So, we’ve finally reached it: the calm before the storm. Next, comes the storm.
But, before we get into that, let us appreciate the long journey on the King’s Road. Sixty-nine episodes in and these people that we love, hate, and love to hate will no longer be a part of our lives after four more episodes. Or maybe three or maybe even one.
Game of Thrones isn’t a show that I was a part of since day one, I can admit. The first live episodes I ever watched were the premier and second episodes from Season 4. I was totally lost but it was entertaining enough. I didn’t get intrigued with the show until a few years later. I stumbled on the third episode of Season 1 (“Lord Snow”) and I decided to stick around. The show was well acted, produced and impressively dense. When I watched episode 4 and it wasn’t a fluke, I started my first complete watch of Thrones.
Now, my watch begins…
Nine weeks later, I finished my viewing of the show. In fact, the first true live episode I watched was “The Winds of Winter,” probably the greatest episode of television ever made. I still remember the feeling of realizing what was going to happen with the wildfire, the shock of Tommen’s death and the satisfaction of Cersei repeating “Shame… shame… shame…”. (Also, shoutout to my guy Frank who came through with the Hennessy BBQ wings he made; three years later and how could I ever forget?) All those weeks of binge-watching GoT and it slowly became one of my favorite shows ever.
Whenever I talk to people and try to peak their interest in starting the show, I jokingly boast about the bountiful breast and blood found in each episode. Even if I give the most serious face when talking about the show’s boobies, those reasons are always somewhat of a red herring. I fell in love with the show because of the people and their stories. Not a single person was perfect but not everyone was a clear cut evil person either (sans Joffery and Ramsey). There is a moral ambiguity that the show always played in and I found it completely fascinating how human this fantasy world always felt.
Think of the different main houses the show follows (Stark, Lannister, Targaryen and Baratheon) and every one is steeped in either politics, violence, destruction, cunningness, ruthlessness or all of the above. There’s a balance that everyone has to navigate and hardly anyone comes out clean and unscathed. And, all the while, the show’s most popular characters (Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen) may be the least compelling. Fans are mesmerized by dragons and wolves, but the stories of a pirate and the Realm’s greatest swordsman may be the best of the Seven Kingdoms.
Stannis: What is the life of one bastard boy against an entire kingdom?
Ser Davos: Everything.
In a world where putting your faith the wrong people can get you killed, trust is a commodity that earns (or should earn) respect. Knowing who to follow and believe could be, and often is, the difference in winning the game of thrones or getting beheaded at the Sept of Baelor. Honor is even a rarer trait; most of the show’s characters are backstabbing and scheming and arse-licking and money-grubbing. So, a person that has honor, is trustworthy and compassionate is extremely few and far between.
While he didn’t always choose the winning side, Ser Davos Seaworth is one of Thrones most honorable characters. Think of if your favorite grandpa who just happened to be a smuggler who survived two major war battles. He’s wise beyond his already grizzled years, wittier than most and as caring as a mother’s love. His devotion to the truth is unwavering; even though Stannis Baratheon was unfit to rule, his claim to the Iron Throne was, during his life, was most legitimate of any person and Davos tried valiantly to win the Throne for his king. Since reuniting with Jon Snow, Davos showed him the same level of devotion, all for a person who seemingly doesn’t even care to be king.
Speaking of Jon, Davos’ relationship to seemingly discarded children is particularly fascinating. Jon, a bastard that wore shame all his life because he wasn’t a legitimate son of Ned Stark, wasn’t made to feel shamed by Davos. Jon fought for, died for and earned the respect of the Night’s Watch and of the Free Folk and truly cared about preserving life. There’s a selflessness about Jon that’s mirrored in Davos. Seaworth recognized Jon as a solid leader of men regardless of birthright and was worth fighting for. What’s a bastard boy against an entire kingdom? Every fucking thing, Stannis. Everything.
The very best of Davos was shown through his relationship with Shireen Baratheon, Stannis’ quasi-exiled daughter. As an infant, Shireen was infected with greyscale as a means of retribution against Stannis. She was able to be cured of the infection before it would’ve, ultimately, killed her, but the infection left half of her face permanently disfigured. Because of the disfigurement, Shireen’s mother, Selyse, forced her to live in solitude, with no friends nor true interaction with her family. Stannis, who is one of the show’s worst characters, burned the poor girl alive as a living sacrifice to win a battle that he ultimately lost anyway. Selyse and Stannis weren’t exactly “Parents of the Year” nominees.
