-GAME OF THRONES SPOILER ALERTS! You have been warned!-
This past Sunday, “The Rains of Castamere” aired on HBO’s interpretation of the Song of Ice and Fire, Game of Thrones. As someone that read the books, I have mixed feelings regarding it. True, there is the perverse satisfaction of seeing my ‘show only’ friends gape at the carnage, but I’m also left with a sense of annoyance. The scene, while already shocking and disheartening… was considerably ‘ramped up’. Following my post last week, Game of Thrones is guilty of doing something that happens far too much these days.
They played the shock value by ‘raising’ the stakes.
It’s interesting to note, in the original book Robb Stark’s young wife wasn’t at the wedding. Nor was she pregnant. In fact there was a conspicuous lack of women at the Red Wedding. Lady Catelyn Stark did not kill The Late Walder Frey’s young wife. She actually held one of his grandsons, specifically a mentally slow boy named ‘Jinglebell’, for ransom.
Which begs to ask, is it wrong to crush your readers hopes so brutally? In short. No. However the long answer is a bit more complex.
Killing off characters is an art. George RR himself mentions that he isn’t afraid to kill characters. He even has spoken recently about the importance of building an emotional bond between your characters and the readers. So when and if something terrible happens to them, the reader FEELS it. Mission Accomplished.
I will say that a wise move (and anticipating that people would be pissed about this) was making Robb a POV character in the show. He wasn’t in the book. This properly shakes up the viewers, leaving them wonder what will happen next. Basically, the mark of a great show.
It is important though, to build hope again once it has been crushed. People aren’t too keen on reading into a chain of lows with no hope in sight. The focus is an emotional rollercoaster, you need your highs to offset the lows. Robb’s death means something because of his successes as the King of the North.
For those of you that feel the sting of betrayal. Sit tight. In a brilliant story, cruelty is often lessened by justice. Without saying anything more, justice is served.
Though this serves as a lesson for writers and readers alike. Higher risk, higher reward. You can build hope and crush it, but once the reader is invested. They tend to be out for ‘revenge’. If you give that to them, they find themselves thirsting for more.