Game of Thrones: Learning to Hope

(Spoiler alert, level yellow! If you haven’t seen it Season 6 of Game of Thrones, the ramblings below may be mildly spoilerish.)

All around me, people are rejoicing. On Twitter feeds, and at Monday lunch-breaks… “Go Starks!” “Yay Khaleesi!” “GoT #woohoo!”

If there’s one exclamation I never thought I would associate with Game of Thrones, ‘Woo-hoo’ might be it. What sound would I most associate with GoT? Probably a sharp intake of breath through clenched teeth. You see, up until this season, my first purview into the doings on Westerns came directly through George R.R. Martin’s ‘Song of Ice and Fire’ novels.

For me and millions of other fans, those five novels—those roughly 6,000 pages—have been an exercise in train-wreck spectacle and exquisitely postponed gratification. In all of those 6,000 pages, there’s been what?—maybe three pump-your-fist moments?

But now book fans have ran out of SOIAF books to read, just as producers of the HBO series have run out of plots to follow. Has the TV show faltered, now that the show-runners have to continue the stories on their own? No. If anything TV show has tightened up, quickened its pace, and embraced a fresh, new action-oriented tone. GoT’s Season 6 has shed off some meandering and unsatisfying plot-lines like a working-girl shedding clothes in Littlefinger’s brothel. And the show-runners are killing off the series’ most despised, and most plotting-obstructing characters. Troublesome characters are dropping like… like… well, like good guys in the first five seasons of the show.

Every Sunday night I’ve been watching these new episodes with my arms crossed and a Scroogish scowl on my face. Beside me, my wife hoots and cheers. She loves this new turn in tone. My general reaction has been ‘Everything is too easy.’

Before this season, I enjoyed the HBO adaption mostly because it reminded me of other HBO classics. The Sopranos and The Wire were byzantine pot-boilers—slow-moving and meticulous. They were absolutely brilliant shows with plenty of ‘water cooler moments’ between them, but I don’t think anyone would ever call them ‘crowd-pleasers.’ So I was disgruntled that the GoT TV show had transitioned so unabashedly into crowd-pleasing mode.

Then came the Battle of the Bastards. Good grief. Has there ever been a better-directed, better-directed 60 minutes on television? Forget Emmys. That episode deserves Oscars! Then that episode was followed up by the equally excellent season finale, and I realized: Why am I not opening my heart to this new way of (literally) enjoying these great characters and the thrilling world they live in? Our heroes are actually accomplishing things. They are actually on the move. And everything is spinning up to a huge 3-or 4 front climactic confrontation of Near-Evil vs. Pure-Evil. That’s thorny enough for me. Grab the popcorn, I’m there. And then there’s always the promise that ASOIAF Book 6 book will be here (eventually) to reward the most patient and masochistic fans of the books.

My only hope is the show-runners won’t forget that the Red Wedding is still the series’ most memorable, most quintessential moment. The ‘Game’ can’t end satisfactorily, unless it breaks our hearts, at least a few more times. Here’s hoping they kill off one or two of the characters we all love. And I hope they do it in the most unexpected, most unwarranted way possible.

(And, whomever it is, I hope they keep it permanent this time).

Another one of my GoT articles: Best Actor in a Suppurating Role


Days of Thrones

Or Tweet #102, the Director’s Cut.

Regarding George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series, I recently tweeted that Bran chapters are like Mondays. Why not run a good analogy into the ground by comparing each day of the week to a different Game of Thrones POV? Warning: this post is slightly spoilerish.

Sunday = Jon Snow
Sunday begins the week, but is also apart from the week. Nearly every GOT book begins with a scene from beyond the Wall, and it seems like we’re supposed to believe that the White Walkers are going to become the saga’s Big Bad. But for the most part, Jon and his crew have been isolated from the holdfasts and whorehouses where the REAL story is happening.

Monday = Bran
Ugh. Please end already.

Tuesday = Cersei
Survey says that Tuesday is the most productive day of the week, and when it comes to the goings-on at King’s Landing, Cersei Lannister is a narrative workhorse. There’s a lot of plodding—oops, should I have said ‘plotting?’—in her chapters, which sometimes makes them more utilitarian than enjoyable.

Wednesday = Arya
Wednesday is hump-day, and this lil’ Stark humps around the kingdoms, never really getting where she wants to go. Also, she has the wits and personality of a hump. Not a big fan of this character. (Although HBO’s Arya, Maisie Williams, did deliver several awesome, heartbreaking moments in the pivotal “The Rains of Castamere” episode.)

Thursday = Sansa
So what does Sansa have to do with Thursdays? Well, Thursdays are pretty good. By Thursday everyone is chugging along in a solid groove. We’re almost to the end of the week, but we’re not quite to Friday. Similarly, Sansa chapters provide solid entertainment and provide close glimpses into flashier characters, like Joffrey and Littlefinger. I like that Sansa is not the stereotypical ‘plucky teenage underdog’ that we see in fantasy novels. She’s more flawed and relatable and seemingly very expendable. Expendable = tension = good. What does all that have to do with Thursdays? I don’t know! What do you want from me? Let’s move on.

Friday = Daenerys
TGIF! I may be in the minority, but I am still most excited to see this name at the beginning of a new chapter break. Assassins and barbarians and warlocks and gladiators and prophecies and suitors and spies and more harem-pants than a MC Hammer video. All of this exotic weirdness is brilliantly augmented by two stiff white guys (Sers Jorah and Barristan) who are mainly there to cock their eyebrows and kick ass.

Saturday = Tyrion
What happens on Saturdays? Parties, fiestas, road trips, weddings, awkward family reunions, sporting, and hook-ups. Tyrion chapters have all of these things and some pig-jousting for good measure. Tyrion has often changed roles and locales and supporting characters throughout the series, so his storyline has a sense of freshness and freedom to it. Kinda like a Saturday afternoon.

So there’s my list. Maybe for an encore I’ll compare some of GOT’s ‘non-playable characters’ to national holidays. Which maester best represents Arbor Day? Who will stand as a symbol of the Autumnal Equinox? These are the questions that keep me up at night.