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Don’t get me wrong, I am not writing to bash this monumental achievement of pop culture. Far be it from me to acknowledge the far-reaching effects of this series on audiences around the world, including many of my friends and relatives. I just want to put a little perspective on the view from those that did not (gasp!) watch this 8-year event. This is a personal point of view, not a value judgment of the series’ merits.
I have been an avid science fiction (and, to a lesser extent, fantasy) reader for almost 50 years. I had already read many fabulous George R. R. Martin stories even before some GOT fans were born. He is a terrific writer indeed. And, from what I have read, it seems the HBO people did a great job adapting his novels to TV. But the series really didn’t work for me. Granted, I just watched the first episode when I got a long-term free HBO offer from my cable company after threatening to “cut the cord” some years back, but it didn’t “grab” me, as other series had done (I did watch the first season of True Detective—the one with Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson—during that free-HBO period, and that one didn’t let go).
The most probable explanation for my jaded response is that, after all those reading years I mentioned before, I may have become somewhat tired of the whole “feudal” fantasy trope: You know, all the kings and queens and houses and heirs and unlimited cannon fodder they command, together with all the intrigue and cunning and treason and love and, of course, death (though I have to admit GOT was especially prolific in this last respect, which I guess added to the interest on the series). Add to that the dragons, beautiful beasts that they are, and I can’t avoid feeling a sense of Déjà vu that leads this viewer to attention loss.
I sometimes asked myself, should I have persisted? Endured a few more chapters until the magic of old George bound me to the TV? After all, I may have been missing something really great: certainly Mr. Martin is one of my favorite writers, and a masterful weaver of stories.
But a comment by a friend just during the eighth season (when fans started complaining about the turns the story was taking—more on that later) confirmed that it wouldn’t have worked for me. He said (more or less): “After two seasons, I was a devoted fan of the series. But then I started to read The Accursed Kings, by Maurice Druon” —a series of seven historical novels about the French monarchy in the 14th century— “and I realized I didn’t need the dragons and the fantasy elements to enjoy an even more satisfying tale of courtly life and death.”
The final straw was learning that the series would precede the last novels. I guess this happened because Mr. Martin is not only a top-notch storyteller, but also, by his own admission, a very slow writer. I immediately thought “this will cause trouble,” which, judging by the public’s reaction, was exactly what happened. We’ll see how the books differ from what was aired, as I expect they will, but I would bet most fans will be happier with the written versions handling of the final chapters.
For those left with a sense of wanting after the series finale, do not despair. HBO is at it again, this time with a very different kind of fantastic tale: Do watch the upcoming Who Fears Death, based on the novel by Nnedi Okorafor. Mr. Martin is executive producer, by the way. It's been a while since I cut the cord, but I may very well pay an HBO subscription to see that one.
For now, welcome back, U.S. fans. You get to watch the antics of the current holder of our very own Iron Throne.