In the time between this writing and the airing of the Game of Thrones finale, I’ve had ample opportunity to argue with several people, and repeatedly so, about the conclusion of “Mother’s Mercy” and what it might possibly entail for the characters. Now, I love a good argument about narrative and there are few things in life I enjoy more than discussing Thrones, but unfortunately, all these arguments have almost completely distracted from what was not only a brilliantly executed and exquisitely played final sequence, but also a very strong episode featuring some of the best work of the series so far, albeit along side some more problematic material. Regardless, I left this finale with more to chew on as a viewer and consumer of the series than with almost any other episode. Every sequence held significance either for character, plot, Game of Thrones as a series in the grand scheme of television and the larger culture, or in a few cases, potentially all three.
There were many striking aspects of the opening section featuring Stannis, the first of which was Melisandre’s reaction to the news of mass desertion from the ranks of Stannis’s host in the wake of Shireen’s ritual execution. The look of utter surprise and deflation of the reliably stoic Melisandre’s face was truly one of the great shocks of the series for me. We know from her inner monologue in her POV chapters of the books and from textual evidence in either media that Melisandre “believes” in R’hllor, in a self-serving way at the very least, but her reaction to the news of desertion suggests that she possessed genuine faith either in R’hllor as a positive agent unto his/itself, her own abilities to affect outcomes in his/it’s name, or both. We also know from the books that Melisandre is a charlatan, at least to some extent, which is why I was so taken aback by her reaction to what was, at least from a human-behavioral perspective, a completely predictable development.
One thing I’ve discovered in the course of my myriad arguments with people about the Jon Snow situation is that I apparently consume the franchise text and view the universe therein from a more agnostic perspective than some other fans. There are, to be sure, phenomena in the the Ice and Fireverse that are unexplainable by our own laws of physics. I myself, however, do not take this to mean that “magic is real” or that there is a god or gods who exit as intelligent and active supernatural agents directly influencing events in the world of the narrative. I cannot adequately explain many of the seemingly supernatural or more fantastical events of the series, but neither can any of the characters. Even the characters who proclaim to marshal magical powers such as Thoros of Myr or Melisandre have no explanation for these displays beyond simply deferring credit to R’hllor, which from a skeptical and practical standpoint, is a total copout. In short, I don’t believe magic in general or “the magic” in A Song of Ice and Fire is real. The look on Melisandre’s face upon hearing the news of desertion strongly suggests that she does. Either that, or she’s arrogant to a point of believing that she can unconditionally influence a large group of autonomous human beings to blindly follow a mad regime of “blood magic” and child sacrifice to whatever end she fancies through displays of such designed to terrorize potential dissenters. Either way, Melisandre has wisely determined that Stannis Baratheon is not her ticket to whatever her true end may be.
Equally effective televisually though far less surprising than Melisandre’s reaction to the news of mass desertion was Stannis’s reaction to the same information. Stannis’s realization through a crescendo of bad news including the desertion of his troops, the suicide of his wife, and the abandonment of his priestess, shows once again how exceptional an actor Stephen Dillane is and what a perfect choice he was for this role. The look on his face reacting to each successive development perfectly communicated that he knew he had already lost. Yet, in true Stannis form and as he assured Davos that he would do, he marched forward to certain defeat.
The ensuing march on Winterfell was a very well constructed sequence with a great bit of editing. For a show that has always favored “skipping” battles for reasons budgetary and otherwise, the way in which they transitioned from the wide shot of the Bolton forces converging on Stannis’s vastly outnumbered host to the aftermath of the carnage was a very effective bit of editing and their most artful use of the aforementioned “skipping” technique thus far.
Staying with the concept of skipping and editing, when they cut away before Brienne’s blade made contact with Stannis, I honestly thought something had gone wrong with my cable, the broadcast, or the actual cut of the episode HBO was exhibiting. If this were any other series or film, I’d be absolutely certain that Stannis was dead, but unless I’m very much mistaken, Game of Thrones has never before cut away from an execution this conclusively (by that I mean, that we never returned to the scene). I honestly don’t know what to make of this moment; Game of Thrones is not a series for cliffhangers or cheap tricks, so I’m inclined to think that Stannis is indeed dead, but after being conditioned to seeing the blood flow, so to speak, over forty-nine episodes worth of content, this seemed an odd occasion to break with that tendency.
