Advertisement

The 'Game of Thrones' Finale Was All Cock and Walls

Winter is here, motherfuckers.

by J. W. McCormack
Aug 28 2017, 4:14pm

All images courtesy of HBO

Warning: Spoilers ahead.

There were no new castles, townships, hamlets, ports, septs, or holdfasts rendered in the opening credits of last night's Game of Thrones, for a very good reason: We've been everywhere we're ever going to go together. Having experienced too much in too short a time, we expect too little. We've seen everything worth seeing. What we took for a cold snap in autumn was winter—a winter not of the seasons, but forever. Because we're at the finale of the second-to-last-season of Game of Thrones, it means we have that much less to look forward to.

As Jaime Lannister reflects in the beginning of "The Dragon and the Wolf," it's all about cocks in the end. But who will speak for the cockless? Tyrion Lannister, for one, has lead an army of eunuchs to the gates of King's Landing to demand an audience with the Queen. When Jon Snow sees the bustling, overpopulated city on the horizon, he asks, "Who would want to live that way," Tyrion retorts that in the city, "the brothels are far superior." But the dead are beyond such yearnings.

Meanwhile, in the under-quarters of their ship, something is slavering. It isn't just the zombie from the North that Daenerys's federation has brought to prove to Cersei that climate change is real: It is us. We've been gnashing at our cages to see our characters in a single setting, and here it is, at the dragon pit, where three rulers—Jon, Cersei, and Daenerys—finally meet under the Westerosi sun for a talk.

We get all manner of supporting character bits. Tyrion and errant squire Podrick Payne, Bronn and Tyrion, Brienne and the Hound, and, in the second-biggest rematch of the summer, the Hound and his zombiefied brother the Mountain (It is confirmed. Get hype). Daenerys, of course, arrives in grand fashion atop one of her two surviving dragons to meet her sassy rival Cersei. Then hench-pirate-of-the-year Euron butts in, fucking up the mood with dwarf jokes at Tyrion's expense. Uncool, Euron! You are an embarrassment to the scene. Point is, we're all up to speed as the assembled "group of people who do not like one another" talk about curbing their animosities to confront the coming army of the dead.

"We have something to show you," Tyrion says. And with that, the Hound uncorks the captive zombie. From there, we're treated to a thrilling bit of Ricky Jay's Vegas show, right in King's Landing, as the lovely, moldering assistant is sliced and diced by the Hound before our very eyes. It's all in an effort to prove that, as Jon Snow attests, "There is only one war. The great war."

After that, Euron decides to fuck off, while Cersei agrees to add her armies to the cause for the benefit of mankind... That is, until Jon Snow reveals that he has already bent the knee for Daenerys, derailing the whole agreement, causing various factions to storm off in disbelief of Jon's doofus loyalty. This leads to a nice contretemps between our real heroes, Brienne and Jaime. Though they will surely meet on opposite sides of the war to come, they can at least agree on one sentiment: "Fuck loyalty." And I hear them. If Jon Snow is what we're fighting for, let us all be slurpies for the damned. The man is impossible. In trying to grapple with Jon's hardheadedness, Tyrion, as always, asks the right question: "Have you ever considered learning how to lie now and then?"

I Assume the Worst

Question: To what proper skeleton does the bone fragment that Daeneyrs fondles as she tut-tuts Jon Snow about his emo approach to diplomacy belong? I know it's not a White Walker, because we all realize they dissipate when struck with dragon glass (and boy, is that a weird thing to be able to say with authority). It seems too supple to be a dragon's. Thus, I assume there are just so many bones lying around at this juncture that one more hardly merits remark? And let the record show, I did not blanch when Daenerys said, in all honesty, "My dragon died so that we could be here," nor when Tyrion observed, "The more immediate problem is that we're fucked." I've bought to a ticket to this particular monster party. I'm here for the duration.

To fix things, Tyrion goes to Cersei in a last ditch effort to try to convince her to join the fight against the dead. The conversation is contentious, as we wonder whether it will end with the Mountain lobbing his head off or him choking from poisoned wine. At first, it seems like a success. Cersei appears to agree to add her armies to the cause, mainly because she doesn't want to see her unborn child turned into a wight. And it looks as though all is right within the Seven Kingdoms, and everything you think you know about the wicked queen is wrong—she's going to help save the world. On the other hand, it's hard to grok why Tyrion is willing to trust Cersei's sudden concern for her unborn child, when she's been more than willing to usurp her youngest son as regent and, come to think of it, has been responsible for most of the conflict in the series.

