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Thrones of Game

May 27, 2019

“You really ought to watch Game of Thrones, Dad. But it’s best to start at the beginning, or you won’t get all the references.” Thus spoke my elder daughter last week as the epic came lurching to its conclusion.

This is the drawback with TV series drama, isn’t it? You can see Macbeth at the theatre, or Gladiator at your local cinema, and in the space of a couple of hours you get a beginning, a middle and an end. Macbeth and Maximus die, order is restored, and that’s that. No sequels. No prequels. Max is not miraculously brought back from the dead, and Mac is as secure in his grave as was Richard III under his car park in Leicester.

But watching Game of Thrones from the beginning entails sitting through 72 hours of sex, intrigue blood and guts, while keeping an eye out for Starbucks cups and water bottles littering the battlefields. That’s a pretty significant slice of time for an incipient oldie who’s starting to wonder how much time he has left.

Anyway, said Daughter invited me to watch the last episode with her, as she happened to be staying with us that weekend. I was happy enough to do so, because at least it would make some sense of all the meta-information about the show that’s been swirling around for the past eight years.

It was well worthwhile. I was able to watch it (with a few explanations from Daughter) on its own merits. Despite the howls of a million fans who petitioned the makers to rewrite the ending, I thought it was a pretty decent bit of drama. And certainly a great relief from the real-life political turmoil in my country, which, compared to the confrontations of Game of Thrones, is no more elevating than watching a bunch of feuding gerbils in a wildlife documentary.

I’d actually watched a few episodes three years ago while in the throes of an excruciating back injury that forced me to sleep upright for a couple of weeks. The rough sex, the antics of a debauched dwarf and some well-known actors in the autumn of their careers boosting their street-cred and bank balances were a handy distraction from the pain. But such was my drugged-up, sleep-deprived state that not much sunk in apart from the dwarf, who was magnificent as an actor and memorable as a character.

So I looked forward to renewing my acquaintance with Tyrion, and he didn’t disappoint. I’d enjoyed Peter Dinklage in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, but his performance in GoT – sometimes glowering, sometimes soulful, but always with a compelling stillness – deserved an award, for endurance if not the quality of his acting.

Watching the surviving characters wander through the smoking ruins of a great city made me think of how I would have reacted to similar scenes in Hiroshima after the bomb, and Berlin after Hitler’s downfall, without knowing much about the preceding events.

I saw no reason to obsess about the why. Unlike critics who have been bitching about plot holes and narrative inconsistencies, I could focus exclusively on the what. Impressive sets and cinematography. Great music. And from those of the characters who made it to the end, an overwhelming sense of melancholy and loss.

I’m thinking about watching the rest of the show, but not in the normal way. I shall watch it backwards. That way I needn’t worry about spoilers. The why will unfold bit by bit, just as delving gradually into the past deepens our understanding of the present. Why, after all, should we be so fixed on starting at the beginning? Why not let the past unfold from the end point onwards?

After all, is Hitler’s career any less fascinating if we trace it backwards, year by year, from the corpse in the bunker to the beaten child in Linz? And is it any less thrilling to start with modern homo sapiens and subsequently discover that ours was but one of several human species roaming around the planet tens of millennia ago?

Not that the murderous antics of a bunch of oversexed dragon-fanciers can compare with the discovery of Pompeii and Tutankhamun’s tomb, but since we in Britain have little to look forward to and an obsession with the myth and legend of a glorious past, to crawl slowly backwards towards the origins of a narrative would seem to be perfectly in tune with the times.

And far more fun than wading through some pillock of a politician’s book about eminent Victorians, I reckon. I am, of course, referring to Mogg Rees Jacob.

From → Film, History, Media, Politics, UK

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