I’m gonna come right out and say it: Game of Thrones is the best show on television. I can say that easier now with Breaking Bad off the air, as that had a legitimate claim to the throne. But as Game of Thrones has pointed out on numerous occasions, legitimacy takes a back seat to power, and boy, is there a power in Thrones. There isn’t a more ambitious television show than Game of Thrones. Ever. With its sprawling world of complex characters, Game of Thrones digs into the human psyche and complexity as good as, if not better, than any show on television However, it disguises it, unlike the ones that garner the overwhelming critical acclaim for their subject matter. Due to the fantasy nature of Thrones – with what the dragons and magic, the brutal violence, and the abundance of nudity – the deep, intellectual side of the show is seemingly not at the forefront. But a closer look into the show, and you’d see otherwise.
At first glance, one would say Mad Men is a deeper show, with more complex characters, than Game of Thrones. I say otherwise. To be clear, I love Mad Men and it is super-duper television and constructed by the keenest of eyes. And yes, Mad Men deals with complexity at its finest, but the amount of characters it deals with is not on the level of Thrones. No show is on that level. As you progress through the story, you unravel character clues and traits that make each and every interaction, encounter, or event, important in the character building process. Each character in the show is deeper and more complex then their public facades may portray. This idea works on two levels. Within the show and in the public domain.
In the show, how one is seen in public means a lot. Sometimes, it is all that matters, so these characters push aside their feelings and conflicts to remain in power. Sound familiar? Is this not what Don Draper is doing? By escaping his past, Draper puts on the same sort of facade as Jaime Lannister does, only difference is, Don Draper drives the show and the storyline of Mad Men and Jaime is just one piece in the puzzle. In their own sort of way, each character in Game of Thrones puts on their public face and pushes aside those wishy-washy emotions for another time.
Then there is the public domain of Game of Thrones, which seems more vast than the show itself. Thrones may only air for 10 weeks, but, as the iron-born say, what is dead may never die. Okay, maybe not the most elegant quote, but it serves my purpose. When this show ends its season, in essence, it is “dead,” at least in tv terms. But in the new social sphere of our culture, nothing dies. Thrones lives on in many ways and many fashions. Whether it is a traveling exhibition or a website devoted to the “Beautiful Deaths” of the previous three seasons in a countdown to the season four premier on April 6th, this show never ends. It is always on in some way. And that’s not a bad thing, folks.
And then we come to the consequences of Game of Thrones. Like our world, Westeros has real consequences too (unless you have honed the power of the Lord of Light and can bring back the dead). And, like our world, sometimes even the bad guys win and the honorable die. Eddard Stark lived his life more nobly than any character we met in the show. He was called a traitor and lost his head. Every action has meaning and consequence. They may not all be as horrific as losing your head or, gulp, the Red Wedding, but they all matter. Every detail. Every story. Every person. They all matter. And as a person who loves The Lord of the Rings, I appreciate the skill of George R.R. Martin to create this magnificent world. His creativity amazes me and it is that creativity on which this show thrives. Although he doesn’t write much of the show, the co-creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss do and they appreciate his world as much as anyone. To me, that is the real magic.
Another show I love is The Wire, which has been hailed for its bevy of characters and how creator David Simon weaved these characters into his show and gave all of them meaning and importance, at least in some way. However, a popular feeling with Game of Thrones is that the amount of characters is a detriment. Why? Because they have funny names? Okay, I get it, they aren’t easy to pronounce, but that’s a silly reason to dismiss or forget some of the names. But then again, like The Wire, the people merely live in the world and that world is the main character. In The Wire it was Baltimore and in Game of Thrones it is Westeros and Essos. These characters fill this world and that is why they are able to die, because the world goes on, you know, a lot like the world we live in.
Now I know, I am a fan and this is merely my opinion and who really cares, but there are plenty of people out there that have there own too and may disagree with my assessment of this show, shoeing it off as some sort of fantasy melodrama blah blah blah. I don’t need the validation of some “critic” for me to know the power, grace, elegance, and all around triumph that is Game of Thrones. Some may not get it, but some may not care enough to get it. If you dismiss this show as long-brow fun, well, I can’t accept that. I was told a kid not to judge a book by its cover. Game of Thrones’ cover is one of violence, sex, and dragons, but once you start turning those pages it becomes much much more.