Hello World, We’ve finally caught up with Game of Thrones.
Just a couple of months ago, neither of us had seen a single episode of Game of Thrones. We have now seen them all. This represents a concentrated exposure to extreme depravity unmatched in either of our experiences.
Our moral compass may just need tweaking a little bit. We might be just a teeny bit “off”.
For example, when someone commits incest with his twin sister before shoving a small boy off a tower to his (presumed) death, you’d really assume that such a character would have alienated all our sympathies absolutely and forever.
But no, after just a few weeks of being systematically desensitized by binge Game of Thrones‘ viewing, Jamie Lannister seems like a fairly reasonable guy. It all depends on what you’re used to I suppose.
Tyrion Lannister, “the imp” is of course the supreme “reasonable guy” in the narrative and he’s all the more secure in his reasonableness because he’s never regarded himself as a repository of all righteousness to begin with.
Lord Varys: You have your father’s instincts for politics and you have compassion.
Tyrion Lannister: Compassion. Yes. I killed my lover with my bare hands and I shot my own father with a crossbow.
Lord Varys: I never said you were perfect.
This is my second favourite “nobody’s perfect” type line ever captured on film.
The shameful truth is that binge-watching Game of Thrones turns you into something of a connoisseur of complicated evil. Indeed we’re can’t really watch our villains come to a very sticky end unless we have another evil character ready to take over. Take King Joffrey. An irredeemably awful psychopath, a being who cannot begin to conceive of any form of pleasure that does not involve inflicting needless suffering on someone helpless. Tyrion thinks that maybe a little sex will loosen Joffrey up a bit, but unfortunately it turns out that Joffrey has no interest whatsoever in sex – only in torture porn.
But we’re not ready to say goodbye to Joffrey until someone worse comes along. And the someone worse, nicely times, is Ramsay Bolton. Ramsay, unlike Joffrey, puts real time and effort into his viciousness. He adds far more of a psychological element into his tortures. If you’re a prisoner of either Joffrey or Ramsay, you know that something unspeakably horrible will probably happen to you. With Ramsay, however, you sort of know that no matter how horrible the thing you’re anticipating – it’s going to be more horrible – that in terms of plotting details and extremities of horribleness – Ramsay is always going to be ahead of you.
So far, Ramsay Bolton has had an uninterrupted run of successes. Almost everything he has ventured has been crowned with triumph. Which leads us to wonder – how will he handle his first real inevitable defeat? Will it make him all bitter and twisted?
In any case, whatever deservedly grisly fate awaits Ramsay Bolton, we won’t want to see him taken out unless we’re sure that there’s someone at least as hideous as Ramsay Bolton for us to hate waiting in the wings. I’m not sure there is yet.
Only humans can do real “evil” – but the real threat in this saga does not come from individual human evil at all, but rather from a larger social and political incapacity to perceive where real threats come from.
Those with a tedious interest in time management will be familiar with the practice of labeling some things as “important but not urgent” and others as “urgent but not important.” The two desperately important but not always urgent things in Game of Thrones are White Walkers and Dragons. Dragons and White Walkers are slow burning fuses that will eventually render everything else in the story irrelevant.
When you see Jon Snow facing an army of White Walkers, you wonder why anybody is remotely concerned about which horrid little princeling is sitting on the Iron Throne at any given time. For crying out loud… Winter is Coming and humanity itself is an endangered species. (It’s been pointed out that White Walkers make a nice metaphor for climate change). White Walkers can only be killed by desperately rare obsidian weapons and their army, ever growing, is larger than any human army on earth already.
Then there’s dragons. The vast blasted shell of Harrenhal is a testimony to what they can do. There’s no real defense against dragons. Dragon eggs are like the weaponised plutonium of the George Martin universe. Climate Change and Nuclear apocalypse are two ways the world can end, but we foolish little mortal bipeds are too engaged in petty politics to organise a proper defense against either of these.
Eventually, the only real hope for humanity lies in dragons and White Walkers fighting one another, and humans trying to stay out of the way. That’s if humans deserve to survive the apocalypse, which on the evidence of what we’ve been watching isn’t at all clear.