It's been precisely one year since Game of Thrones' series finale brought the HBO epic to a close, and we're still coming to terms with the idea of King Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright), Daenerys' (Emilia Clarke) rapid heel-turn to become the Mad Queen, and the entire subplot about Jon Snow's (Kit Harington) Targaryen bloodline being basically for naught. But enough time has passed -- and, let's face it, a lot worse things have happened since coffeegate -- that we're now able to look fondly upon the time we spent in Westeros. For all its faults, Game of Thrones was a masterpiece in its first few seasons and an event show like no other right until the end.
To celebrate the anniversary of the finale, let's look back on Game of Thrones' final stretch. While we could talk about how Daenerys' costumes told the real story of her unraveling or all the ways Jon Snow's fate was foretold in the series or even our thoughts on how a Season 9 would look, today also happens to be the release date for the new Hunger Games prequel novel, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. So instead we'll talk about a curious connection we noticed between the two series.
Though Game of Thrones' final episodes were all about subverting expectations, the end of the show actually reminded us a lot of something we'd seen before in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2. Comparing the major notes of Game of Thrones' ending with what happened over in Panem, there are so many similarities that one could even be forgiven for thinking the movie had some kind of subconscious influence on elements of Game of Thrones' conclusion -- at least the ones that didn't come straight from Martin's mind. And yes, this goes well beyond the fact that they both have girls on fire and men named Snow.
Let's dig into some of the many ways Game of Thrones and The Hunger Games' final scenes mirrored each other, shall we?
For starters, Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey)'s cruel little trick of packing the Red Keep with innocent civilians came straight from the President Snow playbook. Like Cersei, Snow wanted to use his city's citizens as a human shield against the invasion from the District 13 troops. The point was not just to create a physical barrier, but to force his attackers to reveal their own darkness in the process of trying to liberate the oppressed masses from the Capitol's control. Sound familiar?
Then the whole subplot of Arya (Maisie Williams) and The Hound (Rory McCann) trying to blend in with the crowd en route to the Red Keep also directly echoed Katniss and Gale's effort to get to the gate during the crowd rush -- hooded cloak disguise and all. Like Arya, Katniss had just one kill on her mind at the time, and she didn't care if she didn't get to go home afterward.
When Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) broke mad and burned everyone with her air attack, she was partly spurred on by the sound of bells for some reason. That might not have made much sense, but it's worth noting that when the innocents of the Capitol had fire rained down on their heads by Alma Coin, that came by way of little packages that had a tiny ring-ting-ting sound before the explosions commenced.
Cersei's booby traps might not have been as elaborate as Snow's, but those little bursts of wildfire we saw throughout the city proved she wanted her attackers' trek through the capital to be filled with some explosive surprises -- kinda like what Katniss' "Star Squad" encountered, but for the medieval-ish era.
Jon (Kit Harington) became appalled when he saw his side destroying innocent lives, and Katniss looked similarly wrecked by the devastation of the Capitol's citizens. Jon and Katniss both came into the fight on one team and realized mid-battle that they may no longer be working for the right side.
Daenerys' speech to the Dothraki and Unsullied victors proved that she did not intend to stop "liberating" the people of Westeros any time soon, if ever, and Jon Snow had to face the reality that she herself was a tyrant in the making. The same was true for Katniss, who discovered the maniacal ambitions of the similarly silver-haired Alma Coin once she proposed restarting the Hunger Games to get even with the citizens of the Capitol.
Jon was one of the few people who still had the confidence of the Mother of Dragons after the war was through, much the same way Katniss was the only person who could be trusted to wield a weapon around Coin. So, they both ended up being the only ones with the will or means to take out their dangerous new leaders. They each had to betray the women they'd been fighting for just as those women began to take the power our heroes helped them win.
We could also easily compare Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) becoming a monster in the process of carrying out his queen's orders to the way Gale Hawthorne was at least partially responsible for those terror bombs on civilians. Grey Worm was groomed to value duty and honor above all else, but it was still his choice to carry out Daenerys' deadliest orders. Meanwhile, Gale may or may not have been responsible for creating the very weapons that destroyed Katniss' sister and so many others. (They both left to do more war things in the end, too.)
Cersei's crushing death was surprisingly uneventful, considering how artful her own murders had been, and the same was true for President Snow. Cersei was leveled by the rubble of the Red Keep alongside Jaime, and Snow was left to the will of the trampling masses instead of going down with the kind of spectacle audiences anticipated. In both cases, they were also propped to be the Big Bads of their respective series until a greater threat emerged in the final acts.
After Jon assassinated Daenerys, his life was spared as he was sent to the Night's Watch to live in exile for his crime of killing Daenerys. Katniss, too, had to be relegated to the ruins of District 12 after being pardoned for her assassination of President Coin. In both cases, the punishment was a sort of mercy, since they'd each enjoyed some rare moments of freedom in those new-old stomping grounds.
Interestingly enough, each of our heroes received their sentences from someone who'd been on both sides of the fight (and who was known for drinking their cares away). For Jon, it was Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), who'd been a Lannister but flip-flopped on Daenerys once she broke mad, who came to deliver the news of his exile. For Katniss, it was Haymitch, who'd spent plenty of time in the Capitol before joining the resistance, who delivered her news. (Note: In the book version, it was Plutarch Heavensbee, who had also been working for the resistance from inside the Capitol.)
Ultimately, the people who came into power in the end of both stories were wholly unexpected but had shown an aptitude for getting key information to the right people at the right time. In Game of Thrones, Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) helped ensure Jon and Daenerys would become at odds with one another by getting the truth of his heritage out; and in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2, Commander Paylor helped alert Katniss to Coin's bad deed by letting her talk to President Snow, who slyly convinced Katniss her new president wouldn't be any more merciful than he was.
Both of these new leaders were each duly elected by a council of sorts, too. In Game of Thrones, it was the lords and ladies of Westeros who chose Bran, and in The Hunger Games, the surviving victors picked Commander Paylor. The wheel was also somewhat broken by their inaugurations because both blood rule and the Hunger Games were through, in theory at least.
If all that wasn't enough to prove these stories were in sync, there was even an emotional pat session with a neglected pet to cap off both. Game of Thrones finally reunited Jon with his direwolf Ghost, and The Hunger Games finally saw Katniss warm up to Buttercup, the much-maligned cat that her sister had cared for before she died.
Game of Thrones is available on HBO.