The fantasy television series Game of Thrones (GoT) has dominated the entertainment world for the last eight years and has been called the greatest show of all time. Many people have been unhappy with the final season and especially the final episode. I would like to reflect on some important aspects of the series and discuss why there is no ‘correct’ ending.
For the last eight years, I have been one of the millions of fans of a TV show called Game of Thrones (GoT). Every year, hundreds of tourists visit sites where scenes were filmed, such as the city of Dubrovnik in Croatia that receives GoT fans who come especially to reenact scenes, providing evidence of this show’s widespread popularity. The plot of the series involves nine noble families fighting for control over the mythical lands of Westeros, while an ancient enemy returns after being dormant for thousands of years. For me, the most impressive aspect of GoT was the element of surprise. Nothing was guaranteed and anything could happen at any point. Additionally, I was intrigued by conversations that took place between characters, which raised important philosophical and thought-provoking ideas. They also portrayed transitions through times and life choices.
With respect to the element of surprise, it was made clear to us from the first season that all characters are dispensable. A main character, Cersei Lannister’s catchphrase: ‘When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground’ definitively set the course for the series early on. This show portrayed the fight for power at its best, as a fight that requires intelligence and risk-taking, with terms comparable to our reality. However, it also required fans to let go of any attachment to characters in order to enjoy the story. One could even argue that the finale itself was a surprise, albeit a disappointing one for many fans.
Despite a very successful eight-year run, fans have been very unhappy with the way the series has ended; a petition to re-write the last season has been signed by approximately 1.5 million people, even more signatures than a petition to end world hunger! Many videos suggesting a better end have been published on YouTube. But what is the right ending?
I think there is no perfect ending for a televisual work of this magnificence. Us fans might like the ending as it is or not, but it is the right of the producers and the production team to decide how their own creation ends. Reaching a consensus with regard to the ending will also be very difficult taking into consideration the various possibilities and the wide fan base to which expectations can be hard to measure up. The case was very similar when another widely popular TV show, namely ‘How I Met Your Mother’, ended. The producers of GoT might have even communicated this foreseen dissatisfaction to us in the last episode, when Tyrion Lannister said to Jon Snow in prison: ‘No one is very happy, which means it’s a good compromise, I suppose’. It is indeed extremely difficult to compromise in real life, especially under forced conditions that one cannot control. Indeed, in many situations, our past acts can directly influence our present, and even wrong decisions taken in the past can have detrimental impacts, such as in the case of many of the show’s characters.
In my opinion, the final episode of GoT contradicted the fast flow of events that was dominant in the last season. I felt that it gave the important events enough time to be accepted and the audience enough time to empathise with the characters and deal with their emotions. I agree with critics of jumps in time, which were unevenly distributed and sometimes did not address major changes observed upon their end. For instance, how the fate of Jon Snow, a traitor, was decided would have been an important event to spend more time addressing. This would also constitute an example of a philosophical challenge that the show delivers.
Another important take home message from the final episode was when Tyrion Lannister suggested that stories are the only thing that unites people as Westeros’ council sat together to choose a new heir to the throne. Tyrion said: ‘What unites people? Armies? Gold? Flags? Stories. There’s nothing in the world more powerful than a good story. Nothing can stop it. No enemy can defeat it’. For the majority of the divided people, their fight against a common ancient enemy did unite them in this case. Can stories really unite people?
If we try to apply the same reasoning to real world political conflicts, it is indeed the story that remains through the generations. From my own experience, I have heard the story of the Palestinian diaspora from my grandmother, who was forcefully evicted by Zionist forces from her house in the city of Jaffa in 1948, and how she still carries the key to her house, hoping that one day she would be allowed to return. This story is shared by thousands of other Palestinians, and it is our story, our common history and our future that brings us together. The story shared by Armenian survivors of the genocide that took place in 1915 is yet another example of tragedy and sorrow bringing people together. The details might remain ambiguous, but the stories tell a narrative of loss and destruction. Could rewriting a story or at least writing better chapters for the future bring people at conflict closer together? I would surely hope so!
Perhaps now that GoT has come to an end, we should spend less time criticizing the work of the producers or the poorly executed ending, and more time thinking of the impact of a series watched by millions of people all over the world. I will surely miss the brave and diverse characters of this show, but I look forward to its prequel, the creation of which the original author of GoT, George R.R. Martin, will also contribute to.