Life in a Post-Game of Thrones World
This week’s word count: 19,325. Not too bad considering the IRL factors AND my liberally budgeted TV and non-writing hobby time. Things should pick up (and result in more writing) from now and into the summer in our post-Game of Thrones world.
In what should be the final mention of Game of Thrones, I’d like to talk about the finale a little bit. Then I’ll be entirely post-Game of Thrones. Not whether I thought it was good or bad, or whether “they” thought it was good or bad, because I have trouble in the whole good/bad discussion.
I openly admit that I find elements to enjoy in just about anything that I watch or read. It can be a performance, special effects, a certain actress, a theme, or even just a single badass scene that draws me to a show or movie. An author’s voice or the way he/she builds their stories and characters can do it, too. When I find those tidbits that sing to my Grinch-sized heart, I have trouble strictly classifying a work as simply “good” or “bad”.
Unless we’re talking about Mission to Mars the movie (well, and the defunct theme park ride, too). Then I can say with no reservations that we’re talking about something BAD.
What I’d like to look at, and really in terms of how it affects what I write rather than an analysis of what the GoT writers wrote, is the concept of characters “earning” a certain outcome. The biggest brains in Internet-land have criticized the ending of GoT for granting characters “unearned” resolutions. Dany didn’t “earn” her madness. Bran didn’t “earn” the throne. I’m sure there are others.
Earning Her Way
As I look back at the show, Dany in several instances treated her enemies VERY harshly. She often needed her advisers to talk her out of following her instincts and carrying out very destructive plans. When she came across someone breaking her own code of ethics, she arranged for their death. She started small, but once she took the Unsullied, she could enforce her will on a large scale. Often, her code coincided with what the audience felt aligned with a good and just cause. Slavers? Kill ’em. Sons of the Harpy? Dracarys they ass.
In her first engagement with the Lannister army, she showed the world how far she would go. She completely and utterly destroyed Cersei’s followers. It was an awesome episode and the first time we’d gotten to see the dragons let loose in Westeros. But just maybe it should have been our first indicator that Dany’s code and most everyone else’s codes don’t actually sync up. In the GoT world, killing all of your enemies is part of the game, especially in Kings Landing. After all, the reason Dany is the last Targaryen is because when Robert sacked Kings Landing, Tywin Lannister opened the gates for him. Tywin then proceeded to hunt down all Targaryens (his former bosses) and their loyalists. So, Dany learned the rules of the game the hard way.
“Here’s another way to look at Season 8 Episode 5. Where viewers saw a chance for mercy after the bells rang, Dany saw something else. She saw the possibility that she’d have to deal with a younger version of herself, except wearing lion-emblazoned armor, in several years if she wasn’t thorough.”Paul (from this blog)
Perception IS Reality
In short, perhaps viewers saw in Dany what they wanted to see in her and forgave what they wanted to forgive. Like Ser Jaime. He commits three big sins to start off with: 1. Likes having sex with his sister 2. Pushes Bran out a window 3. Leads the group that wipes out House Stark in Kings Landing. He spends six and a half seasons making up for it, but really, at his core, he’s still the guy that committed those original sins. In his heart and soul, he’s unrepentant. He tells Dany as much when he temporarily pledges his sword to her and to Brienne when he rides away from her. Like Oprah says, “When someone tells you who they are, listen.”
I think this dissatisfaction in the audience doesn’t really stem from a plot taking characters down unearned paths. It’s more that several characters ended up going through so much hardship, only to end up in places the audience didn’t like. Why? It’s not the same answer for every character.
Dany, a powerful woman in an age of television hungry for powerful women, ends up murdered after going “suddenly mad”. OR she was a fascist the whole time and the audience just found her charismatic.
Jon, a guy that joined the Night’s Watch on purpose and later learned he should have inherited the Iron Throne, ends up back on the Night’s Watch. OR he ends up going North of the wall with a best friend, his dog and might as well be King Beyond the Wall.
Final Partially-formed Thoughts
I’m spinning my little mental wheel thinking about this because, when I get around to finishing my story, I want readers to say, “Damn, that was a well-earned resolution which totally makes sense with how it was set up.” I want to use this GoT debacle as a way to learn how I can write better in my post-Game of Thrones life. From what I can tell, the issue comes down to pacing. Yes, the clues were there, but Dany’s turn from friendly neighborhood fascist to full on Hitler came too quickly for most viewers and reviewers. I have to question though at what pace they would have enjoyed watching Dany’s self-destruction…
Now that we’re post-Game of Thrones, I think I may go back and re-read Gone Girl soon. I remember being very impressed with the way Flynn introduced Nick as highly likable and charismatic and then through a series of reveals the reader ends up thinking he’s a piece of shit…