All season long, Game of Thrones has shown the chaos that has been the outcome from the various wars that have gone before and during the show on its world, its characters and their various goals. The War of the Five Kings has resulted in the destruction of various houses, the deaths of countless thousands, and the decimation of a continent. The previous wars threw the last scions of the ruling Targaryen dynasty across the sea to find help wherever they could. It would be easy to blame fate or the gods for how things spun out, but that is not the case. As ever, it is the work of men and women, acting for some specific goal, that gives rise to wars and death and misery and chaos.
Melisandre of Asshai had convinced Stannis Baratheon and his wife Selyse that he was the chosen hero of her Red God, R’hllor. Azor Ahai reborn with his magic sword, Lightbringer, and that it was his destiny to face the great dark enemy that was coming. In order to do that, Stannis would have to climb the Iron Throne and unite the Seven Kingdoms under his – and the Lord of Light’s – banner. It didn’t matter that Stannis was not loved or that he was demanding the people cast aside their gods for R’hllor. Stannis saw it as his fate and followed where Melisandre led him. And whatever she said was the appropriate price to pay, he paid it. He sacrificed those who would not bend to Melisandre’s god. He used her magic to kill his brother, Renly. He nearly sacrificed his bastard nephew, Gendry. When he saw no other option, he chose to burn his daughter, Shireen at the stake.
This action results in half his army deserting him when the winter storms break and his path to Winterfell is open. It also results in Selyse opting to kill herself in her grief and Melisandre flees for Castle Black, unsure of what to do next. Stannis, broken and beaten, has risked it all to conquer Winterfell and throws what he has left at the Boltons – who make quick work of the tired, hungry, outmatched forces he has left. And here, beaten, injured and abandoned, Stannis is finally brought to justice by Brienne of Tarth for the murder of his brother. Stannis Baratheon, First of his Name, dies alone on the battlefield. And with him dies the last of House Baratheon. He strove to be the hero Melisandre promised he was and instead found himself all alone in the cold North.
This was how Sansa Stark has felt since King Joffrey ordered the beheading of her father. As the years have gone and her family has been killed and scattered, she’s come to find herself all alone in the world. Her brothers and mother murdered by people they trusted like Theon Greyjoy and Roose Bolton. Her sister lost during the chaos of the fall of her house. She thought she could learn to manipulate people like Petyr Baelish only to find herself a willing pawn in his greater game and sold to the Boltons. She seized on that promise of help from the North, but as it happens when the battle is raging, no help ever comes. Instead, it falls to Reek to rescue her from Myranda and Ramsay. Before Ramsay can return from the field, she chooses to leap from the battlements of Winterfell with her former foster brother. Did they live or did they die? Does it matter if it is ultimately a better fate that the torture at the hands of the Boltons?
It’s a similar question to the one plaguing Daenerys Stormborn. She finds herself alone and far away from anyone that might help her. Her dragon either too injured or unwilling to fly them back to Meereen. Ever since they both stepped out of the funeral pyre of Khal Drogo, it’s been her mission to climb to power. Rather than simply taking her army and finding the fastest way to cross the Narrow Sea back to Westeros, she’s remained and tried to free the many slaves who make the economic backbone of Essos. This results in enemies everywhere for her. Now that she’s all alone in the wilderness, it is oddly enough the Dothraki who find her and capture her. What fate awaits her now is uncertain.
She will be chased after by the two men who lust for her though. Ser Jorah Mormont and Daario Naharis opt to track after their Queen in the hope of rescuing her and bringing her safely back. In their absence, rule of Meereen will fall to Tyrion, Grey Worm and Missandei. The former Hand of the King does have experience in ruling a vast city, ready to tear itself apart. But King’s Landing is not Meereen and he’s another foreigner who’s ruling them. Daenerys has done a great job of making Slaver’s Bay a cauldron of resentment and anger. Can Tyrion, with the help of Varys, find a way to ensure that Meereen still stands if and when Jorah and Daario return with their Queen?
Rescue missions are often messy. Ask Jaime Lannister and Bronn. They traveled to Dorne to rescue his “niece” and instead were captured by the Prince of Dorne after a failed assassination attempt was made on her life by the wife and daughters of the Red Viper. They are set to depart back for King’s Landing and bid their farewells when a kiss from Ellaria Sand gives Myrcella the same slow-acting poison that Bronn was stabbed with. The poison comes through after Myrcella reveals that she’s known Jaime is her father and is happy for the truth to be out – robbing the Kingslayer of the one moment he was most desperate for. The revenge that the Sands were after is obtained and there’s every chance that war will be the outcome from her death – which is what they wanted all along.
