game of thrones

WESTEROS – The new season of Game of Thrones is almost over and it is time to send the traditional raven of criticism towards the King’s Landing of your face.

The Studio Exec Game of Thrones FACT Squad rode to River Run to lift the siege on the Black Fish while the High Sparrow and the Mountain did their thing and the mother of dragons, breaker of chains did something else.

1. Time. Time passes very strangely in Game of Thrones. The actors are obviously aging a year a season – Bron joked with Poderick about being too old to be a squire – but the story seems to be going along pretty much uninterrupted with no elisions. Of course time is always an odd concept for the books as well. The winter is supposed to last for years in the book. Oh and by the way, Winter is coming? When exactly? And this feeling that time is passing too slowly and too quickly was exemplified in the last episode (8 I think) when Arya Stark goes to sleep – cut away to other events happening elsewhere, siege etc. – and then back to Arya Stark waking up. Did that all happen in one night? Was Arya asleep for more than one night? Did more time pass? And the treatment of time is also a problem of scale which brings us to…

2. Epic or soap opera?  Everyone dresses and talks like an epic. There is the different climate zones of epic. There are the crane shots of epic. But the show dabbles increasingly in soap opera. Cersei has become Alexis Colby (ask your grandmother); there’s a number of ‘will they or won’t they’s (most revolving around Brianne of Tarth) but most importantly there is this soap opera inspired structure to the show of three minutes with these characters, now three minutes with this other group, which makes the show almost like watching MTV and waiting for your favorite song to come on. And the fact is that for some of these popular characters there is simply no story to be had. The Imp is the worst victim of this during this season. He has little to do except sit around with Grey Worm and Missandei, trying to do comedy improv like the shittest Whose Line Is It Anyway? you’ve ever seen. By the way, that has to go down as the worst written scene of the whole series so far. There is a sense that they put it there as a place holder, saying we’ll write something better later and then forgot. The sense of palpable relief when Daenerys turned up was not only the character’s but the actor’s as well. They probably thought she was dead. Which brings me to…

3. Dead or alive? Ever since Bobby Ewing turned up in the shower (ask your grandfather), the idea of bringing back a much beloved dead character has been seen as the Kryptonite of believable drama. Yes, we have dragons and we have magic, but bringing a character back from the dead is like Superman flying around the world to reverse its spin and turn back time. Death loses its power and sting and before you know it other characters are coming back, like the Mountain and the Hound. What we felt when Jon Snow died is rendered null and void and although Melisandre uttered the secret incantation ‘fannnn servissssss’, the fact of the matter is giving the fans what they nakedly want is not really doing them any favors. We liked Game of Thrones when it was cruel to us. Now we see it trembling before our displeasure what will happen next? Maybe we could ask George RR Martin, but that would mean…

4. So George RR Martin is not involved with this season and the show has finally reached escape velocity from the books. You could sense several moments where the writers were boldly and intentionally undoing some of the knots Martin had tied himself in. Raising Snow from the dead did mean we got to keep one likable character. Freeing us of Reek was another move that foreshortened a tedious plot line (though at the expense of credibility -‘I am Reek’ ‘Snap out of it’ ‘Oh, okay.’) Sansa’s description of her rape and the consequences of it also felt like the show was trying to redress the wrongs it had done to women throughout by at least voicing some of the aftermath of what was turning the abuse of women into water cooler conversation. But unfortunately this urge is chipping away at the internal coherence of the story – already fairly shaky I’ll grant you – and although Martin was always a bit of a mad bastard, I preferred that to this script by committee. Now we get the feeling that anything might happen and there is some fatigue as we giddy up toward the ending.  But about that ending…

5. The end is nigh! We know that the next and final two seasons are going to be shorter and we know that the showrunners and HBO want to close this thing. Forces are gathering and duels are being set up, showdowns are foreshadowed and navies need to be procured,  dragons house trained etc. This is going to be undoubtedly a good thing, but I wish they hadn’t announced it two years in advance. Now the outline of what they will set up is too evident. I imagine the last season is going to be one surprise death after another from episode one onward. I suppose this shouldn’t worry me. The show is no longer a TV drama, but a CULTURAL PHENOMENON and we have to respect how it is now located as much in comment boxes, twitter rants, podcasts and clickbait articles (like this one) as it is located on HBO. The whole idea of SPOILERS which has now overtaken our culture is driving the way stories are told and this is a bad thing, because it privileges one audience response – surprise – over the whole range of possible emotional reactions.

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