May 15, 2019
When Game of Thrones first aired in 2011, only four of the intended seven books in the series of novels the show was based on had been published. Given that the books’ author, George R.R. Martin, is known for taking a long time to finish books, it was understood that the television series would end before the novels. After the content of the books was done, the show’s creators and head writers, David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, would be on their own.
Since the show passed the books in the fifth season, the two have done a fantastic job following Martin’s controversial and challenging style of storytelling. The show’s final season, which ends this Sunday, has been filled with mind-bending twists that subvert our expectations.
For instance, we expected that the entire main arch of the story, which surrounds a good vs. evil, light vs. dark theme, and a Lightbringer who would do mortal combat with the Night King, would be resolved. But instead of resolving the core conflict of the eight-year-long TV show, the show’s writers decided to throw it all out and just have a little girl teleport behind the Night King to kill him.
Our expectations that the conflict would resolve with a climax were subverted as well, with a completely anticlimactic, unceremonious stabbing of the final bad guy by the wrong character. In fact, the show’s primary antagonist wasn’t the final bad guy at all, but just a dumb loose end that the show’s writers didn’t even care about.
Expectations that the main plot wouldn’t be completely thrown out by the writers in a way that appears not simply to insult, but to actually mock the audience for having invested themselves in the story, were subverted like no expectations have ever been subverted before.
Euron Greyjoy, a late season character who appears only briefly in the books, subverted our expectations of what motivates a villain. While the show keeps saying that his motivation is to “fuck the queen,” which is just stupid (and also ripped off of a different character from the books who appeared in the show five seasons ago, who also happened to be a pirate) – that was all a fake-out. It is revealed in this closure of the story that Euron’s actual motivation is to bully the audience of the show by teleporting through the entire final season to sloppily fill in embarrassingly obvious plot holes and create dumb, cheap, fake intensity in a ridiculous manner that makes adults watching this show feel ashamed of themselves, as if their mother had just caught them masturbating.
The writers are challenging the audience by saying, “You thought this was low fantasy? Well maybe it isn’t. Maybe it’s high fantasy. Maybe this is a universe where all people can teleport at will. Maybe you don’t know what this is. Maybe we don’t even know what this is. What if the fourth wall broke and this character attacked you, personally, because you watched this show?” That is certainly not what I expect the writers of the number one television show in all of television history to say to their audience. With Euron, who may be the most interesting villain in all of television history, Benioff and Weiss didn’t simply subvert our expectations – they firebombed them.
Speaking of firebombing: our expectations that after eight years of being a hero, Daenerys Targaryen would not commit a genocide for no reason, literally without any explanation whatsoever, were utterly subverted when she did exactly that.
It was a spontaneous choice. No one expects the hero to spontaneously choose to slaughter millions of innocent people for no reason, but the subversive writers have been planning this ending since season one and if you don’t believe that, you’re an anti-Semite.
You thought the main plot would be resolved? Nope.
You thought people couldn’t teleport? Nope.
You thought the main antagonist would be the main antagonist? Nope, it’s the queen. Nope, actually, the main antagonist is the hero. Nope, it’s you, the audience – and the protagonists are actually David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, who created this show to punish you for the Holocaust.