The latest episode began with the death of slave masters and ended with the death of a baby. If Game of Thrones had a slogan aside from “Winter is coming,” it would be “Valar Morghulis: All men must die,” with the implied addendum, “and you must watch them die.”
The White Walkers are embodiments of an oncoming winter and death. Picture an army with Lord Voldemort’s face mixed with an unmasked Darth Vader postmortem. I thought they were going to eat the sacrificial baby dingo-style, but instead they converted it to one of their own via life-force-sucking communal voodoo action on a pedestal amidst an icy Stonehenge.
The books do not reveal what happens to Craster’s male babies left out as sacrifices in the middle of the night, making the end scene of episode four both frightening and enlightening. Yet it also points to a deeper trend of overdramatization and lazy showmanship in the Game of Thrones series.
“TV show viewers demand answers,” my friend explained. That’s true. They have to know who killed Joffrey and what happened to Craster’s babies. It’s a different medium than the novel with different demands and expectations.
Yet the show leaves nothing to the human imagination—and often what we imagine is much darker than we would like to admit. As I mentioned previously, I thought the White Walkers would eat the baby alive. The unknown is terrifying, the known—less so. There’s nothing like an unanswered question to lock in viewership—a technique employed by X-Files and more recently Lost.
People and events are overkilled, oversexualized, and overdramatized. For example, the night watch’s mutineers—led by a Willem Dafoe look-alike—tortured Hodor! Yet in the book, Bran sees Jon Snow at a distance through the eyes of his direwolf Summer. This close brush of fate forces Bran to accept his isolation in full, which foreshadows his own independent realization of his greensight powers. In short, Bran and company do not go to Craster’s keep and Hodor was not tortured.
Furthermore, at least six of the female characters cast in Game of Thrones this season are current or former porn stars. This either exposes perversion on behalf of one or more of the producers, or proves SNL’s theory that there is an omnipotent thirteen-year-old boy consultant whose job it is to ensure that there is a hefty ratio of boobs per episode.
In my favorite scene of this episode, Jaime visits Tyrion in his castle cell, and they have what could be considered a heart-to-heart. “Kingslayer brothers” has a nice ring to it—both are falsely accused, crippled, and disappointments to their father Tywin.
In another explicitly violent moment, Daenerys’s men drive stakes through the hands of Meereen’s elite class of slavemasters and nail them to wooden polls. The camera zooms out as we hear the wails and screams of the dying. Yes, all men must die, but must we watch them die?