Game of Thrones concluded with a season finale meeting expectations and offering excellent cinematography, but relying upon a weak foundation.
The episode begins with a Napoleon-esque Daenerys Targaryen – portrayed as one of the protagonists before turning evil with little to nobuildup or character development – addressing her army, claiming she would free the world no matter the cost. Later, another key protagonist, Jon Snow, stabs Daenerys, his former lover, in one of the few signs of character development – at last, Jon Snow chooses his duty to the people above either law or love.
Symbolically, Drogon – one of Daenerys’s three terrorizing and terrific fire-breathing dragons, and the last one alive – angrily melts the iconic Iron Throne, the symbol of royal power; symbolism foreshadowing foreshadows decisions made by senior lords to transition the state they reside in from a hereditary monarchy to one elected by senior nobility, weakening but not destroying the “wheel” of feudal power destroying Game of Thrones’s peasants and proletarians.
Taken on its one, the story concludes on a bittersweet note. However, when considered in other episodes’ context, the series – which increasingly used the pernicious deus ex machina for emotional affect, as well as necessity – lacks a foundation of character development. Though some characters’ story arcs meet their logical conclusions – in particular, the strong-willed and wanderlust-stricken Arya Stark chooses to sail west, beginning an Age of Exploration – others’ arcs lack a genuine foundation. In addition to Daenerys Targaryen’s sudden turn to evil, which was met more with shock than with proper foreshadowing, the character arcs of Jon Snow and Brandon Stark lack real foundations for character development. The ultimate conclusion of Jon Snow’s character arc, for example, is neither the acceptance into the landed aristocracy he so desperately craves, nor the life of duty and service he largely embraces throughout the series, but rather a kind of ambiguous exile deep into a Northern wilderness lacking foundation and is rife with plot holes; in particular, he is forced into this exile by Daenerys Targaryen’s army, yet does not return to urban civilization once the army embarks upon a self-imposed exile.
The true heroes of the series, however, are and remain the anonymous masses whose lives are endlessly shed as pawns in elites’ personal disputes, both in the series and in real life. At the series’ end, their journey ends on an ultimately bittersweet note as well. Their anonymous lives and anonymous blood are largely-needlessly spilled throughout the series, and the elites face relatively little comeuppance – the feudal power structure remains entrenched at the the end of the series, though there is no reason to believe it could not be so – yet they are simultaneously saved from White Walkers’ existential oblivion, and there is hope the elective monarchy at the series’ end would offer popular peace, if not popular sovereignty.