10 Harsh Realities Of Rewatching Game Of Thrones

10 Harsh Realities Of Rewatching Game Of Thrones

The recently-concluded first season of House of the Dragon is, in many ways, very similar to its parent series, Game of Thrones, in that both are about the lengths that people will go to attain the ultimate power: the Iron Throne. However, this new epic drama has also taken a number of steps to correct the things that were seen to be flaws in its predecessor.


Indeed, even die-hard fans of Game of Thrones have to contend with some harsh realities when they sit down for a rewatch. Though many aspects of this series hold up to the test of time, there are also several important aspects of it that make one feel distinctly uncomfortable.

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Dorne Was Always A Hot Mess

One of the harshest realities that greet people rewatching Game of Thrones revolves around Dorne. Though it is an exotic and beautiful location, its storylines and its characters always feel tangential to the rest of the plot.

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The one exception to this is Oberyn, who comes to King’s Landing to avenge his sister and deals the Mountain the blow that would turn him into a zombie. However, other than this, the show, like the books, could never really find a way of making Dorne into a coherent plot, either on its own or as part of the series’ overall design.

The First Season Isn’t As Strong As People Remember

Ary and Ned talking about being a lady

These days, much of the Game of Thrones nostalgia, much of which posits it as one of HBO’s best shows, seems to remember it being strong right out of the gate. While the first season was certainly entertaining, it was far from the operatic grandeur unleashed in season two.

This isn’t to say that the first season isn’t without its redeeming qualities, because the death of Ned Stark alone redeems whatever flaws it might possess. It is to say, however, that in some ways, in particular its special effects, it doesn’t hold up as well as one might expect based on the later seasons.

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Plot Lines Usually End In Less-Than-Ideal Ways

Cersei and Jaime buried under rubble in Game of Thrones

It’s no secret that there are some underwhelming plotlines on Game of Thrones. While this was certainly noticeable during the original run of the show, they have only become more glaringly obvious upon a rewatch.

This is particularly true in the later seasons. To take just one example, the death of Cersei and Jaime was truly one of the most underwhelming demises in the history of television. Two such iconic characters, who had done so much to shape the fate of Westeros, surely deserved a more climatic send-off than to be crushed beneath the Red Keep.

It Peaks At The Red Wedding And Then Goes Downhill

Robb Stark stands before Walder Frey before he is murdered at Game OF Thrones' Red Wedding

The Red Wedding was undoubtedly one of the most shocking moments in Game of Thrones. It was wrenching to watch beloved characters die horribly, and it, of course, reset the course of the Seven Kingdoms as a whole.

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For many viewers, this was the high point of the series (this was also true of the books), and it didn’t take long for the quality to begin to decline. Given the lack of a conclusion to Martin’s book series, this was inevitable, but one still would have hoped that the showrunners would have been a bit more skilled at keeping the show’s quality intact.

A Lot Of Character Growth Is Ignored

Tyrion with his hand pin on his breast, looking up in season 8

There are, of course, a number of great Game of Thrones characters. Indeed, for all of the politics, it’s the characters that set it apart, and it is fascinating to watch a character like Tyrion grow from a family outcast to one of the canniest political operators in the kingdom.

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Unfortunately, much of his character growth, like that of other characters, is largely thrown aside in the later seasons. Instead, he becomes largely ancillary to the plot, condemned to lurk around the throne of Daenerys (and for her to not listen to him). Like so many other great characters, his growth is ultimately thrown aside so the plot can reach its conclusion.

The Characters Become More One Dimensional

Cersei Lannister at Kings Landing in Game of Thrones season 8

When it began, and for much of its run, Game of Thrones received well-deserved praise for the complexity of its characters. These were people it was easy to believe could exist in the real world. Cersei, for example, was understandable and well-rounded, even if capable of cruelty.

By the final season, however, they were largely one-dimensional versions of themselves. Their actions were motivated more by plot exigencies than growth, with Cersei becoming nothing more than a manipulative spider-woman character, with her actions motivated primarily by what the plot needed her to do than anything else.

Noticing The Reliance On Twists For Drama

Rhaegal is killed by a large bolt.
Rhaegal’s death by shipbolt

Like many great dramas, Game of Thrones relies on tension to keep the viewer interested. After all, this is what keeps viewers engaged in both individual episodes and in the series as a whole.

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However, a re-watch reveals just how often the series relies on little twists to keep things moving forward. Some of these, such as the Red Wedding, make sense narratively and in terms of the world as a whole. Others, such as Euron’s killing of Rhaegal, were primarily for shock value and violated the integrity of the story as a whole.

It Doesn’t Subvert Its Own Genre (As Promised)

The Great Council Game of Thrones Season 8

For those who were familiar with Martin’s original series, it made sense to believe that the TV adaptation would subvert fantasy expectations. In particular, it seemed as if, at last, the smallfolk would escape from the relentless wheel of oppression that seemed to comprise the history of Westeros.

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However, by the end, it became clear this wasn’t going to happen. Instead, rule of the Seven Kingdoms would once again devolve onto someone who was chosen by the great powers to sit on the throne. The smallfolk, as always, remain shut out of the halls of influence.

Deaths Loose Their Shock Value

Ned Stark's Death in Game Of Thrones

Part of the joy of watching Game of Thrones in its original run was the simple uncertainty of who was going to make it out alive. There were, of course, a number of random deaths, and even beloved main characters weren’t safe from potential doom.

Unfortunately, this is one of the things that can’t be replicated on a rewatch. Much as it might be pleasurable to notice new things in the series, it has to be said that there is simply no replicating the experience of watching the series for the first time.

The Sex And Violence Stand Out More

Cersei and Euron in Game Of Thrones

Like many other premium cable dramas, Game of Thrones often pushed the envelope in terms of what could be shown in terms of sex and violence. At first, at least some of this was in service to the greater idea that people would be willing to do almost anything to attain power.

Very quickly, however, things began to devolve. A re-watch makes it very clear that the sex and the violence are just efforts to titillate the audience, and they eventually lose their narrative value and seem to simply be distractions from more important scenes.

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