In the Game of Thrones, you win or you die. Those are fighting words, and they should only be used by a show that can live up to those. Game of Thrones, sadly, is not one of those shows. At least, not anymore.
After a fantastic first season, and a great start of the second (despite Melisandre), I feel like it’s time for me to drop this series. Somewhere halfway through this season, the episodes only kept disappointing me more and more. In a lot of different ways.
Careful, spoilers are going to be dropped. Hard. All over the place. If you haven’t read the books yet and still intend to, or haven’t kept up with the show so far, you might want to stop reading from here.
Last I wrote about Game of Thrones, my major concern was Melisandre’s “acting” skills, and how this could get in the way later on in the show. Thankfully, she didn’t get nearly as many appearances as she did in the book, making her feel more like an elevated background character with a strange accent more than anything else. That shadow birth scene was still there. I think she spoke during the conversation between Stannis and Renly before that too, but I’m not too sure; her act isn’t all that memorable. This is a big problem for a dark and mysterious character.
That entire scene between Stannis and Renly missed tension. It took a while for me to realize it was that scene, mostly because the tension seemed too weak for it to be that talk. I remember really loving the sharpness of the two sides, as they sent threat after threat towards each other. In the show, it’s brought down to flinging mild sexual harassment cases back and forth.
“Ooh, you brought a vagina to battle.” “Ooh, you don’t like vagina.” Compare this to “We’ll come down upon you like a storm.” and “Then you better remember the name of this castle.” (Storm’s End) Doesn’t quite feel like it’s at the same level, does it?
For some reason Robb Stark’s scenes turned into a long sequence of Original Romances: Do Not Steal. Witty strong girl meets the socially awkward but fearless King of the North. I missed when we only heard about Robb’s actions through other characters. It made him a much more interesting man than this look into his awkwardly romantic life.
Speaking of Original Content: Do No Steal, man, does Daenerys Targaryen’s chapters reek of it. I understand that her chapters were bland in the books, and had massive problems keeping people’s attention after a while. Especially with how everything she did was always perfect and went her way, but that doesn’t mean that we have to go for the complete opposite here, and certainly at this level. Dragons. You have dragons. Everyone wants them. You’re not even going to bother having people guard them? Someone, anyone, could just walk in and steal them, you know? Oh wait, they got stolen? Well, okay. You’re even dumber than your book counter-part, Dany.
Not all change has been bad though. For instance, Arya’s scenes were quite interesting. Tywin Lannister in charge of Harrenhall gave us a good insight on the man at the least of the Lannister hold. Even if I still feel the book-Arya would have used one of Jaqen H’gar’s names on him if she was consciously aware of his importance. Speaking of Jaqen H’gar, I feel he’s the Syrio Forell of this season. They changed him up a slice, and improved him. I really like the TV show’s take on Jaqen, and, just like with Syrio, he’s one of those characters I’d like to see more of.
Sadly, almost everything I was hoping to see happening with Arya at Harrenhall was skipped. Most likely because they couldn’t overthrow the castle and get rid of Tywin. It would fuck the story up too much. Although Arya not overthrowing Harrenhall, in the grand scheme of everyone’s plans, was a big deal. Bigger than she knew.
A lot of the changes seem to stem from the show’s budget.
CGI Dragons aren’t cheap. So let’s have them kidnapped. Overthrowing Harrenhall, with soldiers fighting all over the place? Expensive, let’s get Arya out of there earlier. Getting writers to tie together the events from all over Westeros so we hear about certain characters without directly seeing them all the time? Expensive, let’s throw in an awkward teen romance for Robb so we can focus on him.
For the longest while I was hoping up they were saving their budget for the Battle of Blackwater. Let me remind you of the book’s version of this for a second.
Tyrion, being appointed as The Hand of King Joffrey, finds out that his sister, Queen Reagent Cersei, has sent a secret order to a group of alchemists to make as much wildfire as they can. Wildfire is so flammable that it will burn through just about anything and everything, including its own containers when heated up enough. Heated up long enough, in wildfire’s case, is just mere exposure to sunlight for long enough. That’s why it’s kept underground. And there’s already a massive stash of it underground before they even started making it. Enough to burn down all of King’s Landing in one go.
After discovering this, he makes all blacksmiths in King’s Landing work on a massive chain.
He also has sex with his whore girlfriend, Shae, a lot. Someone makes a song about this to try and blackmail him. Tyrion kills the guy, but keeps thinking back to the song.
The battle consisted of two of the largest fleets Westeros had ever seen. Both got trapped into the fight with Tyrion’s gigantic chain, so the only way was forward. As the fight got to its beginnings, all of the wildfire they could get their hands on was both flung towards the sea from a distance, as it was brought into it by boats. Plural. Thousands died there. But Stannis’s fleet was still large enough for massive armies to make it to shore, since his and Renly’s armies merged together after his victory over his brother.
Now how did the TV show handle this?
There’s a large underground collection of wildfire. One boat is sent into battle, and set off with a single flaming arrow. and it gives a strange green explosion. Maybe a few hundred people died. And then the fight starts.
There’s no chain, so nothing’s stopping people from fleeing a massive nuke. There’s only one ship exploding, so they wouldn’t even have needed wildfire to do this. Imagine the battle of Helmsdeep from Lord of the Rings fought by 100 men and 100 Orcs, and we’ve brought this down the same scale as the show did this battle. It wasn’t the same. It felt cheap and lazy.
The Big Fight should never feel cheap and lazy.
After all the messy and badly executed original story parts of the last few episodes, I already felt like dropping this series. My only reason for still sticking around was hoping to catch a glimpse of the epic Battle of Blackwater. Not because I only care for the action, but I was hoping that would justify the lack of everything in terms of cheap budget.
I understand it’s hard to make an ongoing TV show with a story that demands a lot of larger than life elements, especially really costly once, but there are so many ways around CGI that would show effort went into the making of this. Which is what has been missing for most of this season.
That said, I’m not going to continue watching Game of Thrones. It’s been a good run, especially the first season, but I think I’m okay with waiting for the next book to come out.