Disclaimer: Do not read this if you haven’t yet watched the series finale of Game of Thrones. Spoilers ahead.
Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things is the fourth episode of the first season of HBO’s widely popular TV series Game of Thrones. The episode by itself is significant considering the overall narrative and the theme of this episode resonates aloud in the series finale of the show which was aired a few hours back bringing down curtains upon one of the most followed TV shows of all time.
The final season of the show came under severe criticism during its run and much of it is indeed justifiable but as I finished watching the series finale, I was quite satisfied with the way the show ended. In my opinion, the show has ended with a victory for the cripples, bastards, and broken things in an utterly chaotic world and it is down to them to bring peace after the way the realm was devastated during the course of the show. Every fantasy series has a theme associated with it and perhaps this was the theme of Game of Thrones all along.
Let’s start with the man who finally ascends the Iron Throne. Brandon Stark, the crippled son of Lord Eddard Stark, who despite being the rightful heir to Winterfell following his brother Robb’s death, ends up being someone else entirely, or rather something else entirely. As the three-eyed-raven, he is a key character throughout the series. Bran was left paralysed after being pushed by Jaime Lannister, one of those “things that were done for love” by the man with the golden hand.
As a boy, he wanted to become a knight. But that dream went kaput as soon as he was paralysed. However, it was his destiny that ensured that although he could never walk, he could fly and he emerged as the three-eyed-raven. His remarkable story ended with him becoming Brandon the Broken, First of His Name, King of the Andals and the First Men, Lord of the six kingdoms and Protector the Realm. For a boy whose dream of becoming a knight was quashed by a tragedy, this was a dramatic turnaround.
Next, let us consider Tyrion Lannister. He had a miserable childhood. Mocked and insulted throughout a difficult childhood for being a dwarf, the Imp was loved by no one except his brother Jaime who was the only person kind enough to treat him as a fellow human being and not as a monster like the others did. He too had a dramatic journey throughout the series. An outcast, he rose to be the Acting Hand of the King in his father’s absence. He defended the city of King’s Landing against Stannis Baratheon’s forces to the best of his capabilities but that was never recognised by anyone. Condemned by his own father to death after being accused of murdering King Joffrey, Tyrion’s life seemed to be finished.
But destiny had other plans for him. After escaping from the prison with the help of Jaime and Lord Varys, Tyrion goes about an extraordinary journey during the course of which he is captured by Ser Jorah Mormont. Both of them are enslaved but are freed after Daenerys Targaryen storms Meereen. He impresses the Dragon Queen who names him as her Hand. It is difficult for him to deal with an unpredictable ruler such as Daenerys but he stands by her till she completely loses it and ends up reducing King’s Landing to ashes. Again imprisoned after relinquishing his title, he seems to be finished.
However, even as a prisoner, he convinces the Lords and Ladies of Westeros while passionately arguing for Bran to being anointed as the king. The first step Brandon the Broken does after being named as the king is that he names Tyrion as his Hand. Despite initially refusing the position, Tyrion accepts it and his story ends with him as The Hand of The King. He was never a monster. He had a difficult childhood, faced humiliation throughout his life, but rose to become The Hand of The King.
Next, let us talk about Jon Snow or Aegon Targaryen. Possibly the most popular character throughout the show, he was the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. However, he spent much of his life as a bastard of Ned Stark. Like Tyrion, he faced insult and scorn throughout his life but he rose to become the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. He was the only one who realised who the real enemy was when the Night’s King was on his march. He tried to do the right thing. He opened his gates to the wildlings who until then were deemed fugitives by the realm. However, this did not go down well with his colleagues who betrayed him and stabbed him to death.
But his story did not end. He was revived by Melisandre of Asshai. He emerged victorious in the Battle of the Bastards and was proclaimed the “King in the North” by his bannermen. As someone who always tried to do the right thing, he bent the knee to Daenerys and formed an alliance so that the real enemy could be defeated. In the process, the two of them ended up falling for each other but the truth about his lineage ended up disrupting their relationship and Dany who had eyed the Iron Throne since forever and had imagined herself ruling the seven kingdoms, was clearly not impressed by this revelation.
