Monday, May 16, 2011

A Fan of the Book Series Complains About "Game of Thrones"

I have a lot better things to be doing with my time, but I just can't help myself. Halfway through a series I was really excited about and I'm pretty much sick of it. Is it November 2010? It's like my experience with "The Walking Dead" all over again and once again I'm left completely dumbfounded by the fact that people are just lapping it up. I mean, c'mon! Did anybody even watch that episode with the street toughs who were really just protecting those old people!? God, that was terrible. "Game of Thrones" is very similar to "The Walking Dead" in that it persistently slaps its audience upside the face with its ineptitude, yet nobody seems to notice or care. Why am I so pissed? I'll tell you why.

1. Sitting around talking doesn't equal character development; it's the result of lazy, stagnant blocking and shameless utilization of exposition.

I don't know who has been helming these episodes, but seriously, where did they find these people? Pretty much anyone who complains about the series being slow and boring gets cut down by rabid fans who belittle them for not appreciating good plot and character development. What they don't realize is that they, in fact, cannot discern a difference be 'development' and exposition. Exposition happens when the people responsible for conveying the story of a movie or show don't respect the intelligence of anyone watching. Therefore, they decide to simply tell you everything that is happening, instead of show you lest you might become confused. What's makes it even more unbearable in 'GoT' is that, no only are they telling you everything that is going on, they're telling you everything that has ever happened. Characters sit still in some scenes, talking endlessly about their previous exploits, essentially regurgitating words that George R.R. Martin wrote. I understand that there's a lot of stuff going on in the books and people who haven't read the them might not pick up on everything right away, but that's okay. Don't try to force it so much. Having such elaborate backstories for everyone is a good thing. Nay, a great thing! People developing an original show would kill to have so much material at their disposal. Pace yourself, let things come through naturally. Show instead of tell. There's no reason viewers can't come to know these characters and this world over time. The show has even gone as far as to reveal plot points that don't come to light until the second or third book in the series. I also really can't believe that there hasn't been a single flashback. It has to be spoken about in the book, that doesn't have to follow to the television medium. Also, characters are allowed to sit and talk in a book because it can still be interesting. Seeing this is another thing. Simply having these chatty characters walk around while talking or doing anything besides just talking would be a significant improvement. And enough with all the family history lessons. If you don't understand who the Lannisters are by now, you're probably an idiot and should steer clear of narratives altogether.

2. I'm not a prude, but "GoT" goes too far sometimes.

There's being provocative and there's trying to be provocative. This show does the latter. I saw a like-minded viewer describe it as a kid waving his arms around trying to get attention and I agree with that. The only tactic they ever use to spice up the conversational scenes is have the actors nude and set it either pre or post coitus. I'm sorry, but I'm not blown away by how risque you are. I'm sickened by how cheap everything seems, by this lame 'sex sells' mindset and by the crass, slurping BJ noises. People have used arguments over this as a pulpit to preach about how the violence in the show is actually more explicit and how viewers are so desensitized to it these days and yet such prudes about sex. Perhaps I am desensitized to it, but I don't find the violence in the show to be overboard. Things are actually toned down a bit from the book, while the sex is shamelessly amped. There could be a drinking game played to how many times people are being railed from behind in this. Also, I knew Renly and Loras were lovers, but c'mon, a scene with them shaving each other's chests? I think that if I were a homosexual, I might find that insulting.

3. Miscellaneous spotty elements of the show.

I think it's annoying that people would assume that my distaste for this or "The Walking Dead" is because of how it deviates from the source material. The latter deviates a great deal from the comics, but I've never been that big of a fan of those, so that didn't bother me. What bothered me was that it was a bad show. "Game of Thrones" is very faithful to the books, but faithfulness does not a good television show make. My opinion of the show may improve by the end of the season, but it could also plummet like it did with "Walking Dead" and I have a sick feeling that it will. Some pretty great stuff happens in the second half of the book, so maybe that will save it for me. I'm going to continue watching, if to only see the occasional moments of greatness, such as almost everything with the direwolves, but my disappointment is palpable.

I would have given the pilot a "B", but the first half of the season is more in the realm of a "C". I really, truly hope that that doesn't fall any further. The show has some strong performers, namely Sean Bean, and an obviously talented production crew. It's also got some great, great, great material to draw from. The potential is there. However, a great deal of the actors are quite bad, the strength of Bean's acting sometimes works to expose this further. Some of the most interesting characters are being brushed over, including the increasingly absent direwolves. And quite a few scenes are falling short of the cinematic value that the books hinted at. The showdown between Ned and Jaime fell so flat, when the section in the book blew me away. Why have it in the streets in the light of day, when it originally took place at night in the rain?

I'm not going to get too worked up about the show anymore, now that I got my rant out. Nothing that's put on TV could diminish the quality of Martin's work. It's just a squandered opportunity, in my opinion, and a loss for appreciators of good television and great stories.

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