Critiquing the ‘Game of Thrones’ Criticism
For those new to the planet, first let me say welcome and then tell you about Game of Thrones. It’s a high fantasy TV series based on a book series by author George R.R. Martin. It’s known for its gratuitous nudity, frequent sexual assaults, shocking violence and beloved characters being slaughtered with little warning. In spite of its family unfriendly content it has become a cultural phenomenon in every meaning of the term. It’s watched by countless millions, sold billions in merchandise, turned the filming locations into tourist hotspots, caused digital piracy to skyrocket and not a single crappy comedy film gets by without referencing it.
It’s pretty good is what I’m saying. The excitement for the show is at its peak as we’re in the midst of the final season. Although viewer numbers remain high and the show is dominating public discourse there’s a very vocal community of fans who simply cannot stop screaming and crying.
With many others keen to jump on the bandwagon with whiney Facebook posts boldly declaring it a ‘waste of potential’ and ‘screwed in to the earth’, I decided to point out why some of their arguments are…well…stupid.
Daenerys just, like, turned evil with no warning!
In the most recent episode Daenerys Targaryen, first of her name, Stormborn, Mother of Dragons, yadda yadda yadda, completely flipped her lid and laid waste to the heavily populated city of King’s Landing even after they had surrendered to her forces. It was shocking and brutal and, as the ‘criticism’ claims, comes completely out of nowhere! Seven seasons of character development completely thrown out the window!
Are we watching the same show?
I don’t know what Game of Thrones the crybaby’s have been watching, but Daenerys’ journey has been a parade of red flags. We start with her being the product of an inbred legacy of murderous lunatics. Following the sexual abuse of her manipulative brother she was sold to Khal Drogo, who also sexually abused her. She became a fan favourite when she turned this situation around and embraced her role as the Khaleesi and it’s worth noting how quickly she took to this brutal way of life. At this point her brother Viserys is murdered by Drogo who, in a horrifying display, pours a pot of molten gold over his head. Daenerys shrugs this off. Oh, and when the Khal is mortally wounded she smothers him with a pillow before taking the very sane action of walking into fire. Along with a living woman who had betrayed her.
From this point Daenerys takes a tour of Essos and not once did she find a city or region that she didn’t immediately try to conquer. She lead her people on a death march, she turns back on a deal with a merchant and burns him alive, she crucifies hundreds of slavers, burns all the Dothraki leaders alive in their temple (she’s kinda got a theme here), travels to Westeros with the intent of conquering the lands for herself. Then demands that everyone she meets bends the knee and, if they don’t, they get burned.
But she freed some slaves.
Ok, film theory time. Let’s talk about perspective. This is a narrative term used to indicate which character’s viewpoint we are experiencing. Throughout Daenerys’ story we’ve been following her perspective. When we’ve been shown demented levels of chaos, death and genocide, all fuelling Daenerys drive to rule over all it’s been framed as justice, strength and nobility. Seeing a character’s perspective makes them more sympathetic towards them. Now the fans are angry that Daenerys betrayed them by…doing what she always does and burning everything to death.
Daenerys story is sympathetic only because we’ve experienced her story from her perspective. If you take a step back, perhaps view her from the perspective of the Westeros ruling class, you’d see her as a power mad, ruthless psychopath whose family was unseated from the throne for very good reason, now determined to return to her self-declared birthright and willing to slaughter any who stand in her way.
In short, if you think Daenerys losing the plot and going kill crazy in S08E05 was unexpected then I think you forgot to watch the previous seven seasons.
There’s no more character development!
Well, no. That’s because we’re at the finale. The previous seven seasons of character development was in service of this finale. Our cast have been on a journey of change and discovery, exploring who they are and what they believe in, so they know what side of the final conflict they stand on. The final conflict has begun, and the character stories are being given their final resolution.
I’m not sure what development people want to see at this point. The show ends in one episode, this is like trying to fit in more study in the minute before an exam starts. It’ll be rushed and ineffective. How this climax plays out has been set-up for seven seasons and it’s time to put a lid on things, not try and drag the story out further. Of course, it would appear many people completely forgot everything they’d seen in Daenerys’ character development so this complaint isn’t surprising.
Perhaps this is borne out of the US’s peculiar insistence on driving every media property into the ground. Sure, the main character may have left the show but that’s no reason not to try and continue for another 2 years.
It’s all spectacle and no substance!
See previous remarks about this being the FINALE of the saga. This is the culmination of all the substance and now everything collides. I don’t know how much of the zombie – dragon – mercenary – barbarian battle royale you feel should be dedicated to adding ‘substance’ to the character development but I think seven seasons of build-up to this point is sufficient.
Just how long have these characters been getting built up to this point? This long:
Still not satisfied? Go watch the second episode of the season again and explain how that qualified as being without substance.
Arya is a Mary Sue!
This argument, when used in pop culture, is generally used to describe a character who did a bunch of awesome things. This is the incorrect use, and it’s also a stupid argument. For one thing, we have seen SEVEN SEASONS (it’s almost like we’re having the repeat same point here) of Arya growing colder, tougher and more dangerous as she learns to survive her circumstances. Everything the character has gone through has been in service of her killing the Night King.
This is genuinely more baffling than the claim that Daenerys. In that case Daenerys went from being portrayed as noble and justified only for it to be flipped on its head when she’s revealed as the dangerous maniac she’s always been. Arya went from a super stealthy badass assassin to…just that.
Actual Valid Criticism!
Yes, the writing isn’t as good as when it was adapting straight from the books. Unsurprisingly Weiss and Beniof aren’t as strong writers as George R.R. Martin, but I’m sure we expected that.
There is a problem with the pacing. The massive time jumps have long been an issue with the show.
Military strategists seem to have all been wiped out during the War of the Five Kings. Don’t put your trenches behind your troops you ding-dongs.
That scene where Bronn randomly wonders into Winterfell with a crossbow, threatens the Lannister’s and waltzes out again was perplexingly out of place.