Valar Catharsis

NOTE: This post contains spoilers from HBO’s Game of Thrones, including last night’s episode.

Having read the books in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire when they each initially came out, a big part of my enjoyment of watching Game of Thrones has been in seeing how the production team pulls off the big moments I know are coming.  You know an adaptation is doing something right when events you’ve already read about can still surprise, enthrall, shock and excite.  Of course, some of that surprise is more from the how than the what, especially with some of the tweaks the show as made to the story; the book version of the Red Wedding, for instance, lacked the quite literal shot to the gut of Robb’s pregnant queen being repeatedly stabbed in the stomach.  Throughout though, there’s the undeniable pleasure of seeing something you’ve enjoyed in print vividly brought to life.

But maybe the biggest thrill I get is waiting for those signature moments so I can watch the reactions from those who are watching the show completely cold, with no knowledge of the books.  I sat on the edge of my seat all through Season One waiting for Ned’s execution, and was not disappointed by the stunned reactions from those who were certain Sean Bean would be the star of the show, that something, anything, would stop that sword from coming down.  And I just as eagerly watched through the build-up to the Red Wedding, knowing that if Ned’s death was unexpected, this would totally bowl people over.  Judging by the number of video cameras set up to record the reactions, I wasn’t the only one waiting to see them, and again we were not let down.  Even now, almost a year later, watching people leap from their couches in disbelief never fails to make me smile.

Last night brought another one of those moments, only this one wasn’t a sudden onrush of tragedy and dread.  Oh no, this was a moment so long anticipated, so long hoped for, so long desired, that I could barely wait to see the joyous outpouring on Twitter and Facebook:  King Joffrey, easily one of the most hated villains in television history, breathed his last, in as publicly humiliating a way possible.  Seconds after the credits began to roll, Twitter was flooded with euphoric messages, and as I type this, reaction videos are already popping up on YouTube, filled with cheers, clapping and fist pumps aplenty.

Why does this please me?  Well, it’s similar to when the Lord of the Rings films took off.  It’s a triumph for my people.  It’s something truly and utterly geeky becoming the topic of conversation in all of pop culture, not just our nerdy little niche.  I can’t begin to describe the stupidly esoteric thrill I got hearing Iron Man make a Legolas joke in The Avengers that not only didn’t have to be explained to anyone, but that actually got a big laugh.  And now people are bandying about Red Weddings and Purple Weddings as easily as they would Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber.  Those of who pored through all those interminable multi-volume fantasy epics back in the Eighties and Nineties?  We were just ahead of the curve.  We’re cool now.  Our things are now your things.  You’re welcome.

Oh, and not to spoil anything, but if this season of Game of Thrones goes where I think it will, we’re in for at least two more nights where I’ll be anxiously waiting for Twitter to blow up.  Awesome is coming.


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