– I won’t spoil anything specific beyond the first episode of the show, no worries –
The central plot of George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones kicks into high gear when a child is pushed out of a window of a massive tower because he accidentally caught a royal brother and sister having kinky incest sex. As if there’s any other kind.
Well, damn. Now that’s how you start a massive, seven-book long epic like A Song of Ice and Fire. I’ve been fairly addicted to the series for the past few weeks, and blazed through the first three lengthy books like a phallic knife through sensual sex butter. But why? Why is it so addictive? Why is the series, which debuted way back in the mid-90’s, suddenly so absurdly mainstream-popular? It’s simple…
As someone who grew up with kid-friendly epics like Harry Potter, Narnia, and A Series of Unfortunate Events, ASOIF feels similar, but with way more sex and violence, which makes everything much, much better. There’s a massive cast of memorable people and quite a few of them are really bad at not dying. But the key, the thing that keeps these elements from becoming excessive or exploitative or empty, is that, for all its fantasy, the series feels real. And in real-life, people have sex, people fight and die in grisly ways, and occasionally, though admittedly rarely, children climb up towers and catch brothers and sisters slamming each other like Wrestlemania and get pushed for it. And I know I keep harping about the kid, but that’s only because it was so abrupt and darkly hilarious.
That dark humor sets a constant tone for the entire narrative, because in a lot of ways, ASOIF is basically fantasy Seinfeld. It’s as much about social foibles and human oddities in an almost mythical place as Seinfeld is, only in Westeros instead of New York. Based on what movies and television and one quick childhood trip there have taught me about the place, New York and Westeros aren’t all that different. Both are home to an insane amount of different cultures. Both have powerful families with extravagant wealth vying for power. As a result, both are constantly undergoing some kind of social upheaval instigated by backstabbing people in high positions. Finally, both are living under constant fear of a terrifying invading force of pure corrupting evil, death, and cruelty. In Westeros, they call them The Others and they come from beyond The Wall. In New York, they call them People from New Jersey and they come from New Jersey.
I won’t bore you with one-to-one comparisons of characters, although I firmly believe that George Constanza with a sword and a wolf motif is Ned Stark. What matters here is kind of the odd plot structure of the two series, where stuff sort of just happens. That’s not a knock of things, mind you. It’s rather extremely realistic. When someone asks me what the central plot of ASOIF is, I have to really think about it for a second before realizing I can’t answer in a single sentence. Because, much like Seinfeld, lots of seemingly unrelated things are happening that will undoubtedly converge in a brilliant way at the end. Nothing is truly random, because everything is directed in a natural way. For example, one of my favorite Seinfeld episodes has Kramer find an interest in driving thousands of golf balls into the ocean. His friend George pretends to be a marine biologist in order to date a woman. One day the couple comes across a beached whale struggling for air. George manages to unplug its blowhole and discovers what was suffocating it was one of the golf balls Kramer had been hitting into the sea. See? Cyclical, seemingly random, coincidental, and yet bizarrely natural.
And, just like Seinfeld, ASOIF has a wonderfully refreshing sense of amorality. There are very few characters in the entire saga I would consider entirely good or evil. Even the deliciously, spitefully-incestuous Lannister family never does anything without remarkably well-thought out, if not disturbing, reasoning. The lengths a person will go to protect their family is not something to be taken lightly. That’s why Bowser keeps trying to kidnap Peach, so that she can finally be a mother to their kids, as she always promised before Mario stole her away in a passionate night of cognac and mushroom-flavored thongs. This point – the amorality, not the thongs – applies in a very entertaining way to the kids of the tale. Much like South Park, ASOIF makes a point of noting that kids can be, and often are, unrepentant douchebags. If a child with a vuvuzela is annoying, a child with a sword is completely demonic. And extremely fond of lopping off heads with whimsical childlike glee.
The most satisfying scene in the entire series.
Finally, ASOIF is awesome because of that sexy opening theme song. Here it is.
So cool…it’s like you’re diving into a magical ultraviolent Lego universe. And there are only two ways out: either watch the episode with open-legged enthusiasm or – you guessed it – incest.