A Song of Ice and Futility or the Nihilist’s Spoiler Guide to Game of Thrones

I’m not the kind of person that jumps on the bandwagon very often, not because I consider myself a darling snowflake, but rather I can’t justify expending energy on something I don’t give a shit about just for the sake of being able to make small talk at dinner parties. That having been said, I don’t have a problem hopping on the bandwagon if it happens to be going my way because I’m lazy and I don’t like to walk. This is how I eventually came onboard with the whole Game of Thrones thing, but still refuse to watch Mad Men, because even if everyone I know tells me it’s the best show ever made, I just can’t compel myself to give a shit about ad people smoking cigarettes and listening to Percy Faith records or whatever the hell they do (I’m sure it’s probably more nuanced than that, but once again I just don’t care).

In the interests of full disclosure, I’ve actually only seen about 3 episodes of Game of Thrones, but I have read the books. I’m not going to pretend that I’m some sort of fantasy-elitist asshole who read them before the show became popular and consider anyone who’s only seen the show as some sort of fantasy-genre hipster (unless I happen to just not like that person, which oddly enough seems to happen a fair bit, but that’s probably more a reflection on me than anyone else). To be fair, I was quite aware of the whole Song of Ice and Fire thing before it became a television series, but I had never bothered with it. My literary proclivities have always tended towards more of the “high-fantasy” end of the genre, which basically means wizards and elves and magic whatsits and shit like that (even though I generally think elves are assholes, but that’s a topic for another day). And based on the name of the first book, I had a pretty fair idea of what the series was about, which is to say lots of political intrigue and such, which I tend to find a bit dry, and not so many wizards and such. It was also around the time that the term “Game of Houses” was introduced that the Wheel of Time series started to slide off the rails, so that didn’t give me much incentive, either.

But given that HBO bothered to make a television adaptation and they generally tend to not fuck around with half-assed material, I figured it was probably worth checking out. The fact that I chose the books first instead of the show was a matter of personal preference, in that I usually prefer having the story spoiled if I’m watching it, rather than reading it, but since the TV series is going to eclipse the books eventually, it seems pretty goddamned moot. However, after binging on all five books in a rather short time, when it came time to switch over to the show, I was rather burnt out on the whole affair, and so I haven’t bothered to watch more than a few episodes.

In any event, I still find the story rather interesting, if for no other reason that it eschews the typical tropes and themes of the fantasy genre, which usually include epic heroes, quests, and something about a “chosen one”. And while you could make an argument that those themes are present, they’re superficial at best. Game of Thrones or ASOIAF is essentially a story about a bunch of privileged, ruling-class assholes who busy themselves scheming and fighting amongst themselves while their world slowly goes to hell with the whole thinly-veiled “winter is coming” metaphor.

But while most people would probably choose to treat this all as allegory, seeing own world going to hell as our impotent leaders, mired in their own petty, short-sighted squabbles and power-struggles, are powerless to stop it, that would be missing the true theme of the story, which is this: we are all damned to sad, pathetic deaths and our world will eventually be devoured by otherworldly demons and/or possibly dragons, ultimately rendering our existences entirely pointless.

Like most people, when I started reading (or watching or whatever), I assumed that Ned Stark would be the “epic hero” that ultimately prevails in the end, despite overwhelming circumstances, but before the end of the first book, he’s executed, and while in any other story his death might have been some sort of symbolic sacrifice which sealed the fates of his persecutors, they mount his head on a pike and go about their business. That’s not to say that there aren’t repercussions, but it’s sure as hell not the end of Braveheart. Logically, I expected his son to gather his father’s armies and avenge his death in dramatic fashion, but then he ends up dying a rather pitiful and inglorious death, not on the battlefield, but at his uncle’s wedding, ending with his direwolf’s head sewn onto his own headless corpse for the amusement of his killers.

Similarly, in any other book, Quentyn Martell would have dug deep, summoned up his “dragon blood” and managed to tame one of the dragons in defiance of the odds, but instead he’s burnt to cinders and dies an excruciating death in bed, as befitting some random asshole, despite the fact that I had to spend half of the book reading about his journey to find Daenerys for some reason. Some people could argue that this is how the story embraces the complexities of the “real world” in that “heroes” can still suffer the consequences of their bad decisions and therefore not every death can be heroic, but not only are the “heroes” denied a “heroic” death, but every character, heroic or otherwise, seems destined to die an entirely trivial and often embarrassing or ironic death. I would argue that Tywin Lannister’s rather quiet and relatively private death on the shitter was probably the most dignified of any of the major deaths in the book.

But the ultimate expression of George R. R. Martin’s obviously nihilistic philosophy is actually best demonstrated in the prologue of each book, which is always presented from the point of view of some poor random and generally insignificant bastard who inevitably dies miserably at the end of the chapter, a casualty (and often portent) in some larger scheme that they were completely unaware of and powerless to prevent, poignantly underscoring the ultimate theme of ASOIAF: shit happens, life is unfair, and there’s generally fuck-all we can do about it.

And so, in the spirit of such, I’ve made what I feel are some pretty fair predictions about the ultimate fate of the major characters:

  • After turning into a transcendental tree, Bran will succumb to root rot or some other manner of tree fungus.
  • Arya will accidentally slip and fall into the deadpool (rimshot) in the House of Blank and Tan (sic).
  • Cersei will lose track of her various conspiracy theories and complicated machinations and accidentally order her own assassination.
  • Daenerys will be eaten by one of her dragons or will be otherwise trivially murdered by her nephew who is undoubtedly due to inherit the Targaryen family’s batshit-crazy gene.
  • Tyrion will die of syphilis (that was probably too easy).
  • Sansa will develop an infected hangnail and die of sepsis.
  • Jon Snow will unceremoniously die off-page after having been repeatedly stabbed by his own men at the end of A Dance with Dragons, even though we’re pointlessly trying to convince ourselves he somehow survived.
  • Littlefinger will accidentally sever an artery on the Iron Throne, which he purchased at auction after the Iron Bank foreclosed on King’s Landing, and bleed out.
  • Jamie will be eaten by Zombie Catelyn.
  • Melisandre will die of hypothermia after R’hllor finally gets tired of her fucking up his prophecies and takes away her Johnny Storm powers.
  • Stannis Baratheon will develop senile dementia and be sent to the Westeros equivalent of a retirement home where he’ll spend the rest of his days declaring himself the Rightful King of The Rec Room and demanding the other residents offer him their rice pudding as an act of fealty.
  • Hodor will eventually go catatonic due to Bran constantly mind-fucking him.
  • Samwell Tarly will choke to death on a chicken bone.

And finally, Daenarys’ dragons will change sexes as needed to reproduce, like the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, overpopulate and raze the continent of Westeros, taking care of the White Walkers and Wights, but eventually killing off everyone left, effectively rendering the entire story pointless.

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