Monday, April 22, 2013

It's time to talk about "Game of Thrones" again.

"Game of Thrones" is in entertainment's most thoroughly complacent death spiral right now.  Honestly, I don't know if anyone in the cast or crew has any idea how far off the rails their show has already flown, but the good lord knows I do.  Hell, I knew it had flown off the rails pretty early in season one.

I should be going to sleep instead of typing this, but I had a little flash of brilliance about how to summarize all GoT's failings, so here we are.  Complaining about this show, you can go narrow (Danaerys is somewhat miscast, we've wasted way too much time following Jon Snow around in the cold while he does nothing, half the time it seems like only about twenty people live in Ye Olde Kingdom) or broad (by excising practically all the religious details from the story, the writers haven't just hamstrung the plot, which more and more evidently hinges on an epic, age-old magical battle between light and darkness, they've also made it impossible to understand why many of the characters care about anything--which is why Stannis seems like a stick in the mud instead of a zealot and a messiah, the Dothraki spend a peculiar amount of time sitting around *not* taking care of their horses or dealing death, and the Northmen are distinguished mainly by their Welsh accents and the fact that somewhere there's this weird tree or whatever.)  Or you can just count the characters to whom you have become utterly indifferent.  Forget Theon Greyjoy's rote redemption arc, does anyone out there remotely care what happens to him--or to his sister, or to his father, or to Littlefinger, Tywin Lannister, Robb Stark,  Mance Rayder, Stannis Baratheon, Melisandre, Gendry, Craster, Meera and Jojen Reed, Beric Dondarrion, Jorah Mormont or Barristan Selmy?  Even Catelyn Stark's boring me lately.  And I hate to say this, because the actress is just a kid, but Arya Stark has lost all the oomph she ever had.  Guys, I was really upset when they wrote Hot Pie out.  This is a sad state of affairs.

And yet, here's the big, overarching umbrella problem: "Game of Thrones" just isn't foreign enough.  The magic is missing.  The story doesn't feel . . . like a story. 

"Game of Thrones" needs a hit of David Lynch a little sprinkle of Terry Gilliam, some Jim Henson, a dash of Park Chanwook or Ralph Bakshi or Satoshi Kon or even (god help us) George Lucas.  It needs an authorial voice that believes enough in this other world to help us believe in it too by DEFINING it.  Because right now it's just a messy, petty medieval soup where everyone wears brown and punches each other. 

Some of the most powerful, memorable moments in the show thus far have felt mysterious or otherworldly.  Varys' conversation with Ned Stark in the dungeon, Khal Drogo giving Viserys his golden crown while Danaerys looked on in perverse fascination, Jon Snow defeating the wight, Robb's men releasing the crows, Syrio Forel fighting off the kingsguard with a wooden sword, or Jaime Lannister recounting the mad king's last words to Robert Baratheon--those were moments of epic people living epic lives.  They made the world of the story feel bigger.  So why don't we get that more often?  Why don't we see Arya's incipient sociopathy?  Why don't we see Tyrion's mind beginning to open to greater possibilities for himself?  Why don't we see Jon Snow manning up even a little, tiny bit?  If "Game of Thrones" isn't gonna bother to explain why we're still watching it (seriously, who are we rooting for, anyway?), then can't it at least paint some prettier pictures?  Why is television's most successful fantasy show less fantastical than your average episode of "Castle" or "Ugly Betty?"

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