Game of Thrones, TV Shows

Dear Game of Thrones: Welcome to the Post-Apocalyptic Genre. We’ve been expecting you.

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Why Game of Thrones is Post-Apocalyptic: An in-depth analysis #GameOfThrones Share on X

WARNING: Spoilers up to the latest episode. So read and view the pictures at your own risk if you haven’t watched up to the June 1, 2015 episode!

Game of Thrones Zombie Children

When you bring zombies to my TV, you’d better come hard. I don’t want to see some lumbering, predictable, moaning sasquatch grasping aimlessly for brains. I want Z Nation / Zombieland / 28 Days Later freaks that sprint at you like demons, show some sense of strategy, and using their lack of pain as an advantage. That is why I’ve chosen to break my silence about Game of Thrones. Episode 8 of Season 4 contained the first majorly reproduced zombie fight scene for this top HBO series – and they BROUGHT IT.

Exhibit A: Oh this? Just a 20 foot giant, fighting zombies hand to hand in his gianty-way.

Running Zombies Game of Thrones

Exhibit B: These Zombies Call You Out For Being A Pussy

come at me snow


But before any of you fanboys skip ahead to leave a nasty comment, please give pause to read a couple of these disclaimers.

First Disclaimer

This post contains very minor SPOILERS. I will quote a bit from book one, and discuss a scene from the fourth season, but I’ll try to keep plot points need-to-know.

Second Disclaimer

“Zombie” may not be the best way to describe what A Game of Thrones calls “wights”. There is debate on this point. But here is a more description of wight characteristics – you decide for yourself.


  • They are (mostly) people – once dead, now animated.
  • They seem unable to feel pain.
  • They attack the living – not one another.


  • They are as fast and strong as the living.
  • They gain reinforcements through fatalities only, not infection.

Not Zombie-ish

  • They follow the will of another. (“The Others” aka “White Walkers” are powerful and mysterious overlords to the horde ala The Strain.)
  • They can only be killed with fire.
  • They bring bad weather with them.
  • Hunger and cannibalism is not a factor. *Ok, maybe cannibalism.
Are #GameOfThrones walkers #zombies? Share on X

Third Disclaimer

A Game of Thrones may not be best categorized as Post-Apocalyptic. Now once you finish rolling your eyes at that epic understatement, please give me a chance to explain:

Like it or hate it, most people would agee that Planet of the Apes is a Post-Apocalyptic classic. PotA Spoiler: Its earth. In the future. Once society has rebuilt. Now, it has recently occured to me that if Planet of the Apes is PA, then GoT must be categorized in the same way. Let me get specific. (And I can because I’ve read all published books from A Song of Ice and Fire – the book series that begins with “A Game of Thrones” and upon which the Game of Thrones HBO series is based. Of course, I’ve also seen every episode at least once.)

Like Middle Earth, a Game of Thrones occurs in a non-earth fantasy world with a medieval level of technology. It is squarely a fantasy-genre story, and I do not dispute that one bit. But it is also appropriate to call it post apocalyptic. Way post apocalypse. Like 8,000 years post.

The Game of Thrones Apocalypse in brief:

8,000 years before the events in A Game of Thrones, a winter struck which threatened global extinction for men. During that time, the world was covered in darkness for an entire generation. Like nuclear winter, this darkness also had the effect of immense global cooling. But this nuclear winter was accompanied by a horde of intelligent zombies controlled by mysterious and powerful humanoids hell-bent on global domination. Against all odds, the zombies were defeated – though not entirely.

The Wall, a central point for this story, is not only the oldest known structure in the world, but also the largest. It was built by the survivors – led by Bran the Builder – to protect the world of men should the zombie horde ever return. It has been manned, virtually without interruption or attack, for 8,000 years.

Most of what we know about them comes from a very old woman’s ‘wive’s tale’:

A Game of Thrones, Chapter 24, Bran IV.


(emphasis mine)

“             Oh my sweet summer child … What do you know of fear? Fear is for the winter, my little lord, when the snows fall a hundred feet deep and the ice wind comes howling out of the north, when the sun hides it face for years at a time, and little children are born and live and die all in darkness while the direwolves grow gaunt and hungry, and the white walkers move through the woods.

The Others … Thousands and thousands of years ago, a winter fell that was cold and hard and endless beyond all memory of man. There came a night that lasted a generation, and kings shivered and died in their castles even as the swineherds in their hovels. Women smothered their children rather than see them starve, and cried, and felt their tears freeze on their cheeks.

In that darkness, the Others came for the first time … They were cold things, dead things, that hated iron and fire and the touch of the sun, and every creature with hot blood in its veins. They swept over holdfasts and cities and kingdoms, felled heroes and armies by the score, riding pale dead horses, and leading hosts of the slain. All the swords of men could not stay their advance, and even maidens and suckling babes, found no pity in them. They hunted the maids through the frozen forests, and fed their dead servants on the flesh of human children.

Now these were the days before the Andals came, and long before the women fled across the narrow sea from the cities of the Rhoyne, and the hundred kingdoms of those times were the kingdoms of the First Men, who had taken those lands from the children of the forest. Yet here and there in the fastness of the woods, the children still lived in their wooden cities and hollow hills, and the faces in the trees kept watch. So as cold and death filled the earth, the last hero determined to seek out the children, in the hopes that their ancient magics could win back what the armies of men had lost. He set out into the dead lands with a sword, a horse, a dog and a dozen companions. For years he searched until he despaired of ever finding the children of the forest in their secret cities. One by one his friends died, and his horse, and finally even his dog, and his sword froze so hard the blade snapped when he tried to use it. And the Others smelled the hot blood in him and came silent on his trail, stalking him with packs of pale white spiders big as hounds –”

So, there you have it. There was an apocalypse before the events of A Game of Thrones – one in which humanity barely survived. This satisfies the technical requirements of the Post Apocalyptic genre. Like Planet of the Apes, the apocalypse took place far before the events of the story – but still have a significant influence on the setting. Sure, there are key differences. But I think the analogy is strong. The bottom line, Game of Thrones is a great medieval fantasy story, but it is also a great post-apocalyptic zombie story.

Ok, I’m done. Fire away. I want to see some real ego busters in the comments section, people. No holding back. The comments section below this article is an open forum for you to practice the ancient art of psychological manipulation. Go ahead and channel your inner Ramsay Bolton. Wait. No. Please don’t do that. Oh god…what have I done?

Already into Game of Thrones?

Good. Then read the books. You’ve done that too?! Well then, you sound pretty cool. You’re gonna LOVE this. – Super SPOILERS for A Song of Ice and Fire / A Game of Thrones: The test results are back, Jon Snow. And your REAL PARENTS are…

    Derek is a licensed (non-practicing) attorney with a keen interest in avoiding catastrophe. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

    Contact: [email protected]

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