Rachael has had an intense love for science fiction and fantasy games, TV shows, movies, and books since childhood.
One thing about both Game of Thrones and the book series, A Song of Ice and Fire, is that both resist having an explicit hero or heroine. As such, they also don't have a clear-cut moral we're supposed to get from them, because the values a given hero or heroine represent are usually the values we're supposed to get out of a work of fiction. By not clearly having a protagonist, but instead using a storytelling method that feels more modern and jumps from perspective to perspective like a plague flea jumping from host to host, the story takes shape not like a classic medieval romance or fairy tale, but like a modern drama in a medieval setting. Or, it reads more like history than like fantasy. Indeed, it draws inspiration from Shakespeare's history plays. A World of Ice and Fire, a book that details the history and legends of Westeros, tells the stories of various kings and queens the way we would expect a modern historical scholar to write about real ones.
The whimsical aspects of fantasy are reigned in. You're not going to see talking cutlery or magic mirrors, and fairies haven't made anyone fall in love with someone with the head of a donkey. That's not to say medieval literature is not present: it's just that the human aspects of medieval romance and fairy and folk tales are played up. Whimsical, childish, and outlandish forms of magic are toned down or made scarier. There is a deliberate attempt to show the difference between the 'real' knights and outlaws and folk heroes like Lancelot and Robin Hood.
But is the deconstruction of medieval fiction tropes all Game of Thrones is doing? Is it possible that it will reconstruct the idea of the "chosen one" by making savior-like figures out of Danaerys and Jon?
What we can say for sure is, Game of Thrones tries to not be a hero's journey. It's a world that's simply too chaotic and complicated for one person to save it. In the beginning, we see Ned Stark as the primary good character. But by revealing his personal flaws and weaknesses, which culminate in his death by beheading, we learn that he was not meant to be the hero. Subsequently, his inexperienced, hot-headed son Robb, seeking revenge, is also revealed to be less than a hero, even though we are initially tempted to see him as such.
This would seemingly place Game of Thrones in the genre of cosmic horror. Cosmic horror is a genre most commonly associated with H.P. Lovecraft's work, but it refers to a story wherein man cannot triumph over darkness. Powerful malevolent beings arise from the depths, from which no one is safe. There is no saving the world, because the world has become too corrupted. Apocalyptic or world-ending fiction may also fall into this category.
Is Game of Thrones at its heart a cosmic horror story? Meaning, is the point of the show that mankind cannot resist the evil forces and entities that exist
because man is powerless?
When we examine the magic, gods, and supernatural forces at work in the show, it seems clear that there is a larger 'game of thrones' going on that will end up dwarfing the contest for dominance between mortal men. It seems that gods and supernatural beings in this show have their own agendas and needs, separate from and perhaps even incomprehensible to humans.
Almost every form of magic in this story is either evil, or a mixed bag to say the least. The red god of fire, called the Lord of Light by devotees, was used as a 'fan favorite character saving throw' recently to bring Jon Snow back from the dead. He is real, and has power over human life, but his intentions are unclear. When Stannis Baratheon sacrificed his daughter to this god, he still was killed. So it seems clear that the red god has his own agenda, mysterious and beyond even the comprehension of his most devoted of followers.
Then there are the dragons. Do they really love Danaerys? Are they really capable of bonding with her, or are they monsters? It's possible that it's not even Targaryen incest that caused Targaryen madness, but dragons themselves. Dragons are powerful and to own them represents the power to dominate the world, and to destroy anything in one's way. Perhaps Aerys the mad king went mad from his lack of power. He knew that at one time, his ancestors had held powerful dragons, and the lack of dragons in the world, he knew, would spell the end of his power for sure. In The World of Ice and Fire, it describes how dragons brought madness and endless war to Westeros, as Targaryen relatives and bastards constantly fought one another on dragon back. This war culminated in the Dance of Dragons, a war between different branches of the Targaryen family, which ended with the last dragons killing one another. During this war, the Targaryen family also dwindled.
When one reads Danaerys chapters or watches her parts on the show, it's hard not to see her as a fundamentally hypocritical character. She pretends to be nurturing and compassionate, but she roasts people alive with a ferocity Cersei Lannister would appreciate. She is also very ambitious. Despite claiming to care about justice, and wanting to 'break the wheel', it also seems like she wants to rule Westeros at any cost. There isn't that much separating her from any other character who's wanted to seize the throne of Westeros. Seeing oneself as a good person and actually being one are different things. Perhaps her ambition came not from desire to claim her birth right, but it's possible she's been corrupted or even possessed by the magic of dragons. Or simply she's become enthralled with the power they represent. Perhaps she will become more villainous over time, as the dragons corrupt her further and further.
