GAME OF THRONES – preparing for the end

Shortly before its penultimate episode, Simon takes a breath to consider the final season so far, and what terrors are still to be revealed.

I’m not expecting to be happy with whatever ending lies in store for Game of Thrones. Nor satisfied. More likely a feeling of anger or frustration sits ahead. Not that this is a bad thing. This has been a saga where scheming and double dealing have meant death has come to the bad and the good. It might almost be disappointing to have a finale where heroes triumph over villains. Life’s not always like that, and the Game of Thrones storytellers have played on this for eight seasons, keeping viewers on the back foot, unsure who is next to cop it. Why stop now?

So maybe Cersei will actually win out. Maybe Jon will go the way of Ned, a Stark man (at least on his mother’s side) who will perish in the South.  Maybe Daenerys will truly become a Mad Queen, every bit as twisted as the father whose memory she has sought to exorcise. Maybe Sansa will become the ultimate student of Cersei and Little Finger, every bit as manipulative, cruel and cold as those who brought her suffering. Maybe Gendry, once a bastard son of Robert Baratheon but now a Lord, has a higher place still to ascend to. And maybe none of this will come to pass.

One thing last week’s episode, The Last of the Starks, did very well was to set up all manner of these unpleasant scenarios. Britain’s Guardian website described the episode as laden with doom, a fit description. Much has been left temptingly dangling before the audience. What will come of assassins-at-large Arya and The Hound? What role still to play for Yara Greyjoy? Could Jamie Lannister, already the slayer of one king, kill another regent? And what of Bran, the three eyed raven? Now that the Night King is gone (we assume for good, but who knows?) is his part in the saga effectively over?

And then there is Tyrion. He heads into episode five grappling with his conscience, voicing his continuing support for Daenerys but clearly now having to confront the option that Jon might be a better choice as ruler. The agony!

Putting the coffee cup mistake to one side – and please, let’s do that – I enjoyed episode four much more than its predecessor, the grand battle of The Long Night. This is partly to do with watching said episode only a couple of days after viewing the emotionally charged finale of the Avengers saga at the cinema. Still suffering from Marvel Buzz Syndrome, I was a tad underwhelmed at my first viewing of GoT Episode Four. It was the smaller moments which resonated more deeply than the battle itself: the tension of Arya’s visit to the library, and the touching glances exchanged by Sansa and Tyrion as they faced their apparent demise in the crypts of Winterfell.

I was frustrated at not knowing what happened to those ravens Bran sent off, or why, when Jon was intent on catching up with the Night King to save Bran, we then see him stumbling through the inside of Winterfell. Some friends have subsequently given me plausible answers to these questions, but these points distracted me at the time. The ravens may have been Bran baiting the Night King to draw him to the Red Tree, and maybe the path to Bran necessitated Jon going inside the castle first, it was put to me. In any event one big advantage of having a programme like this available on a subscription-based provider is of course that you can watch it again. And, as it happens, on a second viewing of The Long Night I found it a more satisfying watch.

So, the last hurrah approaches. We’ll be watching, anxiously no doubt, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

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