Arts, Featured Column, Television, Column

Family Matters in ‘Game of Thrones’

I am all for creative liberties being taken in shows or films with source material, but not all of these liberties are of equal merit. Game of Thrones’ first episode of season six has done harm to the world it lives in by breaking fundamental societal rules that serve as part of the fantasy bedrock of the show. The result is that the show is becoming less and less aware of its roots and more concerned with the flimsy spectacle of fantasy on screen.

The scene in question is the murder of Prince Doran and his son Trystane at the hands of the Sand Snakes and Ellaria Sand. Homicide should not be cause for too much concern in a show that has left such a bloody footprint in the minds of viewers, but these killings are more hazardous to the world than most. Westeros is a place pitted in tradition, honor, and loyalty. In a world where people are meant to grow up fast, learn to fight for their lives at a young age, and possibly ascend to the throne, one thing remains more or less a constant ally: family. When I say this I mean direct, nuclear family, rather than bannerman, who have proved to be quite fickle in the story. Without family, one is like to be a Lommy, murdered by wildling raids, or enslaved along the shores of the Narrow Sea. The Starks have (had) family to rely on, the Lannisters have family to rely on, even the Boltons seem to count on each other.

Some may argue that many of these relationships are strained and flawed. Though that may be true, these people, however flawed their relationships may be, stick together for better, or,more often times, for worse. Others may point out how Daenerys sat by as Viserys was killed by the golden crown he so desired or how Tyrion murdered his father and was falsely accused of murdering Joffrey. But one of these happened in the lawlessness of the Dothraki Sea and the other was brought to the royal court to condemn the kinslayer (Tyrion was in deep). These scenarios, though they challenge traditional Westerosi family dynamics, they never kill the undercurrent of the importance of family and sticking together.

But in Dorne, I guess things are different. (Some people gon’ die). Wasting Doran and his son was flat-out stupid. Not only does it undermine the notion that you should not murder your family, it also undercuts just how important family was to Dorne. Oberyn died trying to avenge the death of his sister Elia and her children in his duel with Gregor. For years, he planned and trained to take down the enemy without bringing any fury down on Dorne. He fought for his family because he loved his family. If anything, seeing his brother get shanked to death and his nephew speared in the face would cause a different kind of splitting pain in the head of The Viper.

Politically, the move is equally as simple minded. Who in Westeros will want to deal with kinslayers? Additionally, they are all Sands, bastards with no real claim to the seat of Dorne by Westerosi law. And, though the culture is different in Dorne, they are all women. After giving Myrcella a real kiss of death, Doran seemed like the reasonable man to do damage control on an event that surely would stir up some trouble. And if you are going to lop a few branches off of the family tree, why not have a plan a little more substantive and grounded than stand and fight. Their motivations should be more clear than some personal vendetta, especially when they have everything to lose.

If getting back at the Lannisters for the trial-by-combat-gone-wrong was enough of a motivation, why kill your prince and his son? As renowned fighters and assassins, couldn’t these capable Sand Snakes crack some skulls on the DL?

All the action in the show demonstrates that mindless killing is not only hard to understand, but frustrating when taken into the context of the world built up around the show. Motivations were much clearer in the book. And I say this not as some book snob, touting them as better. I watch the show and read the books as two separate entities, but I will point out when the show breaks the fantasy rules that both forms of the story abide by.

The despondent feeling that Game of Thrones is entering an era of inconsistency is one that I hope is untrue. The killing cannot serve as the crux of the narrative movement, so maybe the departure from the books is not the best idea, if the producers do not understand what the world is all about.

Tyrion has said as much:

“The mind needs books, just like a sword needs a whetstone, if it’s to keep its edge.”

Featured Image HBO

May 2, 2016