What to Say to the God of Death? – Game of Thrones and “Bad Writing”

We continue our discussion on the debatable Bad Writing in one of the most popular Television series of all time and focus on in-show death and pacing. Also keep in mind, this post contains spoilers below so SPOILER WARNING:

Character Death

This is pretty much the entire foundation of Game of Thrones as a popular television series. The moment Ned Stark was executed, we all had a feeling this isn’t a normal prime time television show. This was reassured hundreds of times after (especially the Red Wedding).

So what death was unsatisfactory for fans? This is pinned on Cersei and Jaime’s death. Their death wouldn’t have been so terrible if the build-up for it matched the result, and here we talk about a prophecy mentioned in the series many seasons before:

“Oh, aye. Six-and-ten for him, and three for you. Gold shall be their crowns and gold their shrouds … And when your tears have drowned you, the valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you.”

Prophesied by Maggy the Frog, Cersei is destined to have only three children and die by the hand of her “valonqar” which means younger brother in Valerian. While Cersei thought this valonqar to be Tyrion, the fans soon figured it would be Jaime since he is technically the youngest twin. From this, many believed Jaime would be the one to kill Cersei for all the pain she caused him, so when that wasn’t the case many fans were unsatisfied by these deaths.
Anyone who has read Macbeth should know that prophecies are by no means full visions. “Prophecies” explains Jackson “are merely road-maps and blueprints for potential future outcomes. More specifically, they often require interpretation and thrive on ambiguity.”
And for comparison let’s look at one of the Macbeth prophecies:

Macbeth shall never vanquish’d be until
Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill
Shall come against him.

I guarantee most people who saw Macbeth for the first time at the Globe AND even now weren’t disappointed with the fact the trees actually didn’t move against Macbeth and call Shakespeare a “cop-out”.

The prophecy called for a couple of important things regarding Cersei: she will have three kids (she does), they will have golden crowns and golden shrouds (Not all of them literally had them but the concept of being royalty and dying served the prophecy), and the hands of the valonqar will be placed on her neck (Jaime does embrace her by cradling her face and having a hand on her neck) and choking her to death (Jaime isn’t the one to choke her, the rubble and debris collapsing on top of them do however choke her.) You can see all of these things in this clip.
If you would like to read more about the prophecy you can read it here.

But people still have problems with their death, disregarding the prophecy. Most people who didn’t think Jaime would be the one to actually kill Cersei wanted to see Cersei run through with Arya’s sword (with Arya disguised as Jaime) and wanted to see Jaime die in battle protecting those he loved or live happily with his new found relationship with Brienne. They don’t understand why Jaime would even consider going back to Cersei after all she’s done to him.

Let’s not forget that both Cersei and Jaime are deeply problematic and tragic characters, and so their death is fitting because it was a tragic death. Both of them died in the city they hated the most, the city that Cersei and Jaime had experienced the most abuse and suffering. Cersei paraded her naked body around the city while having food and hateful words thrown at her. Jaime was forever marked at the Kingslayer which has always been a burden to him than an honorable title. The city they hated the most destroyed them. The only reassurance for both of them was that they died together but even that doesn’t give them a “happy ending”. There was no time for both of them to reflect on their past mistakes and apologize about things. The realism that I mentioned before only adds to their reasoning to die together, they both believed their entire life the only people who could ever understand them were each other. Even if Brienne was very sympathetic to Jaime about his past, it doesn’t take one instance where someone said: “I understand your pain” for trauma and hurt to be fixed altogether.

Pacing

The biggest problem I have seen addressed by everyone, even those who agree that the character arcs and deaths are great, is the pacing for the season has been particularly fast. They mention that there is no time for character decisions to be made and the action is too quick to make logical sense.

I would like to address something myself, and this is a great time to have discourse on the aspects of the show that I thought was flawed. The show is not perfect by any means.

Personally, I felt the finale episode was rushed but how else are you going to wrap up 10 plus major character stories? It is extremely difficult to not just write a story in general but to continue and finish one you didn’t start writing that has gained global attention for almost a decade. So I personally excuse D&D for the flaws in their writing team. That being said I do not want to touch too much on the last episode (this can be for another time for sure), let’s get back into focus on the pacing of episodes 1 – 5 of Season 8.

From up until the 6th episode the pacing was exactly where it needed to be, in Westeros and in the TV medium. We tend to forget that in every season three-quarters of it is used for World and Character development, creating a very slow pace which then picks up towards the end of the season. Since this season was the climactic end of not only our journey but the characters journey, rash decisions and fast action are expected.

Dany’s decision to burn down all of King’s Landing did not happen within two episodes…it was built off-camera when her family was dethroned (as mentioned before in Character arcs) and it fueled her to destroy those who hurt and abused her family. Even Jon’s decision to kill Dany was not fueled in 10 minutes. Dany being a threat has been a blooming thought since Sam confessed to Jon that she murdered his father and brother for not kneeling to her in Episode 1. His sense of honor and duty has eschewed his thoughts on Dany and he continually battles these thoughts, even after seeing the destruction of King’s Landing, and we notice the darting eyes and the quiver in his voice growing more and more when someone asks about his loyalty to Dany. So many people have complained about the slow pacing of Game of Thrones’ previous seasons and now they complain about the pacing of the climax. The end is literally near for most if not all of them, the pace is progressing at a natural rate and for most of season 8 it’s less of a rush to get to the end for ends sake, but a rush to get to the end for metaphorical sake, the harsh reality that life doesn’t slow down in Westeros and there isn’t time to really breathe and think before the credits roll. The characters aren’t thinking through their plans and it’s their biggest downfall.

Final Words

The season was NOT perfect by any means. There were many small flaws that I had gripe with, and the final episode had a bad case of fast pace once conclusions started getting squished together but it’s not all bad. I have more questions because of it, and I think that is a very good thing. What is to the West of Westeros? How will Bran be as King? What will Jon do beyond the wall? These are questions that Martin and D&D don’t have to answer because that’s not part of the story they were telling. It could be a different story but that isn’t what we should focus on. But finale aside, the other episodes this season were logical and powerful. Flaws come and flaws go. Some of the BEST moments of the series were the slowest, especially Podrick singing “Jenny of Old Stones” which is more haunting to listen to now after the series had its ending. Characters fall back on old habits because of their flawed nature, no one is perfect in the world of Westeros and thank God they aren’t. The last season had to pick up the pace, the characters that had full development shined in the season for sure, like Theon and Arya. The characters that never made it to really develop beyond what they thought they’d always been suffered for it in the most tragic and beautiful ways. These writers can’t make every watcher happy, and these better and “justifiable” endings for arcs and characters would have only ruined what the show stood for. It didn’t stand for justice and karma; a lot of the conclusions were unfair because Westeros is unfair. The world we live in is unfair, and no matter how many times we look back on what we did, we have to live with how it came to be. If it means trying to fix some of the mistakes you made throughout then so be it, but in many cases, the question “what would have happened if I did this?” is mostly answered with “Oh well.” It’s a harsh world to live in, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make the most it, and the actors, writers, and behind the scene works of Game of Thrones did.

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