From the Iron Throne to the Golden Rule

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SPOILER ALERT: This article includes details from the finale of Game of Thrones

The flames of Drogon melted the Iron Throne, ending “the cycle” of dictatorship and unfortunate deaths that plagued the world of Game of Thrones for centuries. In its place, Bran “the Broken” now reigns as the wise, forever-knowing king of the six kingdoms.

This turn of events, despite how quick, smooth, and for lack of better word, corny the conclusion was, offered an alternative to what has been the Game of Thrones universe for eight seasons.

The horror of Ned’s beheading, the unexpected attack at the Red Wedding, the sheer brutality of sexual assaults, and the twists and turns that left no character safe, made this show a can’t miss event. Throw in the mysterious frozen dead and no wonder many of us caught “Winter is Coming” fever.

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As the show came to a quick end, many fans were dissatisfied with the rushed plots, the somewhat predictable scripts, and incomplete character arcs. There was also a disappointment in that there was perhaps not a happy, but a peaceful ending, in what has been a show that was built on, and promised, death, agony, and fear.

Perhaps it was the comfort of this promise that kept us distracted from our own harsh reality.

The conclusion left people up in arms. It would have been more appropriate for the consistency of the show for the Night King to sit on the throne as the screen went Tony Soprano black. It would have been more likely for Cersei to hold her reign as Queen and as the ultimate villain if she, with a little more help from her twin/lover, slayed the dragon, the direwolf, and anyone else that stepped into the Red Keep.

Bran ending up as King of Westeros felt more like a fairytale ending than the final breath of a show filled with dragons and white walkers. The Iron Throne was replaced with the Golden Rule. Bran represented the wisdom figure, the person of peace, the all-knowing, ever-understanding voice of reason.

Fr. Jim Martin, Jesuit priest, author and speaker, said the following after the episode concluded:

 

A Jesus-like-reign over Westeros as the conclusion to Game of Thrones?

As a person of faith, and as one who looks for spiritual imagery in all parts of life, I can appreciate the hopeful conclusion. The ash quickly cleared for sunshine and plans easily developed to rebuild roads, all making for a peaceful ending for King’s Landing just weeks after it was burnt to a crisp.

One of the reasons I believe the show’s conclusion was met with such dissatisfaction is that this was not supposed to end well. We expected to compare the conclusion of this groundbreaking show to the plagues of Job instead of the reign of God. There was to be no resurrection story, no Easter Sunday, despite Jon Snow’s own return from death. Game of Thrones promised us something worse than what we received. Game of Thrones promised us something far more familiar.

What is it about the peaceful ending that left us feeling dissatisfied? Even if the writing was better and there was another season to better tell the story of the last two weeks, I imagine that we would still struggle with the outcome.

Perhaps the writers offered this solution in response to the world in which we really live. Westeros and the fictional lands of Winterfell, the Reach, and the Iron Islands, are make believe. The flying dragons, the walking dead, and the reign of the Lanisters and the Starks and everyone else are imaginary.

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Yet we live in a world of great suffering. And different from the ending of Game of Thrones, there is no peaceful solution in sight.

We are surrounded by real dictators, self-serving politicians, corrupt governments, cruel policies and practices. We live at a time when there is an estimated 40 million slaves, and 25% of those slaves are children.

We do not love our neighbor as we love ourselves. There is no Golden Rule guiding our nations. We seek, and at times, promise freedom and a dream that is not really possible for most in our world.

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We live in a nation where 40.6 million people live in poverty. In my city, New York City, 43.5% of the population live at or near the poverty line.

There are no dragons setting fire to our streets, but there are oppressive practices and policies that keep those in power on their iron thrones, and those without as limited subjects.

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Game of Thrones offered us an escape every Sunday night. We could forget about our own wheel of injustice for an hour or so. Now it ends and we see a solution that we should embrace, one that should bring us hope.

It doesn’t.

Perhaps it is because we know better. We take the Bran’s of the world and label them, and box them in. We label them in a political extremism, religious left or right, or simply cast them off as an outsider.

It is more familiar to live in a world led by an Iron Throne than by the Golden Rule.

So where does this leave us despite a hangover from 8 seasons of a television show? I offer these final reflection questions for us all to ponder:

  1. What is it about Game of Thrones that appealed to your imagination, blinded you from reality, made you want to forget?  What were you trying to forget?
  2. What is it about the “peaceful ending” that left you feeling unsatisfied (beyond the scripts and character development)?
  3. How might you consider emerging as a hero or heroine in this world to slay the dragons of our society, to disrupt the corrupt leaders on the real Iron Thrones, and the oppressors and cruelty of our society.

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