A Game of Thrones with too many Players!
20 Aug 2012
SPOILER WARNING!Game of Thronesis the best thing on the tellybox.
Bold statement but bear with me.
First, it puts its massive production values to good use. It shapes elaborate sets (and thrones), stitches intricate costumes, seams red flowing capes and smiths elegant wolf-pommel swords for its cast of one hundred strong.
Second, it’s coloured with arresting themes such as honour and treachery, shaded with political manoeuvres and underhanded schemes and detailed with extensive lore, ethical rumination and philosophical reflection.
And let’s not forget all that humour, sex, violence and foul language we all ACTUALLY watch it for!
Face facts, the show coined the term ‘Sexposition.’ How can any other series compete?!
So fond am I of HBO’s flagship production, I honestly believe the first season superior to its novelised namesake in every way! It was tighter, speedier, nastier and courtesy of Peter Dinklage’s Emmy earning performance, a whole lot funnier.
But at 831 pages, George R.R. Martin’s opening verse of his Song of Fire and Ice holds one distinct advantage: Space.
It has breathing room, offers the reader respite and saunters along at its own pace.
By contrast, each season of Game of Thrones has only 10x60minutes to present the acclaimed literature in all its audio-visual majesty. And last night, watching S02E02 ‘The Night Lands’, for the first time in 12 straight episodes, I felt minor dissatisfaction.
Realisation dawned. Game of Thrones is not perfect. If anything, it may house one fatal flaw: Character Bloat.
Wait! HOLD! SHEATHE THY BLADES!
Allow this heretic a moment to drop some knowledge before you march him to the gallows...
Since goodie-two-shoes, silly-no-brain Ned Stark got his head sliced off good and proper (Sean Bean’s character. It was inevitable really...) some believe GOT has lacked a central protagonist to rally around.
This is not altogether accurate. This was NEVER the Ned Stark show. The star has ALWAYS been Westeros herself, and the war that threatens to consume her. And herein lies the issue.
This epic scope is the ideal premise for a series of gargantuan High Fantasy novels. However for television, the template ports poorly. A television series needs more soul than scope. Certainly, it’s got soul by the yak-load but I’m entertaining the POSSIBILITY that GOT lacks the time to sufficiently develop its impossibly bloated cast.
Even with the multitude of characters that bit the big one last season, Ned Stark, Robert Baratheon, Khal Drogo, Viserys Targaryen, many more have risen to nab their screen time.
Screen time desperately needed for major players Jon, Robb, Daenerys, Tyrion and Ayra. Yet as Martin’s Epic complicates, HBO struggles to keep pace and we, the viewers, go weeks without seeing our favourites.
GOT’s roster is so vast, if you ask ten fans for the three most pivotal characters the series could benefit to linger on, to develop and evolve, their answers might vary entirely.
My choices?Jon Snow, one-day commander of the Night’s Watch, the sole force keeping the REAL threat at bay.Tyrion Lannister, the increasingly sympathetic, quick witted imp who juggles the political pitfalls of Kings Landing.
And my personal favourite, Ayra Stark, tomboy extraordinaire, companion of the one true king, master swordswoman in the making and all round loveable scamp.
How GOT can afford these three so little time bamboozles me. But the same could easily be argued for a dozen others!
We are officially 1/5th through Season Two. So to strengthen my argument, hows about we take a gander at the progress of the 7 major dynastic powers in Westeros...King Joffrey Lannister-AHEM- Baratheon: Killed Some BabiesKing Stannis Baratheon: Hired some pirates and nailed a priestessKing Robb Stark: Now with giant Dire Wolf accessory.King Renly Baratheon: Not yet featured.King Balon Greyjoy: His kids got it on... Gross.Khaleesi Daenerys Targaryen: Has Dragons. Will travel. Aimlessly. Through endless desert.The Night’s Watch: Staying with a rapist. Gallantly keeping their hands off his numerous wives/daughters!
Let’s hope things pick up pace, eh? But with only 8.5 minutes available per faction an episode (Faction that is, not character, not by a long shot) it’s not unusual to wait weeks for major characters or narrative threads to re-emerge.
Barring a glimmer last night, Mance Raydor and his dreaded White Walkers, the ultimate threat hinted at in the very first scene of the very first episode, have earned but one scene wherein Jon cooks a Zombie or something fittingly wicked.
Even the Khaleesi’s dragons, a series ending revelation, have already become an afterthought, accorded the same attention as poor King Renly, who’s probably off somewhere getting his chest shaved. Jason Statham. With Hair. On a Horse. In 20 years.
Despite valiant efforts to streamline for television, HBO’s decision to continually swell the cast baffles. Especially considering GOT’s prior acceptance of the necessity for off-screen developments. Remember that climactic battle where Tyrion led the Wild Men against Robb Stark's forces??
Neither do I.
Though amusing and revelatory, GOT ‘wastes’ scenes having Littlefinger threaten weeping prostitutes or Sansa hiring court jesters for Joffrey. These precious minutes could be spent cementing the primary cast.
As entertaining as it was watching Liam Cunningham’s Davos recruit his cheeky pirate admiral, I would have preferred a further three minutes watching Dany marshalling her dying Khalasar or watching Arya act the maggot. The Great King Renly Baratheon...MIA for a while now....
Don’t think me ignorant. I’m well aware of Martin’s notoriety, his penchant for cutting down principal characters with abandon. My point is this inevitable bucket kicking will sting twice as keenly the more affection we garner for the cast.
Ultimately, this is only a minute, tiny, miniscule, Tyrion Lannister sized complaint.
I maintain Game of Thrones is the best thing on the tellybox... it’s just with a permanent trim of the cast, preferably about the juggler, it could be even better. Rest yourself, Dany. It's not like you have Dragons to feed or Kingdoms to BURN!
Now I’ve had my say, I throw myself at your mercy, good readers. A last request? Try to be gentle when you’re mounting my severed head on a spike... Seriously, who the fuck is this guy?!