There are many reasons why Game of Thrones can never truly be described as the greatest TV show ever. For one, there’s no real way of objectively declaring one show to be the best when we are so spoiled for choice right now. The other, more pertinent argument is that Game of Thrones is its own worst enemy. And if you’re up to date and have seen the latest episode, you’ll know that yet another character’s return from the dead pushed the audiences’ faith to the limit.
GoT has always played it fast and loose with life and death. It broke the mould from its very first season, killing a character everyone was led to believe was the one they’d be rooting for for another 7 years.
Read Game of Thrones Episode 7 spoiler-free review: The Broken Man
But then, it became too cocksure. It began to rely on the same old shtick. Soon, the shock of a major character’s death was lost. We began expecting deaths - to the extent that every time episode 9 rolled around, there was less dread than a certain sense of inevitability.
Which is what happened when Jon Snow died at the end of the last season. Immediately, the first thing everyone thought was ‘Is he really dead?’ Even before GoT had pulled its first back-from-the-dead trick, we were already wary. And then when he actually did come back in Season 6, the scene had the emotional impact of one of Tyrion Lannister’s sexual liaisons. And then they did it again with Sandor Clegane in this week’s episode The Broken Man.
In fairness, killing and bringing characters back is a trope older than television began abusing it. But it’s one thing to pay heed to the viewers’ wishes and another to pander to their every whim. Arthur Conan Doyle succumbed to the same pressure when he brought back Sherlock Holmes after his fall, an element that was repeated in both the Benedict Cumberbatch and Jeremy Brett TV shows (and several movies).
GoT could’ve done what the creators of Breaking Bad did with Jesse Pinkman, a character who was supposed to die at the end of season 1, but was kept alive because he struck such a strong chord. Or what The Walking Dead did with Shane, back when it was still watchable.
Now think about all the TV deaths that actually meant something. Remember Charlie from Lost? Or how about Rita from Dexter, or Omar from The Wire? Heck, even GoT’s own Ned Stark’s death had impact because back then, the show didn’t habitually cheat its viewers. All those deaths meant something because, as wild as it may seem, they adhered to the very basic concept of death. GoT is trying to have its cake and eat it too. By gleefully knocking off characters and randomly bringing them back, it has robbed screen deaths of their gravity.
What began as prestige television has sneakily transformed into schlocky soap opera. It has become a hysterical Ekta Kapoor serial told with the grace of a WWE feud.
Perhaps it’s because pop culture now is majorly influenced by comic books. And it’s a quintessential comic book trope to play around with death. Immediately, The Death of Superman comes to mind, which in turn brings up Batman v Superman’s Jesus-like resurrection of the Man of Steel. And the less we think about that the better. Wouldn’t you say?