RICHMOND, Calif. — Eight years ago, “Game of Thrones” began on HBO and the worlds of water-cooler conversations, fire-breathing dragons and social media haven’t been the same since. To say it’s been a wild ride is the least of it.
Fans of the show have had to put up with crushing losses as multiple narratives careened as wildly as a dragon flying out of a sports coliseum riddled with javelins. A show this short on tender moments somehow still managed to make us care, sometimes desperately, about disparate characters so wild, unruly, crafty, sneaky, snaky, ruthless and cruel that we could not believe our own eyes as certain scenes unfolded (looking at you, Lord Walder Frey).
But why did we care so much? Why did people who drive cars, read books from glowing hand-held electronic tablets, heat their food in microwave ovens and express their every instant’s thought in an Instagram or Twitter post, care about bastards, cripples, missing daughters, would-be queens — lotta those — your odd eunuch, incestuous twins, et al?
Because it was fantastic.
Not just as in fantasy, but as in above and beyond anything any of us will, hopefully, ever experience in real life. The exhilaration of the journeys, the battles, the blood feuds, the betrayals, the passion, the magic, all led us along the corridors of the narratives with so much assurance that it was easy to feel something deeply personal about these characters — seething hatred, a respectful wariness, a motherly concern for the young’uns (Arya, learning how to handle her small sword, quickly dispelled the notion that she needed any mothering).
The roller coaster that these emotions took us on, then, as season after season wrapped us around its Littlefinger, left us breathless – until the eighth and final season brought us around — with a nod to Elisabeth Kubler-Ross — to the five stages of being a “Game of Thrones” fan.
Denial: No way they’re going to kill (insert favorite character here). They would never do that. They need him/her. (Favorite character) might end up on the Iron Throne, even! And I’m going to draw in even non-watchers with this category: Cheers to the people on Twitter and Facebook who felt compelled to post “I have never watched a single episode of ‘Game of Thrones’ and I never intend to.” Your resolve was duly noted. Nobody cared that you didn’t care, but congratulations on having your say anyway.
Bargaining: I can spend countless afternoons re-watching the last seven seasons as long as I keep up on the laundry and take the dog out. Well, the dog can wait. Also, since I’m re-watching, I can fast-forward through all the gruesome Reek scenes.
Depression: See: Red Wedding; everything that happens to Sansa Stark; the scene where Jamie Lanister’s hand is abruptly severed at the wrist.
Anger: In this instance, actually, anger and humor are intertwined. With so many voices on social media piling on about plot holes and raging over destinies in the final season, you really do just have to laugh. Here is a show with flying, fire-breathing dragons and not one but two men who come back to life — one of them being a repeat offender — and people are Stark raving mad that Jon or Arya or Sansa or Tyrion or Dany didn’t end up on the Iron Throne. A little perspective comes in handy here. Quibbling with destinies and motivations is meaningless. This is just entertainment; we are cordially invited to be excessively diverted.
Which leads me to: Acceptance. I accept that there are problems with the final season. Yes, it felt rushed. A lot of characters’ story lines fell apart. Dany’s death was a letdown — but the melting of the Iron Throne was cool, am I right? — and the sudden unspoken tenet that “it doesn’t matter that Jon is the rightful heir to the throne” was admittedly puzzling. But I accept that the finale brought the Stark family around full circle with each of them finding their bliss and their own acceptance.
Writing a show this good for so long could not have been easy.
We asked for perfection, and they gave us seven great seasons and The Long Night. Dayenu. It would have been enough.
The author, Elizabeth Rackover Clancy, lives in the San Francisco area with her husband Tom, two cats, and a house full of books. She has two wonderful daughters and a grand-dog, who is a Very Good Boy.