Monday, November 25, 2019

Another "Bittersweet" Alternate Ending for GAME OF THRONES

The other day I had another idea for a "bittersweet" (per George RR Martin's stated plan) ending for the Game of Thrones television series that draws on the scripts of Alice Shipwise. In one of her "Battle of Winterfell" episodes, she depicts the Northerners--who had earlier been skeptical of Danaerys Targaryen due to her foreignness--converting hard-core for her after seeing the dragons in action against the White Walkers. This seems a lot more realistic than what happens in the actual show where the Northerners hail Jon Snow as "a madman...OR A KING" for riding a dragon, much to the ignored Danaerys' irritation.

(Seriously, she's been doing this for years and much more effectively, yet Jon who I don't think was very successful at commanding Rhaegal in battle is the one getting all the glory. Yes, they know him better than her, but still.)

Things broadly follow the television series until the attack on King's Landing. The city begins ringing its bells in surrender, but the Lannister die-hards continue firing on Danaerys from the Red Keep. Danaerys goes full dracarys on the Red Keep itself (not on the hundreds of thousands of non-combatants trying to surrender), only to accidentally trigger the wildfire stashes her father Aerys had stashed throughout the city. This leads to King's Landing going up like in the show, only with Danaerys watching in horror from atop Drogon as Jon, Grey Worm, Arya, etc. flee the city in a panic rather than her gratuitously murdering hundreds of thousand of helpless civilians and then making a megalomaniac speech about conquering the world afterward.

(I came up with a similar scenario around the time of the series finale and Twitterati Jacob Budz came up with a more detailed version and created a meme for it, which you can see here. Or just see below.)

Danaerys and her allies come together afterward and realize they have a massive mess on their hands. Not only do they have an enormous humanitarian crisis to deal with, but word is rapidly spreading in the South of the "Mad Queen" who murdered King's Landing, on top of the xenophobic nonsense Cersei had already been spreading earlier. Even though they all know that this isn't what happened, what matters is what people will believe. Danaerys isn't going to be accepted as a liberator from the White Walkers (most of Westerosi doubt they actually exist) or Cersei "I blew up the equivalent of the Vatican" Lannister. She will have to conquer most of Westeros with fire and blood. Although earlier in the series she'd made all sorts of threats to do exactly that (as people who defended her evil turn at the end of the series love to point out), seeing firsthand what this will entail on top of the losses she'd taken earlier (both personally and in dead soldiers) have soured her on the whole proposition. Bonus points if it turns out that, as Jon Snow pointed out earlier in the series, that witch wasn't a reliable source and Danaerys is pregnant with Jon's child.

(This is perhaps where Bran can come in, as Danaerys might not know she's pregnant at this point. This is another idea I borrowed from Ms. Shipwise, as it might make Jon agree to a political marriage even if he finds the idea of sleeping with his aunt gross.)

So what ends up happening is that Tyrion Lannister, who is once described as standing "as tall as a king" despite his dwarfism, ends up succeeding his sister Cersei as the king of everything south of the Neck. Jon retains his title as King in the North with Danaerys--whom the Northerners now adore even though people in the South view her as a monster--as his queen. To secure peace between the now-sundered halves of Westeros, Sansa's marriage to Tyrion is re-instituted.

(EDIT: A friend pointed out this could potentially undo Sansa's character development from a prince-obsessed bimbo into Littlefinger 2.0. This would need to be handled carefully--perhaps it's her idea, to immediately terminate the war rather than risk the rise of an anti-Targaryen leader in the South? The fact she and Tyrion both worship the Seven while Jon follows the Old Gods and Danaerys is irreligious might be helpful in heading off a Faith-inspired holy war against the pagan and the atheist. You could have Jon find it horrifying but ultimately agree to it.)

Like my scenarios earlier, this would meet Martin's goal of a "bittersweet" ending:

*The war ends with the victory of good over both supernatural and human evil, but enormous numbers of innocent people die anyway. Shades of Hiroshima.

*Danaerys wins the war but loses the peace purely by accident (as opposed to the contrived "everything goes wrong and she goes crazy" scenario we got in the show) due to other people's ignorance and bigotry. She gets to marry the man she honest-to-God loves, but it's a shotgun marriage with Jon's enthusiasm rather lacking given the revelation she's actually his biological aunt. Danaerys might not be bothered by the incest part, but she only has one-eighth (two-eighths if Yara Greyjoy and the Iron Islands come along) of what she sailed west to fight for--and it's the poorest and most backward section too. And although the fact she brings the world's only living dragon with her and Jon is a fairly mild personality means she's not going to be mistreated and will realistically have a large say in things, she's still a consort to a less-talented man rather than ruling queen.

*Although Sansa does get her childhood wish to be queen, it's to a man that, although she trusted him enough to spill the beans about Jon being a Targaryen and respected him due to his unwillingness to consummate their forced marriage, she has no romantic feelings or even physical attraction to whatsoever. And who is probably twice her age to boot. Of course, Tyrion does respect her intelligence and this would likely be some kind of Rule of Two situation rather than some kind of "unattractive nerd power fantasy," but still.

(My original idea featured Sansa remaining in the North, which means a future of catfighting with Danaerys, but this wouldn't be much fun either and it would give her even less opportunity to show off her intelligence and political savvy.)

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