The Game of Thrones finally came to its inevitable end, and we are left burnt and battered, curled up and convulsing in the corner of a cold dark dingy dungeon, trying to contemplate its legacy while trying to remember and forget why all our orifices are profusely bleeding.
It was a long night. Dark and full of terrors. But the Game of Thrones was always that. This was never going to be your run-of-the-mill good-versus-evil guy-gets-girl happily-ever-after love story. We knew what we signed up for. Sex, violence, betrayal, revenge, and the ending, as foretold, would be bittersweet.
So like a heavy broadsword across a nobleman’s neck, or a well-timed arrow penetrating a young boy’s back, we were struck down suddenly, violently, and left mortally wounded, traumatized, and in denial as to the severity and permanence of the deathblow. Then again, part of its legacy is that no one wants the Game of Thrones to end.
The Legacy of Game of Thrones – A World of Ice and Fire
Our watch began on Sunday, April 17th, 2011. The familiar white-static crackle-then-hum of HBO Television’s pavlovian intro sequence faded to black, and out of the darkness, a cold opening of ancient iron gates revealed a world of ice and fire. Like a naked babe lost in the frigid winter woods searching for safety or slaughter, we ventured carelessly, then cautiously, then ever more curiously, until we were captured and captivated by a tale of a bastard boy and his wolf and an orphan girl and her dragons.
On Bended Knee…
Over the next 9 years, we would claim a House, bend the knee, and swear our oaths. We would encounter cold kings and cruel queens, ancient swords and undead hordes, faceless assassins and formidable assholes. Game of Thrones was a human-centipede of sown together Shakespeare, Scorsese, Tolkien, and Tolstoy. Hamlet, Goodfellas, Lord of the Rings, and War and Peace. Everything to fulfill our adult high fantasy sadomasochistic fetishes. Those we knew we had, and those that lay dormant below the surface waiting for the calcified skin to be prodded, pulled, and peeled away.
Our watch ended on May 19th, 2019. For 9 years we traveled from the north beyond the Wall to the Dothraki Sea in the east, down to Slaver’s Bay in the south, and west across the Narrow Sea. We battled brutal bastards and bested many betrayals, only to get ambushed – stabbed in the heart, burnt and buried alive in the rubble-filled crypts of King’s Landing. It was not the finale we had hoped for but every man must die and every story must end. And with everything that passes, and perhaps taken before its time, we are left mournful and melancholy. But what is the legacy of Game of Thrones and how will we remember it?
The Legacy of Game of Thrones – The Story of Our Lives
Game of Thrones is an epic story. Our story. It both belongs to us and is about us. It identifies and defines the stark contrasts of the human condition, and puts the best and worst of human nature on full skull-crushing display. Life is not a fairytale. Sometimes the villain rapes the virgin and the hero gets his head cut off trying to do the right thing. And there’s nothing we can do to stop it. We just have to watch. Game of Thrones is a story about humanity. A story based on experience and imagination about the good and evil and everything in between that humans do to each other.
Burn them all…
It offered a glimpse of our true natures. Are we noble lords or back-stabbing scoundrels? Do we defend the helpless or sell them into slavery? Do we show mercy to our enemies or burn them all alive? Game of Thrones portrayed the complexities, conflicts, and contradictions of the human condition and gave us the option and allowed us the comfort of being imperfect. The truth is that we are all flawed, broken, or rotten to the core. But why can’t good people do bad and bad people do good for the right reasons? Why can’t we be noble lords defending the helpless by stabbing our enemies in the back and burning them alive?
The great legacy of any story is its shared experience and Game of Thrones was an experience we all shared. For 73 Sunday nights over 9 years, millions of people around the world of all races, religions, creeds, and complexions, tuned in, sat back, curled up, and shared the collective experience of a story. It was like being at Woodstock or in the Twin Towers when the planes hit. We were there, together. We saw it happen. The story is ours. We are bonded because we shared the same experience. We went on the same journey, met the same people, and fell in love with the same story.
The Legacy of Game of Thrones – The Greatest Show on Earth
Once in a while, something comes along and changes everything. Michael Jordan, Bruce Lee, Jimi Hendrix. A song, a book – a thought or idea manifested into reality that then shapes reality. Like a dragon’s birth or a lover’s first kiss. The paradigm shifts and nothing can ever be the same. The story of Game of Thrones was brought to life by the greatest television series ever produced. A show that has redefined the art of storytelling through the visual medium of television. There was never anything like it before in both scope and scale, ambition and achievement, and it will influence everything that comes after.
Once Upon a Time…
The legacy of Game of Thrones is that it rekindled and rejuvenated the magic and excitement we felt in childhood when we ventured into the realm of “once upon a time in a land far away.” For the first time on television, there was a show about fire-breathing dragons, undead zombie armies, and warriors wielding ancient swords, that had more political intrigue than House of Cards, more graphic violence than the Saw franchise, and more sex than a Cinemax After Dark movie marathon. There was magic in the world once more. And we returned as adults to a dangerous violent sexy land of make-believe.
And with all things dangerous, violent, and sexy, addiction and obsession quickly followed. Our 9-year love affair with Game of Thrones grew more and more codependent and abusive as each season passed. We became demanding and critical, forgetting that it was never going to be that kind of love story. It was like a series of passionate one-night-stands with a seductive lover. A long distance adulterous romance that left you craving for more. But nothing was promised except a fuck and farewell, and sometimes the only thing we have left of a great love affair, are scars and bittersweet memories.
The Legacy of Game of Thrones – Back Where it all Began
And now our watch has ended. A dragon flies east carrying his queen home. A lone wolf rides north into exile and a girl sails west never to return. The oaths we took are fulfilled and we are left heartbroken with the lingering emptiness of missing something that had become part of the anthology of our lives. The journey may not have ended the way we had hoped, but we had the time of our lives getting there. The legacy of Game of Thrones is much more than just one character, or one encounter, or one event. The legacy is the story.
The Books of Ice and Fire
A Song of Ice and Fire is the seven-book series that the show is based on, and offers a chance for a deeper experience and exploration of the world of Game of Thrones. The seven-book series includes 5 completed volumes with 2 unfinished works on the way:
In addition to the main seven-book story, George R. R. Martin has also published 3 other books centered around the lore and legend of the world of A Song of Ice and Fire with material not touched on by the show:
Taking place nearly a century before the events of A Game of Thrones, A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms follows the adventures of “Dunk,” the future Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, Ser Duncan the Tall, and “Egg,” the future king Aegon V Targaryen.
Centuries before the events of A Game of Thrones, House Targaryen took up residence on Dragonstone. Fire & Blood begins their tale with the legendary Aegon the Conqueror, creator of the Iron Throne, and goes on to recount the generations of Targaryens who fought to hold that iconic seat.
This lavishly illustrated volume is a comprehensive history of the Seven Kingdoms, providing vividly constructed accounts of the epic battles, bitter rivalries, and daring rebellions that lead to the events of A Song of Ice and Fire and HBO’s Game of Thrones.
This is not the end of the story. It is just the beginning of another journey. The world of ice and fire is alive and bursting with all the ingredients that made us fall in love with Game of Thrones. It simply needs to be explored again, and in new ways. There are countless stories left to be told, and hosts of new characters waiting to be encountered. The best way to experience the legacy of Game of Thrones is to return to the Wall and begin the journey again.
If you liked this piece, please check out my pieces on The History of Reggae Music, the love affair between America and Donald Trump, Bullshit Martial Arts, and The History of Pekiti Tirsia Kali! Check back weekly for new pieces, and don’t forget to “like” “share” and “follow” on social media!