Game of Thrones‘ seventh season has been nothing short of extraordinary. The intricacies, tangled subplots and huge cast of characters that once seemed so overwhelming have simmered into a full-scale war.
For years we’ve been following Daenerys Targaryen as she rose up from literal ashes, with feeble dragon eggs in hand, to witnessing her shock and awe assault on Westeros. We’ve waited for all the political backstabbing and deceit to transform and ignite a hot war. The battles thus far have been mostly swift, murderous assassinations and quarrels between the important families of the Seven Kingdoms. The Battle of the Bastards was muddy and had a sense of urgency, it had to be wrapped up, Ramsay Bolton needed to go, as things are about to get real for every remaining character — alive or dead.
The Stark siblings have reunited at Winterfell. Jon Snow has succeeded in forming an alliance with Daenerys in Dragonstone. And Cersei Lannister, the new Queen, threatens to realize her dream of leading through fear and bloodshed. She continues to keep the attention off the White Walker threat, another sleeper thread that is closing in on alarming territory.
So, who are we supposed to side with as the battles wage and the dragons melt the living and the dead? In a show steeped with moral ambiguity, the awful reminders of human nature and the intent on keeping us in a volatile emotional state, it’s hard to root for the death or victory of these characters.
All of this has me feeling some type of way. As Jaime charged toward a wounded Drogon with the intent on killing off Daenerys, my heart skipped a beat when the monster geared up to torch Jaime — luckily he was saved in the knick of time by Bronn, and of course, when the audience is on the verge of heart failure and tears, the screen fades to black. Tension, shock and excitement coursed through me, but I felt something else entirely. I was relieved that Jaime made it through this absolute destruction of the Lannister army.
I’ve always low-key shipped Cersei and Jaime, mostly because — despite their treachery — they’ve been through the emotional ringer as much as the Starks have. All of their children are dead, Jaime lost a hand (crippling a once legendary fighter) and now they are set to lose everything. Perhaps it’s their underdog situation undercutting the Lannister’s evil, but I believe Jaime has a human heart, riding into the mouth of death, bravely following this bleak road out of love for Cersei.
So, who are we supposed to side with as the battles wage and the dragons melt the living and the dead? In a show steeped with moral ambiguity, the awful reminders of human nature and the intent on keeping us in a volatile emotional state, it’s hard to root for the death or victory of these characters. I wrote a bit on Jon Snow last season, just before I learned of his resurrection. I argued that he was the last bastion of kindness in the Game of Thrones universe. Any trace of the archetypal Fantasy Hero had died with him. But he came back, confused and unwilling to band the North together, but knew it was his destiny. It’s hard to watch him take orders from anyone, as he’s the faint light in the dark opera of Dragon fire, newly minted genocidal queens and the madness associated with winning a war via fire-breathing monsters.
My heart yearns for Jon Snow’s survival, and I’m sure others feel the same way. The war between the Lannisters and Daenerys seems a thunderous afterthought, one that threatens to end this tale as it began, with innumerable loss of life and explosive violence, echoing tales we’ve only heard about in the background since the series began — a certain Mad King engulfing his people in wildfire and the Kingslayer who struck him down, beginning the spiral of events we now see unfolding.