ON THE SYMBOLISM OF OPENING EPISODES

Shows lead to other shows. New releases refer to past ones, famous and obscure. Genres cross over, involving similar concepts, tropes, devices. Writers and producers lift, pay tribute, re-imagine, claim as their own and take it a step further in their effort to tell gripping, original stories. Pick up the trail and we end up making extraordinary connections.

Welcome to Connection Degree Three …

Game Of ThronesThe LeftoversThe Night Of: three popular TV shows that deal with loss, survival, and humanity’s long quest for answers in a world all too brutal and cynical for our liking.

Game Of Thrones begins with a scene involving a wight – or white walker – i.e. a living dead creature. This takes place in a world where killing is a way of life, as is scheming for power, resources, and political influence. The continents of Westeros and Essos are a universe where dragons once ruled the world, and may yet rule it again, lest the white walkers do.

But the mortals of this world have other things to do. They have a kingdom over which to kill each other. From the white walkers, who set the tone, we move on to a scene where the House of Baratheon (Stag) visits the House of Stark (Direwolf) to reinvigorate a much-needed alliance and friendship. On the backdrop of this visit comes the discovery of six direwolf pups next to their dead mother near a mighty dead stag.

Meanwhile, The Leftovers, a separate HBO show, begins with the disappearance of 140 million people, a Sudden Departure that remains unexplained, and which has spawned the cult Guilty Remnant, or GR.

This unsettling cult is made up of people dressed in white who roam the town like ghosts, smoking cigarettes and not talking to people. As the world struggles to come to grips with the loss of their loved ones i.e. the missing 140 million people, plus those who’ve joined the GR, or cults like it, the memory of the departed lingers on, and so does the hope of reuniting with them, against all odds.

The opening episode concludes with a stag being mauled by a pack of feral wolf-like dogs.

Moving on to The Night Of, another HBO show, the opening episode begins with the murder of a young white girl in NYC. A young Muslim American is implicated in the crime. The fact that the man is Muslim is made clear from the beginning, his religious identity working side by side with the projection that he is also as American as you can get. The story develops around the ramifications stemming from this man’s identity, his ethnic and religious background, focusing on the shockwaves his alleged involvement sends down society.

The story also focuses on the brutality of the crime of which the young man is accused. The night of the incident is scrutinized by the experts in their attempt to make heads or tails of the murder, examining the scene of the crime and all the events that led up to it, trying to figure out if it was the act of a lone wolf.

One of the items on the crime scene, visually prominent, is the trophy head of a stag (it’s part of the room’s decor), looking on with large liquid eyes, its snout smeared with blood.

And here we are. The Night Of … The Leftovers … Game Of Thrones. Three extraordinary TV shows linked through their exploration of death, loss, survival, and the brutal and cynical world in which they take place, plus the uncanny use of wolf and stag symbols in their opening episodes.

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