Yesterday, I gave a number of examples of the ways that characters in GoT get punished for doing the honorable or noble thing. Today I'm going to talk about why the Season Four Finale fucks with all that.
I don't think I'm crazy to assume that most narratives are working towards a point. More often than not, an audience can guess what the end result of a story is going to be, but the process of how they get there is how the story makes its point. There was never any doubt that Luke would defeat the dark side, but the question of how is what makes the movie. It is for this reason that the season one death of Ned Stark came as such as a shock to people. You may have guessed that King Robert was destined to die, and you knew that the Lannisters would be the antagonists to Ned from the very first episode, but the audience was operating under the assumption that Ned was the hero. And heroes don't die in stories unless it's a noble sacrifice.
That's when we began to realize that the "point" of GoT wasn't "being good and noble", but instead being practical. As I outlined yesterday, there were several events leading up this belief of pragmatism over honor that led me to believe that this was the point the show was making. (But, I mean, who knows? Maybe Ned's death will serve some greater purpose by the time the show closes. Maybe getting killed at the Red Wedding was somehow the best choice for Rob. There's still a few seasons left.)
Again, the finale brings all of this into doubt. Not only that, but there were a few times where I became genuinely concerned for some of our main characters due to the choices they made. Daenerys decides to stay in Essos to be a good ruler instead of attempting to become just a successful conqueror, not because it was a prudent decision, but because it was a noble one. At that moment I was convinced that Dani had sealed her own doom, and that somehow this would come back around on her someday. We haven't seen the results of that yet, so who knows? I had a similar thought with Tyrion. Even though he loved Shae and wanted to be around her, he sacrificed his own feelings to keep her safe. And we all know how that turned out.
But then we get to this fight scene between Brienne and the Hound. I don't think I've misinterpreted their characters by suggested that the Hound is prudence and selfishness personified, and Brienne is primarily defined by her duties. As soon as Brienne stumbles upon the two, I knew she was dead. I just knew it. And yet...here we are.
There's a few other choices done here that may also signal that the show is heading in a more helpful direction. Jon Snow's efforts to save Mans were less than self-serving, as well as the decision to keep Thormund alive. These two can be of little use to the Wall at this point, and are only an accident waiting to happen. But perhaps, after seeing Brienne survive a bout with The Hound, the point of the show is evolving in a more hopeful direction.