But really… what is Game of Thrones?

This writing is dark and full of spoilers…

On this Sunday afternoon of what I like to call Sagabowl Weekend, I have a few waning hours to write before the next installment of the paramount HBO drama series, that everyone has already been talking about all decade. But, I have to say, a vast majority of discussions focuses on individual constituents, and not the sum of the larger whole.

It’s not a bad thing. I’m proud of and impressed by the maester-like knowledge and three eyed raven foresight the fan base demonstrates when they develop theories and predict possible outcomes. As for me, I don’t know who’s gonna bang who, who leads the dead pool, or who’s gonna win the spikey chair lotto. But I think at this point in the story, and in a short few weeks, those will be extraneous things anyway. More to the point, when the credits roll on the finale, what will this all mean?

I enjoy GoT for entertainment purposes and hype, sure. I totally admit to being a lowest common denominator fan that just sits on Youtube, re-watches fights, recites one-liners and is cool with a couple logic gaps, like Gendry’s Olympic marathoner speed in Beyond the Wall. The wheels on that lad, one of my favorite tid bits in the show, but I digress. The cohesion and culmination of numerous meticulous plot arcs into potent catharsis and specific thematic through-lines, is the beauty I find in the whole thing. Simply put, I hit play for the scope and fantasy, but binge for the concise poignancy. It’s not just in the “how many” in the count of the steps/setups, but in the “how much” the payoffs satisfy.

The Knight of the Seven Kingdoms episode illustrates this for me on a visual and literal level. In a series renowned for complex intrigue and untamable twists, a sentimental tope-tastic, “one last night” affair stands out, and perhaps reminds, all of us the hidden reason why we watch. A stabbing isn’t shocking to some chucklehead you don’t give a shit about, conflict is crap if its impersonal, and tender hugs aren’t warming if there is no heart in them to begin with.

Don’t get me wrong, the political allegories, ethical nuances, and dizzying scale, provides food for higher thought, but the earnest and impassioned human experience anchors the narrative. It answers the question, why is a narrative about mudhouses and cavalry so resonate to an audience of instant communication and black hole photos? Modern living can be cold, calculated even. Like the crushing weight from immediate dangers and still-awaiting demise in the story. As a face to face connection feels like fresh air, so does watching once conflicted characters share some drinks before a dreadful undead reckoning. Authentically empathetic. Maybe it’s not so fictitious fantasy after all?

Yes, a precariously optimistic outlook on a plot wrought with distressed pessimism. But isn’t that the conflict that makes great narratives so compelling? Maybe that’s what Game of Thrones will turn out to be. A boundless world and drama capped in three forlorn yet caustic mantras “all men must die” “winter is coming” and hopefully, for these ever-burdened individuals we’ve come to know as dear friends, “a dream of spring.”

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