I know I already did a Game of Thrones related post. But with the season finale having aired last night, plus the remaining buzz over the second to last episode, I feel like there’s more to talk about, especially in terms of storytelling.
You may be aware that the author of the series, which the HBO program is based on, George R. R. Martin, has been explaining himself to fans – many of whom are angry and horrified that Robb Stark, his wife, and mother were brutally killed despite being well-liked characters. He told Conan O’Brien while a guest on his show, “I like unexpected things, and I always like the suspense to be real. . . . I want my readers and I want my viewers to be afraid when my characters are in danger. I want them to be afraid to turn the next page because the character may not survive it.”
This makes a lot of sense in terms of storytelling. If you catch the behind-the-scenes part of “The Rains of Castamere” episode, the producers, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, point out how knowing that everything turns out well in the end makes some stories too predictable. Benioff said that as great as The Lord of the Rings was, we all knew the Ring of Power would be destroyed and none of the hobbits will be killed. That took away some part of the excitement because the audience knows there is always hope in the story.
But when I watched this clip on YouTube, it was clear both Benioff and Weiss carried a heavy heart over making this episode. They were sad for both the characters and the actors who played them. They seemed haunted and weighed down by this part of the show, agreeing with the audience that The Red Wedding was very sad and despairing. (I don’t want to show the actual video clip here or else it will sadden some people, because there are parts of that scene in that clip. But here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DQsl5Bz312)
It was like they were sad to do this to the audience, but yet, they also knew they were producing a show that breaks the rules of storytelling. What they are doing is pretty bold, and Martin is also bold to have written such books. Like I discussed in my previous post, most people expect happy endings in their books, movies and TV shows. That is not a bad thing at all, but I do think it is OK to prefer something different.
You may have noticed the intense debate happening on the Internet over whether Game of Thrones is a miserable story that celebrates amorality, or it just breaks the rules of storytelling. I go with the latter, because as a storyteller myself, I think sometimes writers have to take risks and not go with the clichés. I know authors have to be mindful for what readers usually prefer, but I think they also have the right to create what they want.
Just to quickly reiterate my stance on happy endings, while I do prefer life to be portrayed as it is, I’m not cynical. Life can be unfair, and people can be despicable, but life does have pockets of hope. In case you’re wondering, yes, I felt very sad once the ninth episode was over and was haunted by it for a few days. It certainly didn’t help to tune Sunday night for the finale, and see how Lord Frey’s men desecrated Robb Stark’s body. Ugh, people are so sick. And let’s not forget: Martin’s series is based on the Middle Ages, a time of great brutality. I think we should be relieved that for the most part, humans today are not as vicious as they were 1,000 years ago – especially as a whole. You’ll get psychos here and there, and some barbarism from certain groups, but altogether, we’ve evolved quite well.
I’ll still watch Game of Thrones, and I’m already anxious for next season. I admit I will be discouraged to continue with it if more of the likable characters (Tyrion, Daenerys, Jon Snow, etc.) are killed or anything terrible happens to them. Heck, I was sad when Ros, a minor character, was killed after Joffrey shot arrows at her from his crossbow. But I watch Game of Thrones because it does keep me guessing on what the characters are going to do next. I like hearing of their plans and watching them play their game. I like to see them evolve and do their best to survive. And I hope they keep surviving, or else even I will turn off the show for good – or at least take a while to catch up on the episodes.
ONE MORE THING: I heard George R. R. Martin grew up in Bayonne, NJ which is across the Kill van Kull from Staten Island. He told Conan O’Brien he used to wonder “what exotic mysteries and wonders lurked on Staten Island” and was disappointed there weren’t much. Hmm. My hometown inspires people that much? Who would’ve thunk it? Oh, and SILive.com jokingly pointed out that clearly, Martin had never been to an Italian restaurant there.
NOTE: If you are going to leave comments regarding this post, please be aware that any spoilers will not be approved of. I will also completely detest you for ruining anything for me. Yeah, I’ve heard the rumors, but c’mon!