We are less than a week from a new season of Game of Thrones. This is not a drill. I’ll give you a second to finish jumping up and down.
Like many of you I grew up on Tolkien. I devoured the books as a kid (probably even before I was really old enough to be reading them) and ultimately loved the Lord of the Rings movies as a teenager. So the fact that I would ultimately fall so deeply in love with George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. But actually, it did surprise me.
Despite my Tolkien obsession, I’d always considered myself a person who didn’t like fantasy. I loved science fiction and could read about and watch spaceships, aliens, and time travel all day, but for some reason I drew the line at magic and dragons. I could claim this had something to do with growing up hearing that magic was evil at church. Or maybe I liked historical fiction so much that I didn’t appreciate when it became less realistic with added fantasy elements. Both of these are a little bit true, but honestly I have no idea where it came from.
I don’t know exactly when I gave in and embraced fantasy. I wish I had a cool story about one book or one movie that changed my outlook on some random rainy afternoon. But the reality probably has something to do with a lot of peer pressure and a wizard with a lightning bolt scar on his forehead. Whatever the reason, I did give in, and I am so glad that I did.
Thanks to my changing outlook, when rumblings began a few years ago about HBO doing a TV interpretation of A Song of Ice and Fire I was open-minded enough to give it a shot. That, and thanks to The Sopranos, HBO could basically do no wrong in my mind at that point.
As the endless period between the announcement and the premiere dragged on, I decided to invest the time and read the books. And wow. Immediately they had the one thing I always loved so much Tolkien’s writing. Westeros, like Middle Earth, was a world I could get lost in. It felt like a real place, even more so because the elements I had resisted against for so long (dragons anyone?) were all but forgotten in Westeros. They were almost as foreign to them as they were to me.
But as I got deeper it was the characters that kept me coming back for more. For me fantasy and science fiction are all about how interesting the people are that inhabit these amazing worlds. We’ve all seen the George R. R. Martin twitter joke, that he can’t tweet because he’s already killed off all 140 characters. (And for the record, that still makes me chuckle every time.) I don’t even mind how many of my favorites are now six feet under because he is so good at creating fascinating new characters who consistently blur the line between good and evil.
One thing I love about Game of Thrones is how perfectly these characters from the books have come to life before my eyes. Kit Harrington is so spot on how I pictured Jon Snow that I almost saw Pompeii. Almost. Peter Dinklage deserves every award ever for his portrayal of the extremely complicated endlessly clever Tyrion Lannister. And I don’t think Emilia Clarke gets enough credit for how well she plays the simultaneous kindness and ruthlessness of Daenerys Targaryen, which for the record I just spelled from memory somehow.
But I think what has ultimately impressed me the most about the show is its willingness and ability to tackle the most epic scenes from the books. The scale of the Battle of the Blackwater seemed too massive to even attempt on TV when I first read it. And I don’t think anyone, even those of us who knew what was coming, were ready to see the Red Wedding play out. The show has treated each season like a massive 10 hour movie. I don’t know anything about what it costs to make a TV show vs. a movie, but I know that this show has to be a massive investment for HBO. If you ask me it’s been worth every penny.
Like other fans, I live in constant terror that Martin will never finish the series. That we will never find out who ultimately wins the Iron Throne. While this would obviously suck, I’ve decided I would probably survive. As the old cliché says, it’s about the journey, not the destination. This series has been one hell of a journey so far, on both page and screen. I can’t wait for it to continue on Sunday.
Who will be watching with me?