You know that you’re at the end game of a story when, without nary a warning (although some may argue that this has been a long time in the offing), a fairly major character is sent a-packing into the Netherworld courtesy of a very pissed off Daenerys Targaryen without so much as a ‘how do you do?’ or a ‘Here’s your hat, what’s your hurry?’ slow buildup.
Episode five in the final season of the brilliant Game of Thrones begins with the death of Varnys at the command of Daenerys, truly at her breaking point after the events of last episode. Unable to tolerate the so-called Master of Whispers penchant for gossip pertaining to Jon Snow’s true origins, she dispatches him at the front of last night’s epic eighty minute penultimate episode. It’s but a harbinger for the bloodshed to come in what some might consider as one last gallant rush for Dany and her followers.
If last night’s episode was about anything, it may have been the notion that, struggle as we might, there is no real escaping of our ultimate fate. Jaime has fought and struggled with his own destiny and is offered an escape from Dragonstone by brother Tyrion along with his sister and true love Cersei where the two can spend out their days in Essos. As the plan is formulated there is a twinge of Shakespearean tragedy subtly at play; you just know this plan is not going to go well for this triumvirate of villains. It’s to the writer’s good credit that they make you care about even the people you’re ostensibly rooting against.
And then all holy hell breaks loose as Daenery’s and her army swoops down upon Kings Landing, Drogon materializing from the sky and turning the Golden Company and the Iron Fleet into a fiery bloodbath. How savage of a battle is it? Let’s just say that if you like your blood extra red, this is your episode. Dany (Emilia Clarke) is ready for retribution and it is to Clarke’s good testament as an actor of tremendous presence that we the audience feel the accumulation of her many griefs and ultimately find ourselves rooting for the destruction of Cersei and her armies. Don’t even get me started on what this identification says about us, the viewing audience. This sort of identification is something that Game of Thrones has always excelled at, and in last night’s episode everyone was in true and fine form.
Watching the final assault last night, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the Tennyson poem, The Charge of the Light Brigade:
Half a league half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred:
‘Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns’ he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
The mere fact that a television show can inspire me enough to pluck from my mind the lines of an old poem I learned in high school and relate it to the possible fate of characters that I have grown to love and hate over the last eight years is a wonderful thing and might explain why Game of Thrones resounds for so many people: The writers and the actors and the directors (heck, even the gofer who inadvertently set off an internet firestorm by accidentally leaving a Starbucks cup in a scene) make you care and feel things that we either didn’t know mattered to us or that we had long buried in our deepest heart of hearts. This is a rare thing for episodic television and with the coming demise of the show I question what could ever step in the shoes of this great story.
There’s a sense of an almost anticlimactic end of the battle, especially after the ending of last week’s episode which notched up tensions between the warring factions to ridiculous levels. The battle won, the Dothraki go about the chore of looting the city (to the victor go the spoils, right?) even as Cersei and Qyburn look on in disbelief at the tip-top of the Red Keep.
And Daenerys, all unfathomable rage directing her every move, lets loose with a fury that is show-stopping and terrifying, embracing her moniker of the Mad Queen and stopping Tyrion and Jon in their tracks. Want a medieval approximation of the Union Army burning of Savannah, Georgia during the Civil War? Look no further, for Daenerys has delivered just that to the thousands of people burned alive and the destruction of King’s Landing.