Monday, June 2, 2014

Why Can't I Quit You, Game of Thrones?

Like, a bunch of spoilers in this.

I don't have many rules when it comes to blogging, but I had been deliberately saving up my thoughts on this season of Game of Thrones until it was all said and done. It's a show whose events are often hard to get a handle on until the dust has cleared, and usually by that point some other huge moment has happened. I thought it was best to wait until the season has wrapped so that I could frame the totality of its contents in the context of, well, "That all happened, and we've got until next year to live with it." But any of you who saw last night's episode might understand why I've jumped the gun a bit.

Before I get into the nitty gritty, I had already noted before the last 10 minutes that this episode contained several of my new favourite moments of the series: Sansa coming into her own as a person capable of guile and cunning, Arya unable to stifle her delight that her aunt has died and thus will be unable to pay The Hound a ransom for her, and a truly excellent if baffling dialogue scene between Jamie and Tyrion about a cousin of theirs who was "a moron" who liked to smash beetles. The episode also had its share of Game-of-Thrones style harshness, with a Wildling massacre on Mole's Town (with Sam's girlfriend Gilly presumed dead but actually spared by Jon's Ex - how nice) a Bolton massacre of Ironborn at Moat Cailin (why does Moat Cailin get to be in the intro, and Braavos for that matter, but not the Eyrie?) and most distressingly, Jorah being dismissed from the court of Daenerys, in response to his initial work as a spy for Robert Baratheon, a deep continuity cut that many of us non-book-fluent viewers would have assumed never came up again. I felt bad for Jorah, but these three sour moments are just par for the course for the Game of Thrones 'verse, a world where literally everything that happens is awful. You know what you're getting into when that theme song plays.

And then that last scene.

I was on the edge of my seat. It probably not accidentally called up Inigo Montoya, one of the best scenes in any movie, not to mention David and Goliath, as the nimble, talkative Red Viper outclassed the grunting brute, the Mountain. "This," I thought, "This makes all the misery worth it." Because it's fair play that 99% of the things that happen in Westeros are terrible, but evil can't win all the time, and the fact was that Oberyn Martell was set up as so clearly one of those "the good guy wins" moments that, well, I should have seen it coming.

In one of the most graphic displays of violence yet on a show that features regular beheadings, Oberyn is on the cusp of victory when the Mountain lands a punch, knocks his teeth out like chiclets, and explodes his head, while admitting, "Yeah, I raped and killed your sister." I felt about as bad as WWE fans did this past March when Brock Lesnar covered the Undertaker for the 1-2-3.

Evil wins twice in this scene, because the stated after-effect is that, with Oberyn losing, Tyrion (the closest thing King's Landing has to a decent person,) is sentenced to death for a crime he didn't commit. Womp-womp.

I shouldn't be shocked. Like I said, just about everything that happens on Game of Thrones is the worst possible version of that thing. People are regularly set up to be heroes that end up losing their cause and their lives. Oberyn, by that token, actually seemed like the kind of person who had a chance in the Game of Thrones world, because he was a sick anti-hero who played by his own rules, and only wanted justice because it was personal. He was the Wolverine of Westeros.

The show, and its source material, take a sadistic delight in toying with our perception of regular story structure. There's where I object, because like I said, you can't do that all the time. Those structures, that comfort, exists for a reason, and the denial of it should make for a greater thrill when it finally does arrive. Instead, that constant delay of gratification just makes me hate this show, even though I love it. I hate that I love it.

Screw you, Game of Thrones. Screw you, because 7 days never seemed so long.

How are you going to torture me next week, huh? Is Brienne gonna fall off her horse and break her neck? Does the Hound chop off Arya's legs and sell her into slavery? Do the Boltons buy a major west coast basketball team? What is it going to take for me to stop watching this neverending misery parade? What the fuck is wrong with me? I am so fucking angry right now at George R.R. Martin, but really I'm just angry at myself because my normally very passive sense of viewing has been provoked into frothing emotion at things that are happening to fictional characters. Barely comprehensible rage spews from my mouth when I picture that toothless, eyeless head-explosion. I wanted something good to happen in that scene so badly and I am furious at myself that I didn't know better.

So here I am, shaking with impotent rage. I could change the channel. I could check out once and for all, say "This was the moment it was too much for me," and get on with my life, but we all know I'm not going to do that. I'm with this fucking show until the bitter end and the only one I have to blame is myself.

When he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, Jake "The Snake" Roberts gave an impressive summary of what he did: "it's called fucking with peoples' emotions." In the end, that's all it is. Making people hate you so much they'll tune in every week for a happy ending they never seem to get.

That I'm angry about it only means they've done their job.

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