Sunday we will get the penultimate episode of all of Game of Thrones, the shaved-down, prematurely complete version of the Song of Ice & Fire novels. George RR Martin has said that David Benioff & Dan Weiss’s ending will be the same as his, although there will be a good number of differences in the journey to get there.
But then, George is known for trashing hundreds of pages and chasing bizarre tangents, and turning what was supposed to be one book into three thousand-page monsters.
However, he’s also done some pretty consistent things from the beginning. The books came out during a glut of epic fantasy and deliberately deconstructed the savior white-knight heroes of The Wheel of Time and other contemporary epics.
George didn’t just kill characters, he strung them along on deliberately tragic arcs. Ned Stark is a textbook Aristotelian case of hamartia; his dedication to honor and rightness, even when Littlefinger points out that the realm is much better off with a safeguarded Joffrey than Stannis, leads to his downfall. Though he may win the moral victory, like Hamlet, he loses the physical victory.
Robb Stark? Same. He sought to make everything right with the Freys, to atone for his sin.
Tywin Lannister trusted too much in family loyalty, testing Tyrion to the breaking point.
And Jon Snow trusted too much in the Night’s Watch, his brothers, to see the big picture. Much like… his adopted father.
You get it.
But that’s nothing next to the hamartia-fest that is coming.
How many tragic flaws were on display in this week’s episode? Jon is again, too honorable to go back on his word to Dany. Tyrion had a great moment with Jaime, the one member of his family who still commands his loyalty, and who is about to go back to Cersei… whom he loves too much to leave alone.
I don’t know if Jaime won’t be able to kill Cersei, so the Mountain will kill him, or if Jaime will be coerced into killing Tyrion for her. I don’t know if Dany will kill Jon Snow for disobedience, and then go mad when Drogon is murdered. But they’re all going to kill and betray each other.
Even Arya, lest we forget, betrayed the Faceless Men because she, like all other Starks, prized family loyalty. You think the Faceless Men will let that go?
Most of all, we don’t know what Bran has become, and what he plans. The children of the forest created the White Walkers to kill humankind, and the White Walkers sought vengeance on the Three-Eyed Raven. Who’s to say what Bran is really up to? Why did the Night King want him in particular?
Will the children of the forest get their vengeance at last, when they are all too dead to appreciate it?
Either way, going by the Gospel of George, so many bodies will hit the floor that we’ll be saying “Hamlet who?”
If they don’t, HBO are cowards more interested in fan-service than story fulfillment.
Let’s hope that George, as told by Weiss & Benioff, can also inspire catharsis. The moral victory, and the imperative to tell the story, the last gasp of nobility and courage in the wake of failure, reminds us of how short our time is. I hope next week we are reminded. I hope the show rises to its best, most intimate moments at the same time everyone’s going down in deep pools of blood. Or as Hamlet says…
Thou livest. Report me and my cause aright
To the unsatisfied.
The rest is (gonna be) silence.