Game Of Thrones just finished its seventh season and lots of people didn’t like it and it’s still basically the best thing on the television, so …. Huh. I guess, pick up the tempo lesser television demonstrates ? Maybe make time for some frigging dragons or at least a eunuch, NCIS .
If you follow The Internet, you’ll know that people had a few issues with this most recent season of GOT , most notably the sudden introduction of hyperspace travel to what had previously been a gritty, realistic world. Characters would lunge back and forth across the continent within the span of an episode or two, and while individual producers were careful to avoid discussing the length of time that passed between scenes, meaning it was all maybe technically possible, it didn’t feel great. In fact, the pacing of the entire season felt like it had accelerated lane too much.
I suspect this was caused by the increasing gap in progress between the demonstrate and the books. While the first 5 seasons were based on the books and the sixth was based on what were probably fairly detailed notes from George R.R. Martin on the book currently in progress, everything past that( i.e. this season) seems to have been based on a somewhat loose outline Martin has for the overarching plot of the indicate. And instead of occupy that in with more politics or delightful weddings or fucking Dorne, the producers have plainly simply killed from high point to high point. An increase in the pacing was probably necessary and welcome( fuck Dorne ), but this past season it felt like they took things a little too far. We live in a world where The Hobbit was turned into a nine-hour movie. They likely had some time to show a few more conversations on boats.
But there’s a deeper problem at work here, something which is causing a disquieting sensation that the indicate seems violated now. No , not just the most recent incest plot, that’s penalty, fuck your aunts all you crave, Cracked’s position on that has always been clear. No, what’s quite all right is we are seeing a crash between two immutable laws of fiction which have lived side by side within the show for years. Recent events have forced these two laws into conflict with one another, and it’s the fallout from this crash which is building everything feel so weird now.
The statutes are 😛 TAGEND
Realistic Narratives Have To Kill Off Major Characters
What was the first major plot degree of Game Of Thrones that induced you recognize something special was going on? The prostitutes? It was the prostitutes for you? Ok, sure. You do you.
Because for most other people it was the death of Ned Stark. For the first several episodes of Game Of Thrones , Ned Stark was clearly established as the primary protagonist. He was courageous and honorable and had nice children and a cool spouse and he did what he thought was right. And about midway through the season, when he was taken prisoner by the villainous Lannisters, everyone very well known fiction began softly, even subconsciously, pondering how Ned Stark was going to get out of this one.
And then he got his head chopped off.
Holy shit ! Clearly this was a different type of depict solely, and Martin would return to this blood-filled well again and again, brutally killing off major characters at weddings across the continent.
The reason this worked was that, as surprising as it was, it was still realistic and believable. Political machinations and assassinations and open war result in people succumbing , so we can’t be too surprised where reference is happens to leading player. Large portions of Game Of Thrones are inspired by real history, which — spoiler — has a fatality rate of around 100 percent. Appear at the War Of The Roses( which several elements of Game Of Thrones are based on .) That little conflict determined dozens of Edwards and Richards succumb each year, leading player each one. A plausible depiction of that kind of conflict has to have major characters succumb. It’d look ridiculous without it.
And now one question. Answer it as quickly as you can. On Game Of Thrones , who was the last major protagonist to succumb?
The uh … hmmm. Is it Hodor? It’s Hodor, isn’t it? Is that major enough? He was certainly a big character. Not really major though, and it was quite a while ago.
Let’s talk about the second immutable the principles of the rule of fiction at work here.
Traditional Tale Can’t Kill Off Major Characters
The whole point of a narrative is to read about interesting people doing interesting things. It’s more satisfying if we know something about the peoples of the territories doing amazing things — we don’t want to hear that some chump elf dropped the One Ring in Mt. Doom, because his army opposed its lane there and he was just the closest one to the precipice. We want to read about Sam and Frodo doing it, because we’d followed those characters and its further consideration about potatoes for a long time. If we’d followed the chump elf for a thousand pages, that might be different. He’d be our hero, and we’d know a lot more about him, and we’d delight in recognizing how he had finally become the chump he was always destined to become.
One big side-effect of the said law is that if we follow a character for hundreds of pages, they are able to fairly predictably is to continue to do interesting things. It’s essentially a corollary to Chekhov’s Gun; if a character is introduced in the first act, they’ll have to do something by the third act. Readers pick up on this too; we know when characters are important and can often even predict what they’ll do long before they do it. The coward will become brave, the hero and romantic concern will kiss, the guy with a chainsaw for an arm will be killed with his own chainsaw. And when that hasn’t happened in there , no matter what dire situations our heroes find themselves in, we don’t feel like they’re in real jeopardy. It’s called plot armor, and it’s the reason people saw it so surprising when Ned Stark died. He was our hero! He had to do … something. Right?
This is probably why we haven’t had any major characters on the display succumbs in a while now. They all have a role to play in the final season of the show.
Ok, so what? What’s the problem? You want Bran to die or something? Well, yes , but there’s more.
Game Of Thrones Combines Both These Type Of Stories
In Game Of Thrones , everything south of the wall can be airily summed up as “humans fucking each other over.” It’s a realistic political tale, which generally follows the first statute discussed above. Use instances from history, Martin was able to create beloved characters and detested rogues and kill them off more or less whenever he craved, because that’s what happens in a “humans fucking each other over” story.
North of the wall, we have a very different kind of story, something a lot closer to a traditional fantasy epic, in this case the “humans opposing ice-zombies” trope that lies at the core of 90 percentage of the tales you’ve ever been told. It’s no coincidence that this story never blended in too much with the story south of the wall. Characters from each side didn’t cross backward and forward or interact much with each other at all. Every now and then person might send a raven to the other story, and another story would read it and giggle and hurl the raven in the garbage.( Is that how the ravens worked? I don’t think we’ve ever seen the details .) And this story north of the wall is following those rules of fiction which apply to traditional narratives. Characters can die, but not the main ones; we need those around to deliver the ultimate blow at the end of the story to construct that ultimate jolt actually feel meaningful.
Now the two stories are coalescing, and abruptly it’s clear that all the vulnerable people in the gritty political back-stabaganza we had come to enjoy and anxiety for , are actually heroes in an epic fiction, immune to death until the last pages. Think of all the improbable absurdity we’ve had to sit through this season. Jaime get tackled off a pony instead of incinerated. Theon escaping fatality for the twentieth goddamned hour. Arya and Sansa overcoming Littlefinger’s schemes with hilarious ease. And most damningly, seven named characters marching into the wilderness on the dumbest mission ever conceived, running into impossible, overwhelming peril, and six of them walking out . This is not the same show we started watching; Ned Stark would have died a dozen hours over on that mission, and lost several thousand sons in the process.
You can argue that maybe this would all be better if Martin had written the details himself, that’d he’d gloss over or write around the improbabilities we’d seen this season. But the fundamental conflict between these two tales would still be there. We have important, previously very vulnerable characters who now for narrative reasons cannot die . No matter how well it’s done, everything about these sorts of tale is going to feel at least a little bit weird.
I’ll still watch the last season, though. So will you. What other socially acceptable venue do we have for watching aunt sex?
Chris Bucholz is a Cracked columnist and plans to die in the first act of whatever narrative he’s in. As the author of the amazing novels, Freeze/ Thaw and Severance he thinks you should definitely go buy both of those now. Join him on Facebook or Twitter .