“The Winds of Winter,” the finale to the sixth season of HBO’s Game of Thrones was one of the most thrilling episodes of television ever. It was triumphant, revelatory, sad, powerful – all the feels. Ramin Djawadi’s score was extraordinary, and brought a tear to my eye. And after six years we started to see all the characters we’ve come to know and love find their rightful places and start to move in on the final act at long last.

It was also, as far as I can tell, very far from George RR Martin’s vision of the story. (I haven’t read the books, so I’m only going by what I’ve read of the changes from the books on the TV show.) As I’ve noted before, now that the show is freed from Martin’s long brewing novels, it’s moving along at a TV show’s pace, with heroes doing smart things and villains dying in satisfying ways. Martin’s storytelling seems to be all about subverting those hopes and tropes, though, and its his distinct worldview and storytelling instincts that made GoT what it is.

A singular creative force goes in directions that a writer’s room never will. I mean look at the shocking things that made this show a hit from the git go. Would a TV show runner have killed off the main character, Ned Stark, a few episodes in, like Martin did? Maybe. Hitchcock did it in Psycho. A daring move, let’s say.

But would a TV show runner ever have come up with The Red Wedding? That would be like Jesse Pinkman and Hank getting killed in the third season of Breaking Bad. I doubt it. Martin’s world is a terrible one of death, dismemberment, cruelty and oppression, kind of like real life, not like a TV show where we get to go “Yeahhhhh! Arya Stark FTW!”

I can only compare this to something dear to my heart, the New York Mets, who are going through, oh, let’s call it a rough patch. On Monday of this week they were decimated by their rivals, the Washington Nationals, their best pitcher, young fireballer Noah Syndergaard, waking two people in an inning for the first time in forever, and a four run lead washed away in a shambolic 11-4 performance that saw everything go wrong. And I do mean everything.

The next night they had a chance for redemption! Matt Harvey, their struggling ace was on the mound and it was time to make things count! If this was the TV Game of Thrones, Harvey, the Dark Knight, would have reached down inside, rallied to find his true self and pitched a 4 hit shutout.

But this was not a TV show. What actually happened was something George RR Martin could have plotted: Harvey struggled as the Mets failed to score, a rain delay washed him off the mound, and then usually stalwart reliever Jerry Blevins gave up an uncharacteristic home run to Bryce Harper. The Mets flopped in a futile display reminiscent of Stannis Baratheon’s doomed attack on the Boltons.

If GRRM had written “The Winds of Winter,” I’m thinking, Drogon would have accidentally on purpose set the ship with Theon aboard on fire and feasted on some Dothraki horse flesh and things would have been a disaster. And then Alejandro De Aza would have struck out with the bases loaded.


The other thing about GoT that is a little off to me is how all the female characters are now running the show: Danaerys, Yara, Olenna Tyrell, the Sand Snakes, Cersei, Sansa, even little Lyanna Mormont. While deeply satisfying to me as a viewer, one also remembers that one of the subtexts of the show is how women are subjugated in a medieval society. On the current GoT, when a 10-year-old girl shames grown warriors over their double crossing ways, they just say, wow, she’s right and fall in line. That doesn’t happen in real life. No group of men would let a woman talk that long without interrupting her. There would be mansplaining. There would be “but not all northern kings…” I wish things did happen like this in real life, but lest we forget, Game of Thrones is a fantasy. It’s a wonderful fantasy, but it’s one even the show runners don’t believe for one minute.

You see, they just announced the directors for Season Seven of GoT and for the third year in a row, they are all men. Only one woman has ever directed an episode, the great Michele MacLaren.

The only female director in Game of Thrones history is TV legend Michelle MacLaren, who hasn’t done an episode since season four. Of the seven credited series writers since the show began, there are also only two women: Jane Espenson, with one episode credit, and Vanessa Taylor, with three. 

Game of Thrones has really become a story about the empowerment of women, and I love that. Dany, Cersei, Sansa, Arya, Brienne, Yara and everyone else has earned their spot at the top by being extraordinary leaders, even if Cersei is the bad guy now. And yeah, the show does deal with the sexism of the societies the ladies are leading (very directly in the case of Yara and Cersei.) But in the real world, it’s still a boys club all the way. Practice what you preach, guys, and be the change you want to tell stories about.


  1. How can you say it’s far friends m GRRM’s vision of the story when he hasn’t finished it yet and we don’t know how much of the actual story planned for the books the showrunners decided to keep? We already know that the origin of Hodir’s name came from GRRM, for example.

  2. This is the first season of Game of Thrones I completely enjoyed. There were episodes of season 5 I liked (such as the attack of the White Walkers, which is mentioned in the Martin books but not actually shown). Mostly I’ve found the torture of characters unnecessary and most of the series has been characters who are vile torturing characters who are not vile. The so-called Red Wedding was a perfect example of what I’ve hated in the series as it just celebrated death and destruction. Burning the child at the stake (which does not happen in the books) is another example of the series wallowing in torture. I was put off at the end of episode one when they attempt to kill a ten year old boy because he knows too much, and the death of Ned Stark finished any investment I had in the show. But in season 6 I actually enjoyed it, beginning with the resurrection of Jon Snow and all that followed. There was also the fact that the series for too long had twice as many characters as needed and only after winnowing them down has the story become manageable. But it took a hell of a long time to get there.

  3. I don’t think I agree with this take at all. While the show made some big steps into having a plot beyond the “shocking” developments of last season, this picture you paint of the books is disingenuous. What’s so brilliant about the books isn’t their brutality, or their insistence on “realism” (whatever that means), but on how they subvert genre expectations. Ned Stark didn’t die to make the reader sad or to provoke shock, he died asking the reader questions about what it means to be a hero and a protagonist. IMHO Martin’s books have always had a thematic richness that’s been hit or miss on the show. I’m happy it’s going in a better, more telegenic direction. It’s much more watchable. But while the story and characters and performances have been superlative on the show, it still lacks the courage to tackle the big questions Martin deals with in the books.

  4. It sounds like diverting from the books into a crowd pleasing sit-com. George RR Martin always stressed that good people lose and sleazy deceitful people come out ahead. I’ll bet he had Ramsey become king.

  5. I don’t know if I agree with this either. The series only has about 10-15 episodes left. It had to start taking a turn in a positive direction, and removing some characters. I would even think this was part of GRRM’s plans (although I haven’t read the books). It seems like women were horribly treated and underrated in the beginning and now they’re getting their due. Also, you say it’s so great that women are getting better treated now in the show, but then state how awful it is women aren’t writing or directing it anymore. Well which is it??

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