Since Game of Thrones just ended, and I’ve been working from home for a week due to some office renovations, I thought it was the perfect time to sign up for a 7-day free trial of the HBO Amazon Prime Channel and binge the entire series (while working, of course!).
Game of Thrones has reached such a level of cultural ubiquity that I already knew a fair amount about it for having only watched the first season, and that four years ago. I already had some vague, half-formed opinions about certain characters and storylines, but watching the series in its entirety all in one fell swoop has given me some more nuanced insights.
These are my main thoughts upon finishing the entire series.
1. I Really Want to Read the Books Now
I read the first book, A Game of Thrones, about ten years ago, quite a bit before the show started, and I don’t really remember a lot about it except that it was really violent and really long. I think it took me about two months to read it.
Now that I’ve seen the whole story unfold onscreen, I’m curious about how it unfolds on the page. Knowing the book series isn’t finished, I’m also curious about how the books will differ from the TV series once it moved past where Book Five left off. Fans have been waiting the better part of a decade for The Winds of Winter, so maybe if I start the book series now and go slow, Book Six will be done by the time I finish.
2. I Have Questions About the Gods and Magic
- Are the gods real? If not, where does magic come from? Or is magic all just illusion?
- Is Arya’s face-wearing ability magic? If so, the Many-Faced God must be real, right?
- Most of Melisandre’s magic seems to be more-or-less real, so the Lord of Light must be real as well?
- Daenerys is legit fireproof and seems to have precognitive dreams; that has to be magic, right? (Or some kind of superhuman ability; maybe in another universe she’d join the X-Men. Sansa already did. Heh heh.)
- What’s with the Night King and the White Walkers? Where does that power come from? Is it a zombie virus? Is the Night King a god, or is he using a god’s power?
- Is the Three-Eyed Raven a god? Can Bran become a god now that he has those powers?
- Is magic part of the natural order of this world, or does it have a supernatural or preternatural source?
Maybe these are questions that would be answered by reading the books, or maybe not. If you have thoughts on any of this, let me know!
3. I Also Have Questions About the Political Systems
- How exactly do they work?
- Is Meereen a City State?
- If whoever sits on the Iron Throne is ruler of the Seven Kingdoms, then why are they still considered separate kingdoms? Aren’t they all one united kingdom (heyyy!) now?
- And once Bran is ruler of the Six Kingdoms, wouldn’t it make the most sense for him to grant independence to all the others? What’s the benefit of keeping the kingdoms under one political power?
- Throughout the series, the Hand and the Small Council seem to have more real power than the monarch, which is reflective of how many monarchies have functioned in the past and currently; but if that’s the case, why do so many people care about being king?
Reading the books might shed some light on these questions, as well.
4. I Don’t Care for Jon Snow
Sorry, guys, he’s just not an interesting character. He’s honestly kind of a Mary Sue: the Chosen One with the hidden royal bloodline, raised in obscurity and poised to rise to greatness, honorable to a fault, and everyone he meets is ready to follow him to the ends of the earth, even though he claims to not want that power. It’s so boring.
But I think that was kind of the point. Benioff and Weiss, and I’m assuming Martin, did an expert job of subverting this “Chosen One” trope. Daenerys also fits the Chosen One template, though not in as conventional ways as Jon, which makes her a lot more interesting.
In fact, most of the women are a lot more interesting than Jon: Daenerys of course, and Cersei; despite how evil she is, you have to respect her cunning and adaptability and knack for survival. Cersei might actually be the most interesting character, because she’s evil. Margaery was like Cersei 2.0, and Yara and Brienne are just the badass ladies we need in this world.
And who couldn’t love Arya and Sansa? Which brings me to…
5. Arya and Sansa are Everything
I wish they had more time onscreen together. I would watch a show that was just about them, either following the paths the final episode sends them on, with Arya sailing west to explore the world and Sansa ruling The North, or some other storyline where they’re together and maybe working to rebuild in The North, or just like everyday foibles and shenanigans.
I would also one thousand percent watch a reality show that just follows Maisie Williams and Sophie Turner around.
6. I have Thoughts on the “Season Eight Backlash”
So a lot of people didn’t like Season Eight.
You know what? Tough.
Create all the petitions you want, complain as loudly and petulantly as you want, but this is the story, this is how Weiss and Benioff told it. There’s no way their ending was going to make everyone happy, no matter what they did. When Martin eventually finishes the books (if he does), there’s no way his ending is going to make everyone happy, either. So everyone just has to get over it.
I can respect the more well thought-out criticisms about character development and plot pacing. There are some fair points being made about these issues.
However, as someone who has studied storytelling academically for several years, and who has just watched the entire series back-to-back, I can tell you that pretty much everything that happens in Season Eight fits within the greater arc of the story being told up until then. Nothing is out of place when taken in as a whole.
Slate posted an interesting article recently, an interview with Ronald D. Moore, the executive producer of Battlestar Galactica. (A lot of fans were pretty angry about how that show ended, too. I wasn’t one of them, though I am a fan.) Moore makes a really good point when asked about the angry reactions to the final season of Game of Thrones:
In fandom, there are some people who express their love through hate.
The extremely strong emotional reactions that many fans are having to the ending, though negative, are a testament to how well-loved the series is. People care. And I have to think that at least part of this anger is also in response to not just HOW the series ended, but the fact THAT it ended, which proves how well the story was told.
This theory also sort of explains why so many Star Wars fans hate Star Wars movies. And that brings me to…