Game of Thrones S8E5: Always Go Full Nihilist

By Elton Braun▸
Warning: Spoilers!

Everybody is whining about the latest Game of Thrones episode. “The writing is bad,” they mewl. “The characters’ actions didn’t make sense,” they bray. “Daenerys would never massacre an entire city!” they wail.

This woman makes Trump look like Gandhi
Meanwhile, all of these whiners fail to see what actually took place in the episode they’re complaining about: the show finally transcended mere entertainment and became art.

Entertainment is escape. It’s an opiate that fortifies the delusions that make life livable. It evokes a shared fantasy wherein the world has structure, purpose, meaning, telos. It’s a way for us to keep our eyes closed so that at least temporarily we don’t have to look directly at the reality all around us. Its bright colours keep us from seeing the darkness.

Art, on the other hand, strips away our delusions and forces us to look directly at the world in all its naked horror. It reminds us that life is not actually livable. Nothing has structure, purpose, meaning, or telos—these are just forms of denial, fanciful notions that we project onto the world to make existence tolerable. Art makes us remember exactly what it was that we were trying to escape when we started using entertainment.

And the writers of Game of Thrones knew this perfectly well when they crafted last week’s masterpiece.

Out of the chaos emerged order: Daenerys Targaryen. The underdog. The fighter for justice. The bringer of change. The Obama, if you will. As she gathered momentum in her eight-season journey toward the throne, it began to feel predestined, like there was an invisible hand guiding her, a transcendent purpose behind all the violence and death and despair in Westoros. We all rooted for her, and for 90 minutes every week we forgot about the violence and death and despair in the real world. And this is what good entertainment does: it gives the spectator hope. It helps us believe that maybe our own lives, just maybe, might be bearable after all.

And then she snapped. Enter art.

She was betrayed. Her dragon was killed. She realized the people she sought to rule would only ever see her as a tyrannical foreigner. In short, she realized that her whole life was based on a lie. So she destroyed the entire city and burned most of its citizens alive. And we all watched, horrified.

But isn’t that what the real world—the world of Trumps, Dutertes, and Bolsonaros—is actually like? Isn’t violent nihilism just waiting to break out at any time? Isn’t the order that we project upon the world just an illusion that we depend on for our sanity? I mean, look around you. There is no justice. There is no order. You’re an ape wearing cheap clothing. And the only reason you don’t run amok is that you’re afraid of being sent to jail.

The real reason people are whining about the episode is that it made them uncomfortable. It made them uncomfortable because it reminded them of where they are. It reminded them of everything they’ve tried so hard to block out and forget.

So whine if you must, but only insofar as your entertainment bubble has been popped. At the same time, you should be grateful for the opportunity the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones has afforded you to be attached to and grounded in, for at least a moment, the hideous world where you reside.

Daenerys' whole life was a lie. And if all you crave is entertainment, maybe yours is too. Err on the side of art: always, always go full nihilist.


Elton Braun has had intercourse four times, with three different women.

Image Attributions:
Daenaerys: Uploaded by TAnthony, Fair use, The image is, as you might have guessed, copyrighted by HBO. Use of low-resolution screenshots for identification of and critical commentary on a television program and its contents should qualify as fair use under the Copyright law of the United States.