Despite the previous comment about the lack of cliffhangers on Game of Thrones, that seems to be exactly what they’ve given us with Sansa and Theon, whom I sincerely hope are not dead, for the sake of the series. For one, that would be an extremely boring and creatively lazy death for major characters. Secondly, I have to believe it’s not too late for the showrunners to resuscitate Sansa’s storyline, which they’ve thoroughly mutilated after elevating it so in the previous season. What they’ve done with Sansa’s arch is by far the most unfortunate development of this season and a misstep I find almost unexplainable. For her to go through so much growth in Season 4 only to see her become a cliched “damsel in distress” used as a narrative tool to assist a male character (Theon) in seeking redemption through her own victimization is disappointing on several levels. Although there’s no good reason to, even putting aside the gender politics of how Sansa’s character was handled this season, it’s a tremendous and almost inexplicable narrative slip-up. It’s as if the writers simply grew tired of writing and growing her character and decided to put her on the back burner without actually cutting her from proceedings like they did with Bran and the Greyjoys other than Theon, frankly. Despite all this, Sophie Turner continued to deliver some fine work, albeit in service of a far weaker storyline than she’s had in the past.
Coming in at a close second for most-bungled storyline of the season, however, is the Dorne material. This is incredibly disappointing considering how rich the Dornish material and characters are in the books and the previous season, how engaging and pivotal Jaime is as a character, and most notably, how absolutely spectacular the Andalusian locations used for Dorne were on screen. As a fan, an analyst of content, and as a writer, I have to believe that the Dornish material is redeemable, but I confess to having a nagging fear that the Sand Snakes, whom I loved so much in the books, may well become the “Nikki and Paulo” of Game of Thrones.
One of the few bright spots of the Dornish fiasco was the lovely and touching scene between Jaime and Myrcella, which of course turned tragic as these scenes so often do in this narrative. Jaime’s relationship to his children is of great interest to me and in my opinion encapsulates so much of his character. He clearly loves his children as a father, but is, of course, not publicly allowed to behave or function as their father and is obliged to basically pose as their uncle, though he is, actually, their uncle as well as their father. The one “fatherly” role he can perform explicitly is that of protector, given his position in the Kingsguard. Ironically, though, Jaime has now fundamentally failed to protect two of his children from assassination, a failure on his part in his capacity as father, uncle, and bodyguard.
Speaking of protection or the lack thereof, Dany now finds herself in a position she’s never been in before in her life; being completely alone and exposed, a point which was hit home by the great footage of Dany being encircled by the Khalasar. To be sure, Dany has been, at various points in her life, a victim, prisoner, and has made bold and life-risking decisions in her capacity as a leader, but she’s has done so, all along, under physical protection. Of course, these “protectors” in some cases, notably Viserys and Drogo early in their marriage, were physically, sexually, and emotionally abusive at various points and were perhaps more accurately her captors rather than “protectors” in a more genuine sense, but she was, despite all this, being shielded or sheltered from the world at large. She’s never been an independent actor forced to make decisions, find her own food, or be generally resourceful in any real way. This is why what ever fate awaits her in the upcoming content will be a truly crucial test.
The scene in Dany’s de facto throne room in the Meereenese pyramid reminded me of those sequences that Mad Men would have every once and awhile where Draper came up with some brilliant plan to maintain their way of doing business in the face of a merger or other threat to their enterprise and the principals had to run around maneuvering and calling clients in the middle of the night in order to preserve the agency. I always found those Mad Men sequences to be exceedingly charming and enjoyable, as I did this one here. In the hands of lesser writers or in the absence of a central character as clever and engaging as Tyrion, this scene could have easily been a chore used perfunctorily to set up Season 6. What we got though, in true Game of Thrones fashion, was a strong scene highlighted by a classic and hilarious Tyrion moment when Missandei corrects his shaky Valyrian. Dinklage’s reaction as he watches his big show-off moment go down in proverbial flames was funny and endearing in the way that he so’s good at making look effortless. Additionally, the prospect of seeing Tyrion attempt to run another government with Varys by his side is thrilling to say the least; I almost wish they would get their own spin-off.
