Like nearly everyone I know, I have been gripped by a case of Game of Thrones Fever, and the only cure is more main character deaths.  I love the show –  the plotting, the violence, the gratuitous nudity, the lovable characters.  Mostly the nudity.  But another one of the best elements of the show is the world George RR Martin created. Westeros is arguably the most immersive, original, and fully realized fantasy world since Middle Earth.  Martin even manages to outdo Tolkien in one very important sense, and that is the inclusion of the common man in Westeros.  In Middle Earth, the world may as well have been populated by cardboard cutouts.  They could’ve pulled a Blazing Saddles and had the orcs attack a façade of Minas Tirith, they probably wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference.  In Westeros, meanwhile, the common inhabitants of the cities and countryside are frequently used in major plot points, whether they’re being murdered by bandits, raped by Wildlings, burned alive by maniacal dictators, – you know what, it kind of sucks to be a regular inhabitant of Westeros.  It might just be the single most dangerous fantasy world ever created for the common folk.

Here we see a Westeros villager in his natural state: being cut in half by marauders

Here we see a Westeros villager in his natural state: being cut in half by marauders

Given the brutal nature of the typical life in Westeros, most citizens seem to be clamoring for a new lot in life.  Many of them seem to try and seek this by joining a military force: that way they get to be the ones doing the murdering!  A few more enterprising individuals, such as Littlefinger, decide to try their luck in politics.  It’s not a perfect solution, given how many soldiers and low-level politicos have died over the course of the series, but still, these lives offer more protection and security than your average farmer, living in the boondocks and at the mercy of any psychopath who decides to wander past.  Even if these poor commoners manage to avoid the cycle of death that is all around them, very often the rulers of the land will imprison those who disagree with them, or even sentence them to execution.  Depending on the crime the poor bastard was accused of, he may be able to avoid an execution by agreeing to go north to The Wall and pledge himself to the Night’s Watch. In the books and series, this is depicted as a horrible alternative, just barely better than dying, which is surprising considering that the Night’s Watch is seemingly the best life a guy can have in Westeros. I’m honestly a little baffled that they’re not having to shut down the gates of Castle Black to keep out a horde of desperate applicants every day.

For some reason, the life of the Night’s Watch is viewed as one of the worst things that can happen to a man.  It is used as a humiliating form of exile for many political foes, and people often seem genuinely mortified at the thought of taking the Black.  However, if you break down the numbers, Castle Black might be the safest place on the entire continent, and that’s even taking into consideration that there’s a massive army of Wildlings bearing down on it, and a (presumably) even more massive army of White Walkers behind them.

Personally, I'd take this dude over Joffrey any day

Personally, I’d take this dude over Joffrey any day

King’s Landing, generally considered the seat of civilization and high society in Westeros, has been host to an assassination, several high level executions, a massive bloody riot, a deadly siege, and possibly the most horrific trial-by-combat the world has ever seen.  And that’s only counting events since the beginning of the series, not those referenced to have taken place slightly before the series’ start.  Winterfell, the seat of power in the North, has seen almost all of it’s populace killed or displaced, as well as about 75% of it’s royal family murdered.  According to the main title sequence, Winterfell as been on fire for the past 2 seasons. The cumulative death toll from these two massive, important, and theoretically stable seats of power goes well into the thousands.

How the hell is it still on fire?!

How the hell is it still on fire?!

Castle Black, on the other hand, the place of exile and humiliation, a cold and barren outpost where men only go when they’re absolutely forced to, has finally managed to hit a double digit death toll now that we’re at the end of season 4. By Game of Thrones standards, that’s basically a family trip to Disneyworld.  It’s rare that a character enters a room without someone dying on this show, and yet Castle Black had managed to avoid any massive slaughters for the first 38 episodes. Prior to the beginning of the series, it can be assumed that there were a couple hundred years where being on the Night’s Watch was the sweetest gig you could ever imagine.  There were no White Walkers, the Wildlings weren’t organizing against you, and if you were smart enough to bomb your combat test and get assigned to the stewards, you basically had a long life of reading and making soup to look forward to.  It is honestly the life I dream of having.

Wyeth's Greeting Card 004

Why am I not doing this professionally, dammit?

The most common argument one might make against wanting to join the Night’s Watch would be that they have to be celibate (though as Sam Tarly pointed out in “Watchers on the Wall,” they theoretically just have to be careful to not knock anyone up).  Which admittedly does suck.  But if you could overlook the sausagefest element of the whole deal and just enjoy the fact that you live in the one place on the continent where no one will ransack your home and you’re not at the whim of the increasingly unstable line of kings chosen to rule, it really seems like it would be a sweet life.  Besides, what kind of sociopath would actually want to bring a child into a world as horrifying as Westeros?

"One day, my son, all this can be yours!"

“One day, my son, all this can be yours!”

Of course, none of this applies to women, so if you’re a female, you’re screwed no matter what in the Game of Thrones universe.

And not the fun kind of screwed

And not the fun kind of screwed