Game of Thrones: Doomed from the Start?

GOT SPOILERS!! Duh?

So I’m probably a fortnight too late to really catch GoT discussions etc, however for the most watched/analyzed and discussed show ever I’m having a bit of trouble actually saying something different, as people more smart, invested and with more time on their hands have already pored over the material.

GoT ending: a happily ever after, or an all in fight to the death? Game of Thrones. Memes. Love it cool and geeky!

I did have one insight though.

In case you’re reading this from under a rock many people are upset and did not like the final season of Game of Thrones. Complaints run from ruining characters, inconsistency, rushed plot points, and for the most part “bad writing.”

I’m not really looking to get into all of that, however I do have a theory about why the conclusion of GoT is so unsatisfying to many, one that relates to both book and TV show. My theory has to do with the nature of GoT, its sprawling characters, intricate politics and each character’s individual story.

Now here’s the thing, many aspects of GoT overarching plot are not unique. Within the genre of Epic Fantasy, its quite common to have a dangerous supernatural threat from outside the kingdom/realm/land, but conflict within said kingdom also threatens to prevent the human population from properly responding. Also I hope it goes without saying that high numbers of characters is pretty common in fantasy.

Where GoT (by the way I’m just saying Game of Thrones for both written and screened stories, I know that the books are A Song of Fire and Ice) differs however is in the intricacy and nature of people’s stories, along with a fair dose of subversion. For most fans they would describe the stories as a lot of bad things happening to good people, and you don’t know who will die next. How this looks literary though is that GoT is predominantly setup, and does not contain a lot of resolution.

Reflecting on the current 5 books, I realized that part of GRRM’s brilliance is building incredible tensions, and then somehow continuing to raise the stakes. That’s not to say that nothing ever gets solved, but almost always in a manner towards more problems. For example:

  • Joffrey is a dangerous psychopath, however when he is finally killed Tyrion is falsely accused of his death, and Sansa flees the city with potentially even more dangerous people
  • Jon Snow helps defeat the Wildlings in the North but his decision to help the survivors and invite them through the wall results in some members of his watch betraying him

I think all the books end on dangerous and tense scenes, not always cliffhangers, but situations that resolve one issue only to create a bigger one.

As mentioned this creates a great story that terrifies and builds investments, however it creates an absolute nightmare for finishing. I could go on and on about all the individual characters and their stakes, but I’ll jump to the wide-scale issue this creates:

Overall what is Game of Thrones actually about?

  • Defeating the Night King?
  • Who will sit on the Iron Throne?
  • Dany/Jon?
  • The Starks?

Part of the problem with so many layers of tension is that as an audience you don’t know which to feel most about. I think the show actually did a good job pulling together so many diverse plots, but part of the problem is creating a sense of an ending. In some respects the ending of the show was like a reveal of what we were supposed to care about the whole time, which is an odd way to feel about a story to put it mildly.

If you contrast with Lord of the Rings, which has multiple characters and plots but one fairly obvious plot thread to focus on, Game of Thrones is an absolute blast to get into, and then an absolute nightmare to resolve.

All I can say it I’m desperate for those books to come out. I think there will be more opportunity to resolve satisfactorily and while I’m not a adaptation nit-picker I am interested to see the comparison.

 

Thoughts on Game of Thrones – what disappointed you about the show? what didn’t?

Mourning the End of a Story

As the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Endgame approaches, and the final season of Game of Thrones is in progress, many fans are worried about the fate of their favourite characters. More on my mind though is the bittersweet sense of the end of the story as whole.

Granted, the MCU will continue, and Game of Thrones will have prequels, and the actual books still to be published. However I think ‘post-series-depression’ is a worthy topic.

Image result for a book crying

My rough internet search largely found mildly mocking or patronizing articles on the subject, and not too much of substance so mostly I’m just going to bank on my own experiences and theories.

Embarrassingly my own first experience of post series blues came after one Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I’m not actually embarrassed to be into Buffy, more that a. it wasn’t until I finished the series years after it actually aired, and b. as my first experience of this sense of mourning a series was in my early twenties! Essentially once the final episode of the final season had been binged, I fell asleep that night unsettled, and found myself heading down to University the next day unable to focus and strangely put-out. After realizing I was not going to get any work done, I returned home and watched the various ‘special features’ and Googled what I could about the season (a common coping mechanism I have heard).

