I’m going to spend a thousand words trying to recap a finale that is really encapsulated in that one phrase. “Fire and Blood” destroyed the world we’ve come to know, and created a new one. The story isn’t Ned Stark bringing down the corrupt Lannisters. It never was. “Game of Thrones” is, like it or not, the end of a story we never truly heard or grasped – the story of Ned Stark and Robert Baratheon, and their attempt to build a new dynasty on the ruins of something old, ancient, and diseased.
That world – that story – is about to be washed with blood and burned with fire. Again, I’m not spoiling anything because I don’t know how George RR Martin’s saga ends. No one does. Readers have debated it hotly. Viewers eschewing the books will undoubtedly begin adding their voices now that they’ve got to wait. Certainly, there are signs (signs outlined in this season, if you paid attention and connected dots) point one way…who knows? I suspect we’ll all be wrong.
I apologize. I’m stretching out into the bigger picture – but can you blame me? The dragons have shown up. (And how many non-readers out there punched the sky with a “I knew it! I knew it!”? I know there were a few in my group!) Dragons are a game-changer. Daenerys’ quest is no longer that of a pretty girl of vague ambition and birthright. She is now a force of nature — but one without a khalasar. Wasn’t that final image of her just wonderful? She is at once triumphant and yet still so vulnerable as she stands there in an ugly wasteland, with only the remnants of her former glory surrounding her. “Thrones” has had some clunky visual moments, and Daenerys’ storyline was often plagued by them, but the final three episodes finally gave the Dothraki the scope they needed to underscore just how abruptly and badly she fell…and how amazing it was that she emerged, singed, but a survivor. Her story began with her naked and vulnerable, and it closed on a similar image, which was a real stroke of character genius. It’s a fantastic contrast, and one that definitely speaks to how strongly the series will play as one big whole.
Many of my finale fears were (happily) unfounded. I spent the season worried no one would care once Ned died because we had raced through houses, tourneys, and plots … but from the comments I’ve read, people were absolutely devastated. The show “felt” it too. As poor Ned (or what was left of him) was bundled off this week, it really seemed as though the heart was ripped out of the show. Sansa’s raw face (what fantastic make-up work!) and Arya’s sobs just seemed to echo right on through, and mingle with poor Daenerys. This episode actually felt wrung out and miserable. It felt dead – and I mean that as a compliment. One felt lost and confused just watching it. What now?
What now indeed?
Well, Robb has been crowned King of the North. Jon is marching beyond the Wall to find Benjen Stark and engage whatever evils lie beyond it. Joffrey seems to be amassing quite a gory collection of body parts. Arya is headed north with some unsavory company and a king’s bastard. Tyrion now has to try and bring Joffrey and Cersei under control. (Insert snort of laughter here.) Sansa is a hostage. And Bran and Rickon are dreaming of the eeriest things….
If there’s one story thread that has suffered this season, it’s the latter. It’s a hard criticism to make because how exactly does one convey “A crippled boy dreams of walking” in an interesting and prescient fashion? I’m not sure, though the books offered some funky visual ideas. They did the best they could, I suppose, but I can’t help wishing they had focused on Bran’s strange dream crow instead of on Littlefinger’s brothel. I wince at how they will have to play catch up, all the while introducing more characters and craziness.
Then again, there are dragons now. If there’s one thing that can bring audiences up to speed on a three-eyed talking crow and the possibility of psychic children (as well as whatever lies beyond the Wall), it’s the sight of three mewling dragons. Only death can bring forth life…and believe me, it’s a whole new story from here on out. Bigger. Better. Bloodier.
Now, let’s just hope it’s one that omits a certain, red-haired prostitute. Come on, “Thrones” team. You got away with skimping on the direwolves, but you can’t play the Game of T&A when you have dragons. People are going to want to see those.