Somewhere, Mick Jagger has changed his tune to sing “I actually got some satisfaction this time.” Assuming, of course, he is a Game of Thrones fan. Yes, this week was full of long coming payoffs and gloriously delicious feasts of fantasy with dragons burning ships from the sky and a giant on a rampage against his enemies (RIP Wun Wun). It was one of those very rare moments in a show full of twisty backstabbing and betrayal that actually brought a semblance of justice to our main characters. Breathe a sigh of relief and enjoy it while it lasts, viewers, because we still have one more episode this season and you know this feeling won’t last long.
In fact, we know what happens when power grows in the hands of our main characters. No one can gain any ground without a significant struggle to do so. For the short version of this, look how much toil and pain it took Jon Snow to climb the hill to Winterfell. He lost thousands of men, nearly suffocated, was about to be slowly impaled, and only made it out alive after a little luck courtesy of Sansa. Yet he bore the marks of the journey, caked in mud and blood. The marks for some are much greater, of course, as Sansa’s long road may have brought her brief justice against Ramsay, but time will tell how deep her wounds from him truly go.
Davos Seaworth: “Maybe that was our mistake, believing in kings.”
There are lots of theories swirling around about the show right now. One of them posits that Daenerys may turn mad like her father and become the ultimate baddie for the series. This falls apart when you consider that she has surrounded herself with people she trusts. When Stannis Baratheon first appeared on the scene it was easy to argue that he had the most right to claim the throne. But Stannis was a serious loner. He pushed away his family, his friends, and barely allowed the Red Woman near him. As Davos confirmed this week, Stannis defeated himself. There is power in community, and Daenerys has welcomed many to her side including the poor, the broken, the cripples, and the bastards.
We’re currently in a crisis of leadership in our country. The political landscape is being turned into a circus, and the two potential future leaders of our land are seen as two evils to choose from. It’s getting dangerously Westeros- like. So why do we believe in kings so much? Has it ever worked? Scroll through your social media news feed and you’ll see opinions from both sides of the presidential race spitting hate and declaring absolutes for their chosen candidate, who is, believe it or not, just as human and fallible as we all are. Why do we trust in such people for eternal things like hope and peace and justice?
Though our story makes no claim of a particular belief system, often examining religion and faith respectfully from afar, the conclusion we seem to be heading for is one quite in line with biblical belief. There is greater power in community than any one human king or queen can ever have. Christ reigns over all because he is the only infallible, true embodiment of love and justice that exists. He unites rather than divides. Don’t tell that to a great deal of people that claim belief in him who seek only to divide. On second thought, do tell them that. They sorely need to hear it.
You’ve probably seen this picture floating around the internet this week comparing the visual parallel of Daenerys and Jon Snow each swallowed up by their people. Daenerys appears sunny and bright, Jon is dark and cold. This is the song of ice and fire visualized, and bravo to the filmmakers for carrying this consistently through the series. We’ve talked at length this season about the potential of them ultimately joining together. They likely share a similar lineage and they sure seem fated for it. Thematically, though, it would bring about a resolution greater than the deaths of a few bad guys.
Westeros and abroad is a land that is bitterly divided. So much so that our story began with a war between five, count ‘em, five kings. Each had their believers and zealots. Each lost their fight one by one. The old rules of hierarchy created this grand division, leading to the death and loss of not just individual lives but of magic and beauty and wonder and all the things that made their world great. Winter, metaphorically, actually came long ago. Christ calls us to unity by being servants first. By loving our neighbor even if their beliefs differ from us. I truly think our story is following the same road, and spring will only follow this winter if those with power serve one another and lift each other up to build a greater community. Boy, wouldn’t that be the most satisfying thing that could happen?
*Spoilers to follow* I loved the exchange between Sansa and Ramsey at the end. Bolton argues that his dogs would never hurt him because “they’re loyal beasts.” Then Sansa says “They were. Now they’re starving.” I think there’s a lot to unpack in those two lines about humanity. It made me think of a quote from The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis where the elder demon Screwtape is admonishing his underling Wormwood, “Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s (God) will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.” In the world of Game of Thrones, I wonder if loyalty can be found when people are so starved for solid leadership. Can people be blamed for their shifting alliances that go against the loyalty pledged by their fathers and their father’s fathers? In our world, I think this speaks to the author’s point that we are in a crisis for leadership. It’s easy to look upon the upcoming election with despair. When our world leaves us starved, can we refuse to lose heart and stay loyal to the Kingdom of God when things in the kingdom that we can see, taste and touch seem so bleak?
“I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!” Psalm 27:13,14
Thanks for joining the discussion, Jeremy!
You make great points. I find that the best fantasy fiction begins as an accentuation of our world, and slowly brings us to realize that it’s more closely mirrored to our own than we first realized. Game of Thrones is a prime example. In a landscape where the church claims to follow leaders simply based on party affiliation, we have to ask if we’re going to just follow the trend (as Davos and Tormund once did) or live how we are called to live. I do think loyalty can be found when we are starved for leadership. In fact, that’s the way it often happens isn’t it? But it can only be found together, in community, and not out striking our own path, I think.
Also, great quote from Screwtape. I may file it away for future use 🙂