HBO’s smash hit returns for a fourth season
By Sharvari Johari ’17
Gratuitous sex and violence, an attractive cast and human stories are told in a fantasy world and dragons. It seems obvious that “Game of Thrones” would be a runaway hit. The tagline of “Game of Thrones,” a television show adapted from George R.R. Martin’s book series “A Song Of Ice and Fire,” is “You Win or You Die.” What makes this show and book series so special is that it actually means it.
Far too often, we can be comforted that there would be a happy ending in media, because where would the story go without the protagonist? The trio was never going to die in Harry Potter, and the Empire was always going to be defeated in Star Wars.
However, in “Game of Thrones,” there is always a real risk that characters you love might soon be gone. Just like in life, bad often defeats good and other people rise to take over. The show and book series manage to make their characters and stories complex and exciting because the typical expectation of morality winning out is gone. The best example of moral characters — and beware here for spoilers of the first and second season — the Starks are brutally murdered by the hands of their enemies.
“Game of Thrones” is one of the first examples of popular media where protagonists or good character are actually at risk if they make mistakes. When Ned, Robb and Catelyn Stark did not play the game with excellence, they were violently murdered. This results in even good characters battling with morality. Some of the other members of the Stark family have to make some morally questionable decisions in order to survive.
This equal playing field really encourages viewer excitement and participation. Fans will argue for whom they want on the Iron Throne and unlike other shows, it’s not a clear choice. Do you want Daenerys Targaryen — who has dragons and kindness but lacks the experience? Do you want Stannis Baratheon — a incredibly lawful but rude and uptight ruler? Or do you want a third player to come in and usurp the current dynasties? Every one of the characters has their own clear identity, motivation and allegiances. Every new character shuffles the game board more. Every battle, every relationship and even every conversation has relevance to the end game. In order to make sense of this fast paced, magical world, you have to be an attentive viewer.
There’s no denying that Game of Thrones has an incredibly rich and detailed plot, but what remains to be seen is if it will stand up to history. For one, will it resolve the story in a satisfying way? Here, satisfying does not necessarily mean a happy ending, but a way that makes sense without a deus ex machina conveniently thrown in, confusing the audience.
Once “Game of Thrones” ends, will fans want to rewatch for foreshadowing in the vein of “Breaking Bad”? Or rewatch for the evolution of their characters like “The Wire”? Hopefully, “Game of Thrones” is not a craze smiliar to “Lost,” which moved its exciting plot at breakneck speed but didn’t stand up to a second viewing.
The media surrounding “Game of Thrones” also reflects a new feature of media consumption — spoiler culture. Spoilers have always been a part of media. Who can forget telling people that Snape kills Dumbledore? But “Game of Thrones” reflects an even more obsessive avoidance of spoilers. Not only do people not want to be told the major events in the episode, they will also meticulously avoid hearing tiny details. Not getting plot details ruined is an especially hard task in the face of new social media. People have been known to cut off internet friends who post statuses about the newest episode. Twitter must be avoided at all costs as any event in the episode will be trending immediately. Tumblr is purely unthinkable because not only will the plot itself be ruined, but there will also be gifs of the actual scene.
However, this is a result of a larger discussion on spoilers in society. Because the books have been out for so long, shouldn’t it be only fair for longtime fans to discuss the books at their leisure? Why should they have to curtail their activity because some can’t manage to watch an hour of television once a week? Or is it more important not to ruin the surprise and joy of a first time watcher no matter when they see it?
Any advantages book readers have might be gone soon, as the television show is catching up to the books concerningly fast. With one new season of “Game of Thrones” every year, George R.R. Martin has to publish books much faster than his current rate of a book every four to five years. With only three books left, the show might be moving faster than the book series and could soon run out of material. What will happen to the series next? With Martin as a producer and writer on the series, it is likely that the series might continue on without the books, a blasphemous thought to die-hard book fans.
However, no matter the rate of production of new content, there is still enough for two to three more seasons. This new season, based on “A Storm of Swords,” is the third season of the show. It features a breakaway from the previous season filled with world-building and warfare. The new season will feature even more new characters, including the fiery Oberyn Martell, who is seeking revenge for his murdered sister. In addition, it will show more political maneuvering by each political family now that a peace treaty has been declared. Older characters scramble to find themselves a stable and powerful place in their dangerous world. No matter if you are a “Game of Throne” expert or newbie, this new season will have you gripped.