First of all let’s get the naked truth out of the way. Full disclosure about full disclosure. This series is not for children. It is also not for the faint of heart. It is about the cut throat imaginary world (medieval in character, but without Christianity at all) of George R.R. Martin. And yes there is from time to time various parts of the human anatomy on display which one will not see in a PG or PG 13 movie or ever on regular network television. If this is a deal breaker for you, then no need to avert your eyes, you can move on to some other show or film.
Why, you might ask, would a seminary professor watch and review such a show? Does it have any redeeming social or artistic value? Actually, the answer is yes. It does, but you have to be willing to bear with some nudity and violence along the way. You could call it a more pagan version of Lord of the Rings, though not without honor, and love, and family loyalty and other redeeming qualities.
The world in which the story is told involves wildlings, and a smart dwarf, and a dead people who yet live, and a dragon queen, and even eventually some dragons (cue the preview of the Hobbit part one). It also involves seasons like summer and winter that last for a long, long, long time. And winter is coming. The stories about the Lanisters and the Starks and others is complex and rich, with strong characters trying to survive and thrive in a dangerous world. This is not Richard Harris’ Camelot not Cadfael’s Shrewsbury, but it is recognizably a world whose canopy and scope bears a remarkable resemblance to Great Britain with: 1) King’s Landing being London in the south, and 2) Winterfell being Durham or York in the north, and 3) the Wall being Hadrian’s Wall to keep out the barbarians from the north, and so on. This is not Middle Earth, more like the U.K. as we never knew it.
What is on offer in this series is a revelation of an honor and shame, reciprocity, dyadic personality, limited good, patriarchal culture….. very much like most ancient cultures of the Biblical world. It is a world where obtaining honor and avoiding shame is a higher value for the noble characters in the film than life and death. Indeed, it is even a higher value than telling the truth or avoiding falsehood. This too is like the ANE and the Greco-Roman world. Along the way there are good people and there is love even in the midst of the carnage and human fallenness, and their are lessons to be learned about persons who are born out of wedlock who must learn to live with and over come that stigma.
Humanity, reduced to its lowest common denominator seems to prove Darwin right— we are little better than animals, and the world is a place for the survival of the fittest, or the fastest, or the bravest, or the most clever. And yet the qualities of honor and mercy and love are interwoven in the story in ways that humanizes the tale despite all the fusing and fighting.
One of the lessons one can learn from watching this series is an answer to the question— ‘What would the western world have been like if it remained pagan and was never under the influence of Christianity?’ I submit it would be very much like ‘Game of Thrones’ depicts it, minus the dragons and the zombies.
Herein lies an inverse apologetic for Christianity and the way it can change people, cultures, nations for the better. In other words, if you’d rather not live in that world, what might make the world a better place? Not a dragon queen who could not be burned on a funeral pyre, but a phoenix, who rose from the ashes, rose from the dead on Easter.