Thursday, April 14, 2016

Case Study: "Game of Thrones" and Its Overuse of Character Death

Game of Thrones and Its Overuse of Character Death

Many are looking forward to April 24th when the start of the sixth Game of Thrones season is scheduled. I too can't wait to see how the story continues, and yet ... Well, the great success of the series proves that it does many things right. But as any successful project it does a few things wrong. And one of these "mistakes" kind of sours my watching experience.

What I'm talking about is character death.

I'm generally a fan of major characters suffering a dramatic death, but I really dislike it in Game of Thrones: Just for the same reason as why stories in which it's pretty clear that nobody will die often are boring. When you know that there isn't real danger for your beloved heroes an adventure loses potential for suspense.

With Game of Thrones it's the exact opposite: The past seasons have made it clear that everybody - or almost everybody - will die sooner or later. Character death is simply what I expect to happen and when another bunch of characters gets their throat slit my reaction isn't shock or surprise but a rather bored: "Oh, again? Who's next?"

When it comes to character death Game of Thrones suffers severely from plain monotony. This is one of the reasons why I stopped caring for most of the characters somewhen around the second season. Actually, I hate almost all of them. Except for Tyrion, Sandor and Sansa. And instead of hoping for my favourite characters to survive I have an imaginary list of my most-hated characters whom I want to die as soon as possible.

You might argue now that the Game of Thrones universe is a realistic and dark one, that all those deaths are just natural in such a world ... Yet I have another strong argument which is called Nothing New on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque. Being a novel about the First World War written by someone who has actually seen it it's much more realistic than Game of Thrones with its dragons and White Walkers, and it's full of character death which actually works.

So what is it Remarque does right about his storytelling in order to make every character death in his novel painful and unexpected? Well, while it's the only novel so far that actually made me cry for a quarter-hour after finishing it it's also one of the funniest novels I've ever read.

You see, the thing about war is that it isn't only about death. It's also full of absurd and/or tragicomical moments, as hard circumstances often require ... very unconventional solutions. And there are also a few moments when the main characters have the chance to relax and simply enjoy life per se, and when you're surrounded by death you can't help but really value such special moments.

What I'm trying to show here is: In Nothing New on the Western Front you follow the protagonists not only through suffering and death but you're also with them when they experience happiness. You both bleed and laugh with them. The monotony is broken. From time to time you get the chance to relax emotionally, so the next tragic event would strike you even harder. ... Reading Nothing New on the Western Front is a truly brutal experience.

In Game of Thrones there's little to laugh or cheer about. The series is trapped in an overall gloominess, and from a certain moment you don't expect anything else anymore. The story becomes predictable to some degree. And I think it's a pity, since otherwise Game of Thrones is a really great show full of suspense and surprises.

Now what about you? Do you look forward to the sixth season as well? Do you agree with me that character death is severely overused in Game of Thrones or do you think the amount of deaths is okay? Please let me know in the comments!

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