Thanks to Monsters of Television for linking!
With last night’s season finale and the episode before it, Game of Thrones made a decisive narrative shift toward focusing on a younger generation of people, all of whom are dealing with the failures of the previous generation.
Many fans felt cheated when Ned Stark (Sean Bean) died, but Ned was doomed to fail: he either couldn’t play the game or failed to do what was necessary to stop it. In the meantime the series was building up a strong cast of supporting characters, all sons and daughters of powerful and formerly powerful people, who would have to navigate the chaos left in the wake of fallen kings and hands — Robert, Ned, Drogo, Arryn, Aerys.
Call it Real World: Westeros. Says Entertainment Weekly‘s James Hibberd:
“This story is about Arya and Robb and Sansa and Jon and Joffrey — the new generation of Westeros leadership, and how they both fight and, sometimes partner with, a supporting cast of adult players in a struggle for survival and power.”
Don’t get me wrong, we still have Cersei, Catelyn, Jaime, Tywin and all the rest who are really calling the shots. But it’s easy to see now why HBO signed on to the show. At first I was concerned the series was too gray: the wizened faces of Ned, Catelyn, etc. were starting to make the series feel staid. But then the young people started to stand out. (Note: I’m including Tyrion because he’s a younger Lannister and generally fun to be around; so sue me).
Now they almost all have great storylines, even the most marginal characters. Sure, young ladies Sansa, Arya and Daenerys are feeling extra-emboldened as of late, what with the tragic demise of their fathers and lover. Robb is clearly going to be a big deal, as his mother encourages him to war. But even marginal players like Renly, Tyrell and Theon might end up causing a stir, thirsty as they are for power. For me, the biggest question mark is Gendry, one of Robert Baratehon’s many bastard children. Will he join the game?
And the ultimate question is how the desire for power — or whether the desire for power — will affect these kids. With dragons, white walkers and winter coming, are there allegiances to be made? How will characters like Arya and Daenerys affect the world’s gender politics? Will secession bring peace? One of the hardest things to understand as a newbie viewer is that we are coming to Westeros at a moment of particular instability. The Targaryens had ruled Westeros with relative stability for hundreds of years, and the east (of the Free Cities and Dothraki) had kept to themselves. This is either the beginning of the Dark Ages or the beginning of the Renaissance. The show’s pseudo-Medievalism would suggest the latter, but it seems a Renaissance is a long time coming.
Of course, book readers already know what’s going to happen, but I like a surprise! So I’m staying away from the books and the wiki and choosing to follow the story through television. I appreciate the efforts of Benioff and Weiss to streamline a story of literally hundreds of characters into ten-episode nuggests.