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The horrid fascination of Game of Thrones

April 26, 2016 15:48 IST

Daenerys Targaryen in The Game of ThronesFor a person who hasn't overdosed on a TV series for decades -- not since the delightful Friends, and much further back, the homily-laden Hum Log or the excellent Buniyaad or Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi -- Game of Thrones has been a game changer for me, writes Shuma Raha.

When a story contains dragons, violent sword fights and frequent beheadings, I tend to give it a wide berth.

Just as I tend to not watch films where robotic extra-terrestrial giants hurl themselves at each other, bringing us close to armageddon every time.

From what I had heard, Game of Thrones, HBO's hit TV series based on George RR Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy novels, definitely seemed to be in the dungeons-and-dragons mould.

So even as the whole world was going wild over GoT for the last five years, with sundry girl friends salivating over an oh-so-handsome 'Jon Snow' or a 'Robb Stark', I disdained to watch it.

All that changed in February this year.

I chanced upon the first episode of the show in a rerun of Seasons 1-5. It was probably being aired to reel in GoT innocents like me prior to the launch of Season 6 on April 24.

Well, what can I say? I was reeled in.

The dragons were there. So were zombies, giants, sorcerers, sadists, and, really, all manner of depravity and foulness.

But my disdain vanished and I stayed hooked.

For the last two months, I have been glued to the television every night from 10-11pm, Monday to Friday, watching the compelling drama of the Seven Kingdoms and beyond.

Have I become a GoT fan girl? Not quite.

Will I read Mr Martin's fantasy tomes to dip my beak at the fount from which all this springs? You gotta be joking.

But one thing's for sure. When Season 6 goes on air -- it begins April 26 in India -- you can bet your last piece of Westeros gold that I shan't miss an episode.

This despite the fact that at the end of the last season, GoT seemed pretty much like a corpse-strewn The Spanish Tragedy from the Elizabethan times -- most of the dramatis personae were dead or near-dead. (Warning: giant plot twists given away below, so if you don't want to know, stop reading now.)

Part of the alarming appeal of GoT is that really bad things happen to the good guys. So our faith in a moral order is relentlessly challenged.

Ned Stark, the righteous Lord of Winterfell, is decapitated early in the series.

His eldest daughter Sansa Stark, the red-haired beauty, seems destined to suffer a ghastly fate -- tormented first by Joffrey, the sadist boy-king of Westeros, then spirited away by the viperish brothel keeper Petyr Baelish, and finally married to the maniacal Ramsay Bolton who rapes her every night.

Her brother, Robb Stark, and mother, Lady Caitlyn, are betrayed and slaughtered.

Her sister, the tomboy Arya, intent on vengeance and forever on the run, is turned blind at the end of Season 5.

And Jon Snow -- the brave, brooding, bastard son of Ned Stark -- too lies dead after being betrayed by his brethren of the Night's Watch in the icy north of the Seven Kingdoms.

You're really holding your breath here, hoping that the good will get a break in this universe which is always at the edge of chaos. And that the bad will get their just dessert.

In fact, to me, one of the most satisfying moments in GoT was when Joffrey, that twisted little brute, upped and died on his wedding day -- gasping and blue in the face from the poison someone slipped into his wine.

Of course, you don't watch GoT to reflect on grave stuff like moral order. You watch it because you're fascinated by the characters and the utterly unexpected twists and turns in their stories.

There's Cersei Lannister, Queen of Westeros, whose chilling malevolence drips through her clenched teeth; Tywin Lannister, ruthless statesman and head of the House Lannister, ultimately killed by his son Tyrion; Daenerys Targaryen, comely princess and 'mother of dragons' who wants to be a just ruler; Tyrion Lannister, the quick-witted dwarf, who combines political savvy with genuine kindness; Stannis Baratheon, a man who would be king, and doesn't mind killing his own daughter for it...

The centre of their world is an ugly Iron Throne and they circle around it, jousting with each other even as they commit murder and incest, black magic and human sacrifice.

For a person who hasn't overdosed on a TV series for decades -- not since the delightful Friends, and much further back, the homily-laden Hum Log or the excellent Buniyaad or Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi -- Game of Thrones has been a game changer for me.

I have groaned at the 'whitewalker' zombies and the fire-spewing dragon, I have been bored by the unending hackings, and the eternally muttered threat that 'winter is coming' (Heck, it should have got here by now!) But GoT's got its claws into me.

And in spite of myself, I wonder, will Jon Snow be revived?

Will Sansa Stark, who leapt off the castle walls, Rani of Jhansi style, finally get a measure of control over her life?

Will Tyrion -- 'half man', and in so many ways the subaltern hero of the series -- triumph?

I hope so.

But going by the story so far, I wouldn't bet on it.

Shuma Raha in Mumbai
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