New boss, old boss

I’m always hesitant to latch on to any cultural phenomenon, which probably explains why I’ve never seen any of the “Star Wars” movies and watched about half of the first “Avengers” before realizing I had at least 20 more to catch up on before I could actually consider myself a fan. But there is an undeniable allure to becoming part of a community of folks with likeminded interests, whether it’s fixing Jeeps, playing Fender guitars or knitting sweaters while drinking tea and listening to ambient cat sounds.

           

So, reluctantly, Kellie and I gave “Game of Thrones”—the now ubiquitous HBO adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy novels—a chance on the advice of some die-hards who had already been converted, and about two episodes in, we put it on hold.

 

About six months later, we tried again, and for whatever reason, it all clicked the second time around. We got through all seven seasons in the span of a couple of months and finally knew what every other article on the Internet was referring to when we logged on to social media.

 

Around the fourth or fifth season, the show began to outpace the books, and I’m told (by people who have read them) that this is where it all falls apart. Still, when it’s all said and done, it will stand as a corrective to the simplistic good vs. evil narratives of “Harry Potter” and “The Lord of the Rings”—as a fantasy series, it borrowed the Shakespearean themes of “Macbeth” and “Julius Caesar,” presented a world where both sides were motivated and corrupted by self-interest and taught us never to place our hopes in any one savior (well, it taught some of us that).

 

The eighth and final season, which will conclude on Sunday, is the ultimate online punching bag, and it’s been declared a disaster for a million different reasons: it was too boring at the beginning, then too much happened all at once, everything worked out too easily for the good guys in the first big battle, the good guys turned out to be bad in the second major battle, the female heroin who thousands of parents named their daughters after turned out to be a bloodthirsty conquistador just like the rest of them, the death of the main villain wasn’t satisfying or vicious enough, the bad guy who turned good for a while and almost redeemed himself turned bad again, and a Starbucks coffee cup showed up in a show that’s supposed to be medieval. Call me crazy, but doesn’t this reek of a covert operation to boost the Howard Schultz presidential campaign?

 

As “Star Wars” superfans like our spring intern Zach would surely tell me, it’s not new to get angry at a film or television series over its plot twists. We root for characters, for narratives and for outcomes that make us feel smart or conform to our worldview—in the case of “Game of Thrones,” especially if our worldview involves frequent use of the #StillWithHer hashtag and a playlist that consists of nothing but Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song.”

 

For all of the drubbing the show has taken lately, though, I’ve got to give the writers credit: they’ve somehow managed to alienate everyone and ride out in a blaze of glory with ratings that rival “Seinfeld” and “M*A*S*H” as the final “Avengers” movie garners near universal praise.

 

And they’ve taught us a valuable lesson about expecting a piece of entertainment that someone else has created to go exactly the way that you want it to: don’t do it. It’s a massive waste of time, and if you want to rewrite a story to make it your own, go do it. No one is stopping you.

 

At the beginning of the season, Kellie and I exchanged a few theories on how it would turn out (she quickly tired of them), but none of them have really panned out in any meaningful way. As the finale nears and the most widely watched show of the 21st century reaches its conclusion, I’ve stopped bothering.

 

My only real predictions aren’t particularly bold ones: whatever happens on Sunday night, at least 90 percent of the viewers won’t be satisfied. On a show that killed off its most sympathetic protagonist in the first season, more people will die. All hail the queen!