Given the way Arya’s season concluded, I think Weiss and Benioff did an excellent job not only in their decision to depart from the books, but in the way they did it. Arya is one of the most independent characters in the series, both in her spirit and from a functional, practical standpoint. Despite that, she is voluntarily attempting to join an organization, one that requires her to relinquish several aspects of her independence and forgo several of the key motivations and aspects of her past. Instead, she diverts from her assigned task in pursuit of the personal revenge she so greatly desires. She succeeds in exacting her vengeance, but is subsequently punished by the institution she was seeking to join, not only with the life of the man with Jaqen H’Agar’s face, but seemingly, with her sight, at least temporarily as it was in the books.
It’s notable how the toll exacted from Arya for her transgression, her eyesight, mirrored a key component of her attack on Meryn Trant, who’s eyes she stabbed repeatedly in one of the most graphically gruesome scenes of the entire series. Arya is so easy to root for and inspires so much affection in many of us that it’s sometimes easy to forget how tragic her story is. Arya is, to be crude, undeniably a badass, but she’s still at root a child who’s suffered tremendous trauma and forced down an extremely dark path that is in many ways a result of her incredible ability to survive. She possesses strengths of character honed through horrific experience that someone her age shouldn’t have to exercise and the series does an excellent job of showing the costs associated with those qualities.
In a Game of Thrones season notable for its departures from the published books and for raising the bar they had set for themselves for gross inhumanity on the part of some of the characters, Cersei’s so-called “walk of atonement” stands out as a clear example of the latter category while being the complete opposite of the former. To the best of my memory, this scenario played out and was constructed basically according to the letter of A Dance With Dragons, which was not only a wise decision on the part of the Game of Thrones team, but also a risky decision they should be commended for making.
The “walk of atonement” sequence shares a direct link with the Dany scenario and fits into a larger current running throughout the episode about how physical protection relates to the exercise of power. All leaders, but especially women in a universe such as in Game of Thrones, face tremendous physical threat because of their position, notoriety, visibility, and the nature of power dynamics, which is such figures tend to employ a protective detail of one kind or another, usually in the form of bodyguards. Cersei and Dany’s situations both display how the exercise of power is compromised when that protective regime either breaks down or is taken out of the equation in one way or another.
Cersei especially, being physically vulnerable when stripped of the trappings of power, both physical and symbolic, tends to operate with a certain bunker or fortress mentality, enabling her to feel secure enough in her person to demonstrate and exercise her power as brazenly as she is known to do. She took that sense of security for granted and stepped out of her fortress and zone of protection, exposing her to hostile elements outside of her control. Her imprisonment by the Faith compromised her physical security, therefore reducing her ability to exercise her power and authority. Her punishment and walk are demonstrations of how tenuous her political and symbolic power really were. This is why she continually looked to the Red Keep and needed to get there so desperately; it’s not only a symbol of her power but one of the very physical structures that enables or empowers her to exercise that power in the first place.
By exposing her to the mob free of her clothing and hair against her will, the High Sparrow is depriving her not only of the actual physical protection provided by clothing, but of the symbolic protection and projection of power offered by clothing and other articles associated with her regal status. In other words, the High Sparrow is punitively humanizing Cersei before the masses in the most abusive way possible. She’s brought down to the level of any naked and humiliated woman in Westeros, whose lives, it has been well established, are worth nothing in this society apart from what they provide or can provide (male airs) practically and symbolically.
In my own assessment, Cersei’s walk as written in A Dance With Dragons is undoubtedly one of the hallmarks of George R.R. Martin’s writing. I came away from that part of the book thinking that there was really only one way to shoot this sequence for the screen in order to properly convey what needed to be conveyed and I’m pleased to say that I believe they nailed it. The sequence for television was well interpreted, masterfully constructed, and subsequently horrifying, infuriating, and a rather harrowing viewing experience.
The public shaming and humiliation of anyone by a religious authority before and for the provocation of an angry mob in the manner depicted amounts to nothing short of a collective sexual assault. This came across quite clearly, to the great credit of the filmmakers. A series with less emotional honesty and creative freedom might have shied away from some of the uglier aspects of this scenario or compromised on some of the incredibly delicate, hazardous, and even potentially traumatic issues related to the logistics of shooting such a complicated and crucial sequence featuring hundreds of extras and a fully nude woman over a period of several days.
