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Thursday, 11 April 2019

Why People Love Game of Thrones

Winter is arriving in a few days and I'm on a Season 7 re-watch. I can't help but wonder; what is it about this incredible show that has captured the hearts of millions? I know, cliche statement. But there are lots of wonderful shows out there that feature captivating and morally ambiguous protagonists and supporting characters and complex storylines. What makes GOT so special?
(Yes, there will be spoilers).

A Multitude of Key Characters

GOT isn't the tale of one or two people's ruthless rise to power like in Breaking Bad or House of Cards. We see the perspectives of many characters who carry deep significance. I've done character analyses on Breaking Bad, Mad Men, The Sopranos, Orange is the New Black and Jane the Virgin (to name a few). While the supporting cast are prominent, each is the tale of one person: Walter White, Don Draper, Tony Soprano, Piper Chapman, Jane Villanueva.

GOT is not the tale of one person. The 'main' character, Ned Stark, gets killed in the first season and book. His wife and son, Cat and Robb, appear to be the next 'main' characters, only to get killed in season three. Tyrion, Cersei, Jon Snow, Daenerys, Jaime, Bran, Joffrey, Littlefinger - these are all characters that significantly impact the story. Littlefinger is not a member of a major house and has no emotive family ties, yet he is responsible for a major war and the deaths of thousands (millions if you count soldiers). He is one of the smartest, most cunning players in the ultimate game (thankfully his misdemeanors finally catch up with him).

Not only that, but there is lots of moral ambiguity in the characters. Most of the characters in The Sopranos, while interesting, are awful people. Seeing Pussy get killed by Tony, Sylvio and Paulie isn't that tragic when you realise these are men who kill people for money and frequently cheat on their wives. Yes, they are not all heartless killers but we don't get emotionally 'close' to Tony's crew the way we get close to Tony. Naturally, the depth of character is due to George R R Martin, who writes each chapter of the books from perspectives of different characters so we really get inside their heads. This translates beautifully to the screen as in one episode we can see the stories of five different people and the impact they each have on the world around them.

Relatable Storyline

GOT appeals to our true human nature. It is not a tale about people fighting for an iron chair (which is why I believe the throne will be irrelevant in the final season). It is about the horrors and costs of war and the struggles for power. It shows us that bad things happen to good people and not everyone is who they appear to be. The Hound and Jaime both seem like arseholes initially; later in the show they're some of the best loved characters.

It is also about the things we do for love; our family, our friends, how you can love someone and then grow to despise them, how we don't always trust our best judgement, how those closest to us can betray our trust, and how to survive and succeed in a callous and unforgiving world. It tugs on all our emotions; joy, laughter, despair, horror, hatred, fear, disgust. Many including myself believe it to be a metaphor for climate change, or the destruction of the earth caused by humans. While our politicians bicker about Brexit, the ice caps are melting and we're running out of natural resources, plus plastic pollutes our oceans.

It's the most realistic show I've seen in how it relates to humanity and the world around us, and even me as a person. I've learned a lot about human behaviour through this show. Our natural xenophobia to anyone outside our 'tribe' - I even wrote a song about our innate distrust of those 'different' or 'outside' of us. The wildlings, the rival houses, the Dothraki and of course the white walkers - we see how people from different 'tribes' treat one another, and how some characters (like Jon Snow or Samwell) try to unite and understand others despite their differences.

Great Visual Effects

Getting technical, the CGI and locations are amazing. It's great seeing the ice cold of Winterfell, sandy desert of Essos and sunshine of Dorne. Because the story spans different parts of its fictional world, we get to travel to different locations through our screens. Lots of shows or stories take place in one setting, maybe crossing briefly to another. But we get to see different types of people, different cultures, different languages all crossing over one another.

Subverting Cliches

A Targaryen princess (Dany) gets married to a 'foreign savage' (Drogo), but he turns out to be a loving husband who helps her grow strong and courageous (and then he dies). The golden-haired prince (Joffrey) betrothed to the princess (Sansa) of the rival family is one of the most hateful, terrible, spoilt bratty cunts to viewers and people in the story. Turns out he isn't even the worst villain; the most evil character (Ramsay) lurks in the shadows before coming out in later seasons like a boa constrictor waiting to strangle anyone in his way.

The gallant heroes (Ned, Cat and Robb) all die and the bastard son (Jon) becomes the true hero. Also their crippled kid (Bran) is actually the most important person in the whole story who knows everything. The wicked sorceress (Melisandre) isn't actually a ruthless monster; while she does questionable things she does them based on faith and belief in a greater good, not for the sake of doing evil things. Likewise, the wicked queen (Cersei) does have a heart; she loves her kids and her brother (Jaime) - so much that her kids are also his. While her father (Tywin) seems like he should be the king based on his tactics and cunning strategy, a fat incompetent oaf with a heart of gold (Robert) became king. Both those two die anyway, one at the hand of his wife and the other at the hand of his son. Also, since when is a drunken imp from a hated family (Tyrion) the most loved character in any story?
Yes, I even made a video talking about GOT. 
It's only a few minutes long, unlike this post.

