4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.Genesis 3: 4-6
In May 2019, the epic HBO TV series Game of Thrones came to an end. The 8 season, 73 episode series was first aired on April 17, 2011 and the finale aired this year to a staggering 17 million viewers worldwide [not including illegal downloads]. Despite controversy and fan protest about the series conclusion, it has shattered all records for being one of the most watched TV series of all time.
The now famously controversial final season was reduced from the normal 8-9 episodes to only 6 intense episodes full of battle scenes and special effects. At approximately $5 million-$10 million production budget per episode, the final season was ‘epic’ indeed.
In a poetic soliloquy to sum up epic series, Tyrion Lannister declares:
What unites people? Armies? Gold? Flags?
…. Stories. There’s nothing in the world more powerful than a good story. Nothing can stop it. No enemy can defeat it.
And epic story it is. In an earlier post, I discussed the series in a post Game of Faiths, analysing its rich world of spiritual and religious ideas. Jon Snow is styled by George R R Martin to be an epic hero of mythic narrative. A Christ-like figure of messianic proportions.
It is Jon Snow who demonstrates he is a true leader, one worthy of this cosmic battle. He sacrifices for his men and gains their loyalty and trust. He is betrayed at the hands of his friends and murdered, but he returns from the clutches of death to prompt the Priestess of Light to declare him Azor Ahai, the one prophesied to bring balance between light and dark, to end the Great Battle with the forces of darkness and death.https://bearskin.org/tag/game-of-thrones/
However, the final series falls shy of such predictions. Jon does not kill the Night King, ending the long winter, nor does he take the Iron Throne to rule Westeros in peace. Instead he stands by and watches the demise of his love, Daenerys, maddened by grief and power-lust.
She falls prey to the same fate as her Targaryan ancestors, becoming a ‘mad queen’, torching the city that should be hers, mercilessly, and beckoning Jon to join her in creating a new future world, styled in her version of ‘goodness’.
With imagery allusive of post World War II destruction, Daenerys looks over a destroyed city, covered in a white layer of ash including human flesh incinerated. Unrepentant of such necessary evil, she summons Jon to join her to ‘break the wheel’ of tyranny and rule a new world together.
Daenerys ~ ‘It’s not easy to see something that has never been before. A good world.’
Jon ~ ‘How do you know? How do you know it’ll be good?’
Daenerys ~ ‘Because I know what is good. And so do you.’
Jon ~ ‘No I don’t’.
Daenerys ~ ‘You do. You do, you have always known. ‘
Jon – ‘What about everyone else? All the other people who think they know what is good?’
Daenerys ~ ‘They don’t get to choose.’
Daenerys words hearken to one of the oldest stories of human history, a narrative in which humans first fall when they wish to decide what is good and what is evil.
Alongside Nazi Germany and many other of history’s horrible despots, Daenerys goes the way of wicked men and women whose power consumes them and their humanity when they decide their standard of goodness in unique and superior.
Jon Snow, does not sit on any throne, but instead honours a greater standard of good to serve his family and his nation sacrificially.
Whatever you think of the final series of Game of Thrones, the 8 season epic drama has truly set new standards of televisions epic fantasy story telling.
For a good examination of why the final season so disappointed fans of the series, read this excellent article in Scientific American, by Zeynep Tufekci.