When those doors open to the Dark Tower at the end of Stephen King’s final volume the journey for Roland and his Ka-Tet will come to an end. The journey, however, is not without its hiccups and so here are some suggested changes for the “The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower.”
My posts on “The Wolves of the Calla” and “The Song of Susannah” focused more on criticism rather than changing those volumes. Most of the changes of “The Wolves of the Calla” are the result of changes in earlier novels, like introducing Father Don Callahan in an earlier book. With “The Song of Susannah” the changes suggested were cutting and pasting bits from “Wolves of the Calla” for the beginning, and the beginning of this final novel for the end. This would give the sixth book a more coherent story from beginning to end. Now let’s talk about the beginning of this novel. Obviously, there will be spoilers.
I understand King’s intention by having Modred feed on Mia, but her end was the most anti-climactic ending for a character besides the character she gave birth to. Mia consumed the last book and most of the one before that so let’s give her a better ending. Instead, the Low Men should take Mordred immediately away only to have Modred feed on them. The events with Susannah getting the gun would happen as normal with Modred escaping but this time Mia is left alive and distraught. Without Modred Mia is left broken, purposelessness, and suicidal.
Skipping ahead, once the Ka-Tet reunites on the other side of the door to Fedic that should be it for the real world, or the keyworld in this book. No coming back to save Stephen King and no seeing what has happened to the Tet Corporation, as much as I love that part. What has been interesting about these books is Roland’s world, and what happens when real people enter a “fantasy world” like his. The bits with the real life events of Stephen King’s accident aren’t engaging, they’re eye rolling especially the second and third time around. Then, of course, after a poignant moment where Jake sacrifices his life for his creator King once again has to give us the point-of-view of a character he just introduced. I could not turn the pages quick enough.
So there they are back in End-World, with the now broken Mia. This is the first time Mia and Roland meet face to face. She doesn’t talk about how Roland is doomed to die and the Crimson King will bring down The Dark Tower. She has become disillusioned with all her beliefs and asks Roland to end her life the same way he did to Chevin of Chayven in Turtleback Lane. Before he fires she looks at Susannah and in her head, Susannah hears Mia say “I’m sorry.”
Jump ahead to Thunderclap, where King once again fills pages with the point-of-view of characters no one cares about in Pimli Prentiss. Was all this to build up to Eddie’s death at his hand? Well, that’s not going to happen either. Neither is Ted Brautigan’s backstory going to drag on for as long as it does just to build up to one moment where Brautigan is forced to use a power on someone he kind of likes. Don’t fret, dear reader, Eddie Dean is still going to die, just not yet, and not by such a worthless character.
What’s the point of introducing Mordred if he doesn’t kill any characters of importance? Yes, by the battle of Thunderclap he is still just a small child but he’s supposed to be part Mia, part Crimson King, part Susannah, and part Roland. He should take advantage of a battle, and his small size.
Here is the perfect opportunity for all the hype King built up for this character to come to fruition. This is a village of psychics and telepaths and Mordred doesn’t eat a single one of them? Not anymore. Sheemie will now suffer a terrible fate at the hands of Mordred rather than blood poisoning. As a result, Modred will age up to the same as Jake. When he’s in human form Mordred should be the anti-gunslinger, not just a were-spider with a thirst for violence and hunger to consume anything he runs into. He could die the minute one of the gunslingers get their guns out and where is the threat in that for a final villain?
Here’s how King tries to make Mordred a threat: by killing the villain we’ve been anticipating a confrontation with since Wizard and Glass, Randall Flagg. I get angry every time I read it. What a waste. Instead, Randall now is a mentor figure to Mordred. He is to Modred what Roland is to Jake, but you know, evil.
I hate to lose it, but with the changes I’ve made to the story, there’s no reason for Roland to return to the keyworld alone and visit the Ka-Tet corporation. Here’s how we can find out what happened though and it fits into what I had in mind for changes. Besides Oy, Susannah will be the only one not consumed by Mordred. On their way to Castle Discordia, she gets trapped or captured by the now highly skilled anti-gunslinger Mordred. In a moment of weakness for his half-mother, he hesitates to end her life in a way that leaves Mordred unable to fully eat her before she dies as Jake did in the first book. Like Jake and Callahan, Susannah wakes up in another world, the keyworld, and here she reunites with Moses Carver instead of Roland. She knows she died, and she knows there is no way back. Her ending is bittersweet like it is in the original book but far less, unlike her character. Despite everything that comes before, about there being multiple Eddie’s, Jake’s, and Susannah’s on different worlds King still wants us to be okay with Susannah’s ending. They’re twinners, they’re not her Eddie and Jake but he needed a convenient way to get rid of Susannah for his ending.
