Oh, To Be Innocent of the Ways of Westeros...
By Widge - posted 06.08.11 @ 8:13 am
(Please note: the following was written with vague and minimal spoilers. However, if you're an ultimate purist and want to know nothing at all, then run away. But otherwise, you should be fine.)
So we're nearing the end of the first season of Game of Thrones, marking yet another thing that I never thought would ever happen...or at least happen properly. And by that I mean, a giant epic fantasy series of novels turned into a giant epic fantasy series on television. Oh sure, we had hopes and dreams and aspirations, but in the no-longer-naive post-Phantom Menace world which we all live in, such dreams and aspirations are fed with organic whole-grain skepticism. With distrust on the side. And some hash browns.
However: in a world where a zombie TV show can be one of the most critically acclaimed dramas of last year, all bets are off.
If you're looking at me like I've just lost my mind, let me assure you: that happened years ago. Also, you probably have not read the books--that's just my guess. I have talked to others who have read the series and so far everybody's in some degree of agreement with me. It's missing something for us that it obviously is not for you.
The problem is simply that there are, as the song says, no surprises.
They are following the books so closely--so wonderfully closely, don't get me wrong--that there are no surprises coming for me and others like me. For example, the great surprise that everyone felt at the end of the first episode ("I can't believe they just did that!"--if you've seen the show, you know what I mean) was tempered in my mind by "Yeah, just wait--I know where that's going." And as the series has progressed, it's been a progression of amazing casting choices, incredible instances of scenes from the books being brought to life with amazing damn-near-accuracy (to the spirit and feel of the scene if not the dialogue itself), and production design that rocks the house. (Speaking of damn-near-accuracy, that was one unexpected thing--that somebody would actually show the horse at the end of the jousting sequence--I mean just damn, people.)
It's also a progression of connecting the dots of events. I know what Event A is, Event B, and on down the line. And while I enjoy how well everything is being played out, I miss the surprises. I miss the tension of not knowing What Bad Thing Was Next.
Let me be clear: this is not the fault of the people behind the show. This is more a critique and a lament for my own perception and what I bring to the viewing of the show. I would be the first to criticize them if they strayed too far from the blueprint George R. R. Martin laid out of them. And really, seriously, how could they if they wanted to? The freaking thing is so tightly woven. The only changes I've caught are giving characters more interesting dimensions: Lena Headey's Cersei springs to mind and especially Mark Addy's genius interp of Robert.
So the people doing Thrones cannot, in essence, pull a Walking Dead. The genius thing that "Game of Zombies" is doing is making it evident from jump that they will be deviating from the comic book, not only to expand upon what was already there in the book--but also to prevent what I'm feeling with Thrones. The very nature of how Andrew Lincoln's Rick goes down in the first episode (a significant but telling departure from the book) and a particular memorable character who was still breathing when we last left him (when in the book he was quite dead by that point...well...mostly) told people who have been reading since the beginning--namely me--"You think you know what we're we doing? Oh, you poor bastard. You only think you know."
So again, let me state this for the record: I do not hold it against Thrones that I'm not getting wall-to-wall joy out of the show. Because it's not the show's fault. I guess I'm mostly getting off my chest for myself and others like me and also saying, well, "You Song of Ice and Fire virgins. You are some lucky bastards, so you are." Watch the show. Then read the books to get the rest of the stuff that was lost in compression. In that order. You'll thank me if you do.
What say you? Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments.