Brienne of Tarth
This article contains spoilers for the Game of Thrones finale.
After eight seasons, HBO’s violent fantasy drama Game of Thrones finally came to an end last night. More than a few fans were disappointed about the show’s rushed action during its two last seasons: complex characters were flattened into dull stock types in the name of speed and a Hollywood ending. But it’s worth mentioning how the show’s two gender nonconforming characters ended up.
We’re talking about Brienne of Tarth, a butch knight, and Yara Greyjoy, Theon’s possibly bisexual sister. Despite not being main characters, both became favorites among the show’s panoply of strong female characters because they contradicted traditional gender roles in the show’s male-dominated society and went their own way.
Sadly, both had unspectacular endings which undermined the very things people loved about them.
Yara’s ending was less disappointing, but mostly because she was largely removed from the show’s concluding episodes.
When Yara first became a major player in the Game, she emerged as a tough, principled, yet loving sea captain who defied her abusive father by attempting to rescue her brother from a dangerous torturer. Later on, she claimed her right to rule her homeland, the Iron Islands, before stealing a fleet of ships from her usurping uncle and “f*cking the t*ts off” of a female brothel worker. Nice.
In the final episodes, Yara basically steered her fleet back to the Iron Islands to hold them as a refuge in case her allies in the North needed to hide out from the invading hordes of zombie-like White Walkers. She returned briefly in the final episode as the only Westerosi leader who thought that Jon Snow should actually be punished for stabbing Daenerys Targaryen, the mad dragon queen, to death.
Sadly, Yara was quickly overruled, bringing an end to the melodrama over choosing a worthy ruler. A bisexual badass sea captain reduced to being the lone dissenter in a board meeting? Yawn. Next.
But even more disappointing was what happened to Brienne of Tarth. Brienne first appeared as the a member of gay king Renly Baratheon’s Rainbow Guard in season two. After Renly got murdered by a shadowy smoke wraith excreted from a sorceress’ vagina, Brienne fled and continued earning her warrior bonafides by accompanying Catelyn Stark and Jaime Lannister across Westeros’ violent landscape and beating The Hound in a countryside duel.
With short hair, a distaste for dresses and the honor of becoming Westeros’ first-ever female knight, Brienne gave us a butch female character to root for. Sadly, the final season mostly reduced her to a woman left pining for Westeros’ wealthiest, most eligible, incestuous, one-handed bachelor Jaime Lannister.
After a one-night stand and a small time canoodling with Jaime in Winterfell, Brienne basically fell in love with him and was reduced to tears when he admitted, “Sorry, I’m still in love with my murderous sister.” Ugh. This is what becomes of the first female knight?
She returned last night to write Jaime’s history after he died in his sister’s arms during the dragon attack on King’s Landing. But instead of writing about how he was banging his sister or the fact that he knighted the country’s first-ever female knight, she merely wrote about his heroic deeds and left it at that.
Perhaps it was a noble end for a butch woman who secretly longed for love, but it was a letdown for anyone who enjoyed the way these two women bucked traditional female roles. Perhaps we can hope for better in the coming Game of Thrones spinoffs (or in the series’ final two yet-to-be-released books)?