Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Lowering the Stakes - The Battle of Winterfell


The Night King is dead. Long live the Night King.

And with that, the claim I was backing for the Iron Throne has been snuffed out of existence.

Being Game of Thrones, it probably should have had more main character death, but the show has been steadily straying into the mainstream, and that should surprise no one. The Battle of Winterfell, though blurry and absent of strategic or tactical leadership, was indeed epic. It hit all the right emotional and pacing notes. The tension took off from the first shot and never let up. And the music was FANTASTIC.

It was the as good an end to the series as anyone could hope for.

Wait, that wasn’t the end? We’re only halfway through the season?

Let’s talk about stakes and storytelling. In narrative structure it is generally a good idea to move from low stakes to high stakes, steadily raising the stakes as it goes on. But after defeating the greatest threat to the world of men, we will watch our “heroes” go on to bicker over who can impose their rule on the poor beleaguered peasants of the Westeros.

Some people have argued that Game of Thrones was always about the THRONES, that the White Walkers and their army of wights were never meant to be the main villains. This take misses that the very first scene of the series is the coming threat of Winter. Not only that, multiple times we are shown that when it comes between the Iron Throne and the threat of the Night King, the threat of the Night King is more important. And now with the ultimate threat dealt with, it’s hard to see how Cersei is little more than a mop up effort.

I think that this anticlimactic result could have been avoided even allowing for the destruction of the Night King. I'm sure you can think of better ways, but here is one:

What if Cersei sent a token force to Winterfell, keeping her word? What if, at the climax of the battle, when all is won, Lannister soldiers assassinate, oh I don’t know, pick one of Dany, Jon Snow, or Sansa – or if they are too precious to you (this is GAME OF THRONES, what is wrong with you?) someone who would die protecting them – Jorah, Brienne, The Hound.

Even if Cersei is not as great a threat, that would at least push the conflict forward and give us a fresh reason to hate her. As it stands now, she doesn’t seem all that bad - especially when you compare her to villains already defeated.

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