Spoilers for HBO’s A Game of Thrones ahead.
There is no easy way to say this. You’re dead. Gone up in a burst of wildfire. Crushed by the falling stones of the great Sept of Baelor, along with your father, brother, and half the remaining nobles of King’s Landing. Not to mention the High Sparrow, who had you at his mercy for much of this season. How absolutely infuriating that after outsmarting him, getting out of captivity and evading the Walk of Shame, his arrogance and unwillingness to listen to a perfumed woman finally brought you down.
Death has a way of giving its denizens a cloak of gold, putting them beyond reproach. It also serves as a justification for singing someone’s praises, something that many of us secretly desire to hear. Death serves as a rude reminder of those too-oft-quoted words, ‘Valar Morghulis’, and in your world, where life seems so much more tenuous than it does in many other fictional realms, that phrase should never be far from consciousness. But for some reason, I never thought it would apply to you.
Bit odd, isn’t it? I remember the first time I watched a character I had assumed would live on to a ripe old age bite the dust. It was Eddard Stark, and fresh from the moralistic universe of Tolkien, where heroes like him often go on to win the day*, I was shocked that he could be so coldly and seemingly whimsically dispatched. It surprised me, but I wouldn’t say it shook me. No, that happened later, when his son, Robb, and his wife, Catelyn, were murdered at a wedding feast. For a few hours, I put the book aside and thought, I really cannot go on reading this.
But after that, though people suffered, and some even died, their passing didn’t mean as much to me. I had learned to be selfish, you see, to care only about a handful of people. So long as Sansa, Theon, Jaime and Bran were still alive to fumble through plots and intrigue and magic, all was well. After all, so long as there is life, there is hope, and even when things looked dark for them, I consoled myself with the fact that at least they were still alive, in itself a blessing in this dark and cruel universe.
If you could, you might ask me: if you were truly successful in shutting off your regard for other characters, and thought you could get by without feeling, once again, that unmooring that assailed you after the Red Wedding, would you be sitting here lamenting me? After all, you are not one of the four I mentioned. I have never consciously counted you as a favourite, and thanks to the lack of your perspective in the books, I’ve not had the chance to really get to know you, or been given a reason to care about you particularly.
Except…except maybe that changed a little, because of the show. You see, the problem with the show is that it forces viewers to consider all the characters, and what they might be thinking and feeling, from a much less prejudiced viewpoint. We see you through the relatively impartial lens of an omniscient camera, not the eyes of a jealous Queen Mother, nor an overwhelmed and grateful Stark daughter. We see you, Margaery, as you wished to be seen. And make no mistake, you were as savvy about how you were seen as any PR-smart celeb in the Age of the Internet. You were way ahead of your time, splashing artfully through mucky puddles, reading to Insta-worthy crowds of orphans, and delivering burns that Buzzfeed would be proud to write about under the tagline ‘YAAAAS QUEEN.’
But you were also so much of your time. You played the game with forces old and new; you stood against the matriarchal tyranny that Cersei sought to wield over you, and you also acknowledged, and worked with, the newer forces that were at play: the moneyed influence of a schemer like Littlefinger, the rising tide of fanaticism among the poorer folk. You were supple enough that you could bend to adapt yourself to changing tides, but also strong enough that no one looking at you ever thought of you as anything other than a wonderful daughter of an esteemed, and proud house.
Margaery, you were magnificent. I thought of you as the future, someone who could combine the graciousness and beauty that noble families so often pretend to have with the ruthlessness and savvy required to play the game. You moved with such finesse through those corrupt circles of power, never being coy about your ambition, and yet, graceful in how you achieved it. You kept your hands clean, and never seemed to descend to pettiness and vengeance. I would place you among the higher echelon of ‘game’ players, on par with Varys, Baelish, and if only his family weren’t so against him, Tyrion. Given more time, you could have gone toe to toe with them, and if not won, at least kept your head.
But Cersei’s words seem to ring true, time and again: ‘When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.’ You were so close to winning. You were so smart that you even figured out what was going to happen, that something was wrong, when no one else did. You went to your death as you went into your marriages: knowing more than everyone else around you. Sadly, this time, the knowledge could not be used for your benefit. All because, as I said, a stupid man refused to listen, and let his pride and ego get in the way.
Now, a single term comes back to haunt me when I think of you. Catelyn Stark looked at the brave, beautiful encampment you shared with Renly and your forces, and thought of you all as the ‘Knights of Summer’. Playing at war, she said. That was what you were doing. But you weren’t playing, were you? You always knew what you were about. You knew you wanted to be ‘The Queen’, and you weren’t afraid to say it, or do what it took to get there.
You were my Queen of Summer, Margaery. I had hoped you would make it through, and find some happiness for yourself once the dragon tides and winter wars were past. I wanted to see you on the Iron Throne, bringing some sort of peace to a riven land, allies with a fellow survivor in the North (Sansa, of course). But in Westeros, such dreams are shattered far too often, and too easily. Summer faded away, and now winter has truly come.
*Not in The Silmarillion though. Elf lords and humans great and small regularly die in horrible and creative ways. Tolkien doesn’t get enough credit for blood-spilling.