I’m going to talk about the season 5 finale of “Game of Thrones.” If you haven’t seen it and don’t want to know what happened, might I suggest you look at puppies instead? If you have seen it, and have read ahead in the books, please don’t be a weenie–let’s just stick with info that has happened in the first five seasons of the HBO show, please and thank you.
After it happened, we all saw it coming, right? The signs were all there: Allister’s “You have a kind heart, Snow, that’ll get you killed” warning; the absolute daggers coming out of Ollie, a kid we knew to be lethal (still missing you, Ygrette); the fact that, despite doing what he truly believed to be best, Jon Snow pissed off pretty much every last night’s watchman by marching the sworn enemy through camp and opening the door to Westeros.
Season 5 of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” ended with a trio of hectic badassery (honestly, those back-to-back-to-back episodes might be the most exciting three hours in HBO history). Some plot points made us cheer (Jorah is still alive! Tyrion and Dany meet!), some made us feel uncomfortable (Cersei, we hate you, but … I’m so sorry you had to do that), and some made us rage against the Westerosi machine (I think Jon’s death was met with the biggest “I’M NEVER WATCHING AGAIN” empty promises of the series, perhaps more so than the Mountain opening up the Viper’s head like a ripe watermelon).
But with every new twist and turn and revelation, I want to throw out a theory as to Martin’s end game. Please note: This theory is based on the first five seasons of the TV series Game of Thrones. I read the respective books after the seasons, and “A Feast for Crows” will get read within the next year, before season 6 begins. To reiterate the note above: If you read the books, please don’t comment with any spoilers. Let’s make this a spoiler-free zone pretty please!!
When all is said and done, when the final page turns and the final credits roll, the white walkers will have won.
That’s it. At the end of the series, we will get a bird’s eye view a swarm of walkers overtaking all of the earth (or whatever the Game of Thrones planet is called), a la Stannis getting slaughtered at Winterfell. Or maybe we’ll get a series of dead characters opening their icy blue eyes instead: Cersei, Tyrion, Davos, Olenna, Hodor, Arya (well, her eyes are already kind of icy now, aren’t they?)
I’m not trying to be a Debbie Downer (Danaerys Downer?) here–I think we’ve had plenty of clues that this is where Martin is taking his story.
- The cold opening of season 1, episode 1. Three nights watchmen are riding in the snow. Walkers get two, and one escapes. This happens even before we heard that now classic GoT theme song that has spawned ring tones and spoofs a plenty. When the fellow who escapes runs into Ned Stark and co., the poor fellow is promptly beheaded. Sorry, terrified guy who just got away with his life–we don’t believe you. Our problems are much more important, so I’m going to use you as a lesson to my children, all of whom will be dead or crippled or Rickon in the next three years, because it’s important that I chop off your head myself. Thanks for your sacrifice. Valar morghulis.
- The title of the show. GAME of Thrones. To Martin, it’s all just a game. We may be competitive players, but that doesn’t mean our actions are any more important than Rummy or Monopoloy because, soon, ice zombies will take over the world.
- Martin’s insistence that he does not need to follow storytelling’s tried and true mores: Specifically, The gun from episode two will have to go off by the end. Remember when Arya stashed Needle after agreeing to shed her essential Arya-ness in a quest to become no one? As she covered the sword with rocks, we thought, “Excellent. She’s staying prepared for when she blows this joint.” Welllll, she’s blind now. So long, Needle.
- Information we’re dying to know dies with our characters. Think of all Maester Aemon took with him to the grave about the Mad King. Dany was just learning about Rhagar for the first time when Sir Barristan bit it. The last time Ned and Jon spoke, Ned promised to tell his son who his mother was. All key points to a complicated story, and Martin’s insistence that “Hey, this doesn’t matter” tells me there there is a bad reason why that doesn’t matter.
- We assume Dany is the end game, but consider what we know about her. She has very little control over her dragons (Drogon is nothing but a sullen teenager; Rhaegal and Viserion are still chained up in a crypt, and they look like they’re more likely to eat Dany than ever let her ride them), and she can’t have future kings or queens. In her “I’m going to break the wheel” speech, we see hints that she’s going to turn Westeros into a democracy, which would make it OK that she can’t provide an heir. But in this land full of whiny children, what’s to stop the masses from pulling a Nights Watch coup and stabbing her? Unless she can unite everyone by saving them in the face of the White Walkers. (For a second, I thought Tyrion and Jon might be her fellow dragon riders. Damn.)
- Martin has said that his sprawling tale is, at its core, a story about consequences. Jon has to face the consequences for refusing to listen to his men. Stannis has to face the consequences of becoming a murdering despot. Arya has to face the consequences of lying to not-Jaquen. Cersei has to face the consequences of giving power to psychotic religious nutjobs. With enough bad decisions piling up, we’re left wondering if any of our heroes or antiheroes stand a chance in winter against what’s coming.
Because in the face of the White Walkers, every single story line is moot. Who cares if Brienne kills Stannis or if she’d have stayed a moment longer to spy Sansa’s candle. Who cares whether the Lord of Light lied to Melisandre or she misread the flames. In this world, anger means little, vengeance means little, gods mean little, even magic doesn’t mean all that much. These characters get wrapped up in their own stories and fates, and I think Martin will make the overarching point that those stories and fates are even littler than all that.
Depressing? Yes. Got anything better? What are your end-game thoughts?