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Game of Thrones fans are giving Brienne the ending she deserved

One of the most popular memes in the wake of the finale sees Brienne telling better stories than the one she was given on the show.

Brienne on “Game of Thrones.”
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Aja Romano writes about pop culture, media, and ethics. Before joining Vox in 2016, they were a staff reporter at the Daily Dot. A 2019 fellow of the National Critics Institute, they’re considered an authority on fandom, the internet, and the culture wars.

Game of Thrones’ polarizing series finale has been met with plenty of unimpressed and negative reviews, but if you were a fan of Brienne of Tarth, the character’s final solo scene might have left you with an especially sour taste in your mouth.

“The Iron Throne” did see Brienne become the commander of the Kingsguard under the new ruler of Westeros, Bran Stark — but it also saw her pining over Jaime Lannister, and made her most meaningful screen time all about Jaime rather than her own impressive accomplishments throughout the course of Game of Thrones’ eight seasons.

Many fans already had little love for the show’s treatment of Brienne in “The Last of the Starks,” in which Jaime cruelly dumped her in the dead of night to leave Winterfell for King’s Landing, not long after they’d finally slept together. But in the series finale, the show went a step further: Brienne noticed that Jaime’s page in the Book of Brothers, which records the deeds of all knights who served in the Kingsguard, was unfinished — and took it upon herself to fill in some details. But rather than write about him with rancor or bitterness, she calmly framed his final acts as marks of heroism and valor.

On the one hand, the scene illustrates the nobility and grace of Brienne’s character. But on the other hand, it serves to make Brienne’s narrative all about a man. My colleague Zack Beauchamp likened Brienne’s actions to “functionally writing Jaime Lannister’s Wikipedia page, rendering her arc subservient to a man’s.” And fans of Brienne were quick to castigate Game of Thrones for concluding her arc in this fashion.

But if you’re among those fans who thinks Brienne deserved much better, you might be heartened by the redemptive work that’s happening on social media on Brienne’s behalf. One of the most popular Game of Thrones memes in the wake of the finale involves allowing Brienne to tell much better stories than the one she was given on the show itself. And honestly, it’s pretty vindicating.

To Game of Thrones’ credit, one of season eight’s best scenes involved Jaime knighting Brienne, in “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms,” which took its title from the moment. But from that point on, the show seemed to fall into the narrative trap of ultimately making Brienne’s story all about Jaime — who drunkenly took her virginity as Winterfell celebrated its defeat of the Night King and his Army of the Dead.

While Jaime’s intentions in leaving Brienne to return to his sister Cersei were never fully clear, his departure left many fans outraged at the image of Brienne, one of Game of Thrones’ strongest women, sobbing in a nightgown over the rake who took her innocence and then broke her heart. Given the show’s lackluster track record regarding its women characters, it’s hard to blame them.

The finale added insult to injury by doubling down on this irksome narrative trope. After Jaime and Cersei died together at the end of episode five, “The Bells,” the finale depicted Brienne as still being hung up on Jaime and his fate, and seeing to it that his legacy was preserved, rather than focusing on her own.

Remember, Ser Brienne is the first woman in Westerosi history to be eligible to have her own story recorded in these pages. So a scene in which she wrote about the man who loved and left her did not go over well.

Enter the memes.

Many viewers were not impressed by Brienne’s gracious euphemistic recounting of Jaime Lannister as a heroic noble knight rather than the antihero who left her sobbing in her pajamas in order to return to his incestuous sociopathic lover. They quickly began to meme the scene where she writes of his exploits, turning the Book of Brothers into a classic Mean Girls-esque burn book.

Many also took the opportunity to comment on Game of Thrones’ reduction of Brienne to essentially a Lannister fan blogger, instead of a character worthy of her own fitting sendoff.

Several of the memes pointedly reclaimed the narrative for Brienne herself, depicting her writing her own, much flashier story in the book.

But not all the responses offered commentary on Game of Thrones’ finale; most memes involving text are easy to riff on, and lots of people simply took advantage of that.

All in all, while “The Iron Throne” may have been a lackluster sendoff for Brienne — and, let’s face it, most of Game of Thrones’ women characters — it led to a great day for women getting their due on the internet.

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