The Most Important Lesson from “Game of Thrones”: The Power of Storytelling

By Alexandra V. Maragha

Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 6: “The Iron Throne”

*Spoiler Alert*
The end of an era has come. After eight seasons and 10 years, Game of Thrones has finished leaving fans and the world with a different outlook than when it started. For some, positive and for others, incomplete. Despite supporting Bran as the new king, or not, or the dis-satisfaction of Daenerys Targaryen or Jon Snow not taking the Iron Throne, the last episode did provide one lesson posed as a question; “Who has the best story”.

As Tyrion Lannister, the caretaker and host of the series emerges from being captive and approaches this new council that is seated before him, the discussion of “what’s next” comes about. Tyrion, the wise, the lived, and most experienced in politics sets a tone to give one of the most profound moments in the series. He sets in motion a call to determine the future and next ruler of Westeros based on who has the best story.

Ultimately, this question was backed with support for Bran, the boy who fell, became the Three-Eyed Raven, and has all the history of life within him, ushering in a new era of “elected” rulers. But it is this question that supports the most important element to politics, no matter a monarchy, dictatorship, democracy or otherwise; who has the best story.

Rhetoric by one definition is “language designed to have a persuasive or impressive effect on its audience, but often regarded as lacking in sincerity or meaningful content.” Another includes “the art of making persuasive speeches”. The definition of story is, “a narrative, either true or fictitious, in prose or verse, designed to interest, amuse, or instruct the hearer or reader; tale.” Both designed to have an overall “effect” no matter the actual content.

The intentions behind the events depicted in the season finale have yet to be fully explained by the writers, however, the overall message that can be drawn from this episode and the series is the idea of storytelling. Tyrion reminded viewers of this main point through the elements that truly keep order in any realm; rhetoric, politics, and storytelling. Bran to be king does not imply Bran himself will boast and tell his own story to amuse and rule the realm, but instead, the effect of Bran’s story is what will captivate the realm and keep order.

Storytelling and the communal effect it has is what makes or breaks order. This was proven again through Jon Snow. The story that is known to him and a few others is that he is really Aegon Targaryen, the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. Again, he himself did not tell his own story, to anyone except Daenerys, motivated by love. It was instead the threat of his story being told by others that set the wheel in motion for destruction, corruption, politics and human survival, leaving Jon himself to kill Daenerys to bring order to the realm. The story of his identity and mutual love not only grants him access to be alone with Daenerys but also be the one to deliver justice as the true heir of the realm for the destruction she caused. For Jon to now claim the throne would simply be redundant and be one Targaryen in place of another, with generations to come to rule, thus, the wheel would continue. This is the same for Tyrion Lannister, Arya or Sansa Stark, for whom the rule of such houses would be a repeat of “wheel” history.

Bran the Broken, is one who does not tell the story of others, nor does he tell his own story, and this is how the wheel that Daenerys thought she was breaking, really became broken. The story of Bran is not tied to corruption, politics, self-indulgence, nor arrogance. He is not a character that showed any true desires, but simply, though sometimes snide real comments, only reflected the truth of real events. His story is simply that he does not essentially have one. Although prominent and a figure, he does not have a story of belonging to a house, nor really the average abilities of humankind. He is his own.

This is the story that writers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss told. Game of Thrones is about those who are that of their own. Yes, the previous seasons included everything that motivates and captures for a juicy drama with jealousy, ambitions, vengeance, violence, and sex. But ultimately it is the story of those who maintained their own identities and stayed true to themselves who succeeded.

“The misfits of Westeros” forged on with Tyrion as Hand of the Kind, an “imp” and seen useless through the series was the ultimate storyteller. Jon Snow, ultimately staying a bastard, stayed true to his own desires and loyalty to the north and did not let his bloodline corrupt his ability to judge right and wrong. Sansa Stark, “the little dove”, stayed true to defending her home of Winterfell to which she always tried to return to and protect and she earned her crown out of the interest of her people to be independent. Arya Stark, “the girl who would never be a lady” remained free heading her own adventure to the end of the world. The others to join Tyrion in King’s Landing as part of Bran’s new small council, despite being the oddest bunch, filled those seats as being true to themselves in their own ways. Brienne of Tarth, a physically large woman and first female knight, stayed true to her honor and promises, despite any doubts or ridicule from her opponents. Samwell Tarly, “the soft soul of wisdom”, struggled through the series to assert himself as a man of his own right through fighting or defense, but persevered through his educated mind. Ser Davos Seaworth established his station in the service of Stannis Baratheon by smuggling on the seas and rose to the level of having a vote for the new king, becoming Master of Ships. Last of the small council is Lord Bronn, a brothel-hungry hitman out for himself but becomes, among his other negotiated titles, Master of Coin for the realm. He, although out for himself, did keep his word to Tyrion that he would not sell out to kill Tyrion without negotiating with him first. He also makes it clear that houses and kings are only built from corruption, which is why he is out for himself and his own survival because no one else will be. These otherwise, “misfits” not likely according to monarchy, wealth, power, and bloodlines would never rise to such stations, have because of their stories that have broken “the wheel”.

Despite the desire as viewers to see an explosive, powerful, and blockbuster ending of vengeance, sex, kings, queens, and power manifested at its cinematic best, the true lesson of Game of Thrones is that of storytelling. This is the story told that those who stayed true to themselves and in their own ways, uncorrupt from “the wheel” of power, politics, rhetoric, and self-interest do win. The lesson that Game of Thrones has exemplified is the power of storytelling is that which leaves us empowered, with power, or in power and it is up to us how to use it.