Warning: spoilers for Game of Thrones through season 6, episode 7 follow…
When Game of Thrones first began many viewers believed that it was exactly what it appeared to be: a battle for the Iron Throne. The introduction of dragons, magic, ancient forest beings, and fierce zombies tells us that there's far more at play here than political power.
However, the fact remains that George R.R. Martin set out to tell a fantasy story that defies the tropes of the genre. As Richard Rushfield points out in this video, his novels are an answer to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings in many ways. His purpose was to create a story that undercuts the notion that life can be wrapped up in neat little bows.
So if there are no traditional heroes and no happy endings according to Martin's logic, then who should ultimately “win” this game?
Here, Roth Cornet, Richard Rushfield, and Donna Dickens debate. For Richard, if good dies and evil wins, and those with enough savvy and guts pull to the front, then there is only one choice: Ramsay Bolton. He makes a solid argument for the sadist, but the truth is Ramsay has no claim to the throne, was only recently legitimized, stands on shaky ground with his own men (at best) and would not have the bannermen to make that play. In fact, I'd guess his clock is just about to run out. Additionally, as Robert's Rebellion proves, a true psychotic can only last so long in power. The Mad King died due to his depravity as much as anything else, and he was far more powerful than Ramsay.
Donna feels that the only character who has the strength to truly succeed is the one who brings the promised winter with him: The Night's King.The one who cannot die. As I point out, the first chapter of this story opens not on Ned Stark, or the intricate politics of King's Landing, but rather on men of the Night's Watch coming face to face with the Others (the White Walkers).
We have to imagine that the open is a significant clue about the true crux of this tale, so Donna's theory has merit. “Dead is dead,” poor Gared of the Night's Watch says on the first page of Martin's series, referring to slaughtered wildings. Dead is not dead, however, s we now know and he's soon to find out.
This is a story that upends the very idea of life and death and good and evil, even as it explores the depths and darkness of human nature. It will have nothing to do with who sits upon the throne at the end of the day, and everything to do with the annihilation of the very fabric and structure of their reality.
So, Richard is right in that there will be no traditional hero. And Donna is right that if anyone's a likely candidate, it's the Night's King. However, we must not forget the fire portion of the lore. The White Walkers will one day face that fire. And when the call to “burn them all” rises up and is fulfilled, it will be more than just the White Walkers that are left in ashes. It will be all of Westeros.
If we're sticking with the idea that this is an exercise in nihilism, then all things will die fighting to destroy one another and nothing will be left — certainly no throne to sit upon.
We'll have further thoughts on the actual outcome of Game of Thrones, but for now IF Martin were sticking to the “no happy endings” logic, who do you think would win?
Take a look at us battle it out in the video above and chat with us here or on Twitter.