15 June 2015

More GoT thoughts

1) The Cersei perp walk was well executed, especially the return of the smirk face at the end when she got to the Red Keep and Qyburn was there. But it was a bit more gratuitous than needed (though not that much really either). The best parts of the walk were the initial bit (it is important to know she's naked, but not so important to keep focusing on it), then the sequences of her face as people shouted and spat at her and throwing all manner of filth, food, etc, and her feet bleeding from the tiles and distance covered. One of the secrets of storytelling is less is more, letting people fill in the blanks. Same with acting I suspect. Game of Thrones has sometimes learned this lesson but this wasn't quite in that league. This season has been fairly uneven in this respect, trying to focus more on spectacles than stories. It's really unclear still how the Sparrows/Faith Militant are this powerful in King's Landing, or why nobody is that resistant.

2) The way the Dorne subplot for the season trickled out, and the way the Stannis subplot felt rushed (though good), I'm not very optimistic about future adaptations where the writers go off "script" as it were. They still have some of the same pacing problems that they've always had in adapting Martin's material (sprawling as it is). But where in Season 4 some of the off-book changes (Brienne and Sandor Cleagane fighting, Tywin's expanded role) were good, these were all rushed and felt forced.

Stannis had been built up as a devoted father, religious fanatic but pragmatic leader. People had started to finally like the character. Then they went and had him off his daughter in a human sacrifice... and then he fights a futile and losing battle, and then gets (presumably) killed in the aftermath of the rout. That's a plot that needed a couple more episodes to unfold. It doesn't feel paced out. We don't care about the outcome very much because the "wounds" from Shireen screaming in agony are still very fresh. That sacrifice feels rushed as well. Stannis has a reputation as being pretty stubborn, and it doesn't give the impression that he's that worried about the men he commands, which isn't very much like a noted field commanded that he's supposed to be either. In the books, he is very concerned because of the sellswords and possibly mutinous troops from Northern lands and this impacts his decisions in pragmatic ways. It's still likely Shireen is killed in the books (this hasn't happened yet), and that Selyse kills herself after. But for different reasons that either would "make more sense" than what appears to be a pretty incompetent command effort to retake a valuable city after Stannis has had several very competent military moves that only fail because of bad luck (Tyrells/Lannister army shows up for example).

The Dorne plot was just all around useless and terrible. The book plot had intrigue within the Dornish court as there were several plots afoot. Myrcella is attacked, then schemed to be placed as a rival queen to Tommen, there's no Bronn/Jaime around, the Sand Snakes are still arrested as being rebellious, but one of them (not in the show) is involved in trying to use Dorne's unusual gender politics within Westoros to their own advantage rather than just standing around and acting ridiculous in order to up the boob to screen time ratio. I don't get what all that fuss was about to deal with a threat to Myrcella, who then unceremoniously ends up dead. So Jaime could have 15 seconds of "dad time"? There wasn't even any hook on which Jaime could "rebel" against Cersei, such as it is (as he does in the books). The fighting, such as it was, for this plot stopped being well scripted and believable after Bronn/Jaime's fight on the beach and the entire ordeal was boring except for that one fight and Bronn's singing. If that's the productive value of future writing, then we may have a problem moving forward here.

If it's more like the Hardhome/Jon Snow sequences, then we're fine. (Though even there, it doesn't make sense for Thorne to let him in with hundreds of wildling refugees and then stab him afterward. Just kill him or leave him out there to freeze).

3) I was on board with the changes to Arya's plot line, but they've basically turned her into another psychopath with the last two episodes. Boring. She's a killer in the books and she's still "off-book" within the House of Black and White, but she's not a psycho. I'm hoping this can be repaired with more faceless assassin training. Even if it does often have the feel of "wax on, wax off" Mr Miyagi in sandals and a dirty robe telling her to sweep floors and poison people.

4) I'm unclear where the Sansa plot was supposed to go. It's great they condensed somewhat (rather than fake Arya, we get real Sansa, this is a fine choice for a TV show as you don't need to pay another actress to be a new character), but this too felt mishandled. So she escapes (or possibly kills herself, but more likely escapes), where is she heading? What allies does she think she has? Reek/Sansa as a buddy cop travel show is probably not going to go so well with Ramsay around either.

We don't know this from the books yet either based on the plot line they have borrowed. But there there's a possibility of "safety" with Stannis, or perhaps Jon.

5) Pretty much nobody believes Snow is actually dead in the books given the way it is depicted and the moving pieces available around him to keep him around as a character. I remain dubious of this in the show as well (again, moving pieces are available, though not as many). Either they think they can kill him off and have just created a major book spoiler, or they think they can keep scenes of Kit filming for Season 6 under wraps somehow. They have kept certain things secret, such as the Shireen sacrifice scene, or the White Walker reveal at the end of Hardhome (everyone who followed the show probably knew it was coming, but the way it was depicted...). But that's different than "hey here's this well recognized actor filming in a place where we have been shooting Game of Thrones episodes". *One possibility would be having a different actor play Snow in the future also. Although that could be odd. Another would be that they just decided to off one of the more popular show characters (in a divergence from Martin's plans for the character in the books?) But this isn't likely to generate the same level of interest from fans as a return they got from Ned's beheading and the Red Wedding episodes. And it writes them into a corner if so where they favored an event over the stories surrounding and driving that event.
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