Spoilers Ahead: You’ve been warned.
The final season’s big battle is passed, and the living regroup, having eked out a desperate victory over the Dead. What now? Did any of it matter, or does existential victory over death end in even more death-dealing by the living?
What is Game of Thrones about, exactly?
Pure, Machiavellian political realism? The pervasive nature of sin and the limits—and beauty—of redemption? Or is it about all these things set against a backdrop of an ultimate, and inescapably enchanted, struggle between good and evil?
I don’t know which it is, not anymore anyway. Game of Thrones always made the most sense when it distracted the audience with the same shiny baubles it hung before its characters: Power, in its varied forms. While we debated the politicking, the cold winds blew, and the dead rose. It was a supernatural, existential threat teased from the opening scene of the first season—now it’s gone, defeated. All that’s left is the petty game of thrones, an ugly contest for an uncomfortable chair.
If the Night King wasn’t the consummate justice for the depraved lords and ladies of Westeros, what will be? Does the Lord of Light have designs beyond pushing back the literal darkness, perhaps something more subtle? The show only has a few more hours to work its way to the Scouring of The Shire-level poignancy the saga needs.
So, is GOT just a bloodstained allegory for the hopeless depravity of human nature, or will it manage to be a hopeful vision of a better kind of kingdom. I’m not talking about a wispy, can’t-we-all-get-along gentleness, rather a sacrificial repudiation of the game. If Cersei doesn’t fall on the Iron Throne, consumed by her ambition, and if Danaerys doesn’t melt that throne into nails to rebuild the world, then they both deserve to burn.
I don’t need a “happy” ending. I can even stand to lose any of the remaining heroes, but the show must make a meaningful end of all the meaningless backbiting and naked evil.
What is Game of Thrones about? I don’t know, but it can’t be about nothing.