How Game Of Thrones' 'Burn It All' Moment Torched Nine Years Of Storytelling

Almost a decade of build-up, of nuance, subterfuge, gore and spectacle for this slap in the face?

Warning! This blog contains spoilers for the most recent episode of Game Of Thrones.

Game Of Thrones has thoroughly earned itself a reputation for shocking plot twists. It is known globally as a television phenomenon in which no one is safe from the chopping block. Even knowing this as we do, you have to give show-runners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss all the plaudits for pulling off the biggest death in the franchise’s history this week by thrusting the final knife in the back of the show’s fanbase.

Like virtually ever GOT fan in the world, I had grown weary with the escalated speed of the last two seasons’ plot, the sudden evaporation of time scale and the cheapening of dialogue. But like most, I stuck with it – after all, the show had outpaced George R.R. Martin’s books and it was still an unreal spectacle.

That patience with the loss in quality has worn thinner as this final season itself has worn on. Hideous storytelling, mind-numbingly rushed writing and dumbed-down plot turns all finally came to a head.

We started in Dragonstone with spy Lord Varys conspiring against Daenerys Targaryen because, based on very little, he’s decided she’s a baddie now. She kills him and that’s that – presumably indicating that she is evil, as the only ruler in the show to ever execute anyone for treason? Then we see Dany looking mad-eyed a few times before she hops on her dragon and destroys the Iron Fleet led by Euron Greyjoy, and the giant crossbows lining King’s Landings perimeter. Curiously, Dany’s sole remaining dragon Drogon was incapable of doing this last week but one episode later is suddenly unstoppable?

Anyway, the battle rages on, King’s Landing takes an absolute battering and, finally, Cersei Lannister’s forces surrender. Hurrah! Dany has won, that should be that. But no, in the laziest most predictable twist ever, Dany isn’t finished there and starts indiscriminately murdering everyone, because… well, just because.

Daenerys has had a ruthless streak her entire stint on the show, make no mistake, but until right now it had been solely inflicted upon the ‘baddies’. She was a character who over the last nine years had not harmed a single innocent and had made her entire arc about freeing slaves, ending cultures of female oppression and defending the existence of a nation of people who openly despised her at great personal cost.

Her ruthlessness has only ever stemmed from two places; when someone angered her, and when things aren’t going her way. Yet, in this week’s penultimate episode nobody had freshly wound her up and on the battlefield everything was coming up Daenerys. Maybe, maybe, had she hopped on Drogon and started frying folk straight off the back of her handmaiden Missandei’s beheading or dragon Rhaegal’s death in the previous episode, this senseless massacre would have made sense. Or, better yet, had Dany been told that Tyrion had freed his brother Jaime with the aim of sparing his sister and lover Cersei’s life, she may have been pushed over the edge – but that never happened.

Instead, Benioff and Weiss ingeniously made the superficial connection of Mad King’s daughter = Mad Queen. For such a monumental change in persona from liberator to bloodthirsty tyrant, there had to be far more foreshadowing and far more motivation for it to be legitimate. Otherwise, like millions of us were on Monday, you end up gawping at the television thinking ‘what the actual fuck… really?’

This is only one of the hilariously bad payoffs from this episodee. I was not surprised that Cersei outlived the Night King – I always felt she was the show’s true villain – but even she didn’t get the climactic demise her character deserved. What were Benioff and Weiss thinking trying to humanise a woman of nine years’ unrelenting wickedness in fifteen seconds? Were they seriously trying to get us to empathise with Cersei as she cuddled her brother/lover/rapist as they were anonymously pummelled by rocks?

And what about Jaime himself? I will be the first to argue that Euron Greyjoy has been an undeservedly hyped character but even I am prepared to accept that once he’s plunged a sword through Jamie’s mid-riff, twice, that he should be capable of offing him there and then. Yet, miraculously, Jaime was able to walk a couple of miles through crumbling building to reach Cersei and attempt an escape? Are we sure?

Then there’s Arya – you know, the deadly assassin who has been baying for Cersei’s blood for nearly a decade, only to be talked out of seeking vengeance by The Hound in about twelve seconds. Better yet The Hound, who in Westerosi time has been riding alongside Arya to Kings Landing for a fortnight, only thought to try and salvage her from a lifetime of bitterness as they were stood deep in the belly of a falling city? Great thinking. That was followed by ‘Cleganebowl’ – which I never cared about, but even I found it naff to have them plunge to a fiery death in a vice grip. Clichéd crap lifted straight from any irredeemable Hollywood schlock-fest.

So, Benioff and Weiss decided to off character development too, I suppose. Nine years of build-up, of nuance, of subterfuge, gore and spectacle for this slap in the face? In spending her entire arc belying her reputation, Daenerys did a 180º turn overnight. Remember, just two episodes ago she sacrificed everything for Jon Snow, and now we’re supposed to believe his claim to the Iron Throne (which she even knew about then!) is the thing that sparked this random rampage? And all to fast-track the most mediocre hero, who calls himself King of the North, to the throne.

Maybe next week will pull out an unbelievable twist that will make this carnage make sense, but I’d prepare to be disappointed. After all, unless Dany flies Drogon over to the writer’s room and Ser Pounce takes the Iron Throne, then this season has been a bust – and Game of Thrones will have made the fatal mistake of so many great shows before it by ignoring its own character development for a pay-off that would have only made sense after the first season.

Ugh. Just burn it all.


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