This post is one for you GoT fans out there.
If you aren’t one, I won’t hold it against you, just sidle away quietly. That said if you are a Game of Thrones fan and are not up to date with all the TV episodes / have somehow managed to dodge all the spoilers for this episode, you can also just sidle away quietly. You don’t want me ruining your expectations – I’ll let the show do that.
I read an opinion piece in the Sydney Morning Herald last week in which the aftermath of the latest ‘shock’ death of Prince Swoony Of The Desert, aka Prince Oberyn Martell of Dorne, was discussed. It mentioned the outraged reactions of gutted fans on social media, which the writer shared, and he even stated that if Tyrion gets the chop he won’t watch the show any more. I recall there were similar reactions after ‘The Rains Of Castamere’ episode in Season 3, widely known as ‘The Red Wedding’.
Do many people feel this way I wonder, or is it just the non-books-reading, completely-king-hit fans of the TV series? I share their pain, but not their attitude. I love books with happy endings as much as the next person, but some stories have something more to say; something harder to face. The themes require sacrifices by and of the characters, and through strong characterisation we share in their suffering. Experts lament that when the repercussions of violence aren’t shown it desensitises us to it. Well you certainly can’t say that about GoT – while it is violent – graphically so – fans have keenly felt the deaths of prominent characters. For me personally however, far from making me want to quit the series, it makes me barrack for my remaining favourites all the more.
I think of it like this;
They are in a war, and there are no guarantees. In the horror of war, lots of people – whether they’re likeable, or hateful, or funny, or old, or young, or important, or a nobody – die. That is why war sucks and is to be avoided. Everybody is a somebody to someone.
This is art imitating life, with all of its uncertainty, and u-turns, and… er, dragons. Yes okay it’s ‘only’ a story, but stories have power and the characters and the world become real to us; we care about what happens to them. We were even emotionally invested in Joffrey; insofar as we all hated his guts and wanted him dead. (Seriously, hats off to actor Jack Gleeson for portraying such a nasty character to perfection and generating such universal abhorrence that people literally want to punch him on sight.)
When we were first introduced to Pedro Pascal as Prince Oberyn of Dorne I remember thinking; you’re awesome. Please don’t die, I don’t want you to die. I mean, I knew he must; it is known. But still, until the contents of his head decorated the cobbles of King’s Landing I hoped against hope he’d survive the translation to TV. He was a favourite in A Storm Of Swords and even more so with an accent and dimples*.
But this is the reality of this series – deal with it.
One handsome prince didn’t get to avenge his father’s death: Prince Dreamy Of The North met a gruesome end at the wrong end of a sword and a sewing kit. Another handsome prince didn’t get to avenge his sister’s death: Instead he had his very sexy eyes gouged out and his head imploded like a 5kg watermelon thrown on the road. Probably three-quarters of all the schmoes in The Seven Kingdoms will never get the chance to write their autobiography, or discover the cure for greyscale, or conquer Westeros because they copped a lance through their chest or a sword through their neck or sustained a tiny boo boo which got infected and caused them to slip into a coma and thus be easily smothered by a pillow. In George R.R.’s world the exiled queen might not have a happy ever after; maybe she’ll never return to Westeros. She might instead open a flame-grilled burger joint in Meereen because Westeros is too bloody cold and full of frozen zombies.
We feel they should have lived because they had good hearts, fought for justice, were loyal, and brave, and because ARTISTIC LICENCE. I guess I keep hoping Game of Thrones will find its inner Disney, but I won’t crack the shits if it doesn’t. Of course escapism is a large part of entertainment and I’m not saying that a series with dragons and wargs and homicidal shadows is going to outdo reality in trying to be realistic. This is why I’m fairly certain – as certain as I can be of anything in this series, which isn’t much – The Mother of Dragons will survive, as will The Imp and The Bastard. Either way, I’ll be barracking for Arya and Bran and all the rest; even Theon, sort of (can he find redemption??!).
It’s not all doom and gloom; earlier in the episode the writers gave fans of the show a little encouragement; I’m sure it’s just as hard for them to kill beloved characters as it is for us to watch them do it. Sage advice on facing fears and living life to the fullest was channelled through the character of Littlefinger – an unlikely sort of life coach, to say the least:
Everybody dies, sooner or later. Don’t worry about your death, worry about your life. Take charge of your life, for as long as it lasts.
– Lord Petyr Baelish
So I will hope for the best, and never give up; I’m going to follow this series all the way to its heartwrenching, bittersweet, blood drenched, but hopefully happy ending.