Ah, but I forgot about Littlefinger. The true villain behind the scenes, the author of our long malaise, the doctor behind our dooms. It appears the show forgot him, too, since he's been relegated to a status less than Iago, less than Boba Fett, less than even the Koopas you fight on the way to the central Mario castle. Because here he is stuck in the dismal Winterfell plot, where he stupidly persists in trying to play the surviving Starks off one another. We witness him pouring lies into Sansa's ear (to be fair, "Sometimes when I try to understand a person's motives, I assume the worst" is usually good advice), in the hopes that she will turn on her assassin sister and psychic brother. But we know better. There was never any chance of anything but what follows, after a stupid fake-out you'd have to be high on milk of the poppy, or popped on hop of the toppy, to fall for.

Sansa orders the execution of Petyr Baelish, which is carried out by Arya. I guess we're meant to be happy. But I, for one, admit to a certain discontent. This is not a trial carried out between peers and a just court of elected small councils. It is a murder of a lowborn self-starter by highborn conspirators in an airy and ignominious hall. He may have murdered, seduced, betrayed, deceived, pimped, and plagiarized his way to the top, but it clearly took a lot of work. I hate to see this Steerpike-among-Gormenghasts dispatched as such an afterthought. Littlefinger deserved better and worse. Without Baelish twirling his mustaches as he ties damsels to the rails, what's the point in even having trains?

Traitor or Idiot

But of course, we have bigger kraken to fry. Back at Dragonstone, Jon Snow and secret-hero-of-the-series Theon Greyjoy have an uncomfortable moment. Jon accuses Theon of horrific crimes, and Theon accepts them. It is a beautiful thing to be asked to account for your own indecision, which is the charge Jon asks of Theon. It's not so easy to lead, Jon tells Theon, and we all make mistakes. But none so great as his. We might wish more of an arc for Theon, who has been sniveling around for four seasons looking for an honorable death. Life seems to be the harsher punishment at this point. If there's a lesson to glean from Theon, it is that manhood does not reside in pride. It may not even reside in having a penis, as an unruly Ironborn discovers when he tries to kick him in the balls, only to find that it is not who has the bigger balls, but who has the harder skull. Having headbutted all pretenders, Theon cups his hands and drinks deeply of the surf. He's earned it. It's all downhill from here, though, as he sets sail in expectation of the same disappointment that we all, in time, must face. For his princess is in another castle.

What remains is largely rote, which is the main complaint to be made of this otherwise epic finale. We've been given a lot, so how can we grouse over having seen all this coming? The show's two signature nerds, Bran and Samwell Tarly condescend to each other, decide to compare mythologies, and indulge in a flashback together.

It is finally confirmed that Jon Snow, of course, is Aegon Targaryen, the secret spawn of ice and fire, and rightwise king of Westeros. This kind of complicates the ensuing boat sex he enjoys with Daenerys for us, if not for them. Remember, if you feel any satisfaction about the literal conjoining of our two leads after seven seasons, you are cheering for incest. It is right there in the voiceover, which, in a weird fourth-wall break, Tyrion seems to hear as he looks askance at the rocking of the cabin, and then at us, with great big sad droopy puppy dog eyes.

Back at King's Landing, Cersei makes it clear to Jaime that she believes in the monsters beyond the wall and that she doesn't care. And this is the worst of what we are right to suspect in our leaders: They know the truth of the things they deny and don't care about what happens when it comes for us, only whether it will buy them time to save their own asses. When Jaime surmises such, he rides off like a hero to redeem himself and foil his sister. But his show of knightly valor comes too late. He should have known better three seasons ago. Now the armies are upon us, the wall has fallen, a zombie is at our gate, and we might have to wait until 2019 for more episodes of Game of Thrones. I pray, by the old gods and the new, that we are all still here when they arrive.

Recent work by J.W. McCormack appears in Conjunctions, the Culture Trip, the New York Times, and the New Republic.