Warning: Spoilers for all seasons and episodes of Game of Thrones are ahead.
The trajectory of Game of Thrones over its five books and now almost six seasons has been intriguing, to say the least. No one could have predicted the place we’ve arrived at today, from the shocker of Ned Stark’s beheading in Season 1 to the tragedy of the Red Wedding in Season 3. The way things have progressed has seen kings rise and fall, while the entire Stark house has been torn apart by war and betrayal. Meanwhile, we’re seeing the first real failings of the Lannisters, with the death of Tywin, the exile of Tyrion, and the struggles of Cersei to maintain her hold over the kingdom in the wake of all this.
But what’s more interesting is the way that the youngest of the Seven Kingdoms have slowly but surely been the ones finding themselves in positions of power in the wake of their adult counterparts offing each other, one by one. Take for example the progression of the ruler at King’s Landing: First we had Robert Baratheon, a jaded, aged warrior. He was killed by a boar (and, by extension, Cersei’s careful planning) and was succeeded by his far younger son, Joffrey. In the books Joffrey is 12, while on the show he appears to be around 14-15 for his brief rule. After he’s poisoned at his wedding, his younger brother, Tommen, now assumes the throne at a mere 7 years old in the books (and about 12 on the show).
Heading over to the Night’s Watch at the Wall, we see the same progression. The initial seasons and books saw the elderly and grizzled Jeor Mormont as the Lord Commander. After his death, the slightly younger yet still grizzled Alisser Thorne took over on an interim basis. The last episode saw Jon Snow, 14 in the books and around 20 on the show, elected as the new Lord Commander. The next generation of the Game of Thrones universe is taking over, ushering in the new world that’s been boiling over these past few seasons.
Nowhere is this more evident though than across the Narrow Sea with Daenerys Targaryen. The teenage queen has swept through Slaver’s Bay, unseating thousand-year-old traditions in favor of her more progressive (read: slave-free) position. The older ruling families have been displaced and forced to surrender their slaves, or find themselves at the mercy of Daenerys’s substantially large army. Her youth at times has worked against her, as she’s often depended on the counsel of her much older advisers. Even now, we’re seeing her struggle to make wise decisions despite her best efforts.
Throughout the Game of Thrones world, youthfulness has slowly taken over, as the old guard has essentially put itself out to pasture. It’s a trend to keep an eye on, especially when you consider that the kingdom has never been this chaotic. While Tommen “rules” at King’s Landing, his mother attempts to run things from behind the scenes. Jon Snow may have just been elected Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, but he’s likely to come up against a whole lot of backlash from men like Alliser Thorne, who likely believe that Snow has yet to come close to paying his dues. The young may be running things, but they’re still suffering and struggling the same way any child or teenager would in their position.
More often than not, the cliché in fiction and fantasy is a young person with wisdom far beyond his or her years. But Game of Thrones depicts youth for exactly what it is: chaotic inexperience. We’ve seen many of these characters through their formative years on the show, as they’ve developed, grown, and matured. More than this, though, they’ve gone through the normal struggles your average teenager would encounter — just in a far more brutal environment. In the end, they’re still the ones running things, so their maturation may end up deciding the fate of the world they’re ruling.
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