So HBO Go was actually working last night, and for those of you who tuned in to the network’s hottest show since the Sopranos, we’d like to take a moment to celebrate the (frustratingly somber) exit of one of series’ most despised characters.
A brilliantly-structured episode, Sunday’s “The Lion and the Rose” goes against the grain of GoT’s increasingly peripatetic narrative trends by planting its feet firmly in one setting for thirty minutes. Set at yet another doomed wedding, the extended final scene has it all: just about every relevant character in Westeros that’s still alive, a play-within-a-play structure that should satisfy Shakespeare nerds, fantasy buffs, and HBO devotees alike, and wonderfully built and sustained suspense that’s so thick it cuts like a pie full of doves (get it?).
George R.R. himself penned the script, and as has come to be expected of the wildly incisive and unsentimental writer’s material, the episode takes no prisoners in its portrait of the cruelty of Westeros. Martin, in his own words, has always been “pretty outspoken” in his “desire to write a story where decisions have consequences and no one is safe.” As such, GoT has consistently juxtaposed an unforgiving moral universe (read: our own) with glimpses of the supernatural and reimagined fantasy tropes; last night’s episode was, of course, no different. It just turned the shock and awe factor all the way up to ten (not quite up to the Red Wedding’s eleven).
What do plot points have to do with branding? Put simply, any innovative product sells itself given a large-enough platform (see: shared HBO Go accounts) and consistency of quality and vision. Since Ned Stark’s departure at the end of season one, GoT has established itself as a relentlessly entertaining epic that has no qualms about killing off major characters at the drop of a hat (or goblet); the writers are well aware of this expectation by now and have done a matchless job navigating and exploiting its pitfalls, placing each jaw-dropper in just-the-right-nook of the narrative arc to satisfy fans of the books and newcomers alike.
All this, mind you, from a show that’s taken fantasy – the (stereo)typical realm of adolescent shut-ins – to a larger audience (essentially rebranding the genre), albeit by grounding it in lots of gritty politics, sex, and violence.
What’s more, we’ve heard from some avid fans of the novel that last night’s exeunt isn’t the most shocking departure of the season (no spoilers, please).