11th July 2017 The MALESTROM

A Game of Thrones superfan tells us why it’s the greatest show on earth

Seven Hells! Winter is here! There’s something about Game of Thrones which satisfies so intensely you might think David Benioff and D. B. Weiss are beaming class A’s directly into the bloodstream of the Terran populace. Has a television series ever stolen the minds of the world’s people like Daenerys and her dragons have? Our earth is set ablaze in folklore and myth through this epic tale George R R Martin has enchanted us into. Game of Thrones superfan Dan Brown delves deep into the oceans of Westeros and tells us why people love the series so much.

The Story

There are so many separate themes that could be movies in their own right. It’s like a movie of movies. All themes interwoven beautifully like a lovingly crafted basket, ever entwining. And like a spiral receding to its inevitable centre, with each strand colliding in the final clash of the forming maelstrom we await in season 7! Lets have a little recap shall we (spoilers for the uninitiated ahead) …

Credit: HBO

Daenerys Stormborn, Mother of Dragons, Breaker of Chains, crosses the Narrow Sea with the Dothraki and the armies of the liberated. The dead march south to the wall. Cersei Lannister sits on the Iron Throne.

The spiritual bond between Daenerys and her armies is unheard of. They  flock to her and her flaming dragons, who better to follow? Who better to lead?

Credit: HBO

And who is with her? Tyrion, that lovable rogue – the most famous dwarf in the Seven Kingdoms. He will have to face and conquer his own family for the good of the realm. Vaeris travels alongside him, and the Greyjoy siblings, latecomers to Daenerys’ troop, also cross the Narrow Sea, with their uncle hot on their tale. Uncle Greyjoy, Euron, not to be underestimated if rumours are true.

Credit: HBO

Jon Snow is back at Winterfell with sister Sansa by his side. A marriage alliance of Jon and Daenerys would unite a powerful force. Both require strength with enemies like Uncle Euron and the Lannisters. And Jon is Targaryen remember? They’ve wed brother and sister for millennia…

And the last Lannisters Cersei and Jaime hold the Iron Throne. Now that Cersei’s children are all dead, what is she fighting for? Her wrath may summon Jaime’s great test. Regicide would be harder when the queen is the woman you love.

Credit: HBO

With all the scrabbling for these kingdoms it’s easy to forget about the small matter of the army of the dead seeking to kill all life, only to bring them back in a fleshy undead revival, similar to Sunday morning scenes at Glastonbury this year.

The dead are killed by fire, Daenerys has three dragons, one can only wonder…

What further alliances will the army of the dead breed? Jon’s united the Wildlings and The North already. Where do the Brotherhood without Banners stand? Does the Lord of Light have an opinion?

Credit:HBO

And what about Arya? She’s a living legend now with mythical skills. What will her Bravosi training bring? And have we seen the last of Jaqen H’ghar? A man can only guess…

Right recap over. Lets get back to why Game Of Thrones has captured hearts like no other.

The Magic Fantasy-scape

The world of Westeros is akin to Tolkien’s Middle-earth or Pratchett’s Discworld in depth. Every scene is so nuanced with fine details. You can’t help falling into Martin’s world and becoming saturated in his scenery. And in this story of magic and heroism you will almost certainly find someone that resonates with you.

It’s a whole new universe full of strange magic. Like the real world the harsh coldness of reality is tempered against the rare and beautiful experiences of enchantment. Its scarceness excites us all the more and by not overindulging, it becomes more believable.

The Escapism

Escapism is always a goal of any series, but very little saturates the mind like these tales of Westeros. One hour passes… go on, one more… Another hour… go on, just one more… Another hour… FOUR! But I liked my retinas. Plus I really should go to work tomorrow…

Sound familiar? (Warning: I literally went blind for 20 seconds today after last night’s 3 Game of Thrones run on iPad in bed. Eyes are more important… just)

Anything that lets you leave the world behind for an hour or two is worth its weight in gold. Game of Thrones delivers on the chance to lose yourself, and it’s trip that invigorates upon your return (Unless you go blind).

The Eroticism

Gratuitous scenes of fleshy indulgences are never far away in the land of Westeros. From the first series you would be forgiven thinking no-one does it forwards in the Seven Kingdoms. But we soon find out they do it in plenty of other ways as well! There is something for almost everyone as straight, gay and lesbian scenes are among the softcore interspersions. They are unnecessary. People would still love Game Of Thrones without them, but it all adds to the richly textured and seedy world that Martin has created.

And lets face it. There’s some seriously seedy nooks and crevices in most towns. There’s something about having it exposed, even in a fictional frame, which makes for quite satisfying voyeurism. Baelish’s whorehouses, the wild drinking. Man’s lesser nature is a focal point of the series. Which also contrasts spectacularly against the honour of Ned Stark, and the delicate and truly regal beauty of Daenerys.

The Form and Formula

Years of iteration and improvement have refined motion picture into a number of forms that just work. Like A4 paper there’s something about them that feels right. Full length films have always been the bedrock of modern day storytelling because the genre works. More recently the 1 hour episodic series has emerged as one of the best forms to thread more detailed works. The hour is enough so you can get through it. The cliffhanger leaves you dying for the next.

