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Hooooooo-boy! You like that Game of Thrones, huh? HAHAHAHAA!!!
I think this would be a good, responsible time to warn you: this blog will contain MAJOR spoilers and MAJOR amounts of profanity, especially in the embedded media. I’ll try and keep any spoilers out of here that haven’t already aired on the HBO series, but…you’ve been told. If you’re DVR-ing this series or waiting for the DVDs, well…maybe you’d better read one of my other numerous (and totally incredible) blog entries. Last chance. Stop reading now, unless you know what’s up or just don’t care.
Okay, okay. Full disclosure time (I tend to disclose a lot on this blog, don’t I? Huh. The secret to a clean conscience, I suppose.) I don’t have HBO. In fact, I don’t even have cable anymore. But I have read all of the existing volumes in George R. R. Martin’s masterpiece, A Song of Ice and Fire. Why HBO decided to use the title of the first book, A Game of Thrones, as the title of the series is a bit of a mystery. I figure they weren’t sure there would be a second season, so they figured GoT was a little less unwieldy than ASoIaF. Good call, now that I think about it.
Luckily, I did get to borrow the first season DVD set from my friend and former morning show co-host, Barry Thickk (spoiler: that’s not how he spells his last name in real life, but hey, rock radio!!) That gave me a nice perspective, and I like how HBO found a look and tone all their own. And that musical score? Brilliant. Perfect. In fact, let’s hear one of my favorite interpretations thereof:
Now, the thing is, those of us that have read all the books? Yeah, we’re pretty much a bunch of dirty hipsters. No, we are. We were saying “hodor!” before it was cool. We know what’s going to happen next. We do. And we love, LOVE, LOVE LOVE gloating about it. How many times have you had a friend say (in either real life or in a blog or Facebook comment) “Oh, you like [GENERIC CHARACTER]? Just wait until next season!” Or even more smarmily “Yeah, that story line doesn’t play out like you’d expect.” Oh, we love it so. Being “in the know” is so wonderfully powerful. That’s why when Ned Stark lost his head towards the end of Season One, I laughed and laughed at videos like this now-famous offering…
When I first read A Game of Thrones, the Ned Stark scene gutted me. Absolutely destroyed me. My lovely wife, Heidi, watched me slowly lower the book and stare at nothing, jaw agape.
“Holy fucking shit…” I muttered.
“What? What’s wrong?” she asked, genuinely concerned.
“They just…this guy, the main…holy shit! They fucking killed the main guy!”
For readers and viewers alike, that should’ve been all we needed to know. GRRM had stolen our childhood innocence. He’d given us the much-needed slap in the face, reminding us that this world wasn’t Middle Earth or Narnia. This world was infinitely more real, and so very dangerous. It was a book about war, and in war, well…good people die. It reminded me of the scene in The Princess Bride where the grandpa tells Fred Savage the bad news: the Prince lives. Wesley dies. The kid’s reaction, “Jesus, Grandpa! What did you read me this thing for?!” is the same question we asked ourselves. But, like that bedridden child, we knew we had to go on. For good or ill, we had to know what happened next. The difference is that Martin’s book series isn’t a fairy tale, and “true love” doesn’t make a goddam bit of difference.
Still, we hoped. We had the faintest dream that somehow it would all work out. That evil would be punished. That the good guys would win.
We should’ve fucking known better.
Just like a child that must be conditioned to think or act a certain way, another hard lesson was required.
The Red Wedding.
Jesus H. Tapdancing Christ. I’ll tell you this, people who have only watched the series and not read the books: the book was much, much worse.
“Wait a second,” you bellow. “You admitted that you haven’t watched all the latest episodes? How can you make that kind of call?”
In response, I’ll offer that I’ve seen footage and scanned enough websites to get a feel for the televised version, and yes, it does seem well-shot and gut-wrenchingly performed. But there are limitations to a teleplay, time (or lack thereof) being the most critical of those factors. In the novel, the buildup to the Red Wedding is a slowly building feeling of dread, of impending horror. Most of it is told through Cat’s point of view, and the moment she knows what’s up, the instant she perceives what’s happening…you’re broken. Everything after that is just devastating icing on the horror-cake. (Actually, Horror-Cake is the name of my new black metal band.) But you can’t look away, can’t stop reading. Just as viewers cowered behind sheets, blankets, and couch cushions whilst watching HBO, only to peek out again and again, out of curiosity or just to assure themselves that the horror was over. Luckily, someone put together a six-minute compilation of reactions…
And boy, the aftermath. The sheer, internet-crippling frustration, sorrow, and hate. Some of the best are being cataloged by Red Wedding Tears on Twitter…check ’em out and feel better about your plight:
Here’s a wee sample:
So. George R. R. Martin is kind of an asshole, huh? He’s just NOT FAIR!! Yeah. Tough titty, kid.
But now you’re seriously wondering why you should continue watching or reading this painful series. Let me give you something akin to hope. I told you, no spoilers…but I can tell you this: GRRM does have a sense of justice (COUGH! Theon Greyjoy COUGH! Jaime Lannister COUGH!) and that sense certainly manifests itself in shocking and, yes, satisfactory ways in the books and television episodes to come. No, I will not give you specifics on certain characters. Just know that there is a great deal of comeuppance headed your way.
But it won’t be without further cost. Yes, there will be more heartache. But there will also be triumph, and that is always so much sweeter after you’ve been stabbed, kicked, and thrown into the mud to die. After all, in the game of thrones, you either win…
Or you die.