Saying I love Game of Thrones is an understatement. After hearing rumblings of it during its second season on HBO, I eventually found myself not only binging my way through the show but even reading through all of the books. There was a point in my life when I actually took it to heart to memorize any and all information about the world created by George RR Martin.
Like most things that exist in our current pop culture zeitgeist there has become a shorthand for what the show is about to casual onlookers and surface-deep watchers. “It’s the show where everybody dies by violent circumstances, there are dragons, a lot of female nudity, and of course a wide array of attractive characters.” Oh wait did I mention the female nudity?
There isn’t anything wrong with this understanding, all of those things are accurate, but boiling down the show to its simplest components is a fundamental misunderstanding of what makes this show so interesting and a standout in fantasy specifically and tv more generally.
Looking at the source material ( which would be a different series onto itself) there are many things that make the Game of Thrones series unique. First off, for a fantasy setting it is subversive of typical tropes found in the genre. Protagonists (at least early on in the show) that are for justice and all that is “good” meet unexpectedly swift deaths to their shock and the viewers. This is groundbreaking in some ways but it paralleled with many of the other shows that started during this time period like The Walking Dead where it feels like no one is safe. This actually gives a sense of suspense or dread when anticipating the next death.
But on a much deeper, and more important level, Martin is able to flip the common archetypes in fiction and change the formula. When was the last time in any form of media that the outcast of society was ever deemed the protagonist or at the very least a part of the “good” team? Aside from Toph Beifong from Avatar: The Last Airbender not many come to mind.
Typically, throughout fiction those who are differently-abled are meant to represent the evil side or a strange force of nature. One does not have to look too far in the past to see examples of this. Stephen King’s Gerald’s Game and its Netflix movie adaptation is an extremely recent example.
Yet here we have a show with multiple characters facing traumas either by birth or circumstance and there is not only a feeling of support for them but they are some of the fan favorites of the series. The series is able to do this in a way where the character’s disability is not their key attribute, but just a part of their complex character.
Characters! Characters matter in this world, especially in relation to other characters. Relationships are old and at times complicated between different characters or groups of characters. This makes for some of the most memorable moments in the books and the show itself. And these characters live in a complex world where each action has ripples throughout the rest of it. The world feels like it is genuinely lived in and fleshed out.
Part of this feeling is due to GoT being a great piece of historical fiction. Martin is not unfamiliar with the turbulent times of the Middle Ages and early Modern Period. Not only does Martin create events and allegories for actual historical events, but he takes it a step further by thinking a few steps ahead in this crazy world. For example, what are the political impacts of having three flying, fire-breathing war machines at your disposal. Or what about an unconquerable magical enemy that is approaching a kingdom splintered by civil wars and disagreements.
Game of Thrones takes us there and it does it in an entertaining way.
That’s why I am writing this, before the final season of the show bombards our brains and preoccupies our time I want to start from the very beginning of the show and work my way up to the finale of season 7 and into the final season itself.
With that being said here are a few caveats/ things I will be adhering to:
- Spoilers of course!: I am not here to slowly unravel the story for those who are unfamiliar with it. This is more of an exercise in re-living something that I already like and talking about it more deeply. That means anything from any GoT series is up for grabs.
If you don’t know what the phrase “R+L=J” is turn back now…or don’t, it’s the internet I can’t control what you do. But here is the fine print saying that anything and everything is up for grabs.
- Yes the books and the show are different: I have read all the books, which is not necessary to enjoy the show. But, if I find it necessary or interesting I will reference the books during a review or season recap.
- Structure: So since I have seen every episode/ season of the show I figured the best course of action is to do as follows. Create my impressions from what I remember about that season from my memory, then do an episode by episode summary/review/ thoughts then finally an end of season thoughts on the season as a whole.
- Time: If I was a student still or actually did not work a billion hours I could probably get this monster of a thing done within a month or two, alas I have a full time job so it probably will be relegated to weekends or late nights.
- What about the books: Since Winds of Winter seems nowhere close to being done (George Martin is a busy guy these days) I do not really want to go through the full swath of text without an end in sight. A few dozen hours of television is one thing but five books numbering in a few hundred pages at least per book is daunting. If you are interested in a chapter by chapter summary of the books check out GOTacademy on YouTube.
So I hope you will embark with me on The Road to the Iron Throne.