HBO’s Game of Thrones is finally over, and reaction to the last season in general, and Sunday night’s finale in particular, is decidedly mixed.
As a sporadic watcher of the fantasy drama — I bailed for years after the first four episodes — I’m not really qualified to discuss it in any great depth. So, I turned to my co-worker, Father Vince Kuna, C.S.C., a graduate of USC Film School, who was kind enough to answer some questions (if you haven’t watched the episode yet, LEAVE NOW):
What was your overall impression of GOT, now that it’s all said and done?
Now that it’s all said and done, my lasting impression is the same as my first one, Game of Thrones was a poor man’s The Lord of the Rings.
(Ed. Note: FWIW, this article in Quartz agrees.)
In particular, what were your impressions of the finale?
As I’ve addressed the coffeecup technical error in a previous blog, I found the finale contained creative gaffes as well (including a stray water bottle). The long dialogue scene between Tyrion and Jon Snow is essentially what the industry calls an “obligatory scene,” where the show or film explains away the reason the show’s existence. The two characters debate who committed the greater sins throughout the show, a hierarchy-of-suffering discussion that should usually be reserved to viewers’ dissection at the Monday-morning water cooler.
The show also broke tone in the series finale … it provided too much of a cheery ending, whereas the entire series seemed covered in ominous darkness. A hopeful ending suits the “Catholic” world of The Lord of the Rings, but finds itself oddly misplaced in Thrones. Tyrion’s first convening of a committee as the King’s Hand attempts levity, but comes off as parody instead.
GOT — both the books and the TV show — has been called out before for “homages” to other things, especially The Lord of the Rings (which author George R.R. Martin has acknowledged). What homages did you notice just in the finale?
I counted at least three “homages” in the finale, a common criticism of Thrones. The closing montage sequence with the remaining nobles vesting and striding to their thrones was akin to a Beats “The Game Before the Game” commercial.Daenerys addressing her assembled army is reminiscent of the hard-angled and stacked rows of humanity in a Leni Riefenstahl documentary (repeated, of course, in countless Star Wars films).
The sung score of the familiar theme song by a choir brought me back to the 1980s and Tina Turner’s We Don’t Need Another Hero, that concludes Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome.
As someone deeply involved in storytelling, what did you think of Tyrion Lannister’s assertion that the ruler should be the one with the best story?
After other characters unsuccessfully appeal to merit and democracy to elect the next king, Tyrion suggests that stories unite people. The best story in his estimation, falls to Bran Stark, whom he dubs Bran the Broken, crippled in the first season. I thought of this as less a “stone that was rejected becomes the cornerstone”, and more of a subtle nod to identity politics.
Be that as it may, leaving governance to the poet-artisan class is still a bad idea. The writers apparently forgot their Plato. In his Republic, artists, coming out of the producer class would make the least effective ruler. As politics requires reason, the artist’s trade would be too irrational and emotional for the job.
One hallmark of GOT has been the abundance of sex and violence. We’ve seen lots of violence in the last season but relatively little sex. What does that say to you about the role of sex in the show?
Game of Thrones uses sex gratuitously. Sex scenes feature prominently in the first season, typically, for HBO shows to draw in an audience. In this, the last season of Thrones, with one or two exceptions, sex and nudity are mysteriously absent. The premium network has captured their audience, and people will now watch how the show ends, sex or no sex.
I also take issue with how the sex is depicted, especially sexual violence. Several years ago, Downton Abbey and GOT concurrently ran a rape subplot. In GOT, the female character was back the next week as if nothing had happened. Downton Abbey, in contrast, showed the psychological effects on the victim for the remainder of the show.
If you had one overarching takeaway from the finale, what would it be?
The one overarching takeaway from the show for me hearkens back to an old saying we had in seminary: “Years in seminary are not real (not the real world of parish life) and they will end.” So, I’m grateful the fantastical Game of Thrones was not real, and after last Sunday, the show has indeed ended.
So, what did you think? Were you pleased, disappointed, puzzled? That’s what the comments are for. Now, back to rewatching Deadwood in preparation for screening the finale movie, airing May 31 on HBO. Watch this space.