If you have never watched Game of Thrones before or if you’re just getting ready for the much anticipated Season 3, do one thing: wear a chain-mail turtle neck. Keep that pretty head of yours attached.
Season 1: No head is safe
(Warning: Spoilers Ahead)
I knew nothing of Game of Thrones when I watched the first episode a few years ago on HBO. What I got that day was Christmas morning for a nerd. There were beautiful scantly clad women, robust men with swords, baby dragons, beheadings, children being tossed from windows, explicit sex, ruthless politics, and the bonds of family (although, Jamie and Cersei went a little too far don’t you think). No one was safe as major characters like King Robert Baratheon, Kahl Drogo, and Viserys Targaryen were eliminated. But none was more shocking than Ned Stark getting his head lopped off. Game of Thrones’ first Season proved the show was no medieval fairy tale. It meant business; there was no magical arrow stopping the blade and saving Ned’s life. For me, Season 1 was the same pedal-to-the-metal opening season as seen in LOST, Battlestar Galactica, and Dexter. It was so riveting, so mind-blowing that expectations were set for a second season let down. Unfortunately, Season 2 followed in that vain.
Season 2: Taking a Breather
Don’t get me wrong, Season 2 was good. The acting was, as usual, superb, the sets majestic. But it lacked something. Maybe the story moved too slowly, maybe there were too many new characters introduced. Season 2 felt like a chess piece season–where characters were moved around, put into place, and ready to strike in the future. For me, Season 2 lacked deaths. Yes, it’s true: I’m morbid. But for a story that had killed off some of its most important characters in Season 1, I thought all bets would be off coming into a second season, with beheadings lurking around every corner. I was wrong. Sure the Battle of Blackwater was splashy, the White Walkers making their charge on the Wall got my zombie love on, and when the red priestess Melisandre gave birth to a black, misty demon that killed Renly Baratheon, I was deliciously disturbed (the latter image burned so deeply into my memory even shock therapy couldn’t get it out). Yet, the essence of Season 1 was never recaptured. I was always waiting for more and was never as satisfied as I was a season before. The viewing public doesn’t support my claim since more fans watched Season 2 than Season 1. Coming out of the first season, my expectations were likely too high. I felt a let down. I admit it. Don’t put my head on a stick just yet.
At its heart, the joy I get from Game of Thrones is that it shocks me. It shocks me with its violence, its sexual deviancy, and its total disregard for the lifespan of characters. More importantly, it shocks me with its truth about humanity. That heroes aren’t perfect (heck, even the noble Ned Stark had a bastard son) and neither are the villains (although you’d have better luck finding a virgin in one of Baelish’s brothels than finding something redeeming in King Joffrey). Game of Thrones’ characters are a mixture of the virtuous and villainous; they are allowed to have incredulous flaws. The murky waters of their lives are best served by those who can play the game and stay alive the longest.
Season 3: Off with More Heads?
What will Game of Thrones have in store for us in Season 3? After watching the previews from HBO, one word comes to mind: death. Yes! This season might just bring us back to the spirit of the first, where no character was safe. I expect Season 3 to get back to basics with that shock and awe I felt immediately after an episode, followed with the frustration that I had to wait a full week to enter the Seven Kingdoms again. Well, I guess I could stop being lazy and read the books. But where’s the fun in that. At a time in our world where instant gratification is the norm, sometimes it’s nice to have to wait and see whose head will fall next.