The following review contains spoilers for Game of Thrones and The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin.
The media acknowledges that the final season of Game of Thrones was a spectacular epic, the likes of which we’ve never seen before and will not ever see again.
But the consensus is that judged on that basis — as the greatest spectacle in the history of entertainment — it’s not really that good.
For one thing, how could you really tell the story of the decline of Daenerys Targaryen from a nice girl into a murderous monster in only 69.8 hours?
In a story I wrote years ago, I too wrestled with the question of what might turn a gentle leader, who has the good of the nation in mind, into a tyrant. I took an easy way out — he was possessed by a jungle dybbuk! GOT had a much tougher job. Putting to one side the maniacs —Hitler, for example — and considering the rest of our recent despots, Pol Pot, Daniel Ortega, Fidel Castro, even Aung San Suu Kyi, you see that most of them, after all, began with the goal of being a wise and beloved sovereign, and suffered for their aspirations, before their ultimate success, and final descent.
How did they get to the end of their journey? Dany’s story is probably the way it really happens.
Look, as an occasional, periodic GOT watcher, I have the advantage of perspective. The last season was actually objectively good.
But I’m not here to debate that. You all have your point of view.
As the show ended, and as all the hilarious characters you had grown to know and love descended on King’s Landing, something struck me as weirdly familiar:
The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin. (Season 3.)
Reggie was first a cunning little novel by David Nobbs, published only in the UK, about a tired and bored middle-aged man (the eponymous Reginald Perrin) who leads a dull existence in the early 1970s as a middle manager at a terribly stupid and middling company called Sunshine Desserts, a place filled with inept creatures spouting ridiculous and tiresome catchphrases. (“I didn’t get where I am today by [fill in the blank],” his boss, C.J., would continually declare, and the office lickspittles, Tony Webster and David Harris-Jones, would shout, “Great!” and “Super!” at every one of C.J.’s idiotic ideas.)
Having failed to acquiesce to his boring but happy life (charming wife whom he loves, kids, grandkids, job security, devoted secretary), and then having failed to orchestrate a number of grand gestures (adulterous love affair with said devoted secretary, dinner party with no food to protest world hunger, convention-shattering, truth-telling presentation at work), he chooses to fake his own death and head off into the great unknown.
He quickly discovers that this — slopping pigs, living in anonymity — is worse than the life he left behind! He fakes a new identity, woos his own wife in the guise of a fictional childhood friend, and, in disguise, wins back his old job.
Nobbs soon turned the book (which was originally entitled The Death of Reginald Perrin) into a short, cunning series, fashioned like a serialized sitcom, and starring the great Leonard Rossiter. It was a huge hit; and while it had a tidy ending (Reggie had, after all, learned his lesson, and would, presumably, live happily ever after, without further antics), Nobbs was under pressure to bring Reggie back, again and again.
And since watching a middle-aged man who was now satisfied with his life and work might not top the original, in each new series Reggie would have to do some new and increasingly eccentric thing. The audience, of course, would expect the staff of Sunshine Desserts to reunite for each new series.
By the final season, the creative machinations involved in keeping the motley crew together had moved beyond any sort of sense, other than, well, you couldn’t have Reggie Series 3 without C.J. and Mrs. C.J. In the end, Reggie founded a commune, for no particular reason, and gave the motley crew jobs entirely unsuitable to their personalities. Reggie appointed the stammering and repressed David Harris-Jones sex counselor, for example.
There was no reason for any of the stuff that happened, except that it’s funny to see ridiculous characters attempt to do things at which they are entirely inept, and that we wanted to see the gang again.
Even Rossiter’s death didn’t bring all this to a halt: in Series 4, from beyond the grave, Reggie bequeaths each character from the original series $1 million pounds, provided that they each do something absurd. This was, of course, something that would never happen in real life, or even in the logic of the original show. But wouldn’t it be fun, once again, to see our old Perrin friends put in unlikely and humorous situations?
So here we were in the final episode of GOT, with our old pals together again, sitting in chairs and trading zippy one-liners as though they were guests on Carson. Really, a motley bunch who, in any real scenario one could imagine, would probably have been dead by season 2, and, if they’d all somehow survived after the things they’d been through, the PTSD would have been something terrible to behold.
But instead, each of them, as in Reggie, chuckled away as they cheerfully took on an entirely inappropriate role in rebuilding Westeros.
Who should be king? Well, I guess that guy who kind of lives only in his own head, and figures that everything that happens was fated to happen anyway, so, you know, fine, whatever. I hereby dub you King Que Sera Sera. (This hearkens back to Reggie, who once said, “We cannot escape our destiny, because whatever happens to us becomes our destiny.”)
After all, shouldn’t the king be the guy with the best story? Isn’t that how kings are chosen?
And who should be the king’s closest adviser? Who else but Tyrion Lannister, the guy who screwed it up last time? His punishment for all his moronic mistakes will be to spend years and years fixing all his moronic mistakes, Bran says wryly, with a little cock-eyed grin, knowing, of course, that Tyrion is unlikely to a better job the next time around.
Hahahaha! they all laugh, as Westeros still smolders. Remember? All the people who died the last time Tyrion was Hand, a few days ago? Oh, the hilarious irony.
Then, maybe, Jon Snow as chief of state security (to make up for all the government secrets he spilled last time), Samwell Tarley as, I dunno, head of the King’s Council on Physical Fitness.
Not sensible statecraft, but you have to admit, a hilarious idea for a sitcom.
Steven S. Drachman is the author of The Strange and Astounding Memoirs of Watt O’Hugh the Third, which is published by Chickadee Prince Books.