Any Game of Thrones fan knows that George R.R. Martin is in it for the long haul. He could come out tomorrow and announce that instead of seven books, he’s decided to write ten, and there would be the typical online wailing and gnashing of teeth, and then we’d all get used to it. We’d get used to it because we are used to this story continuing. A Game of Thrones came out in 1996. Can you believe that? Almost 20 years ago. Waiting for the next book, for the next season, is just what we do. It’s a part of life.
But you know what? Change is in the wind. A couple of months ago, Martin started canceling appearances. He said that he wouldn’t be attending Comic-Con. He actually said that he’d like to have the next book, The Winds of Winter, out in time for the premiere of season six. And once that book is out, there’s only one more to go! This is the part of the party where we take out our keys and stretch before walking toward the door. And what’s more, the show is starting to feel like it, too.
Well, the story definitely doesn’t feel like it’s wrapping up, but it does feel like it’s heading somewhere. And in five seasons, that hasn’t always been the case. Game of Thrones has always been an expansive show, but in the first season, most of its characters were pretty close together. Ned Stark getting his head cut off (oh, sorry, you didn’t know?) sent them reeling all over the globe. And for a long time, it’s felt like they’ve been doing just that, reeling and reeling. That’s okay. It’s been an enjoyable few years watching the scheming, the plotting, the conniving. But on an academic level, we know this story has to be going somewhere, and these past few episodes have felt like the story is starting to pick up some steam.
In Sunday night’s season finale, we saw Stannis Baratheon’s fight for the Iron Throne (seemingly) come to an end. We saw Jamie come to terms with his love for his sister and actually tell his daughter about it. We saw Daenerys once again cross paths with the Dothraki. We saw Arya’s pursuit of revenge land her in hot water with the Faceless Men. We saw the expression on Cersei’s face say, “F*ck it! I’m gonna kill errybody!” And we saw the passing of our poor, dear, Jon Snow. And let’s not forget that all of this is being overshadowed by perhaps the biggest revelation of them all: the giant effing zombie army bearing down on the Wall.
Not everything I’ve listed may seem like a huge development. But I see them as potentially being important to each character’s own personal endgame. Eventually Dany is going to have to get Mereen under control. The Dothraki may help her accomplish that. Arya is going to have to move past her own sense of justice is she wants to join the Faceless Men. Jon Snow (who I really don’t think we’ve seen the last of), I believe is going to play a pivotal role in the final battle against the White Walkers.
A lot of people have made mention of how grim this season of Thrones felt. And while I think this is a generally grim show that doesn’t give viewers much cause to stand up and cheer, I see where they’re coming from. Even the precious banter between Tyrion and Varys, typically the source of so much mirth, was in short supply. I think fans of the show can hang with it. They’ve invested years in the show already. But people’s patience won’t last forever*. Eventually, you need to be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. These past few episodes feel like the show’s rounded a corner, and all of our hard work** is about to start paying off.
*Unless you’re talking about the books. Those people will wait through anything.
**The show’s hard work.