This post contains spoilers for the Game of Thrones finale. If you don’t want any hint of what happens, read no further.
Last week I was disdainful of the people who were angry about Dany torching the city. I argued all this had been foreshadowed, we should have seen this coming and known her for what she was. All this still holds true.
But in the scene that ends with Dany and Drogon flying off together, I felt a sudden pang of sadness and regret. It felt so much worse than I’d expected it would. It felt wrong. It felt like the tail end of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar: shameful and small.
When I saw how many people were paying tribute to her on Twitter, and which people were, I started seeing her story from a different angle. When I saw Leslie Jones yelling “DRACARYS!” in that SNL video, it clicked for me.
What I had in common with the Dany loyalists was that we were both cheering on her take-no-prisoners approach to evil, which she had, until she got to Westeros, primarily deployed in what had the vague shape and appearance of justice, despite a few uncomfortable moments.
And if she’d stopped when she heard the bells, if she hadn’t been carried away by rage and grief and sudden total just-me-and-my-dragon-now loneliness, we probably still could have regarded and accepted her as the benevolent dictator/savior she saw herself as.
That moment is supposed to reveal her as just another tyrant in a long line of tyrants, morally no better than Cersei, possibly worse. And clearly we can’t write it off as a forgivable mistake. But what convinces Jon is…that she’ll have to come after his sisters soon.
And what follows is the death of a dream: that she could really break the wheel. What replaces it is, with only slight variations, more of the same. A new king. One family ruling the continent. Tyrion putting the chairs back just as they were.
People were hoping for a messianic story, a revolution: the prince(ss) riding the worm (dragon) and leading the Fremen (Dothraki) to crush the Harkonnens (Lannisters). A new Emperor? Yes; but a profoundly different one.
Almost every revolution is bloody. Most don’t cost ENTIRE cities, but they might as well. Would hers have been worth it? No one will ever know. The alternative: a table of men, plus Brienne, doing the usual.
Who will burn the rapists and slavers now? Who will topple the towers and bury the evil queens alive? Probably nobody. We’re back to the same old thing. No wonder Arya lights out first chance she gets. Who needs more of this shit?
I think this ending is realistic. It’s sad, it’s the death of hope, just another cycle. Sure, nobles choose the king now, but Sam’s democracy is still hilarious to them (then again, look where it’s gotten us). This isn’t a story about progress. It’s a season cycle.
Those for whom the status quo means peace can rest easy: the fanatics and radicals are put down. Those who were counting on fire to burn away the rot might as well sail off to an island: the revolution is over.
So I’m sad too, Drogon. I miss your mom already.