All involved deserve plaudits, but none more so than Lena Headey’s body double Rebecca Van Cleave. I’m not sure that the amount of bravery it takes for any woman to voluntarily walk the streets of Dubrovnik before hundreds of extras jeering and throwing things at her over a period of days while fully nude can be overestimated, much less doing so with the knowledge that in the minds of viewers, one’s face will never be connected to the very work of art being undertaken at such emotional and physical risk to herself. Similarly for Lena Headey, who, while not appearing fully nude (which I, to be very clear, am in no way criticizing her for, creatively or otherwise), was still in character living the scene and being subject to the crowd and all the sequence entailed. This sequence was an incredible achievement in filmmaking and completely emblematic of everything unique and laudable about Game of Thrones in its willingness and ability to mine the depths of human ugliness and exhibit it, unflinchingly and without apology.
Staying on the subject of human ugliness, we’ve come, at long last, to Jon Snow and that retched hive of scum and villainy called the Night’s Watch. In my opinion, A Dance With Dragons contains the strongest Jon Snow material of any of the books, so I had fairly high expectations for this season and I was not disappointed. The Jon stuff in Season 5 has been spectacular from start to finish, from the excellent writing to Kit Harington delivering his best work of the series across these last ten episodes and most especially in the concluding sequence.
The moment preceding his assassination featuring Jon somberly reading dispatches, alone and silent, was truly exquisite. The lighting, which is consistently impressive in the Castle Black interiors, was especially superb and provided tone for what I think was one of the saddest moments of the series. The look of utter resignation on Kit Harington’s face was absolutely heartbreaking. There’s a pattern with the Stark man that has run through the entire series, starting with Ned, Robb, and now Jon. They’re all three somewhat reluctant leaders called upon to lead in times of crisis with a strong sense of duty. It almost seems to be their inheritance. All the same, all three of these men stayed consistent in their principles knowing full well how dire the consequences might have been for themselves and those they loved and paid for it with their lives. Whatever the details of Jon’s biological parentage, he is undoubtedly a Stark in any genuine sense, and his place there alongside his brother and his father is so tragically cemented in his betrayal and assassination.
The assassination sequence itself was devastating and ultra-dramatic without being over the top or soapy. Since reading A Dance With Dragons, I’ve been looking forward to this moment with a mix of anticipation and dread. I was not spared from having to watch one of my favorite characters so tragically betrayed and brutally murdered, nor was I disappointed as a viewer with the spectacle of the event. Jon’s assassination was also given extra dramatic weight in the television adaptation not only because of the fact that here, unlike in the books, Sam requests to be sent south with Gilly and the baby, not vice versa as in the books, but also that Davos and Melisandre arrived at the Wall before it happened. Which brings me, finally, to all those arguments I’ve been getting into.
In pure, categorical, generic terms A Song of Ice and Fire is, of course, a Fantasy series, with several of the tropes one is accustomed to finding in that genre including mystical creatures, supernatural phenomena, and “magic,” for lack of a better term. It is not, however, merely a “fantasy” series in any reductionist sense; its (relative) realism, moral ambiguity, cynicism, emotional honesty, grounding in lived reality, and, not unimportantly, the unreliable narrative perspectives of the novels all place A Song of Ice and Fire in territory traditionally (if not stereotypically) reserved for other more “lofty” literary and artistic traditions.
In no way am I trying to denigrate the Fantasy genre here, but I don’t believe I’m the only consumer who thinks it inappropriate, incomplete, and inaccurate to refer to Ice and Fire or Game of Thrones merely as Fantasy. Rather, A Song of Ice and Fire is, in my assessment, primarily a human narrative. In other words, “it’s fantasy” is not an adequate explanation for narrative developments in this series. I acknowledged earlier, that what we might call “magic” is certainly a presence in this narrative universe, but I don’t think that at its core, the “magic” or unexplainable events in Ice and Fire have any real significance unto themselves. I’m only interested in what it means for characters, and I feel the same about any work of quality, whatever the genre.
My philosophy of narrative in general, is that everything structural in a text, including plot, genre, setting, etc., are basically tools in the service of the project of exploring character. Even in something like the Harry Potter series where “magic” is arguably somewhat determinate to the series and the events therein, the stories aren’t about magic, they’re about Harry coming of age. One could tell essentially the same story substituting Hogwarts for a soccer academy or performing arts school; the essential feature of the narrative is about a young man learning to come into his adulthood and forming an identity for himself. I never found myself caring how well Harry mastered spells apart from how it affected his character and identity.
