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.

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