Game of Thrones is an incredibly popular HBO television series that has swept the world away with its violence, thickening plots and, of course, dragons (need I say more?). With every twist and turn there are new characters to fall in love with and old favorites to watch die horrible deaths. In those rougher moments, we are not only forced into having feelings that we’d rather avoid, but these emotions are actually shoved down our throats like alcohol on prom night or religion at a… well, anywhere these days.
To help my fellow fans cope, I’m going to offer a bit of grief counseling that will get us through these difficult times (since being in-between seasons is bad enough without the latent emotional trauma). We have all lost loved ones on this show. In fact, we’ve all probably said goodbye to more than a few favorites but, before you start a riot in the streets to show George R. R. Martin that we mean business, let’s take a look at how we can better manage these confusing feelings. However, before you read on, let me warn you – SPOILERS AHEAD (because somehow you were capable of leaving any part of the series unwatched). Now, back to the subject: Let’s take a moment to understand all of the feelings that you will experience on your path.
The first step to coping with grief and loss is denial. When watching Game of Thrones, denial can be one of the most tempting delusions to slip into. As we watched Eddard Stark lose his beautiful head to that insufferable Joffrey, there were more than a few of us that thought there would be a surprise twist to keep the character (and the actor!) in the series. I, personally, am still in a small state of denial where The Hound, Sandor Clegane, is concerned. I have yet to read the books, but I have been told that The Hound dies somewhere in their pages. The fact that his death was not actually witnessed on the show, however, has allowed me to convince myself that he will make a dramatic comeback. I don’t always root for the underdog (no pun intended), but I picked The Hound as my favorite since day one with his sarcastic comments, gruff exterior, and his eventual soft and nougaty center (he’s really just a teddy bear! A very giant, very angry teddy bear), and so I took an immediate liking to him. But then he got his ass handed to him by Brienne and I watched in utter dismay as he begged through quivering lips for Arya to end his suffering, which she refused to do… so he could come back, right? RIGHT? Probably not, and that pisses me off – which leads us to the next stage.
Despite popular belief, anger is a healthy emotion. This feisty little feeling is what helps us physically decide when we believe that something is truly wrong. It goes beyond your fickle “gut” feeling, slides right by your conscience, and really revs your engines to make you pay attention. Unfortunately, anger also seems to be permanently attached to a dainty little hair trigger, and this emotion is one twitchy little bugger. Because this is a common feeling in life (and because it’s the next stop on our inevitable road of anguish), you may often feel angry while watching Game of Thrones. In fact, GOT is an intense roller coaster of emotional mayhem, and so anger is sure to come around a time or twelve, at least. I found that Joffrey caused my mind the most turmoil, and I welcomed his gruesome death with open arms. Well, until the scene became so disturbing that I almost felt sorry for him. In fact, not unlike Arya Stark, I have formed a little hit list of my own. I don’t recite it at night before I go to bed, however, but I add to it the more I watch.
Bargaining is right in the middle from where we’ve been to where we’re going on this journey of grief. You felt Catelyn’s agony as she watched the slaughtering of her eldest son, you were absolutely traumatized when Oberyn’s head exploded all over the fine china, and you shook your fist in the air with me when The Hound met his untimely end. After all of this anger and all of the feverishly written letters that you’ve sent to George, his family, and even his dog, you suddenly realize that this hasn’t solved anything… and you get desperate. You start wondering what you could do to convince someone, anyone, to make your world right again. Let the dragons out of their dark prison! Take the Starks off the Endangered Species list! Bring The Hound back in all of his towering and crispy-fried glory! Do this for me, George, and I will do ANYTHING! I will buy every season, every t-shirt, and will shout the good word of GOT from every street corner! But does this work? Of course not, and that makes you sad.
That’s it. You’ve officially tried everything, and still George R. R. Martin takes away your favorite toys, forcing you stand idly by while the other children on the playground have more fun than you. Why, George, why? You have no more energy to fight. Your knees are too sore to keep begging and you’ve lost the will to write anymore letters or start another defiant Facebook page. You would quit watching altogether, but this show has become a drug in your veins at this point, and you don’t think you’d survive the withdrawals. So week after week, you get your GOT fix and go to bed defeated afterward. Why get up at all? You’ll just be forced to watch your beloved and fiery Ygritte take an arrow to the knee… er, back.
And finally, after many long days (or possibly weeks. Who was keeping track?), you finally crawl out from your cocoon of depression and step out into the light of the day star. It hurts your eyes, and you squint as you shield your face with your hand. The world around you looks different. Greener, perhaps? You realize with elation that you’re going to be ok. The sadness hasn’t left you completely, and it still hurts a little every time you think of Daenerys burning the soul-less husk of her Sun and Stars, Khal Drogo, but you have a feeling that everything will be alright from here on out. You embrace the new day and look forward to continuing the series with a fresh outlook. You go inside and prepare all your tasty treats for the season finale. It will start any minute, and you’re so happy to be excited about it once again! As you sit down and begin to watch the episode, you are happily gripped by the plot.
You feel for Tyrion, wishing him freedom, and are overjoyed when he escapes from his cell. He traverses the castle and you hold your breath as he finds Shae in his father’s room (what was he doing in there anyway? Doesn’t he realize how close he is to freedom? He must have gotten lost). You are a little saddened as the loveable dwarf murders the woman he loves (but she deserved it, so you bounce back relatively fast), and now he’s off again, travelling through the corridors with a crossbow that is almost as big as he is. Then he comes across his father, Tywin. Finally, a come-to-Jesus meeting between father and son, long overdue. You have always admired Tywin. He symbolizes every expectation that you ever held for yourself, and he is the one who makes you want to become something better – to form a legacy of your own. Hopefully this will give him the opportunity he needs to really acknowledge his son.
As you watch their confrontation, you are moved. This is an epic moment of coming together. There will be tears and hugs, and Tyrion will finally get to… What the hell! He just shot Tywin with the crossbow! Why did he do that? Tywin can still live, though, right? He’s one of your last favorites! Surely he’ll make it! It’s only one small bolt of wood, after all, and George Martin wouldn’t be so cruel… would he? WHAT? Did Tyrion seriously just shoot him again? No! Tywin can’t die! This is preposterous! He’s one of the leading characters! The outrage! Please, George, don’t kill him too! If only you hadn’t started watching again. If only you’d sent more letters! Oh what’s the point anymore? Nothing is ever going to get better on this show. Everyone you love dies. You might as well go back to the cocoon and pray for an end to all existence while you caress your bottle of Prozac and wait for the pain to stop.
The moral of the story? I lied. There is no making it through Game of Thrones with a cheery outlook. In fact, when it’s all over, you’ll be lucky if you’re the same person you were when you started watching the series in the first place! We’re all doomed, and if you think you’re getting out of the fire, you’re wrong. We’re going to burn in this eternal hell of awe and torment, and you’re burning with us, so you’d better get cozy and bring your marshmallows.