Similarly, A Song of Ice and Fire is an epic saga of a bloody and complicated political struggle that focuses on power relations and identity. Again, I acknowledge that unexplainable, supernatural, or “magical” phenomena exist in the narrative universe of Ice and Fire, but even when these phenomena are present, I would argue that they’re a contributing factor in the narrative, not a determinant one. For example; I can’t deny that “magic” or some similar force played a role in Dany surviving the funeral pyre and fostering the dragons, but what’s important in this moment isn’t that Dany was saved by some sort of magical force, but what it means for her identity and the development of her character that she did survive and have this experience.
The arguments that so many people have been putting to me since “Mother’s Mercy” all rest on the assertion that Melisandre’s conspicuous arrival at Castle Black prior to Jon’s murder signals that she, through her marshaling of R’hllor’s power, will resurrect Jon. This argument falls short for me on multiple fronts; for starters, and for practical/procedural reasons alone, I’m not aware of any evidence in the books or the television series that Melisandre has the ability or the power to resurrect the dead at will. I concede that the absence of evidence is not in itself evidence and that she may well possess this ability unbeknownst to the audience, but that alone is not enough to convince me. My other reasons for not subscribing to any version of the Melisandre/resurrection theory have more to do with my own personal philosophy, belief system (and in some cases lack thereof), and how I therefore approach material, as well as how I think such an occurrence as a resurrection would be very likely out of step for the series from a narrative standpoint.
As I mentioned before, A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones is indisputably a Fantasy series with some “fantastical” elements to it. Having acknowledged that, I don’t think I’m alone in that the reason I connect to the series and the characters to the extent that I do is because they behave in a way familiar to me: i.e., like human beings. In other words, A Song of Ice and Fire, like any sincere work of art or narrative, is a reflection of our reality and experience, no matter how bizarre the setting or perspective; it was all cooked up in human minds.
I’ve been accused by some of being stubbornly unwilling to suspend my own personal agnosticism in regards to the series because I don’t believe that R’hllor or any other being is an actually existing deity and positive agent manipulating events in the Ice and Fireverse. I identify as agnostic precisely because, although I don’t believe in God or a higher power, I’m also not so arrogant as to deny that there are elements in the universe beyond my understanding. I freely acknowledge that I may be completely wrong about a great many things, but I don’t believe that I am. So, just as human beings, throughout history have ascribed either magic or divinity to concepts and events they lack the ability to fully understand, just so do people not only within the narrative of Ice and Fire, but people consuming that narrative as well. Again, I see no reason to automatically ascribe divinity to forces or events in a fictional universe simply because I don’t fully understand them in relation to my reality or perspective.
Most of all, though, I find the prospect of Jon Snow being brought back to life and walking around existing again as Jon Snow highly problematic to say the least. If Jon, who suffered a mortal assault according to myriad televisual evidence, were to be brought back to life as we understand it, he’d either be a monster or a messiah, essentially.
The messiah theory is quite popular among the people I’ve discussed this issue with. Some have gone so far as to suggest that Jon is Azor Ahai reborn, i.e., the messiah of the R’hllor faith that Melisandre once proclaimed and according to Melisandre’s actions in this episode mentioned earlier, actually believed Stannis to be. For me to believe this, I’d have to believe not only that R’hllor is real, which I do not, but also that prophecy is genuine and therefore can be fulfilled. If I’m wrong, and Jon does turn out to be the fulfillment of a prophecy and a messiah figure, the series would then, almost necessarily, become a series about Jon, elevating him to a special status that no character has possessed thus far. By doing this, Game of Thrones would basically be making the same mistake that Lost did towards the end of its run; elevating a major character to messianic significance and therefore cheapening the rest of the ensemble and subsequently compromising/minimizing their arcs and all the time spent with them by the audience.
At the heart of this argument seems to be a belief held by many that Jon enjoys a special mystical/mythical to the world of the narrative as a figure literally destined for something in the world of the series having not to do with his actions, character, or the realities of his life as he lived it. Central to my experience with A Song of Ice and Fire is a deeply held rejection of all notions of royalism and entitlement to political power or authority by birthright, legal, prophetic, or otherwise. Again, I could be wrong, but if Game of Thrones turns out to be a series ultimately about deities moving pieces on a chess board that ratifies and endorses concepts of monarchism and royalism, I’d not only be genuinely surprised, but also extremely disappointed.
