Game of Thrones is Dead, Long Live Lord of the Rings

Pop Culture

Game of Thrones is Dead, Long Live Lord of the Rings

Illustration: Sushant Ahire

If Comic Con India 2017 was any indication, India will soon be witnessing a dramatic jump in babies named Arya, Khaleesi, and Jon. Seven seasons into its run, Game of Thrones is officially a legit part of the pop culture canon. However, its next season is going to be its last, and I couldn’t be more pleased. Because as winter finally comes for GoT, its role as the world’s official provider of swords, heroism, and fantasy will revert to its rightful owner: Lord of the Rings.

Amazon, in a bid to replace Netflix as the platform that you sneakily use through your friend’s account, has announced plans to bring LoTR to the small screen in a multi-season deal worth USD 250 million (or less than a tenth of Smaug’s hoard). Nearly 20 years after the first film, and half a century after the book’s release, JRR Tolkien’s LoTR is returning to prove why tits, blood, and swear words do not a fantasy epic make.

The two series are drastically different, yet similar, in that they’re both massively popular fantasy franchises, but their outlook and treatment couldn’t be more different. It’s the geek equivalent of the eternal Coke vs Pepsi debate. They’re both immensely influential, and both have legions of rabid supporters who would never dream of drinking the rival cola. Now, Coke vs Pepsi might be a riddle with no answer (#TeamCokeForevs), but allow me to settle the LoTR vs GoT debate right here.

Looking at the source material, it’s easy to see why LoTR is the franchise GoT wishes it could be after a long day of hiding from White Walkers. This isn’t even an attempt to pick a better author between Tolkien and George RR Martin, though one was an Oxford professor who invented his own languages and scripts, and the other wrote TV episodes for a Beauty and the Beast adaptation. No, LoTR simply translates into better adaptations because all the books, prequels, histories, glossaries, and appendices have been completed long ago, while A Song of Ice and Fire (GoT’s literary analogue) still hasn’t even reached its final volume. It’s like trying to compare a Harley Davidson cruiser with a child’s tricycle – the idea is the same, one is just far more professionally executed than the other.

LoTR is where heroes get to be heroic, not end up turning into literal two-faced assassins like Arya Stark

But it isn’t merely the fact that recent GoT episodes seem like they are being made up on the fly. LoTR comes up the victor in the fight of the franchises because of its characters. The steadfast and loyal Sam, the noble and just Aragorn, the wise and benevolent Gandalf – LoTR is where heroes get to be heroic, not end up turning into literal two-faced assassins like Arya Stark. GoT’s characters are a rogues’ gallery of human failings, and the last thing a cast of fantasy characters should do is remind you of your friends and family. The genre exists as an escape route from reality, which is a lesson GoT forgot quicker than Danaerys flew from Dragonstone to beyond The Wall.

Yep, in the latest season, GoT broke its own internal logic, by granting the show’s dragons (and ravens) the flight speed of an F-15. Such instances of the narrative thread unravelling were evident throughout the season, as it becomes increasingly evident that the show’s writers are just treading water, hoping for Martin’s books to catch up with the plot and rescue them from their creative dead-end. In contrast, the upcoming LoTR show isn’t even bothering with revisiting any of the six movies, mining the rich depths of Tolkien’s fully realised legendarium for fresh, new stories.

So on one hand you have a literary treasure trove of novels, short stories, and essays, two multiple-Oscar-winning trilogies, and a highly anticipated television premiere. And on the other you have an incomplete fantasy series with a truncated final season for its TV adaptation. Picking a winner should be as easy as convincing a hobbit to join you for second breakfast. GoT’s watch has ended, now repeat after me: “One Ring to rule them all.”