You know what, Game of Thrones fans shouldn’t complain so much. The show is about life and actually deals everyone the hand that they deserve at some point during the show. Sure, death is cruel and all, but so is life.
I admit to be in the habit of escaping my daily life by playing video games and rolling the scifi shows. I also read books, which sometimes heavily disappoint me when the protagonist doesn’t get the girl (like in the Mountain Ararat by Kemal) or when reality seems better than a story (Gordie Howe vs. pretty all books with a bit of realism in them). I shuddered when Ned Stark lost his head (yeah, I know that given he was played by Sean Bean it was a bit of a give away) and was stunned when Roose Bolton killed Catelyn Stark, Robb Stark and his attractive, young and pregnant wife… When Jon Snow drew his last breath I just sighed…
George R.R. Martin is not killing of characters for reasons of cruelty, he is writing a bit of fantasy that comes closer to reality than most stuff you probably have read over the years. In a way he’s pulling of the biggest history rip-off in years, like demonstrated in this Huff Post article. You don’t necesarily need to look for these literal equivalents, a brief browse through classic history will soon help you get the picture of the bloody, debauched and brutal universe that you find in the series. Everyone dies, like in the histories of Plutarch of the Roman Empire. Seriously, find me one person in there that died peacefully in his sleep instead of the brutal shit like being devoured by worms from within (like Sulla). Or just killing people at random (again, like Sulla and pretty much every other person in power ever) Yeah, reality is more brutal I suppose.
I’ve always been a sucker for the unlikely victories, acts of bravery and clear divide between good and evil, but that’s not the history of true historians like Plutarch, Tacitus or current day ones (though they sometimes are a bit too Hegelian). That sort of fantasy is the realm of the likes of Geoffrey of Monmouth, who wrote an epic history of England, which made virtually no sense and was filled with all those things that you’d find in a classic fantasy story.
Do you remember that scene from Clerks, where they discuss Star Wars? Dante answers Randall that his favorite film is ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, because it’s realistic with all the crap happening to the rebels.
Empire” had the better ending. I mean, Luke gets his hand cut off, finds out Vader’s his father, Han gets frozen and taken away by Boba Fett. It ends on such a down note. I mean, that’s what life is, a series of down endings. All “Jedi” had was a bunch of Muppets. – Dante in Clerks
Everything goes wrong and the oppressing empire wins. Now, that makes a lot of sense. Reality is what we have and maybe even fantasy is trying to help us deal with it. Think about it, how big is the chance that the evil, omnipotent empire builds a planet-destroying supermachine, that has one little hole and one dude manages to blow it up? Zero, which is the more realistic take on a nuclear threat if you ask me.
Ned Stark may be an upfront and noble guy, but he’s also dead. That’s how politics worked back in the day and still do in a more public shaming way. Life is harsh and so are the seven kingdoms. It’s much easier to relate to fantasy with a sense of reality, for that very reason I think.
This is also why I think Harry Potter sucks in many ways…