A blog of ice and fire: Thoughts on Game of Thrones seasons 2 & 3

“If you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention.”

If there’s one bit of dialogue you should keep in mind while watching Game of Thrones, it’s probably that one. While I’ve only just now finished season 3, multiple characters have already met untimely/unfair ends. There’s no telling who will actually make it to the end, and who will come out as a winner or a loser in the fight for the Iron Throne.

Earlier this year, I started watching Game of Thrones after years of hearing all the buzz about it. I purposely waited for the final episode to air before I began, so that I could experience the series as one complete arc. I also decided to blog my thoughts along the way. I’m not normally much of a binge-watcher, so I’ll probably be working on this project for a while, but it’s been a fascinating journey so far.

While I enjoyed the first season and meeting all the characters, the second season is where this show really started drawing me in. All the political maneuvering is captivating to watch, and even though I’ve already heard a decent amount of spoilers regarding the show’s ending, I quickly found out that, much like poor Jon Snow, there’s still a lot I don’t know.

(Fair warning, spoilers abound!)

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Pawns and players

Our heroes and villains have been scattered across Westeros (and beyond), every person working towards his or her own goal (some more altruistic than others). Robb continues to lead the war between the Starks and the Lannisters; Joffrey continues to be an utterly awful human being; Arya grows into a toughened survivor; Dany is nurturing her dragons and building an army; and Jon Snow is…well…doing whatever the heck he’s trying to do beyond the Wall. (I’m not totally sure what his ultimate plan is, but I don’t think he necessarily knows either. Jon is sometimes what I’d call “lovably clueless.” You know I still adore you, though, Jon!)

I just keep finding myself amazed at the scope of this show; the sets and costumes are even higher quality than some big-budget films I’ve seen. It’s also impressive the amount of depth the actors are able to add to their characters. There are some characters I didn’t really like when I first met them, but thanks to some subtle details added by the actors and/or the script, I actually pity them now. Many of these characters haven’t really led happy lives thus far, and they’re trying to survive in the only way they know how.

One of the main characters who really stands out to me after watching the first three seasons is Tyrion Lannister, played by Peter Dinklage. What an interesting character, and what a great performance. Tyrion can be both ruthless and compassionate, and he’s obviously one of the smartest players in the game of thrones going on around him. He cares more than he’s willing to let on, and he’s definitely the best of the Lannisters (though to be fair, that’s not really a high bar to clear).

Tyrion is treated cruelly by both his family and the people around him, simply because he is shorter than the average height. His father, Tywin, treats Tyrion and his other children as mere pawns to be used in building the family’s reputation. One of the hardest scenes to watch is the forced wedding between Tyrion and Ned Stark’s daughter, Sansa, because these are two people who are utterly miserable yet also utterly powerless. Tyrion is also one of the few people in King’s Landing who shows kindness to Sansa. I’m really hoping both of these two will be okay!

Another character whose arc really intrigues me is Tyrion’s brother, Jaime. I really hated Jaime at first, but the past several seasons have marked a rather intense period of personal growth for him. He loses his hand — and therefore, part of his identity as a warrior — and his interactions with Brienne of Tarth show that he does have a sense of nobility and decency buried deep within him. I also love how Brienne puts up with zero percent of his nonsense.

Speaking of Brienne, she has quickly become one of my favorite characters. Even in a society that’s prejudiced against her, she’s managed to become a female warrior and demands the respect of those who get to know her.

And I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention Olenna Tyrell. She is to Game of Thrones what the Dowager Countess is to Downton Abbey. Olenna has a sharp wit and an even sharper tongue, and she always has the best lines. She’s not intimidated by the Lannisters, and she is never afraid to speak her mind. If this was a democracy, she’d definitely have my vote to sit on the Iron Throne.

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Themes in the narrative

I love digging deeper into stories and pondering what they’re trying to say, both about the world they’re depicting and the real world beyond the fantasy. And Game of Thrones has plenty to dig into.

In my first Game of Thrones blog, I mentioned that I was frustrated by how the show portrayed some of the female characters, and I hoped that future seasons would give them more of a voice. Although the show still could use some improvement in this department (female characters are still objectified far more than their male co-stars), I really love some of the arcs that are developing. Female characters also are being allowed to voice some of their frustrations about the system that is inherently biased against them.

And even though the society depicted here is set up to give men more power, the show’s oppressive system of government really isn’t doing anyone any favors. The monarchy based on birthright has resulted in some truly terrible rulers (looking at you, Joffrey), and only a few people really have the power to make significant decisions. Everyone else has to scheme behind the scenes and simply hope they can survive.

I’ll be curious to see if, in later seasons, characters are able to succeed in their quest to break the cycle of violence and abuse, or if they simply become part of the system, unable to diverge from the traditions of past generations.

It’s easy to look at the harsh world of Game of Thrones and think, “Oh yeah, we’re better than that!” But are we really? For example, even now, in 2019, issues like racism and misogyny rear their ugly heads. You don’t even have to dive that deeply into social media to find examples of this. And even though politicians may not be literally stabbing each other in the back, as they are in Game of Thrones, we’ve seen too many examples of power’s corrupting influence.

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It’s time to talk about THAT scene

Finally, before I watched Game of Thrones, I’d heard about an infamous “red wedding” but I didn’t know what it was or when it was going to occur. Well, now I know what it is AND I HATE IT.

Apparently I was expressing my thoughts about this scene loudly enough that my husband (who was upstairs) could hear me complaining as I sat in front of the TV in the basement. I don’t know that I’ve ever been so mad about a fictional plot twist before, officially surpassing my feelings about “Mockingjay,” the final book in the Hunger Games series (and, to date, the only book I’ve ever thrown across the room after finishing it).

As I mentioned before, I’m definitely #TeamStark, and Robb and Catelyn were two of my favorite characters. I’m both mad that they died, and I’m mad about the way they died. I watched this episode Friday night and was haunted by it throughout the weekend. Game of Thrones, why????

All right — I could keep ranting for a while, but you get the idea. Even though I’m upset about saying goodbye to two of my favorite characters too soon (especially since Ned Stark already was on the show all-too-briefly), to be fair I did know going in that this show was going to kill off some major characters in upsetting ways.

This did get me to thinking about unexpected major character deaths as a narrative device, and how it’s not always my favorite type of plot twist.

Yes, it technically adds realism, because life doesn’t always follow a neatly plotted narrative. But personally, I’d rather sacrifice some realism to get more time with interesting characters. Ned, Catelyn, and Robb Stark, as well as Renly Baratheon (who died in season 2), are all characters I wanted to see more of.

This isn’t really a criticism of the show, because it’s not wrong to aim for more of a realistic style. It’s just a personal preference. Or maybe I’m just bitter because my favorite characters happen to be the ones targeted by these shocking plot twists. ?

Anyway, despite my feelings about the red wedding, I now have season 4 of Game of Thrones on hold at the local library, and I’m planning to pick it up after work! Things are not looking good for the Starks, but I’m still rooting for them.

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