Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or maybe you’ve just joined the Night’s Watch), you probably know that the Game of Thrones season finale aired last night, following the shocking brutality of Episode 9.
Game of Thrones is not for the fainthearted. But aside from the emotional abuse George R.R. Martin’s creation has inflicted upon fans, we can also take away a few lessons from the epic fantasy drama.
If we’ve learned anything from Game of Thrones so far, it’s that every character you love—and don’t love—is in danger of biting the dust (no matter how prominently they’re featured on promotional material). You like this character? Don’t get too comfortable. You hate this character? Maybe not for long.
As The Hound says to Arya: “You’re very kind. Someday it’ll get you killed.” From the very first episode, the Stark family is portrayed as noble and heroic. Great, right? The beloved hero is traditionally the one who survives, you say? Wrong.
We can’t erase the past, and neither can the Game of Thrones characters. Even when she disguises herself as a boy, Arya can’t escape her noble title. Jaime Lannister is forever known as “The Kingslayer.” And Jon Snow may have joined the Nights Watch, but even after traveling beyond the wall, he is still recognized as Ned Stark’s bastard. Which brings us to our next point.
“You know nothing, Jon Snow,” says Ygritte in Season Two (and in last night’s finale). Jon does sometimes come across as a bit confused, but maybe that’s just because he’s so torn between duty and love. One thing he does know is the way he feels about Ygritte.
It’s the title of the first episode, the motto of the House of Stark and it made up about half of season one’s dialogue. But the saying also illustrates the show’s overarching theme as well as the dark tone and the foreboding sense of impending misfortune.
Theon Greyjoy betrayed the Starks, Catelyn Stark betrayed Robb, Jon Snow betrayed Ygritte and Joffrey Baratheon betrayed everybody. Game of Thrones s is chock full of lies and deceit, which probably is why so many of the characters have trust issues.
Game of Thrones is unique in its ability to examine the complexity of human nature, and most of its characters are a compilation of good, evil and everything in-between (except Joffrey, who is 100-percent sadist). Some of the best characters are also some of the most complicated: Tyrion Lannister, Danerys Targaryen, Jaime Lannister. They’re no saints, and we root for them anyway
The Lannisters don’t necessarily have the best resume with regards to honesty. They do, however, give back what they owe. “Everyone knows a Lannister always pays his debts,” says Tyrion. Even Jaime, who somehow grows on us, holds fast to this principle, promising to return the Stark girls to their mother. It’s good to know that (some of) the Lannisters have a few redeeming qualities.
Good doesn’t always conquer evil, especially in Westeros. Case in point: Joffrey Baratheon. He had Ned Stark beheaded, forced Sansa to face her father’s severed head, kills prostitutes for fun and is generally an all-around terrible human being. However, he nevertheless possesses enormous power.
Happiness is fleeting, a fact no one knows better than the Game of Thrones characters. The Starks were a normal and happy family once, Season One Sansa was naively enamoured with Prince Joffrey, Danerys had fleeting marital bliss with Khal Drogo. Enjoy the good times kids, because life is short and terrible things happen.