After eight seasons, HBO’s Game of Thrones has come to an end. There is plenty about Game of Thrones to write about. However, what I’m focused on today is Game of Thrones and capital punishment.
“The question of the death penalty isn’t, ‘Do people deserve to die for the crimes they commit?’ I think the threshold question is, ‘Do we deserve to kill?” Bryan Stevenson, executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative.
If you haven’t watched the show you probably don’t care about SPOILERS below. If you have watched the show but haven’t watched the finale, I wonder what kind of monster are you?
Either way—SPOILERS (someday I’ll write a post about why I don’t believe in spoilers).
I like the finale overall.
I probably liked the finale as much as I did because the last two seasons have been a train wreck.
The last minute turn of Daenerys Targaryen from the “breaker of chains” and the one who would “break the wheel” in the game of thrones, into the “mad queen” wasn’t believable and very disappointing.
Could it happen that Daenerys would change? Sure. But I don’t believe show writers brought us to that place.
So here is the scene I have in mind:
Jon Snow approaches Daenerys Targaryen in the throne room that has been torn apart by Dany and her dragon, Drogon. What she doesn’t know is that Jon has been in conversation with Tyrion Lannister and his sister, Arya Stark, about how Dany is unfit to be queen and how the history of her father, the “mad king,” is repeating itself with Dany.
Basically, Tyrion and Arya tell Jon he is blinded by love and loyalty from seeing the tyrant Daenerys is becoming. Tyrion, seems to break through by telling Jon that his own sisters will be Dany’s next targets as threats to her rule and Jon himself, her greatest threat, may also be next.
Either kill her or be killed by her, Tyrion seems to say.
And so Jon kills Dany. With tears in his eyes, he runs stabs her in the heart.
And the wheel keeps on spinning.
Jon believes that there is no other choice, but to kill her for slaughtering the people of king’s landing, for her unwillingness to show mercy to Tyrion, and finally for her insistence that peace can only be brought by the sword.
Bryan Stevenson, civil rights attorney and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, has this to say about the death penalty. “The question of the death penalty isn’t, ‘Do people deserve to die for the crimes they commit?’ I think the threshold question is, ‘Do we deserve to kill?” (Read more here)
Drogon, a dragon I remind you, flies in. Recognizes Dany is dead. Seems to know it was Jon who killed her. You might expect Drogon to eat Jon Snow or to incinerate him.
However, unlike Dany, and Jon, and all the others playing the game of thrones; kill or be killed are not the only options. So Drogon takes aim at the iron throne and torches the dragon-fire-forged-throne into a pile of ash.
Drogon breaks the wheel.
Drogon makes a choice to start the world of mercy of which Jon spoke. Jon is the first one shown mercy in the post-throne world.
We do not live in a world of dragons, but we live in a world where we have choices. Too often, our choices have made the decision that we are people who deserve to kill as we if have no other option.
We have choices. We do not have to live in a world where we lock people up and thrown away the key. We do not have to live in a world where the discrimination of Jim Crow laws is embedded in our criminal justice system. We do not have to live in world where people are killed because we think it is our only option.
We can break the wheel.
I am not at a point of peace with the conclusion of Game of Thrones to wholeheartedly recommend you watch the series if you haven’t already. However, I highly recommend Bryan Stevenson’s book Just Mercy. Long after you’ve forgotten Jon Snow, the iron throne, and George R.R. Martin, you will remember Bryan Stevenson’s name as he will be remembered alongside the names of the greatest Americans.