The Bloodiest 'Game'

Years of war, treachery and murder have taken a toll, and even the winners on ‘Game of Thrones’ are paying the price

Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen in 'Game of Thrones'
Macall B. Polay/HBO
By Rob Sheffield
Apr 06, 2014

"A toast to the proud Lannister children,” Tyrion Lannister says, lifting a glass. “The dwarf, the cripple and the mother of madness!” Let’s have a toast to the douchebags, indeed. As Game of Thrones returns for its fourth season, the Lannisters may be officially winning the war in Westeros, but the Iron Throne keeps destroying the family that occupies it. Look at them now – Tyrion has lost his swagger. Jamie has lost his sword hand. And Cersei’s royal idiot of a son gets crazier every day. There hasn’t been such a dysfunctional trio of screwed-up aristocratic siblings since the House of Drummond ruled the world on Diff’rent Strokes.

You almost feel sorry for the Lannister kids, except for all the blood on their hands. From the beginning, Game of Thrones has gotten all its narrative juice out of the corrosive effects of politics – the basic idea has always been that power turns people into monsters. And not having power turns them into a monster’s breakfast. In all these gory struggles, there’s never been a hint that any of the competitors deserves to win, or that any victory would make Westeros a better place.

That cynical political flair makes Game of Thrones so realistic, despite the fantasy-world setting. It’s also made Thrones hugely influential – to pick the most successful example, House of Cards just shifts the Westeros power games to Washington, except it seems soft and sentimental by comparison. Other D.C. dramas from The Americans to Scandal have tried to catch a ride on the no-hope, no-heroes, no-future vibe behind Game of Thrones. In one shocking scene that captures its cutthroat essence, a villain cheerfully shoots an arrow into one of his co-conspirators. “Money buys a man’s silence for a time,” he says. “A bolt in the heart buys it forever.”

This is an extract. To read the full story, pick up a copy of Rolling Stone Middle East

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