My prediction to how Game of Thrones will end the last episode.
As far as I – and many other fans – are concerned, Game of Thrones is the best thing to have happened on television EVER!! And it has completely transformed TV drama as we previously knew it. The industry had to pick up their game if they wanted to compete and it has been to the benefit of all.
However, as much as I resisted the negativity surrounding the writing of season seven, where the series has most noticeably departed from any basis of any books, and I tried to do the same with the final series, I have to admit it has begun to get me down.
No, I don’t want a predictable ending. And, yes, where the characters have ended up so far could happen, but not the way it has – they needed to arrive there themselves, in their own ways, not be forced to take the shortcut across the meadows for the convenience of D&D.
What I wanted was for the writers, HBO and the series producers to have allowed enough room in both series seven and eight for all the plot threads to come to their natural conclusion in a satisfactory, even if unpredictable, way. A few more episodes would likely have achieved that, though another whole season would have been better. It grates rather sorely to know that – contrary to shows such as Penny Dreadful where the TV studio cancelled the series – it was the writers Weiss and Benioff who decided when it would end, despite both George R.R. Martin and HBO being open to continuing Thrones until it’s satisfactory end.
Right now, it feels like corners are being cut, characters are passive and reactive instead of being proactive and powerful, and acting against their own personality traits that have been developed from the start and throughout the middle. In saying that, many arcs have been structurally sound -- think of those who were strong at the beginning becoming weak and defeated, and those who started off weak now rising to strength. Still, the need to tie off plot threads is leading the race when this race began as a character-driven story. And I reiterate: the writers decided to stop the story earlier than was necessary so that they could move on to other projects (such as potentially ruining Star Wars, apparently ), with seeming little concern to doing the show the justice it deserves. But I’m not here to rant about what they should have done. Not today, at least (that one is better served down the pub with a pint and a pitchfork, mebbe. He-he.).
I want to talk about what might come to pass in the final episode at the end of this week. It is through the study of story mechanics for one of my own projects that I think maybe I’ve missed a beat, even though it’s something I’ve talked about within my writing circles many times before. It is within those story beginnings and through applying basic story mechanics I’ve come up with my own prediction to how it will all end. Even if I’m wrong, it still helps to highlight these mechanics for the trainee writer for an underpinning of knowledge and to either adhere to or subvert those traditional paradigms as you see fit.
Stories are often – usually – about rectifying mistakes from the past. The main protag, in a single POV story, has a character flaw that leads them into trouble and they then need to spend the story time getting themselves out of that trouble and back to safety. In order to do that, they need to fix the flaw. Or, in other words, they have to rectify their flawed, learned behaviour and learn how to deal with problems in the right way to get the results they need.
Despite its multitude of point-of-view characters, Thrones has tended to adhere to this paradigm up till now. It may have become somewhat smothered, convoluted, or fogged amid the myriad of characters we’ve come to adore, but essentially the core story – to me – is intact. And it’s all based in the Starks.
In order to understand why, we need to rewind to series one and Ned Stark’s plotline. Ned – who we all thought Sean Bean would play as the main character shouldering the main plot (yes you did. Confess.) – set the standard from the outset: honour and ethics above all else.
This moral code runs deep through all the Stark family and its cohorts. Each of the Stark children’s own moral fibre is rooted in that of their father. It’s seen as Ned’s core strength.
Then Ned is placed into an environment that directly challenges that moral fibre, that code, and his strength soon becomes his fatal flaw. By attempting to adhere to honour and doing the right, ethical thing, he falls into a trap of treason and betrayal, both by himself against the crown and, in turn, the crown against himself. This flaw – this mistake of believing in the honour of humanity in a city full of self-serving predators – leads to his downfall.
The Stark children are left in various states of disarmament, distress and dilemma in a world that they have not been groomed for back in the North – a thousand miles away from King’s Landing and its toxic culture and a good distance away from The Wall and its brotherhood of mostly bandits.
In light of this, the Thrones story – to me, at least – has always been about how those offspring will navigate such an environment while continuing to adhere to the Stark code and without losing their senses of self, what their family stand for and their ethical nature.