It’s something that Arya Stark has wanted all along as well. Cast by the chaos of House Stark’s fall to the winds, she’s spent her time either a captive or a pawn in other’s games. She’s watched as friends have been killed by those stronger and crueler. This all started when Ser Meryn Trant and various Lannister soldiers barged in on her dancing lessons and killed Syrio Forel. Though others have been added to her list, it’s Trant who was first. With nowhere to go, she chose to follow the Faceless Men and become No One. But when she’s presented with the chance to exact her revenge, she doesn’t hesitate. She doesn’t just kill Meryn Trant. She makes him suffer. She gouges out his eyes, stabs him repeatedly and forces him to recognize that it is her taking his life. This is a violation of the creed of the servants of the Many-Faced God and she is punished for it: her trainer takes poison to pay for her crime and she is left blind. What happens to the girl who couldn’t be No One now?
A similar question to the one plaguing Queen Cersei Lannister. There have been few agents of chaos as big as her. She’s the one who positioned her cousin Lancel as squire for her husband, King Robert. It was her who seduced him and ordered him to give him strong wine to dull him and lead him to his death during the hunt. It was her who conspired with Littlefinger to betray Ned Stark after Ned found out the truth of her children’s parentage. It was her who kept Sansa as a prisoner for Joffrey, who accused Tyrion for Joffrey’s death, who orchestrated the rise of the High Sparrow and the arrests of Ser Loras and Queen Margaery Tyrell. Cersei Lannister has been at the heart of so much of the misery and chaos of the story that, for her to fall into her own trap, was both fitting and surprising.
After days of misery at the hands of the High Sparrow, Cersei opts to admit her guilt to the crimes for which Brother Lancel has named her: the incestuous extramarital affair with him. But she refuses to admit her guilt for the death of Robert or that her children are born of incest. For this, the High Sparrow tells her there will be a trial, but he’s amenable to letting her go back to the Red Keep – provided she pays for her crimes with a Walk of Atonement. Similar to how the Sparrows cast out the former High Septon onto the streets naked and ashamed, so must the former Queen of the Seven Kingdoms walk naked, hair shorn and in full view of the public from the Sept of Baelor to the Red Keep. It’s a walk that takes every kind of toll on Cersei: physical, emotional and mental. She survives it, but is scarred by it. But in the visage of Ser Robert Strong, the monster Qyburn has fashioned for her, there’s the glimmer of vengeance for the proud lioness.
It isn’t vengeance, however, that drives the Sworn Brothers of the Night’s Watch to rebel against their Lord Commander. As Sam offers to go to Oldtown and train to become the order’s next maester, he also offers up valuable information to Jon about the state of things. Sam’s mission is two-fold: to eventually take over for Maester Aemon and to get Gilly and her baby far away from the simmering tensions that perpetuate around Castle Black. Jon is aware that his orders to help the wildlings are not going down well with his brothers, but he’s clearly not understanding the depth of their feelings. The brothers of the Night’s Watch have fought wildlings for thousands of years. To them, the wildlings are the enemy; no matter what. For a Lord Commander to be working to save them is, to the, treason of the highest order. So they take matters into their own hands and opt to eliminate the traitor Jon Snow; his blood running out into the frozen ground and his watch ending with his last breaths.
Jon Snow didn’t realize that he too was an agent of chaos. An agent aiming for life, for good, but disrupting the order of things and causing chaos nonetheless. In this regard, he was no different than Cersei Lannister, the High Sparrow, Melisandre, Daenerys Targaryen, Petry Baelish, Varys, Ellaria Sand, Tyrion Lannister or any of the other agents in this tale. For some, it’s been a quest of vengeance. For others, of righteousness. Others still sought power, respect or even love. In the end, it is every one of these agents clashing, uniting, fighting, killing and dying that propelled the story to its current point. The order of the old world across Westeros and Essos is smashed. What can come out of that is not yet known – not least of which because of the march of the White Walkers. In the meantime, chaos will reign across the land and survival can be as much a triumph as any bloody victory on the battlefield.