“Game of Thrones” takes wing

The fantasy series' rousing, spectacular finale will be remembered as the moment HBO got its mojo back

Topics: Game of Thrones, Television,

"Game of Thrones" takes wingSansa Stark (Sophie Turner, second from left) and Prince Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson, right) in "Game of Thrones."

[Spoiler alert: If you haven't watched the Season 1 finale of "Game of Thrones," stop reading now.]

“One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it,” Anton Chekhov wrote in 1889.  The same is true of dragon’s eggs.

They were featured in the pilot episode of “Game of Thrones.” Danerys Targaryen has been carrying them around ever since, occasionally taking them out and pondering them but always setting them aside for later. In the Season 1 finale, titled “Blood and Fire,” she finally used them, piling them on a funeral pyre for her husband, Khal Drogo, setting it ablaze, then walking into the flames herself. When her right hand Ser Jorah Mormont discovered her the next morning, she was the only recognizable figure in a pile of smoking shards. The flames had burned off all her clothes. There were three newborn dragons clinging to her, one of them strategically posed over her pubis so that she evoked this image of Aphrodite. Scenes like this put the lie to the canard that “Game of Thrones” is a woman-hating series. Its women are socially inferior (by virtue of the society they live in) but in many ways dramatically superior to, and more interesting than, the men. Never was this more clear than in the last scene of “Blood and Fire,” which attained an eerie, mesmerizing, almost mythological power. 

You Might Also Like

That closeup of Daenerys with the baby dragon on her shoulder — stretching out its wings and letting out a strangled yawp — was not just a dramatically pivotal moment in the TV series; it may be looked back on as the moment when HBO, four long years and many dramatically shaky series after the end of “The Sopranos,” finally got its mojo back. The rest of the hour was altogether extraordinary — expertly structured by series creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, directed by Alan Taylor with the right balance of terseness and sweep, and filled with moments that were genuinely powerful because they represented the culmination of a meticulous, season long buildup: a cathartic release of feeling.

That literally and figuratively vertigo-inducing moment on the wooden bridge, with the traumatized Sansa Stark thinking about grabbing her sadistic rotter of a husband, Prince Joffrey Baratheon, and leaping into the abyss; the “Monkey’s Paw” moment when Daeneyrs realizes she’s given up her child to the witch Mirri Maz Dur in exchange for her beloved Khal Drogo living on in a vegetative state; that sobering monologue by the witch, wherein she reminds Daenerys, and by extension us, that just because a royal thinks she’s all-powerful and that world revolves around her doesn’t make it so; Daenerys euthanizing Drogo with a pillow, which for me was an exquisitely painful image, in some ways harder to take than Ned Stark’s death; Maester Pycelle feeding what sounded like totally unreliable information to Roz the Whore and revealing himself to be a lot more spry, and certainly more crafty, than his doddering facade made it seem; Lady Catelyn Stark taking a rock to the face of Jaime Lannister, and Jaime responding with statements that revealed the depth of his self-loathing as well as his treachery; Samwell Tarly and company talking Jon Snow out of the woods and back to The Wall to finish his sworn duty and prepare for an even greater, more terrifying war; the conversation between the despised “half-man” Tyrion Lannister and his glowering dad, Tywin, that ends with Tywin admitting he’s let himself be boxed into a corner, and deciding to send Tyrion to serve as Joffrey’s right hand because “You are my son”: these were all splendidly human moments that summoned deep emotion the hard way, by laying the proper groundwork and not cheating the audience in any way, for any reason.

Bottom line: This was the best first season of a cable series, and surely the best first season finale, since “Deadwood” back in 2004. Each scene and moment seemed to have been carved out of wood, and they all tied up old business while setting the stage for new business. Season 2 is scheduled for April, 2012. Hurry up, spring.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Martyna Blaszczyk/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 1

    Pond de l'Archeveche - hundreds thousands of padlocks locked to a bridge by random couples, as a symbol of their eternal love. After another iconic Pont des Arts bridge was cleared of the padlocks in 2010 (as a safety measure), people started to place their love symbols on this one. Today both of the bridges are full of love locks again.

    Anders Andersson/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 2

    A bird's view of tulip fields near Voorhout in the Netherlands, photographed with a drone in April 2015.

    Aashit Desai/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 3

    Angalamman Festival is celebrated every year in a small town called Kaveripattinam in Tamil Nadu. Devotees, numbering in tens of thousands, converge in this town the day after Maha Shivratri to worship the deity Angalamman, meaning 'The Guardian God'. During the festival some of the worshippers paint their faces that personifies Goddess Kali. Other indulge in the ritual of piercing iron rods throughout their cheeks.

    Allan Gichigi/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 4

    Kit Mikai is a natural rock formation about 40m high found in Western Kenya. She goes up the rocks regularly to meditate. Kit Mikai, Kenya

    Chris Ludlow/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 5

    On a weekend trip to buffalo from Toronto we made a pit stop at Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. I took this shot with my nexus 5 smartphone. I was randomly shooting the falls themselves from different viewpoints when I happened to get a pretty lucky and interesting shot of this lone seagull on patrol over the falls. I didn't even realize I had captured it in the shot until I went back through the photos a few days later

    Jassen T./National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 6

    Incredibly beautiful and extremely remote. Koehn Lake, Mojave Desert, California. Aerial Image.

    Howard Singleton/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 7

    Lucky timing! The oxpecker was originally sitting on hippo's head. I could see the hippo was going into a huge yawn (threat display?) and the oxpecker had to vacate it's perch. When I snapped the pic, the oxpecker appeared on the verge of being inhaled and was perfectly positioned between the massive gaping jaws of the hippo. The oxpecker also appears to be screeching in terror and back-pedaling to avoid being a snack!

    Abrar Mohsin/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 8

    The Yetis of Nepal - The Aghoris as they are called are marked by colorful body paint and clothes

    Madeline Crowley/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 9

    Taken from a zodiac raft on a painfully cold, rainy day

    Ian Bird/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 10

    This wave is situated right near the CBD of Sydney. Some describe it as the most dangerous wave in Australia, due to it breaking on barnacle covered rocks only a few feet deep and only ten metres from the cliff face. If you fall off you could find yourself in a life and death situation. This photo was taken 300 feet directly above the wave from a helicopter, just as the surfer is pulling into the lip of the barrel.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>