May 24, 2019 | 70° F

VALDEZ: 'Game of Thrones' is undoubtedly worth all of its hype


Opinion Column: The Power Of An Open Mind


WARNING: Spoilers ahead for those who have not watched.

I have never been the biggest fan of fantasy. I have never watched or read "Harry Potter" or "The Lord of the Rings." I was simply never grabbed by the genre. 

I have always preferred comedy, action and drama. That is why I was initially skeptical when my roommates introduced "Game of Thrones" to me back in January. They hyped it up so much that they made it sound like it was the best thing to ever be aired on television. I was not sure if I would like it very much, but I decided to trust their judgement and give it a shot.

Fast forward to episode nine of season one, named “Baelor.” The scene is in King’s Landing, and Ned Stark (Sean Bean) is on trial for treason. I am staring at the screen in agony, praying that he would live. As every second passed by looking at Joffrey Baratheon’s (Jack Gleeson) evil, menacing face, I became more and more nervous. I looked over at my roommate and said: “They can’t kill him, right? He’s a main character!” He said: “Just watch."

This was the moment that I learned that the show does not care about your personal attachment to the characters. Ned was, and still is, one of my favorites. He was one of the only people with honor, who seemed like he actually cared about other people besides himself. In a world full of lies, deception and selfishness, he was a beacon of light. This is why I screamed and put my head in my hands when Joffrey ordered Ser Ilyn Payne (Wilko Johnson) to chop his head off. My roommate laughed and said: “Oh, you thought this had a happy ending?”

How could they do this to me? I loved Ned. It felt as if I had lost a friend or family member. I was genuinely heartbroken. Once I got past grieving for Ned, though, I realized something. 

The fact that I reacted so strongly is what makes the show exceptional. The characters are extremely well-written and developed, to the point where you feel a personal connection to them. There are constant twists and turns, always leaving you wondering what is going to happen next. If the show were not so good, then I would not have been so distraught by Ned dying. 

When the Red Wedding came around, I screamed again. My roommates laughed as tears welled up in my eyes. How could Walder Frey (David Bradley) slaughter Robb (Richard Madden), Catelyn (Michelle Fairley) and Talisa Stark (Oona Chaplin)? They were all such genuine, honest people with good souls. Even though I had already witnessed a Stark being killed off, I was still surprised. It was as if the writers of the show were manipulating me. 

The Starks seemed to be managing decently in the wake of Ned’s death. Robb was planning for the war, and his partner Talisa had recently become pregnant. Things were looking up. But in this show, it only takes one episode to change everything. “You keep thinking this has a happy ending,” my roommates said again as they laughed uncontrollably.

The difference between "Game of Thrones" and "The Walking Dead," for example, is that it never became predictable. Usually, when shows start to kill a lot of characters off, it loses its suspense. In "The Walking Dead," I became so bored as I watched someone die almost every other episode. It got to the point where I could not even finish the show. 

On the other hand, "Game of Thrones" is the only show I have seen that expertly spaced out the time intervals between murder scenes of main characters. Even though it happens often, they are spaced out, with a lot of build-up in-between. 

For example, Ned’s death and the Red Wedding were two full seasons apart. If the Red Wedding had come right after, I would have said: “Alright, screw this show. That was predictable. They just want to eliminate the Stark family.” But no, it was much more complex. The Freys let the Starks become formidable for a good minute. 

Robb was the young, hotshot King in the North, with a full army behind him. He and his mother Catelyn even had Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) as a prisoner, an insanely valuable bargaining chip. With the beautiful Talisa at his side, Robb was more confident than ever. It seemed as though they had a bright future. But unfortunately, as my roommates reiterated, the show is not big on happy endings.

As we gear up for the eighth and final season’s third episode this Sunday, I expect more death and sadness. But if this show has taught us anything, it is that something unexpected will always happen. And that is why I cannot wait for the new episode each week.

Josh Valdez is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring  in journalism and media studies and minoring in creative writing. His  column, “The Power of an Open Mind,” typically runs on alternate Thursdays.

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Josh Valdez

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