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Game of Groans: Why "Game of Thrones" Is Not As Good As You Think It Is

By Dan Saipher | TV | June 27, 2011 |

By Dan Saipher | TV | June 27, 2011 |

Since my name is attached to this work, I feel it is within the best practices to protect my personal safety by beginning with the following prefaces.

1) I like “Game of Thrones.” A lot. I enjoy the art direction, the intrigue, the unforgiving nature in which the show treats characters. It’s a blast. My most common description to friends is that “Game of Thrones” is Lord of the Rings without the homosexual undertones. Replace Frodo with Dudley Moore, add tits, a dash of Conan, sprinkle of Dangerous Liasons. Blend well.” I feel, however, that it’s important to examine the rust in the proverbial Damascene armor to enhance the discussion of content.

2) For the silmarillionth time, I haven’t read the books, nor do I give a crap about how they relate to the show. I’m not here to argue plot points, because that would be shooting fish in a barrel with a grenade launcher. Hey, Ned Stark, why don’t you maybe tell some people Joffrey is a product of incest? I bet there are a few blokes who would be interested in that detail. Dear Sansa; nice of you to stop being a four-year old by the end of the series. The show exists outside the confines of the book; while it follows the pre-determined destinies of characters, adding scenes and interpretations and omitting the same, it should create a product that stands on its own merits. Streamline it. Refine it.

Everyone has their favorite characters, which to a degree allows you to ignore the underwhelming performances and the underdeveloped personas. And certainly everyone loves the occasional break in the action that centers on various characters bits n’ pieces. This is far from a “perfect” show, and criticism for criticism’s sake should not decidedly make you like it less, but hopefully look forward to the show’s evolution more.

The Use of Sex

The concept that sex was a dangerous weapon was damned interesting. It speaks to the baser instincts of human nature, those that illustrate how desire is infinitely more powerful than logic. But as the series dragged on, it somehow became boring. Scenes became less about how giving someone the old in-out were relevant plot moments, and more about quick flashes of pink asses and deep psychological problems. In the series finale, more attention is given to the shot of young Lancel Lannister’s ass getting back to bed, not how incredibly disturbed it is seeing Cersei sleep with another family member. Why is it that there’s no time spent telling us why she can’t help but sleep with other Lannisters? Is something going on between her and Tywin? No, don’t ask, just watch the boy ass. The best bit of between-the-sheets dialogue was between Renly and the Knight of Not That There’s Anything Wrong With That. Even after that, exchange, however, do we even see Renly for but a brief moment at King’s Landing? What of Loras?

Every instance of carnal relations hinted at the psychoses of the characters, but the show never went further than that. It presents characters in moments of weakness, over-compensation, and cocksure arrogance, but the motivations and deeper meanings of these trysts are never fully fleshed out. Poor Ros has turned into Dr. Quinn, Medicine Trollop, as every Longclaw in the realm sees fit to use her as the traveling psychiatrist’s couch. Moments that should be used to advance our comprehension of current events are interrupted by BOOBS!, like trying to read the paper while at a titty bar.

Lack of Depth

With such a deep and varied cast of characters, we end up at the end of season focused on a few, but how much do we really know about them?

The two point-of-view characters I enjoyed the most were Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen, and even though each of them were revealed with (sort-of) opposite devices, I was not left satisfied.

In Jon’s case, he is the Stark “child” we spend the most time with. The very first scenes are those that hint the White Walkers, and the price paid by deserters fleeing service of the Night’s Watch. So up north goes our little bastard hero, and though his interactions with Tyrion, Jeor, and Master Aemon are insightful and educational, NOTHING HAPPENS ON THE FRIGGIN WALL. This massive glacial formation is set up to be all that separates the world from going to hell-in-a-Himalayan-hand basket, but there’s no expedition north until the very last episode.

