It’s been a week, so spoilers are fair game, kids. You’ve been warned.
It took me some time to warm up to season 1 of Game of Thrones. So much, in fact, that I abandoned the first episode halfway through and didn’t go back until months later because it seemed like everyone I knew wouldn’t stop raving about it. Sure enough, by the end, I was pretty engaged. I was never blown away, but I was definitely interested enough to see more, even if they did kill off some of my favorite characters. I went into season 2 hating Joffrey and Cersei and loving Daenerys, Arya and Tyrion. The rest of the show’s hefty cast I was pretty ambivalent about. This is a show with a lot of characters, so it’s hard to care about all of them… and then a whole bunch of new characters came in. Uh-oh…
Luckily for me, Tyrion shined throughout the season Peter Dinklage is the star of the show now. Every scene he’s in is golden and Tyrion had a lot to do. The same can’t be said for the Mother of Dragons. Daenerys spent a lot of season 2 wandering around the desert and the rest of it hanging around with new pals. Sure, she lost her dragons and had to get them back, but not until the tail end. For the bulk of the season, she was spinning her wheels in the sand. The newly awesome Khaleesi was the only thing that made losing Drogo okay and the momentum of her story was completely lost. The same thing happened to Arya, though her journey started better before screeching to a halt when she became Tywin Lannister’s wine wench. I’m ready for her to do stuff again. That would be nice. I wasn’t a huge Jon Snow fan going into this season, and it’s a good thing because his doe eyed emptiness couldn’t be more boring. NOTHING happened on his season-long trek beyond that Wall until the Lich King showed up to mug at the camera like he was guest-starring on The Office and Jon wasn’t even there for that! They could have simply walked to Mordor in all the time they took meandering about the snow.
Game of Thrones has a lot going for it. There are some legitimately good moments throughout the season. Most of the characters are written well and their dialogue is good. The cast is full of remarkable actors. The show is absolutely gorgeous. The sets are stunning and it’s shot incredibly well. The biggest problem with Game of Thrones, especially in its second season, is that it breaks the cardinal rule of storytelling: show; don’t tell. There’s a lot that happens that we only hear about. Theon walks into Bran’s room and essentially says “Hey, little man. What’s up? I totally just stormed your castle. I’m a prince now. What are you gonna do about it?” Did we actually get to see the fall of Winterfell? No. These characters are at war and yet we only see one real battle in the entire season… In the penultimate episode! Oh, and the battle was amazing.
“Blackwater” was by far the best episode of the season. The show doesn’t have to be a white knuckle thrill ride of action, but after 10 episodes of hearing about all the fighting going on, it was nice to actually see some of it. “These are brave men at our gates… Let’s go kill them!” was a great moment in an episode full of great moments. The rest of the season, though, was frankly a bit tedious. In approximately 10 hours of television, what actually happened? Let’s see…
- Joffrey continued to be absolutely terrible in every way. He’s a great villain. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a villain sentence babies to death on TV.
- Tyrion continued to be awesome in every way. He’s an unlikely protagonist.
- Arya got captured and escaped after pouring a ton of wine for the enemy.
- Daenerys got a boat… Or at least she got the money to buy a boat.
- Jon went camping in the snow and met a girl. Then he killed a dude for making fun of his mom… Or something.
- Robb won a lot of battles we didn’t get to see.
- Theon (whose name I learned in this season) became a villain and got captured.
- Stannis killed his brother (whose name I’ve already forgotten) and lost the one battle we did get to see.
- Bran and the other Stark kid (whose name I don’t even know) got fake killed and are on the lam after Winterfell burned… And we didn’t get to that, either.
- Oh, and monsters are coming!
Sure, there were a lot of scenes where people talked about a bunch of other stuff, but in terms of real plot and movement, that’s pretty much all that happened. The cast is so big that the show is spread too thin. There are so many characters that need to have a little something happen to them at least every other episode that there’s not a lot of time left to drive the main plot in many of them.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t actively dislike Game of Thrones. I watched it every week and I look forward to its return. I just don’t love it like so many others and I think there are some legitimate storytelling problems that need to be addressed moving forward. Then again, the show is a massive hit, so why change it? There’s a lot to like, but the pacing needs work. At no point was it “Find the girl and get the hell off that farm, already!” slow, but it didn’t work for me. Here’s hoping we get to see some fights against the White Walkers without wasting half the season just hearing about all the wicked evil they’re spreading half a world away.
And hey, kids! True Blood is back this week! Let’s hope there’s actually a plan for Lafayette this season. But that’s a story for a very different time. If you missed any of season 2 of Game of Thrones or want to see what all the fuss is about from the very beginning, check HBO Go. It’s a pretty awesome service.