. But yes, let’s make him the king of all of Westeros?

Not to mention, nothing has changed! The whole series had been about bringing change to a kingdom whose politics weren’t the most agreeable. But, in the end, the political system that they had fought so hard to make different became the exact same thing.

Yes, Bran technically was voted to be the king. But it was a vote comprised of 13 individuals who were mostly men. The entire theme of female empowerment completely went out the window, much like Bran had.

All of the female characters that we had grown to love or hate because of the power and independence that they presented all were lost with the exception of Sansa Stark, who declared her home of Winterfell to be its own independent kingdom, where she would rule.

So now you have the six kingdoms of Westeros, Winterfell, and the land beyond The Wall as the independent nations west of Pentos. Doesn’t that look familiar? It’s identical to how the land was set up originally before Aegon Targaryen I conquered over 3,000 years ago. I guess by breaking the wheel, it meant to revert back to its originality…

We can also say that the idea of democracy was introduced, but when Samwell suggested actually asking all of the people to vote for a king, he was laughed at and turned aside.

Usually a story, especially one so long and thought out as this one, would have some sort of development occur over its very long course, but it had not.

I think the biggest gripe of the entire finale that I had was something that we have been hearing and fearful of since the very first episode: Winter. In the fictional world that Martin created, the seasons are very different than the ones we know in our reality. Summer and Winter last for years on end. It has been noted that sometimes the length of Winter was over a decade.

But in the finale, as snow fell on King’s Landing, it did not last long. Jon, who was imprisoned for killing Daenerys, eventually was released after some weeks past. But when he comes out the sun is shining down on King’s Landing as everyone is happy the war is over.

So, you mean to tell me that the season, which has been feared for the entire show just came and went in the blink of an eye? That’s just poor writing.

Needless to say, the final season was lazy, rushed and a complete letdown. As someone who has been a fan of the show and the books for years, I am hoping that Martin gives the true fans an ending they actually deserve.

 

Ken Downey Jr. is the Features Editor for Time OFF and Packet Publications. This is a part of his series of weekly columns focusing on arts and entertainment. He can be contacted at kdowney@newspapermediagroup.com.