I’ll start this with a disclaimer: if you don’t watch HBO’s Game of Thrones, you’re a goddamn bloody moron. It’s that simple.
Alright, so that’s a bit callous. And maybe a slight exaggeration. OK fine, geez, I’ll take it back. But only because I love that you take a few minutes out of your busy schedule to read this blog, and I appreciate the heck out of you. NOT because I think Game of Thrones isn’t that good.
Because it most definitely is.
See, similar to the rest of HBO’s lineup, Game of Thrones (GoT) is loaded with talented actors, brilliant cinematography, and thoughtful attention to detail. And, more importantly, it gives us the weekly dose of gore/profanity/boobs that we’ve come to expect from premium cable.
But Game of Thrones is about more than blood and cans. Much more.
As a quick aside, I’m a sucker for these types of period shows/movies. Not only do I have a real live claymore in my basement, I also constantly quote Braveheart, which is just as badass and epic today as it was when I watched it three times a week as a Magic-the-Gathering-playing 7th grader. (This typically manifests itself whenever Reds’ right fielder Jay Bruce hits a homerun, at which point I’ll yell “THE BRUCE MUST NOT BE HARMED,” or when my friends and I are out on the town and they warn me about dividing our forces, to which I’ll reply “DO IT, and let the English see you do it.”)
But you don’t have to be a sword-collecting warlock jockey to love Game of Thrones, or at least to appreciate its superiority amongst the rest of the spring television slate. From the mind of George R. R. Martin (is that just a BLATANT homage to J. R. R. Tolkien, or what? Am I missing something?), GoT is set in a world all its own (Westeros), complete with a map, which (as noted by Grantland writer Andy Greenwald here) catapults it into a whole ‘nother stratosphere of fantasy badassery.
And unlike most TV shows that revolve around four or five main characters, the cast of Game of Thrones is as varied and widespread as Westeros itself. As only HBO can, GoT seamlessly flits between the inner turmoils of each and every warring house, masterfully blending themes of family, duty, and the fear of the unknown. And, the fact that it’s based on five massive books (which will eventually be seven, I believe) means the brief glimpse we’ve gotten thus far into the world of the Starks, Lannisters, and the Night’s Watch is only that - a glimpse. With each passing episode, Game of Thrones gives its viewers the unshakable feeling that the most compelling is yet to come.
And if there’s anything that gets close to the sheer joy of watching a new Game of Thrones episode (news flash: there isn’t), it would be dissecting it the next day. Now, usually I’d be content talking about GoT with anyone. Like, if the homeless woman outside 7-11 were to somehow offer her insights on the Stannis/Renly Baratheon feud, I’d be all ears, and I’d probably buy her a taquito as a token of my goodwill. Unfortunately, most people I know (or at least most people on my G-chat buddy list at 8:30am on Mondays), for some unfathomable/unholy reason, don’t watch Game of Thrones. And as much as I view this as an arrestable offense, there’s apparently not much I can do about it (besides asking them a few times a week what they thought about Sunday’s episode, which succeeds in being super annoying.) So, generally I’m left with one option.
Luckily for me, it’s a good one.
If you know me well at all, you know how intensely “busy” things can get at my job and how I’m usually left with “little to no” free time whatsoever to catch my breath. Well, somehow these “rare” occasions always coincide with similar “moments” of availability that come up in my friend Seeds’ schedule, so both of our Game of Thrones cravings are able to be satisfied.
Seeds is a buddy from graduate school, who’s since established himself as one of JOURNEYMEN’s most trusted allies. His list of qualifications is lengthy, and includes “lead guitarist in my band”, “frequent sleepover compadre”, and “groomsmen in my wedding.” Those, however, mean virtually nothing in the face of his most valuable attribute, which is his willingness to shoot the beeswax with me “periodically” throughout the work day so neither of us “loses our mind” or “goes postal” Typically our conversations never stray too far from our core values, which center around TV, people we hate, Taco Bell, and our portfolios. And when it comes to Game of Thrones (the greatest show that ever was or will be), we typically leave no element un-analyzed. It is this partnership that makes Seeds one of the most valued bannermen in my realm. And if you don’t know what that means, just click on this, or if you think that makes me sound like a twinkie, click on this.
Recently, Seeds and I were discussing just how gruesome/fearless the show has been, all the way from the start. In Season One, (spoiler alert!) the protagonist, Ned Stark (played by Boromir, a.k.a Sean Bean), is beheaded in front of his children. And in Season Two, we’ve already seen the most viable option for the Iron Throne (Renly Baratheon) stabbed through the heart, as well as a member of House Stark’s royal guard (Sir Rodrik) get his head hacked off in the most awkward way possible. In short, unlike many series we’ve come across, Game of Thrones seems more than willing to eliminate main characters as quickly and casually as it changes scenes.
This got us to thinking. How likely is it that every Sunday one of the characters we’ve come to know and love will be given the unceremonious squadoosh? Is anyone safe? Should I be bringing my claymore to work??
