Suffering From Game of Thrones Syndrome

Ned Stark
Ned Stark Poster

If there’s one thing that I have learned about the Game of Thrones TV Series (Based on A Song of Ice and Fire, by George R.R. Martin), it’s that every character in any story can die. Even the main ones. Even the ones you care the most about. Even the ones played by the biggest names on the show. And even the ones that are on billboards and TV Series posters, or featured on TV spots and interviews.

This breath of life into the traditional medieval story has been fueled by the fact that no character in the story is safe. You can grow attached to one, but don’t be surprised to see them die on the next page, the next chapter, or in the next book. Part of what makes A Song of Ice and Fire such a great series are the constant deaths to characters that you presumed would be around forever.

Martin’s story telling style has translated fabulously to television, but there is one huge problem with it: once Hollywood sees something that works, it’s mimicked again and again, until we are sick of it.

You Can't Be Half A Gangster
You Can’t Be Half A Gangster

Need a few examples? (SPOILER ALERT) Mad Men killed off Jared Harris’ character… because the writers could. Boardwalk Empire had Steve Buscemi bust a cap in Michael Pitt’s *** (leading the tagline  “You Can’t Be Half A Gangster”), even though the story was begging to have Buscemi forgive him at the end of season two, Boardwalk Empire again continued to show that it suffers from Game of Thrones Syndrome by killing off Charlie Cox at the end of season three. Even Grey’s Anatomy got in on the fun, and I’m half expecting the 30 Rock Series Finale to feature Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey dying from something ridiculous, perhaps measles (SPOILER ALERT OVER).

It just seems that ever since Ned Stark (Sean Bean) was beheaded, the best way to send a character off is to kill them, whether the storyline lends itself to that character’s death or not. Sure, there’s a ton of shock value involved in seeing our favorite characters die, rather than continue to show themselves throughout an episode, but eventually it is going to get old. It might even be there already.

I do understand the need for drama in television, but what happened to the other forms of conflict that shows used to exhibit? House MD expertly showed us that conflict concerning a single character can easily drive a show. Breaking Bad has shown us that watching Walter White devolve from the show’s hero to the show’s villain over the course of several seasons will make viewers return. Lost proved to the world that people will watch a show, even when they have no idea what the hell is going on! So why, WHY is Hollywood turning what was one of the most shocking and original plot devices used by an author in a long time into a cliché?


Your thoughts? Agree with me? Disagree with me? Let me know!


Until next time…

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