The eight-year-long cultural phenomenon of HBO's Game of Thrones culminated on May 18 with the fiery destruction of the Iron Throne and the death of the formerly beloved Queen Daenerys. The show's final season has produced an explosion of commentary on what it all means. What is the appropriate basis for political authority? Can Daenerys be both a feminist hero and a war criminal? Does might make right? Should it, in a time of war?

Among the foreign-policy intelligentsia, and society broadly, interpreting Game of Thrones has become a cottage industry. Every political analyst, historian, or theorist has his or her take on what lessons can be drawn from the story for real-world foreign policy. This enthusiasm tells us something about the show's political implications:fans and writers argue over Game of Thrones precisely because there is power in interpreting a story to support one's own arguments about what is right and who gets to choose.

In 2012, I joined this fray, arguing in these pages that the overall narrative arc of Game of Thrones favored a constructivist rather than a realist view of global politics, in that it disrupted stale formulas, privileged the marginalized, and taught that power hinges on attention to justice. The series' denouement largely confirms this reading. Those left standing can include women, cripples, bastards, and “cowards.” Meaningful and necessary institutional changes can arise from global collective action. Brute force cannot win the day in the absence of ethical restraint.

Above all, Game of Thrones contains a still deeper constructivist message about the power of narrative to lead or mislead. Tyrion's message to the elites of Westeros in the season finale sums up this lesson of the show: “What is it that unites people? Armies? Gold? Flags?” Tyrion's answer, is that “there's nothing in the world more powerful than a good story.” His argument draws on a deeper critical constructivism that emphasizes the productive power of political narrative. Storytelling, a critical theorist would likewise say, makes sense of political reality, constructs political community, engenders rebellions, foments genocides, and forestalls wars.

People love stories, and, as Paul Musgrave notes, storytelling matters in how we understand political reality. Well-known fictional tropes can be used to set political agendas and sell political ideas. For example, as Manjana Milkoreit has written, environmental activists have used the popularity of Game of Thrones to encourage actions that fight climate change. That climate change turned out to be only a subplot in Game of Thrones doesn't really matter; here political actors used a cultural meme to serve their own ends. Political analysts need to know more about how people do this and when it works.

If Game of Thrones teaches us that stories matter, then the foreign affairs community should take political fiction seriously—not as fans and literary critics but as political analysts. We can and should take a hard look at the effects of this tale in the real world: how concepts from fictional stories circulate through the policymaking process, and how pop cultural artifacts or narratives influence real-world political discourse and policy decisions. Then—just like Jon Snow—we can use that knowledge to inform difficult decisions about how to act.