Once Upon a Time is probably the loosest hung together plot of any series ever to touch the screen, yet it got a run of 6 seasons. Why? The 45 minute episodic cliffhangers. This structure can make even the thinnest of story lines into enjoyable and watchable experiences. And in Game of Thrones we see what it can do for the greatest narratives.

Nobody really knows what will happen since Martin established early that his work wouldn’t follow the pre-established formulas. Sure, David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, the series creators, use a well established structure (Prison Break / 24 / Lost with Neighbours style cliffhangers). But he breaks free of the anticipation/satisfaction by destroying our hopes and dreams as he ruthlessly snuffs out each character we so rooted for over so many years. How like reality.

In spurning Hollywood’s happy end satisfaction there’s a tension people are rarely exposed to or equipped to deal with. ARE THEY GOING TO DIE? THEY MIGHT DIE AT ANY TIME! PLEASE DONT DIE!! If you’re a convert you’ll understand. It’s rare to find such tension on screen these days.

The Conspiracies

Nothing gets people whispering like a juicy bit of gossip about a grand conspiracy. Have you been down the pub only to find your mates are literally not going to talk about anything else all night? THAT is the sign of a masterpiece.

Here’s a taster of some choice conspiracies rolling around at the moment. Potential guess spoilers ahoy…

Who is Ahor Azai, the legendary saviour? The Red Woman thinks it may be Jon Snow, but the The Onion Knight and Beric Dondarrion have been suggested. Beric’s flaming sword has lit many imaginations…

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Or have you heard that Jon Snow may have been legitimised as a Stark by Rob before his death? That would make him the heir to Winterfell…

Is Tyrion a Targaryen? Tywin talks mysteriously about Tyrion’s birth, and Tyrion has a crazy obsession with dragons. They didn’t eat him… Did Aerys the Mad King and Tywin’s wife ever…

And speaking of Tywin, was he already dying when Tyrion shot him? Oberyn was a master of poisons and Tywin was certainly on the loo when Tyrion shot him…

What if Sansa Stark is with child? Ramsay Bolton’s baby, what a horrible little rat that may be.

Is Bran of Winterfell Bran the Builder? He’s already seen he can have an effect meddling in the past. Is he the protector that has held the dead at bay for so long? What else might he do meddling in the past?

Will The Hound and The Mountain have their final battle? Will Jaqen H’ghar have a part to play in the last stand? Will Jon Snow and Daenerys wed? Is Catelyn Stark coming back? What does Little Finger have up his sleeve? Apart from his little finger of course. Is Hodor the Night King? Ridiculous. Or is it?

Oh my goodness!

Sweet, ignited ruminations you will always have a place in our social feeds.

The Buzz

It goes without saying that the Internet is ablaze with Game Of Thrones. I’m pretty sure people will be studying Game of Thrones memes in cultural studies hundreds of years from now. Without the much maligned space between seasons no-one would have time to talk about the show. The space between contributes to the experience as much as the episodes themselves. A year is a long time, but is a beautiful canvas for the GOT dreamers to paint their imaginations.

The Actors

It helps that the actors are all amazing. The cast is as well suited as Spock and Kirk, Bones and Scotty. They make the show. They are just watchable. With a cast as good as this and characters so well suited to their roles, expect magic.

Credit: HBO

It also doesn’t hurt that the cast has some of the hottest girls and guys on the planet. The majority of the ladies are utterly gorgeous. And if they’re not, they’re so full of character and exuding charisma they’ll charm the very pants off you anyway.

Credit: HBO

The Characters

The characters have such depth. It may be because in the book each person is a chapter in their own right. They seem more real because they change and grow as the story goes on. Jaime Lannister for example has some terrible character flaws but traveling with Brienne has softened him. The whole kingdom may hinge on just how much he has changed.

The Feast For The Eyes

Take away the characters and story from Game of Thrones. What are you left with? Hills, mountains, rivers, valleys, castles, cities, blowing leaves. The cinematography is so compelling it would be worth watching all 7 seasons with humanity removed, purely as a feast for the peepers. It captures landscapes from Northern Island and as far as Malta, Croatia, Iceland, Spain and Morocco.

Of course the stunt bear had filmed in the U.S. Apparently flying stunt bears willy-nilly into Europe is a bit of a faux pas.

The Opening Credits

We all know from watching any James Bond movie that opening credits are pretty important. Is it possible to outshine Game of Thrones? Elastic are the company behind this beautiful opening animation. The perfect blend of abstract and real. The map world spins and forms anew each episode, each scene tailored for the flowing storyline. They have got everything right – the typography, lens flare, sound-effects, modelling, animation… the attention to detail is breathtaking.

It never hurts to have a masterpiece of music perfectly fitting to the spirit of the show to set the mood. Hats off to Ramin Djawadi. In my opinion it’s among the best music ever written for screen.

Like a river winding through the country George R R Martin, David Benioff and D. B. Weiss have opened the heavens and rained down a story, and we’ve followed its course through the hills and Vales and now out into the stormy sea of the seventh series. What will become of the seven kingdoms? The penultimate series beckons….

Game of Thrones season 7 starts on Monday 17th July on Sky Atlantic in the UK and on Sunday 16th July in the U.S.

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