Warning: Winter is here… and so are spoilers.
After eight long years, “Game of Thrones,” is coming to an end. For the next few weeks, viewers will be anxiously waiting for each episode to air to receive closure and discover the fate of many of their favorite characters.
The show, based on George R. R. Martin’s book series “A Song of Ice and Fire,” takes on the rise and fall of medieval realms and families fighting for the Iron Throne. The show has over 40 different characters that viewers have grown to love and despise.
The ‘Why’ factor?
The show has become a cultural phenomenon, but why is that?
Kimberly Owczarski, a film-television-digital media professor at TCU, said there are many elements as to why the show is critically successful.
“It’s not a genre I think a lot of people read and watch. There is an audience for it that is small and niche,” Owczarski said. “They want content that surprises them and it is rare for a ‘Game of Thrones’ episode to not have something that is surprising or shocking.”
The idea of fantasy comes from many different movies and book series, such as “Lord of the Rings” and “Harry Potter.” A television show that fits into this genre, like “Game of Thrones,” allows the viewer to watch more content that develops the plot, characters
Jill C. Havens, who teaches a medieval literature class with an emphasis on “Game of Thrones,” said the show has a huge following because of the storyline.
“I think a lot of people follow the same journey where they went through the end of season one and see the death of Ned [Stark] and then you are like ‘…I’m done’. But then I heard enough about the next season, I was like ‘okay I’ll watch it,’” she said.
While it is based off a book, Havens said she thinks that those who are loyal to the book don’t watch the show because they don’t want their perspective to change.
Owczarski said the show portrays plenty of emotion. There are times when the audience should be happy or sad or angry (in particular, she pointed out “The Red Wedding” episode).
The show’s distribution
HBO has been around for many years. Before “Game of Thrones,” shows that were popular on this streaming service include “The Sopranos,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “The Wire.”
Megan Schultz, TCU’s HBO Go campus ambassador, said that HBO is a streaming service that is able to take you into a whole new experience.
“People love escapism,” Schultz said. “It is like a whole world that people can dive into and enjoy, so it becomes this whole culture phenomenon that is worldwide.”
The argument could be made that the show could have been successful on Netflix, but Owczarski said it wouldn’t have when the show first started because Netflix did not have as high of a budget as it does now and there wasn’t as much original content on Netflix.
She also added that there wasn’t much fantasy content on streaming services during this time.
As a streaming service, HBO and “Game of Thrones” have way more leverage with the concept of sex and violence, especially in the first three seasons.
“By the last few seasons, there is hardly any, but that is because the characters are so well developed now they don’t need to [include the sexuality],” Owczarski said.
Character development in “Game of Thrones”
The complexity of characters is another reason why viewers keep on watching the show.
“It is up to the individual if they are able to invest the time to get to know the characters better,” Schultz said. “They do a good job, especially in the first episode, where you start with the Stark family. I wouldn’t say they are the main characters, but they are a good central character to start with.”
Havens said that George R. R. Martin enhances the themes of honor, family and loyalty. This can be shown in House Stark.
Another character that stands out with fans is Jamie Lannister.
Havens said Jaime can be described in the early season as “arrogant” and “full of himself.”
“He starts off horribly,” Schultz said. “You hate him, but if you keep going, he redeems himself. That is a natural thing that happens to people. People can change and grow. They can get better or they can get worse, but they don’t end up where they start in the beginning.”
But, as shown at the end of season seven, he leaves his sister Cersei to go prepare for the ultimate battle between the living and the dead.
“He is going to be reunited with Brienne [of Tarth] who taught him so much about honor and being loyal,” Havens said. “Having him being with her again… he’ll have something to prove. I think it is interesting that he ultimately choose to be with Tyrion over Cersei.”
The women on the show have also received plenty of praise. Owczarski, in particular, said that while some of the women have fought like the men, the women in the show have gone through many hardships.
In addition to the Stark women, Daenerys and Cersei are the other two well-recognized female characters.
“I feel like more and more people stopped hating Cersei and now just realize she is a badass,” said strategic communication and French double major Kendra Hall. “Even if they don’t agree with her, there is now this level of respect that she is so consistently savage.”
Owczarski predicts that a woman will end up on the Iron Throne in the end.
“Which woman? I’ve gone back and forth many times,” she said, “but I feel like the arcs have been the most interesting and strongest for the female characters. Jon Snow at this point would be kind of boring if he ended up [on the Iron Throne].”
She added on later in her interview that Jon Snow has developed as a character to where he will likely not want the throne in the end.
Schultz said she doesn’t want to make major predictions. However, she is rooting for a specific house.
“The Starks… I am rooting for them,” Schultz said.
While she is rooting for the clear good guys, she also predicts that at least one more Stark will have to die before the show ends.
Hall, on the other hand, thinks all of her favorite characters will die.
“I think the Night King winning is too easy of an ending, but realistically is what should happen” she said.
i’m going to have to go with the night king. he has an insane army and now a dragon— I really don’t see how he can be beat. also because it’s game of thrones and I don’t expect a happy ending 😂
— Alexis Guerrero (@_alexissg) April 14, 2019
Tyrion is my hope. It may be too easy for that though. Knowing GoT, everyone will die and the whitewalkers will take over
— Marti (@SmartyMarti18) April 5, 2019
Gendry! He’s been the true heir of Robert Baratheon from the beginning, and they brought him back in season 7 for a reason. He’s not an obvious pick but I think it could happen
— Eleni Michaelides (@EleniMicha97) April 6, 2019
Sansa, because she’s confident in herself and people want to help her. She’ll have so many people backing her up and ready to fight for her. I mean she’s only gotten as far as she has now because of others helping her and her standing her ground.
— erica (@errrrrrrrrca) April 14, 2019
I find it difficult to believe that the Iron Throne will matter after this season. It may still exist, and the living may actually win, but the world that results from this season will be a changed one. That being said, I think Jon will refuse the throne in lieu of Daenerys
— Joel A. Wright (@joel_wright14) April 14, 2019
— Jane Goode (@goode_jane) April 15, 2019
Listen: Frogflix: Hosts React to “Game of Thrones”
Andrew Van Heusden, Richard Edgemon and Michelle Carter break down the premiere of the final season of “Game of Thrones.” They talk about the relationship between Daenerys and Jon, Sansa Stark’s character development, all of the (good and bad) reunions, Jaime Lannister and more. Schultz joins the hosts this week as a special guest.