Warning! Spoiler alert for Game of Thrones Series 4, Episodes 4, 5 and 6!
I have just finished watching the fourth series of the splendid “Game of Thrones”. The series began on Sky a couple of months ago, but for various reasons I didn’t have the chance to catch or record the first episodes, so I put myself into self imposed “GoT” isolation, and waited until I could acquire the full series on DVD, which I have now done.
For those who haven’t watched it (and there can’t be many), Game of Thrones is a complex story of rival noble families, some battling for control of the Seven Kingdoms and the Crown of Wester-Ross with its ghastly Iron Throne, others just seeking to escape the carnage and be free. Sadly, life isn’t always like that. The show has become a world wide phenomenon. It now adds many tens of millions pounds to the economy of Northern Ireland, where much of the show is shot in what I believe was formerly the dock where the Titanic was built, and is now one of the world’s largest sets. Even Her Majesty visited the set this week to meet the cast and eye up the Iron Throne for herself.
What is the secret of the show’s success? There are many reasons; a fabulously complex story line involving lust for power, just lust (plenty of that and in some quite explicit and highly improper ways), war, extreme violence, triumph, revenge, murder, love, bereavement, beautiful acting, sets and costumes; all of that and more. Importantly there are characters in whom you can believe, who are not always wholly good or wholly evil, who have real motivations and actually believable psychologies which develop in sometimes unexpected ways.
But I would suggest that the ultimate reason is that it is actually true to life. People vie for power, especially the least appropriate, who often display a singular lust for it. Innocent people sometimes get torn apart. People lie and betray and fail. Sometimes justice is done, but sometimes great injustice prevails. In this sense, it is as good a primer for life as anything I have ever seen.
Now I have been careful to avoid any “plot spoilers” in case anyone is about to embark on the series, but there is one spoiler I will give: in this series, Tyrion Lannister is put on trial for murder.
Tyrion Lannister is many people’s favourite character. Born to the richest and perhaps the most ruthless of the noble families, he is a dwarf. Brilliantly played by Emmy award winner Peter Dinklage, he begins the story as a reprobate drunk with a penchant for whores, constantly derided as “the Imp”. He gradually develops as one of the most complex and likeable characters, both moral and brave, hugely intelligent and living off his quick wits in a world which respects only physical power and strength. He is hated by his father the ruthless and astute Tywin Lannister (played with sinister Aryan zeal by Charles Dance). His father blames him for the death of his mother in childbirth, and for demeaning the family line by his small stature. We learn quite early on of the appalling event to which his father subjected him when as a very young man he fell in love. His sister, the Queen, hates him too, and fears him. However his brother Jaime, tall, handsome and a natural born killer has a special bond with him. Tyrion’s adventures have been many and his fortunes mixed. At one point he is the unexpected saviour of the capital city of King’s Landing from the attack of the remorseless rival Stannis Baratheon, but gets no credit for it.
And here is the plot spoiler. In Series 4 he gets put on trial for murder; the murder of someone rather important. He’s been on trial for murder before and got out of it. This time things look black, not least because his father Tywin is chief judge and has already determined his guilt.
I found the conduct of Tyrion’s trial quite instructive for these times, in which one can barely open the papers but for some trial or other. In one way the trial is different from the procedure which is used in the present “real” world, in that there was no proper cross examination. But then, just because these days a defendant is allowed to cross examine it does not necessarily mean that a proper cross examination takes place anyway. That often depends on the information available to the person asking the questions…
But more important than this was the fact that whilst there were some lies in the evidence against him, a great deal of it was actually literally true. He did do and say the things levelled at him. But the context in which he said or did them is not properly revealed.
It just struck me that with all that has been going on over recent months and weeks, allegations have to be treated with great care, not credulously, and even trials are an imperfect process, and injustices do happen. I have pondered greatly whether some more inquisitorial version of trial might be better than the adversarial system we now have. I am not sure. Both have their plusses and minuses. But in the end, I suppose what I am trying to say is that the “justice” system is not perfect, and never will be, and there should be a great caution in rushing to judgment.
Speaking of which, readers will be aware that there are one or two trials still going on at the moment. No comments in respect of these please. We don’t want to do a Cameron and get in hot water with the judge…
Meanwhile, for a slice of drama in which the Tyrion’s trial reaches a conclusion which nobody, not least his father, expected – and in which he gives vent to years of prejudice and humiliation, here is a bit:
Gildas the Monk