HBO’s Game of Thrones

A Rare Win for Wheelchairs in Game of Thrones’ Final Episode

It’s the next day and I’m still quivering.

Spoilers follow for the series finale of HBO’s Game of Thrones.

A wheelchair user won the game of thrones.

I’m totally unused to this.

Totally.

Wheelchair users are rare in genre television shows to start with. Sure, every once in a while a Felicity Smoak ends up in a wheelchair—only to be cured by a miracle spinal implant chip a few episodes later. A spinal implant chip that Arrow then mostly proceeded to completely forgot about, most noticeably in scenes where Felicity mused that she wanted to make a real difference to the world. Which apparently meant massively invasive, easily misused security systems promptly stolen by the bad guys instead of assistive devices. Oh, Felicity. Or, speaking of inexplicable magical cures, there’s John Locke over on Lost (though that show did have the occasional realistic element of adaptive bathtubs and transfer chairs on planes.)

Oh, and sometimes a wheelchair-using witch shows up on Broadway to sing about how great her life could be if only she weren’t in a wheelchair, and then gets crushed by a house.

In films—well. We have Charles Xavier, often shown with various people pushing his chair around. We have Christopher Pike post-accident (treated far more kindly in the Star Trek film reboot than he was in the original). We have Avatar, where the wheelchair user abandons his wheelchair for an able-bodied avatar.

What we don’t have is too many wins for wheelchair users.

Enter Game of Thrones.

It’s not perfect. As multiple people on Twitter—me included—pointed out, King’s Landing seems completely devoid of wheelchair ramps and curb cuts. I’m not even sure how Bran managed to get up to the raised stone stage where the assembled lords followed Tyrion’s lead and proclaimed him the king of Westeros. I have absolutely no idea how he’s getting around. No offense to Podrick intended, but Bran is heavy. That wheelchair is certainly not an ultralight device formed from titanium. So how is he handling all of the many, many, many, many staircases—and no ramps—seen throughout the Red Keep and King’s Landing?

The Red Keep could, of course, have some sort of lifts, but in eight seasons of this show, we’ve seen only one lift or elevator—the one at Castle Black. That lift was apparently able to survive eight seasons of wildling attacks, ice zombie attacks, and Jon Snow’s endless brooding, which speaks well of its durability, but for whatever reason, the other castles of Westeros haven’t seemed interested in copying the technology. Even in Winterfell, after Bran’s arrival.

Maybe Bran flies up and down the stairs. He has some sort of magic, after all.

And since Bran could still walk in dreams and while time-travelling, the role was played not by a wheelchair user, but by the able-bodied actor Isaac Hempstead-Wright.

Did I wince a little when Sansa argued that Bran’s inability to father kids made him ineligible for the throne? Sure. Did I think that Tyrion should have focused just a tad more on Bran’s magical powers and ability to see incoming threats to Westeros, and rather less on the idea that Bran—BRAN—had the best story of any character in this show, when Arya, Slayer of the Night King, was sitting RIGHT THERE? Did I wonder what, exactly, happened to Tyrion’s intelligence there?

Yes. Yes, I did.

Did I also nod along with the multiple comments on Twitter pointing out that Bran is like that kid who doesn’t do any of the work but shows up to take all the credit at the end. Yep. I also agree with the argument about how the emotionless character is arguably not the person best suited to take up the management/leadership role. Better than Edmure Tully and Robin Arryn, certainly, but possibly not the best.

Did I have various quibbles that had nothing to do with wheelchairs, access ramps, and lifts, or more serious questions about racism and retaining the aristocratic power structure? Like, questioning just how Jaime and Cersei Lannister managed to get crushed to death by rocks and bricks and yet still not get a single scratch on their perfect cheeks? Or, as a recovered medievalist, wincing at the image of the book of A Song of Ice and Fire because, no, that’s not what handwritten medieval manuscripts looked like? Also waiting—in vain—for Brienne to follow up her biography of Jaime by writing her own name in large golden letters on the next page. And wondering why Gilly didn’t get to make a last appearance? (Did Sam’s new job as Grand Maester force them to divorce?) And missing one last appearance from Hot Pie, and, and—

Sure.

Did I kinda wonder if just maybe Drogon melting the Iron Throne was less an elaborate, beautiful metaphor about…. uh, whatever it was supposed to be about, and more a way to avoid filming Bran Stark trying to transfer from his wheelchair to the Iron Throne?

Absolutely.

And sure, I could have done without the constant repeats of “Bran the Broken.” How about “Bran, the Three-Eyed Raven Who Is About To Track Down a Freaking WILD DRAGON, of House Stark, the First of His Name,” thank you very much.

But overall?

The wheelchair user won the Game of Thrones.

Fist pumps all around.

And maybe a couple of wheelies.

Mari Ness currently lives rather close to a certain large replica of Hogwarts, which allows her to sample butterbeer on occasion. Her short fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, Fireside, Apex, Daily Science Fiction, Nightmare, Shimmer and assorted other publications—including Tor.com. Her poetry novella, Through Immortal Shadows Singing, was released in 2017 by Papaveria Press. You can follow her on Twitter @mari_ness.

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