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Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Game of Thrones' Genius Characterization


The internet is a terrible jungle filled with humans fighting and thrashing points of view at one another. Everyone insists their point of view is best and that anyone who disagrees best meet their end with fire and blood (or the caps lock). Art often reflects real life, and a show like Game of Thrones reflects the truth in humanity; our hypocrisy, fears, weakness and love staring back at us. (Spoilers for Season 8! Also, I've read the first four books so no whingeing here about how the books are better than the show - both are fabulous).

Major newspapers including The Telegraph and The Independent have columnists crying about how awful this season is and how things haven't gone their way. YouTube aka Satan's Playground, reeks of babies and twats moaning and groaning about how 'dis show is so wubbish, why would Arya kill the Night King it-a makes-a no sense! Wubaa woooo!!!'

Using a few characters as example (some of whom I've covered in full GOT character blog posts), I'm going to explain the genius in how this tale fulfills the depths of its characters.

Daenerys. Let's waste no time; Daenerys is not a good guy. She is not the bad guy either, Billie Eilish. She has always been a morally ambiguous anti-heroine. She is rich in complexity and everything about her character is well-written and makes sense. She reminds me of Walter White from Breaking Bad. Both are tales of downtrodden, underestimated people who became ruthless, tyrannical conquerors. Both acted in their egotistical self-interest while claiming to care for others, be it 'the people' or 'the family.' Neither are evil people, but neither are angels. 

Fans love them and hate anyone who gets in their way because we are shown to sympathize with them from the beginning. BB opens with us seeing Walt; this intellectual yet financially struggling man mocked by his students and his family. Also he has cancer. Dany was abused by her brother (before Joffrey and Ramsay, there was Viserys), forced to marry a foreigner, and spent her childhood running and hiding and watching her brother beg for money. She always thought Viserys would take back the Iron Throne and reinstate the three-hundred-year Targaryen dynasty.

Dany may have seemed soft and innocent in the early episodes, but once her brother died (remember, she watched Drogo pour molten gold on his head - awful as Viserys was that's pretty cold) Dany became as merciless as him. She burned Mirri Maz Dhur alive, locked Xaro Xhoan Daxos in his vault to starve to death, and took over lands she had no cultural claim over. She dubbed herself a liberator freeing slaves and breaking the wheel, but it was to her advantage; what life would the Unsullied have after freedom? Of course they would choose to fight for her. Of course the Dothraki would fight for her cause. When she 'freed' these people, she really just took them into her army.


I admire her for this. Dany is smart and I adore her character. But anyone who thinks she is some selfless heroine who has come to free the people hasn't been paying attention. Jon would never burn people alive. He hated seeing Varys burn alive. He hated seeing Dany burn the cities of King's Landing to the ground which by the way has looooong been foreshadowed: in season 4 Bran has a vision of a dragon flying over King's Landing, and in season 2 Dany enters the House of the Undying and has a vision of the Red Keep being burned down and covered in ash and snow. I always thought that would mean Cersei would burn the RK with wildfire, or Dany would with her dragons.


Jaime. God, I am so sick of people moaning about Jaime leaving Brienne. Jaime was NEVER going to stay with Brienne in Winterfell, okay? That's not this kind of show. It doesn't give us some heroic fairy-tale happily-ever-after crap. It's a show about prophecy and fate and destiny and human nature. Of course Jaime loves Brienne. But Cersei is the love of his life and they were always going to die together. I loved the way they died in each other's arms; initially I was sure he was going to kill her but then when he got there and saw the city crumbling it's pretty clear they would die together. His arms around her; the valonquar 'choking the life out of her' metaphorically as she chocked on her tears.
This broke me...beautiful ending for those two.

Jaime, again, is a morally complex character. This show gives us what makes sense, not what we 'hope' to happen. We hoped to see Jon Snow, the hero, come and save the Night King. But he has a different purpose; it had to be Arya. That's what she trained to be - an assassin who defeated the embodiment of death. Dany - as Daario told her in season 6, is a conqueror not a ruler. It makes sense for her to conquer lands and burns cities, not rule peacefully (and as we saw in Meereen, she wasn't that good at ruling anyway).

Jaime going back to Cersei did not undo his redemption arc. It did not suddenly make him a bad person or lessen all of the goodness Brienne brought out in him. It made him human. He had to go back and die with the love of his life because their destiny was to die in each other's arms, it says so in the books. The worst thing about him is that he loves a cruel bitch, but it's part of what makes him who he is. Cersei is his weakness.


Melisandre. Again, a character I have mixed feelings about. Many would be quick to call her 'evil' but no, she is not an evil character. She does many awful things - I think Shireen being burned alive is just the most atrocious horrific thing ever because we get close to that character and she is an innocent child - but Mel doesn't do this 'for fun', she truly believes in her lord. I don't personally think the gods are real in the show (just like they're not in our world), I think the magic Mel possesses comes from her. What she does in the Battle of Winterfell fulfils her purpose and destiny; lighting the swords to give everyone hope, lighting the trenches to cripple the wights, and giving Arya the courage to tell death 'not today.' 

So I used Dany, Jaime and Melisandre as examples of characters that have moral complexity and depth to them. Each are characters that have done shocking, vile things, but neither are truly evil (only truly evil characters I believe are Ramsay, Joffrey, the Mountain and maybe Viserys). But what is so wonderful is that none of these characters act out of character. Dany is a conqueror, Jaime is a fool in love and Mel believed fire had to defeat ice. Everything they did fulfilled their arcs and that is why this story is so incredible; its characters are true to form. 

My predictions for the final episode are Dany will die, of course, either at the hand of Jon or Arya - or she will go north of the wall and become the Ice Queen with her dragons (still don't think we've seen the last of the lands of always winter somehow). Otherwise I think Bran will go north of the wall and become the new Night King. Sansa and Tyrion will rule the north and poor Jon will rule the seven kingdoms, having had to lose so much for a seat he didn't want. I think Arya will die - somehow I can't see her running to Storm's End to marry Gendry. As much as that would be lovely, it would be unsatisfying. 

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