For most of its running time, the final episode of Game of Thrones manages to be dramatic, moving and interesting. Then come the final five minutes when it degenerates into a disturbing visual representation of The White Savior by having Dany hoisted up by a mass of adoring brown slaves. I threw up a bit in my mouth.
I guess they wanted to end the episode on a HAPPY NOTE, but it did not happen. If you’re curious about how I would have ended it, you can keep reading.
Anyway, the show did have much better moments. The Lannisters, as usual got some really good screen time. It was a jolly scene when Joffrey is sent to bed without his supper, like a naughty child. Then Tywin lays down the themes of the episode for us to dissect: family and the needs of the many versus the few. He explains how: a) It was better to kill a few people at a wedding than burn the whole North; b) he wanted to kill Tyrion when he was born, but spared him because he was a Lannister.
Family, yes. It’s the glue that binds us together, something that Cersei later reaffirms when she advises Tyrion to get Sansa pregnant, because children are one of the few comforts a woman in her position may enjoy.
Whatever else they may be, the Lannisters tend to be loyal to each other. Perhaps too loyal, as we’ve seen Cersei and Jaime dabbling in incest, but what is the other option in this savage world?
Well, the other option is the Greyjoys. Balon and Yara get a package: a box containing Theon’s penis, warning them that unless their men withdraw from the North, more care packages with Theon’s body parts will continue to arrive. Balon decides he’s not doing anything about this. But, in a rousing little sequence, Yara decides she’s getting a ship and 50 men, and she’s going to save her brother. Because he’s her little brother, damnit.
The notion of family also does not seem to appeal to Stannis, who is ready to sacrifice his nephew to the flames in order to gain a throne. He is thwarted by Davos, who does the right thing and lets the boy escape. Stannis decides to kill Davos, but halts when Davos informs him there was a raven from the North: The Night’s Watch is asking for assistance in fighting the ice zombies. Melisandre agrees the real enemy is up north, so north they shall go.
Adoptive family also rears its head when Sam and Bran meet. Sam immediately says Jon Snow is a brother to him, thus Bran is also a brother. Later, when Bran continues his journey beyond the Wall and Sam returns to Castle Black, Sam tells Maester Aemon that Gilly should be allowed to remain with the men because the Night’s Watch protects all men and women. Family here is extended from the realm of the micro to the macro.
This, of course, is the same notion Daenerys has, as the slaves call her “mother.” Although sterile, Danny is meant to function as a Westerosi Gloriana, the symbolic Mother Queen.
And so it goes, as the show sets up opposing visions of families and moralities. There are the calculating and cruel Boltons. In contrast, there are people like Davos, who doesn’t believe in this bullshit about it being better to kill a dozen people at dinner than spare 100,000 men. And though Westeros may be full of horrible people, there are women like Shae, who refuses to be bought with diamonds, men like Davos who speak the truth, and warriors like Yara who will fight for what is right.
And there are men like Tyrion, as Varys explains to Shae. Men with the willpower, the family name, the brains, who can reshape the world. Varys knows that it is Tyrion, the dwarf, who may actually win this game. Tywin may also know this, despite hating the knowledge, for Tyrion is the only person who is told by his father to stay when all the other councillors and the King leave. However, if Tyrion is to win the game, he’s going to have to lose Shae. That has become obvious.
So, let’s see, what did this season of GoT do right? In general, it has continued to create women with more nuance and agency than the ones in the books. Cersei and Shae are fleshed out, and Margaery is a political foe to be feared. Ros (now sadly dead) grew into a character with wits and spunk, and we even got some Melisandre backstory. Women are much, much better in the TV show, in no small part thanks to the actresses playing the roles.
The bad stuff? Theon’s extended torture scenes, which could have easily been compressed. All Hail the White Savior can get really tiresome and irritating.
Now, some spoilery stuff. How would I have ended the episode? Not with the wave of brown adoration. I would have ended with something a bit darker: the moment when the Brotherhood without Banners finds Catelyn’s corpse floating downstream. They fish her out. The Red Priest does his magic. She opens her eyes. Fade to black. For an episode called “Mother,” which talked so much about family, this would have been the crowning moment.
You can buy individual episodes of previous seasons of Game of Thrones on Amazon Instant Video, or watch the current season on Sunday nights on HBO.