Why it’s Game Over for Game of Thrones and Me

Pop Culture

Why it’s Game Over for Game of Thrones and Me

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

Now that the series is finally coming to an end, I have a confession: I was a bandwagon fan of Game of Thrones. I came to the show back in 2014 when it was about to start its fifth season, succumbing to both peer pressure, and the massive hype it had received from every quarter. I hadn’t read any of George RR Martin’s endless tomes, but I did know that the story involved someone named Khaleesi, dragons, and the unpredictable death (until they cast Sean Bean) of Ned Stark.

Armed with this meagre intelligence and plenty of popcorn, I embarked on my GoT journey. My plan was to binge-watch the first four seasons in preparation for the fifth, which was set to release in only a few weeks. Sweet summer child that I was, little did I realise that I should instead have been strapping myself in for a rollercoaster ride. Even though the inescapable GoT memes had taught me that the Red Wedding was coming, and that Littlefinger was not to be trusted, each new twist came as a shock.

I cried along with Sansa Stark when her direwolf, Lady, was executed, and felt the pain of poor, know-nothing Jon Snow, the perpetual bastard. My heart was in my mouth as Daenerys Targaryen emerged from the ashes as Mother of Dragons, and when her husband Khal Drogo “crowned” her creepy, abusive brother with molten gold, I leapt from my couch and whooped. I ached for the underdog Theon Greyjoy, only to find that he, like most of the characters who populate Martin’s stories, was an awful human being — and then couldn’t help feeling sorry for him again when even bigger sociopath Ramsay Bolton turned him into the pathetic, cringing Reek. And I learned that when I grew up, all I really wanted to be was Brienne of Tarth (even though, if I’m honest with myself, I’m just a Hot Pie at heart).

Any Game of Thrones fan will understand what it’s like to be under the spell of one of the most finely crafted TV shows — and stories — in history. For nearly a month, I spent more time in the worlds of Essos and Westeros than my own reality, and my emotional attachment to all its people and happenings was bordering on the unhealthy. I was infatuated — no, I was head-over-heels in love. After all, why else would I have slogged through five seasons of gore and guts and two 700-page fantasy novels?

Is it cynical to say that we now invest more of our time and emotions into TV shows than with people?

Which is why it hurts to say that, after nearly five magical years, I have officially broken up with Game of Thrones. I wish I could say that it’s not the show, it’s just me. But the truth is, since Season 6, Thrones has changed. Now, the once-ruthless show is rife with heroes who miraculously defy death, and fanfiction-level romances. What happened to the good old days, when main characters dropped dead like flies, and passionate love was between a twin brother and sister?

Look, I’m not saying that Game of Thrones is not a great show. It’s just not my show anymore — probably because since the last season, the show has gone off-piste. Martin hasn’t yet finished his magnum opus, and although the series’ creators know how the books will end, they have to figure out how to get there. As a result, Game of Thrones, with its reliance on CGI dragons and impending apocalypse, has become almost conventional, nearly predictable — and utterly disappointing.

It’s not unusual for great TV shows, from Dexter to The X- Files, to fall down in the last lap, causing betrayed fans to break up with them en masse. Lost, of course, is the patron saint of shows that fuck with your head as much as any relationship can, and the non-fantasy crowd still rains curses down on the finale of How I Met Your Mother, where after nine seasons of declining quality, they found that the titular mother had been dead all along.

Is it cynical to say that we now invest more of our time and emotions into TV shows than with people? Maybe, but members of the die-hard fandoms will know the feeling. No wonder breakups with TV shows, then, are such a wrench. The truth is, I know I won’t be able to hold out against the lure of a final season of GoT. Maybe I’m just trying to justify everything I’ve given to the show over the years, hoping against hope that it won’t let me down again. Still, once the winter storms clear, at least I have the comfort of knowing that in this golden age of TV, I’ll find a rebound faster than you can say “Netflix and chill”.