The Broken Wheel And Final Thoughts On Games Of Thrones

by Erik Amaya

 

In the end, this was the best of all possible outcomes.
Now, to be fair, a Westeros swallowed up by ice is probably the ending all the squabbling nobles deserved. But as Varys (Conleth Hill) and Sam (John Bradley) noted, the small folk would also be crushed under the Night King’s wave. There was also the truly most depressing ending, in which Jon (Kit Harrington) and Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) accept their Targaryen inclinations and rule over an empire of blood and ash. While their empire might have the veneer of peace, it is actually a crueler world where nothing was learned from those existential threats to the realm.
Surprisingly, the now deservedly maligned executive producers of Game of Thrones found an ending which will not satisfy everyone, but feels more truthful. So much so, one expects this to be ending George R.R. Martin always had in mind for his Song of Ice and Fire cycle. Essentially, Westeros stumbled into a constitutional monarchy.
Or, if you’ve been with me since I started writing about GoT for a different site, the lords of the realm adopted the Kingsmoot system used by the Iron Born. In the end, the Seastone Chair mattered.
And, to be honest, a Magna Carta moment feels like the most realistic way to end the cycle when you remove the Army of the Dead from the equation. In co-opting Dany’s notion of breaking the wheel, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) discovered the first step in dismantling feudal systems of government: ending succession by blood. As he noted in last night’s best scene, from now on, the kings of the six kingdoms will be chosen, not born. Instead of mad Targaryens or cruel Lannisters, a system of merit is now in place. Sure, it will eventually be corrupted as the memory of the Ice and Fire period fades, but much like the Magna Carta, it will set up an opportunity for Sam’s suggestion of democratic rule to take root. Eventually, Westeros will be ruled by the will of the people.
Well, at least until that is also corrupted and a new wheel is fashioned. Such if the nature of human civilization, its attempt to be free and its propensity for accepting the rule of others. But at least Westeros is on its way to a few hundreds years of parliamentary procedure and a peaceful reign under Bran the Broken; a representative of nature itself.
Of course, we should mention the rush to get these ideas in will forever mar the program’s final hours. As I mentioned last week, the senioritis in these last few episodes hampers everything. Good ideas are rushed without a concern for nuance or how they link up with the established characters and plots prior to Season 7. That leaves us with Daenerys’s heel turn appearing out of character and Bran’s (Issac Hempstead Wright) ascendance appearing unearned. He was always a character more involved with the Long Night plot than the game of thrones. That his Wheeled Chair might replace the Iron Throne makes total thematic sense, but as the show failed to give him a compelling story following his return from the True North, his stewardship of the Realm seems more convenient than it otherwise might be.
As with so many of the other plot points derived from Martin this season, the power of them has been lost in the search for expediency. It is almost as though the executive producers threw up their hands and said “let Martin explain it to the little S.O.B.s.” See also: Drogon melting the Iron Throne instead of Jon. It makes sense, but it is not presented in a dramatically satisfying way. Meanwhile, a few things did feel earned, like Brienne’s (Gwendoline Christie) elevation to Lord Commander of the Kingsguard and her choices regarding Jaime’s story in the Kingsguard history. Of course, your feeling on specific character end-states will vary.
Our habit this year has been to pour out wine for fallen characters, but to do so with Dany seems wrong. Her Nuremberg Rally speech at the start of the final episode cements the where this character is heading in The Winds of Winter. And despite her initially noble intentions, it is hard to reconcile the fact she is the worst of nobility; a person who thinks they are deserving of the center seat because the were “born to it.” With nuance, we would have time to see her vision was always deluded and always wrong. In this rushed conclusion, people still want to feel for her. That is a completely valid feeling, but it is not one I share. Therefore I will keep my wine in its cup and considering the implications of her heel turn in the months to come. I think I’ll also toast to the new Small Council; a group of people entrusted with the Realm after a lifetime of service. Oh, and Bronn (Jerome Flynn), of course.
Okay, let’s talk about the key scene — the Kingsmoot! As with the Iron Born, Bran was chosen when a group of nobles agreed that he should be king. But beyond that startling echo to one of A Feast for Crows‘ goofiest moments, the scene featured a completely useless cameo from the completely useless Quentyn Martell (played here by Toby Osmond) because Game of Thrones vowed to refuse Arianne Martell to the bitter end. It also featured a final admonishment for Edmure Tully (Tobias Menzies). Once you got past the shock that he survived all that time with the Freys, his attempt to claim “the chair” was one of the program’s last great punchlines; right down to Sansa (Sophie Tuner) saying what the entire audience must’ve been thinking: “sit down.” It also saw the surprise reappearance by Robin Arryn (Lino Facioli) and a scruffy looking lord we’re going to assume was Howland Reed.
But it also has the moment in terms of the whole Ice and Fire endeavor. As Tyrion says in the scene, people are bound by stories. And Game of Thrones became that story to so many along its awkward journey. In the end, no one would sit the Iron Throne, but in its wake is an idea people will continue to discuss and bond over until our own Long Night comes for us. And like a compromise, it ended with something which left many viewers wanting — another truthful note.
Maybe Martin’s version of these events — should he ever finish his cycle — will offer a more satisfying conclusion. Meanwhile, we have other shores to visit and other songs to learn.

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