Another disappointing moment is the confrontation in the Castle Discordia. Instead of this game where Roland and Susannah are tempted by enchanted food we now get a showdown between Mordred and the Ka-Tet. This is where Modred shows gunslinger skills of his own and kills and feeds on Jake. It’s all tearjerking, just as it was in the real book but made all the worse because the real son has now killed the adopted one of Roland Deschain. Now, Modred is aged up to Eddie’s age.
With Susannah gone, a rift is building between Eddie and Roland. We saw how Eddie was breaking apart when Susannah was under Mia’s control, in danger of dying, and pregnant with Mordred. With her actually dead Eddie is becoming disillusioned with the quest and Roland as Dinh. There should be a moment between Roland and Jake before they reach Castle Discordia, where Jake warns Roland about this drift between the two. Then, with Jake gone, it is only going to get worse.
Also taking place in the Castle Discordia, the end of the Crimson King by his own son and his second-in-command. As much as the Crimson King’s name is thrown around, Randall Flagg is, by far, the more compelling villain and should be the one to confront Roland in the end. Here, in Castle Discordia, Flagg convinces Mordred to betray his father and together they kill him.
So now we’re left with no Susannah, no Jake, and no Crimson King. It’s just Flagg the schemer leading Mordred the now naive young man in a race with Roland and Eddie. With the death of Jake and Susannah, the latter is becoming more like the man who threatened Roland with a knife in The Drawing of the Three, but this time he’s drug-free, more capable and has one of Roland’s guns.
These books are often described, and I think even by King himself, as Middle-Earth meeting the Man With No Name series. The Western part is what seems to lack in the last book, and with all the metafictional parts with the real world, despite King saying it isn’t metafiction, even the fantasy world is not as prominent as it should be in the last book.
This will lead to the final confrontation between Roland and Eddie replacing the part with Dandello and Patrick Danville who are wholly unnecessary and come in at such a weird time in the novel. The reader should be led to believe Eddie is on the verge of killing Roland, and Roland has a growing feeling of sorrow he’ll have to kill Eddie first. What will actually happen is the final confrontation with Mordred in which Eddie will come to his senses to save Roland’s life and kill Mordred. They’ll have their final conversation and Roland will move on. Similarly, Mordred will have his final conversation with Randall Flagg. Flagg will express his disappointment with the son of the Crimson King but overall to be expected. Now Flagg will kill Roland and have the Dark Tower all to himself. Here, before he dies, Mordred’s part of himself that is the White, the part of himself that come from Roland and Susannah will mourn what he could have had. In this final moment, Mordred will take Flagg’s power from him to Flagg’s fury, and Flagg will rob Eddie of Roland’s other gun.
This will lead to the final showdown between Marten Broadcloak and Roland Deschain of Gilead, the last Gunslinger. Flagg, though mortal, will be burned by the gun forged from the melted down Excalibur. He’ll get in a shot in, though, miss, and finally be killed at the hand of Roland.
That is what I would change about the final Dark Tower book. I’ve been critical of the direction King took the series only because I love it. Roland, Eddie, Jake, and Susannah are multi-faceted written characters, and Roland’s world is one I always want to know more about. While I felt the plot didn’t keep its promises, becoming bogged down by point-of-views characters I didn’t care about, a severe lack of development for its villains, and a contrived plot involving the real world towards the end, I cannot deny that King is an amazing storyteller. When Eddie calls him Wordslinger I cannot disagree because I became sucked into the series despite my criticisms. He’s a masterful storyteller.
What I would never change is the ending. There would be no Crimson King calling to him from the balcony of the tower, and what Roland may see on each floor of the tower may change but those moments aren’t what is really important about his trek up the tower. From the moment Roland calls out the names to the moment his fate to repeat his quest is revealed, now with the Horn of Eld, is just beautiful. A lot of readers felt the journey there was better than the ending, but for me the ending couldn’t be more perfect.
“The man in Black fled across the Desert, and the Gunslinger followed.”
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Featured image by Michael Whelan.