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Friday, January 17, 2020

Is Game of Thrones pulling off a Lost?

Lost also ended in a not-so-good way. In fact, the reaction was as if some globe-spanning tragedy had occurred. Even some of its most ardent fans were disappointed. These days whenever people discuss Lost, it is invariably about that contentious (some might say misunderstood) ending.

Written by Kshitij Rawat | New Delhi | Updated: May 18, 2019 9:01:33 pm
game of thrones ending HBO’s Game of Thrones appears to be going out the way Lost did.

More and more, it appears that HBO’s Game of Thrones, easily the biggest TV show of our generation, is the Lost of this decade. Much before Game of Thrones inspired zillions of its passionate fans to fight over this or that character’s fate on the internet and ruminate over sundry theories, ABC’s epic drama was the one that began this trend.

With its equally complex mythology and huge cast of characters (though not comparable to Thrones), there was a lot to discuss and ponder about Lost. It was back then an epitome of multi-character storytelling in television and every other episode dropped a bomb (by which I mean something which just demands to be talked about). And since Facebook and Twitter were not so prevalent then, fans called each other names for hating on their favourite character in dedicated forums instead.

Here, however, I am not talking about this similarity between these two shows. I am specifically talking about how Game of Thrones is ending. Which is to say, in a not-so-good way (finale might change my opinion, but I wouldn’t count on it).

Lost also ended in a not-so-good way. In fact, the reaction was as if some globe-spanning tragedy had occurred. Even some of its most ardent fans were disappointed. These days whenever people discuss Lost, it is invariably about that contentious (some might say misunderstood) ending.

But first a bit about Lost. If you have not seen the show and want to see it in the future, here is when you stop reading. There may be minor spoilers.

A plane crashes on an island. Some passengers die, most survive. The survivors build a life together on the island and wait for the help that must surely be coming. It never does. If that weren’t bad enough, they discover there are other people on the island, and they are hostile. Quite unimaginatively, they call those other people the Others (incidentally, White Walkers had another name in George RR Martin’s books — the Others — and it was due to Lost that name was dropped by HBO).

Slowly, layers upon layers of mythology about that mysterious island is revealed as we keep learning about the characters’ past through flashbacks. The writers of the show keep piling plot threads over plot threads, weaving them together to create a monumental saga. And it just keeps getting deeper and deeper as the show goes on.

Make no mistake, it is all very-well written and ridiculously interesting to see all the reveals the show has to offer and its detailed plotting. But after a point, you begin to wonder how are they going to finish all this? Are they going to give any payoff for investing so much time into it? Every story, no matter how big, needs a nice ending, after all.

Depending on who you are as a person, either you adored how Lost went out or just hated it. I watched it much later and quite liked how the plot thread on the island was wrapped up, but I was not a big fan of the ultimate fate of the characters.

Now, let’s come to Game of Thrones. It has a cast that is even bigger than Lost and is set in a world that is not ours. Sure, there are cultural similarities to medieval and ancient Europe (Valyran Freehold resembles the fall of Roman Empire; the South of Westeros is like England and the North like Scotland; the Dothraki resemble Mongols and Turks; and so on), but the entirety of the story and mythology sprang up from Martin’s mind.

Martin is a slow writer. And he is only getting slower. He has written five tomes so far. The first one, A Game of Thrones, from which the show takes its name, came in 1996. The next three, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords and A Feast of Crows came out in 1999, 2000 and 2005. The fifth novel, A Dance of Dragons, was released in 2011. And it has been 8 years since the last novel in The Song of Ice and Fire series came out.

The show, which began airing in 2011, eventually and inevitably outpaced the books. HBO was not going to be as kind to the showrunners as Martin’s publishers has been to him. So from season 5 and 6 onwards, the writers had to write their own stuff for the show. The showrunners, David Benioff and DB Weiss, were apprised of the broader plot of the entire story by George RR Martin (the scribe of the book series) but not the finer points. Since they are free to paint the relatively minor details themselves, they are screwing it up.

No, I do not have a kinder word for it. They are utterly screwing it up. There are also reports that they are exhausted with the show and just want to conclude it and move on to Star Wars (they were hired by Disney for a trilogy of films). This is why, the reports say, they killed off enough characters in the last few seasons to populate a good-sized town. So they will be able to wrap up this whole shebang quicker.

Whatever the truth, they are not up to this.

If I were to write about the inconsistencies, plotholes and leaps of logic this and the previous season have taken, I could get a book published that would challenge the very art of binding. Just like Lost could not pull off a satisfying denouement to its unwieldy and big story, Game of Thrones, unless the finale is miraculously good (and I doubt it is), is going to be one of the biggest missed chances in pop culture ever.

Consider this: until probably season 4 or 5, Game of Thrones was easily up there alongside shows like The Wire and Breaking Bad in the list of greatest dramas ever in the history of television. Now, despite its stratospheric production values and technical excellence, it wouldn’t be anywhere close to the top 10.

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