Debate: The Legacy of Game of Thrones — Part II
It has been 10 years since the first episode of Game of Thrones aired. And two years since the final season of the show started. Good time to look back.
WeThrones: I was listening to your podcast and you said that S2 made you move The Bells in TOP 5 best GoT episodes. Why? What happened that made you re-evaluate that episode?
The Longest Night: So much of season 2 is built around Daenerys’ developing complex that she’s not just best suited to sit on the Iron Throne, but is actually destined to take it. She’s given numerous opportunities to see her birthright for the dangerous fantasy that it is, but every single time she’s presented with an obstacle she persists through the faith she has in herself. She’s a good person with a dark impulse — a good person who relies on that dark impulse to keep fighting. Season 2 & ‘The Bells’ are much improved in hindsight. That’s not to say “Daenerys was always a villain”, because she NEVER was, but season 2 is the first time Dany stands on her own two feet — and boy does she enjoy that feeling.
WeThrones: True. And Daenerys stops being an underdog in S4. She has her kingdom, her army, her dragons, but some people still saw her as that little girl at the beginning of S1. So, as we all know GoT was watched as sport event. You had Daenerys‘ fans ’vs Stark fans at the end. One popular complaint from Daenerys’ fans was that Dany was treated differently by the writers. That the things she did were treated as signs of tyrant within while the same things when Starks did it were celebrated. Like burning of Tarlys and execution of Janos Slynt.
The Longest Night: To anyone reading this who thinks the writers treated Daenerys differently, and maybe treated her worse than other characters, I’d love to know how you came to love Daenerys if it wasn’t because of the way she was written. She was written very favourably and we were supposed to love her — so to say she was treated differently feels misguided to me.
WeThrones: Well that’s cognitive dissonance within the fandom
I remember that there were times when David and Dan were accused of worshiping Daenerys.
The Longest Night: And my other response is that if Jon had gone on to burn thousands of people alive, we would look at his beheading of Janos Slynt as a sign of his underlying tyranny. But he didn’t — Daenerys did. If Daenerys had climbed down from Drogon and accepted the Lannisters’ surrender once she’d won the battle for King’s Landing, we would see her burning the Tarlys as a minor blip on the road to redemption. But she didn’t accept the surrender. The point of an ending is to give you the chance to re-evaluate the story with full context.
WeThrones: Aslo Tarlys were prisoners of war. I think that’s important aspect they are ignoring. They were already defeated. It was unnecessary to execute them both. Especially when your father had reputation of burning his enemies. It’s just avery bad PR haha
The Longest Night: Also, it’s literally in the show’s dialogue that Daenerys enjoys killing people while Jon hates it. That scene of theirs in season 7 — on the clifftop after their first meeting — separates them completely and confirms they’ll never be together forever. “We all enjoy what we’re good at”, says Dany. “I don’t”, replies Jon. As Ser Barristan says, “Rhaegar never liked killing”. Jon was more like his biological father than he ever realised. I should stress again that none of this makes Daenerys a bad person or an evil tyrant. She was a good person who just happened to have a dark side.
WeThrones: In Season 5 there is a scene where she burns a nobleman from Meereen and she clearly enjoyed it. And I agree that it’s internal struggle within her. But people often dismiss her brutality because she is fighting against slavers. But they also forget that that man she burned alive wasn’t slaver anymore. And she even said that she doesn’t care if he is innocent or not. Just two episodes after the execution of former slave for stopping a trial of former member of Sons of the Harpy.
The Longest Night: She tries to make the world a better place but with brutal methods. When she loses sight of what’s good and bad in the world (like she does in season 8), those brutal methods sadly get turned on the wrong people.
WeThrones: I think there is this constant contradiction inside her that people often miss. They either treat her as saint or monster the whole time.
The Longest Night: I agree. I even found it hard, in the aftermath of the ending, to be around people who said she was “always an arrogant b*tch”, because that wasn’t true either.
WeThrones: What about Jaime and that famous “I never cared about the innocents” line?
The Longest Night: That was season 1 & 2 Jaime coming back to rule his psychology. It was his defensive front coming back to the surface in his darkest final hour. I always read that scene between him and Tyrion as him not really meaning it.
