Game of Thrones: A perfect imperfect finale
Owners of 3D TVs had the shock of their underwhelming television ownership during the final episode of Game of Thrones, when their near-defunct tech trembled then erupted in a spasm of unforeseen subtext interpretation, thrusting into their home a monstrous tongue wedged deep into a cheek. The TVs then slumped, exhausted but glowing.
'No-one is very happy. Which means it's a good compromise, I suppose,' says Tyrion, a line whose presence hints at the foresight of Benioff and Weiss. A line whose origin must be discovered, because, boy, do they know this now. How early in the writing process did it emerge? Was it a late addition? Or was it the very first line they ever wrote as a gag, which ended up a succinct prophecy? The resolution onscreen and the resolution off-screen are siblings of compromise; no other outcome would have left so many viewers equally dissatisfied. All levels of grumble at the same volume.
A happy resolution was never the end point for a story about dynastic struggles which consume the lives of countless unknowns, all to further the glory of a few (potentially inbred) aristocrats. The final episode took great pains to hold a mirror to Daenerys' notion of liberation, a rolling war machine which will never be satisfied, not even by the love of a nephew for his aunt. And girlfriend.
Every one of those characters is more knackered than the warranty on the Iron Throne, the prospect of unending conflict too much after the twin threats of the Night King and Cersei's demolition of the royal wine cellars have been vanquished. In negotiating the peace this finale returned, in a minor way, to the roots of its original popularity -politicking, deal-making, and consigning non-present players to their unconsulted fate. At the same time, it served as a sharp reminder this depicts the whims of self-interested medieval warlords who have no interest in dismantling a feudal system; Samwell Tarly's derided suggestion of suffrage was an admonishment to an audience waiting for enlightenment, forgetting quite where they were.
With Drogon fleeing with the corpse of his mother, to a place far away where he'll open a motel and keep Daenerys' corpse dressed in a room away from the guests, the one weapon of mass destruction has been removed. The houses settle into a conventional tension, with an added friction after Sansa achieves hard Winterexit.
Normalcy reigns. The Unsullied swerve anger management sessions to search for a new conflict, Jon rides back into his eponymous landscape, and Tyrion reminisces of experimental deviancy. This is almost where we first entered eight years ago - a time not of peace, but a lull. The problem with war is that eventually you run out of other people's bodies. In a series which promised a winner on pain of death, there's no better instruction that victory is no inoculation against mortality. Right now, the survivors have had their fill of conflict, and so should we.