This post will be discussing some of the major plot points of HBO’s excellent series Game of Thrones, a solid adaptation of George RR Martin’s unfinished book series A Song of Ice and Fire. If you’re not caught up, don’t be reading this! Go read those books, or watch the show. You’ll thank me. Or not.
When Someone Asks GRRM When the Next Book will be Out, He Kills a Stark
George RR Martin, the author of the A Song of Ice and Fire series which is the blueprint for HBO’s adaptation Game of Thrones, has been described as a serial killer of fictional characters. It’s also been said that he survives solely on the tears of Game of Thrones fans (according to some meme I tripped over, researching for this article.)
Those statements are probably not 100% correct. I think he probably supplements his diet of tears with liberal helpings of lemoncakes as well, but I’ll concede the point. Certainly, there are two demographics that GRRM doesn’t mind messing with, and those would be his characters and his audience.
But isn’t that okay? It’s kind of fun reading a series where no character is truly safe, where (despite my determination to avoid this) I either fall in love or fall in hate with a character, only to have something happen to them, or have something happen to me where I realize I hadn’t even realized that I had more complicated feelings for the character.
I also don’t think Martin deliberately tries to frustrate the reader as much as we might believe. We’re somewhat halfway through the story (in regards to the television show) and I believe the plot has been traveling more and more along a course we observers (readers and watchers) have been charting with our desires.
But like a devious Santa Claus-looking genie, Martin might be giving us what we’ve been asking for, but not necessarily exactly what we’ve been wanting.
RIP Robb Stark, the Viewers Send their Regards
I can’t speak for the show-watching population (watch as I do it anyway) but there seemed to a be a vocal population that just couldn’t stand any time being wasted on Robb Stark and his courtship with weirdly anachronistic field nurse Talisa.
Or his marriage.
Or even his political issues.
I mean, I understand. Everyone was losing their mind with the coolness that was Tyrion Lannister. People just couldn’t get engaged in Robb’s storyline, which was seen as filler or a distraction.
I’m not saying that the audience was wishing Robb would die, but now they don’t have to worry about time being wasted on Robb anymore. So it’s almost like a wish was granted.
Arya Going to Kill Someone?
Speaking of wishes and death…
By the time the second season had hit halfway, Arya Stark had accumulated a list of names she wanted dead. That in itself brings along an expectation of Arya crossing names off that list. When would it happen? She’s just a kid. Trapped at the enemy encampment at Harrenhal.
But thanks to mysteriously compelling Jaqen H’ghar, Arya had the option of three death wishes. Then the expectations began. Kill Joffrey! Oooo! Oooo! Kill Tywin. He’s like RIGHT THERE!
Nope, Arya expended her wishes on less-value targets (she did have her reasons) and ended up cleverly brokering the third wish to secure her escape from Harrenhal.
But her list! Names!
Sure, she got to shiv a Frey stooge, but her list!
Season Four picked up and ran with the audience’s desire to see Arya getting revenge, when she killed the Lannister soldier Polliver while reclaiming her lost sword Needle.
There’s a certain satisfaction to seeing the abused and persecuted Arya get vengeance, but it is still unsettling, observing her coldness and emotionless affect when taking life. (A complement to that would be her chillingly and deliberately *not* killing Sandor Clegane.)
So it took some time, but now Arya, armed with Needle, could start working on that list. Valar Morghulis! Wish granted!
Just not on Joffrey and Tywin, though. Since they were killed by other means, and other people.
That’s Right! People Wanted Arya to Kill Those Lannisters
Hey, we don’t always get what we want, exactly. Besides, I can’t imagine Arya being able to make those hits and live.
Ah, the sweet satisfaction of a dead Joffrey. It was a long time coming.
Likewise with Tywin’s death. He certainly earned his ignominious end with his end planted on the privy.
No one could complain about these turns of events, right? And yet some did.
Although the audience wanted Tywin dead in Season Two (since back then the show was still largely framed as a Stark/Lannister conflict) and everyone wanted Joffrey dead (like, forever) once those two Lannisters were gone, they were kind of wistfully missed.
Charles Dance and Jack Gleeson were spectacular in their roles, and there was a vocal concern that just like Ned’s death had robbed the audience of someone to root for, Tywin and Joffrey’s combined deaths in Season Four robbed the audience of someone to root against.
We’d have to look far and away to find suitable replacement bad guys. Well, not that far. We just have to look North.
At Least Theon’s Getting his Ass Kicked. (Which is the Least of It.)
Ah, Theon, that rat. People kind of felt sorry for him early in Season Two when seeing how awful his family situation was.
Then he betrayed Robb, captured Winterfell, threatened Bran, beheaded Ser Rodrik (inexpertly), and ended up killing two innocent boys to cover his failures.
