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Jun072013

Red Wedding? More like Red Herring.

*Contains Game of Thrones series spoilers up until Season 3, Episode 9

Dear George R.R. Martin, Author of GAME OF THRONES,

Fans and critics have been reeling since the Game of Thrones episode titled “The Rains of Castamere” aired. The reason, as you well know, was for seeing the (technically) well-executed final sequence dubbed the “Red Wedding”, where the eldest in the Stark family are brutally massacred – including an unborn child and caged direwolf. Fans of the books waited with baited breath for years to see this moment, turning those of us only familiar with the television series into the subject of YouTube reaction videos. Unfortunately, no one caught my indifferent shrug on camera, so I’ll do my best to sum it up for you in this letter.

Let’s go back for a minute, since I’ve found this series to be the source of endless frustration. Season 1 had precisely three moments worth remembering. First, seeing the young Bran Stark pushed out the window in the pilot episode fueled my hate. This effectively compensated for my not caring about the myriad of other characters, so I came back for more. The show looked impressive. The characters sounded like they had purpose. Still, be damned if you could string together a storyline that made me care. Not until the truly bold execution of Ned Stark did the show feel like it had half the guts it always talked about spilling (but rarely bothered to show). And then, well, there was the season finale’s last shot with Daenerys. Memorable, certainly, but hardly for narrative reasons.

For season two, I don’t even know where to begin. So little changed from start to finish, yet the series continued to amass an army of followers faster and more illogically than the Khaleesi. Episode 9 was again the only standout, but only because the show finally focused on a single story. Tyrion helped fend off an invading army, resulting in a scratch on his face and added frustration to his diminutive position in the Lannister House. In other words, nothing changed. You killed off a few secondary characters, shifted people from The North a bit further south and vise versa, and ended the season promising a Walking Dead mash-up. My dropped jaw was only at the service of a yawn, I assure you.

And now season three. More plotting and politicking of stories that take a dragon’s age to ever intersect. This, and this alone, lends to the “shock” of the Red Wedding. The reason so many people are reacting is because they’ve been sedated into a coma over how stingy this series has been with progress. The world building has been so slow and laborious (not unlike the overlong title sequence), that people seem fooled by the sight of blood. Rest assured, if they took a few minutes to look at the big picture, they would realize that the wedding massacre has next to no outside consequence.

Not for a moment did I believe that the Starks would return to glory. Their family has been a write-off for me since the end of Season 1, when momentum finally shifted to the other storylines. If the intention was to fool us into believe Ned’s son would rise up to reclaim the throne, the TV series did a piss-poor job of seeding that idea. Instead, the Red Wedding felt like a delayed inevitability – needlessly drawn out over two full seasons.

So now, with that out of the way, the big “moment” that fans have been anticipating, I’m worried for what’s next. I want this show to be great – I really do. It’s the only reason I keep coming back. But this most recent episode seems to have crystalized everything that’s wrong with the series. With so many characters and diverging stories, we should be treated to grand moments every few episodes, not every few seasons. You know you’re in trouble when Downtown Abbey has been bolder in its first three seasons than you have.

Sincerely,

Christopher

Reader Comments (6)

As a big fan of the books, I really appreciate this viewpoint, and am somewhat inclined to agree. I genuinely believe that between all of the Big Things that happen, there are important changes in perspective and motivation going on within the characters that LEAD them to these things - Daenerys going from pawn to queen, Jaime going from asshole to gentleman(??), Joffrey's violence getting less childish and more cruelly specific. The tragedy in the Red Wedding is the reverse - those on the wrong end of the swords had not really changed at all. Which, in another way, is the tragedy of the series: "Well, here we go again!"

What sucks about the show is that the scenes in which subtle, important things happen are shot, written, and paced in exactly the same way as the scenes in which NOTHING happens.

I watch each episode with a bunch of people who've read the books, and one friend who has not. Bless his heart, he's doing his best to stay invested as we explain the complexities as to why such-and-such gesture matters so much in such-and-such context, and he seems to be enjoying himself. Indeed, it may actually be BECAUSE he has literate guides to provide such context.

