It's all about power, people say of Game of Thrones: seeking it, holding it, using it, and losing it. And those people are right—the balance of power lies behind almost every interaction on the show, and it's the tension that makes each scene crackle and hum with hidden energy.
But on the baldmove.com GoT podcast this week, listener Kyle J suggested another reading of the show that hadn't occurred to us till now, but actually makes a lot of sense.
"The show and books could be an excellent metaphor for...climate change and the public and political will to do anything about it...The correlation has only grown stronger [since the end of season five] as the emphasis on the Night King and the coming threat beyond the wall has increased along with the characters' awareness and acceptance of the reality of this threat. While you have previously commented on the stupidity of the plan to capture a wight to prove to Cersei the reality of this threat, as you predicted, she didn't care."
We're not suggesting George RR Martin—or HBO—has deliberately set out to create an elaborate point-by-point parallel between the real and fictional worlds (Sam Tarly is Al Gore! Cersei's speech to Jaime in the Map Room is Donald Trump pulling out of the Paris Accord!) but you can't deny there are areas common to both.
Indeed, in a 2014 interview with Al Jazeera, Martin confirmed the point himself: "We have things going on in our world right now, like climate change, that's a threat to the entire world. But people are using it as a political football instead of, you know, you'd think everybody would get together…So I wanted to do an analogue not specifically to the modern-day thing, but as a general thing."
And Kyle J wasn't the first to note the parallel. In an article on the subject, Vanity Fair quoted NASA's Dr. Peter Griffith: "Any time there was news from the Wall, and it was ridiculed by King's Landing—the old stories that nursemaids tell to scare children—there was an immediate sense of, 'Boy, this sounds familiar.'"
Both reality and the fictional world involve the possibility of a new ice age (you saw The Day After Tomorrow, right?), even a potential global extinction event. The threat beyond the wall is viewed initially by the public as mythological, or at most someone else's problem.
When the front-line specialists (the Night's Watch/climate scientists) begin to warn the general public of the threat, they are ignored or even ridiculed. And even when the evidence becomes irrefutable—a wight attacking Cersei in her own city—those in power prefer to bury their heads in the sand than engage with the problem themselves.
There are differences, too. In Westeros, there are a bunch of people with power prepared to do what it takes to make a difference, though admittedly, that's the fairly simple matter of a big old battle rather than the more intricate problem of encouraging wholesale lifestyle and economic change among multiple developed and developing nations.
On Earth, meanwhile, there is a 97 percent consensus among scientific specialists that the problem is real, but on Westeros, the maesters pooh-pooh it. To be fair to them, the enlightenment hasn't happened yet over there, let alone the industrial revolution.
Winter is coming, guys. Tick tock.