Game of Thrones: Why It’s Hard to Watch

I was late in reading the A Song of Ice and Fire books.  I had heard about them for years; I distinctly remember a client recommending them enthusiastically and talking about the TV series rumors – and that was probably two years ago.  The thing is, I’m not usually a fan of fantasy.  I’ve never read any of the other Big Fantasy Series that everyone loves. I’ve read a total of two Anne McCaffrey books – ever.  And I had to read Left Hand of Darkness for two different classes in high school and college and I couldn’t make it through the book either time. 

But times change and people broaden their tastes.  I’ve softened on my hard-sf-only stance.  So several months ago, when a friend of mine recommended A Game of Thrones and said “If you’re going to read any fantasy, I would suggest this” I listened.  And immediately became immersed in the world of Westeros.  I downloaded each subsequent book through my Kindle app because I didn’t want to take the time to go to a bookstore, and I finished the entire series to date in a matter of weeks.  I eagerly looked forward to the TV series, watching all the behind-the-scenes videos and previews I could lay my hands on.

Then the show premiered.  It’s a breathtakingly accurate adaptation.  Maybe not every scene exists exactly as it does in the novels, and care was taken to ensure that the pacing works as a stand-alone show, but a fair amount of dialogue is taken directly from the source material.  The visual aspect is what’s most disquieting to me; the scenery, the sets, the casting, are almost all exactly as they were in my mind when I read the novels (and if previews, etc existed then, I certainly hadn’t seen them, to avoid being tainted the way I was with the Harry Potter books).

But now, a few weeks into the season, I’m finding myself dragging my feet every week before watching the latest episode.  At first I wasn’t even sure why; with fantastic source material and a production team that clearly labored out of love, what wasn’t to like?  Then it hit me.

It’s too accurate.  The visual medium makes it all the more visceral.  It hurts to watch.

I am not going to give specific spoilers about anything.  The TV show is based on a series of novels; the series is only half finished.  Thus, I’m in the thick of the conflict, with no resolution in sight.  All hell breaks loose; no character is immune.  Maybe there will be a happy ending for someone, but who knows?  It’s a breath away from a tragedy.

So watching those first few episodes, where every scene functions as foreshadowing for someone who’s read the novels, is difficult for me.  In the second episode, watching the party head for the King’s Road was like a punch in the gut.

I don’t know why this is such a surprise to me.  When every girl my age was fawning over Leo DiCaprio, I refused to see Titanic (and I still haven’t seen the whole thing).  I tended to stop watching Braveheart before the end.  I’ve been banned from watching the movie The Ghost and Mrs. Muir because I cry every. single. time.

That being said, I know I’ll continue to watch.  So far it’s a fantastic show, and I’ll just have to put on the big girl pants, toughen up and enjoy it without thinking of what’s to come (or purposely thinking of it – I admit, there are certain scenes, even graphic ones, that I look forward to).  And I know that even when it takes me a few days to get in the right mood to sit down and watch, those opening credits manage to get me excited every time.

I may be more quiet about Game of Thrones nowadays, but I’m still appreciating it.  Even if I’m watching it from between splayed fingers.


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