To me, the show serves as a way to enjoy some of my favorite moments from the books together with friends. To someone who hasn't read them? I don't blame them for not finding anything to latch onto. I hate it when we cut to a scene where someone is looking at a map with carved figurines representing each faction, because it reminds me how often the characters feel like pieces moving across a game board.
June 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTerry
I like the show, but it's a pale shadow to the books (as always). Adapted TV shows or movies are never as good as the books, or so rarely so it amounts to the same thing. I know you hate it when people say that, but I have so rarely seen an example to contradict it that I feel justified in saying it. I was genuinely surprised that they were making these massive books (both in scope and physical size) into a TV series. There was just no way, in my mind, that they were going to be able to do the story justice. The only reason I'm enjoying this series is because I love the books so much. I couldn't imagine watching this show without the benefit of having read the books.

You should just stop watching now, buddy, It not going to change. It can't. There are just too many details that the writers have to scrap out of necessity for it not to seem disjointed and awkward.
June 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRob Wilson
You're right Rob, I probably should stop watching at this point. But if I did that, I'm afraid no one would be left to provide a sober reading of this show... :)~
June 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterChristopher Redmond
Hi,

Respectfully, this isn't the show for you. It's not a BAD show; it's just a show that isn't well-suited whatsoever to your personal tastes.

Specifically, this is a show about character development. You might say that "nothing happened" over the course of season 2, and if all you're looking at is the "big picture" of who's sitting on the Iron Throne, you'd be right. But this isn't that kind of story. This story is about character details; it's about PERSONAL—not political—changes. Just look at Theon Greyjoy: that character went through enormous changes during the show's second season. No, his impact isn't dramatically world-altering, and there are few "outside consequences" to his inner turmoil, but that's not the type of story this is meant to be. The show's focus on character-based storylines rather than "consequential" ones isn't a failure of the show; it's only a mismatch of the show's intent and your tastes. Doesn't mean it's a bad show or that you have bad tastes—there's no value judgment here, it's just a mismatch.

While the books are certainly better, I wouldn't necessarily recommend them to someone who isn't particularly interested in small-scale character-focused stories.
June 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAnon
Funny, Anon, that you commend the television series for focusing on "small-scale character-focused stories". If only that were true.

In fact, that neglect is my chief complaint about the show. Can you really tell me that a single character has had an arc anywhere near what Peggy, Don, Joan or even Pete have gone through on Mad Men by Season 3? Do you feel this show even comes close to examining social classes the way Downton Abbey does? Is there even an ounce of the acute social commentary that was effortlessly infused into The Wire? And on that note, compare what happened to Stringer Bell at the end of Season 3 with this episode of GoT. What I would give to see those YouTube reaction videos - a truly well-earned and devastating end to the show's heir apparent.

Seeing characters being slaughtered has no consequence if we aren't emotionally invested in them. And I have to argue that, try as I have, the TV show on it's own just simply isn't written well enough to do that heavy lifting. There have certainly been good moments, but far too often the go-to tactic is simply leveraging sympathy for someone's physical abnormalities (like Bran Stark being paralyzed, Varys being castrated, Tyrion being a little man, Brienne's being a little butch, etc.).

Suffice to say, I didn't have to do my historical homework to care about the characters in The Borgias, but it really seems the same isn't true for Game of Thrones.
June 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterChristopher Redmond
I have to say, I have not read such a BS article in a long time. You seem to feel that just because you write an opinion it is fact. What is this show if it is not about examining social class, and character arcs? Just look at the King Slayer, Tyrion, and Daenery, just to name a few. While you sleep through 'nothing' pivotal plot points are unfolding. If you haven't figured out the potential future of the young Stark girl, then you REALLY haven't been watching! It may be best for you to stand in the middle of Times Square and stare at the lights if you need constant stimulation, and cannot wait for plots to unfold. You have about 5 followers, while the show has thousands. I'm just glad that there are people out there that do not have to be knocked over the head to understand character development. OBVIOUSLY, people ARE connected to the characters as the slayings seemed to turn the internet on it's ear. What are you even talking about?!?
December 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKNON

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