Game of Thrones is finally over. Long live Game of Thrones.
Well, not so fast.
That’s what we’re supposed to be saying now that the story is over. But we won’t. What we’re saying is, “Damn! What were they thinking?!”
Stories of this magnitude, that become this important to a generation of people, cannot fail to stick the landing.
And in every conceivable way Game of Thrones failed in the end.
As a story it captured our imagination because of a unique mix of grittiness and the fantastic. It’s an excellent bit of world-building, even if I despise the books on which the show was based. The story was compelling enough but, ye gods, the prose is putrid.
For me, Game of Thrones is a 24-year odyssey, having read the first book a lifetime ago.
And I always distrusted it. I never got much past the first book and only picked the television series up out of curiosity. I felt there might be a good story in their somewhere but I sure as hell wasn’t going to slog through thousands of pages of George R. R. Martin’s prose to get it.
I walk in serious geek circles, so this thing was a staple of conversation around my house for more than a decade before Weiss and Benioff got their mitts on it.
Because while Martin may have wanted to subvert the heroic traditions of high fantasy established by J.R.R. Tolkien by creating a world steeped in blood and chaos, he did so at his own peril.
And that subversion, that tension that anyone could die at any moment because, chaos, has stopped Martin dead in his tracks. This is a man that has pumped out serious quantities of work under deadlines his entire life. He may be a hack in my mind, but he’s also a pro.
And pros don’t go 25 years leaving a story half-published, unless they know deep in their hearts the story is fatally flawed. Pros hit their deadlines and move to the next project.
In Martin’s case, it’s obvious his ambition to undermine the very foundations of mythic storytelling gave him the worst case of writer’s block in history.
Game of Thrones was a story built on classic archetypal, mytho-poetic storytelling ideas. But with the goal of undercutting them, of taking a more post-modernist approach, to just show chaos without structure and purpose, no ending could ever be satisfying.
As consumers, when we start a book or a movie we can go on a journey into hell and back again as long as once we’re finished the ride was worth it.
The story has to illuminate fundamental truths, not spit on them.
And what makes the series finale such a failure was the unwillingness of the writers to at the last moment embrace some traditional storytelling conventions and anchor the chaos of Westeros in a lesson that can be passed from generation to generation.
By betraying the arcs of main characters like John Snow, Arya Stark and Daenerys Targaryen Weiss and Benioff set themselves up for the backlash they are getting now. And with good reason.
Heroic storytelling requires heroes to rise to their pivotal moments and, through their actions, create the opportunity for radical change. They are born out of and rise above the chaos of their times to make the hard choices and sacrifices necessary to preserve the world and build the foundation for the next one.
Stories are not reality. Stories are meant as reflections of the world we live in. They exist to help us make sense of the senseless.
That is exactly what did not happen at the end of Game of Thrones. At the Battle of Winterfell, John Snow was robbed of his heroic moment when Arya killed the Night King while he dodged dragon fire like an ineffectual eunuch.
Dany rode her DRAGON (!!) around in a fog failing to do anything except let good men die for her.
Then she turns into the villain John has to destroy because she goes crazy after spending seven years watching her be groomed to rule wisely, if a bit harshly.
What’s the purpose of the ending created by Weiss and Benioff? What’s the lesson?
Woo, thanks. Next time I’ll watch a rerun of Law and Order and get that in 43 minutes without commercials now.
Like it or not, you can’t as a writer rewrite the book on storytelling. Because stories are our way of encoding deep knowledge about how to survive in a world hostile to our presence in it. They exist outside of a person’s time and place to teach us the things that our previous generations learned and passed down to us.
And the conventions of these stories are encoded in our DNA. You don’t have to have spent a lifetime studying stories to know why Game of Thrones’ ending was unsatisfying. You know it because it’s a part of you.
The hero of a story like Game of Thrones is meant to see the chaos for what it is; the failure of the old institutional order to be sufficient to act as a brake on humanity’s worst impulses.
And the hero’s job is to overcome whatever is thrown in front of him to bring about the end of that old order and create the foundation for a new one.
Game of Thrones didn’t do that. In fact, it did the exact opposite. It put the living embodiment of the old institutional order on the throne, Bran, the Three-Eyed Raven and agent of the Old Gods who created this conflict in the first place.
The one person who has neither a present nor a future because he cannot bear children was made king. T.H. White is ROFLMAO’ing in Avalon right now.
By fundamentally mishandling the very characters at the heart of its story Weiss and Benioff made them pathetic. All of them.
And in the end we’re left with a bunch of people to whom a bunch of terrible things happened. But no lessons. No validation. No transformation into something bigger.
Just a temporary halt in the absurd cycle of chaos. Welcome to Shitlib Screenwriting 101, friend-citizen.
But, most importantly, Game of Thrones is a warning to what’s coming next for us. It is truly a reflection of the fall of our society. It shows that many of our artists have lost the plot of humanity’s struggle.
That post-modern Marxism is so thoroughly ingrained in the next generation of writers and producers that they will now continue their assault on the institutions of culture in the name of political correctness and toxic egalitarianism.
The one hope I am left with after watching Game of Thrones end with a whimper is the knowledge that the outrage over its mishandling is real, deep and abiding. That it will be quickly turned into a meme for failure by the vindictive culture of the Internet and left to rot in the poisoned ground in which it was cultivated.
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