****Spoiler Warning**** This post will contain spoilers for the TV show through the most recent season. Read with caution.
So I finished watching this most recent season of GoT this week (is this only season 5?) and I’ve got to say, I’ve got some pretty dissatisfied feelings. This dissatisfaction stems from 2 places: 1) the killing of pretty much every character that is a “main” character and 2) the increased violence, sex, and sexual violence.
On the first point. The beheading of Ned in season one, that was a good plot twist. The killing of Tywin last season was much needed, as was the killing of Joffrey. The destruction of the Starks in the Red Wedding was, despite it’s graphic and depressing nature, important to the story. Poisoning Marcella? Burning Shireen alive? Stabbing Jon Snow in a Ceasar-esque fashion? These things (all at the end of this most recent season) crossed a line with the killing. I’ll get to that line in a moment. First I’d like to talk about why killing character willy-nilly doesn’t work in fiction.
Despite what many writing sites will tell you about “killing your darlings,” you don’t have to kill characters to make a story good. Some people even think it diminishes the story. I am a proponent of balance. Here is the thing about GoT: they get you invested in a character, invested in where their particular story is going, and then BAM! Another bloody throat. Evey time this happens to a main character, investment in the story at large decreases. As my boyfriend said at Jon’s death “Now I’m not going to care about anything that happens at the Wall.” And it’s true. If you kill the characters people are attached to, the ones you have followed for seasons (or chapters) and made them into a main (not supporting-main*) character, killing them is NOT a good idea. And I say this even though I did not particularly care for Jon Snow. He was, in my opinion, too goodey-two-shoes. And yet his death has made me non-inclined to watch the next season.
In order for a story to work, readers or viewers must have someone in the story that they care about, that they relate to, that they are invested in. G.R.R. Martin takes that away every chance he gets. He kills off the characters just to prove he can, or perhaps because he sees no other way to remove their floundering plot line. Here’s the thing, it makes the story very realistic. In wars, people die all the time. Important people die. But this is supposed to be a story. There is a fine line between too fictional and too realistic. That’s the line we’ve got to walk. And in that line is the implicit promise of the writer to the reader/viewer that the person they care about will, somehow, come out on the other side. That they won’t lose everyone.
So that line Martin crossed with killing the girls? That comes to my second point**. I think the author has some problems, to dwell so much on the things he dwells on. Maybe this judgement isn’t fair of me, as I know that writers write the story and sometimes there are graphic details. HOWEVER. So much violence, so much sex, and so much sexual violence is a problem. These things have taken over to the point where there is no longer a clear story, but rather a string of violence and sex mashed together with the barest of plots. And killing little girls (killing any children) can be problematic in a story. Yes, it potentially has a place, in order to set a tone, but I don’t believe it was needed here. I believe that his stories are filled with violence for the sake of violence, sex for the sake of sex, and sexual violence for the sake of sexual violence.
These two things, I believe, are what is causing the show to no longer work. There is no character that can be invested in without fear of reprisal (as in: I like this character, so they will die, so it is better if I don’t like any character, thus decreasing investment in the story) and the violence of the story, sexual or otherwise, has over taken the plot until the plot barely exists anymore.
*Supporting-main characters are, to me, the characters that surround the main character. Think Ron and Hermione in Harry Potter. They are main, but they clearly are supporting to the MAIN character.
**My second point is my opinion formed through observation. I believe that the things I mention here are both evidence of our problem as society (that we accept these things as normal) and detrimental to society’s growth (that it helps us accept them as normal, and teaches (in the subtle way that popular culture does) young men and women what is okay).