Game of Thrones finale sex

Why Did 'Game of Thrones' Get so Sexless?

After helping bring sex to mainstream TV, the HBO phenomenon ended with quite a chaste final season

Courtesy: HBO

There's an SNL sketch from 2012—when Game of Thrones was less a cultural phenomenon and more that show your fantasy-obsessed cousin was always saying you had to check out—that imagines a behind-the-scenes world where the show's sex scenes were run by author George R.R. Martin and a teenage boy (played, of course, by Andy Samberg). Martin was there to ensure character integrity and narrative continuity; the teen was there to make sure every scene had GoT's signature overload of topless women.

As Game of Thrones ended this week, there was online discussion (and a lot of angry reaction GIFs) noting the dropped storylines, favorite characters that weren't given satisfying conclusions and world details that seemed to have been forgotten altogether. But something else for fans to consider is the fact that a show known for focusing on brothels as much as battles had not just a sexless finale, but one that closed that door for many of its protagonists even after the credits rolled. GoT inspired fans to ship its characters with as much excitement as any show on TV today, yet it closed out the series with almost every player pointedly single.
Sunday's one brief moment of generously defined "sexual tension" was actually just a pretense for violence, when Jon Snow, who had obviously been binging Buffy, allowed his queen to get close so he could stab her through the heart. And it was all downhill from there for anyone who thought GoT's finale might feature any steamy subplots. Jon Snow, Westeros' most eligible bachelor, is sentenced to be exiled to the Night's Watch, where he will "take no wife, and father no children." Sansa reminds the council that her brother Bran can "father no children" after his accident. Arya, who rejected Gendry's marriage proposal but didn't appear adverse to the idea of repeating their pre-Night King battle tryst, explains she'll be leaving Westeros on a solo adventure, where there might be free folk-style settlements, or might just be tumbleweeds. The one happily coupled couple, Sam and Gilly, don't even appear together, and while fans can easily imagine Sam coming home to his little family after a long day of Maestering, that kind of domestic bliss gets no screen time.

Even if you consider the two sex scenes that were hyped in this too-brief season—Ayra and Gendry's, and Brienne and Jaime's—they were a major departure from the graphic nature of most hook-ups in previous seasons. There was little that couldn't be shown on network TV, and the emotional resonance was really found in the moments after.
This "cooling down" could be seen as a direct result of the sobering of the series. As things look bleaker, it would be more jarring to have the wild orgies that dotted the earlier seasons. Impending doom can logically lead characters to want to lose themselves in sex, but it also makes sense that they'd want to hold on to something more than just a hook-up, a deeper sense of intimacy to keep them grounded.

But what about the lack of romantic pairings set up in the final moments of the series? What separates this finale from most goes beyond any kind of "happy-ending couples," but the fact that even ones created in fans' imaginations call for the creation of completely new characters. Jon Snow plus some unnamed member of the free folk. Sansa plus one of the Northerners who actually survived both wars. Tyrion and someone he meets in the newly restored brothel, probably. Any characters with even the suggestion of romantic chemistry have been separated by the finale via distance or death.
Maybe Game of Thrones is, in the end, a testament to finding happiness with yourself, and yourself alone.
So when people look back over the entirety of the series, what is it saying about the sex scenes that once defined it, or the romance that the writers ultimately decided wasn't important? There is a sense that loneliness does not mean unhappiness. Arya, setting sail with the knowledge she might never see her family and friends again, looks triumphant. Sansa, crowned queen in her family home with her remaining family members all but completely unreachable, looks proud. Jon, the only Stark who did join a group of friends, on the other hand, looked grim (until he sees Ghost, of course). As Brienne literally closes the book on her short-lived romance with Jaime, she seems at peace with her job and the purpose she finds in it. Maybe GoT is, in the end, a testament to finding happiness with yourself, and yourself alone.

Of course, in a penultimate scene, the king's advisors discuss as a top priority the possibility of rebuilding the brothels destroyed in the battle. Maybe that's the takeaway the writers really want to leave us with. Whole houses might be wiped out, dragons again disappeared, families scattered, unlikely kings installed and the entire system of succession disrupted. But when the dust settles and the people of Westeros are ready to go on, the orgies will always come back.

With GoT now gone, TV junkies are considering not just the fantasy series' legacy, but what impact it will have on the medium's landscape overall. GoT's sexless finale might be heralding, if not a more chaste world of TV, then at least one that really considers if a graphic sex scene is what the story needs. The show got a lot of well-deserved criticism for using sexual violence to an unnecessary degree, and in the #MeToo era, it seems showrunners are now much more cognizant that any sex scene isn't just about sex—it's also about power. TV post-Game of Thrones won't be devoid of all sex, but it might just use sex scenes in smarter, more careful ways.


Molly Horan
Molly Horan
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