I never thought I would like Game of Thrones.
Oh sure, I played Dungeons and Dragons with next-door bestie Allen Abbassi for a time back in the late 70’s. He had all of the funky dice, the books explaining the “rules” and I remember drawing on graph paper the shape and dimensions of a dungeon hallway in which we encountered a ravaging band of Orcs – or some other stupid mythical creature.
It didn’t last long for us, and as such my taste of medieval fantasy went dormant for a long, long time. I briefly rekindled it when my father in law – of all people! – made me take him out to see the first of the new series of Lord of the Rings movies.
I kinda liked the first. The second was a long, loud clanging of swords and riding of horses every where. By the third, I told my dad: “Sorry, pop. I’m out.”
So when it came to Game of Thrones, I sat on the sidelines for the first SIX seasons! This despite the fact that a good overlap of sportstalk radio listeners were ARDENT Thrones nerds and I heard/read many other sports radio hosts talk about the show, as if it were another team or league – like the Lakers, or the NBA.
Fucking nerds, I thought.
But like I did with Breaking Bad (I didn’t START watching it, until the series had ENDED!) I finally decided last summer to dig in and give it a try. At first, I was rather “meh.” But it didn’t take long. I think when The Mountain lost that jousting match, and beheaded his own horse in a fit of rage – that’s when I was hooked.
Violent. Intense. Unpredictable. Borderline insane. And it just got better and better and better from there.
I remember last summer as I started to talk about my newfound fandom of the show on the air, that a listener wrote me a lengthy and genuine email about how utterly jealous of me he was. Why? Because, he said, I had dozens of hours of awesome, virgin Thrones episodes just waiting for me. And that he wished that it was him!
Sure enough, I gobbled through the seasons – at first with some, ahem, gently pirated copies on a thumb drive – then I went out to the store and bought all the Blu-Ray discs because I plan to go through all the extra materials and commentary at some point.
Plus, I figured I owed it to the show’s creators, actors, writers and producers – and to a lesser extent, HBO – to financially support a creative effort so awesome. I have done the same in purchasing in total, the entire Deadwood series (tragically cut short at just 3 seasons) as well as The Sopranos.
What was it, I wondered, that resonated with me about Game of Thrones?
I came to conclude that, yes, it WAS the violence and the brutality, and the sex that made this show DIFFERENT than comic book style medieval fantasy shows, and movies. It gave the experience an authenticity that was utterly necessary to draw you in.
Splitting a man’s head open like a cantaloupe with a broad sword, ain’t pretty folks. But they had to show it to you, so that you were constantly reminded that this wasn’t Frodo Baggins running around in a buckskin vest using “magic” to “slay” bad guys.
Then, of course, you had all of the uncomfortable scenes involving violence against women. Apparently, the usual forces of feminism and political correctness tried to make a run at this issue when the show was just a few years old. Thankfully, they were repelled like a wildling army at the gates of the wall.
I remember reading somewhere – you’ll have to google it, sorry – about how the show’s creators made a decision early on that they were going to do Game of Thrones BALLS TO THE WALL on all of this stuff – the language, the violence, the sex, and the brutality – or it wasn’t worth doing at all.
Thank god they prevailed.
Because the handful of female principals left standing at this point in the show, would not be nearly as authentic had they not been forced to navigate a mythical world in which there are no “safe spaces” or HR departments making sure nobody grabbed their asses running around the castle.
To buy into Danerys Targaryan or Aria Stark or Cersei Lanister as female badasses, requires their journey through some fairly awful and bloody lowpoints along the way.
I guess what I appreciate most about the show was how densely packed with detail it is, and also how expansive and open ended the 7 Kingdoms are in terms of peoples, cities, and traditions. The fact that every few episodes or so, you’d end up somewhere new thinking… “Now who in the fuck are THESE guys!” was always a kick.
And like all great shows, it moved slowly. I think I appreciated that most about Breaking Bad. It wasn’t rushing to push you through a story line.
So anyhow, I just watched the first episode of Season Seven just like all of you humps out there who have been Thrones Nerds for years. I liked it. But I wonder if I’ll like the series as much, having to wait like a dog for his next bowl of Alpo every week.
I also worry that there are so many plot threads which are ramped up to full speed now, that the show will start taking short cuts to keep things moving along. (Case in point: The fat kid who just happens to find a key piece of information to help Jon Snow fight the White Walkers in the first little handful of books he plucks from a Wal-Mart sized library.)
All that said, thank god for Game of Thrones’ return during the dead of sports summer. For us nerds it’ll help get us home to Lord Football come September, without too much further impatient suffering.