Now, the fact that Jon’s stabbing didn’t affect me as much as I’d have liked it to have is doubtless in part because, like all book readers, I knew it was coming. But I think that sheer emotional exhaustion played at least as great a role. This episode seemed to be based (like Game of Thrones in general, perhaps) on the thesis that the human capacity for horror is always cumulative, rather than something that can be exhausted.
I particularly felt this in the effort to extend that final scene for a few moments of maximal, but utterly predictable and unnecessary, drama. Jon was stabbed once, twice, three times, four. (Did I miss one in there? Maybe.) Then a pause, before Olly emerged from the crowd. He moved in close, and Jon optimistically uttered his name. Another pause, and then—shocker!—Olly delivered the killing blow. (Figuratively, at least. Jon was obviously already fatally wounded.)
Again, is there anyone who could have been genuinely surprised at Olly’s betrayal? His entire purpose all season has been to telegraph that this exact outcome was in store. Trying to increase the drama of Jon Snow being (apparently) stabbed to death seemed absurd on its face, but doubly absurd when the dramatic kick was so obviously foreordained.
But I’ve gone on way, way too long. What did you guys think? Did tonight’s finale exhaust your emotional capacities too? Or did it simply blow your minds?
Sullivan: Oh, there it is—the feeling of hopelessness and despair that sunk in after I finished A Dance With Dragons nearly four years ago. Usually, turning the last page of a book in a long series brings with it a surge of excitement. You can’t wait to find out what happens next. But if every ray of light and decency in this series gets snuffed out, why bother continuing? Yes, at this point we’ve sunk five years and thousands of pages into the story. But maybe, just maybe, it’s time to cut our losses.
It’s incredibly hard to craft a epic series without getting necessarily bogged down in the middle installments. Your protagonists are usually in some long-term predicament or up against an enemy who will keep winning until some resolution is reached in the finale. That’s a lesson I learned early on, when even my beloved Chronicles of Prydain books dragged a bit after the thrilling first few.
So the need to throw in a few shocking moments for the sake of surprise and to keep readers/audiences off-balance is understandable. But there still needs to be something to keep us—and our heroes—going further. Right now, I feel like Tyrion. I’ve lost everyone I ever cared about, traveled thousands of miles, finally met a leader who might deserve my interest, and for what? So I can sort out the internal politics of a desert city to which I have absolutely no connection?
Let’s review our journey. We began the series with the Starks, a handsome family of nobles who are swiftly separated and placed in varying degrees of danger. Ah, so that’s our motivating interest—we want to see them get back together! Except [thwack] Ned loses his head, and [whump whump] Robb and Catelyn get knifed, and suddenly we’re left with a handful, if that, of Starks scattered around the seven kingdoms and beyond.