The final season of Game of Thrones is starting today (you may have heard something about it) and there are a few things I want to get off my chest.
For one thing, I’m wondering if all the death-related magic is connected in some way. Everybody makes a big deal about the Night King and his army of White Walkers because they can raise the dead, but there’s a lot of that going around. The Red Woman, Melisandre, raised Jon Snow from the dead at Castle Black. And Thoros of Myr claimed to have raised his friend Beric Dondarrion from the dead six times, and we saw him do it once.
Then there’s whatever Cersei’s disgraced former maester, Qyburn, did to The Mountain after his near-fatal injuries from his fight with Oberyn. I don’t know what’s going on under that helmet, but I can make out tinges of blue that make him look a bit like one of the Night King’s risen dead. I can’t help but wonder if the Night King will have some influence over him, which could come as a nasty surprise for Cersei.
Finally, Arya Stark is an acolyte to the Many-Faced God of Death, who has clearly granted her some gifts. That seems like it should figure into all this somehow, doesn’t it?
And yet George R. R. Martin has been maddeningly annoying about making things like this pay off. I mean, we saw our first White Walker in the first episode of the show, and then we met Daenerys and learned of her family history not long after. So it was obvious that Westeros was eventually going to be caught between the icy White Walkers from the north and Daenerys’s fiery forces from across the sea. And yet…Daenerys didn’t set foot in Westeros until the beginning of the seventh season. And the Night King’s army of the dead, which has been marching south all this time, still wouldn’t reach the wall until the end of the season.
Moreover, with the exception of the White Walkers and the dragons, many of the fantasy elements in GRRM’s stories don’t ever really seem to land. The Lord of Light seems to communicate entirely in visions that we never see, and they don’t seem to be very useful to the people who receive them. And those flaming swords look really cool, but it’s not clear from anything we’ve seen in the show that a flaming sword gives any advantage to the wielder in a fight.
And even the magic that works doesn’t seem to be used properly. I mean, if you’ve got people like Melisandre and Thoros who can raise the dead, shouldn’t you hold them in reserve as an important resource instead of allowing them to wander the countryside?
Furthermore, while Daeneyrs knows how to use her fire-breathing dragons as weapons of war, no one seems to have thought to use them to gather battlefield intelligence. The Unsullied wouldn’t have been surprised at Casterly Rock — nor House Tyrell at Highgarden — if Daeneyrs had periodically overflown the territory to spot enemy troop movements.
As for the big question of who will take the Iron Throne, Daeneyrs seemed to have the strongest claim until we learned Jon Snow’s true heritage, but would he even want the throne? He seems quite likely to yield his claim to Daeneyrs. Or I suppose they could marry and rule Westeros together. They may be closely related — she’s his aunt — but incest is kind of a thing for the Targaryens, to keep from diluting their dragon-wrangling genes.
There are a variety of other with claims. Robert Baratheon’s conquest arguably moots the Targaryen claim and establishes a Baratheon royal line, so his bastard son Gendry arguably has a claim. Then again, the Lannisters and the Baratheons intermarried at some point, so Jaime might be able to claim the throne as the oldest living male with Baratheon blood. If he refuses, the throne would fall to Tyrion. Alternatively, there have been hints that Tyrion is not really Tywin’s son — that his wife had an affair with the last Targaryen king — which would give him an even better claim than Jon Snow.
Then of course there’s Cersei. Her claim by marriage into the Baratheon line is weak, but she’s the only one actually sitting on the throne. But can she hold it? Cersei is not good at holding people’s loyalty. Even Jaime has left her, and will her armies obey her without his steady hand to guide them?
I guess I can imagine four endings I’d find interesting:
- Daeneyrs and Jon take the throne together and everyone lives happily ever after…which doesn’t sound like a George R. R. Martin ending.
- Daeneyrs or Jon dies fighting the army of the dead. The other one takes the throne.
- Cersei takes the Iron Throne, but having alienated everyone, she has no power, no friends, and no family. She is queen of nothing. This is the ending I’d like to see.
- Cersei has a change of heart, everyone fights the army of the dead together, all is forgiven, and Cersei is proclaimed Queen of Westeros. She returns to King’s Landing to reign from the Iron Throne, with Sansa Stark as her Hand of the Queen. In the final scene, Cersei peels her face off to reveal Arya Stark. This is the ending I’d really like to see.
Of course, I would be remiss as a libertarian blogger if I didn’t say that I find this whole Iron Throne business offensive. It doesn’t matter who has the best claim to the Iron Throne because there is no such thing as a legitimate king. I kind of want some previously unknown distant wealthy liberal republic to fill the Blackwater with a fleet of steam-powered warships which promptly reduce the Red Keep to rubble with naval gunfire. And I daresay a few hundred Gatling guns could probably make short work of the army of the dead. Or, if it came down to it, the Unsullied, the Dothraki cavalry, and a couple of dragons as well.
Because Death to Tyrants, one and all.