Since then I’ve had many a similar experience, following ‘Logan’ (Hugh Jackman’s final outing as Wolverine) the end of Lost (of all things) and my favourite local show Outrageous Fortune. Usually along the lines of either a low-day or more often an unsettled night post viewing.

Broadly speaking this phenomenon tends to happen after longer running series (somewhat rationally) although as books can last for long periods I think the effect can occur for stand-alone books as well as series – possibly its felt all the stronger for a series as there is a sense of promise of more material.

But what is this all about? Why do stories have this effect?

You’d think that because stories are made-up and we¬†know they are made up that there wouldn’t be too much of a problem with the full stop at the end of the story. Although there are some obvious potential causes – for example if we enjoy a story, then it stands to reason that the end will be a little upsetting – but my sense is that this isn’t that simple. Some articles have suggested its the sense of loss of never being able to experience that story again for the first time, as in it can always be reread (or watched) but never again as a novelty.

But I just feel like there is something deeper going on here – for example sometimes when I finish a good book I do lament not having something good to read during my usual hours, but its more a simple frustration, akin to having nothing yummy in the cupboard rather than post-series blues. And if the blues are indeed due to the loss of novelty, really why would that only occur at the end of a series? Maybe if the ending does bring us to that realization, but its not usually what I’m thinking about.

Some people believe or seem to genuinely feel connections to characters as if they were real people, and this certainly is a sign of brilliant fiction to make us feel that way. I suspect that part of mourning a story is mourning the characters, after all its almost like a true character death.

Here is my (perhaps over the top) deep theory though. I think that the post-series-blues is in fact the mourning that comes with personal change coupled with the pain of reality. Fiction really is blissful escapism, as much as we sometimes want to deny that we need an escape, or that our psyche’s are so fragile as to dive into fiction so completely, we obviously do (why else would stories be such a backbone of humanity?)

Truly powerful stories stick with us – not only in the moment, but the lessons and themes stick with us afterwards. Indeed any book ‘on writing’ will tell you that this is the point of the story. What we often don’t think about though is learning is change, and change means the loss of our former selves.

What I’m trying to get at is really good stories leave us different than before, and we need time to adjust to that. It’s only often once a tale ends that we fully realize this.

Or maybe I’m just indulging myself a little too much perhaps we just miss our favourite characters, or the hour or two of enjoyment we get from a long running story.

What are your thoughts on “post-series-depression”?

Is it a familiar feeling?

What series (book or screen) gave you “PSD”

 

Is Game of Thrones SE7 “Badly Written”?

It’s somewhat of an understatement to say that the latest season of GoT has been controversial. And to be fair, ultra-popular, long-running shows tend to attract nit-picking and frustration as part of the game, not to mention that the television series has out-paced its source material and is attempting to tie together one of the most complex interconnected story-lines in recent history.

But its seems more than that, both the blogosphere, and my work buddies (my two key sources of GoT interactions) have noted something a little off about this series. Reddit in particular in a hot-bed of critiques, rebuttal, justifications and memes.

So prior to the final episode of this season I thought I better weigh in on the issue, not because I think I know better than the show writers OR GRR Martin but just to analyze some of what might be irking fans.

 

In no particular order:

Do GoT characters have TP scrolls now?

One aspect of SE7 that has bothered people is that characters have been able to zoom around Westeros at record pace. Jon Snow has popped from Winterfell to Dragon Stone to the Wall the latter being within a single episode. Davos is going to have to add speed-boating to his resume getting Tyrion in and out of Kings Landing faster than Cersei can get up in the morning.

I suspect the reason this fast travel has bothered folk is that prior seasons established that travel and distance were important parts of the setting. Many characters spent entire seasons traveling the country, distance was at times an antagonist for example preventing Rob Stark from assaulting the Lannisters to rescue his father back in season. Thusly to see characters travel without issue is somewhat jarring.

Personally I don’t find the travel too bothersome, after all as a story progresses one expects pacing to increase, not to mention that good writing means chopping out the ‘boring bits’

But one critique I could offer is that good writing adequately prepares viewers for the story they’re about to experience – not that everything has to be spoon fed, or explained however its important to realize that you can’t retcon a viewers discomfort, for example if Jon Snow zooms ultra fast to the wall, this can’t be fixed by showing that time has passed (because we already feel uncomfortable) but if beforehand we are presented with Jon planning a fast route with Davos this might ease the discomfort.

