To quote a friend of mine’s post on Facebook: “It took six years but Daenerys finally got interesting.” Okay, so even though it has been a long while since she has been consistently interesting, the statement may be a little harsh since basically Game of Thrones is just doubling back to the first time Daenerys walked out of a giant swarm of fire. This time she didn’t even have baby dragons on her shoulder. Perhaps we should consider this time more significant, though, as she arrives on the other side of the flames with what is likely thousands upon thousands of Dothraki warriors at her side. It seems finally she is starting to bear the weight of all those titles she gives herself.
Titles are something we have explored at great lengths in our story. Men seem to hand out titles like candy and they tend to have about as much weight behind them as a Jolly Rancher. Our characters this week are all dealing with the names and positions that the world has assigned to them. Jon Snow is evidently “the Prince that was Promised,” Theon who was Reek is now heir to the Iron Islands, Daenerys is supposed to become Dosh Khaleen or face some other fate pushed onto her by the Dothraki Khals. None of them want these titles. Each rejects them.
The prize you receive if you win the game of thrones is just a title. A hollow piece of language attached to a name that gives you a nice crown and control over a certain segment of people. If you don’t die to achieve it, then you bear it and the eventuality that goes with it. Good luck with that. Titles have failed their bearers time and time again in our story. Just look at Stannis Baratheon and Rob Stark. Both were promised saviors, both are dead. Each time a title is stripped of its significance in this story we are reminded that identity is far more than a name or an earthly status.
However, the converse side of this is just as dangerous, as we learn once again from the High Septon. This is a man stripped of everything. Once he had status, and he left it behind on a path towards “righteousness.” Mirroring the verse from the Book of the Stranger, part of this Westerosi religion of the seven gods, he tells his story of how he saw his sins with perfect clarity, declaring his life to be a series of lies in a story he was telling himself about his identity. This is the great deception of religion.
A friend of mine recently made a conscious and very difficult decision to leave behind the Christian religion. I had a conversation with my friend about this subject this past week, to which they said it felt as if they had left a cult, and they now live much freer than before. This is not an indictment of Christianity, nor the religious practice of it as a whole, but religion almost always tears people down, seeking through many means to disqualify everyone who participates in it. Religion often insists that righteousness or holiness are akin to worthlessness. Worthlessness as an identity is simply the opposite side of the spectrum from self importance as an identity. The High Septon is just as evil as Ramsay Bolton is, even though each one’s ideologies stand in opposition to the other.
Our GoT roadmarker characters are finding a middle ground similar to what I believe is found in the grace of the Gospel. Our identities are not wrapped up in what the world says we are, but they also aren’t worthless. Christ gives us great value and meaning and purpose. Jon Snow may be finding that kind of purpose. Though he may no longer wish to fight, he actually may have found a fight that’s worth fighting. Arya is finding purpose and worth though her identity has been stripped. And Daenerys is coming to find her place, stripped bare both physically and metaphorically by the fires she has walked through.
The difference is that Christ walked through the fires for us. We don’t have to earn our purpose and worth, it was a gift. The status of the game right now is a war between those who wish to earn value- Cersei, Ramsay, the Sand Snakes in Dorne- and those who wish to take it away- The High Septon, the Slave Masters. While they are battling, we follow those characters who seek their true value and true identity outside of the game. Perhaps it is so intriguing because it rings so true. The only way to escape the game is to render it null altogether. To my friend’s point, maybe after six years of shocking deaths and wild twists, Daenerys is bringing about the most interesting turn in our story after all.