The most inexplicable argument/theory I’ve heard is the one stemming from the suggestions of Jon’s latent warg abilities (which, it should be noted are a much more a feature of the novels than the television series, arguably to such an extent that it’s a non-factor in the TV series). It has been suggested by many that Jon might have warged into Ghost at the last moment. No one can tell me, however, how exactly this would save his life. If Jon is physically dead, i.e. his body no longer functions, what good does it do him if his consciousness were transferred to the body of his direwolf? I’m not saying he couldn’t have warged, but I don’t understand how this is an argument against his character being dead, which is how it’s been presented to me more than a few times. Furthermore, given how choreographed and well-planned the assassination plot was and how Ghost was conspicuously absent when Jon fell into the trap, I find it much more than likely that Ghost was killed before or simultaneously with Jon’s murder.
All petty fictional-metaphysical squabbles aside, my most ardent reservation about a Jon Snow resurrection is also what I love about the event of his death, narratively, as well as Jon’s character and arc in particular and how it relates to and fits into the larger narrative, practically and thematically. Because the mutiny, betrayal, and execution of Jon by those under his command is a logical outgrowth of Jon’s behavior, position, and circumstances within the reality of the narrative as well as a logical reaction to his actions as a character therein.
It has been suggested by some that Jon being killed at this point in the story makes no narrative sense and even renders his character, developments, and revelations regarding him as essentially meaningless. I find this view a little baffling and even a bit repugnant. The life of a character (or any person, for that matter) has meaning because of their actions, not what results from them in the larger scheme of things. To suggest that a character’s life and actions only have significance or meaning to the extent that they impact the narrative is completely contrary to how I approach narrative as I mentioned earlier. Narrative is given meaning by the actions of the characters, not the other way around, at least in my opinion.
This view also harkens back to the concepts of royalism, monarchism, and feudal entitlement mentioned above. There is an attitude out there that Jon was “supposed” to go further and that he was meant for or destined for “greater” things, as if A Song of Ice and Fire were an inspirational tale about the making of an unlikely philosopher king who saved a civilization from ruin and existential threat and not an epic saga of a cyclical power struggle within a society in the process of self-destructing, as I interpret it to be, for the most part.
Simply put, I don’t think there is any “winning” the game of thrones. Westerosi society is unsustainable as presently constructed, and this series, to at least some extent in my assessment, is the story of the demise of that system. The Northern situation, including the Night’s Watch, the Wall, the wildlings, and the army of undead surging southward, are all representative of why the Westerosi system is unsustainable. Jon’s betrayal and murder by the very institution he’s dedicated his life to is a logical symptom of what is eating Westeros from the inside in a way that’s representative and symbolic of why that is the case. In my opinion, Jon’s murder, as a narrative development, is not only sound, but almost inevitable.
Institutions and the entrenched individuals within them are almost invariably opposed to and resistant to reform or significant change, whether it be imposed from within or without. Jon, who lived his life and commanded the Night’s Watch by certain principles as detailed above, and sought to reform the institution he has bought into. He’s made difficult decisions he knew would be unpopular and would provoke resistance and consequences, but he made them anyway, because they were the decisions he believed to be right. The institution reacted accordingly and eliminated the source of the change it was resistant to.
What I love about this moment narratively is that even in the presence of all the mysticism and fantastical elements that are present in this universe, some of which these men of the Night’s Watch have seen with their own eyes, the Night’s Watch revealed itself to be just another human institution preserving the status quo. What makes Jon’s death so tragic is that all involved have bought-into and genuinely care about the institution of the Night’s Watch, to one extent or another. The difference is, Jon recognized that the status quo was unsustainable and that the Watch needed to reform and adapt to survive.
Fundamental change such as Jon put in motion is always a tall order, precisely because of how institutions and systems are so intolerant of reform. Jon knew this when he took command and when he made his decision, which is part of what makes him a courageous character and why his life and death have meaning, not because he was “destined” for something or not. Jon’s life was his own and he made decisions as an autonomous individual in regards to how to live it and what to do with it. Jon Snow was a bastard child of a feudal lord entitled to nothing under the law of his land and indeed “destined” for nothing according to the customs of his society who chose to forge his own destiny and dedicate his life to something of his choosing, something meaningful to him. Jon’s character, story, and what they represent are assertively and inspiringly anti-fatalist in a way that makes arguments of destiny fall completely flat for me, precisely because Jon forged his own path and was willing to follow it, whatever the consequences, which is exactly what he did.