WeThrones: Yeah I think it’s essentially him saying “I deserve to die”. But I also don’t think that he did care that much for the the innocents. That wasn’t the only motivation to kill the Mad King, as he said. He wanted to protect his father and the Lannister army. And to save himself at the end of the day. In his situation even Ramsay would probably do the same. So protecting the innocents played a part, but I feel like it’s romanticized version of Jaime that never really existed.
The Longest Night: I agree. Jaime thinks he’s the main character of Game of Thrones — it’s his one fatal flaw and it comes to get him in the end.
WeThrones: He is aslo character that is similar to Daenerys. He has this dark side and he struggles with it and and the end he failed. In a lot of fantasy stories it’s almost expected that you would overcome your inner demons, but in GoT you had these two major and very popular characters that just failed. It wasn’t even that unexpected. It was always a possibility. I think in the whole discourse about the ending sometimes disappointment with the choices characters made translated to disappointment with the show.
The Longest Night: Theon got Jaime’s redemption arc. Jaime was always on his own path.
WeThrones: Yeah. Theon got pretty clear classical redemption arc ending.It’s funny that some people said that Theon was one of the few character that wasn’t ruined in the last season. And you get these comments only about characters that had classical trajectory. When they went against some popular tropes like with Jaime, Jon or Daenerys those characters were automatically ruined.
The Longest Night: I do think the fans were guilty of assuming that Game of Thrones — of all shows — would give them a traditional ending.
WeThrones: Especially with secret prince trope. Secret prince and the chosen one returns from the dead to kill the dark lord and marry a beautiful queen.
The Longest Night: Which is a perfectly valid and ancient and popular storytelling trope. It just wasn’t what Game of Thrones wanted to do.
WeThrones: Who has a better story than Bran the Broken? How did you see the endgame king? What that means?
The Longest Night: Bran makes perfect sense as king. The show explicitly makes the point that human minds can be warped and weakened by power, so of course it makes sense that the only non-human left alive would become “king”. Tyrion’s line about him having a better story than everyone else wasn’t meant to be taken literally; it’s a symbolic and philosophical way of describing someone who has all of humanity’s stories contained within his consciousness. I thought his coronation was corny, I thought it could have done with more time, but the end point made too much sense for me to dislike it.
WeThrones: What about Cersei? I (and probably everyone else in the fandom) imagined her death for years. And yet I was really surprised with the way she died. I never expected that. And for me that was a good thing. I felt especially during Seasons 6 and 7 that the show manly lost the ability to do something that I never expected. And the last season was full of it. But I never expected that they will go for a sympathetic route with her death. And I found that really brilliant. Like we wanted to see her suffer, but she was so broken and defeated. It felt like the show is accusing us for our own bloodlust. Like we became these angles of revenge, like Daenerys, and we also want to see death and pain of our enemies. To see them die screaming.
The Longest Night: Cersei was, like every other character on the show (barring one or two), a deeply complex person and a product of her violent surroundings. Much like Dany, she learned to strike back in ways that normal people — or the viewers — would find to be intolerable and uncomfortable. She was never a “villain” (just like Dany wasn’t), she was just a human being who had her humanity gradually erased by the pursuit of power. Once her power had been reduced to nothing in an instant by Drogon, we saw the woman she really was, that had been hiding behind all the scheming and tyranny the entire time. It was a fitting end that the bricks of the Red Keep — a symbol of everything she killed to build for herself — would bring her end.
WeThrones: There was a lot of debate about the White Walkers’ ending. But just like with Cersei I liked that the show was able to surprise me and still do something that makes sense for the story. Death of The Night King was probably the first time since Robb’s death and the Red Wedding where I was like “what is this story even about?”. It really is a moment that forces you to look back and realize the deeper meaning of the story. That humans are the real monsters after all, we can bring humanity together for a time, but it will never last. It’s almost feels nihilistic. Like humanity can’t escape from its own demons. At least this is my take. But I loved that the show was able to make me think and reconsider things that late in the game. Maybe too late for some people.