Far be it for me to haughtily ‘fix’ GoT but I thought a cool solution would have been to have someone like Littlefinger, everyone’s love-to-hate yet awesome orator talk about how ‘things are moving fast now’ a speech which would aid viewers accepting fast travel.

Dead-weight characters

Something to be mindful with a story like GoT is that the huge number of characters is likely to condense under the key players as a matter of course. This is rather obvious with Dany recruiting none other than Tyrion, Varys, Ollenna, Theon (and sis), and Dorn-lady (so sue me there are way too many names to remember). This means that characterization is going to suffer for those dragged into other’s story arc.

Nonetheless I found myself being pretty annoyed at some moves. Tyrion a usual favourite has been written as a caricature of himself, winking and 3rd wall joking with the audience more than actually doing anything in the story – taking about his own drinking, Jon’s Brooding, Jorah’s Smoldering and being offended by Dany’s ‘small’ joke (serious WTF)

There were some amazing moments with Tyrion in this series – his desperation to have Jon and Dany get along, his torment seeing Lannisters getting toasted and Jamie almost die, but none of this really came to anything. There were some ripe pickings to really push the character further, mostly he just whines at Dany to do the right thing.

The Suicide Squad

Where is to start with this.

I heard a really good critique of Marvel’s Civil War where the writer pointed out that too much of what happened in the movie occurred because it needed to not because the story drove events but because the writers needed the Avengers to divide and fight with each other (with appropriate quipping).

That’s how the beyond the wall mission felt in GoT. It basically seemed like a sequence that needed to happen to achieve certain plot points, NOT because any of the characters in their right minds would decide to do any of it. Here are some examples of character problems with the sequence:

  • A zombie isn’t going to convince Cersei not to be a totally B**** (and let face it hardly evidence that their is a whole army of them approaching the wall
  • If Dany (I’m going to be honest I use Dany because I don’t know how to spell Daneries) allows this mission it suggests she is somewhat swayed by the possibility of the coming armies of the dead why didn’t she just fly up to the wall and chat to the Wildings and Night Watch – and then come to Winterfell and state her case as Queen?? The North is stubborn but not looking to attack her.
  • If Jon is so serious about respecting the Northern Lord’s wishes not to bend the knee to Dany why is he so keen to get himself killed in a stupid mission that the Lords almost definitely wouldn’t approve of, risking antagonizing the Night Knight (which they did in spectacular fashion)

It’s important to note that also like Civil War the sequence was badass, funny and hella visually appealing, it’s just it was obvious that the sequence ‘had to happen’ rather than believable happened because that’s what the characters would have done.

and finally

The Winterfell Conundrum

This plotline is driving me crazy. Like really crazy. In summary the plot is basically: Bran, Arya and Sansa are reuinted in Winterfell, however Litterfinger is scheming and Arya and Sansa are tense/murderous/counter-scheming?

The tension of the story is basically “what is everyone up to” The problem is its in that bad writing way that doesn’t so much leave things ambiguous and mysterious but just makes no fracking sense, actions and conversations just seem like random arguments and statements with no goal but to show ‘conflict.’

I’m sure people will jump to the defense and say – it’ll all make sense, Arya is tricking Littlefinger and confirming Sansa is innocent and Bran is watching everything. The big problem is though, because we don’t really know what any of the characters want (honestly NOT ONE) Sansa likes ruling but does she want to take over? Arya is revenge driven but she changed her mind to go back to Winterfell so what does she want? Littlefinger is schemey AF and wants Sansa but what is he aiming for here? Bran is gone full Dr Manhattan so who knows.

The point of the rant is with no character goals in mind we have no contact to judge the conflict going on. If we at least had an idea of what LF was up to we could see the conflict between Arya and Sansa in a context. The problem with what we’ve go so far (actually similar the traveling conundrum) its jarring and uncomfortable and you can’t retcon enjoyment with a justifying conclusion.

So in conclusion I do believe that the writing of SE7 has its weaknesses. It’s still an amazing show, and I am looking forward to the finale.

 

 

 

 

 

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