I have a secret to tell you… Come closer… I’m a BIG Game of Thrones fan and tonight is the long awaited season finale of the HBO series. For those who are unfamiliar with the show, it is an epic fantasy set in the mythical realm of Westeros.
We came to Game of Thrones purely by accident. Several months ago, I bought the first book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, but put it aside when I had difficulties with the names. Fast forward a couple of months and we are just finishing up watching Season Two of Downton Abbey when we decided to pick up a copy of Season One of Game of Thrones. We were sad when it ended because we wanted more!
Didn’t expect to see that did you? I know that you may not think Downton Abbey has anything in common with Game of Thrones, but I am about to prove you wrong. Both Downton Abbey and Game of Thrones deal with societal pressures and controversy.
Treatment of Differences
Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess may be the oldest member of the Grantham family, but she is the sharpest. She takes hold of any situation with a rapier wit. No one does anything in Downton Abbey without consulting her first. She holds all the power in the family.
Maester Aemon may come from House Targaryen, but his former name holds no clout at The Wall. He spends his days advising the Lord Commander and sending off ravens. Grand Maester Pycelle is a similar adviser to the Lannisters, but it is obvious that they only ask for advice on a technicality, as age has muddled his senses a bit.
Mr. Bates may be a war veteran, but he is treated unkindly by some of his fellow servants. For the most part, he holds his tongue about it and does not let his treatment affect his duties. He is respectful to both servants and aristocrats alike. This kindness proves valuable later in the series.
Although he is of smaller stature, Tyrion Lannister has not let his differences slow him down. He can be cunning and ruthless, yet kind to those who deserve it. He is a good leader, but has gained a lot of enemies that way. People dislike him for his decisions, not for his size.
Unfortunately, women are treated as decorations in the early 20th century. Mary is the eldest and the heir, yet she cannot inherit the estate because she is a girl. She is expected to attend parties and go hunting, but nothing more. Luckily, her sisters Edith and Sybil are slowly breaking out of that mold.
Males usually inherit in Westeros as well, However, that is not always the case when the surviving child is female. Even though she is a woman, Daenerys Targaryen will let nothing get in her way as she makes her way to the Iron Throne. She sees herself as a leader, despite her gender.
In the world of Downton Abbey, the servants don’t dream of being anything other than servants and the aristocrats would never dream of working. However, the staff is almost like family to the Granthams. Lord Grantham even goes to bat for several of them such as Mr. Bates and Mrs. Patmore.
Most of the servants in Westeros do not feel like family, yet some of them such as Hodor and Osha will lay down their lives for the Stark children. However, a servant at King’s Landing might be so loyal. In fact, the Lannister servants might want to sleep with one eye open.
Robert Grantham has a daughter who should be his heir but he must leave his estate to a distant cousin he has never met. Robert Baratheon has an heir who he shouldn’t leave the crown to because he’s not really his son.
In Downton Abbey, Thomas blackmails the Duke of Crowborough because they have a secret relationship that would cause scandal. In Game of Thrones, Jamie and Cersei Lannister have a secret relationship that would cause them to lose King’s Landing.
Like the show, the Game of Thrones opening theme is epic and richly detailed, lasting well over a minute. We are overwhelmed by the size and sc0pe of Westeros.
The theme for Downton Abbey is a third of that, reflecting the dignity of the era and aristocracy. The thing that strikes us most visually is the grandeur of the home itself.
Those who have seen both shows will recognize Iain Glen as having played in both Downton Abbey and Game of Thrones. But his Sir Richard Carlisle is not exactly a favorite character, while Ser Jorah Mormont probably has a fan club. They are vastly different in appearance and demeanor.
The same is true with the characters actress Rose Leslie plays. As Gwen in Downton Abbey, she was often unsure of herself. As Wildling Ygritte, she knows exactly what she wants and isn’t afraid to go after it.
Both Game of Thrones and Downton Abbey are shows that have garnered a lot of attention. They are quite different: one is chaste and one is anything but. But both show characters trying to break down stereotypes in a world that keeps them for a reason. Which is your favorite show?