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Winter is the Worst Season

Winter is the Worst Season

Words By Alexi Barnstone

At this point the reason I watch Game of Thrones is simple. I watch Game of Thrones because I am too deep into it. The story line is spent and the plot has thinned, but the 8th season of the show is the finale and will bring to a close the battle for the Iron Throne.  I have spent too many years of my life waiting for a resolution to miss it. My addiction forced my into a free trial period on Foxtel, and now I am ready to find out who will sit atop that most uncomfortable seat.

In 2011 the series launched, quickly skyrocketing in popularity.  The early seasons were as controversial as they were good. Rampant with misogyny and unnecessary brutality the experience was constantly confrontational. But it was also brilliant. Power dynamics constantly shifted shape in a world unbalanced by greed. Characters like Little Finger and Varys manipulated the game, playing all sides and rising to seats of power, while houses of great stature tumbled into disarray unable to navigate harsh waters. I remember spending extra hours on my phone, sifting through the different banners of the seven kingdoms, eager to learn each individual political position and history. The world of George R. R. Martin was complex, a vast adaptation of dozens of historical cultures meshed into a fantasy world.  

Mythic creatures and battles are good for a late-night movie, a quick hour and a half of disengaged viewing. They are not sufficient to last eight seasons. Combine seven Houses, multiple claims to the throne, and Martin’s willingness to murder any character at any time and you get the most successful franchise in TV history.

Season eight has completely lost what made the series so enthralling. The series has steered away from everything that served to build it. A couple of dragons, a couple of incestuous Targaryens, a night king with an army of blue eyed zombies, and Cersei Lanister with a wine glass. That is all we have left. Many characters still prevail, but their roles feel insignificant, their plights subsumed by one of the couple people at the helm. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed watching the battle for Winterfell. But not in the way I enjoyed watching Joffrey die, Tyrion outsmart Stannis, or Little Finger play the game.

I still remember Little Finger and the Varys standing at the foot of the Iron Throne in an early season.

 “Chaos isn't a pit,” Littlefinger said. “Chaos is a ladder. Many who try to climb it fail and never get to try again. The fall breaks them. And some, are given a chance to climb. They refuse, they cling to the realm or the gods or love. Illusions. Only the ladder is real. The climb is all there is.”

 Brutus still doesn’t understand the irony, Julius Caesar paid the ultimate price, Shakespeare tipped his hat to George R.R. Martin. 

I used to watch the show with shivers, eyes fixed to the screen as characters threw witty shade. Now I watch with ongoing commentary, laughing at the scenes and calling for the death of a main character. Occasionally I check my phone.

Where we used to have unpredictability we now have a war against the undead. An unwinnable battle of saviour after saviour. A classic zombie apocalypse. One character facing a hoard, about to die, only to be saved by another character who arrives in the nick of time.

A long 77 minutes of individuals staving off the dead interspersed with the valiant death of a few inconsequentials that have contributed little more than losing their extremities – thanks Theon, your death was valiant and makes up for being a pain in the ass for seven seasons. Even the few important characters that may have died - it goes unconfirmed since their actual death was not shown and people seem to have developed a tendency to escape the cold clutches of doom in Westeros – did not feel like characters that had anything else to offer to the dialogue.

I will finish the season. If for nothing else, so that I can know it is done. Seven seasons and two full work weeks of my life were not dedicated watching this series so that it could fail to conclude itself. If for nothing else, I need to know who sits atop the throne. With a free trial at Foxtel and seventy alarms set to ensure I deregister before I accidentally fund Murdoch’s enterprise, I will endure. By the end I may simply be glad it is over. Two things are for certain; the series will end a disappointment in the wake of its beginnings, and Rupert Murdoch will not get a dime out of me. No matter what TV rights he purchases. 

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