We have endless choices with our entertainment today. That’s no exaggeration. We can pretty much watch whatever we want, whenever we want, if we pay the right subscription fee. So, when we choose to spend our time on a show, especially one that takes years of investment, there’s inherently a high bar for it to reach when closing out its story. Suffice to say, Game of Thrones did not reach that bar for many fans. And depending on who you ask, it didn’t even come close.
If you want a breakdown of the issues plaguing the final season and story conclusion, you can find dozens of articles via Google search. But as the Game of Thrones conversation continues for years to come, I think it’s important to remember the good things the show brought us more than the final letdown. After all, this series will impact the way we’ll view TV and film into the future. There is much more cause for celebration than criticism. Here are four things to remember about the show that should help even the most disappointed fan.
Real Stakes in Storytelling
Season one, episode nine at the Sept of Baelor proved without a doubt that Game of Thrones wasn’t all talk. When Cersei said “you win or you die” when you play the game, that had real teeth. Eddard Stark’s beheading set a precedent for the series that honor, duty, heroism and all the good intentions a protagonist can mutter weren’t going to save them from the consequences of their actions. And if you doubted it for a second, a certain wedding reception soon reminded you. Largely, the first five seasons followed this spirit, concerned far more with the broader story of the fight over the soul of Westeros than with any single character’s journey.
We lost a good deal of that over-arching focus in the post-Jon Snow resurrection era, but despite that fact, you still never knew whose blade could be awaiting our characters around the corner. The show earned this so fully and so early in its run that even casual conversations over a goblet of Arbor Gold carried at least a hint of uncertainty. It raised the tension in nearly every scene of every episode, yet most of the time didn’t feel like a plot device. That’s a hard balance to achieve, as proven by the many kill-your-main-character copycat TV shows we’ve seen since the Sept of Baelor. It’s an achievement we shouldn’t forget.
Complex, Authentic Characters
Admit it. When JaimeLannister first rode into Winterfell with his devilish grin and too-perfect hair, then proceeded in the very first episode to push an innocent boy out of a tower window, you immediately had him pegged as a true villain. You’re not alone, as myself and most people likely did the same. But we all must also admit that as he sat in the bath at Harrenhal nursing his wounds and recounting to Brienne the tragic truth of his life and the Kingslayer story, we sympathized with him. That’s a mark of the complexity of humanity that Game of Thrones often elegantly explored.
A predominant theme of the show is identity. Who we are by birth is not who we have to become. Throughout our story, we saw many examples of cripples, bastards and broken things growing out of such labels. Yes, in fact that’s the conclusion of our story – the most broken of all ends up in the highest of places. But the texture of this was far more than a plot line. Most of the characters left standing in the end broke out of their societal boxes and became something greater. Brienne, Arya, Sansa, Tyrion and of course Jon Snow, proved that it’s possible to tell real, authentic human stories on a grand scale. That’s something to champion in our entertainment, and thanks to Thrones, you can bet we will see it more often from future shows.
A Commonplace Supernatural
I believe most of us, Christian or not, confuse the supernatural with the spectacular. We think of the supernatural almost as wizardry, producing signs and wonders of the rarest kind. The truth of scripture is that the supernatural is but a state of something that is above our natural understanding. It’s all around us. It is the gospel of grace inviting us into an everyday communion with God, the Holy Spirit constantly at work within us. The supernatural is far more natural than we often think.
Game of Thrones shows us a world in which the supernatural is commonplace. It takes signs and wonders, magic and miracles, and works them right into the fabric of everyday life. The dead were raised, fires were lit by prayers, people walked into fires and remained unburnt. If Tyrion had his way, he’d probably have turned water into wine and we wouldn’t have thought it the least bit odd. Every week was further proof that the fate of Westeros would be just as much affected by the supernatural as it would the will of man.
This supernatural setting was a continual reminder that our own world isn’t much different. Just as the Kings and Queens who clashed easily forgot the mystery and magic around them, we often get distracted by our own everyday lives and forget that God is literally with us all the time. In 1 Corinthians 2 Paul talks of the hidden and secret wisdom of God that He decreed before the ages. The Spirit of God, who imparts these things to us in human words for our own understanding, is ever present. So, the supernatural is just as much a part of our lives as White Walkers and fiery prophesies were in Westeros.
More, Greater Choices
There’s nothing new under the sun, everything is a remix, and all your favorite shows are products of what came before. This is especially true with Game of Thrones. In addition to the many fantasy epics in film and TV that preceded it, the show has roots in decades of fantasy literature. It both pays homage to that history and stakes its own claim within it. But for a show built on massive budgets and sweeping storytelling to have such an enormous impact on pop culture, it means that we’ll be getting a lot more of its type in the years to come.
Already in development are TV series based on Lord of the Rings, Narnia, Conan the Barbarian, The Dark Tower, The Wheel of Time and yes, Game of Thrones prequels. That’s not even the lot of them. There are countless articles in Internetland pondering which will be the next Game of Thrones. But maybe one of these shows will be the first of its kind, ushering in a new era. And while you may be disappointed with how things concluded in Westeros, the massive success of this show undoubtedly means more opportunity for new filmmakers to take big risks, who might just stick the landing (with the pointy end) in the fantasy world they are building.
Being so close to a finale that let me down, I find it easy to look back negatively on Game of Thrones. The truth is, there are many, many more things that made me a fan and far outweigh the conclusion. So, as we keep the conversation going, make sure to reflect on what worked, your favorite lines and moments, and lets all be thankful that this massive storytelling adventure existed and look forward to what the future holds in its wake.