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Notebook: Attractive characters, deep themes impress a latecomer to 'Game of Thrones'

By Anna Sadovskaya, Daily Fine Arts Editor
Published February 14, 2012

At first, I was skeptical: Considering my already-draining love affair with TV, I wasn’t too excited by the prospect of adding another show to my weekly lineup. But after serious thought and even more serious pressure from friends, I heeded the siren call of a lazy weekend and began watching “Game of Thrones.”

Before starting the now-infamous HBO series, I was young, naïve. I wasn’t prepared for the in-depth soul-searching that would result from hours of a nonstop “Thrones” marathon. For others coming into the game late, a warning: there are spoilers below.

The first episode started innocently enough: a mass murder of wildlings (the northernmost human inhabitants in the world of “Game of Thrones”). And then a few men of a special guard, the Night’s Watch, are killed by said “murdered” wildlings — though one guard was spared for reasons unknown. Then, Eddard Stark (Sean Bean, “Lord of The Rings”), lord of the northern state of Winterfell, kills that lone survivor for deserting. It was an eventful 15 minutes.

I was overwhelmed not only by the amount of action, but by how quickly the series had established death as a major motif. Throughout ensuing episodes, characters die left and right: people you want to see live, soldiers who don’t deserve to be axed, honorable men and women who fight for their beliefs. You can’t assume main characters are untouchable: No one is safe. This brings an aspect of vulnerability and reality to the fantastical show. Warlords and kings alike are trampled at the convenience of conniving characters. Despite their status, wealth and connections, main characters are killed off before I could say, “I’ll miss you, Boromir-I-mean-Ned!”

The thing that kept me from curling up into a ball of depression was the unwavering personalities of the remaining characters. Without skipping a beat, “Game of Thrones” buffers the deaths with an overwhelming amount of bravery and clear-headedness: villains and heroes alike continue on their paths without yield or doubt. Children as young as 9-year-old Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) and 10-year-old Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright, “The Awakening,”) courageously play the crappy hands they’re dealt rather than crumble to pieces at every misfortune. The queen’s brother/lover pushes you out a window and you lose the use of your legs? Learn to ride a horse a couple months later. Your father was beheaded in front of the entire King’s Court? Masquerade as a boy and take a casual trip down to the North Wall.

Death and bravery aside, what really kept me gripped by the show was the detail. The plot has loops and turns everywhere, but unlike many shows that lose their way, “Game of Thrones” keeps every twist under control, making sure to carry out each story line to a rich cliffhanger. Ideally, everything should have a purpose — no small action should be overlooked or thrown into an episode at random. Where some series fail and forget the errant stumble of a character, “Game of Thrones” utilizes every lurch and brings it to a satisfying conclusion, proceeding to use that as a starting point for the next bend in the story.

While character elements and story development won over the critics, all it took for me was the fateful first glance into Robb Stark’s eyes. Despite all the money and time that the writers, producers and directors invested, I only needed to see his copper-brown hair and scruffy beard to fall head-over-throne for him. In fact, many of the characters caught my eye as the show went on — the naturally good looks of the actors mixed with the impeccably smooth personas they embody kept me clicking to the next episode as soon as I finished the last.

When I finally reached the finale, I found myself in tears. As I sobbed at the unfairness and cruelty of fate, I realized how empty my life was. How brave have I been? How adventurous? Where is my life realistically headed: to the King’s Landings of our world, or the proverbial North Wall? I want to travel to Pentos and ride with the Dothraki. I want to join Robb Stark’s army as they move to King’s Landing, even if my motives aren’t exactly war-oriented. And please, for the love of the Old Gods, give me the chance to push someone like King Joffrey off the north side of the Wall. It’s time to break free from the routine and start down a new road with unwavering determination.