Game of Thrones: To Watch or Not to Watch

by T. Mack

Game of Thrones

I refused to watch HBO’s Game of Thrones for its first six seasons. I had several reasons for this, including the facts that: 1) I hadn’t read the books and had no intention to do so, 2) the show features intensely graphic violence, and 3) I didn’t want to put in the necessary hours to catch up. However, that doesn’t mean I was completely out of the loop. I kept up with the latest headlines of the show and watched recap videos and select scenes (usually featuring the Mother of Dragons). I celebrated just like everyone else when *spoiler* died at that wedding (No, not that one–the other one). And I had favorites that I would be happy to see on the Iron Throne.

GOT khaleesi

As season seven geared up, I finally found myself intrigued enough to sit through the show. I watched the seventh season in real time while catching up on the first six in epic binging sessions. For the first time, I was watching events unfold with everyone else. And I even got to watch a death without knowing ahead of time they would die. The sensation was thrilling.

I’m firmly a GOT fan, now. And many of my co-workers are ecstatic that I’ve joined the fandom and the conversation. However, I’m still not certain if I would actually recommend the show to someone who has gone this long without watching it. I believe there are pros and cons to consider when deciding to jump into any show so late in the game. For this show, there’s even more to weigh. If you or someone you know is on the fence about whether or not to watch Game of Thrones, I’m here to help. Check out these pros and cons for whether or not to get your GOT on.

GOT jon and ygritte

Con #1: Graphic Violence – The show features graphic violence including the things that the camera typically cuts away from. Somebody’s head getting crushed? No, you don’t just see the first hints of it then hear their skull implode off-screen. The camera sticks around to show you the entire bloody, gory, horrific mess. Then it cuts away to the victim’s screaming lover.

Pro #1: Graphic Violence – The aforementioned depictions of horrific violence bother some people, but intrigue others. If what I described above doesn’t put you off, but peaks your interest, GOT might be for you.

GOT blood blade.jpeg

Con #2: Graphic Violence Against Women – It’s true that what we consume regularly becomes normalized to our minds, even when said thing is actually twisted, perverse, illogical, or even evil. So I have to agree with the argument that entertainment that makes violence toward women seem normal hurts our real lives and our actual society by making violence toward women feel normal. This show is more than happy to portray violence toward women. However, I don’t believe it does so lightly. And I’d argue that it even goes so far as to try to deliberately make that violence feel uncomfortable so that it will never feel normal. If you watch, you can decide for yourself.

Pro #2: Unexpected Humor – For a show filled with so much drama and violence, GOT can often be surprisingly funny. Some of the humor comes from charming and funny characters. Some of it comes from unusual or interesting situations. In watching the show, I was pleasantly surprised by the frequency of lighter moments tucked away in the show’s darkness.

GOT tyrian

Con #3: Disturbing Relationships – The series features a lot of characters. Those characters connect to each other in a lot of different ways. Some are allies, some are enemies, some are both. Some are friends, some are family, some are lovers, and some are a blend of all three. There are alliances, betrayals, back-stabbings, lies and false testimonies. And while it’s all very interesting to watch, it can also a bit stomach-churning to think about too hard. Truthfully, this point could go either way. The relationships do get disturbing, but they also make for exciting viewing. I’ve got this listed as a con, but it could just as easily go in the other category.

Pro #3: Wonderful Performances – This series has many amazing actors and actresses featured . While not every one of them deserves awards and accolades, a good number of them do. These performers become their characters and do an amazing job drawing us into GOT’s world.

GOT stannis and melisandre

Con #4: Boring Characters – There are a LOT of characters on the show. Not every single one is fascinating. Some are confusing. Others are mostly useless. And a few are downright boring. The characters that fit these descriptions will vary from viewer to viewer. However, be aware going in that you will not find everyone interesting.

Pro #4: Terrific Characters – I’ll say it again. There are a whole bunch of characters on GOT. The number of interesting, intriguing, fascinating, and mystifying characters far out-weight the ones that will bore you to tears. There is someone on this series for every single person to relate to, sympathize with, be repulsed by, pity, envy, despise, and desire. It’s likely that you will, at some point, feel more than one of these feelings for every character on the show. GOT features characters who are complex and dynamic, characters who grow, change, and evolve, as well as characters who refuse to do so. All these make for very interesting viewing.

