Game of Thrones Rules

by Tony Shea on June 10, 2013


geoffrey retouch
I have not read any of the books in George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series. I have not read any of them because they are like cropped phone books, a thousand pages long, set in four point type. I figure it will take about a semester to read one of them, which is to say about three months, and of course I am not in college, but at the beginning of middle age, surrounded by the myriad of large and small responsibilities that mark such a time. These days it seems like I have about two free hours a week after I’m done being a father, running a magazine, doing freelance work, and of course training for the 2014 Mr. Universe competition. Of course, I am not really training to be Mr. Universe, I’m already naturally ripped – I’m not, but I wish I was every week after I watch Game of Thrones, or GOT as I call it. I wish I was a seething mass of muscle, trained in the use of a sword and clad in armor, having sworn an oath to bring justice to the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. I vow to have King Geoffrey drawn and quartered, after I make him eat his own eyeballs, that little prick.

Game of Thrones is a cruel series, a show that delights in high impact, emotionally stunning brutality. Set in a harsh and unforgiving world always on the verge of perpetual Winter and assault from the army of the undead, the White Walkers, the machinations of the various rulers of the Seven Kingdoms are sort of like all the plays of Shakespeare smashed into one. Like the Wire before it, GOT has an almost dizzyingly intricate cast of characters with numerous spinning plot threads. The characters are astonishingly well developed and highly complex. The show has no morality, in the sense that evil is not necessarily punished or vanquished by good, so much as beset by still more evil – think of Jaime Lannister, he of wealth and privilege, and the incestuous relationship with his sister Cersei, who once glibly kicked young Bran Stark from a window, crippling him for life, who now finds himself sans his right hand having been tortured and degraded these many months on his long journey home; and what Theon Greyjoy, he who tried to conquer Winterfell, burning children to death along the way, now castrated and roped to a post by a psychotic uber-sadist who aims to cut him apart piece by piece. Of course these humbling, to say the least, circumstances have increased our sympathy for these characters, despite their monstrous deeds, spinning our emotional wheel of fortune.

One of the show’s unusual hallmarks is GOT’s tendency to kill off its main characters, or at least those who we have been lead to expect are the main characters, namely the Stark clan that represented kindness and compassion, intelligence and honor so well, and who have nearly be wiped from the Earth, beheaded, throats slashed, bellies ripped open by the evil Lannisters and their minions. It would be like if Mad Men had Don Draper killed at the end of season one by having his brains blown out by a street mugger and then dear Peggy Olson roasted to death on a barbecue grill at the end of season two. But that is a large part of the GOT’s appeal. You really don’t know what’s going to happen next. The pendulum of fate could swing either way at any moment, and the firm ground that you thought you were standing on could crack wide open.

So, as I mentioned, not having read the books that are the foundation for the series, I was certainly shocked last week, when the most of the remaining Starks were absolutely butchered during a wedding. This was the second Stark shock after the family patriarch, Ned, was beheaded by Geoffrey at the conclusion of the first season. As I was watching “The Red Wedding” as fans of the series have come to call it, I thought – WOW! What balls. They just killed the people we were rooting for. But just like everything in a perpetually changing life that we must adapt to, we have to find new heroes as new villains are made.

In the end perhaps, we are all kings and queens of our own stories, wicked and good, monstrous and human, although perhaps not in equal measure. So for the summer then, we’ll send GOT off with a Viking funeral, packed on a boat of dried leaves and branches, launched into the vast and unending ocean to burn.

The Red Wedding

Bloody good!

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Tony Shea ( Editor-in-Chief, New York)

Tony Shea is based in New York, having recently moved from Los Angeles after more than a decade on the sunny coast. His short films have won numerous awards and screened at major festivals around the world including Comic-Con. As a musician, he is the lead singer for Los Angeles rock n’ roll band Candygram For Mongo (C4M) who has been a featured artist on Clear Channel Radio’s Discover New Music Program and whose songs have been heard on Battlestar Gallactica (Syfy Channel) and Unhitched (Fox) among other shows and films.

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