Saying farewell to a cultural milestone

Tonight, HBO’s Game of Thrones aires the first episode of it’s final season. There is sure to be plenty of discussion during and after the show on Twitter about who died, who betrayed who, and adoration for fan favorites. Already, fans are buzzing with their theories about how the saga will conclude on Reddit and there is even a pool board about who will win the eponymous “Game” on Reddit’s homepage.

The adaptation of the novels by George R.R. Martin was a huge success for both the author and everyone involved in bringing it to the small screen. I remember when I tried the first episode back in 2010 with my roommate while having lunch, and we ended up glued to his computer screen. The next episode led to three more. We would have binged the entire first season in one sitting if I did not have to go to work. I’m pretty sure we finished the first season after I got home that night.

As a fan of fantasy and storytelling in general, I was a big fan of both the narrative and the way it unfolded. I couldn’t bear to wait for the next season so I found the novels online for cheap and was pleased to find that at the time, there were four books available. I skipped the first one since the TV show was a close adaptation and ended up reading the second, third and fourth over a two week period. The novels are between 700 and 1000 pages, so I was essentially dead to the world, unable to move from the couch in a book coma, as it were. While the novels aren’t necessarily well written in terms of prose, they are masterfully plotted and compelling. Martin loved subverting tropes and planning surprises that paid off hundreds of pages later- this was perhaps most popularized by the Red Wedding incident, which led to a great trend on social media.

People who knew of the Red Wedding would discreetly film their friends and family reacting in horror to the climactic betrayal of three of the show’s protagonists at the end of the episode. It was a fun way to laugh at ourselves and add some levity to an otherwise harrowing event.

Game of Thrones, as a television show, was fascinating in how it brought people together. The only other event that merited viewing parties was the Super Bowl, I don’t believe any other shows had this level of popularity… well, maybe Lost.

But again, the show is perhaps worth checking out because of how enmeshed it became with the cultural zeitgeist- like the Beatles, or perhaps to use a more recent example, Harry Potter. I believe it will be a while before a new story captivates the world and commands the same cultural significance this show has. One of my former professors at Penn regularly tweets about the show as a fun way to drum up excitement for his lectures, by referencing how characters from the show employ military strategy.

There were several criticisms about the show, and it was interesting to see the creators respond. Many people complained about the excessive violence and nudity (which is par for the course when it comes to HBO), but the writers listened and cut back on the nudity and “sexposition” (scenes in which sex is used needlessly to advance the plot). Another personal gripe of mine was to see favorite characters from the book get relegated to insignificant roles in the show, be poorly cast, or get zero screen time at all! However, the main criticism comes from the fact that the story is not complete. George R.R. Martin was unable to write the books as fast so the show has since surpassed the novels. The writing has becoming comparably bad and is tying up all the loose ends in an unsatisfactory way.

Christopher Orr of The Atlantic has a great piece describing how the show’s quality has deteriorated and my favorite line was this, “Season 7 ended with a death that might as well have been a metaphor for the show itself: that of REDACTED.” Just to prevent a spoiler I went ahead and removed this villain’s name, but for those of you reading who know, that they were once a well written, complex, clever, conniving character. I had lost interest in the show prior but this was the final nail in the coffin.

I will probably end up watching but it will not be with a joyful heart. Who knows, I may end up pleased by now having low expectations. Anyhow, I hope for those fans out there that you do enjoy the show, but forgive me if I pass on the viewing party.

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1 Response to Saying farewell to a cultural milestone

  1. sydhavely says:

    Extremely well done and capsulized. These shows were and are cutlural memes for our times. I was a big fan of “Lost,” until it went through that hiatus but missed the train on “Game of Thrones,” to my detriment. Well done.

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