So far, the Stark children have done themselves proud. Their identities, their senses of self and, inadvertently, their Stark moral code, have been challenged every step of the way: Arya was repeatedly told to strip herself of her former identity if she wanted to be a faceless (wo)man. She refused, ultimately; John was murdered because of this code yet came back and did not deter from it, knowing that it had already placed him in mortal danger; Sansa was repeatedly lined up to marry various tyrants, or families of them, and expected to give up on her Stark name and values for the purpose of her own safety and political leverage. Okay, she did marry, but she never gave herself over to Ramsey, never gave up on who she was nor her faith in her family. If anything, she expected that faith to enable her to take back power and then used that faith to make allies and enable her escape; as for Bran, well, he’s a little trickier to pin down and, on face value, it seems he HAS departed from his former self. And yet, he’s still been there, with the rest of the family, doing what he can to save the day. It seems to me that his identity has been challenged through his disability. The world expected him to live the life of a cripple. He refused that role, plodded forward as all good Stark men do, kept faith with the code, even if that has led him to be an emotionless EMO.
The Starks have so far successfully navigated a poisonous environment and retained their honour and integrity.
This is the core story line and always has been. No matter what extra cladding has been plated on with other characters and their POVs. Rooting the whole story line in this moral family code is what gave the story its back bone. It's what everything else hangs off, from character development to plot to theme.
Which brings me back to my earlier point about stories being about rectifying mistakes of the past. It’s something that I missed so far in this last season, though it’s something I talk about a lot in my writing workshops (yes, even when you know you sometimes forget!)
Ned’s fatal mistake was trusting the wrong people, thinking that others would adhere to his moral code. It led to his death. John Snow (now known to be Aegon Targaryan, heir to the throne) is following the same path as his father (now known to actually be his uncle). In fact, he already died once because he abided by his code and by doing so, betrayed his fellow watchmen. As with Ned, John also suffered a treachery, resulting in his murder, which resembled more of an unofficial execution by the way it was set up. It’s the midpoint mirror – reflecting what has passed while illuminating what is yet to come.
It’s now time to rectify the mistakes. But in order to do so, the plot needs to mirror those mistakes, take us on a similar path, an identical structure. Then it should (but it’s Thrones; it might not) divert that structure to produce a different outcome. So here we go:
John trusted Danaerys as someone who adheres to the same moral code as himself. Only, it now seems she has lost her sense of self and has allowed that code to slip by the wayside. John is in a similar predicament to Ned, and to his own previous murder: he pledged his allegiance to a ruling power believing in their good side and now finds that pledge conflicts with and challenges his own moral code – the very thing that makes him ‘him’. Also, although I thought Sansa had been trained and primed to face-off with Sersi and have a queen-to-queen showdown, I now realise I got the wrong queen. Sansa has gradually been dressing and acting more and more like Sersi, though with the good programme code instead of the wrong-un one. She sits in the seat of northern power and is primed for a war with someone. She is a threat to Dany’s reign. And she told Tyrion about John, putting her to the top of Dany’s kill list. Dany will threaten Sansa’s safety and John will have to intervene to protect his family (even though they are now ALL related through the Targaryan bloodline).
This places him in the position of committing treachery once again, as Ned also did. He will have to go against the crown if he is to stick to his ethical nature and protect his family, and the north, too. We know he will do this: John is a Stark man and Stark men do what’s right no matter who’s in charge. John has proven this time and again with the Lord Commander, Stanis, etc., so we know he is going to follow the path of treachery – or abiding to his own standards, in other words.
We also know that Danaerys is now the type to fry anyone who stands in her way, so John’s writing is on the wall. He will be sentenced to die because he will challenge her rule by taking Sansa’s side.
So, in order to win, what power does he have now that he didn’t have before and that Ned never possessed? What has he learned in this epic journey of survival and justice?
He knows deep down inside he (or another Stark – I’m thinking Sansa, if it came to it) is the only person fit to rule the seven kingdoms. He’s the only one who has proven he’s got the right stuffing.
He also knows he’s got the entitlement to the kingdom.