“Game of Thrones:” Everyone’s favorite character died

Michael Capasse, Staff Writer

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(Spoiler Alert)

If you somehow are not familiar with “Game of Thrones” at this point, allow me to clue you in. In short: it’s a fantasy show that’s equal parts medieval political drama, dragons, sex and ice zombies. Now I’m going to be blunt, the character you love is the show’s quality and it died when the creators stopped putting out quality content… I don’t want this metaphor to get lost in the storm of hate.

As one of the most popular series currently on air, the show seems to have occupied a void in pop culture that no one knew was there. I would define this cultural ascension as a unified front of “Thrones” fans who consider their taste in media to be above the rest. However, the show has gone stale.

That isn’t to say that it is undeserving of the praise, but rather that the creators now acknowledge the complacency of its fans. Fans will either defend it as something that has maintained its elegance or admit it has declined in quality, but this admission comes with the realization that they’ve invested too much time to not see it through.

The HBO series, based on George R.R. Martin’s book series “A Song of Ice and Fire,” first aired on April 17, 2011 and since then has grown into a cultural phenomenon that is now in its eighth season. With an average of 10.27 million views per episode in its seventh season, it’s safe to say there’s a plethora of folk who enjoy this series. That stat doesn’t even include the countless viewers who elect to pirate the series online in lieu of paying the HBO fee, considering that, according to the piracy news site TorrentFreak.com, “Game of Thrones” was the most pirated show from 2013 to 2017.

The first episode of the eighth season, which aired on Sunday, April 14, was pirated 54 million times in just 24 hours. So the show is popular, you get the idea… but why? It has managed to garner so much praise for a few key distinguishing factors. What sets it apart from its peers is its ability to get you invested in its characters, its phenomenal writing and the outrageous spectacle.

The character investment was one of the show’s finest qualities. I mean c’mon, who didn’t love Ned Stark? The most honorable man in the Seven Kingdoms, friend, father and loyal hand to the king. Watching the man who had been the glue of the entire series so far – one of the show’s most active protagonists – get beheaded was surreal. I remember watching with friends in disbelief when the sword went clean through his neck. That carried weight and not just the literal weight of the sword or Ned’s head hitting the stage. It carried the weight of admiration for him. I remember thinking, “…what now?”

Luckily, the show had plenty of other characters we loved. Enter Robb flippin’ Stark. Everyone loved that guy. His father was dead and we sympathized with him. Then we rooted for him in battle as he took on the foe who wrongfully beheaded our beloved Ned.

A friend once told me, “Geez. I’ll be damned if this Robb guy, son of Ned, doesn’t win this whole iron throne thing. He’s great!” Oh, but what do you know… here comes the Red Wedding. Robb? Dead. Talisa Stark, Robb’s wife? Dead. Everyone else you loved at that point in the show? Dead! That’s what made those early seasons so gosh darn good. There were characters that we were invested in, but the show was not afraid to off them whenever it felt like ruining your day.

It was fine when the show did that early on and had other characters for us to get invested in, but at this point, who cares? When Jon Snow dies, it hurts for sure. Who didn’t cringe when Ollie stabbed him? The problem with this whole scenario is that they brought him back to life.

Same thing with The Hound. The legendary warrior got offed by the other legendary warrior, Brienne of Tarth, but The Hound didn’t actually die. When an audience sees characters come back to life like that, it ruins the emotion behind big character deaths. However, this problem is dwarfed by the decline in the quality of the writing.

Early seasons of “Game of Thrones” could leave out the spectacle altogether and still be an enthralling hour’s worth of dialogue. As previously stated, this show was once a very well-executed political drama with intricate complexities that made it fun to keep up with.

Conversation brought insight into how and why people behaved the way they did. This depth of character grounded the series in contrast to the more fantastical elements like dragons or ice zombies. Unfortunately, at this point in the series, most have come to expect half-baked crotch jokes and soap opera tier conflict to support the actions of the characters that I can no longer feel invested in. Even the spectacle is less impressive without the weight.

By spectacle, I mean the million dollar CGI fight scenes with dragons and zombies. The battles are amazing and at this point in the show, they’re the only thing I look forward to. For example, in the seventh season’s penultimate episode, “Beyond the Wall”, we see a group of fan favorite characters travel into the heart of the ice zombie territory. This would have been the perfect opportunity to kill off one of our favorites just like the good old days of the show as ruthless as the Mad King himself.

But no! No one dies except a few characters whose names have never been said out loud in the series. Not only this, but to further diminish the high stakes precedent set by early seasons, we see Jon Snow get pulled into a frozen lake under the ice by zombies, only to climb out, unharmed, moments later. On top of this, a random character who wasn’t around for ages shows up out of nowhere to sacrifice himself so Jon can ride home.

Jon is un-killable and any sacrifice made for him is diminished by this fact. That being said, the spectacle is consistently fantastic. Well-directed action is something I will always praise, but I won’t hesitate to talk smack about the low-stakes mediocre shenanigans that have been “Game of Thrones” for the past two seasons.

With a hearty goodbye and thanks to you, my reader, I hope to see the quality character and high standard of writing I once loved in paradise when I die. For now I suppose the rare well-placed crotch joke and hundred million dollar fight scene will suffice.