I never watched Game of Thrones. When it first came out, I told myself I would rather wait for the book series to finish before watching it on TV. The fifth book in the series, The Dance with Dragons, was published in 2011, the same year the show started. Today, nine years later, there is still no release date for the The Winds of Winter – the sixth of the seven books planned for the series. George is 72 years old, rather overweight, and I have mostly given up on ever getting a written conclusion to the (incredible) saga.
It might come as a surprise then that one of my favorite pieces of writing from 2019 was “The Real Reason Fans Hate the Last Season of Game of Thrones.” Ignore the click-baity headline. Its an incredible exposition on structure and agency in storytelling by one of today’s most perceptive thinkers on technology. Here are two snippets:
The appeal of a show that routinely kills major characters signals a different kind of storytelling, where a single charismatic and/or powerful individual, along with his or her internal dynamics, doesn’t carry the whole narrative and explanatory burden…
…In sociological storytelling, the characters have personal stories and agency, of course, but those are also greatly shaped by institutions and events around them. The incentives for characters’ behavior come noticeably from these external forces, too, and even strongly influence their inner life.
It helps explain how game of thrones went from the only thing people could talk about to a complete non-entity. Also this:
If you want spend any time at all watching television, then this is well worth a read.