Warning: this post contains mild spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 6 to date.
All shows must die. But in my house, Game of Thrones has already outlived its welcome.
I’ll keep on slogging through, because a)my job more or less requires me to watch it, and b) it’s a textbook case of the sunk-cost fallacy.
But I’d quit if I could.
I rolled my eyes when Hodor “held the door.”Let out an exasperated “Oh come ON!Groaned when Jon Snow’s eyes popped open. Shrugged at Melisandre’s revealing “reveal.”
Am I a monster? Have I lost the lust for that Thrones life?
No and no I’ve just concluded thatGame of Thrones is narratively bankrupt and spiritually burned out. Its shock privileges have been revoked, its ultimate conclusion has been compromised.
Just let the damn Lannisters have everything they want.I no longer care.
Folks, Game of Thrones and its characters have been marching around in circles going back several episodes, retracing old steps, reaching for past glories that are beyond its grasp.
And now we learn that there’s time-travel, too? Mmmkay.
The summer before our winter of discontent
Like most of you, I giddily experiencedGame of Thronesfrom the pilot onward (and with fresh eyes, as I have never read the books). The first three seasons were perfection grim and dangerous, soapy yet deadly serious.
Season 3 Episode 9 remember “The Rains of Castamere”? felt like a pinnacle, but also a mortal wound. How could they move on from this?
YetSeason 4 was a timely turbo-boost:George R.R. Martin’s continuing vision ratcheted up the tension, then broke it, then ratcheted it up again and again.
It was an almost unbearably thrilling rollercoaster ride, fromJoffrey’s poisoning that briefly turned Thrones into a delicious whodunit, through two intense showdowns, one between The Mountain and the Viper, another betweenBrienne and the Hound.
But something happened in Season 5, as the timelines imagined by HBO showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss began to outpace Martin’s books. The Thrones machinery that felt so fresh and fast-paced for four straight campaigns started to sputter and feel a little … stuck.
Tyrion escaped judgment at Kings Landing, but wound up stuck with Jorah. Arya arrived at her destination, then got stuck in Jedi training. Daenerys’ dragons were finally grown, only to get stuck in a cave. Sansa (the poor thing) got away from the Lannisters, only to be stuck with Ramsay. All of King’s Landing was stuck with the annoying Sparrows.
To cap it all off, Jon Snow was stuck many times over with pointy things.
You fans are not helping
It was here, at a critical pivot point for the HBO franchise, with little more left in the books for guiding source material, that the Game of Thrones fandom began to swarm.
Rumors, set photos, fan theories, lies over the weeks and months, the energy quickly grew from intense to intemperate, from fun to borderlinefrightening. Yeah, it got annoying.
Of course, if feral, cannibalistic fandoms were enough to doom a thing alone, the Boston Red Sox would’ve cratered decades ago and Disney would’ve shut down Lucasfilm beforeStar Wars: The Force Awakenseven got into theaters.
No, what has changed Game of Thrones from my favorite show into a dreaded Sunday night homework assignment isn’t its still-faithful legions, whose glee I cannot fully begrudge. They still love these characters, slogging through deadly dull loops though they may be.
It’s just that, well, they are slogging through deadly dull loops. For example:
Daenerys is back in the Dothraki saddle, because surviving a fire is still an impressive trick to simple people.
Tyrion is back to being an upper-middle management administrator, because cunning is currency no matter which city he’s in.
Arya is still stuck in Jedi training, because a girl is no one.
Theon is back to prosecuting petty family matters, because what is removed can never be … un-removed.
Jorah, Cersei, Margaery, Littlefinger, Jaime, Brienne all are back to doing whatever it is they were doing to begin with.
AndJon Snow is back to life, because if there’s no hope of a Stark on the Iron Throne, why else would we keep watching this drudgery?
For Sansa, perhaps. For Sansa.
What hope remains
Sansa Stark is the one character who’s had an arc, rather than a circle she’s journeyed from privilege to victimhood and has emerged, with her half-brother at her side, on the brink of something much more.
That probably means it’s time for her head to come off.
Meanwhile, the central conflict ostensibly, the aforementioned quest for the Iron Throne is barely a matter of concern anymore. At this point, is it not just a giant game of musical chairs, with the minstrels scheduled to stop after two more seasons?Does anyone even care who rules this seventeen-ring circus in the end?
And with this much time to go, it’s too bad Game of Thrones has forgotten what it does well: introducing new characters to mix in with the old. Through four seasons, as it whittled its roster down to the bone, Thrones also quietly brought new people and creatures around, then developed them to our (guarded) liking.
But we haven’t had a fresh face to really care about in direwolf’s age not sinceOberyn Martell’s short-lived run in Season 4 has a fan favorite emerged from the mist.
Ah, but winter is still coming, isn’t that right? Bran is still in position to flesh out the origin stories, the built-inGame of Thrones prequels, if you will. And the zombies I don’t care what you’re calling them, they are zombies, dammit are still beyond the Wall.
There are Things that Need to Happen before we call this a series.And so I will dutifully march along, week after week, until that great burning clockwork in the sky finally comes to rest.
Or until they kill Sansa. That might just break me.
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