Over the last two weeks I’ve lost two friends. My superb social media guru, Evelyn Helminen, changed jobs, and the move put too many demands on her time to continue to provide the great graphics you’ve all come to expect and enjoy. I’ll do the best I can.
And I lost Daenerys Targaryen. I invested seven years engaged in her development and was shocked to find she morphed from Heroine to Hitler. Or perhaps Liberator to Lucifer is more apt given her fall. Okay, I’m sure all GOT fans have read enough critiques, even if they’re not writers, to get the concept of the arc of a character and the arc of a story. Basically, shit happens and characters adapt and develop. Most characters have deficiencies or flaws. Remember Oedipus and the concept of the fatal flaw from high school. A lot of bad things happened to Daenerys and she may have had a rogue gene or two, but for seven years she pursued her vision of a government free of tyranny. I think many of us were rooting for her.
All of my novels are set within a philosophical context. Sun Valley Moon Mountains was about epistemology. How we come to know things. Are they outside of us or inside of our minds or something else? The Girl from Ipanema and the forthcoming Kutusov’s Dream explore ethics. And this is why I cared so much about Daenerys. She was the most Metamoral person in the series. Her ethical perspective was on a large scale, and while at times individuals were treated ruthlessly, her aim was always the greatest good for the greatest number, a.k.a. Utilitarianism. It is almost a required choice for a leader. As Tyrion said, the people she crucified, torched and executed were evil.
Contrast with Jon Snow. His morality was deeply personal. One on one. He was, ethically, a Kantian. Kant proposed the Categorical Imperative. It asserted that the only valid moral principles were those that are universalizable (I know, it’s not a word; it is now). Problem is there are always exceptions; so the Categorical Imperative has been most closely summarized as the ‘Golden Rule’. Nice for a Mother Theresa but not a ruler. In fact in his first stab (pun) at a leadership role he got himself murdered. Trust must be carefully conferred as a sovereign.
But as a writer, disregarding my own prejudice, the storyline was deeply flawed. When you invite an audience to invest themselves in a character or characters be careful about burning their capital. Look, I believe good people have to die in a story, especially a fantasy, or you’ve simply written a script for a cartoon or a Hallmark movie (BTW I love Hallmark; at the end everyone is happy!). And there are main characters that die. It happens to Robert Jordan in Hemingway’s ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’. But the guy was fighting a war! Ahab buys it, and he wasn’t all bad. But in those cases we saw it coming. Or at least the possibility. In GOT’s last episode the only hints were in the rear view mirror and shown dimly. Why did Varys decide to throw in with Jon Snow. What had he seen of Daenerys that so disturbed him? As I said above, Snow is the last guy you’d want running the show. And okay, she had been ruthless. And she wasn’t exactly received with open arms in the North, but when had she ever been fully embraced? And she had the gene. But no real serious clue. Maybe if Jon Snow had opened his mouth and talked with her about their own genetic tie or about the coming attack on King’s Landing, which Tyrion did to anyone that would listen, maybe we would have been able to accept the mass slaughter we saw.
Bottom line you don’t create a believable arc then have the character simply plummet out of the sky and into the abyss. Maybe the show’s creator’s and Martin liked the concept. Maybe I’d understand Daenerys better if I’d read the books. However the guy hasn’t finished the series and I’m not about to waste that much time if he CAN’T finish. It’s not a crime against humanity if he fails to finish. It happens to writers. Gogol burned both attempts at volume II of Dead Souls. Martin also, I understand, didn’t want the almost required battle between Good and Evil with Good triumphant in High Fantasy. I don’t write ‘high fantasy’ but his twist is intriguing. However, I could have written half a dozen endings that would have accomplished that and still maintained the integrity of the protagonists.
Bottom line the storyline was not credible and it was a cheat. It was thievery. GOT stole seven years of emotional involvement on my part. Bad. The only parallel I can think of is rooting for Lance Armstrong for seven long and brilliant years only to find myself cheated emotionally and robbed of my time.
Postscript: the above was written after Episode 5. I suppose in a way Daenerys got what she wanted. The Wheel was Broken. But we simply went from autocracy to oligarchy. The only person who got what she had been after all along was Sansa. She went to King’s Landing in the beginning wanting to be a Princess and a Queen. She wore Cersei’s smirk well.