The conclusion of this week’s episode was utterly bittersweet, but I won’t spoil any of it. It’s for you to find out. And if you already have, you probably have known by now why I considered it that.
I have been watching HBO’s Game of Thrones since 2013 when the show hit its third season as a friend in college recommended it to me.
A reader of literature and a viewer of films and TV shows, I have been a fan of the fantasy genre when I was a child. I have read all parts of C.S. Lewis’ “The Chronicles of Narnia”, Christopher Paolini’s “The Inheritance Cycle” , and J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings Trilogy” among other works of fiction. A marathon of the eight Harry Potter film installments occupied my past time and I am still familiar with the lyrics and the tune of the narrative opening song to Walt Disney’s animated classic based on T.H. White’s beloved fantasy epic, “The Sword in the Stone.” In all these fancies, I could never deny my amazement of witnessing a lowborn character, quite insignificant to those around him or her in the initial phase of the plot, become a hero and save the realm through magic or medieval sword fights.
Although it has been a long-time tradition for fantasy stories to provide the stark difference between good and evil, this typical plot does not apply in Game of Thrones as far as this concept is concerned. The critically acclaimed TV series based on the internationally best-selling novels by George R.R. Martin presents the thin shade of gray between the contrasting hues of light and dark that may shape the characters’ heroism or villainy.
That is, good and evil are not shown exclusively in appearance but by the deeds done by the story’s characters.
Goblins and green wizards may not hint the nature of evil in this show as much as a fair skin and a beautiful face can reveal one’s heroism. It promotes the idea that anyone who can be a hero can also be a villain – a bridge of neutrality where characters may have to cross to get what they desire. And to get what they desire, they may have to do what’s necessary even if it means to take the life of another character.
Death has been one of the constant phenomena of the show since it piloted in 2011. It is inevitable as much as the deadly winter looming in the lands of Westeros.
There are characters who kill for love, others attempt to do so for honor, while most do it for power. How could a knight push a defenseless child from a tower? How could a widow slit the throat of another man’s wife while she saw her son being slaughtered in her brother’s wedding? How could an illegitimate son shoot an arrow to a son of a lord whose title he has usurped? As much as we frustrate over the deaths of the characters we root for, we get to understand why these characters have to kill to get what they want – be it for love, for honor, or for power- because as what I have realized after watching the TV show and reading the books it has been based on, I could see parts of the story proportionate to the reality we face and the world we all live in.
It’s a brutal and sad fact that there are really people who exceed beyond the bounds of morality and rely fully on their instinct to achieve their desires. Death resulting from killing and murder is not uncommon in the world, not only in the present but in all the pages of history – whether written or unwritten. A perception full of hate can provoke one man with a gun to kill half a hundred citizens in a gay club in Orlando, Florida. Perhaps he was driven out of his hatred, but he did have a motive. In the case of some characters in the story, power and pride have motivated them to be cruel and vengeful.
Although it is a work of fiction in the fantasy genre, one element that can be lauded in Game of Thrones is its vivid representation of reality.
While most fantasy stories focus much on magical elements and “all-too-good” heroes or villains beyond redemption, Game of Thrones presents characters very much like real people in the world. In the morning they can be martyrs, but at night, through the circumstance they may face at noon, they may unleash their inner demons. While this development happens to most characters in the story, there are those who still cling to honor and stand on righteous ground. However, very much like in the real world when wars are waged, those who fight with honor are sometimes those who will be defeated savagely by those who break the rules, use insurmountable force, and cunningly devise vicious plans. It is no wonder why innocents have died in the hands of the guilty and corrupt – those who still sit upon thrones of power and claiming to be bearers of justice. This is a harsh reality that is heavily reflected in the series.
One character’s death was tragic during the siege to Winterfell in the latest episode. But don’t all episodes of the series show deaths in them? Perhaps every character will die whether they are going to get killed or welcome death in their old age. But the reason why they die can be taken into consideration. They all live in a world where the greed for power is rampant, but to die for something good that is being fought for? Now that’s more than just fantasy.