By Tim Hayes

Well, I hear tonight’s the big night.  “Game of Thrones” begins its final season on HBO, and we’re all expected to go completely ga-ga at the news, I guess.

In the seven-year history of the program, it only caught my eye when the dragons appeared.  Otherwise, the appeal somehow never struck a chord with me.  It offered anachronisms too jarring to get past, like a bunch of bedraggled warriors, dressed head to toe in leather and metal armor, but using language one would expect to hear at a laundromat or corner bar in 2019.  My brain could never acclimate to worlds and cultures constantly colliding this way.

But those dragons, boy – they made it worth the price of the HBO package on the monthly cable bill.  Awesome.  Flying around, scaring the bejeepers out of people on the ground, turning enemy troops into Kentucky Fried Platoons, all under the direction of some girl dressed in white with braids in her hair.  What a gig.

And I’m supposed to be impressed by you teaching your dog to shake hands?  Not a chance, pal.  Get that dog airborne, shooting fire out of its mouth, and maybe we can talk.  Otherwise, take a seat and please be quiet.

As usual in the entertainment business – and it is, first and foremost, a for-profit business – the success of “Game of Thrones” has sparked imitators.  Pretenders to the Throne, to put it another way.  One article* cites no fewer than 20 other TV shows and series using the same “swords-and-sandals” format.

Like vampires and zombies, like teenage wizards and outer space operas, Hollywood producers know that once a phenomenon grabs hold of the popular zeitgeist, lots more money can be made by whipping that horse until it drops.  So we’re treated to lots of medieval-flavored epic spectacles, some of the Viking or pirate stripe, others focused more on palace intrigue perhaps.  But none venturing too far from the formula that set the tone in the first place.

It’s a Game of Clones, you might say.  There’s gold in them thar hills.

And the final roundup of the original starts tonight.  With it, however, comes the realization that – no matter how spectacular the story, how sweeping the vistas, how shocking the deaths to come – there is absolutely no way this finale can ever live up to the hype or the expectations of diehard devotees.

The same fate awaits the next Marvel movie, “Avengers: Endgame,” which wraps up the stories of some of the most popular cinematic superheroes.  Fanboys and fangirls who live and die with these monstrous pieces of popular art have certain expectations about plot, character development and fates, even how the movies should be shot and edited.  And any actual result that contradicts those preset expectations can count on a vivid, livid, full-throated counterattack online.

“The Last Jedi,” the most recent entry in the “Star Wars” series, is still taking avalanches of crap from vocal fans who feel betrayed, a year and a half after its release, in fact.  Why was Luke such a jerk?  Why didn’t Rey’s parents have more significant roles?  Who said Leia could fly?

Here’s another question: Who cares?

Good grief, people, it’s a movie.  It’s all make-believe.  None of this stuff really happened.  Grow up, eat your popcorn, and enjoy the show, for crying out loud.

But for now, it’s nearly time to turn on HBO.  Bring on the dragons, baby.

Copyright 2019 Timothy P. Hayes