The Greatest Character in Game of Thrones
After watching the final episode of Game of Thrones, I couldn't help but reflect on who was the most important charater of the entire TV series. Who was the one who was pushing the game along, influencing others, and determining outcomes?
The show had such a legion of fans that you could get a variety of answers. Some of them are obvious, like Tyrion and Tywin Lannister. Or Little Finger, Bran, or even the Night King himself. However, I do not feel it was any of these characters.
Rather, I think the most important character of the series is the Iron Throne itself.
Ruling in Plain Sight
It wasn’t until watching the final episode where the dragon, Drogon, destroyed the Iron Throne after Daenerys’ murder that I realized this. I thought that the reason behind this action was that the dragon somehow knew that it was his mother’s obsession with the throne that turned her from the caring liberator and savior of the east to the dragon-riding tyrant of Westeros. Early on in the series, she had said she would not be the “queen of ashes” and that was exactly what she had become.
By destroying the throne, Drogon had removed the one thing that had been causing the chaos in Westeros from the series’ beginning: even before that if you follow the books. Since the death of King Robert Baratheon, multiple lords were scrambling to claim the throne. The longer the struggle drew on, the more it corrupted everyone who pursued it or tried to control it. Cersei kills her husband and puts her own people at risk. Ned is killed trying to put the rightful heir on the throne, not even wanting it himself. Stannis is willing to kill his own family and turn to black magic when conventional tactics fail. Joffrey initiates a war to prove he is worthy to rule it.
And that's not even going into how those pursuits affected other secondary characters. Margaery Tyrell is killed because of her attempts to rule through King Tommen. Tywinn manipulates the near annihilation of the Stark clan to maintain control, only to himself be killed by his son, Tyrion. Joffrey murders children through Kings Landing who might be a threat to his claim. And even Daenerys kills thousands of people while burning down King's Landing in her pursuit of the Iron Throne.
Bottom line: things don’t end well for anyone wanting that seat.
From King Robert Baratheon's death to the Queen Daenerys’, by simply existing, the throne proved to be a voiceless, but powerful protagonist over most of the events in the series. When it's destroyed, the long series of conflicts and the political machinations that surrounded it are forever changed. Likely to continue, but not over that particular character.
George Martin has made no secret about how his work was influenced by The Lord of the Rings. And even though the show passed Martin’s writings after season 5, Tolkien’s influence is still felt. The biggest way is in the character of the One Ring. Like the Iron Throne, it's a static object that somehow projects a life of its own in the world around it.
Like the Iron Throne, it too corrupts all who pursue it, and it is also destroyed by the same fire that made it. Its destruction subsequently leads to the final banishment of Sauron, starting a new era in Middle-earth: the Fourth Age. It also has a lasting effect on those it touched. Bilbo and Frodo leave Middle-earth because of the mental damage and toll done to them by the ring’s exposure. Gollum develops a split personality and severe case of obsession/addiction to the Ring, which ultimately leads to his death.
The similarities between the two epicenters of their franchises are very powerful, but there are also differences. One being that while the One Ring had a will of its own to a degree, the Iron Throne was still just a throne, though the center of power in Westeros. And while the destruction of both objects radically changes their individual universes, Middle-earth still has the same structures in place; it just had no outside, malevolent force trying to dominate it at the end. Westeros though now decides to elect their rulers rather than relying on bloodlines, as well as has one of the seven kingdoms seceding from it.
So by its force of presence and history, the Iron Throne itself sets into motion the series of events in the series. It directly or indirectly is the catalysts for the fates of many characters far and wide, throughout Westeros and further beyond. And its final destruction signals the end of its controlling influence in that world, making room for other replacements to step in.
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© 2019 Jamal Smith