Afraid to Watch: Game of Thrones

 

In my last “Afraid to Watch” post, for the In Treatment finale, I made a lot of predictions as to what should happen and they all basically came true, even down to Paul shaking Adele’s hand as he discontinues his therapy and walks out the door.

I’m going to admit, I was pretty proud of myself when I saw that. A fitting end to an introspective season. So let us see, can I hit the bulls-eye again for Game of Thrones? Can I accurately foresee where the chips will fall for the Starks and Lannisters as they come to a head? As some remain hostages of the other? And as the head of one house was grimly executed by another? Another who is an underage king who doesn’t even have the blood right to the throne he’s dangerously abusing? And whose victim was in fact the main character of the series to date? And was the main character for good reason, being the most stalwart, sympathetic, and conflicted of all the adults in the middle of the action?

 

 

Fuck that, I’m not even going to try.

My guesses for In Treatment, although neat as it felt to be correct, were based on something that is shorthand to most of us now, which is proper psychological growth prevailing in the most satisfying manner, i.e. “you can’t always get what you want, but you get what you need” to heroes we want to see struggle and eventually succeed or fail. Game of Thrones, with the death of Ned Stark in the last episode, has shockingly little hero-development to rely on anymore. Only somewhat with Ned’s daughter Arya or his bastard Jon Snow, who both have their father’s nobility and likability running through them, but they are so inconsequential to the battles, duels, and back-stabbings that make up the bulk of the show (Arya because of her age, Snow because of his position), it’s hard to see how they could begin to figure in prominently enough to give us any of that aforementioned satisfaction.

Increasingly it’s actually the you-win-or-you-die “game” AKA the shitty feudal system they’re all in, that’s showing itself to be the main character. If that’s the case, though, how can one guess what’s to happen next except more chaos and instability, which is what it breeds? And can you predict unpredictability?

 

 

What’s odd is that the biggest reason I wonder this is not even the death of Ned Stark, because I guess if forced, a few of the characters could pick up his slack as far as getting audience investment in the series (mostly Tyrion, written wittily and played vigorously by Peter Dinklage, the other movie star in the cast besides Ned’s Sean Bean, different as they may be), but I wonder this because of the secondary storyline in the last episode: the happenings “across the narrow sea.” As we go into the finale, it’s the end to this I’m most nervous to see play out, as it seems it will determine just how unconventional they’re willing to be.

 

 

Because, up until last week, that plot has been our predictable storyline anchor: the “rightful” heirs to the throne are returning to the mainland with an army of savages in tow to fuck shit up in the finale/Season 2. Simple enough. It became slightly less simple when one of the heirs was slaughtered at about the midway point (a decision similarly bold in its anti-climax to Ned Stark), but we still had his dark horse sister Daenerys to pick up the slack, and she seemingly was by the next episode. Last week, however, it seemed this might not be the average side-story of an invading army after all, but another extension of the “game,” as Daenerys’ savage-king husband was put on the brink of death, and suddenly nothing was assured amongst them, just like with the power plays in the kingdom. Fights broke out, threats were made, and now only by introducing “dark magic” into the show is Daenerys possibly going to both keep her husband alive, and this storyline on its comfortable trajectory.

But I sincerely hope it’s not…

The death of Ned Stark made me hungry.

 

I was spoiled and knew it was coming. It was even why I was convinced to keep watching after not being totally sold on the pilot. But it was even more delicious than I thought it would be. Being able to see how central he was to everything, and see him ripped right out was a one-of-a-kind storytelling experience. I mean, how can he die right before the end of the first season? This is what Lost promised to do years ago, when I read an interview with the creators and they said it would be the kind of show where two characters go into the jungle, and you can never know who would make it back. That definitely turned out not to be the case, but now there’s finally a series to pay off that exhilarating promise.

So now I want more. I want this dark magic that Daenerys is unleashing to backfire in the most glorious way, not be a one-episode obstacle that simply brought more “fantasy” to the series. I want absolutely nothing in a ribbon as we go into next season, and as far as the kingdom, I don’t want some off-screen character to suddenly swoop in and announce himself as the show’s hero, like I’m scared King Robert’s talked-about brother, Stannis, might do.

Further, I don’t want sudden deaths to be the standard either. We’ve had three this season and they’ve all held up in their own way, but the time for that is over. You can predict unpredictability. For example, even some of Joss Whedon’s biggest fans are over his penchant for killing characters, and there were definitely some groans when Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog, a light musical, continued that trend. Game of Thrones‘ finale needs to do something totally different than deal with soap opera extremes of death or even birth (ideally Daenerys’ savior-baby won’t come out this week like they made it seem, it’s really way too soon). I’d be much more excited if we got the introspective beginnings of a Littlefinger journey, a Jaime journey, even a Cersei journey to close out the season (how do you make a dog-murderer sympathetic? I think Damages has been wrestling with that one for years).

…OK, so maybe I did make a couple of predictions and put a couple of things on the wish list after all.

But don’t think for a second that this time I’ll be right.

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