Winter is Coming, In More Ways Than One: Game of Thrones Premiere vs Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, TV Review

Jon Snow Dragon Game of Thrones

What’s Better: Jon Snow Rides a Dragon or Batman Pitches Opioids?

While Game of Thrones famously warns that “Winter is Coming,” John Oliver warned “Omar’s comin.”

by The Critic and HelenHighly, re 4/14/19

Game of Thrones vs John Oliver

Game of Thrones vs John Oliver

The Critic Says: Last night everyone was indulging in the power manipulations of Game of Thrones, for the 8th season premiere. But the show now articulates its power struggles more as spectacle than crafted dialogue. Yes, Westeros has dragons, but Shakespeare has yet to make an appearance in their universe. The truly shocking words of domination last night came not from the Targaryens but from the return of Walter White, Omar of The Wire, and Batman, just an hour later on another HBO show, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. To bring home the hideous thoughts of the reclusive Richard Sackler, former chairman of the OxyContin empire, Purdue Pharma, Oliver enlisted Michael Keaton, Bryan Cranston, and Michael K. Williams to summon everything evil as they read transcripts from Sackler’s deposition. If only these truly wicked words could be incorporated into Games of Thrones.

Helen Highly Expands the Correlations

As our Critic suggests, life’s truest statements come from legal depositions, where even villains are afraid to lie. Thus, when Last Week Tonight employed four master actors to read excerpts from Richard Sackler’s leaked testimony, both the acting and the dialogue were better than Game of Thrones. For the most genuinely emotional human drama, John Oliver won the day.

Bryan Cranston as Walter White w John Oliver

Bryan Cranston as Walter White does Sackler

Also on TV last night was Anderson Cooper doing a 60 Minutes segment about the much-anticipated final-season premiere of Game of Thrones. Cooper interviewed George R.R. Martin, writer of the fantasy novels on which the television show is based. Martin says that despite the showy dragons and magic in his story, he aims to depict “a story that is about the human heart in conflict with itself, about these very basic human emotions.” He’s using fiction to depict human truth. But John Oliver used real-life human testimony to depict fantasy-level super-evil, and it was more effective. Of course, Michael Keaton was a big help. Oliver chose Keaton to read from transcripts of Sackler’s statements because “When you’re casting for a shadowy heir to a vast fortune, who doesn’t like to be in the limelight, you go Batman.” Game of Thrones had Jon Snow learning to ride a dragon, but Last Week Tonight had Batman pushing drugs.

The Sackler and Stark family stories have even more correlations worth mentioning. Martin explained that his story is all about “Power – what it does to someone, how much we covet it, how it goes wrong in the wrong hands, and how different it is when you have it versus when you’re coveting it.” He easily could be talking about drugs, yes?

Winter is coming, in more ways than one.

Winter is coming, in more ways than one.

Powerful drugs, such as the infamously addictive painkiller OxyContin, continue to lay waste to families and communities far and wide – even more lethal than the power in Games. Despite multiple lawsuits, new government regulations, enormous fines, and desperate efforts by the drug’s victims, this war to manipulate and control addiction is almost unstoppable. (Like White Walkers?) The Game of Thrones notorious line, repeated again last night, seems morbidly appropriate in articulating the significance of the deadly-yet-ongoing opioid addiction cycle: “What is dead may never die, but rises again harder and stronger.”

While Game of Thrones famously warns that “Winter is Coming,” John Oliver warned “Omar’s comin’, as he presented The Wire’s Omar Little, Michael K. Williams. Omar delivered a similarly ominous quote from Richard Sackler: “The launch of OxyContin Tablets will be followed by a blizzard of prescriptions that will bury the competition. The prescription blizzard will be… deep, dense, and white.” Which winter is worse: a blizzard of killer pills or an army of frozen zombies?

To see more of John Oliver’s actors reading scary Sackler transcripts, go to



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