Tormund, the Hero We Deserve

And now, our watch is ending.

And yes, we’re all in a tizzy about it. Many words of anguish have been spilled over this final season of Game of Thrones, most of which boil down to three well-worn threads of rage:

  1. This isn’t how George R.R.R.R.R.R.R.R. Martin wants his books to end (Though he may end before the books do, ergo, this might be the end we get. Seriously, dude, eat a salad. Take some statins. Write a little faster).
  2. Dany’s not crazy. Yes she is. No she isn’t. Yes she is. No she’s not.
  3. Jon Snow Targaryen is about the dumbest leader and worst military tactician ever. (Not going to debate you on that one, but his hair sure is luscious).

Most of this anguish stems from the sunk-cost fallacy: The more you invest in something, like say, an epic television show, the harder it is to abandon it even after it has jumped the fire-breathing shark.

We’ve spent eight years with these characters (and yeah, we get it, some of you read the books starting back in 1996 – AND THEY’RE STILL NOT FINISHED, but, as a non-reader, that ain’t my problem) and just when we think we’re going to be paid off with an Avengers: Endgame-like spectacle, we get Jar-Jar Binks, or as I like to call him, Euron Greyjoy.

Before we go any further, I will offer the obligatory defense of the fact that I haven’t read the books: It doesn’t matter. We’re not debating the books. We’re debating the TV show, and I know from good television. After all, I am a veteran of seven special guest-star turns on a Daytime Emmy Award-winning cooking show. Don’t believe me? Check out my IMDb page.

As I was saying: There’s a point at which we should have abandoned the show, and followed its true protagonist to the exit, stage left: When Tormund walked away with Ghost and said a hearty eff-you to Jon Snow and his Aunty-Queen, we should have walked right along with him.

You see, Tormund is the true hero of Game of Thrones.

I know, I know: When you first started watching this show (not reading the books), you probably thought that the protagonist was Ned Stark – good guy fighting against a rigged system… then he died. Then if you’re anything like me, you thought, well, maybe it’s Robb Stark’s story – avenging his Dad’s death, earning the respect of his countrymen, being voted “King in the North” by his senior class… then he died. You might have given a passing nod to the idea that Bran was actually the true hero of this story… then Hodor died, and we wished that Bran and his three-eyed batshit-crazy bullshit would’ve died along with him.

And then you thought, well, maybe it’s Dany’s story… or maybe it’s Jon’s story.. or maybe it’s Jon and Aunty Dany’s… or maybe it’s Tyrion’s story… or maybe Sansa’s… or Arya’s (until she ended up in the slog that was the House of Black and White).

By this point it’s Season Whatever, and you’re too entwined with the story to give up, because HBO gives you just enough character development and gratuitous bloodshed to carry you over for another production year… because you are so face-down in sunk-cost fallacy and so knee-deep in FOMO that you can’t resist because you have to see how it ends (and then talk about it with your friends).

Truth is, Game of Thrones was over two episodes ago. Really, it was over after the Battle of (Darkness Fell at) Winterfell, but we just needed our hero Tormund to tell us it was over, right after Brienne tossed him over because the producers thought they needed to throw an anti-feminist bone to the Brienne-Jaime ‘shippers… because, why not? Who cares if it’s out of character, we only have three episodes left!

Heading into the finale, Tormund is really the only character who has had a complete arc: He starts out living free beyond the wall when this whiny little bitch Jon Snow and his Night’s Watch Crows come along and try to enlist Tormund and freefolk in their little war. Tormund resists: He wants to be free; he ain’t bending no knee to no one. Then Tormund fights an epic battle against the undead and realizes the whole “Live Alone, Die Together” moral of the story and joins up with Team Crow to battle the Night King whose only motivation seemed to be to stand ENTIRELY TOO LONG IN FRONT OF BRAN TO GIVE ARYA TIME TO GET FROM THE GREAT HALL TO THE FREAKY TREE TO KILL HIM.

Then, in the smoldering aftermath of a battle that seemed spectacularly short and incredibly lame for THE EXISTENTIAL BATTLE BETWEEN LIFE AND DEATH THAT CLAIMED TO BE, Jon tries to get Tormund to enlist in one final fight and Big T says, “Peace out, Crow. This ain’t my battle. You go bend that knee, bruh. Imma take your fine direwolf and ease on back north of the wall and be a free man… and maybe that sweet Brienne will see the light and come with.”

If I had turned Game of Thrones off when Tormund left the building, I could have abandoned the sunk-cost fallacy and fled the (dragon) Fyre Festival that was the penultimate episode (I also would have avoided watching the producers turn Ser Brienne the Brave into a mewling wench which was more of a dagger in the heart than anything Arya ever delivered).

Instead I will watch tonight, not so I can revel in the glory of Walter White’s demise, or laugh hysterically at Bob Newhart’s pillow talk, or weep with Alan Alda on the helicopter, but so I can bitch and moan with the rest of us as we decry our drowning moments in the sunk-cost fallacy, while my homie Tormund laughs and laughs and gives Ghost a belly rub.

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