How Bad is Game of Thrones Really?

By Martha Sigargök-Martin | Allgemein

Apr 19

Before we begin I'd like to make clear, that this post contains a few spoilers and shocking videos.

On the occasion of the final season of this world phenomenon called Game of Thrones, I thought it could be interesting to dive into the more philosophical and psychological aspect of this series and ask how bad it is really.

So, what do I mean by that?

Now before you throw your keyboard at the wall filled with rage by such an insolent statement, let me explain to you what I mean. By bad I don't mean the quality of the show but, of course, the recognized darkness of this exceptional series.

Game of Thrones' "Mean Twists"

One of the particularities of Game of Thrones is, that it breaks our conception of a just world. Old people, women, children, disabled, death and violence doesn't stop at anything or anyone in this show.

The just-world hypothesis is the assumption that every person's actions are framed within a universal rule that restores moral balance. So, in this world view, evil actions will eventually get punished. It also means that the drawback of this hypothesis identifies victims as guilty. Conformed to the motto:

"If this happened to him or her, he or she must have deserved it."

Which is cruel.

In Game of Thrones, the just-world hypothesis doesn't apply. Which is very irritating for the average audience as well as anti-

Every time the audience thinks the screenwriters - or George R. R. Martin himself - wouldn't dare to kill gentle characters, they do.

The Red Wedding or the sacrifice of Shireen Baratheon are striking examples of it.

Machiavellic not Manicheist

Game of Thrones is set in an imaginary world, on two imaginary continents: Westeros and Essos, but its environment is inspired by European medieval history. To learn more about it, there is an excellent article by MentalFloss.

Furthermore the morality - or lack of it - reminds of the Machiavellian world concept.

Machiavelli (1469-1527) was a political theorist and a diplomatic adviser of the Republic of Florence. Through his contacts to France, the German states and to the Pope, he had numerous occasions to observe and analyze successes and mistakes made by leaders and important contributors of politics.

Condemned to exile by the Medicis family, he wrote The Prince (1513) in retirement. The very pragmatical and anti-idealistic tone of this treatise created the concept of "Machiavellianism" in politics, which is associated with the maintaining of political power, at any price.

So, here we are, completey in Game of Thrones.

On this, the French Philosophie Magazine, did a tremendous special edition about the series this month.

Political Calculation is Rewarded, Not Morality

And this is one of the forces of this show, then the yearning for justice expected by the audience, is rarely rewarded.

The winners are often the smartest and ruthless ones. The Starks who represent a bastion of morality (in comparison) and honor are sacrificed, disbanded and tortured.

There are no real "good characters" in Game of Thrones, except for Hodor, Sam, or most of the time, Jon Snow, but every good character starts in a position of weakness - and is mostly an outcast - , only the ones who start accepting the reality of the world around them, get a chance to survive.

In this, the character of Sansa Stark, is a very interesting case, as her survival defies this rule ambivalently.

While "decent" people are slaughtered, characters like Cersei Lannister or Petyr Bealish are constantly progressing toward their goals.

At least for a while.

Accepting "Reality" As it Is

Even if everybody seems to be surprised at every evil twist of the series, those terrible events are a logic consequence of the "reality" within this imaginary world.

And that's what makes it so exceptional.

Even, if mean twists like The Red Wedding was a shock, it's absolutely logical.

Indeed, why should someone like Lord Walder Frey forgive Robb Stark for breaking a marriage pact? Why should Oberyn Martell win a duel against someone as strong bloodthirsty as The Mountain? Why should a psychopath like Ramsay Bolton spares Sansa Stark from torture?

As hideous and shocking it is, every character acts in accordance with its personality, values, and goals.


If you know the series well, you've probably noticed that almost all Machiavellian characters I've mentioned above, are dead.

And figures like Sansa Stark, represented as extremely naive and weak throughout the series, developed in a surprising way.

“I’m a slow learner, it’s true. But I learn. Thank you for all your many lessons, Lord Baelish. I will never forget them.” - Sansa Stark

On the other hand, someone very unlikable - and a murderer - like Jaime Lannister at the beginning, grows more and more into a character that shows more humanity than most.

In addition, many "decent" characters like Jon Snow, Tyrion Lannister, "Sam" Samwell Tarly, Brienne of Tarth have survived - until now -, although one must concede they had help.

But who hadn't it in Game of Thrones?

The White Walkers

Since we've understood a long time ago that nothing is completely good or bad in Game of Thrones, one of the compelling presumption of the internet about the series, is the hypothesis that the White Walkers aren't evil.

As Bran travels through times, we discover that the first White Walker was created by the Children of the Forest to defend themselves against the men of Westeros.

The hypothesis that Bran is the Night King has led some fans to explore the possibility of the White Walkers being actually good.

Since Westeros is endlessly at war, a common enemy as the White Walkers, led by a Bran trapped in time, could reunify the Seven Kingdoms and bring peace once and for all.

But that's a hypothesis for now.

After All

Even more fascinating, if one follows the logic of Game of Thrones, where good and bad are presented through the point of view of the respective characters, is that,

in the end, it's all relative.

Even if the White Walkers intended to kill everybody - no matter the reason - and transform Westeros into a giant refrigerator, are those creatures worst than Kings and Queens, Masters, mercenaries, and religious leaders, who would stop at nothing to serve only their own interest?

With a few exceptions, no one is truly altruistic in Game of Thrones.

And, no matter how big and maybe cruel the surprise might be in the final of Game of Thrones,

the series is more complex and, remarkably, consistent, than it is bad and surprising.

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About the Author

Hey! I'm Martha, and I help creative people understanding and solving mental and creative blocks through blog posts about film, series, and creativity, as well as through a creative coaching website ( just dedicated to this topic.