Warning: Spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen the latest episode of “Game of Thrones.”
“Game of Thrones.” I love it. You love it. We all love it.
I love it so much, in fact, that I was 64 episodes deep before I had a startling realisation. This show is freaking confusing.
I didn’t make this realisation on my lonesome — none of my ideas are original, after all. Last Sunday’s episode was the talk of the internet the next day, with people buzzing about it being one of the best Thrones episodes of all time. The centrepiece, of course,that saw Daenerys and her dragon burn hundreds of men alive. It was sweet.
People in the office were understandably keen about the whole thing, leading to a team-wide discussion about the show. The takeaway? Everyone loves it — but no one knows what the hell is going on.
Some mystery can be fun. There was healthy speculation as to whether Jaimie died (he totally didn’t) and if Tyrion will turn on Daenerys (he totally won’t). But there were also some more disorienting questions flying around.
Who do you think is the third dragon rider? Is Tyrion actually a Targaryen? Who is the valonqar? Oh, what’s that? You haven’t read each of the 600 prophecies referenced throughout the 4,451 “Ice & Fire” pages George R.R. Martin has written, even though they may not actually impact the show?
Some of that can be pardoned. Questions like those often originate with pesky fan conspiracies that have infected our minds, as they do in the Star Wars universe. But even keeping up with major plot points, after six years, can be difficult.
“Game of Thrones” is renowned for the vigor with which it murders the characters we hold dear. This has several pros: It’s fodder for many emotional moments — oh Hodor, you sweet thing — and it gives us seasonal villains, like Joffrey Lannister and Ramsay Bolton, who we truly hate. But there are downsides, such as the intense memory training involved in recalling who’s alive or dead.
Example: I was certain Bronn was dead. He got poisoned, I vaguely recall. My housemate, who I watched the first episode of the new season with, also thought he was a goner. We were both wrong, because Bronn rocked up in Sunday’s episode and shot a dragon out of the sky. Classic Bronn!
You might be mocking me right now for thinking he was dead, which is fair because I only have poor memory to thank for it. And yet, everyone I speak to about the show seems to have confused the living status of at least one semi-major character in the past few weeks.
Sure, the plot is broadly easy to follow. And if you put in the legwork, you can get your head around all of the characters, their families and relations to other characters. But that amount of legwork would leave you walking funny for at least two days.
Look, I wish not to besmirch the Throne. The most recent episode was so good, it almost gave me a heart attack from emotions. I have so many emotions: Intrigue, anxiety, suspicion, a raging man crush on Jamie Lannister, they were all there.
But I keep going back to a question in my head: Where is the line between complex and convoluted, between “wow, this is so clever!” to “wow, whoever wrote this was on some gnarly drugs.”
People have levelled similar accusations at other popular franchises. Metal Gear Solid is a notoriously dense game series, as is the entire Final Fantasy universe. “Donnie Darko” and “2001: A Space Odyssey” both often find themselves on people’s “most confusing movies” lists. But notice, these also are all revered in their specific genres.
We’re six and a half seasons into “Game of Thrones,” with one and a half to go. All the loose ends are starting to get tied up, with reunions and first meetings going on all over the place. The genius of a complicated plot, I suppose, is in making us care enough to endure the memory tests and the textbook-thick lore. But there’s a thin line between epic and epic fail, and we really need this ending to all come together. We’re too deep into winter to look back.
Batteries Not Included: The CNET team shares experiences that remind us why tech stuff is cool.
CNET Magazine: Check out a sampling of the stories you’ll find in CNET’s newsstand edition.