I was a huge Game of Thrones fan. Note the decisive use of past tense.
The series initially struck me as a refreshingly dark work of fantasy, where magic and fantastic creatures take a more realistic backseat to medieval murders and politics (although murder and politics are largely the same here). Regular watchers of the series will be all too familiar with the constant heartbreak that now defines it; I mistook that – for the first three or four seasons – for a dedication to realism.
However, I now realize that the esteemed Mr. R. R. Martin must derive intense erotic pleasure from denying his audience any sort of narrative catharsis. I don’t mean this as a slight against him – for god’s sake, whatever he’s doing certainly seems to be working out for him. But what others seem to consider to be the draw of the show (the fact that absolutely nobody in the series is safe from brutal, horrific, and/or psychologically damaging death, not to mention distressingly imaginative torture and rape) is, to me, the most abhorrent thing about it.
Look, I have no problem with people noting the unpleasant realities of life, nor do I begrudge artists invoking their right to draw attention to them, but I find the greatest strength of fiction to be the creation of something more meaningful than a slew of Chaotic Evil events that cynically mimics life and obstinately denies all but the most cursory resolution (which generally takes the form of someone managing to not die before reaching a physical destination). But as far as I can tell, that’s what GoT has become.
A good story has realistic, relatable characters who develop over time, a compelling plot (usually including subplots), and plot resolutions. Westeros, apparently, is completely devoid of that last thing.
Are you familiar, reader, with the concept of “edging”? It’s a thing lonely, frequently-masturbating men on the internet talk about* that refers to almost reaching orgasm, then denying it. Rinse and repeat. Ostensibly, this makes the eventual orgasm that much more intense, but the caveat is that if done wrong, one’s intimate bits find themselves under too much stress and it can cause extreme pain.
I find Game of Thrones at this point to be like edging gone too far. It’s gone on so long that by the time the series ends, unless fans are all in the fetal position weeping with pain, the resolution may well cause The Sploosh Heard ‘Round The World.
What’s equally – if not more – frustrating to me is the fact that I keep coming back, but not because I’m emotionally invested (which is how a good story should keep its audience). In fact, the awful things that have happened to the main protagonists have taught me not to invest myself, which is alienating and makes further immersion in the world of the story impossible. And it’s not because of the great writing, the excellent production, the realistically flawed, complex characters, or the stellar cast – all of which the show has. I’m just…curious. After all this time, all these dead characters, all the nightmare-inducing points in the tangle of plot threads – how could the story possibly be resolved? What on earth could the eventual payoff be? Or will the end be just like the rest of the show: uncomfortable, cynical, and with no regard for catharsis?
Frankly, I’m getting pretty sick of it. Call me unambitious, but six consecutive seasons of jerking off is a bit too much for me.
*Why do I know this, you ask? My answer is, of course, “shut up”.