Trying to assess the scale of fuckery that this season of Game of Thrones has unleashed upon its characters is one hell of a daunting task.
The decline in writing has been noticeable for a few seasons, and we can speculate as to why exactly the show began to flatten and misunderstand its key players in an increasingly callous and cruel way as it raced towards its conclusion—although Occam’s Razor does seem to point towards the two showrunners’ dearth of awareness, empathy, and skill—but the fact is that the cliff dive in quality that this season in particular has taken in terms of the depiction of its main characters is jarring as all hell, and it will likely be talked about for a good few years. The truncated seasons and a need to finish off the story may be highlighted as contributing factors, but the fact is that it was still possible to tell the story of these characters in a far more emotionally satisfying—and coherent—way, even with the pressure of a deadline looming. Instead it felt incredibly early on in this season (and again this had been visible in previous seasons too) that—more than anything else—the creators had simply given up.
Or perhaps they were never as good as we thought, and the source material and team around them simply tempered their worst impulses. We may never know. All we have to go on is what we have been given. And what we have been given is cheap character assassinations.
Think of the terribly written, unearned, sexist depiction of Dany’s transformation from a flawed yet good hearted would-be queen who carried tremendous trauma yet who always proved relatively measured in her meting out of violence in a world where others (very often men) rained down violence without a second thought; to the genocidal maniac blithely burning thousands of innocents in her tyrannical pursuit of power. It’s not that Dany’s journey should never have ended this way, it’s that the route taken there by the writers ultimately proved to be a cynical and lazy (and again, typically sexist) shortcut that undid a decade’s worth of character development in a quicker and crueller snap than Thanos and his gauntletet mit.
Or think of Jaime Lannister. Eldest son of the mighty Tywin. I have always had a tricky relationship with Jaime. Presented to us at first in the way the Seven Kingdoms saw him—as a two-dimensional villain, an oathbreaker, a Kingslayer (and, to our eyes anyway, a Branpusher)—at one point in the middle of its run the show really made a powerful effort to take us on a journey of something that looked a bit like redemption for the arrogant golden boy. In being brought low and losing everything he had—and thanks to Brienne, gods bless Brienne and all the other womenfolk who apparently have to show up at convenient times to help men become better versions of themselves—there seemed to be some sort of path opening up for Jaime. Whether redemption is even possible in a story that at its best strived for painful verisimilitude is a discussion for another time. The point is that the show made us think, or feel, that it was. Until, like with Dany’s mistreatment, this season shot it all to hell.
In her incredibly insightful recap of the last episode of Game of Thrones , Genevieve presented the most searing and true summary of the eldest Lannister siblings’ character I have yet seen:
Jaime has always had a weak moral character and been content to be driven by whoever close to him has a stronger one. That’s why he’s better around Brienne and worse around Cersei. He did one thing in his life that was a true, uncomplicated heroic thing and spent the rest of his life turning away from it. Letting it, and how other people reacted to it, poison him. Because in himself he did not have the moral certainty and strength to trust his own goodness in that moment or ever after.
As this disastrous season grinds a once beloved—if always deeply, deeply problematic in terms of its depiction of women and people of color—show into the ground, it’s likely that many people will be experiencing pangs of bittersweet nostalgia. There will be appraisals and recriminations aplenty. There will be a lot of fan-made tributes and odes too. Jaime Lannister, for all his weaknesses and his flaws—or perhaps because of them—was, at one point, one of my favourite characters on the show. Had that horrendous rape scene (and yes, it was 100% a rape scene) with Cersei never occurred, and had this season been handled better, I would be able to say that with zero reservation. As it happens, I have to hold onto some. Nevertheless, this is a wonderfully made tribute to a deeply flawed fan favourite:
Farewell, Jaime. You never had a chance did you, you daft but occasionally wonderful sister-fucker, you.
Image sources (in order of posting): YouTube, HBO