Two prefatory notes: First – no, I know nothing about the books. Everything I’m going to say here draws exclusively on the HBO version of Westeros. Second, the more theoretically committed of you will note that only one of these thoughts is really about political economy proper. Fine. But I came up with a pretentious blog post title I liked and I’m not going to change it. Deal.
1. The Iron Throne isn’t worth all this fuss.
One of the most remarked upon features of the Game of Thrones TV series is its distribution of narrative energy. Unlike other shows from the golden age of narrative television, Game of Thrones has no clear protagonist – no Walter White-esque anti-hero, no philosopher warrior like Rust Cohle, no principled agitator like Sarah Manning . The focus usually reserved for a television protagonist is instead distributed over the entirety of the Game of Thrones cast, arguably with slightly more energy invested in the show’s half-dozen “A-tier” actors. Still, unlike the quest narratives common throughout fantasy genres, Westeros has no heroic main character.
To the extent Game of Thrones has a center of energy, it’s the Iron Throne itself. Cersei Lannister’s sinister invocation of the show’s title when addressing Ned Stark – “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die” – sets out from the first season what all the blood and murder are meant to serve. At least three times each subsequent season, the throne is included in the background of a two-shot featuring those who desire but never sit upon it, visually reinforcing the centrality of the Iron Throne to everyone in Westeros (and, for that matter, the remaining Targaryens across the Narrow Sea). It is the object of each character’s quest and the focal point of nearly all the machinations that dominate the series.
Which is why it’s so weird that the Iron Throne is the seat of a startlingly weak monarchy. » Read the rest of this entry «