Game of Thrones: Peak TV’s Trojan Horse
We’ve been duped.
The gates of Peak TV were opened, a cool-looking horse statue was wheeled into the courtyard, and while we marveled from afar at our sweet new present, the trap door was sprung and the pristine streets of Peak TV were ruined by the Trojan Horse that is Game of Thrones.
Okay, now that I’ve got my overly elaborate metaphor out there, I will say that GoT is not a bad show. It’s fun, it’s entertaining, it’s perfect for water cooler moments (which are becoming more and more scarce in a binge-or-bust TV landscape).
What I am saying is that GoT should have never been allowed into the holy walls of Peak TV in the first place (alongside Breaking Bad, The Wire, Six Feet Under, The Leftovers, or any of the other pillars of TV greatness).
My problems with GoT have evolved throughout the course of the show.
I loved the first season. From the White Walker tease in the pilot, to the Ned Stark blindside, to one of the best season finale cliff-hangers I’d ever seen — as Dany rose from the ashes with her baby dragons.
Then came the next six seasons and counting…
Characters drifted further and further apart. Heaps of new stories were loaded on. Book readers told us time and time again that everything was worth it. Everyone had a purpose.
And so I sat, watching the increasingly pointless Reek be tortured for 3 SEASONS! Remember that? 3 SEASONS!
It’ll all be worth it they said, as I watched Dany wander for four seasons back and forth across the desert, freeing people here then backtracking and freeing different people there.
I understand that the show had to service the source material, but as is the case with any adaptation, a shrewd eye must be used to see what is truly superfluous to the central stories at hand.
Ultimately, as my frustration with the show grew, I continued to give it a pass. Critics and Twitter and my own friends all kept on about how it’s such a great show and it’ll all pay off just as the books promise.
And so I trudged on, waiting for the day when GoT could break free from the books and tell the story it was always trying to tell in a tighter and more satisfying way. Unfortunately, that wait appears to have been in vain.
Season 7 finally arrived and the craziest thing happened. A show which seemed to pride itself upon a glacial pace and laborious character work, suddenly flipped to a lightning quick pace and razor thin character work.
It no longer mattered that it previously took seasons for someone to cross Westeros because people can now sail the length of the entire known world in the matter of one episode. Seasons of build up for beloved characters to meet is paid off by a scant page or two of dialog while escorting a white walker to Cersei.
GoT finally lost the only redeeming quality it had left when it broke out from the books. Sadly, it’s now proven that it can’t do either show correctly (sourced or un-sourced). It couldn’t properly trim the fat off a encyclopedic amount of book material and, conversely, it couldn’t take the baton from George R. R. Martin and deliver any semblance of satisfying pay-off.
The constraints of concluding a six season long epic into two miniaturized seasons has forced it into ham-fisted character development and scene building.
The best example being the sentencing of Little Finger. I believe that while the dragons and mystical components of Westeros are ultimately what put the butts in the seats, it’s the back-door politics that made Game Of Thrones so compelling. And Little Finger was it’s champion. The scene in Winterfell where Sansa pulls the old reach-around on him could’ve have been one of the most powerful scenes in the series, in my view. But it suffered the most from the season 7 chaos. Imagine if we had another half season of tense build up between Sansa and Arya. Another half season of trickery on Little Finger’s part to pry these two apart. Another half season of dangling this brutal decision set before Sansa of choosing family or succumbing to the paranoia of being the lady of Winterfell. Instead, the scene fell flat to me and I’m stuck here pleading like Little Finger for one more chance to do it right.
If these are the pay-offs that we are to receive, then I truly worry how disappointing the final mini-season will be — whenever that may come…
I could go further into the struggles of this season but I fear I lost most of you readers to an already lengthy post — so I will save those for another time somewhere in the bowels of King’s Landing.
All I’m here to say is that we should be treating GoT as it is, not as it should be.
It’s a whirlwind of a TV show, which loosely ties together the fan fiction dreams of book readers.
Oh yeah, my metaphor… And it’s time we wheel the cool horse statue back to where it came from.