I re-watched Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 3 last night. Would I have preferred it to be filmed on a brighter set? Sure. But did that make me as outraged as the media critics who stir indignant outrage with words? Not at all.
This show requires a second and sometimes a third viewing to peel back the layers of meaning in every scene. If that makes me sound like a GoT fanboy, well, that’s your issue not mine. People who criticize the show usually don’t take the time to watch and understand the show. Or they’re the people who read the books and feel that the show strayed from the books too much. Whatever.
To me, someone who opts out of mass television hysteria whenever possible, Game of Thrones is the best television show I’ve ever watched. I’ve enjoyed watching the characters grow and evolve in a complicated, dark and violent world as that world hones who they are. We all choose how we are going to react to the things that happen in our lives, and each of these characters evolve based on this. It’s extraordinary long form character development spanning a decade.
Back in the real world, I do my best to develop and refine my own character. I write about people who are long dead quite often and I know that. That’s part of being a history buff I guess. But there are lessons in history, and it’s worthwhile to know who came before us. As George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” I see countless people not remembering the past, falling victim to yellow journalism, celebrity gossip, reality television, charlatan evangelicalism and political catch phrases. That there are people out there who believe the world is flat boggles my mind. But then there are people who believe climate change isn’t real too.
Game of Thrones offers welcome relief from reality while borrowing heavily from our dark human past. It’s no stretch to see the similarities in the treatment of women, slavery, massive military conflict, greed and power struggles it leads to, and the privileged lives of the rich. What I love about the show is that as the characters evolve, they don’t shrink away from these topics, but use them to catalyze the character of the, well, characters.
The development of the two Stark girls who accompanied their father to Kings Landing and struggled for years to get back to Winterfell is at the core of the show. Dark things happen to each of them over the years, and may still happen in the final three episodes. But watching them grow and evolve has proven immensely enjoyable. In contrast, I’m re-reading Walden and reminding myself why I loved it so much. These two quotes seemed to call out to me this morning:
“There is only one god and his name is Death, and there is only one thing we say to Death: Not today.” – Syrio Forel to Arya Stark, Game of Thrones
“… I read his epitath in the old Lincoln burying-ground, a little on one side, [it told me], with staring emphasis, when he died; which was but an indirect way of informing me that he ever lived.” – Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Thoreau was a Transcendentalist who believed in the basic goodness of all people and the divinity of nature. Thrones is perhaps the most stoic program I’ve watched. Remembering that we all must die, and every character on this show seems to eventually, allows you to live each day more richly. And maybe be a badass with a Valaryan steel dagger too.