Although Jon professed to not reveal the truth to anyone apart from his family, Dany wasn’t convinced. Jon stood by his queen just like Tyrion but like him and after much convincing by the Lannister, he saw the truth and once again with the intention of doing things right, ended up killing Dany. His story ended with him being sent to the Night’s Watch as it was the only thing that could appease the Unsullied, the former allies of the Dragon Queen.
While the Night’s Watch was a step down for the rightful heir to the Iron Throne, Jon was clearly happy to be back at the one place which had accepted him as a boy. You could see the love and the respect the wildlings had for him and he was happy to be back at Castle Black, reunited with his direwolf Ghost and his comrade Tormund Giantsbane.
Sansa Stark who had to see her own father being betrayed and executed, who had to face a torrid time first at King’s Landing and then at Winterfell where she was subjected to worst treatment by Ramsay Bolton who raped her and subjected her to immense mental torture. But the “little bird” as Sandor “The Hound” Clegane called her did not give up. It was she who saved the day for the Starks in the Battle of the Bastards. She was the reason why Littlefinger and the Knights of the Vale arrived to save the day. She managed to outfox even Littlefinger the most cunning man in whole of Westeros. She wanted to be a queen as a child. She was supposed to marry Joffrey and rule the seven kingdoms. While she couldn’t become the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, she did become the Queen in the North in the end.
Let us now talk about the King’s Council of Brandon the Broken. Ser Davos Seaworth, the Onion Knight rose from the most humble origins. He grew up in the Flea Bottom, the largest slum in King’s Landing. He rose to become a smuggler and by helping Stannis Baratheon during the siege of the Storm’s End, he came into close association with the second of the Baratheon brothers. He paid his price for smuggling but was named the Hand. While he was imprisoned for questioning Melisandre, he was released and remained loyal to his king till the latter’s death. He later became Jon’s closest advisors and just like him, always tried to do the right thing. His story ended with him being named the Master of Ships to Brandon the Broken.
Nothing much is known about Bronn’s origins. A sellsword he was when he first made his appearance on the show but he rose to become a knight, played a big part in the Battle of the Blackwater, injured a dragon, and ultimately became the Lord of Highgarden. His story ended with him being named the Master of Coin.
No character in the series is probably as good, loyal, and honest as Brienne of Tarth. She had a difficult childhood like Tyrion. She was castigated for her looks. She was wrongfully accused of murdering Renly Baratheon and would have been killed had it not been for Lady Catelyn Stark’s intervention. She was captured by the Boltons along with Jaime Lannister. She was almost mercilessly raped by the Bolton soldiers but she was saved by the “Kingslayer” who ended up losing his hand to the butchery of the Boltons. She was set free and she kept her promise to Lady Stark after she became Sansa’s protector. She became the first woman in the history to be knighted and her story ends with her becoming the Lord Commander of the King’s Guard to Bran.
Samwell Tarly was castigated by his father for being a craven. He was packed off to the Night’s Watch where he was bullied by his “brothers” and by the likes of Ser Alliser Thorne. However, he found a friend in Jon and it was due to Sam’s quick thinking that Jon ended up being the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. Sam didn’t find place at the Tarly household after he went there along with Gilly and her child. He was once again castigated by his father and he went to Oldtown to become a maester at the Citadel. Things didn’t work out and he ended up going to Winterfell. It was he who along with Bran discovered Jon’s true lineage and revealed that to his best friend. He survived many dangers throughout the story and ended up being the Grand Maester under Bran.
George RR Martin had said in the past that A Song of Ice of Ice and Fire series would have a similar to The Lord of the Rings series. He had spoken about a bitter-sweet ending. ( https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/game-thrones-finale-george-rr-815208)
While we are yet to see that, the ending of Game of Thrones was in a way bitter-sweet. In LOTR, Aragorn becomes the King of Gondor whereas Frodo, having never fuly recovered from the stab wound that he received from the Nazgul, sails off with Gandalf and the elves and exits the realm. In GoT, there is a slight reversal of roles. Jon does not become the King of the Seven Kingdoms. He ends up at the Night’s Watch whereas Bran becomes the King of the Six Kingdoms.
For me the show has ended with a victory for the underdogs. It has ended with a victory for the cripples, bastards, and the broken things. While I have several complaints regarding the way this season turned out and I do believe that a lot of the criticism that has been laid out on the showrunners is justified. But I am kind of satisfied at how it all finished.
And now my watch has ended…….