Give me honorable enemies rather than ambitious ones, and I’ll sleep more easily by night.
– Jaime Lannister, A Game of Thrones
Every Sunday night, we gather round the television. Animated discussion cuts to tense whispers as the fizzle of HBO’s signature static fades to black. The theme bursts to life! DUN-dun da-da-DUN-dun da-da-DUN-dun da-da-DUN-dun… The audience sings along, made-up lyrics and all, trying to stave off the inevitable horrors and wonders that await us on the other side of the credits.
So begins my weekly Game of Thrones viewing, a ritual that I am not alone in keeping. The world loves the marriage of high fantasy and premium cable! Whether people are coming back for the delightfully gory violence, the gorgeous design, impeccable dialogue, superb acting, or, hey, even the boobs, viewership continues to grow. Show creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss — as George R.R. Martin did with the books before them — lure us all with promises of dragons and heroes, aging kings and cruel queens, new threats and ancient evils. All the makings of D&D campaign! But Thrones transcends those cliches. We don’t watch because we want to see pretty dresses. We watch to see familiar struggles.
Who has not done something stupid in the name of love, like a certain blonde swordsman-you-love-to-hate? Who has not manipulated tiny events in their favor, like Littlefinger or Varys or now even mini-Baelish Sansa?Who has not had — ahem — ill-advised romantic entanglements, a la Dany and her newfound dalliance? Fortunately for us, most of our personal dramas play out on a very small scale. In Martin’s world, though, “you win or you die” on an epic scale. Your triumphs and failures are on parade for all the world to see.