The creators and producers of Game of Thrones have delivered something that very few, if any, television shows have managed to accomplish over the course of television history. They built a show centered around a tragic literary figure on a par with Oedipus or Hamlet who also happened to be female. You’d think the feminists and the forces of vacuous, progressive inanity would be celebrating this feat far and wide. Instead, we’ve heard nothing but meaningless Twittery talking points about the plight of made up women and minorities in George Martin’s fictional universe, the “unplanned” turn of Daenerys Targaryen or water bottles and coffee cups left on set.

There has been much legitimate criticism of Martin's work and the show over the years, but the political stuff is consistently the worst. If Martin was writing a code of conduct pamphlet for the Department of Agriculture, we might relate to these criticisms about diversity or equality or whatever. He isn't. This is art and art that fulfills people’s expectations and articulates settled platitudes is just propaganda.

For one thing, Game of Thrones has been extraordinarily progressive when it comes to its female characters. Daenerys Targaryen turns out to be the central protagonist, Sansa Stark has evolved from a frightened little girl worried about her Disneyesque imagined future to a battle-hardened queen of the independent north and Arya Stark has transformed from a child playing with wooden swords behind Daddy’s back to the deadliest killer in Westeros and the person who single handedly defeated the Night King. Lena Headey’s commanding performance as the most convincing actor on a show full of incredibly gifted actors has stood out consistently for 8 years. 

The show was an extraordinary departure from conventional television characters in general but female television characters in particular. We can choose to love them or hate them but arguments suggesting that they are flat, or neglected or simple tools of the greater narrative are absurd.

Daenerys Targaryen's "turn" has been foreshadowed since the first season. She slaughtered Khal Drogo’s horse, putting her faith in dark magic to bring the injured Khal back to “life.” The woman she liberated from slavery turned out to be an evil witch who sought vengeance on both Dany and the Khal. Dany then murdered the Khal, foreshadowing Jon’s future murder of her.

She brutally crucified a city of slave masters in the same way that Marcus Crassus crucified real life Roman slaves captured during Spartacus’ famous rebellion. It’s hard to believe that Martin did not intend this irony. While Daenerys was clearly right to liberate the slaves, the show courageously demonstrated that it wasn’t so black and white, nor did it produce precisely the intended outcomes. The Masters had families and children and even some of the slaves themselves were negatively impacted by their liberation. The biases and traditions of the existing culture did not disappear, a lesson she applies later in the show.

Dany burned a man alive without any trial or even suspicion of guilt, his membership in a specific class of citizens his only crime. She not only murdered him, but she used his killing as a terror tactic in front of an audience of other captured prisoners, haughtily suggesting that her dragons may determine all their guilt. She burned Sam’s father and brother simply for refusing to submit, she burned Varys for insubordination. It’s simply ridiculous to suggest that Daenerys’ turn was some ill-conceived character arc. Her transformation was the entire point of the series.

Thrones’ message is far deeper than progressive, public service announcements. Dany was an intimately sympathetic character. She was spirited away from her home as a baby after her father was killed in combat, she was married into slavery by her villainous brother, she was raped by Khal Drogo long before she found the strength to turn her position to her advantage, she was pursued by agents of the crown across thousands of miles because the king wanted her dead and she was betrayed by her closest advisor. People she loved were systematically and brutally taken from her. Despite these trials, she overcame all of it and turned a starving band of listless warriors into the greatest fighting force in the entire fictional universe.

Even Dany’s reasons for burning King’s Landing were clear. She came of age amongst a group of savage warriors who, as Ser Mormont pointed out to her, respected only strength. “A Khal who can’t ride is no Khal.” She may have been born in Westeros but she was a child of the brutality of Essos and this is where she developed her sense of justice. Similar to Vince Gilligan’s stated objective to turn Mr. Chips into Scarface, Martin has meticulously taken an innocent young girl and transformed her into a frightening tyrant. In King’s Landing, Dany’s lesson from Slaver’s Bay that the traditions of the culture do not die with liberation, they die with the people who remember them, is applied with full force. This is textbook Marxism.

It’s an extraordinary lesson of power, culture, perspective and the utter futility of man’s unfortunate need to govern himself. Dany’s last scene, where she articulates a utopian future that can be achieved if only they stay on her brutal course of destruction is not unfamiliar to history. Her speech carried echoes of ethnic cleansing in Serbia, Year Zero in Cambodia, Communism’s “necessary” Dictatorship of the Proletariat:

"There is only one way in which the murderous death agonies of the old society and the bloody birth throes of the new society can be shortened, simplified and concentrated, and that way is revolutionary terror" – Karl Marx. 

This is familiar stuff, but we rarely take any time to try and understand the purpose behind genocide, perhaps rightfully fearful of humanizing the perpetrators of it. The problem this rationalization inevitably brings is that we fail to think deeply about it and truly consider how the disposition of good intentions frequently leads to tragic outcomes. Great literature liberates us from the powerful emotions that force us to think about real life events on such consequential terms.

Perhaps Jon Snow was right to kill Dany if history is any guide. That she was his aunt as well as his lover only served to make the tragedy more personal. Jon’s struggle to live with his actions, echoing Tolkein’s Scouring of the Shire, is also familiar. It is a darker take on the American and Roman tradition of Cincinnatus. The show dealt with this heavy handedly, forcing Jon into exile. Perhaps Martin’s books will show this as more voluntary. Jon’s behavior seems inexplicable because film is a cumbersome medium with which to demonstrate the conflict of man against himself. There are few Stanley Kubricks or Terrence Malicks walking the earth.

In the end, Dany is the absolute centerpiece, accomplishing her task of “breaking the wheel” she so hated. Even if she was killed, she arguably achieved a new world. Of course, she broke a few eggs, as Lenin’s apocryphal quote about revolutions goes.

Martin managed to show us the consequences of revolutionary idealism and war in all its gore and tragedy. He allowed us to see the entire story from the tyrant’s perspective and you arrive at a conflicted conclusion, left wondering who was right and who was wrong. You feel her tragedy personally even as you understand that she’s come to this untenable place. This is art at its absolute finest.

The television show certainly rushed some of the later timelines and there were episodes where they seemed to have been lost in the details without Martin’s blueprint. Eight years of Winter is Coming, the Night King will cover the land in darkness, the end is near... one dagger to the belly and the entire army of the dead is gone, Winter is over in 2 episodes and nobody knows why he existed, what he wanted or why he was drawing circles with dead bodies. It was a flawed ending, to be sure.

It seems likely that the books will address some of this but overall, the show delivered what was clearly Martin’s core message with forceful success. Film will always fall short of literature in this regard, no matter how well it is made. Game of Thrones was high art and the divisive reaction to its ending is really all the proof we need. Martin and HBO’s showrunners made you feel and think and that is the objective of every artist, great or obscure. Game of Thrones will stand as a testament to American literature long after inane talking points and conventional nitpicking have vanished into the ether.