Once more into the ice and fire for Game of Thrones
Expect death and debauchery as Game of Thrones returns for its penultimate season to HBO on July 16.
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Spoiler alert: This story contains spoilers from previous episodes of Game of Thrones.
“When you play a game of thrones, you win or you die.”
George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire — on which the TV series Game of Thrones is based — has always been, at its most elemental, an epic game of Survivor.
Take away one game show host, add a few dragons. And let the carnage begin. The show’s dispassion in killing off beloved characters in service of plot is almost sociopathic. But good sociopathic.
What makes this literary stew work is that Martin’s writing for his book series counts influences as diverse as Byron, Beowulf, Homer and even the lowly comic book.
“Maybe Stan Lee is the greatest literary influence on me, even more than Shakespeare or Tolkien,” the author once told the BBC.
The GoT series remains one of the grandest shows on television because it is as much a classic quest odyssey, or a Marvel comic book fantasy, as it might be a sexualized Hobbit for grown-ups.
Cue the debauchery because Season 7 returns Sunday at 9 on HBO Canada. No wonder Margaret Atwood, no stranger to fantasy fiction herself, is a staunch fan.
This shorter, second-to-last season concludes in a mere seven weeks. But don’t worry: a planned spinoff series, likely a prequel, is already in the works at HBO.
The new season will likely, as the show has before, create controversy. The nudity, the rape scenes, the violence — the sheer cynicism. As perhaps better expressed in High Valyrian: Valar morghulis. All men must die.
Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are wandering far off the reservation since they are writing without a codex to guide them. Martin, a notoriously slow writer, hasn’t set a date for his sixth novel, which was expected back in 2011. Season 6 was also written without the guidance of a book, but it followed natural plot lines. This time it’s all tightrope and no net.
The secretive Benioff and Weiss have promised a “faster pace” to the show. But it’s hard to see how they can top the casualty count of the Season 6 finale “The Winds of Winter.” Which is saying a lot, since GoT is all about the kill list.
The finale may well have been called “The Revenge of Cersei,” as this is one Lannister who always pays her debts. After being humiliated and imprisoned by a religious sect that had taken over King’s Landing, the Queen (played by Lena Headey) returned the favour by pulling a Kim Jong Un and going satisfyingly nuclear.
She blew them all up all to a green gooey hell and claimed the Iron Throne for herself. Lil’ Kim vs. Cersei? No contest.
She also tortured the nun who mercilessly lorded over her while in prison.
Meanwhile, Arya Stark took revenge on Walder Frey for that nasty bit of business called “The Red Wedding,” when the murderous lord decimated her family. She made his eat his cake — well, a meat pie composed of his family. So he got his just desserts.
Meanwhile, in the North, Jon Snow was back in the house, which is a remarkable comeback since he was dead at the end of Season 5.
(That rise from the dead didn’t sit well with me, since the beauty of GoT is that mercy favours no one. If you want to see characters being resurrected to milk another season, go watch the CW network. The GoT universe is unyielding. At least it was, until they brought back Kit Harington.)
Snow is the show’s most popular character, and now the bastard son of House Stark is finally the master of Winterfell, so some fans got a redemptive payoff.
The grand finale, naturally, was dragons. The nautical army that Daenerys Targaryen, the Mother of Dragons, had assembled was making the crossing to King’s Landing to take the Iron Throne from Cersei.
But I’m betting on Cersei. She is the true queen of this dark, depraved universe.
In Focus: Richard Crouse