“Sometimes, a person has to choose.”
In the final conversation Stannis has with Shireen before her death, his daughter tells him that “all the choosing sides is what made everything so horrible”. Sure, that is true to an extent, but one simple truth in this Game of Thrones world is the fact that choices must be made. No matter what happens, that remains constant, and the choices that are made by people in power undoubtedly have reverberating effects on the rest of the series. In addition, those choices likely come at the expense of those who may not have as much power, who may be viewed as “sacrifices” for the “greater good”. It’s not exactly a pretty world to live in, but it’s something characters in the show have to wrap their heads around.
And what may come with power and choices? Cruelty. “What right thing has ever been accomplished without cruelty?” is the question posed to Tyrion as he sits on the balcony atop the fighting arena, and although he challenges that view, we also have to question whether the show’s events fall in line more often with Tyrion’s opinion or not. After all, cruelty seems to dominate the show’s landscape, and as Stannis says, “a man…must fulfill his destiny…no matter how much he hates it”. People here believe in their destinies and achieve their power through cruelty–even if they hate what they’re doing–and it’s just how it works. I don’t see it changing anytime soon.
Plus, “cruel” is an understatement for what transpires in this episode, considering Shireen is burned at the stake while her parents watch. I have my problems with this plot point, however; it’s not so much that this is too far for the show–it obviously isn’t too far, considering the show’s history with this kind of stuff–as it is that the execution of the storyline here is botched. Sure, it highlights just how drawn in Stannis is to Melisandre, just how dangerous something like fanaticism can be. That’s certainly a solid point to make, but at the same time, I can’t help but feel that this development is way too rushed. Selyse, for example, gets a big character moment here when she rushes up to try to stop the killing, but the problem is that this moment doesn’t feel earned at all. Neither does Stannis’s stoicism in the scene, which paints him in way too broad strokes and overlooks the complexity–hell, maybe even previous likability–of his character. This is a guy who doesn’t fold easily out of desperation, who believes in justice, who is supposed to have a more human element to him outside of his fanaticism. Yes, he can be corrupted and/or worn down and desperate like the rest of them, but the show needs to establish that better in an actual arc; it can’t just do an about face and try to sell a moment that needs better build-up. I can see him eventually being driven to do this, but this is way too rushed and exploitative for something that now paints him as 100% villain.
The final Dany sequence is the better aspect of the episode, though, and it’s certainly an extremely thrilling moment (however, looks like the CGI budget went mostly to last week’s battle). Although the gladiator battle is poorly timed in this episode, the ending is also a huge moment for Dany the character, as she chooses to leave everyone else behind in Meereen as she flies away on Drogon. The ramifications of her previous actions are now playing out right in front of her, and we realize that she was never really meant to stay in Meereen. Destiny, it seems, has been hovering over her all along, and at the end of this episode, she makes a choice for herself. Everyone is left standing there as the Mother of Dragons takes flight.
– “You have a good heart, Jon Snow. It’ll get us all killed.”
-The Dorne storyline is extremely disappointing. It’s so disjointed in and of itself and detached from the rest of the plot, and I can’t bring myself to care at all about any of the characters introduced. I still sort of like Jaime, but the show better have a plan in place for this storyline before it completely collapses in on itself.
-Also in storylines I haven’t found that interesting: Arya! I love what the show’s done with the character over the course of the show–and I still hope she’s the one who takes everyone down–but right now, she seems stuck in the mud. Of course, it’s still a thematically appropriate situation for her; she has to choose who to kill, and the decision comes down to an individual vs. greater good type of scenario. At least I’m interested in what will happen next week for this storyline; I can’t say the same about Dorne.
-Give it up one more time for Kerry Ingram for her work throughout the series. Great job by all the actors in that Shireen death scene.
–Game of Thrones writers: “Damn it, Meryn Trant is not unlikeable enough!” “Well, then make him a pedophile.”
-So, the arena/gladiator scene is cool and all, but Spartacus did it better already multiple times. Yes, they didn’t have a dragon, but still.
-Easily the weakest penultimate episode the show has produced, but all is forgiven because of last week.
-Any predictions/hopes for the season finale? Share below. Usually, the finale is more subdued than the earlier episodes, so I’m not expecting anything epic like that White Walker fight.
Photo credit: HBO, Game of Thrones