Few television shows have the saturated cultural power that Game of Thrones does, and the reaction, perhaps even more so than the show itself, has become central to the cultural conversation. Yet, amidst all the criticisms and the outcry by many that they will stop watching, it is a rare pillar in popular culture that manages to transcend the 48 hour marker. Game of Thrones may disappear from the conversation for brief lulls, but it always returns with full force — it is doing something right.
Season 5 of Game of Thrones has been rather tumultuous. A whole lot of nothing happened, viewers quit over continued exploitation of rape and in the final moments of the finale, a beloved character seems to be lost forever. Yet, chances are when Season 6 is ready to premiere, the show will continue to break records and continue to inspire countless think pieces and reactions. While there is a chance that this will be something of a flash in the pan — not unlike Dallas was in the 70s or Lost in the early 2000s — there is an undeniable mythic quality at work that has us craving for more.
I have previously discussed the Oedipal qualities of the Jaime and Cersei relationship this season, and now with the supposed death of Jon Snow in the final moments (echoing the murder of Julius Caesar), we reach new parallels of ingrained cultural knowledge. Yet, where we expect the inevitable downfall of these classical characters, we struggle to accept it in our modern myths. Game of Thrones has not been covert in its allusions to popular narrative structures, and one of the great joys of the show has always been how they manage to twist and subvert it.
While this is likely the worst season yet, the highs Game of Thrones achieved manage to still be quite transcendent, and it’s all too rare to find an “adult” show that continues to take risks and outright challenge the audience. Though it can be argued that killing off a popular character is no longer a “risk” but another form of exploitation, it is undeniable that the show is not looking to placate the audience, which is something we should champion rather than condemn.
This final episode offers great promise moving into the future, as the remaining characters find themselves beginning a new cycle of development. While she has remained somewhat on the peripheries all season, Arya seems poised to dominate the upcoming years, and it will be exciting how she moves forward after she has gone through so much internal growth. If we can trust traditional narrative structures, it seems unlikely that the family that brought us into this universe will not play an important role in the unfolding narrative. Especially now with Jon Snow out of the picture, the remaining Starks theoretically hold a lot of power — unless, of course, this is all just a game and we’re being played for fools.
Justine Smith (@redroomrantings) lives and writes in Montreal, Quebec. She has a bachelor’s degree in Film Studies, and a passionate hunger for all kinds of cinema. Along with writing for Vague Visages, she is the film editor of Sound on Sight and a freelance writer.