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Friday, 17 May 2019

Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 5 Review Spoiler Alert

***If you are not caught up with watching the latest episode of Game of Thrones, then please click away***

via HBO

Canada is heading into the Victoria Day long weekend.  How ironic that the very last episode of Game of Thrones airs this Sunday on a weekend dedicated towards one of Britain’s most venerated female monarchs.  At this point, I am not sure if I am going to watch the last episode on Sunday or wait a few days, nay, weeks, months or possibly years to watch it.  I came late to Game of Thrones.  In fact, I didn’t start watching until the show was several seasons in.  But once I started watching it, I was riveted.  I freely admit that the show had me with the scene of Jaime and Cersei getting hot and sweaty in the tower at Winterfell and then Jaime pushing Bran out of the window and I was lost when Ned Stark was beheaded.  Layer by multifaceted layer, thread over thread, Game of Thrones has been weaving a dense tapestry of a world that, at times seems so much more real than my actual life.  But after the Battle with the Night King, it fell apart for me.  Characters are now acting bizarrely out of character.  Plot twists and turns are glaringly awkward to the point of being inexplicable.   

I’ll start with the Jaime and Brienne storyline and work my way up the ever increasing pile of offenses.  There has always been an intriguing frisson of tension between these two from the very start à la Mulder and Scully.  And yet, when they finally consummate their relationship, the scene starts with Jaime exclaiming repeatedly, “It’s so hot in here” and clawing at his shirt like a gauche teenager embarking on his first tryst.  This is JAIME, son of House Lannister, who has spent years honing his bedroom skills with his willing twin sister.  Tyrion’s character fares no better.  He turns in Varys-arguably his best friend and the only other advisor left to Daenerys after the death of Jorah Mormont and Missandei, on the grounds of treason and then commits treason himself by setting Jaime free.  Finally, let’s turn to Daenerys.  I know, I know there is a camp of fans who will argue  that  turning her into a psychotic killer has been foreshadowed throughout Game of Thrones.  However, there have been plenty of times where she has acted nobly by freeing slaves or chaining her dragons after Drogon accidentally killed a young girl.  Many viewers have voiced their opinion that the writers David Benioff and D.B.Weiss have shown that they are nothing more than hacks when they ran out of original source material from which to extrapolate.  It is my opinion that  the writers made the cardinal sin of making their presence known in the story.  Any good story relies on that invisible fourth wall between the story being told and the audience.  But with characters acting out of character and illogical plot devices, it is impossible to immerse oneself fully in the story.  The effect is like being doused with a bucket of cold water.   Instead of shaking my head at the character and pleading, “Don’t DO that, you fool”, I'm left with shaking my fists at the writers  and shouting at the screen, “Why did you write that, you fool?”  When Ned Stark was beheaded in Season 1 (remember those early glory days of the show?), it made sense.  It was obvious that he had written his death warrant as soon as he admitted to Cersei that he knew that her children hadn't been sired by Robert Baratheon. The writers simply haven’t given Daenerys enough runway this season for her character to reach the point where they are forcibly pushing her.  Repeating over and over again in the last few episodes that  “The Gods flip a coin every time a Targeryan is born” is not adequate justification for her to morph into a Mad Queen.  The rushed plot devices speaks volumes of lazy writing.  At the end of every episode of Season 8, the writers give a short interview explaining their reasoning (in this case, lack of) behind the script.  They said that “Dany forgot about the Iron Fleet.” Wuh?  Drogon was badly injured by a Scorpion bolt when Dany attacked the Lannister-Tarly army.  There is no way she would have forgotten about the Iron Fleet or that the Lannisters and their allies had this weapon.  The only reason for this pathetic excuse of a plot device was to kill off Rhaegal and leave her with only one dragon.  As an aside, any of you who are pet parents and regard your pets as family members, you know the rage you would feel at the very thought of anyone deliberating harming your pet child.  There is a big difference between rage and grief and genetically inherited psychosis.  And on the matter of psychosis, likening the burning of King’s Landing to Adolf Hitler and thus ample evidence that she is a genocidal maniac is neither here nor there.  This is the world of Game of Thrones where it is completely normal for a great House to marry brother to sister.  No one mentioned madness when Arya murdered and baked Walder Frey’s sons into a pie and then fed it to him or when Sansa delivered Ramsay Bolton to his hungry hounds, acts which, one could argue, were many, many degrees more gruesome and psychotic.  What is important in storytelling is that there is a sense of internal logic that drives the storyline forward and that underpins the arc of a character.  One only has to compare the near pitch perfect redemptive arc of Theon Greyjoy to see how far short Dany’s character arc falls.  Season after season there has been this inexorable buildup to a monumental, apocalyptic clash between two formidable queens. Instead, in Episode 5 the much vaunted Lannister forces threw down their arms at the feet of the Northern army which seemed to symbolize the writers throwing their figural pens at the feet of the viewers.
I think the reason why I feel such a sense of betrayal is that I face a sea of moral turpitude almost every day at work.  The world of Game of Thrones, where characters are willing to put everything on the line for what they believe in such as the Blackfish refusing to surrender his home, or Dany losing a beloved Dragon to the Night King because it was a worthwhile sacrifice protect the living was a refreshing and much needed antidote to the ethical vagaries of the world that I and possibly many other viewers face every day.  Even when characters made foolish decisions, I understood because it fit their character.  From the intricate costumes to the even more intricate braids of Dany’s hair, Game of Thrones reminded us of what the small screen could be, where every detail, no matter how small, mattered.  It gave me the same rush as when I viewed the recent Impressionism exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario which ended recently. Looking at those glorious paintings, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt, that each brushstroke mattered to the artist. Hence the sense of outrage, of feeling cheated and snubbed as each episode drops.   I don’t want a fairytale ending, that wouldn’t be Game of Thrones, but an ending that unfolds as organically and thoughtfully as it began.

There is a petition on change.org for HBO to redo Season 8.  The last time I checked, there were well over 800,000 signatures.  I for one will be signing it.  What are your thoughts?  I realize this is a heated topic at the moment so please keep this space respectful of everyone’s viewpoint.  

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