Spoilers for the season finale of the seventh season of Game of Thrones are below. So, y'know, if you haven't watched it yet don't read this for a few days or whatever.
So, a large portion of the most recent season of Game of Thrones has rung false for any number of reasons. You can find the complaints elsewhere; I'm not going to get into that. Instead, I just want to highlight 30 seconds or so of the 85-minute season finale that aired last night.
"Remember me?" asks The Hound, Sandor Clegane, to his zombiefied, silent, brother, Gregor Clegane. "Yeah, you do. You're even fucking uglier than I am now. What did they do to you? Doesn't matter. That's not how it ends for you, brother. You know who's coming for you. You've always known."
And with that warning, Sandor walks away.
Now. In the grand scheme of things, this may not seem like a particularly big deal. Except for the fact that I—through no fault of my own—am steeped in Cleganebowl lore.
What is Cleganebowl?
WHAT IS CLEGANEBOWL?
Well. Allow me to share.
Look. Don't go down the rabbit hole of Cleganebowl Hype Videos. I lost several months to them. Just clicking next, recommended, next, recommended. Addiction is real. My name is Sonny Bunch and …
There are a thousand videos like this. They're weird and memey and weirdly memey. The point is: There's a GIGANTIC subset of people who are totally freaking hyped for the Cleganes to face off against each other.
And, sadly, that's who the showrunners of Game of Thrones, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, are playing to at this point. They're playing to the people who want Dany and Jon Snow to get together. They're playing to the people who want to see Arya and Sansa work together and triumph over interlopers. They're playing to the people who want to see Ice Dragons ridden by the Night King facing off against real dragons ridden by one of the last Targaryens. They're playing to the people who want to see Cersei be evil but, frankly, kind of justifiably evil. They're playing to the people who want to see Reek kicked in the nuts during a fight for the future of the Iron Islands and then have him laugh off that kick because, actually, Bronn and Jaime are wrong when they suggest "maybe it really is all cocks, in the end."
They're playing to the people who want to see good triumph over evil, even if that's totally contrary to the whole spirit of the show up until now.
They are, in short, playing to the people who want to see Cleganebowl.
There's nothing wrong with that, I guess. Everyone wants to please their patrons, and HBO's customers are nothing if not patrons of the show. It's truly … medieval, in a certain sense. But, to be quite honest, I am setting myself up to be disappointed: Game of Thrones was always sold as something darker, a show where good doesn't triumph simply because it's good. It was a show where evil was real and cunning and had a shot at winning.
And, frankly, it's a show where if evil doesn't win, we have to ask: well, what was the point?
I guess we'll see next year.