Winter is coming
One fantasy TV show is the smash-hit of the decade. How is Game of Thrones this good? And why aren't you watching it?
Big week. Mahesh Bhupathi and Sania Mirza won the French Open. Apparently there’s a category for people who couldn’t win at all the other real categories, it’s called ‘mixed doubles’. This created such a stir, that one diarist even wondered if the player’s ‘impressive chest’ was affecting their backhand. I for one, find Mahesh Bhupathi’s chest unremarkable at best. And it also turns out that Mumbai University has had a massive question-paper leak.
This is surprising only to anyone who was fortunate enough to not go to Mumbai University. Also this week, Nitin Gadkari touched Baba Ramdev’s feet. Bah, call me when he tries to touch his own. Then I’ll be impressed. But none of those events were as earth-shattering as what happened on Sunday night. Game of Thrones season two ended. I imagine most of you have no idea what I mean, and that’s fine. I’m glad you have a social life and real friends who don’t go away when the internet dies. Most of you are thinking “What on earth is Game of Thrones?” and to you I say “Winter is coming.” I know that makes no sense, but that’s a line from the show, and I’ve wanted to use it for months. But let’s get to the point.
Game of Thrones (GoT, even) is a TV show, on HBO (I should probably clarify now that I am in no way affiliated with HBO or GoT, and this column is in no way sponsored by them. Or anyone else. BUY NIKE.) GoT is the best thing to have happened to television since The First Death of Mihir Virani. Based on a series of novels by George RR Martin, it is, nominally speaking, a fantasy series. But it’s a fantasy series in the same way that Kingfisher is an airline; barely.
Yes it features kings and queens and dragons and demons, and dwarves, but if you’re thinking “Oh I don’t like that stuff, and besides, everyone in Lord of the Rings looks like a pedophile.” GoT is fantasy with the gloves off and the knuckle-dusters on. Think Lord of the Rings, but if instead of saving the world, Frodo had cut Sam’s head off, put on the ring and then made-out with Sauron as Gollum ate Gandalf. On paper, it sounds more like a soap opera. It is the saga of several warring families and kingdoms. It is an epic to go with the best of them, from the Iliad to the Odyssey, from the Mahabharata to What’s Your Raashee? The mind-bending first season is available on DVD, and the equally excellent second season has just begun on HBO India, and just ended in America. I know how the season ends though, because, er, a friend of mine from Sweden watched it on American TV and told me what happened.
It works because while it dresses like a fantasy, its heart is a bit more sinister, and way more primal. It is about machinations of people in a world where power corrupts absolutely, and no good deed goes unpunished. And in that sense, its world is no different from ours. There is ruthlessness, brutality, irreversible decisions, horrible consequences, and, oh, nudity. Lots of it. Unless you’re watching it on Indian TV, in which case, probably not, because our censors believe that if Indian people saw other people nude, India would fall into the ocean. If you’re easily turned off by gratuitous displays of people’s modesty, don’t watch. Also re-examine your life-choices.
GoT works because like some of our greatest literature, it is a compelling study of politics. Many from the Indian government would be right at home in Westeros. Mamata Banerjee could be Hodor, Mayawati could be the Wall. And Manmohan Singh could be a tree in one scene. The show has, since its debut last year, become a cultural phenomenon, and is keenly watched (and rabidly discussed) the world-over. It is on track to be 2012’s most pirated show. One report suggests the show’s second season has already been downloaded 30 million times. That’s almost as many times as Kishen Mulchandani and Queenie Singh have been on Page 3 this week. So give in to the juggernaut. Watch one of the most ambitious things that the medium’s ever attempted. You’ll get hooked to it in a way that’ll make you hate yourself but that's okay. Because Game of Thrones is awesome. As are friends in Sweden.
Rohan Joshi is a writer and stand-up comedian who likes reading, films and people who do not use the SMS lingo. You can also contact him on www.facebook.com/therohanjoshi