Way back in the back end of the 1990s and thestart of the 2000s, when I was a George R R Martin fan and had all his books (even the vampire one which I didn’t like because I don’t dig horror), I borrowed the first three A Song of Fire and Ice books from the library, long before anyone ever thought of making a TV series out of them.
The first two I read back-to-back and thought they were all right, but the third went on forever. I stuck it out but concluded life was entirely too short. As evidenced by the fact that in the intervening twenty years, he’s only completed two more of the total seven.
By the time Game of Thrones first appeared, I had jut started working for my present employers. Because I’d had such a deadening experience with the books, I had no interest in watching the series, but a high proportion of my colleagues took it up. The only thing I could remember from my reading was that Ned Stark (Sean Bean) got his head chopped off. I didn’t know whether Game of Thrones would follow through on that so I kept my mouth shut until it did, rather than deliver the only spoiler I had.
And I’ve never bothered with the series at any time, except to occasionally take the piss over the non-publication of Book 6, both before and after the series entered into its territory unguided. My time is limited, I have to make an effort to watch any TV series, I have other priorities and I just wasn’t interested enough. Or at all.
This afternoon, due to my team winning a Game of Thrones oriented competition (without my assistance), our reward was an extended period off the phones in our plush Cinema Room, watching the final episode. I found the idea irresistible, that my only episode of such a sweeping, long-running series should be its last.
So I sat and watched in silent absorption (apart from the occasional chuckle) with only the most minimal knowledge of context, i.e., that Danaerys Targaryen had just burned King’s Landing to the ground, killing Cersei and Jamie Lannister.
The episode opened on Peter Dinklage, as Tyrion Lannister, walking through the ruins of the town. It was a smouldering winter scene, though I needed to be told afterwards that that grey stuff everywhere was not actually snow, but ash. I should have realised for myself. The effect was, quite intentionally, taken from Hiroshima. And I want to say straight away that Peter Dinklage was immense, that his every second of performance was so completely right that I understood every thought of his without knowledge of his history.
It was clear from the first moment that Tyrion was in shock, that everyone was in shock, that the world in which they lived had been rammed into a brick wall and the brick wall had stood and they had shattered. This episode was about shock, about aftershock and aftermath, about what shape the new world would take.
How that would develop was equally clearly dependent solely upon Daenerys, and by God the girl clearly was as mad as a jam butty. Emilia Clarke looked confident and clear but the light of inviolable fanaticism shown out of her eyes with enough force to melt a Polar ice cap. Given that she had a dragon at her back, it was equally plain that the only way to stop her was the way Jon Snow stopped her, with a dagger through the heart: that at least was one thing he did know.
What remained was rearranging the world to cope with the aftershock, and to try so far as it was possible with such people in charge of it, to stop anything like the series from every happening again. People fell upwards into positions unexpected, from which Westeros might or might not profit. Were George R R Martin about half his age, maybe a sequel series could tell us if the weary optimism of the finale or the realistic pessimism of life would prevail, but he hasn’t got near finishing the first series yet, and from my position on the sidelines, I’ve long since been convinced he never will.
For now it felt fitting. It was slow to the point of being stately, as opposed to being funereal, and my total ignorance of who was who and what they’d done on the way here was no bar to understanding the episode in its own lights. Now I’ve watched it, I’ve already had half a dozen opinions on this episode from dedicated fans who get here the hard way, but I’ve got to say I enjoyed it.
Not enough yet to make me want to undermine the purity of the experience by watching any more of them. In a different world, with complete leisure time in the aftermath of the fabled Euromillions Lottery win, maybe. Maybe after Breaking Bad at least.