We are all hostages to the whims of George R. R. Martin and D&D (David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, the show creators). Unbound, we remain seated however not daring to turn our eyes away from the torture we are subjected to as viewers. Here be spoilers for the entire series. Ye have been warned!
Once again the infamous 'episode 8' (with the exception of the first season where the 'blow' takes place on episode 9 with the beheading of Eddard Stark) came and took viewers by storm. The internet once again floods with angry messages of people who are "done with the show", "had enough of the torture" and generally spouting displeasure and anguish towards Martin and his gang for ripping their hearts to shreds. Even those of us who have read the books felt the bite of injustice as The Mountain crushed the head of Prince Oberyn. Yet another character which we rooted for bit the dust in a spectacularly gruesome fashion. But it wasn't the gore that dug the icy dagger in our hearts but the Red Viper's screams as his eyes where being mushed into his skull. That is what the books cannot offer, the audiovisual aspect of the horror that is A Song of Ice and Fire.
I cannot bring myself to remember the last time a television series has done this to its viewers. Killing off, arguably, the best characters and causing hurt all around. The numbers, however, of viewers keep rising exponentially. The beheading of Ned Stark was witnessed by 2.6 million viewers in the US alone. The duel between the Red Viper and The Mountain? 7.1 (again, US only)! Of course the fact that a lot of the appeal for last week's episode stems from the bloodthirst of gladiatorial combat that is locked and hidden inside us must take a lot of the responsibility. We wanted to see the two men clash, those who did not know of the outcome beforehand also hoped that the Viper would be the last man standing, even though they have repeatedly felt the cold pen of Martin scratch out their favourite characters from this epic story.
It has to be said though that this season also "gave back" to its captives. That little c**t bastard Joffrey dying drew a different kind of reaction. People cheered as he choked and died in his parents arms, pretty gruesome stuff! But that is Game of Thrones. We all understand what is at stake inside the narrative, we all take sides and stands as this magnificent story unfolds.
Many have branded the series as "goreporn" but I must call this a hyperbole. The Walking Dead is built practically around gore and nobody bats an eye. Granted, zombies (and a decline in the writing quality in my opinion). Gore is just garnish from a writers point of view and must be used carefully in order to outline the story itself. Everyone has made peace with the fact that blood and nudity are a part of the GoT universe and personally I wouldn't change one bit of that. Is all the character-killing a "one-trick pony" manoeuvre used time and time again? It sure doesn't play like that in the books because we are given the world and its events in their entirety while being left alone to make ends meet as to who we like, dislike and root for. A perfect neutrality if you will. In the series they cheat the viewers, who know that there are 10 episodes per season and by the end, shit WILL go down! That is guaranteed.
There were people who were rooting for the Mountain, for instance, in last week's episode! They really wanted him to win! Do they dislike Tyrion and wanted the prince to lose? Is there a bit of homophobia there? Because Oberyn Martell liked both men and women? Maybe! Overall the gore and nudity drive the story deeper into our instincts, touching very primal cells in the back of our minds. We hate witnessing the death of characters we felt for, YET WE REMAIN SEATED...waiting for the next episode. Why? Because we are programmed to do so due to said primal instincts. We can't look away and perhaps a part of us also calls for justice and the same gruesomeness unto all the unsavoury characters. All those calling for the death of Joffrey were paid back. Although I have warned of spoilers I don't want to spoil what is to come, which includes more deaths!
Will it be deaths that satisfy and gratify or loss of "loved ones"? That is the question that will keep millions glued to their seat come Sunday/Monday. Hostages to Game of Thrones asking for one more 'bite', defending their captor despite all the pain and anguish it has so open-handedly served them.
- Frixos Masouras, second of his name, 2014