‘Kill the Boy’ was an episode of Season 5 filled with confusing filler, irrational character decisions, people acting completely unlike their establish character roles (Ramsay), and so so so much wasted time.
Think of all the amazing characters and plotlines that have been dropped to create…well…what they showed us tonight…
The show filler adds nothing but providing beats. But the beats are so choppy, sporadic inconsistent that it’s hard for a character to keep a flowing arc. It’s why so many of the character motivations make no sense. Because, in each scene, the characters have to fulfil a specific purpose for the narrative, even if that character isn’t right for that purpose. One day, Jon is broken and lonely, the next BOOM he’s Ultra Mega Hard Lord Commander. One day, he’s telling stories about the history of Westeros, the next he’s asking questions like he doesn’t know how to book.
The show is becoming David Lynch’s Game of Thrones. It loses so much in trying to create “moments” that it loses its overall narrative. They’re so concerned with creating these moments that they ignore everything leading up to those moments. Which is fine, for performance art. But it’s not storytelling; it’s Cliff Notes. Whereas the books keep their narrative thread, even though they demand patience from the reader.
I have a confession to make. I used to be a show watcher. In my defense, I wasn’t a very good show watcher. I waited a year to watch anything and watched Season 1 & 2 almost back to back. I knew nothing about the show or the books when I watched the first season. But I like swords and fantasy, so I gave it a try. I thought it was fine. Nothing really struck me as captivating, but there were sword fights and dragons, which were cool.
When you’re a fan of fantasy, you take what you can get. There is so much terrible fantasy in television and film, that finding “just fine” is like searching for the Holy Grail. And Season 1 was just that; just fine. But when I got to Season 2, I really started to not care for it. The writing wasn’t worse, although no longer asking the incredible writer Jane Espenson to return was a mistake. The actors weren’t worse. The addition of some, like Stephen Dillane, quite improved the cast.
The sets and technical direction weren’t any worse, though I’m not a tech guy and things have to get pretty dire before I start to notice it has. The issue I had was that nothing made sense. Nothing. Again, I had not read the books (yet). I might not have even been aware there were books. Purely as someone watching a TV show, nothing made sense. I didn’t get why Cat would release Jaime. I didn’t get why Robb was taking a Long Day’s Journey Into Oona Chaplin’s Night. I couldn’t identify half the characters because they all dressed in the same drab brown. It just seemed like another, boring fantasy show. So I didn’t watch Season 3. I reckoned I’d binge it over a long weekend eventually. But then the Red Wedding happened and I couldn’t read Paul Krugman articles about European austerity without seeing some click-bait article about
OMG You Guys. The Red Wedding! It Will Literally Explode Your Mind Like Forever! Krugman could write an awesome article about Cersei and the Debt Ceiling
I believe that was literally the New York Times headline. I tried not to read any spoilers, but I thought “I’ll bet it has something to do with Robb and Chaplin’s grandkid. The Iceman probably Cameth for them.” So I watched Season 3 and was, again, unimpressed. Nothing anyone did made any sense. But I was really disappointed that the big surprise had been ruined. No one told me specifically what would happen, but they told me there was a big surprise and Season 2 made no qualms about letting you know what was coming down the line. So that was enough. I resigned myself to read the books. The books of a show I didn’t really like. I did it just so nothing else in the series would be spoiled. I was so lost, and then I was found. Everything. Made. Sense! Why Catelyn released Jaime? I get it. She thought she only had two daughters left, and her two youngest sons were dead. Why Robb married Jeyne Westerling? A poor choice, but it makes sense. He was Ned’s son, and he valued his honor. The characters? So much easier to follow.
They catch a lot of flack, but even the books of Feast & Dance are a Second Act of a greater whole series, so they seem slower paced, but there isn’t anything in there which doesn’t add to the world and experience. Everything which is there is there for a reason, even if, at first glance, you don’t see that reason because you’re too twitchy to want to get to the end. But, most importantly, through the books, I began to really care about these characters. I got to know them and why they did things.
They were no longer just archetypes of a genre. They were fully fledged people that, frankly, I knew. Catelyn reminds me very much of my grandmother. She quickly became my favorite character. It is so rare to hear a medieval story from a mother’s point of view, even though medieval history is full of fascinating women like Empress Matilda, Catherine of Valois or Isabella, the She-Wolf of France. Arya is very much like my sister. I’m convinced Tormund Giant’s Bane is based on my Uncle David.
It didn’t hurt that one of GRRM’s favorite authors is my favorite author: Bernard Cornwell. You should read Martin interviewing him here: http://www.bernardcornwell.net/interview-with-george-r-r-martin
A great deal of Cornnwell’s Warlord Chronicles can be seen in later writings of A Song of Ice & Fire. The humanizing of the past is critical to both their work and it shows.
So when I think how close I might have been to never having read these books, it makes me quite sad. I could have gone my whole life thinking A Song of Ice & Fire was a nonsensical plot with gratuitous nudity. Only through a twist of fate was I able to discover these books.
Wyrd bið ful aræd, as Cornwell would say. Read these. George R. R. Martin has. That’s why I’m so hard on the show. That’s why I want it to be more like the books. Not because I’m some sort of crazy purist who demands things be my way or else. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but the internet is full up of those. HBO does not exist to makes things exactly as I say when I say it. D&D owe me nothing. But, surely, they owe something to their audience as a whole? They owe them an amazing experience, like I had when I first read the books. They owe them the chance to explore a fully realized world of real people so that the audience may grieve and celebrate their existence. So that they may fully experience the life of what Artuad called the “fragile, fluctuating center which forms never reach.” They owe the audience; they owe themselves, the experience. They owe themselves the best art they can make. Otherwise, what’s the point? Otherwise, why not become bankers?
And Game of Thrones is not the best they can do. I’ve read the best they can do, and this television program isn’t it. They can do better. But only if we ask it of them. When I was a show watcher, I asked nothing. Nothing of myself as a disinterested viewer and nothing of a show which provided me with confusing stories, brown costumes, tits and the occasional sword fight. I let the nothingness of “just fine” wash over me and fade back into the void. It was not art. It was noise. And that’s not good enough. Not for a story which is capable of evoking such strong experience from one so jaded. We all deserve better. And so I take up arms in the ARMY OF ANGER. The feeble arms of typing words on the internet, but arms none-the-less. I hope you’ll do the same.