Weekend Open Thread: Game of Thrones Finale Will Muse Over War Crimes


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Yes, you can really buy one of these! (The one on the left, I mean.) Apparently this lamp is on MyModernMet.com. OJB gets no money from this; we just think it’s cool.

This evening brings us to the conclusion of Game of Thrones — and not a moment too soon, as fans are up in arms and revolting against the show   Oh, yeah: SPOILER ALERT!  SKIP TO THE COMMENTS IF YOU DON’T WANT TO LEARN WHAT HAPPENED IN EPISODE 5!

(DUM-dum duh-duh DUM-dum duh-duh DUM-dum duh-duh DUM-dum… Reee-eeee ee-ee, ee-ee-eeeeee)

Ready now?

Making predictions about the last episode at this point is a fool’s errand.  I’ll just be a little foolish by suggesting that, rather than killing Dany — at least at first — the Starks employ GoT’s go-to move to disarm her, with Arya shooting Drogon in the eye with an arrow from long-distance, but from an angle that doesn’t quite penetrate the brain, and they negotiate independence from the North and for the other Kingdoms, at that point with Dany being free to run the Kinglands and lead the continental Council.

Do I think it will happen?  Not really.  GoT already spoiled prophecy for he in Episode 3.  Nor do I much care.

For the record, I’ll make some predictions that I think will come true in the denoument.  Jon will — as I called immediately and others seem to be realizing now — head north of the wall, sans Dany, to hang out with Tormund and Ghost, maybe  bringing Brienne,.  Sansa will be Queen of the North.  Sam will write the epic history, “A Song of Ice and Fire.”  Cersei and Jamie will not emerge alive from the rubble.  Bran will … hell, I don’t know.  It probably won’t be entirely clear.

Here’s what does matter: GoT will be agreed upon to have been, in the end, a penetrating exploration of the morality of war crimes.  It will ask us, in the end, whether we categorize Dany — the supposed “Mad Queen” — into one of three categories that it has beautifully laid out over the years: those exemplified by Joffrey Baratheon, Ramsay Bolton, and Tywin Baratheon.  War criminals all, if you want to go there, but of very different kinds.  Only one — the weakest one — is actually “mad.”

One of the great pleasures of GoT fandom in this decade has been talking through its intricacies and implications with fellow fans, the way that any truly good fiction inspires one to do.  This is from a closed group of mostly political friends, to which I belong, where I’m currently arguing with someone who takes the position that the show now officially sucks because it inexcusably turned Dany into a recap of her father, the “Mad King” who wanted to (speaking of his subjects, just before the captain of his Guard skewered him) “burn them all.”  GoT fandom is in an uproar, with tens of thousands of people signing a posturing petition to “remake Season 8, this time with competent writers” (which has cheesed off the show’s cast, among others); I think that this is silliness.  The show is ending complexly and well.  The following is rewritten slightly for this venue.

Despite that I keep on saying that, in razing large parts of the central kingdom to (1) make sure that Queen Cersei was deaddeaddead and (2) inspire terror (and thus obedience) among her subjects, Queen Dany was acting like rational paterfamilias Tywin Lannister rather than his impulsive grandson Joffrey Baratheon or the crazed bastard Ramsay Bolton, you don’t seem to apprehend the distinctions between them:

Joffrey lashes out to demonstrate his power without much planning or justification or sense, out of emotion and malice. He stupidly kills Ned Start; he viciously shoots tied-up Ros with a crossbow, he pours win on Tyrion’s head.  He’s essentially “mad,” though mostly just in his interpersonal relations.  (He leaves the serious fighting to others.  This is why people compare him to Trump.)

Ramsay pursues his battles methodically, with planning, but beyond the bounds of decency, or at least conventional morality. He may be crazy in some senses — certainly he’s got a serious personality disorder — but he’s not (generally) impulsive and wouldn’t qualify as “mad.”

Tywin is neither deluded nor impulsive, but is ruthless and merciless — and as such is capable of what we’d call major war crimes, mostly by violating the principle of proportionality.  Even so, he could rationally argue that shock and awe and inspiring fear is for the greater good and both shortens and prevents broader war.

You want to say that, in burning more people than she strictly had to, despite a surrender — a surrender that, mind you, was unsanctioned by Cersei, who was the only one who could really give that order — Dany went mad, like Joffrey. She didn’t.

There’s an argument that Dany is like Ramsay, in that she had a deep yearning for and need for power and plotted methodically to reach it. But she was brought up to think that she was a person of destiny and is fulfilling the role originally plotted out for her brother, to undo what her house believed to be a treasonous injustice to her family. Maybe this is a distinction without a difference, but this sort of delusion (in some cases borne out in reality) of grandeur seems fairly common in politics. In any event, it’s not “Mad King” madness.

Dany is lihe Tywin. Ruthless when push comes to shove, but not the least bit “mad.” She believed that she had to commit what looks to us like an atrocity to accomplish her mission and end the competition with her over the throne. And maybe she did. You and I, not straddling a dragon in real time, are in a good position to second-guess after the fact, but in her place our reluctance to use overwhelming force is exactly the sort of thing that GRRM’s saga has punished. Tywinism, in his world, works. And, very sadly, it often does in ours as well.

I mention in my writing there how much of Baghdad our country destroyed to ensure that Saddam Hussein was finally captured in his spider hole, the massively disproportionate destruction of Gaza, the napalming and “strategic bombing” and My Lai-style massacring of villagers in Vietnam — all of which I despise and all of which most of our nation accepted uncritically at the time.  That’s the kind of thing that Dany did in last week’s episode.  It doesn’t make her “Mad.”   If it makes her a monster, it’s a monster with which we are quite comfortable in the real world — and, GoT more than implies, perhaps we should look into our own souls.

Anyway, happy watching today, sisters and brothers of the Fandom.  This is your belated (sorry!) Weekend Open Thred.  Talk about that, or whatever else you’d like, within reasonable bounds of decorum, discretion, and decency — and please commit no war crimes here.

 


About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-retired due to disability, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally runs for office against bad people who would otherwise go unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Deposed as Northern Vice Chair of DPOC in April 2014 (in violation of Roberts Rules) when his anti-corruption and pro-consumer work in Anaheim infuriated the Building Trades and Teamsters in spring 2014, who then worked with the lawless and power-mad DPOC Chair to eliminate his internal oversight. Expelled from DPOC in October 2018 (in violation of Roberts Rules) for having endorsed Spitzer over Rackauckas -- which needed to be done. None of his pre-putsch writings ever spoke for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level, nor do they now. One of his daughters co-owns a business offering campaign treasurer services to Democratic candidates and the odd independent. He is very proud of her. He doesn't directly profit from her work and it doesn't affect his coverage. (He does not always favor her clients, though she might hesitate to take one that he truly hated.) He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)