I quite enjoy Game of Thrones and, as such, I can’t help but think far too much about it. Adam Brereton has written a very interesting article over on ABC Religion & Ethics about the idea of the sacred within the socio-political/ethical dimension of the show’s characters, which I highly recommend you read. Brereton concludes that the fantasy world presented by Martin is broken:
Even in the real War of the Roses, upon which the series is loosely based, the houses of Lancaster and York didn’t commit genocide. Much of Britain was left untouched during the feud, because in the real world perpetual violence doesn’t exist. Too much is at stake, and real people just aren’t that stupid, unlike the butchers who inhabit Martin’s world.
So why don’t the characters in Game of Thrones care if they murder each other? Why are the oaths they swear basically meaningless? Nobody wants to be a cheerleader for the divine right of kings, but it’s the right answer. The “Old Gods and the New” of Westeros are invoked like Puma and Adidas, and the only monotheistic religion is a human-sacrifice cult; nobody has a reason to expect others to keep their promises because there’s no divine guarantor underwriting the system. Nor can there be any consensus-based values – Westeros is very much a feudal world. Like Gormenghast, what system of governance does exist is brittle, but at least Mervyn Peake’s characters exhibit the very human trait of respecting things that are meaningless. Martin’s world is inhabited by beautiful fascists in breastplates. [Source: Brereton, ‘The Game of Thrones: Nobody wins, everybody dies’, ABC Religion & Ethics]
If we use a different set of lenses — the philosophical goggles of jurisprudence and political theory — it’s possible to construct a different interpretation of the fantasy world depicted, and an interesting critique of virtue ethics. As I don’t think much of the books, I’m limiting discussion to consider only the show. If you dislike spoilers, you should read this.