With “Game of Thrones” Season 5 right around the corner, it seems like everyone is ready for more highs and lows from this roller coaster HBO drama. To gear up for what's new, Kit Harington (Jon Snow) is taking time to look back on the series so far - particularly the violence.
Since it premiered in 2011, “Game of Thrones” has been highly criticized for its graphic portrayal of gratuitous sex and violence. The 27-year-old actor, who just finished filming the show’s fifth season according to The Hollywood Reporter, is speaking out about the gruesome fate many characters have met along the way.
“I don't see a problem with it because you mostly always feel the consequences of that person dying," Harington told Radio Times. "In Thrones, it's war, and awful, awful things happen, as we see on the news daily. And if we've got an appetite for watching these things on the news, then you can't shy away from it on cable drama."
Last season alone saw the end of [SPOILER ALERT] several key characters including Joffrey Baratheon, whom viewers watched succumb to a bloody poison at his own wedding. The character was one of the most hated fiends on television, but his death was so brutal and graphic that it allowed many to empathize with him in a way that a faster execution would not. This sentiment rings true for other graphic deaths like Prince Oberyn Martell or Rob Stark (pretty much the whole Red Wedding, actually). The more gruesome the loss, the more that character's absence is felt by fans.
As A.V. Club notes, the violence in the series is often meant to heighten the empathy felt toward a dying character rather than desensitize the public to all things bloody. Sure, graphic violence can be entertaining to some, but "Game of Thrones" seems to pride itself on never doing it for its own sake. It's a tool in the storytelling tool belt rather than a crutch.
“Song of Ice and Fire” author George R.R. Martin has defended the show’s violence in the past -- particularly with regard to the sexual violence -- by arguing that to avoid such human drama, in a relatively historical show, would be dishonest and irresponsible.
While fans and cast alike have to defend the show’s bloodiness, viewership of “Game of Thrones” doesn’t seem to be impacted by the controversy. According to Variety, the show’s Season 4 finale averaged 7.1 million viewers, making it one of the most watched shows on television. Year-after-year it continues to be one of the most pirated shows online as well.
Season 5 of “Game of Thrones” is currently scheduled to air on HBO sometime in the spring of 2015. Only fans of the book series have an idea of what gruesome deaths and bloody violence lies in wait for the characters of Westeros. Show watchers will just have to wait and see.