I am going to start my rant with the applicable SPOILER ALERT and warning! If you have not seen the season 3 finale for Game of Thrones on HBO, or have not gotten through halfway of either “Storm of Swords” or “Feast for Crows”, then you may not want to read further as I am about to go off on what happens.
“Character investment” – that’s what I answered a redditor just the other day. The comment was in reply to a question someone had posted about their thoughts on the new Star Trek Continues episode “Pilgrim of Eternity”. They had asked why people always try to “redo” the original cast of Kirk and Spock instead of just making a new ship and crew. Now to be fair, I have to say, I very much liked this new episode and was very glad to see someone finally put some real effort into a production like this. The point I was trying to answer was that people get very connected to their favorite characters and the stories they are involved in. You don’t see a lot of movies about 006 or 005, because we are invested in 007, James Bond. So what happens when your invested characters die? What happens when they die unceremoniously or in way that doesn’t make sense? Well, that’s what happened in my opinion to the characters in last night’s episode – written off as though they never had any importance to the story at all.
I had to go to some anger counseling a few years back after I got out of the military. I asked the counselor, “Why do I get so mad when the Cowboys lose?” I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why that would make me want to throw the remote at the T.V. He explained that it has to do with betrayal. Anger is just a shield that covers other emotions. My favorite team was betraying me. If I can put so much love and energy into them, why couldn’t they deliver enjoyment in the form of winning for me? The same thing happens when you spend your investment, in time, love, and money, reading or watching characters that you love and want to grow with. For me, I invested in house Stark. I realized when I examined what I was upset about, I found that I had been quietly rooting for them.
I was obviously not the only one suffering from a huge desire to scream, shout, kick, and cry when the final scene from Episode 9 was revealed. Within minutes, Reddit had over 7,000 comments. Most comments looked exactly like what I was thinking. There were lots of cursing and humorous excerpts on how we have all been screwed by George R. R. Martin. As a writer myself, it made me question, who do the characters belong to? Does a writer have the right to just eliminate people (and let’s be clear that my favorite characters are people) whenever he or she wants to? I was informed that many authors believe in the “let the characters just go, and what happens, happens” mentality. I do tend to like the results of that to a point. But then, that is where I realized I have a different view, even as an author. “Yes,” you sirs have the right to do with any of the characters, as you like. I, sir, have the right to rage quit you!
Remember me being a Star Trek fan? Well they killed Spock in the second movie they made after the T.V series. I wasn’t angry, I cried. It was a beautiful scene, well written, and a fitting ending for my beloved friend. This, however, is not the case with the Stark house culling, which occurs during a somewhat mind-numbing betrayal, which I think any real character would have been on the alert for. It’s not that I think the scene was completely unbelievable or out of character, no, I think it was uncalled for. Just imagine for a moment that Han Solo, the princess, and Luke are all killed by Darth Vader in the carbonite room near the end of The Empire Strikes Back. Would anyone really go see the next movie? Do you think Lando and Chewy reunited could carry the rebellion forward? Maybe, but I don’t think so.
How would Lord of The Rings looked if Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas all died at the black gate buying time for Frodo and Sam? A very plausible plot line, especially given the circumstances, but that is not how the really great stories are written. Sorry George R. R. Martin, I think you don’t get it! Nobody cares that you are fixated on death, or that you want to stress on how everybody dies! We don’t care! Most people want to read, enjoy stories, and enter the more interesting world of their heroes, than be reminded about how depressing and evil the real world is. I have finally realized why Game of Thrones was not a household name like Lord of The Rings until picked up by HBO – because there are no real heroes, evil wins and all you have is characters you like dropping by the handful. I think George should just switch to writing zombie stories, and modern or post-apocalypse, because he has missed the mark with fantasy and epic adventure, which needs heroes.
Like I said earlier, I respect an author’s vision, and even give leeway for them to hurt me with sadness, if it tracks with an ending befitting my investment to them as a fan. I have invested in you, your story, and your characters, don’t treat me like you just don’t care! I find it terribly arrogant and self-serving to take this approach, which, from my reading and George’s own interviews, appears to be the way he sees it. Thank you J.R.R. for understanding what it takes to write truly epic stories with characters and places worthy of my investment and love.
Feel free to leave me a comment or disagree. I am open to others points of view, but I just felt the need to see if I could articulate what I think thousands were feeling after last night’s episode. Even a good friend who happens to disagree with me on this, confessed to throwing the book when he had reached that particular spot, vowing to never read another page. Is that what you really wanted Mr. Martin? Well, I hope you’re happy, because you just got a minus one like and unfollowed.
I haven’t really decided whether or not I will complete this series now. I understand he hasn’t even written the last book(s) yet? It is possible my betrayed feelings will heal over time. Mr. Martin, just a thought, but perhaps you should put as much energy and devotion into your characters and story as I did. Unless it was your intent to anger and betray your fans, if so, well done!
Perhaps one day the reins will be passed to 005 or 006. When it does, I hope they have a befitting ending for one of my favorite characters of all time. But I have a feeling that they, like Star Trek, understand that viewers and readers are invested, and shouldn’t be spat on when writing the next story.