Stories. The lifeblood of every human interaction. For Tyrion Lannister, the most learned man in all of Westeros, there is nothing more powerful than a good story. He says in the series finale, “Nothing can stop it. No enemy can defeat it.” But as he was saying those lines, I asked myself a question. What makes a good story? Is it the journey or the destination?
Stories always contain a bit of the author in themselves. Over the years, we have come to understand that a large portion of George RR Martin’s thoughts about the world and the nature of life and death is expressed through the words of Tyrion.
In fact, that strange story of his cousin Orson Lannister smashing the beetles down with little to no regard was then seen as an allegory of Martin’s killing of characters. That story was narrated way back when George still lent a creative voice to the show.
This particular scene was not present in the books and both the readers and the watchers scrambled to make sense of it all. But that story, while seen as a rebuke by Martin to all his detractors back then, makes even more sense after the events of Episode 5 and 6 in Game of Thrones.
In my opinion, trying to make sense of events is part of what makes Game of Thrones so riveting. This season has largely been defined by Daenerys and her transformation. Friedrich Nietzsche’s famous quote, “There is always some madness in love. But there is also always some reason in madness,” perfectly encapsulates the character of Daenerys Stormborn and more so her relationship with Jon Snow. As Chaplin so profoundly said at the end of The Great Dictator in that legendary speech, “Dictators free themselves but they enslave people.”
Daenerys’ belief that she broke the wheel is a testament to this fact.
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But stories are, in a way, the antithesis of dictators; they free the minds from being enslaved. They make Jon Snow, the human representation of melancholy, question his own choices. What is love? What is honour? What is the right way? Jon Snow has always been a man who has repeatedly been told he knows nothing. Yet it is this man who always knew what the real war was. It was this man who knew to differentiate between right and wrong. He is the quintessential hero, and it is his song of ice and fire that will be sung for years to come in the kingdoms.
Stories have been passed down for generations in an oral form. Used greatly in GRRM’s books as part of his ‘unreliable narrator’ device, many prophecies have been brushed aside this season, thanks to the inconsistent writing and pacing. But this final episode’s handling of one of the most famous prophecies - Azhor Ahai - has to be commended. Prophecies, when metaphorical, have a great power unto them and so too did this one when we understood what the ‘cold breath of darkness falls heavy on the world’ actually meant after the victorious speech of Daenerys.
But in an episode that was filled with speeches, it was the silence that spoke the loudest. Silence has long been a writer’s best friend and many a story owes its greatness to great stretches of tranquility. Ser Brienne of Tarth, the first female knight of Westeros, has one of the most poignant scenes in the finale when she writes in silence the story of her greatest love. Those two minutes of stillness from when she starts to when she finishes - with that amazing last sentence - is a testament to the power of an honest, albeit distilled, story.
Such storytelling though has been found lacking in this and the previous season. Great stories don’t use MacGuffins, red herrings and Deus Ex Machinas the way Game of Thrones has been using - for pure shock value. Yet, on a largely ironic note, the final episode has probably the least shock value. I could actually understand why the characters took the decisions they did. Even that tongue-in-cheek comment about democracy that was clearly as GRRM as it gets, whilst used as a comic effect, was given credence because of the character who spoke it.
The original title for A Dream of Spring was A Time for Wolves, and the last minutes of this episode focussed on the stories of Jon Snow, Sansa Stark, Arya Stark and Brandon Stark. It is those final few shots, down to the blade of grass that grows amidst the cold winter up north, that made this show and especially this final season a terrific study in ‘show not tell.’ The music and that cinematography have consistently elevated this season and the finale did not disappoint. It’s another matter about the dialogues though.
When the dust settles on this season and people argue over it, they will agree that Winter did come. The lions roared; they experienced what fire and blood mean -- even if in an unexpected way. Above all, I hope they will remember that the journey is as important, if not more, than the destination.