Moments ago, I finished the most incredible feat of entertainment that television has ever seen. Game of Thrones, has finally ended after an almost decade long run as the highest budget and the most popular show in years.
I’ve never been a die-hard fan of the show, and I’ve had limited investment in it up until the later seasons. I watched because, mainly, it was like being part of cultural history. Honestly, I mostly watched it because it was just far too big to ignore: the future of movies and television, and honestly story-telling in general will be informed by what Game of Thrones created. It’s like when you watch Jaws and you realize how many trends and references that movie spawned over the years. Avatar for instance, is seen today as a pretty movie, but overall seems like a traditional big blockbuster that we’ve seen 1000 times before. Except, when it came out 10 years ago, we had never seen a big blockbuster of that scope, and I’d argue that without it, we would not have the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or other movies of that scope or size.
As I watched it in order to be able to be part of the conversation, I started falling deep into this incredible woven tapestry of political intrigue and incredible acting. It began getting a little popcorn-y there toward the end, as it abandoned its dialogue heavy roots (which was my favorite part, I love movies where the characters only talk for 2 hours straight). But hey, as a John Wick fan I can’t deny I didn’t mind a skull getting crushed here or there.
Game of Thrones ushered in the golden age of TV, and its ripples will be felt for years to come.
As for the finale itself, I greatly enjoyed it.
I have always half-joked about how I wanted “more nihilism” in the show, but unfortunately, no matter how hard I try, my heart just isn’t that cold. My heart was warmed by each characters’ arc, and the dawn of the age of exploration and advancement in the Seven Kingdoms. I’ve often heard the questions about why technology never seems to advance in this universe, and I’d argue that it largely rests on the division and chaos taking place in Westeros up until this point. Now that the correct parties have been eliminated, those who survived can fulfill their true callings and advance Westeros in a way that a nation unencumbered by power struggles can.
The ending of Game of Thrones really has something to say about the state of our nation: We are trying to operate with one hand tied behind our back due to the division and polarization in our country today.
I’m not here to discuss how it relates to our current political climate, however, I think that speaks for itself if you are a viewer of the show.
Westeros finally eliminated the ability to be born into the throne, which I think most problems in the show can be attributed. No one is entitled to the throne, or anything for that matter. Just as it always should be. I was always skeptical of the weight of Jon Snow’s heritage, because there was no way to prove it to anyone, but also, it clearly meant nothing to him. I think it would have been a bad choice for the show if he ended up on the throne, so I was pretty happy with how they dealt with him.
Overall, I liked how each character’s arc ended. Jon got to go back to the Night’s Watch and essentially just wander around looking sullen for the rest of his life, which is really what he wanted. Arya gets to be Christopher Columbus and explore the world outside of Westeros, of which we know nothing, which is a neat bit of world building. Tyrion gets to basically, keep being Tyrion. Sansa is Queen of the North, which seems right. Bran “The Broken” is now the wise king of the Seven Kingdoms, voted in for his ability to overcome various trials without his legs and for being a tree wizard that can become birds or something.
Fine, Bran’s ending is a bit unsatisfying for me, to be honest. I’m not upset that he got the throne, but now that he did, I wish he could have been a bigger presence in the show rather than a side character that WASN’T EVEN IN SEASON 5.
If you accept that Game of Thrones became a different show the moment it outran the books, then the new version of the show where they unlocked “fast travel” isn’t as irritating. The acting is so good, that it could still grab our attention despite having serious plot issues, and I fully believe it will be remembered fondly despite its issues.
Such an incredible quote from a finale of a show that I think is a little more insightful than it realizes. What is Story-telling? Is it a marketing term now used ad nauseam by every photographer, videographer, or marketing firm? Yes, I think the term has lost some of its power certainly, as it does when the marketing community gets a hold of it. I think the idea of “story-telling” has been so watered down, in fact, that I have been hesitant to associate the things I do with “story-telling”, despite it being my ultimate goal and passion.
I’m enthralled with story-telling, because I’m human. We all need stories to inspire us, and in 2019, we are so very starved of them in our leadership and daily life. You hear the word “story” on social media more than ever, yet the ability to tell a story has been totally lost. When someone tells a story in 2019, it’s usually a list of the great things they have done and why they are qualified for a position or leadership. It was so astute when Uncle “Beto O’Rourke” be the first to stand to put his hat into the ring by basically going through his resume to explain why his experience in “State-craft” made him a great option to lead the Seven Kingdoms. It was almost too real.
I love what Game of Thrones has done for story-telling: it proved that complex story-telling can still be accepted and massively popular and that TV didn’t have to just be Big Bang Theory mindless brain candy. It can be challenging, create debate, and be a “movie-level” event.
Last week, my sister and I had a (poorly organized) debate over whether, as a Christian, it is a fruitful thing in any way to subject oneself to the violence and graphic sex that a show like Game of Thrones often contains. Of course, this debate was between two people who have both subjected ourselves to the violence and graphic sex of a show like Game of Thrones, however her views were that we probably shouldn’t watch such shows because the TV we watch today is “the company we keep”. This idea is based in many verses, such as 1 Corinthians 15:33, but there are many that reference the idea that “you are who you spend time with”.
I disagreed with her, not with her Scriptural references, but rather her idea that what is good for her is good for me and so on. I believe I can handle drinking a beer or two without going off the rails, however I would not put the same recommendation on an alcoholic. If she is uncomfortable with being exposed to sex and violence on TV (as I joked, a weird concern to suddenly have in the second to last episode of an eight season show), then she should abandon it and move on without a second thought. Yet, she should not expect me to do so, someone who doesn’t simply just watch a show for the thrill of beheadings and beddings (otherwise it would get pretty boring).
Do I watch things that I’d probably be better off for not? Sure. Not sure what kind of nutrition the Fast and Furious franchise is really giving me, however this idea that as a Christian, I should feel guilty for enjoying some things is a bit silly to me. If I filled my time with mindless violence and sex and action exclusively, then yeah, I’d safely be classified as a stupid person. If you have a good foundation and a balanced diet however, you’re not going to suddenly gain 100 lbs from eating a container of ice cream every once in a while.
I don’t tell you any of this to throw my sister under the bus, but to rather show the power that a show like Game of Thrones has over all of culture and the debates it can create. I remember a niche franchise called Harry Potter doing the same thing, and I believe it is an incredibly valuable piece of writing as well, up there with The Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings (two violent fantasy franchises that are typically acceptable to Christians, mostly because the authors were Christian).
Overall, as someone who is so interested in history and the spinning wheel of time, I think Game of Thrones is a valuable and important piece of culture. It had its ups and a lot of downs, but the impact it has had in undeniable. And that’s just good art.