While Jon is heavy on talk and light on action, Dany takes the opposite approach. Once she moves out of the shadow of her brother’s pissant whining, she moves into the role of a heroine. All across the realm exists a wonderfully complex history of the Targaryen family, and the exodus of the last children of Aerys across the sea. But for her trajectory, from shotgun wedding to Cliffside rape to Queen to Dragon Lady, her personality moves without explanation. One episode she’s coming to grips with her place beside Drogo, and then quickly we move forward and the royal couple are exchanging celestial sobriquets. How did Drogo win her over?

Again, confessing I haven’t read the books so I can’t tell you where these two are actually headed, I wanted to know more. If the “Song of Fire and Ice” is meant to actually chronicle the converging stanzas of Dany (dragon’s “fire”) and Jon (winter’s “ice”), I want as much introspection with these characters as possible. One of them waits for his turn to fight, and other is pressed to control a destiny that men found her incapable of seizing by her petite self.

Don’t Tease Me With Braveheart and Give Me Rob Roy

It is impossible to expect to see armies of 20,000 ironclad conscripts charging at each other on a television show, no matter what the budget. Yet as the season continued on, all of the stealthy chess moves appeared destined to pay off as Robb Stark ascended to lead the men of the north against Tywin Lannister and his well-funded men.

There never was a battle. There were, in fact, very few skirmishes that didn’t involve single combat. For all the dark, foreboding proclamations of blood spilled and victory earned, “Game of Thrones” cut corners. The rampaging horde of Dothraki is presented as a Mongol parable, yet is never presented as a truly monumental column of riders cutting swaths through golden grasslands. Jamie Lannister is captured and presented to Robb and Catelyn Stark, yet for the boasts of greatness and snickering “Kingslayer” remarks he goes untested and unproven for ten episodes (it’s clear he’s better than Ned when they fight, but you just don’t know how valid a test that was for either of them).

GIVE ME A BATTLE! I want blood! I want a pretty voice from those North Sea isles chanting old words over a chorus of clashing metal and desperate cries! Whacking Tyrion with a mallet, only to be trampled and awakened after battle’s end, was synonymous for how the show treated us. At least have the courtesy to have Bronn turn and wink at us through the camera.

Sun-shine, Lollipops, and Nametags

Alright, if you can’t cut out a swath of the budget to give me a Battle of Stirling Bridge, we need to clarify a few things.

1) If you have to kill all the cool characters (Syrio, Drogo, Mark Addy) the season needs to end with a roast beast size order of comeuppance for the bad guys. We begin with the unease of Robert Baratheon’s seat of power, grow to hate every human-size Lannister and slippery snake of King’s Landing, and yet at the season’s end all we get is three dragons and the unease that Jamie Lannister is about to get traded for a lefty specialist out of the bullpen and a fourth outfielder.

2) Help me figure out which one is Rickon, and which one is Bran. I shouldn’t have to wait until one of them is riding Marla Singer or Sloth to figure it out.

3) If you have a hulking badass who can chop off a horse’s head with one strike, don’t tell me he’s off raping and pillaging and having a grand old time. Visual would be nice.

4) For the sake of the rotund and the cherubic, make one of the fat characters useful. There are stupid fat boys who see fit to piss off Arya, eunuchs with hidden agendas, and Jon’s sidekick Friar Schmuck. I know the latter is going to start to show his potential, so stop making him so whiny.

I can’t wait for the next season of “Game of Thrones,” as we start seeing the developments of season one start to pay off with big changes for the characters. Noting that it’s obviously impossible to make these kinds of changes while unveiling filmed episodes, the hope going forward is that it stops for a minute to consider how to improve itself. Crom willing, that includes more of Charles Dance (Brother Numsi!) as Tywin Lannister, James Cosmo (“Fine display, young Wallace!”) leading the Night’s Watch vanguard north as Jeor Mormont, and the prophetic decree that “Winter is Coming” no longer hangs as just an ancient threat.

Dan Saipher thinks Peter Dinklage is a horrible, unusable, no-talent, slow, overestimated, weak, child-like, easily forgotten, pointless basketball player.

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