The moment Ned Stark was beheaded; Game of Thrones sealed its place in our hearts. The show proudly announced that it’s not interested in saving its darlings. It was more interested in flirting with real life. It treated its heroes like puppets. If it glorified their ambitions and desires, it took seconds to burn them down to ashes. That is what kept us hooked. GoT never really gave its main characters a chance to gloat or put up with their vanity. It was in vain. Nobody mattered in the game of thrones. GoT earned its fame by giving you an assurance that no one is safe.
The critics of the show often say that GoT exploits violence and nudity – two main ingredients that bequeathed Game of Thrones an unprecedented viewer ship. But who are we kidding, really? GoT was much more about politics and ambitions of mortals than anything else. Every other detail was secondary. The political intrigue of King’s Landing during early seasons made us marvel.
Every scene was a playful romance between life and death. We were thrown some lines that could be chewed for days. Remember what Syrio Forel said to Arya Stark in the first episode, ‘What do we say to God of Death, Not Today’. Those were the days when the show was faithful to G R R Martin’s book A Song of Ice and Fire. Or consider what Cersei Lannister said to snobbish Littlefinger, “Power is Power” (and not Knowledge is Power).
Even the peripheral characters were intriguing and added more depth to the beautiful chaos. Their scenes carried a subtle drama of life and death.
Of course, there was brutality, violence, rape, and sex, but all that never hindered in shows’ efforts to surprise and shock us. GoT managed to subvert narrative conventions quite easily. Look at how it subverted every normal convention: A brother and sister having affair. A father raping his own daughters. The tragic back story of Tyrion where his father Tywin humiliated the girl he loved.
Why the hell is Jon Snow alive?
Cut to season 6 and we are treated like any other TV show would treat us. Jon Snow is brought back to life (something that fans had speculated for a long time). He is back to save his sister Sansa. His safety also ensures that we get a king in the North to fight against deadly White Walkers. So now that the land of Westeros is safe from White Walkers, Cersei and Daenerys will get some more time to scheme and hatch their next plan to win the Iron Throne. All, thanks to Jon Snow. How very convenient.
With the safety of Jon Snow, the show has chosen for a safe narrative. If Jon Snow would have remained dead, the show would have been even more chaotic (something that makers didn’t want to risk, given the fan following for Jon Snow). His life also aligns many scattered plots together and ultimately brings us to the biggest question that we all have wanted to know – who will eventually sit on the Iron Throne. But don’t you think the answer to that question seems to have come at an easy cost. With Jon Snow and Sansa Stark reclaiming north, many fans are also speculating that it will ultimately be a showdown between dragons (who have been reborn after centuries) and white walkers (who have taken six seasons to invade).
But did we sign our allegiance to Game of Thrones to watch a battle between Dragons and White Walkers? No, we didn’t.
When was the last time the main character died?
Frankly, I can’t remember. It seems like ages. But a little work will tell you that it goes as far back as season 4. Both Joffrey Baratheon and Tywin Lannister died in season 4. Both were main characters and we cherished their deaths, given how brutal they were. The death of Oberyn Martell did little to hinder or move the main plot. And he wasn’t even a main character. Stannis died in season 5, but who cared for Stannis anyways. Stannis wasn’t popular with fans and his death didn’t have much of an impact.
The season saw a couple of more deaths. All the characters that died in season 6 were again not main characters. Their deaths only made sure that the main protagonists could move ahead and do what they always meant to. The death of Margaery Tyrell and High Sparrow made Cersei the queen again. Jon’s little brother Rickon died but not without paving a way for Jon to take revenge and become king of North. The only death that had an impact was of Ramsay Bolton.
Yet, at the end of season 6 all those who truly matter- Starks, Lannister and Targaryen are safe and intact. Can we really expect makers to kill off the main character now that we are so close to the end? Only time will tell. Their safety has made Game of Thrones a predictable show.
Main characters may suffer but they don’t die anymore
The last couple of seasons were busier torturing and humiliating main characters. Perhaps, it was a similar ruse again. Remember how Cersei’s walk of atonement in season 5 raised our hopes. But (as little did we expect then), Cersei was saved by the Mountain in the last minute. The High Sparrow irritated her during entire season 6, but it was all in vain. Cersei’s son Tommen committed suicide but we had known this all along that all Cersei’s three children were going to die.
Sansa whose status steadily rose through the last couple of seasons was also subjected to some brutal torture. Ramsay Bolton raped her and made Theon Greyjoy see it. But at the end, Sansa managed to escape.
And Daenerys’s escape from Dothraki’s capture seemed more like a cake walk. All she had to do was some talk with Dothraki lords and Jorah Mormont came back just in the nick of time to save her. Jon Snow, as you know, was saved by Melisandre’s magic as effortlessly as you could imagine. But saving its heroes also means that Game of Thrones has adopted a safe strategy rather than trumping narrative conventions.
It certainly gives us delight when Cersei takes her revenge by killing High Sparrow, Sansa takes pride in watching Ramsay being eaten alive and Daenerys saving Mereen from the clutches of Masters. But isn’t it what usually happens in any regular tale – heroes save weak and kill their enemies. Game of Thrones taught us to not worship heroes. But it did exactly that when it put efforts to save its main heroes in order to propel this long, scattered story to its final destination. But it has done so at the cost of playing it safe.
Can GoT season 7 surprise us?
I really doubt it. Over the years, Game of Thrones has created a certain fan base. So, now it’s all about pleasing them rather than experimenting and losing their invested love. Originally, G R R Martin was supposed to write a trilogy. From here on, Game of Thrones makers would try to do every thing correctly and propel the story forward. Like any other show, GoT has become more interested in manipulating audience rather than toying with storyline or characters. And it’s also well-aware about our restlessness to know – who will eventually sit on the Iron Throne. As long as that question hovers over us, Game of Thrones will keep teasing us and we will continue to watch it.