Friday, May 09, 2014

Catching up on 3 years of Game of Thrones

I was put off watching Game of Thrones for the last three years, thinking it was a rerun of formulaic 90s shows like Xena Warrior Princess. This fan-made video of the opening credits confirms exactly what Game of Thrones is NOT about.

The actual opening of Game of Thrones is a great big complicated map, with the camera whizzing all over it as buildings explode up out of the ground. It’s wise to keep an eye on that map because it acts as a key to all the different locations in the imaginary country of Westeros, which is actually the United Kingdom. It even has Hadrian’s Wall to keep out the Scottish (called Wildings here). Except rather than being made of a few stones, it’s a gigantic wall of ice. London is represented by the capital city of King’s Landing – bathed permanently in sunshine, its inhabitants doing the dirty on the more innocent and trusting northerners of Winterfell. There’s even a “foreign” bit over the sea which is a cross between Africa and the Middle East – replete with exotic bazaars.

Game of Thrones is more akin to a complex political drama – more House of Cards than Hercules. True, it has dragons and jousting and zombies, but it’s really about power and what people will do to get it. And unlike Xena, it doesn’t play fair. Characters you can get to know and love can be winked out of existence in the most shocking cruel way imaginable (cf the infamous Red Wedding episode).

The character I identify with most on Games of Thrones is not the wisecracking “imp” and everyone’s favourite Tyrion. Nor is it plucky gender-non conforming little Arya. It is not Jon Snow, the shaggy haired brooding bastard son. And it is certainly not sadistic Prince Joffrey. Instead it is spoilt princess Sansa, who gets by on her looks and by not speaking out of line. Sansa is a pretty unsympathetic character at the start of Game of Thrones, her head full of fairytale weddings and lacework. But quite quickly the fairytale becomes a nightmare and she is a permanent hostage/houseguest at Castle Crazy, forced to watch her father’s execution for treason and only allowed to survive by holding her tongue. She is constantly acted upon, no mistress of her own fate, with the whims and political schemes of others deciding who she should marry. I’m not totally a Sansa of course, but I do feel I lead a privileged life with many of my (largely inconsequential as it happens) problems solved by people around me who care for me. And at times in my life I’ve felt that my only course of action is to shut up and smile like I’m enjoying things.

We’ve just finished watching the first 3 seasons, and there’s now that awful sense of emptiness when something good is over. There’s nothing for it, I’ll have to just start watching it again.