The world of “Game of Thrones” isn’t all that different from ours.
Sure, it includes dragons, three-eyed ravens, giants, witches, beheadings and very large direwolves, whereas we only have a couple of those things.
But one thing has been clear from the start. In the “Game of Thrones” world a huge calamity is coming. Late in the fifth season the show gave a glimpse of that calamity: a massive zombie army. Think “The Walking Dead” but running and with swords. They’re coming to wipe out all mankind.
And what are the vast majority of “Game of Thrones” leaders doing in the face of this? They’re jockeying for power, fighting religious wars, squabbling over politics, looking for revenge and trying to get rich.
Here on earth, we have no lack of impending calamities knocking at the door. Climate change, most obviously, but also nuclear proliferation and the high chance of a coming plague.
What are the vast majority of our leaders doing in the face of this? They’re jockeying for power, fighting religious wars, squabbling over politics, looking for revenge and trying to get rich.
One thing that sets us apart: We’re also fighting about where trans people can go to the bathroom. An immense problem, obviously, but somehow this hasn’t yet come up on “Game of Thrones.”
Ah, but it might in season six, which debuts Sunday. Because, at this point, “Game of Thrones” the TV phenomenon — weekly episodes draw some 20 million viewers across all platforms — is leaving “Game of Thrones” the book series behind. Writer George R.R. Martin just couldn’t keep up, so show creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are on their own, although Martin has the title of co-executive producer, so he assumably has some input.
Whether or not the trans bathroom question comes up (so important to politicians), there are some things we know about season six. One is that fan favorite and brooding heartthrob Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) is dead. The fifth season ended with five different daggers being plunged into his surprised self. So he’s a goner.
Or is he? Just before this seemingly deadly attack, the red witch Melisandre (Carice van Houten) rode into town. Her fortune-telling skills have turned out to be questionable — she’s just sent an entire army to its death — but her witchery has proved formidable at times. Plus, she’s currently unemployed. Could she redeem herself by reviving the much-ventilated Snow?
The Snow situation is the likely reason that HBO did not offer advance screenings of the new season to critics. It was just too juicy a cliffhanger to give away in advance. But then the fifth season ended on a number of question marks.
After a typically overboard amount of bloodletting, Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) leapt from a castle wall to either her death or a life on the run; Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) was left blind after assassinating an old enemy; Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) was holding the body of his just-poisoned daughter; Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) was surrounded by whooping Dathraki warriors while her dragon savior lay wounded nearby; and Queen Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) was in dire need of a fashion makeover after being forced to walk naked through streets of jeering peasants.
The good news? Poor beleaguered Tyrion Lannister (the magnificent and magnetic Peter Dinklage) had been left in charge of a major city. Of course, it was in the midst of a civil war. You can’t have everything.
All of which must read like gibberish to anyone who doesn’t follow “Game of Thrones.” And truly, one has to seriously follow this show. Characters disappear for near entire seasons, or they are felled suddenly and replaced by 10 new characters. There are as many as 200 characters popping up in any given year.
And yet millions are addicted to “Thrones,” which is the biggest hit HBO has ever had. Again, likely that’s because the chaotic, unsure world it follows actually does reflect our own. Now if they can only work that trans bathroom thing in.
Tom Long is a longtime culture critic.
‘Game of Thrones’
Season six premiere
9 p.m. Sunday