Game of Thrones (both book and series) is well-known for killing of characters. Book author George Martin himself stated that he wanted to write a series where readers were genuinely concerned when a character faced likely death. And while he’s achieved his goal, I’d still argue that the safety of at least one character is being kept for the climax.
Normally, Saturdays are reserved for book reviews, but with my busy schedule, it’s difficult to read a book every week. I’m sure many of you can understand. So on the days when I have no book to review (today being one of them), I will take a look at a book, a movie, a TV show, etc. and consider its plot, characters, world-building, and so on. After all, by looking at a successful, or unsuccessful, storyline, authors can figure out what works and what doesn’t.
Today, I’m just talking about the show, so if you aren’t all caught up on Game of Thrones season 6, then this post will almost certainly contain spoilers that you don’t want to know. You’ve been warned.
In the first season of Game of Thrones, Lord Eddard Stark was propped up as one of the main characters. The show also focused on the Wall, where Jon Snow went to become a Man of the Night’s Watch, and in Essos, where Daenerys Stormborn eventually became the beloved wife of the great Khal Drogo.
While the very first scene of the first episode set up what I’m certain is going to be the climax (the white walkers vs. the rest of the world), the Wall had originally seemed to be a lesser story-line. Much more interesting things were happening in King’s Landing, where Ned Stark was starting to realize just how corrupt the city was.
And then Ned Stark was killed, shocking viewers everywhere. Suddenly, no character seemed safe. If one of the main characters can die, what’s to stop the writers from killing anyone? This fear is one they reinforced again and again, with Khal Drogo and Viserys, with Robb Stark and everyone else at the Red Wedding, with Stannis Baratheon and his daughter Shereen. Even Jon Snow was killed in the final episode of season 5, but that was a death I’d heard about from book readers before his death was aired on screen, and I had a feeling that he was not going to stay dead.
On July 15th, I wrote a post called “Defining the Phenomenon of the Main Character” and in it, I attempted to explain the difference between main characters and the important side characters.
Ned Stark was not a main character. While this wasn’t obvious at first, it became so later. Ned Stark’s actions sparked the events that led us to where we are now, but in book-terms, Ned’s story-line was more of an inciting incident than anything else. Everyone was still new to the Game of Thrones universe, though, so it wasn’t until later that I realized Lord Stark was not as important as he originally seemed.
The other two main story-lines are Daenerys’s and Jon’s. Daenerys is a conqueror, Mother of Dragons, and now leader of the Dothraki Hoard, the Unsullied, and the Ironborn loyal to Yara. She’s about to bring Westeros to its knees, but I would not argue for her safety or longevity on the show. Martin was successful when he set out to make his readers (and now viewers) concerned for their favorite characters, at least when it came to most people. But my fear for Dany’s longevity has nothing to do with her status as a main character.
Many theorize that, in “A Song of Ice and Fire,” Jon is ice and Daenerys is fire. I’m not sure I agree. After all, from the beginning, Jon’s parentage was set in question. In order to make Game of Thrones a TV Show, Martin asked David Benioff and D. B. Weiss if they knew who Jon’s parents were. And if it was true that Ned’s too honorable to cheat on his wife, then Ned’s “The next time we see each other, we’ll talk about your mother” and the ever-famous “Promise me, Ned,” takes on a whole new meaning.
I’ve always been a supporter of R+L=J, practically from the moment I first read about it. We can argue about whether or not it’s a theory now, but I’ll simply point out that the scene with the promise me, Ned was far less conclusive than people really seem to think. Anyway, with Rhaegar a Targaryan and Lyanna a Stark, Jon himself could be the embodiment of Fire and Ice, respectively, so don’t be surprised if the story ends up making him the main character.
Okay, so in both book and TV show, Jon Snow was killed off, and book readers and TV viewers everywhere were genuinely concerned about him not being brought back to life. But the concern was there because Jon is a puzzle with a few missing pieces, and any good writer knows that if you leave out a few pieces at the beginning of your book, you’d better fit them in by the end. No loose ends. And that’s exactly what Benioff and Weiss have set up now. Jon has been revived (as many theorized, and hoped), and his parentage has (arguably) been revealed.
His revival and royal bloodlines have him pegged as perhaps the most important character in the books. After all, why revive a character if you’re only going to kill him off (for good) not long after? And why make his parentage such a big deal if it didn’t end up being a pretty important factor later on?
Let me know what you think in the comments.