‘Game of Thrones’ pays off, sometimes despite itself

Why, exactly, am I supposed to care about Theon Greyjoy?

Why, exactly, am I supposed to care about Theon Greyjoy?

After mentioning to a buddy of mine about how much I was enjoying Game of Thrones despite certain reservations I was having, he went off on a rant about the general lack of quality in the fantasy arena, whether on the page or on-screen, how mature consumers of fantasy were too often out of luck, forced to read books for kids or seek satisfaction in other genres. As he wound down and admitted my concerns about Game of Thrones were valid, he asked me to name one other fantasy franchise that is doing it better.

He had me stumped on that one.

Because when Game of Thrones is on its game, it’s a whole lotta fun. The general antics of the Lannister family, particularly Tyrion, are a wonderful representation of the incestuous courts of Europe of previous centuries, a constant whirl of gossip, lies and back-stabbing – with the occasional bloody, out-and-out front-stabbing as well – that is the real war behind the grand battles fought in fields and keeps. Arya Stark’s journey from eager kid to burgeoning revolutionary has been well mapped, and she is a survivor in a family that has done its best to get itself killed off. And, best of all, the messianic rise of Daenerys Targaryen from an afterthought in a royal family in exile to the mother of dragons, freer of the slaves and leader of what is about to become the most terrifying and dominating army in Westeros (at this point, I should probably note I’m only at the end of season 3, so season 4 is not in play for this piece).

The problem is all of the boring bullshit you have to put up with to get to the good stuff. Sansa Stark is never interesting on her own, occasionally becoming a worthy diversion when she is swept into someone else’s drama, such as her marriage to Tyrion. Yes, she represents the royal child raised to marry into a match that will serve some political scheme, which makes her important as a symbol, but it also makes her wholly uninteresting as a character. I have a hard time caring about Stannis Baratheon’s storyline, in large part because it’s mostly him acting inconsistently while the red witch and his right-hand man bicker like a couple of girls in the junior high bathroom. Plus, I honestly don’t believe he’ll rise to power, so it’s increasingly difficult to care what schemes the Plankton of Westeros has going on. I cheered during the “Red Wedding” because now I never have to hear Rob Stark whine, grouse and pout again. Rob was dull and managed to make the wrong, most self-destructive decision nearly every time, and it’s a shame his head wasn’t chopped of instead of his daddy’s. And why, God, why am I still forced to watch the misadventures of Theon Greyjoy? So far, all he has contributed to the show is the supposed death of the youngest Stark boys and that “Dude, it’s your sister” moment when he feels up Yara. My time is being wasted whenever the story focuses on him.

But in the end, the big-picture payoff continues to be worth it, even if the journey sometimes gets in the way. So I am hitched to the fate of Westeros, for good or ill.

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9 thoughts on “‘Game of Thrones’ pays off, sometimes despite itself

  1. Ah, Season Three… the Starks aren’t doing so well by the end of the season. Jon’s full of arrows, Robb’s headless and full of arrows, Arya’s homeless with the Hound, etc.

    Things are looking up for the Lannisters.

    How you feel about Sansa and Theon is pretty consistent with Season Three viewing.

    What are your expectations for Season Four? (This is a game I play with everyone who hasn’t read the books, to ask for future predictions…)

    • adamlaredo says:

      Thanks for you comment. A couple of quick predictions …

      1) Daenerys’ movement seems to be pretty difficult to stop militarily, but I think it’s more likely to unravel from the inside. The relationship between Barristan and Jorah is obviously pretty brittle and there’s a lot of mistrust there. The addition of the pretty boy sword-for-hire who joins the mother of dragons near the end of season three is also a complication. Jorah is feeling trapped professionally on one side by Barristan, with the new kid starting to make inroads as the possible new love of Daenerys. I don’t think Jorah would betray her, but that doesn’t mean he might not end up compromising her in an effort to undercut one of his rivals.

      2) Arya is the only real soldier left among the heirs of Ned Stark (and may have been the only real soldier to begin with, with zero apologies to Rob). I have a feeling the boys are going to stay isolated a while longer – as well as everyone believing they’re dead – and Sansa is basically useless and married to a Lannister, so the north is going to rally around her.

      3) I think Davos is going to kill the Red Witch, and possibly Stannis. I think his loyalty is going to end up lying with the bastard son of John Barratheon. And the reason I believe this is because he’s still alive. I can think of no other reason for him not to be dead yet if he isn’t the one who’s going to finish Stannis. And God I hope it’s soon.

      4) To me, everything else is up in the air, largely because of what’s happening behind the wall and everyone waiting on winter. Those are the two wild cards, to me, at least. I don’t know how the threat of the White Walkers is going to alter political alliances, and I don’t know what kind of stress winter is going to put on the kingdom under Geoffrey’s rule (and whether grandpa is going to be able to keep bailing his dumb ass out).

  2. polarbears16 says:

    I like the show, but there’s always been something missing from it for me. I feel like the threads are just too disparate, and while some characters are interesting, we don’t spend enough time with them before we move to other, less interesting people. The penultimate episodes are always great, but it’s sometimes a bit difficult to put up with everything that comes before. Great acting, though, and the show looks fantastic.

    • adamlaredo says:

      That’s sort of the larger point I was driving at. There’s so much going on that the more interesting characters and storylines will get sidelined for entire episodes while we get far too much of lesser characters, such as Mr. Greyjoy. But, in general, it’s so well done that these less-rewarding tangents can be forgiven. Thanks for your comment.

  3. thycriticman says:

    Looks like it might be a fine idea to get into this show. Despite this show having a number of flaws as people often point out, it certainly still sounds like a ton of fun!

  4. […] previously written about a conversation with a pal, who, after I said I had some issues with Game of Thrones (while enjoying it overall), went on a rant about the quality of fantasy tomes for adult readers. […]

  5. […] Stannis, Die! I knew Stannis Baratheon was a pretender to the throne (‘Game of Thrones’ pays off, sometimes despite itself). Granted, I was hoping Davos would off both him and the Red Witch, but I’ll take an […]

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