However, Davos truly and unconditionally loved this girl as if she were his own daughter. He showed her kindness and compassion, more than her parents ever had, and she, in turn, reciprocated the same energy. Shireen encouraged Davos how to read, which may not seem a big deal but her encouragement and thoughtfulness was only given because Davos earned it. In a world rank with shit parents, he was the father this sweet girl deserved.
Ser Davos is my favorite Thrones character, probably because I never had a grandfather truly be a part of my life as a child and I imagine Davos as how all granddads should be: a sweet, tough, funny son of a bitch. He’s of a handful of characters that genuinely cares about other people. He doesn’t contradict himself by preaching about breaking the wheel but then not wanting to secede power; Ser Davos stands on his convictions or dies trying. And, for that, give him a hand. Really, give him a hand; he only has one.
Brienne: All my life, men like you have sneered at me. And, all my life, I’ve been knocking men like you into the dust.
The gem of the Sapphire Islands, Brienne of Tarth is the greatest fighter the Realm has ever seen. Yes, Brienne of fucking Tarth. Tormund and Jamie all up on her tip; a queen has options. And she earned the respect of Sansa and Arya Stark, two of the most fiercest women to come from the North.
But, in life, especially for women, nothing comes easy. See, in Westeros, women are expected to be ladies, are expected to be weak, of mind and in body, and are expected to serve at the behest of men. That type of life did not suit Brienne. She was born a fighter; a girl grew up dreaming of becoming a knight. So her father taught her to fight. She became damn good at it too. But what makes Brienne special goes beyond how she swings a sword.
Living in an era of pushing strong women leads and equality among the sexes, on and off camera, as a side effect, could create spaces where there’s room for hallow feminism where the idea of true feminism and women strength is teased but never fully achieved. While there have been moments where show creators for Game of Thrones have not always handled championing equality perfectly (i.e., Daenerys being the archetype of white saviorism in the Season 3 finale “Mhysa”), I think the show has adequately shown how complex and multidimensional women can be.
Cersei is a loving, caring mother that happens to be as ruthless and as cunning as any other man in the Realm. Daenerys seemingly wants to destroy the political patriarchy Westeros is founded on but is power hungry and vengeful. And Brienne is someone with honor whose failed just as many times as she’s succeeded.
One of the key aspects to feminism is women’s right to choose. Having the right to make their own decisions based on their own beliefs accepting their own consequences. Cersei, Dany and Brienne all, in their own way, exercise their right to choose but Brienne is the only one to make her choices based out of nobility. In fact, of all the women characters in Game of Thrones, only Brienne and Missandei choose to serve.
Brienne has a desire to protect and fight for people she deems honorable and worth shielding. Renly Baratheon was a true friend and protector of Brienne, so she served him. Catelyn Stark saw Brienne as a strong, noble woman and trusted her to find and protect her daughters, so she served the Stark’s. Even after Renly and Cat’s deaths, Brienne continued to keep the vows she promised and, in the process, grew into the greatest knight in the Realm. Her gawddamn Valyrian sword is named “Oathkeeper;” who else could pull that off? Now, she’s leading the charge against the Army of the Dead, so she is now serving the living.
Both Ser Davos and Ser Brienne serve the living, but for how long? We’re in the end game now, and these bright characters may be extinguished in these last remaining episodes. “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” was a moving episode, particularly when Jamie knighted the love of his life, Brienne. He knighted her not only as a gesture of love and respect, but because Jamie, who is honorable, recognized that Brienne would do anything for the people she swore to protect.
Seeing Brienne knighted ranks highly as one of the most rewarding feelings the show has ever produced. A girl dreamed of being a knight and a woman made it happen. Davos was there cheering her, in the same supportive way he’s always shown. Though moving, the episode, also, felt like a goodbye for some of the show’s characters.
In the four remaining episodes, no one knows who will win the Iron Throne or will even exist going forward. But, for Game of Thrones fans, this is the time to appreciate this special show. Even if they survive the wars to come, I’ll miss Brienne, Davos, Bronn, Arya, Varys and the lot once the show is completed. Characters I used to hate, I have the utmost respect for (Sansa and Theon) and a show I used to dismiss I came to love.
Until we reach the end, however, let’s enjoy this gif of Gwendoline Christie fondling Liam Cunningham’s beautiful beard.