Okay. So. Game of Thrones.
It’s finally over. 6 amazing seasons and 2 really good ones.
I can understand that a lot of people found the ending to be…less than satisfying. I think it would be really easy to feel short changed by the sudden ending for some of the characters.
Because Game of Thrones is still an epic fantasy and there are certain tropes that you have to abide by. And one of those is that the Dark Lord is defeated at the end.
I’m not talking about the Night King. I’m talking about Daenerys Stormborn of the Houe Targaryen, the First of Her Name, Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men, The rightful Queen of the Seven Kingdomes and Protector of the Realm, Queen of Dragonstone, Queen of Mareen, Khaleesi fo the Great Grass Sea, the Unburnt, Breaker of Chains and Mother of Dragons, regent of the realm and the Queen of Ash.
She was always the threat that was going to end the world.
But let me get back to tropes. I’ve read a lot of epic fantasy over the years. There’s always a dark lord. There’s always disparate human (and other races) forces that don’t want to work together. The dark lord is always coming from the east or the south. They’ve always got a great big huge scary army and monsters.
There’s always a noble lord from the north or the west. He’s always doing the right thing. Despite being a feudal lord, he totally believes in truth and justice. And he’s super humble. He’s probably got a prophecy or Great Destiny going on too.
He unites the disparate kingdoms of the good people. They join together for an epic battle against darkness. Then there’s a big fight between Prince Good Guy and the Dark Lord.
And Martin sets all of that up.
There’s the North. We have the crazy ice zombie Other’s out there. They’re led by the Night King.
Then there’s Ned. He always does the right thing. Except one time he did the wrong thing and cheated on his wife. But right after that he does the right thing and brings that bastard home to raise with his other kids.
For the first book, Ned is the man. He’s hitting all the beats for the Noble Prince who will unite the human kingdoms and defeat the evil ice zombies from beyond the wall.
And then he gets his head cut off.
That’s when Martin tells you that everything you think you know about epic fantasy needs to get tossed out the window. None of what you expect to happen is going to happen.
We watched Daenrys go from a scared girl being used as a bargaining piece to the leader of the Dothroki. From there she moved up to leveling cities and taking over whole sections of Essos.
Every step of the way, when she would be stopped or denied what she wanted, Daenrys would say that she was going to take what belonged to her, because it was her right, and she would burn and kill anyone who stood in her way.
Which is exactly what she did in every season.
The great trick that Martin pulled was that for book after book/ season after season, we watched the rise of a Dark Lord and cheered for her every step of the way. We agreed that those bad people over there needed to be torched, killed, or brutally crucified.
But it was always there. She was always a conqueror, not a ruler. She would kick over a city, take it over, and then rule based on whim. And whe it got complicated and messy, she peaced out to kick over another anthill on her way to Westeros.
She was always going to set out to conquer the world with Fire & Blood. It always was an Epic Fantasy story, just not being told the way we expected it to be told.
And in Epic Fantasy, the Dark Lord always loses.