After many years of calling it Gamer Thrones (with mixed returns) and the dragon-incest show (slightly better results), I finally started watching the television program Game of Thrones for two simple reasons: A friend is hosting a watch party, and I love the zeitgeist.
Little did I know, I was also in for a masterclass in the art of Politics.
Now, barely halfway through season one, my gambit is ALREADY paying dividends. Let me run this completely new, 100% original take by you lucky souls: This show? It’s about politics.
SPOILER ALERT GOES HERE if you fear spoilers about a season that aired eight years ago, like me.
Here’s the setup: Ned Stark, old hunk, is the King’s Hand. Silly name for a fake job, if you ask me! Anyway: He’s sitting on the Iron Throne in King Robert’s absence because the big drunken king is out hunting. Here’s hoping that all ends well, since no one ever gets into trouble as a royal with a tenuous grip on power when suddenly surrounded by weapons! So Stark’s presiding over the King’s Small Council, which is kind of like the city council. The matters are usually small potatoes, but today he’s faced with a more heady matter: A peasant reports that his village is being burned and his countrymen killed by forces being led by a very large man.
Brain geniuses like me remembered that this is a reference to The Mountain, a very large, murderous, brute of a man. The marauders also left dead fish behind. Several more levels of genius later, we figure out why: That’s the symbol of the house of Ned Stark’s wife, Catelyn, who has captured Tyrion Lannister, whom she believes tried to kill her son. (This is wrong, but she doesn’t know that yet!!) In retaliation, Boss Lannister sets The Mountain and his forces loose on the wife’s homeland, ergo, tons of rape and killing for no real reason. Very cool all around, loving this show!!
IMAGINE the pickle this puts Ned, current hero, King’s Hand, in. Awkward timing, hearing about all this death related to your wife’s (misinformed) actions! This is all coupled with an ongoing power struggle—Game(s) of Thrones would be more accurate, in my opinion—because a young queen far away (Daenerys, played by Emilia Clarke, there are far too many characters on this show already) is pregnant. Possible challenger to the throne alert, this can’t be good!!!
How do we solve all this, according to King Robert? Just kill the girl and her unborn maybe-king, who cares! The Lannisters, who seem to love killing people, are pleased with this idea—not only do they get to satisfy their blood lust, they’re also participating in the great political art of compromise, which is the only way, according to the powers that be, anything gets done. CERSEI IS NANCY PELOSI, I scream. She, King Robert, and their ilk are more than willing to be pragmatic realists about this, even if it means Emilia Clarke’s wig has to die.
THEN WE HAVE NED STARK (our Bernie Sanders, our AOC) who says, quite reasonably, no, I won’t sign on to killing this girl, that’s deeply wrong, and I won’t meet you in the middle on this. The others—our political establishment, our DCCC, if you will—cry PURITY POLITICS (in my deranged mind). They cannot begin to understand why Ned Stark won’t just engage in bipartisanship. This rube from the North is new to the capital, you see, and just doesn’t understand how politics work yet. He’ll come around.
Will the white working class (anyone who isn’t portrayed as a statesman, knight, or a member of a racist barbaric tribe) fall for Stark’s ideological litmus test? Or will he wise up and learn that fancy words about believing things are much different than what happens in our halls of power? Stay tuned.