Monday, June 11, 2012

In which I propose fixing Game of Thrones and risk angering the fanboys

WARNING:  Here be spoilers.  You've been warned.  In this post I'll be talking about events from the end of season 2 of Game of Thrones.  If you haven't watched that far, don't read it.  If you haven't watched the series at all though you really should, it's great!

Game of Thrones may be one of the best shows ever to be on TV.  Up until now anyway.  The thing is, I'm a little worried about its future.

Firstly, when you watch the show you can't help but be awed by its intricacy and the deep complexity of the story.  So many threads are woven together with such skill it takes your breath away.  Clearly a lot of planning went into the writing!  But here's the thing - it was originally planned as a trilogy and currently we are at book 5 with no end in sight.  That kind of makes it seem like intricacy and detailed planning went out the door several books ago.

Which may be why the second season already started to give the impression that this story isn't in a hurry to go anywhere.  See this is what scares me most of all.  Here is the synopsis of book 1/season 1:

The kingdom descends into the chaos of civil war, while a mysterious supernatural threat arises far to the north, and an exiled princess across the sea plots to invade with the power of dragons. Many tangled plot lines are established with a horde of memorable characters.

Now here is the story in book 4:

The kingdom is wracked with the chaos of civil war, while a mysterious supernatural threat stirs far to the north, and an exiled princess across the sea gathers her army to invade with the power of dragons. Many tangled plot lines are tangled even more deeply, a horde of memorable characters have died, and there is a new horde of memorable characters.
That's not just a glacial pace, that's pretty much suspended animation!  If the series continues to follow the books we are going to end up with a medieval soap opera.  Sure, it's going to be a soap opera with ice zombies and dragons (beat that 7de Laan!) but come on, is that really what we thought we were signing up for in the beginning?

Speaking of book 4, The Onion AV club recently listed A Feast For Crows alongside such turds as The Godfather Part III and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull in their article on rotten sections of otherwise really fantastic works.  Read this and tell me if that sounds like a description of 10 hour long episodes you would very much like to watch:

"Overwhelmed by the challenges in balancing any number of story threads and character perspectives while still turning out a novel at a reasonable length, Martin compromised with A Feast For Crows, a cast-off from what had been intended as a much larger novel. FFC tops out just under a thousand pages, and features few of the characters who had helped make the series such a success; worse, the book fails to capture the risky, anyone-can-die intensity of early books in the series, instead focusing on secondary characters as they trudge through an increasingly war-torn landscape. The concept—War Is Hell—isn’t terrible, but the novel lacks energy, trying to get too much mileage out of repetitive character behavior (Cersei is frustrated at the limits of her power! Brienne asks questions!) while bringing in additional, and apparently unjustified, plot complications. "

Honestly I'd rather watch Indy blast of in a fridge again than sit through that!  I haven't read book 5 but from what I've heard, while it's better than book 4 the story remains in a state of inertia.  Still no winners in the war, still no invasion by either dragons or ice zombies.  More characters die and more ones take their place.

Last thing that worries me is the end of the series.  Now it doesn't exist yet but when asked, the author said that "the end would be a cloud of dust or snow being driven by the wind across a vast graveyard full of tombstones. "  Now I know, he was probably just kidding.  Or was he...?  One thing that's pretty clear is that George RR Martin is not into happy endings.  Now in a book, that's sort of acceptable.  But on a TV show?  As anyone who spent years loyally following a show only to get a disappointing ending can tell you - that simply doesn't cut it.  If you don't get a satisfying conclusion from your favourite series, it's like a great big "fuck you" from the producers to thank you for all your time.

Don't get me wrong, I understand the fanboy rage you get when a screen adaptation screws around with a beloved piece of literary fiction, I really do.  I feel it myself ever so often.  Yet sometimes it's necessary to make some changes.  True Blood for instance left the source material behind early on, so did the Vampire Diaries and those were great.  So really don't look at it as someone taking a hatchet to your favourite book, think of it as someone creating something just as great using your favourite book as a base.

Right, now that all True Fans (tm) are too offended too read on, here is my suggestion of how to fix Game of Thrones, the series:  Leave the books behind completely.  Treat everything that has happened up till now as a stage setting prequel to what follows - the tale of Arya Stark, Ninja Assassin!

At the end of season 2, super awesome face changing ninja assassin Jaqen H'ghar offers to take young Arya with him so she can train to become a ninja too.  Now she refuses that option but come on, wouldn't you want to watch THAT show?  

So what if she uses the special coin, gets in touch with Jaqen and begins training to become a super ninja assassin?  Then when she has mastered the deadly arts (and presumably also started speaking in the 3rd person) she returns to Westeros to bring bloody justice to everyone who has harmed her family!  I would watch the EFF out of THAT show!  It gets a better ending and doesn't turn into a Dungeons & Dragons Soapie!  Could work!


GumbyTheCat said...

What's "Game of Thrones"? Never heard of it.

Eugene said...

I can't tell if you're kidding... Please use an emoticon of some kind to indicate kidding because I find it hard to believe anyone doesn't know about this show (and the books) these days!

GumbyTheCat said...

Honestly, never heard of it!

Eugene said...

Wow, I really thought everyone outside of North Korea knew the show! Well, it's on HBO, the second season just finished so you'll have to watch it on DVD. I recommend it very highly, it's some amazing TV. Just don't let anyone spoil it for you because there are some MAJOR twists in the first season!

Kim Jong Il said...

Ah, that explains why I never heard of it!

Eugene said...

^ Eugene likes this

Alex Harman said...

Actually, the training of Arya Stark, Ninja Assassin at the Faceless Men's House of Black and White *is* one of the plot threads in "A Feast for Crows" and A Dance with Dragons," so if the show makes it that far, that is one of the storylines you'll see. My guess is they'll give it more emphasis than the books do, while trimming back some of the other threads (I certainly hope he show has less of Brienne wandering aimlessly around the coastlands than the fourth book did, anyway).