There are many gods mentioned or interacted with in the show, including the Drowned God of the Iron Islands, the Many-Faced God of Braavos (who confusingly, claims to be the only true God, while other gods are supposedly his avatars or faces), and the Seven, gods representing old archetypes. These gods haven't impacted the story much yet, but we do know the Many-Faced God is real at least because Arya experienced the face-changing thing. But what role that God will play in the story is up for debate, same as other gods mentioned above.
Then in the North we have the children of the forest, the three-eyed raven, the god-trees, wargs, skin-changers, and the white walkers. These creatures all have a complex history, and, along with dire wolves and giants, were thought to be only legends until very recently. Now there is some kind of kerfuffle up north involving them. Only Bran Stark, endowed with a psychic ability called Green Sight while also being a warg, seems to be able to understand all this, and how these strange creatures have impacted human events in history. But it's something the maesters and other scholars in the south didn't understand at all. Or perhaps it was forbidden or secret knowledge. At any rate, everyone south of the wall seemed to neglect the affairs of these beings except for the wildlings, who live in harmony with such creatures, and the Night's Watch, who oppose them and fight for humans. It's worth noting that obsidian, also known as dragon glass in-universe, is the only known weakness of a white walker. Does this mean a dragon's magic is somehow opposite to the magic of the North? Are they opposing forces? In the show, Danaerys lost one dragon to being turned into an ice zombie (wight). This final confrontation will likely reveal something interesting about the nature of white walkers and dragons.
In this tapestry of diverse supernatural beings, what we see is a range from savage cruelty to mere indifference to humans. It seems that dire wolves and dragons can form friendships with particular humans, and the children of the forest seem happy to share with Bran, seeing him as one of them because of his abilities. But, their morals, their agendas, and their desires are alien to us, unknowable. Figuring out how they will act in the future is like trying to imagine the thoughts of a whale.
You can say that it might be jumping the gun to call this cosmic horror. Well, it remains to be seen if there are any good supernatural beings out there, or if the show and book series will make it a case of gray on gray morality with these creatures and gods. But many times in the show and books, horror is wrought by the disconnect between humans and supernatural beings. Perhaps the ending of the story will also heavily involve this horror. It may even culminate in a Ragnarok-like clash between gods that destroys humanity.
The world in Game of Thrones is rich, multi-faceted, and diverse. It is possible that a clash between fire, represented with the red god and the dragons, and ice, represented by the Night King's army, will destroy both sides. Perhaps humanity as a whole will be destroyed or at least severely weakened, and there will probably be another long winter.
But it is possible for there to be triumph in the finale as well. It is teased that maybe Jon and Danaerys will have a child. Perhaps after defeating the Night King and unifying Westeros on dragon back, the pair will forge a lasting world peace and start a new dynasty together. But, Danaerys is probably barren, and part of me likes the idea that she will go mad herself. Perhaps in her suspicious, paranoid madness, she will have Jon Snow killed or imprisoned. Perhaps it is true that dragons, representing power, can corrupt anyone who attempts to use them.
Another possible area of hope in the show rests with Bran Stark. Since he can communicate with supernatural creatures no one else can comprehend, he can offer important insights into how to fight the White Walkers. But, it's also thoroughly possible that he may become corrupted, go mad, or become sympathetic to the White Walkers, siding with them. That may sound far-fetched but you have to remember that he sees their perspective in a way no one else can. It's possible the White Walkers are misunderstood, sympathetic even.
So will it end with the establishment of a new, equally corrupt, equally tyrannical monarchy? Will Danaerys really bring justice and light into such a dark world? Or is it possible that these supernatural beings will come out of the woodwork and reveal a greater plan altogether, perhaps even having an apocalyptic conflict among themselves? Maybe everyone will die?
What do you guys think?
DR Darke from Central NY on October 26, 2018:
They'll defeat the White Walkers, Tyrion or Jon or Jamie or Danaerys or all together will kill Cersei after she tries to backstab them (and because nobody this side of Hillary Rodham Clinton deserves a humiliating death MORE than Cersei Lannister, and for the same reasons - utter entitled arrogance combined with a complete lack of actual ability to lead!), and all will be well....
...For an entire generation if they're lucky, before their heirs start once again to fight and scheme among themselves, and start the whole fruitcaking cycle of death and betrayal again!