I don’t think I’m too far off believing that people’s sympathy for Theon had somewhat diminished, and the prospect of Theon paying a price for his misdeeds was an attractive idea. Theon needed to pay.
Then Boom! Wish Granted!
- Theon gets betrayed by his men! Hilarious, and apt that the betrayer is betrayed.
- He’s captive of angry Northmen! Yay!
- He’s tortured! Okay.
- He’s tortured! Physically! Mentally! Yeah…
- And then, more torture! …
- And then, medieval surgery! Ouch!
I think I might have been satisfied if the payment would have just been Theon taking Maester Luwin’s advice to flee to the Wall and atone as a member of the Night’s Watch.
I’m not saying that we should forgive Theon, but I don’t know if the soul-crushing punishment matched the crimes.
A Throne for Daenerys
I think many people have been wondering who will end up on the Iron Throne at the end of the show. I know she has her detractors, but pretty much after she hatched her dragons, Daenerys seemed to be a fan favorite to occupy the uncomfortable chair.
Wish Granted! Sort of. Well, she is sitting on an uncomfortable chair in Meereen.
Okay, I’ll admit that she’s not where the pro-Dany camp wants her, ruling Slaver Bay’s Meereen instead of the Seven Kingdoms. But quite honestly, the Iron Throne has seen the last two rulers (and the last three Hands of the King) dead in the space of four seasons. I’m not so sure we want her on it so fast. Let little Tommen (first of his name) warm it a bit.
This way Team Dany can get some Team Dany-style ruling in. Without being gored by a boar, beheaded, poisoned at a wedding, or impaled while taking care of certain necessities in the salle de bain.
And this also panders to the anti-Dany crowd. If she swoops in, wreaking vengeance with Fire and Blood, killing all the Lannisters (for murdering her father Aerys, her sister-in-law Elia, and her cousins Rhaenys and Aegon) and killing all the Starks (for being allied with her father’s usurper), then I guess the show would be over and Dany’s detractors wouldn’t get a chance to complain about her policies.
But with her stopping to rule Meereen, there’s plenty of opportunities to be critical.
Scene: Dany conquers Meereen and frees the slaves.
Pro-Dany Faction: Yay! Babraham Lincoln is saving the day!
Anti-Dany Faction: Yawn. Another city captured by Miss Blonde Privilege.
Scene: Dany dispenses crucifixion-style justice.
Pro-Dany Faction: Yay! Nail those assholes up!
Anti-Dany Faction: Wow, way to kill off a random collection of old dudes without figuring out who deserved it.
Scene: Dany offers recompense for her dragon’s goat-loving appetites.
Pro-Dany Faction: Aww, she’s so nice.
Anti-Dany Faction: What a sucker. And fiscally irresponsible.
See? Everyone should be happy about Dany chilling in Meereen.
So, Is This Just Some GRRM Apologist Manifesto?
Well, no. Maybe. Look I have my reasons to bring up elements of the story that are kind of catering to various subsets of the audience’s wish-fullfillment needs. And it’s thematic for this time of year.
Allow me to explain… journey with me to the year 2009, to Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving… *insert weird music and wavy lines and so on – or just use the LOST swooosh noise*
That morning, I’d gotten up around 3 a.m. to go wait in line for hours to get a chance at discount prices for consumer electronics. In the cold.
I needed to kill the time while I was freezing, queued up, so I had grabbed my unread copy of A Game of Thrones. I had tried to read it one or two times before, but had put it down for various reasons. I’d probably had just gotten distracted. I had friends who had been leaning on me to read the books (they were currently waiting on A Dance With Dragons, still years away) and I figured I could get deep into the book.
It worked. I think by the time the Best Buy opened up for the chaotic sale, I had ended up where Ned was sending Beric Dondarrion out after the Mountain, and I was hooked.
So the Thanksgiving season always reminds me of the books, and I wanted to write something with a give-thanks-for-what-you-have theme, and to try to point out that often we are kind of getting what we are asking for.
In general, the major plotlines in the books defy my expectations and aren’t necessarily what I want, but I think that’s okay. Sometimes, plotlines in these books do go the way I’m expecting, and I discover that’s really not what I wanted (like Jaime losing his hand, or Sansa’s escape from King’s Landing putting her under Lysa’s control.) Again, these things are okay.
Because I’m grateful that the story GRRM is telling is the story he wants to tell, and not something he thinks I want to read. So thanks, man.
Just ease up on the Starks.
Images from HBO’s Game of Thrones (mostly.)
I make no claims to the artwork, but some claims to the text. So there.
If you liked this article, thank you! I have all of my Game of Thrones related articles on my handy-dandy Game of Thrones page should you want to read more but don’t want to navigate around my site.
© Patrick Sponaugle 2014 Some Rights Reserved