Geekdom Come, The Franchise

The Franchise: Game of Thrones

With the final season of Game of Thrones set to premiere next year and HBO committing to launching a new prequel series about the conquering of Westeros, I thought it would be a good time to dissect just what it is that makes this franchise work so well. Heck, maybe it’ll even inspire George R. R. Martin to finish Winds of Winter.
Core Concept: Dragons and Tits? No, despite what the venerable Ian McShane might say, this franchise is about more than just gratuitous sex and violence. I won’t dispute the deeper you venture into the series the more you begin to see how certain characters have had plot armor all along. But in the early books/seasons, there was a sense of no one being safe. That fan favorites could be killed off at any moment, their character arcs left forever incomplete. This sense of danger arises from a commitment to one basic principle: Actions have Consequences. This may be a fantasy world but if you make a decision with your head in the clouds you will pay the price. Heroes die for their nobility, horrible people are rewarded for their cunning, and everything you do will come back to haunt you in the end.
Essential Moments: Ned Stark losing his head (literally): In both the books and the TV series, this is the first moment when you realize that no one is safe. Being a good guy doesn’t mean jack diddly in this world. This lesson is reinforced in the third season/book with the Red Wedding, which is the Holy Shit moment to end all Holy Shit moments. (One which us book readers were gleefully waiting for in order to see the faces on our TV-only friends who had no idea it was coming.) While there are a dozen or so other moments in the series that are worthy of inclusion here perhaps the most important moment of the series happens before the main narrative even begins. Little Finger’s off stage murdering of Jon Arynn is the domino that sets almost all of the other plot points in the story into action.
Rouges Gallery: It would be easy to name the Night King and his undead army as the big bads of this story and they do a fine job as a looming apocalyptic menace, but the real juicy villains of this story are the complex human beings who succumb to their own worst instincts, leaving chaos and death in their wake. You have the base cruelty and cowardice of houses Frey and Bolton. The psychopathic power trips of Joffrey Baratheon and Ramsay Snow. And the heartless manipulation of Tywin Lannister and Peter Baylish. But none of these men compare to the Queen of Revenge Cersei Lannister. She may claim to be looking out for her family but the truth is she simply is incapable of letting any slight, real or imagined, go unpunished. After all she’s been through she could almost be a sympathetic character, but after all she’s done who doesn’t want to see her get her karmic due.
Best Stories: The novels A Clash of Kings and A Storm of Swords are the best two novels of the series to date. Which makes it no surprise that seasons 2, 3, and 4 of the tv series that cover the events in those two novels are also the best seasons of the show. The Blackwater, The Red Wedding, The Purple Wedding, Jon’s first expedition north of the wall, the trial of Tyrion. Most of the best moments in the franchise occur here.
NEVER DO IT THIS WAY AGAIN: A Feast of Crows/A Dance of Dragons: Originally these two novels were supposed to be one big novel. But the manuscript got too big and as a result Martin was forced to split it in two. Instead of splitting the book chronologically he split the books by story-lines and geography. Not a terrible idea until you consider readers had to wait almost eleven years for updates about some of their favorite characters. More than that these stories dragged. There was a lot of plot movement, but very little of it was in the forward direction. The show avoided the sins of these books by cutting and streamlining a ton of superfluous material. Hopefully, Martin has learned his lesson and the remaining books in the series will be a whole lot leaner.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.