The Longest Night: Before season 8, I was convinced that the Night King would be the final boss, so when Arya swooped in I couldn’t believe it. Much like you, I had no idea where the show was going in that moment. But I’m glad they made the choice they did, because it makes the final two or three episodes even more devastating. Arya saves humanity and gives it a second chance, only for “humanity” to fall down around her in a sea of fire and ashes. She saved the people of King’s Landing from being killed by the Night King, only for them to be incinerated by dragons less than a month later. That’s heartbreaking. It also turns the Night King into something like Roy Batty from Blade Runner — a tortured creation who intends to meet his maker and destroy his maker. And that’s so compelling to me; the Night King was, of course, a killing machine. But he was a killing machine with a personal quest, and he became so distracted by that personal quest — killing the Three-Eyed Raven — that he was blinded to other threats. It brought his downfall.
WeThrones: It’s interesting to think about GoT in 2040. What do you think about the long term legacy of the show? Like 20 years from now when we are sadly in our 40s lol what will GoT mean for people? Will the ending permanently damage the reputation of the show? Will people complain about it 20 years from now?
The Longest Night: “Ask me again in ten years”, as Tyrion said. I think people will calm down and eventually come to like it. If people can now stand there and say the prequel trilogy in Star Wars was better than the sequel trilogy then I think people can eventually come to appreciate season 8. And, pretty soon, even people who only loved the first 5/6 seasons will come to look back at the bits of the show that they loved. It will never be remembered as one of the greatest endings of all time, but people will look back and be kinder. It happened to Lost, it happened to The Sopranos, it can happen to GOT.
WeThrones: I think what Dan Weiss said about it is really smart. “I hope kids who are the age of our kids now grow up and watch the show and take from it what they take from it. Nobody owns the future of what they make. Once you put something out there, it’s not yours anymore. It doesn’t belong to the people watching it now either. In twenty years there will be a whole new group of people and they’ll either watch it or they won’t. If they do, their reaction might be very different from your reaction. So I hope they watch it, and I hope they like it.” what will hapen with GoT 20 years from now? No one knows and I feel like that’s a good thing.
The Longest Night: Right now, I’m watching a show called The Prisoner, which is from 1967. The ending of that show was so controversial, and pissed off so many fans, that people wrote angry letters to the production company and the lead actor (Patrick McGoohan) had to hide from the public for a while. It’s now a beloved cult classic and is regarded as one of the most influential TV shows of all time. It’s more than 50 years old now, and here I am, watching it through for the very first time. If Game of Thrones has even half of that legacy, D&D should consider themselves proud.
WeThrones: So we are coming to the end of this talk so I would like to askWhat to you think of expansion of Game of Thrones franchise?Are you looking forward to House of the Dragon?I feel like we talked a lot about the past, but in a lot of ways this is just the beginning. At least that’s what HBO hopes for haha
The Longest Night: I’m happy to just let it happen. I’m excited for House of the Dragon, but less excited for the other shows HBO have apparently planned. I think the future of this franchise will confirm whether my intense love was for Game of Thrones or for the A Song of Ice and Fire universe. I’m happy to dip in and out.
WeThrones: True. I liked the team theu assembled for HOTD. I think the show has a lot of potential. And for the rest we will see.
The Longest Night: Do I *need* to see Robert’s Rebellion or the Tales of Dunk & Egg? No, not really. But if they’re cool and fun, and a window back into this world, then sure, I’ll probably dip my toes in. And that’s fine — I suppose one of the few great things about massive franchises is that you can take or leave whatever you like. Star Wars, for instance — I love the main saga, but I have never watched Clone Wars and didn’t get into The Mandalorian. But that’s fine, because there’s so much else to enjoy simply because there is so much of it.
WeThrones: I like your podcast and I would recommend it to every GoT fan. What are you plans on that front? What can we expect?
The Longest Night: We’re going to keep pressing on with the show. By the time this chat of ours goes live we’ll have started season 3, and we’ll be coming up to the Red Wedding. We’ve also got a really exciting interview guest in season 3, which we’ve already recorded and can’t wait to announce to people. But our plans are to stay small-ish (we don’t want to have too big of an audience, just a moderately sized one) and carry on until the end. After we’ve finished Game of Thrones, the plan is to go through House of the Dragon (as each new season comes out) and The Wire, which is a show Lizzy loves that I’ve never seen — we’ll be flipping the script.
WeThrones: Great. I wish you a fortune in the wars to come.Thanks for the conservation. I hope it will be as enjoyable for people to read this as it was for me to chat with you today.
The Longest Night: Thank you! This was fantastic to do. I’ll take up any chance to chat GOT. Valar Morghulis! *salute*
WeThrones: Valar dohaeris