After a couple “minutes” of discussion, Seeds and I decided to do what we usually do when we’re really “busy”, which is take our conversation to a whole new level, raise the stakes, make a bunch of haughty and braggadocious claims, and eventually set up a scenario where at least one of us will eventually have to pay the Iron Price.
That’s how the Game of Thrones Death Pool came to be.
The idea behind the Death Pool is simple: predict which characters will be the last to die.The specifics of our contract, however, were much more complex. First, we created a shared Google excel document, and listed all the major characters in the show (and the fact that we came up with 36 should make you gasp in astonishment and bow further to the rich complexity and enthralling story of GoT). Then, as any red-blooded American male is wont to do in situations such as these, we held a draft. Each character we selected was added to our respective “team,” which meant that we’d hope they survive, while we were rooting for everyone else to get the White Walker Special.
The stakes of our wager were two-fold. First and most importantly, the team with the most characters standing at series end (yes, probably seven years from now) receives a sword of their choice from www.wholesalesword.com. It only seemed fitting. I tried to convince Seeds that first-born children would more accurately reflect the importance of this competition (unless they were girls), but he seemed to think he’d have a five-year old by then, and uprooting young Pierre would be too painful at that point. Then I tried to convince him that the loser should warrant a punch to the kidney, and he again declined, which made me want to punch him in the kidney even more.
Part two was much more simplistic. Every time one of characters gets offed, we immediately have to chug/shotgun a beer. No exceptions. Being that the show airs on Sunday nights at 9pm, and being that multiple characters are sometimes whacked in the same episode, I feel this clause has the potential to be very interesting.
When it was all said and done, we each were left with a team of 16 characters. I’ll let YOU decide who got the better end. But first, here’s how it all went down...
Pick #1 (Seeds): Tyrion Lannister - I won’t pretend to know what went through Seeds’ mind when he made this pick or his other ones; we never really did much debriefing when the picking was done. So, I’ll just have to guess. Tyrion Lannister (known as “the imp”) is the black sheep third child in the Lannister family (the wealthiest House in Westeros and the biggest bunch of shit-eaters you’ll find in pretty much any book anywhere.) However, if there's any Lannister out there with a shred of goodness, it’s Tyrion. A dwarf, he’s been shunned by his family his whole life and has learned to rely on his wits and charm to survive. Currently, Tyrion resides in King’s Landing (the capitol of Westeros) and is tasked with making sure his 16-year old demon-child nephew Joffrey doesn’t piss away his reign of ineptitude. Not a bad pick by Seeds here, as Tyrion has been a lead character in the show since day one, and because he has way less enemies than the rest of the Lannisters. Plus, I’m pretty sure it’s against the Westerosi honor code to kill a midget.
Pick#2 (Reed): Arya Stark - The Stark family are the protagonists of this story, so my thinking is when it’s all said and done, some of them will still be breathing. I picked Arya (the tomboyish 11-year old who’s currently traipsing around Lannister camp, posing as a orphan and working as the Lord Tywin Lannister’s “cupbearer”) first for a couple reasons. A) She’s the sole carrier of a plotline. If she were to bite it, our window into the enemy camp would be lost, which would render the whole build-up to her predicament a huge waste of time. B) She’s an 11-year old girl. Very few shows/books have the cajones to kill off children. Goin’ with the odds here.
Pick#3 (Seeds): Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish - Two picks in, and it’s already obvious that Seeds is subconsciously constructing a team in his own image. First, he picks the only character in the show that can’t get on rides at Six Flags (Seeds stands 5’6 in heels). Second, he picks the “Master of Coin”, a.k.a the guy who spends every minute of every show slinking around various castles, pitting Houses against one another and generally just pissing everyone off. Seeds has always been a shifty bastard, so I guess he figured what’s good for the goose IS, in fact, good for the gander. Nice work, Dr. Frankenstein.
Pick #4: (Reed): Jaime Lannister - Anyone who’s ever done a fantasy sports draft knows the feeling. It’s your turn, you’re flipping back and forth between stats and your roster and other people’s rosters. You’re googling and IMDBing and Pinterest is there and you’re sweating and people are talking too loud and GODDAMMIT WHAT DO I DO, and then before you know it the red clock has ticked all the way down to zero and somehow you blacked out and took a third kicker. Looking back, I’m SURE that’s what must have happened when I picked Jaime Lannister, the most reviled character this side of Joffrey. As we speak, Jaime sits in a jail cell, guarded by the whole Stark army (all of whom want his head on a salad). I guess my thinking was that at some point the Lannisters would barter for him, or maybe he’d pull a Jack Sparrow parlay on everybody. Either way, I figured Jaime would last pretty long, because he’s a nifty swordsmith and he’s hated JUST enough to be kept around. There’s gotta’ be conflict or there’s no Game, just a Throne. Right?
