Game of Thrones Lacks Enchantment

Every time I sit down to watch Game of Thrones, I wonder if this will be the episode that makes me
quit. How long before my enjoyment of these characters turns to ashes in my
mouth? My biggest problem with the show isn’t even the hideous misogyny or the
over-the-top beheadings. Game of Thrones
is just boring. 

A recent “Let It Go” parody asked, “Game of Thrones / Game of
Thrones
/ Who’s the hero on this show?” The intricate world of Westeros is
one of the series’ major strengths, but having such a large cast of far-flung
characters makes it difficult to know whom to root for. The song offers Tyrion
Lannister (Peter Dinklage, listed first in the title credits) and Oberyn
Martell (Pedro Pascal aka “that new guy,” a weaker claim), two of my
favorite characters, as possible protagonists. 

Anyone with their eye on the
Iron Throne or a hankering for revenge seems like a likely candidate, and
they’re mostly fun to watch. Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) mothers dragons
and breaks chains, but has been stuck in Essos so long she may as well be on a
different show altogether. Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer) is always a delight, and Arya Stark’s (Maisie Williams) turn to the Dark Side is satisfyingly
twisted, but how important are my favorite characters in the grand scheme of
things, anyway?

Unlike character-centric shows like Lost and Orange is the New
Black
, which devote entire episodes to the psychology, relationships and
backstory of a single character, Game of
Thrones
wants to visit as many characters in a single hour as possible.
Unfortunately, this structure leads to dreadfully slow pacing. There are just
too many characters around for the good ones to be dealt with effectively. We
spend 5-10 minutes with one only to jump-cut across the continent for
another. Because each episode is so fragmented, not much actually happens in any given week. Daenerys
wanders through the desert. Wildlings terrorize the North. Tensions build in
King’s Landing. If we’re lucky, someone important dies.

Notably, the best episode of Game of Thrones was season two’s “Blackwater” because it took
place entirely in King’s Landing and forwarded that plot by a huge margin. Two
weeks ago, “The Lion and the Rose” pulled a similar stunt, allocating its
second half (over 20 consecutive minutes!) to Joffrey’s wedding. Game of Thrones would do well to spend time with more interesting characters. There are heroes we love and
villains we love to hate, and then there are potato men I couldn’t care less
about. A season is only 10 hours long, so why is so much precious airtime
allotted to the lackluster adventures of Bran Stark, Theon Greyjoy, and Stannis
Baratheon?

This season, Game of
Thrones
 is, thankfully, primarily focused on the Lannisters, some of the
most well-developed characters on the show. Now that the Starks are separated
by death and distance, the manipulative, soap opera-like royal family is the
only House of note. Put two Lannisters in a room together and you get great
television—with one glaring exception. Jamie’s rape of Cersei in “Breaker of
Chains” was unnerving and completely unnecessary, not to mention totally out of
character. Are we to believe that Jamie’s long-developing redemption crumbles
to dust just because he got horny? No explanation or closure for the scene was given;
it felt included merely for shock value, with very little believable buildup.
I’m very interested in how the show and the Lannisters will handle the aftermath, but
that scene left a bad taste in my mouth.

I’ve never been the biggest fan of high fantasy, so it’s not
surprising that I’m not the biggest fan of Game
of Thrones
. Medieval fantasy is so often modeled on our own oppressive
past. It’s important to address the consequences of that oppression, but patriarchal
power structures are already overrepresented in the media. Experiencing them
over and over again, especially in speculative fiction, suggests that this model is the only way the world is, was, or can be. It’s fantasy—you can literally make the rules. Why not throw out the
oppressive ones? Why not have women who don’t constantly live in fear of sexual
violence, who don’t have to prove men wrong in order to succeed? Seeing more
equal societies in media might convince us that such societies are not only possible,
but worth pursuing. I see patriarchy in the real world every day. I don’t want
to also have to constantly deal with it in television.

A.V. Club reviewer Todd VanDerWerff, discussing the show’s
structural sexism, noted, “the two women we see with the most freedom,” conqueror
Daenerys and wildling Ygritte, “are those who’ve realized the system needs to be
leveled and replaced with something else.” 

That would be great, if we ever got
there. But the plot of Game of Thrones
moves so slowly that it will take years for such a revolution, if it’s even in
the cards. I haven’t read the books, but the last two aren’t even written yet,
so it’s anyone’s guess how the story will end.

I want to like Game of
Thrones
(and there are aspects of it I do like), but I doubt it’s worth the
commitment at this point. It would be easy to marathon on a lazy Sunday—you get
the whole story at once and can skip the boring parts. But the show is such a
widespread phenomenon that it’s impossible to avoid its cultural impact, not to
mention spoilers. I love that fantasy is becoming more mainstream. But this
show is less fantasy and more violent, patriarchal soap opera, and I’m
frustrated with feeling like I have to care about it. At least there are
dragons.

Catch Game of Thrones
Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO, if you can stomach it.

Lea Bejtvoic PO ’15 is studying English. She is from Dallas, Texas. She misses sweet tea and Lost

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