Over on Earth 2, that mythical place where Hillary Clinton’s popular vote victory was enough to propel her to the White House, I like to think alternate universe me is having a fine old time watching and theorizing about season 7 of Game of Thrones.
After all, in that parallel reality, politics likely has nothing to offer save a GOP Congress at loggerheads with a President Clinton on every damn issue. I spent most of the 1990s watching that show and have no desire to see it again. Bring on the giant dragons!
But here in this world, alas, I find my Thrones fandom keeps taking a backseat to the unprecedented sh*tshow currently on display in Washington, D.C. Try as it might to monopolize our attention, the best show on HBO just can’t keep up with reality.
For example: On Sunday night Tyrion Lannister sent Daenerys Targaryen’s Unsullied army to attack Casterly Rock, confirming a fan theory that he would take the Lannister seat of power via its sewers. But in a strategic masterstroke, Jaime Lannister had withdrawn his forces and attacked Highgarden instead — where House Tyrell’s Queen of Thorns drank poison and told Jaime she was responsible for the death of his son.
That was a respectable plot twist, easily the best the show has offered so far this season. But it’s got nothing on the supremely twisted tale of Anthony Scaramucci.
After a self-aggrandizing interview in which he accused Steve Bannon of fellating himself, this weird Wall Street walk-on character got the White House Chief of Staff fired — only to be divorced by his wife on Friday and fired by the new boss on Monday.
When news of the Mooch’s firing 10 days into his new job hit Twitter, suddenly no one was talking about the Highgarden maneuver anymore.
This backstabbing to end all backstabbings seemed almost calculated to appeal to Thrones fans. Better yet, according to one reporter, new Chief of Staff John Kelly drove the knife in specifically because he wanted the White House to be less Game of Thrones-esque:
For fans of political theater, whether in Washington or Westeros, it just doesn’t get better than this.
In one week of screen time, Queen Daenerys had three meetings. Don’t get me wrong, they were great meetings, all of them! Highly anticipated! Well-scripted, well acted by all! But the current administration laughs at that kind of low-level drama.
Even leaving aside the Scaramucci sub-plot, here’s what the Trump admin gave us in a single week: a chief diplomat missing in action. An increasingly unhinged leader threatening his own Attorney General while telling thousands of Boy Scouts about an orgy on a yacht before encouraging police officers to be more abusive. All of which was after his son-in-law’s press conference regarding the Russian collusion investigation that has consumed the White House.
And all that paled next to what happened in the Senate, where a dying old warhorse served cold revenge on the president, killing his White Walker-like healthcare legislation with the Senatorial equivalent of dragonglass.
“Watch the show,” John McCain said, and we couldn’t do anything but. His Senate drama made the Red Wedding look like regular nuptials with a forgettable Instagram hashtag.
It has become commonplace to compare Trump himself to the late, unlamented King Joffrey. George R.R. Martin was not the first to make that comparison two months ago, nor was he the last. It’s an obvious comparison: both are tactless and impulsive and cruel and childish.
But it also sells his character short, because Trump is also this tremendously ineffective, narcissistic old buffoon with daddy-daughter issues. Call him King Joffrey meets King Lear — perhaps with a touch of Macbeth thrown in, if Macbeth kept stabbing himself in the back.
It is no shame to Martin, or Game of Thrones‘ showrunners, to say that their characters are not able to keep pace with the full insanity of America’s current leadership. I doubt even Shakespeare could fully encompass a character this psychologically (and psychotically) complex.
Ultimately, what we’re seeing is the best proof of the cliche that truth is stranger than fiction. You can’t write characters like Trump or the Mooch; nobody would believe it. A plot like the increasingly jaw-dropping Russian collusion story would be thrown out of the Veep writers’ room, let alone that of West Wing.
Here’s hoping the Washington drama cools off a little and doesn’t step on Thrones‘ late August finale. But given that coincides with Trump’s opportunity to fire Jeff Sessions and install an Attorney General who will end Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump’s connection with Russia, I wouldn’t bet on it. The wildest plot twists, alas, may be yet to come.
Earth 2, you’re missing a hell of a show. Also, any time you guys want to swap places, just let us know.