Picks #5 and #7 (Seeds): Gendy and Varys (“The Spider”) - With his next two picks, Seeds proved again that he’s content with having a team full of total wild cards. Gendry’s the bastard son of the late King Robert Baratheon, sent north via a caravan of criminals to the Wall for his own protection. Along with Arya, Gendry’s group was re-routed when the Lannister Foot Clan caught up with them, and now he’s holed up somewhere in Harrenhal with the rest of the Lannister P.O.W.’s. None of us know much about this guy, except that he’s kind of gruff and kind of nice and a low key BAMF. That being said, he could easily die tomorrow in a structure fire and the show would be fine. Varys, similar to Littlefinger, is a member of the King’s Council in King’s Landing, and also spends his time slinking around, whispering in people’s ears and making sure no one wants to stab him. He’s another one that could last until the end due to his manipulations, or get caught in his own web and get skewered.
Picks #6 and #8 (Reed): Daeneyrs Targaryen and Jon Snow - The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced my strategies were flawed in this draft. Jon Snow (the bastard son of Ned Stark, so pretty much a Stark) was a solid choice, because (like Arya) he’s been a central character and has been the driving force of a whole plotline (his journey to become a Ranger of the Night’s Watch at the Wall.) Daeneyrs, on the other hand, might have a hard time staying alive. She’s a hot headed foreigner who thinks she’s got a claim to the Iron Throne, and assumes her pet dragons will help her take it. Her cavalier attitude doesn’t exactly scream “compromise”, so eventually she’s either going to have to become a lot more sympathetic, or she’s toast.
Picks #9 and #11 (Seeds): Sir Davos Seaworth and Sandor Clegane (“The Hound”) - Seeds batted .500 on this one. The Hound was a great pick because even though he’s spent the whole show serving Joffrey, he’s shown a particular fondness for Sansa (Joffrey’s captive queen-to-be), and seems to always want to do the right thing. Seaworth, however, was totally out of left field. As second in command to Stannis Baratheon (another dude who thinks he has a claim to the throne), Davos has barely been featured in any episodes, and reeks of someone who might die trying to defend his boy. The only way he lives is if Stannis ends up on top, which I don’t think anyone sees happening, mainly because Stannis has the charisma of a vacuum cleaner.
Picks #10 and #12 (Reed): Bran Stark and Samwell Tarly - Ever since Robb Stark went off to the lead the Northern army and Sansa was held in King’s Landing as part of Westeros’ favorite betrothal-gone-bad, Bran (a 13-year old cripple) was left as the sole “defender” of Winterfell (the Stark’s digs.) Similar to the other Stark’s I took, I doubt he’ll die, basically cuz’ he’s a really central protagonist. Also, his legs don’t work, and people kill cripples even less often than they kill midgets. Sam Tarly, on the other hand, is Jon’s fat friend that he met at the Wall. I’d say I doubt he gets killed because of his harmless/likeable factor, but let’s face it: if horror movies have taught us anything, it’s that flabby nice guys get the axe a LOT of the time. I’m just praying he never has to run for his life, because the fumes from his thighs rubbing together would definitely kill him, as well as anyone in his vicinity.
The Rest (Picks #13 through #36) - If the first twelve picks seemed arbitrary, the next 24 were a fully-blown crapshoot. I won’t go into every pick, even though I’m sure if you’re still reading it's probably because you're A) a GoT fanatic, or B) George R.R. Martin himself. Seeds came down with some solid picks, including Robyn Arryn, the 8-year old “Lord” of the Vale, who spends more time breast-feeding from his mother’s teet than he does making military decisions. He’s a zany little F, but I’m not sure he’ll end up dying, mainly because he doesn’t really pose a threat to the Iron Throne and he spends most of his time at Kinder Care.
I got a few good ones at the tail end too, namely Robb Stark at #26. Robb could end up being my Tom Brady, in that he got picked really low but could end up winning me the championship/doing underwear ads.
And finally, to close out the draft, each of us were forced to pick three or four guys we knew had a great chance of dying sometime in, OHHH, the next 30 minutes or so. Guys like Joffrey, who has the Northern army hunting his pubescent ass while his own subjects are throwing cow patties at his face. Or guys like Gregor Clegane (Tywin Lannister’s main man), who’s been cruisin’ for a bruisin’ since Season One (where he burned innocent cities and cut the head off a damn horse.) These picks, ending with a string of Greyjoy’s (basically the Westeros equivalent of the al-Qaeda), made us want to punch ourselves in the face as we made them. They had to be done though. Otherwise no one would be chugging beers on a Sunday night anytime soon, and that would be absolutely no fun.
So that’s it, folks. Those are the lists. One Dream Team (Seeds'), and one patchwork assembly of retarded stepchildren (mine). Tune in to JOURNEYMEN every Monday, where I’ll update our progress, provide scrumptious anecdotes about the greatest show that ever was or ever will be, and possibly even post a video of me shotgunning Ginny Light over my kitchen sink in my pajamas.
And, in the meantime, do us all a favor and sign up for HBO, you freaking Scrooge McDuck. Watch Game of Thrones from the beginning, and thank me later. At best, you’ll be a witness to one of the greatest stories ever told. At worst, you’ll see ta-ta’s every Sunday before you go to bed.
Pretty sure everyone wins in that Game.
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