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Bran’s dream come true! Read the rest of this entry »
And so passes Renly.
It’s been a while, again, since I did one of these. Been playing a lot of Skyrim lately, though, and it’s put me in a Game of Thrones sort of mood.
The fifth episode’s major theme is ambition. We get a sort of summary of most of the major players’ ambitions or, failing that, the lengths they are or may be prepared to go to see them through. The question on the table is, “what is the cost?” and this is the show when it comes to showing the full ticket price of ambition. Read the rest of this entry »
Jon won’t be pretty much longer at this rate.
It’s been a while but I’m back with episode 3 of Game of Thrones season 2. This episode picks up right where the last one left off with Jon receiving a stern lesson in the difference between what is right and what is expedient, and how they are seldom the same thing in Westeros. The Old Bear knows Craster is up to no good, but the man is a necessary evil while the Watch focuses on much worse shit. Including the shit Craster pays tribute to. White Walker shit. Shit.
This is all part of Jon’s education not only in leadership but also on the role of heroics in a world like his. Jon’s a romantic at heart but it’s being slowly worn out of him by all he’s experienced since leaving Winterfell. The show makes his story feel a lot more clearly one about “coming of age” than the books did. I’m sure I’ll talk more about it, but it’s one of the key reasons I think Jon is a more immediately likable character in the show. I didn’t really get into Jon until even after the Qhorin Halfhand stuff (later in Season 2, you’ll see!) where most people, especially young men, like him right away because he represents something of ourselves. I never got that with the books so much. Jon always felt like the vanilla protagonist that usually centers fantasy stories, even my own. I always thought that was boring for A Song of Ice and Fire but Martin always meant for us to see Jon grow up into the man he’ll eventually become. Read the rest of this entry »
Manners. They matter.
Episode 2 of season 2 of Game of Thrones is slightly more focused than the first one. This is because the important work of rallying the narrative forces and propelling them forward into the new cycle of the story is largely done. With more room to get into what this season is going to focus on, individual scenes are longer and have more room to breathe which means that there are a few less of them in this episode than in the previous one. That said, this is another episode written by Weiss and Benioff which means it’s more than adequate at juggling all the disparate characters and subplots that make up the ugly, beautiful web of Game of Thrones. Dany only gets one scene this time while Robb, Catelyn, Joffrey/Sansa and Bran/Winterfell are left out altogether. When the show is able to shuffle things around in order to focus, it is truly at its best. Even reducing or removing a couple of threads temporarily makes for a less breezy, more substantial episode. Read the rest of this entry »
These Westerosi knights need to learn to stop fucking dueling in places they can fall off.
The episode opens with Joffrey’s nameday tournament. Rather than trying to do another outdoors, traditional joust scene, they opted for a large physical set that shows off the show’s increased budget and ramped up sense of scale. That the tourney scene from season 1 was arguably the most nitpicked in the whole show by both the viewers who’d read the books and those who hadn’t is precisely why this is the opening scene of the second season. It’s a statement, one that will ring through the entirety of the season and potentially the rest of the show as it seems HBO will continue to increase budgets as long as Game of Thrones continues to be a huge fucking success. Read the rest of this entry »
While watching Game of Thrones season 2 it quickly became apparent that something had changed. No, I’m not talking about all the examples of the show going “off book” this season. That is a symptom of what I am talking about, though. Overall, I’d say that the showrunners (and possibly HBO behind them) trusted their audience a whole lot less this year. It’s a staggering gap in logic, in my opinion, considering the smash success of season 1. I mean, they already had a significant body of loyal, raving viewers who were going to come back the second year no matter what. The positive word of mouth and increasing cultural presence of the brand would have done as much as anything to bring in a new crop of viewers. So why the tangible dumbing down compared to the first season? Why the silly off-book decisions with obvious, cynical justifications?
My complaints and criticisms being what they are, it’s important to here state that I don’t consider myself disappointed by the second season. I think the first season is superior in terms of its merits as an adaptation. The compromises they made in the first season were all logical, understandable, and often more than palatable (there are improvements on the books, don’t let anyone tell you different). For the most part this stuff has carried into season 2. Unfortunately, the second season is also where people are ready to be critical. The surprise has worn off for those who have read the novels and those who haven’t. Unfortunately, the second season is way less sure of itself than the first and tries many new things, too many of which are mistakes.
The recaps I’m going to write, hopefully at least one a week, will cover why I think there’s strong evidence for a sort of no confidence (in the audience) approach to some of the decisions. It is far from an overarching theme of the season as a tv production, and more an oft-present flaw that sticks out like a broken tooth.
I’ve often defended the show, especially during this season, and mostly to other people who are huge fans of the books. I maintain that for all the weird choices, the poorly justified excision of beloved characters, dialogue, etc, there’s always more given than taken away. I think season 2 is largely an exercise in redressing that balance. The first season may have had more luxury in its approach given that A Game of Thrones is a much leaner book than A Clash of Kings and features plenty of meat for all the principal characters. Although I opened this little introductory piece with what I think is the core criticism against this season, the recaps I’m going to present will (I’m sure) present the case that this is till a terrific show and that many of the changes, omissions, and so on are for the greater good, sometimes in the long game of adapting a 5 (for now) book series and sometimes in more immediate terms.
At the end of the day, though, this is going to be about processing my own thoughts and feelings. Hopefully I’ll be able to convince a few people that it’s not as bad as they think (and certainly more than worth watching) and still other people that for all the excellence, there’s always room for improvement. And finally, I want to explore my own reasoning about whether certain choices and changes are outright mistakes or something else.
Watching the season again will help me do all of the above and maybe you’ll even watch along with me and argue with me about this shit. Nothing would please me more.