The throne kills

Review: Game of Thrones: Season Eight

Waring: The following review contains spoilers for Season Eight of Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones has been a challenging series from the beginning of its eight season run, with themes of incest and family dynamics that would make Freud and Oedipus scratch their heads, the troubling approach to liberation of the oppressed that sees crucifixion as a form of vengeance, and a series of wars for a throne that makes one wonder if it is even worth it?

Betrayal seems to be the theme that runs right through the series with the first potential victims being the brothers Lannister. It isn’t long after this before the viewers become the ones being betrayed with questionable plot resolution, filming techniques, character deaths (both my favourite characters survived, but I broke out in a sweat for a moment there). But when you get past the almost criminal execution to the end of a cultural phenomenon such as this, it leaves some interesting things to be pondered for the discerning Christian that found themselves following the epic.

Was this ultimately a series about the way in which the pursuit of power will absolutely destroy those who go after it? Practically all of the major players who launched their own offensive to claim the Iron Throne through battle or politics ended up dead.

There are also questions about what constitutes a “good” person. All of the key players are desperately broken and trying to make the most of the cards that fate dealt them: 

  • Jaime’s love of Cersei and his need to keep her alive at all costs by going so far as to play entire warring houses against one another. 
  • Arya’s quest to cross the names off her list ending with the Hound telling her to leave or she would become a changed person.
  • The Hound’s inevitable clash with his undead behemoth of a brother to bury a hatchet.
  • Dany going to Westeros with the intention of both liberating people from an oppressive regime, and reclaiming a throne that was hers by right of succession.
  • Sansa’s triumph over the brutality she suffered at the hands of Ramsay Bolton and the near paedophilic grooming of Littlefinger to become the woman who should have ruled Westeros.

When the conclusion came, the battles fought and cities destroyed, and thousands of innocent men, women, and children slaughtered at the hands of the leader who had come to liberate them… everyone was left scratching their heads. What had we just witnessed? What was the point? For all the clever storytelling and character development, how did we end up here?

After a few weeks of chewing over the ending, lengthy angry rants from friends near and far who had invested similar amounts of time in the series, I began to get a better idea of what had happened. The showrunners had gone on the record to talk about subverting viewer expectations and how the fans weren’t going to get the outcome they wanted. And this is what got me thinking:

What if in destroying viewer expectations we were being given what good fantasy and science fiction had historically been known for? What if what we were given in the ending wasn’t so much the fairy tale ending that we’ve been conditioned to expect with mainstream American film and television, but instead it held a mirror up to the world that we are watching from? In this finale where Dany had been driven mad by the machinations of a group of men no longer convinced that she was fit to rule. A finale where Sansa, the now fit and obvious choice to lead with grace and compassion was undercut right at the last moment by men declaring they had the best traits and intentions instead, only to be pushed aside. A king was put on the throne who had one of the best potential stories that was given next to zero attention by the showrunners in terms of being fleshed out.

In the end we are left with that mirror uncomfortably in our faces: driven women aren’t considered capable of governance because they are deemed too unpredictable, the patriarchy maintains its status-quo, and the women who challenge the norms and expectations with grace and dignity are shoved to the side and made to watch on as the patriarchy lurches forward.

Game of Thrones is streaming on Foxtel Now

Mike Vile is an artist and student of theology




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