Search for a report, a publication, an expert...
Institut Montaigne features a platform of Expressions dedicated to debate and current affairs. The platform provides a space for decryption and dialogue to encourage discussion and the emergence of new voices.

Game of Thrones: Hobbes in Dragon Land?

Game of Thrones: Hobbes in Dragon Land?
 Dominique Moïsi
Distinguished Senior fellow

Spoiler alert: this article reveals key elements of the final season of Game of Thrones.

Game of Thrones remains an essential reference in the political world. Didn't one of the candidates as Jean-Claude Juncker's successor at the head of the European Commission, the Dutchman Frans Timmermans, recently declare that the selection process irresistibly reminded him of Game of Thrones? The comparison is amusing, although it is perhaps more accurate than it seems, especially if we bear in mind, not the series itself as a whole, but the final conclusion of the saga, i. e. episode 6 of the eighth and last season. The last season disappointed many "fans", whether out of despair at seeing their favourite series end, or whether out of simple frustration in the face of a season that gave the impression of being an accelerated version of the others.  
After seeing the first season of Game of Thrones, the reference that spontaneously came to my mind was the following: "Hobbes in Dragon Land". Man is a wolf for man in the kingdom of Westeros and dragons are the "fantasy" version of contemporary weapons of mass destruction.
In season 8, the number of dragons will decrease, but above all any reference to Hobbes has disappeared. The sophisticated dialogues, the in-depth study of characters has given way to pure and simple action. Like psychology, sex has almost disappeared. Only violence is still present. It is - in the great battle scenes that constitute the main part of Season 8 - omnipresent and spectacular.

Machiavelli, Shakespeare and Hobbes are no longer present. Thucydides, on the other hand, is still there.

And filled with historical and aesthetic references that evoke a mixture of Hiroshima and the last days of Pompeii. However, in this ultimate season, violence is not exalted as it were in previous seasons. It is clearly denounced as Callot did in "The Miseries and Misfortunes of War" (or Goya in "The Disasters of War") or Picasso in "Guernica". Machiavelli, Shakespeare and Hobbes are no longer present. Thucydides, on the other hand, is still there.

The kingdom of Westeros went through the equivalent of the Peloponnesian wars. In their suicidal rivalries, Athens and Sparta prepared Greece for the invasion of external forces, first Persian and then Roman. There is another more obvious reference: the Italian cities of the Middle Ages and the early Renaissance. Their rivalries paved the way for external ambitions, those of the Habsburgs on the one hand and those of the Valois on the other. But who, in the face of Westeros’ self-destruction, will play the role of Athens or Sparta, Florence, Milan or Genoa? There are no external candidates: we are closer in this respect to today’s rivalry between the United States and China.
But beyond a reference to Thucydides, can we perceive the final scenes of the series as a call to moderation and humanism? The enemy has become war itself. The instinct for evil provoked the unleashing of passions and the totalitarian and paradoxical will to impose good at all costs. The pattern evokes certain personalities of the French Revolution such as Robespierre: a female Robespierre with the supreme, yet not nuclear, weapon, the dragon’s "napalm". A Robespierre in petticoats that must be "neutralized" at all costs before it is too late.

If the process leading to the conclusion of the series is disappointing - as could be the accelerated version of a film of which all but the decisive scenes had been cut -, the conclusion itself is sophisticated and intellectually and visually satisfactory. Its objective is not to surprise the public at all costs with the most improbable scenario, but to pursue a reflection on the nature of power, in all of its eternity and mystery.

On the surface, since the dragon burnt the iron throne – symbolically the fatal object of its queen’s desire - one could expect several solutions. The future of the Republican Party in France after its bitter failure in the European elections provides an immediate illustration of this. Should we favour collective power, in the form of collegial leadership? Or should we select the most reasonable and/or charismatic leader?

Mais au-delà de la référence à Thucydide, peut-on percevoir dans les scènes finales de la série, comme un appel à la modération et à l’humanisme ?

In the series, could the strongest and purest hero had ascended the throne after the murder he committed in the name of a greater good? Jon Snow pursues his destiny in remote and wild lands, perhaps just as in the Middle Ages a Christian would have retreated to a convent to atone for his past and legitimate crime.
In the end, the supreme power reverts to the one who appears to be the weakest. The iron throne gives way to a crippled man's wheelchair. The King is a cripple and became so after having witnessed incest and being a victim of attempted murder (in the first episode of season 1). He compensates for his physical weakness with his ability to predict the world to come. For a series that, throughout its eight seasons, has highlighted brute force, this is a spectacular turnaround. This tribute to intelligence is a supreme twist, all the more so since the cripple chooses the "dwarf" as his chief advisor. The famous tale "Blind man guided by the paralytic" becomes "the cripple advised by the dwarf". In short, you probably understood that, despite definite limitations, I liked the conclusion of Game of Thrones. It does not distort the whole series. On the contrary, it adds a more reflexive touch to a background of twilight images. After winter, spring is coming - a nostalgic spring.

Receive Institut Montaigne’s monthly newsletter in English