GOT faces

Con #5: Long Waits for New Seasons – As a cable show, GOT gets a shorter season than network TV shows. Instead of 22-24 episodes, each season gives 7-10. And the 10-12 months in between seasons can feel like a decade. To add insult to injury, HBO has announced that it will be 2019 before fans receive the final season of the series. This means likely 18+ months of waiting to see what winter will bring and who will claim the iron throne.

Pro #5: Great Story – I can’t speak to whether or not George R. R. Martin has written good books. However, I can attest that he has created an amazing story. The complexity, depth, twists, and turns of the narrative are wonderful to experience. While my friends impatiently wait for the final books of the series, I’m just grateful this world and story have been created at all. Even if Martin doesn’t manage to finish the printed version of the tale.

GOT marjory and bro

Con #6: Declining Quality – I’ve read and heard a lot about the declining quality of GOT over the course of its seven seasons. While I hear and even understand the arguments about rushed pacing, inconsistent character actions, teleporting travel times, and more, I must say those things didn’t really bother me. However, my viewing experience was unusual, out of sync, and rushed. So I’m not a good gauge for these issues. I defer to those who have watched it loyally for seven years and put in the time. They are better able to speak to the changes of the show over time and any decreased quality in the story following the end of its written inspiration. I include this con here because I think it’s valid. Though in my haste to consume six entire seasons in three weeks, I didn’t notice these problems much… which means even I did notice them a little.

Pro #6: Beautiful Visuals – One thing that definitely does not decline as the show progresses is its visual spectacle. GOT is beautiful, with amazing costume design, grand sets and locations, and stunning visual effects. Some argue that the increase in visual quality actually coincides with the decrease in story telling. However, even the nay-sayers support my point here. The show looks amazing!

GOT dragons and boats

Con #7: The Price of HBO – Yes, HBO is expensive. However, it’s now more cost-effective than it’s ever been with the invent of HBO Go, the stand-alone service that lets you pay for HBO by itself without increasing a $150 cable bill to $200. And if all else fails, cheat. If you don’t know how, here’s a little help.

Pro #7: Excellent Surprises – If you haven’t yet watched this series, hopefully you have managed–unlike me–to keep your ears off the ground and away from all the updates, news, happenings, and character developments on the show. If you manged that feat, you could be in for some incredible surprises. GOT has lots of twists, turns, and shocking developments. I recommend watching the show with a pillow in your lap. That way, your chin won’t hurt from all the times your jaw drops.

GOT

Con #8: Getting Hooked – There is an exception to every rule. So yes, there must exist out there one person who really can eat just a single potato chip and stop. So there must also be a person who began watching GOT and didn’t choose to continue. That person is most definitely the exception, however. As a rule, this show is addictive. If you begin, you’re in it for the long haul. So be prepared to love it and be hooked.

Pro #8: Picking a Side – “In the game of thrones, you win or you die.” That quote is by a character on the show named Cercei Lannister. She is good at playing the game of thrones and she plays to win. She’s right, though. Only one person can sit on the throne. And every other contender for that throne will likely not live to witness the victor’s reign. This series has many, many players in the game. As a viewer, you are able to choose your side and pick your alliances. Choose carefully, however. And always have a backup. Because Cercei is right. If you’re not winning, you’re probably dead.

GOT banners

Con #9: There isn’t one – There are only eight cons I could think of for this list. And not all of them will even fall into that category for everyone. It’s true that I wouldn’t automatically recommend this show for everyone. However, I personally, can think of more reasons to watch it than reasons not.

Pro #9: A Fantastic Fandom – Being a geek is fun. Being part of a fandom is a good time. The GOT fandom is no exception. There are fun fans, intense fans, angry fans, casual fans, and the occasional crappy fan. It’s fun to read articles and watch videos by others who enjoy the same show as you. It’s enjoyable considering and discussing theories. And it’s nice to be in the know when conversations around the water cooler at work inevitably turn to GOT on Mondays. No matter how many fandoms you have, there’s always room for one more. I promise!

GOT Ned throne

Are you a Game of Thrones fan? How did you get into the show? Do you not watch the show? Why not? Take to the comments and share your thoughts on the GOT phenomenon.

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