It's based on a book series

Maybe I'm biased as a writer, but I believe most films and TV shows based on books are the best. Writers can draw out so much on the page, and when this is translated to TV it can be magical. Writers can invent so much drama and dialogue and description that gets edited out of a film script. If the script is based on a novel then re-creating the drama can be done well. (I love all mediums of story-telling - plays, films, literature and songs - as long as they are masterful and true to their form).

So that is why I believe GOT is such a beloved show. And to round off this very long post, I'm going to write down what I think will happen to most of the main characters in Season 8:

Tyrion - I know there are lots of theories that he will betray Dany due to some agreement made by him and Cersei, but I don't buy that. He's too loyal and clever, plus he knows doing so would get him killed. Why would he pick Dany over Cersei's unborn child (that may not even be born)? I think he will survive and create a democratic state in the new world.

Dany - I reckon she will die, either at the hands of Jon Snow as his 'Nissa Nissa', or die and be resurrected as the Night Queen, or die giving birth to Jon's child who will rule in the new world. I love her to pieces but I doubt she'll live.

Arya - My money's on the Nymeria-theory; that Arya will die (likely in battle), then warg into Nymeria and live out her days as part of a wolf pack. That would be bittersweet for sure. (Or she'll marry Gendry).

Jon - well he can't really die again as that would be pointless. If the throne still stands then I think he will sit on the throne. Perhaps he will become the new Night King and he and Dany will be the King and Queen of Ice and Fire - or simply Ice. Or if he is Azor Ahai he may have to kill Dany and sacrifice her as the Night Queen and bridge a pact between the living and the dead. So many possibilities, but I think he's either going to rule Westeros or become the Night King.

Sam - 'A Song of Ice and Fire by Samwell Tarly.' Sums up my thoughts. I would be very surprised if he died due to his character arc. I reckon he'll become an archmaester and write the tale of this long night that we have all watched and read with Bran's help of seeing the other character's viewpoints.

Brienne - she'll definitely die, either by saving Sansa or Jaime or someone. I'll miss her for sure.

Bronn - can't say; reckon he'll die in battle, again potentially by saving Jaime or Tyrion. Or he'll live and end up getting that nice castle he wanted.

Jaime - he's definitely dying. My bet is he'll die and Arya will take his face and use it to kill Cersei, or he will kill Cersei to stop her from blowing up King's Landing and then die or kill himself in the process. That would make me cry :( so long golden-hand.

The Hound - no idea, but a show-down between him and The Mountain is happening for sure. Maybe they'll kiss and make up.

Ser Davos - erm, will probably die in battle like Brienne. I'll miss him too!

Grey Worm - will die in battle, maybe trying to save Missandei.

Missandei - will probably die in battle. Hope those two die in each other's arms.

Cersei - well I've already speculated either Jaime or Arya will kill her. Or she'll die in childbirth. Either way, she ain't making it out alive. The witch of the south is dead...


Varys - Ah, tricky. He seems like someone who will survive due to his wits and loyalty. Perhaps will help Tyrion and some others build a democracy.

Sansa - I really hope she doesn't die! Hoping she will live and become part of the democratic state, or end up marrying Tyrion. The two could rule until Jon and Dany's child comes of age. If any more Starks have to die, I think Arya is the most likely due to her character arc.

Melisandre - reckon Arya's going to kill her, based on that moment in Ep6 Season 3 where the two cross paths. Or she'll become the Night Queen instead of Dany.

Gendry - a lot online has been circling about his potential significance. If Cersei is his mother (in the first season she told Cat about a black-haired baby boy that was taken from her) then that makes him legitimate, not a bastard, which means he is heir to the iron throne as the last surviving Baratheon. If Jon becomes the Night King and decides he doesn't want the throne (giving up the throne is a very Jon thing to do) then Gendry could be the king of Westeros. That would be a twist!

Jorah - will die in battle fighting for Dany, perhaps to save her or Sam's life (as Sam saved his).

Theon - he will probably die, perhaps saving his sister, but I hope he kills his uncle first.

Yara - I guess she'll die in battle? Maybe after Theon saves her from Euron and kills Euron.

Bran - God knows what Bran's fate is. He could be the Night King, or go back in time and stop everything from happening, or have gone back in time to create the wall and the Night's Watch and the whole thing repeats as a circular story, or he becomes the new Night King, or the whole thing is his dream based on tales Old Nan has been telling him and he'll wake up in his room in Winterfell and his family will be standing around him and he'll say 'guys, I have to warn you about something...'

Night King - what does he want? A bride? A peace treaty? Maybe he'll turn everyone to ice zombies and the world will be covered in snow like the Dothraki prophesied. So much speculation, and only a few days till it starts to come to fruition...

But what are your thoughts, reader? (And no, I don't apologise for the length XD)

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