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Thread: Game of Thrones (Season 4)

  1. #326
    The Pan Spinal's Avatar
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    Quote Quoting DavidSeven (view post)
    You can really feel the formula all over this series. The narrative drive amounts to this: the writers dangle some clear objective in front of 1-2 characters (usually, reunite with character X or reach destination Y) and then, when the characters are close, they strip away all possibility of achieving that objective and give them some other one to achieve instead (which they probably won't). Repeat, repeat, repeat. That's all well and good for Season 1-2 type storylines; however, we're four years deep now, and everyone's still walking in circles. It's been a four-year game of musical death chairs.
    I recently completed the 4th season on DVD. As it's a rare point in time where I am caught up with everyone else, I want to offer a response to the criticism articulated well by DavidSeven above and shared by others.

    I think what David's pointing to is actually the most fascinating aspect of the series. There's no question that the show is exemplary is many ways: acting, production design, special effects ... it's all top notch. However, it's the way the showrunners have embraced and underlined Martin's structure that I think makes the show so addictive, heartbreaking and haunting. This is a story that not only undermines heroism but undermines protagonism itself. Shunning a traditional protagonist is something that has been done before obviously. But within the fantasy genre, where the hero's journey is the norm, it's still quite thrilling, quite startling.

    Much has been made of the high body count and the show's willingness to off beloved characters. But despite the constant shuffling, the elimination of characters never feels reckless. Each tragedy leads to new developments, new opportunities. Each death adds to the staggering history of violence, betrayal, oppression and deceit. This is D&D Fantasy rewritten as Samuel Beckett. As Beckett's plays illustrated the absurdity of human endeavor in the face of a meaningless, godless world, Game of Thrones allows us to ponder the futility and hopelessness of a world in which the machinations and power plays of men and women seem to spin round and round without gaining traction.

    The show knows that we are desperate for someone who will survive to redeem this mess and set it right. It hooks us into their hopes and aspirations. Maybe by the time we get to the end and see everything played out, one or more of these characters will fit the bill. (I have my guesses.) But what's most important right now, I think, is the web. And how the web distracts the characters from addressing the greater threat of the wights.

    I have heard others complain about the slothlike progression of the White Walkers. But to me, they function as a potent metaphor for an overriding threat too large to address in the midst of endless squabbling. I always think of climate change, with the wildlings serving as a kind of 'canary in the coal mine', symptoms of the death and desolation that awaits the larger world. There is just enough tension to remind us that we are observing a world largely in denial that it is falling apart.

    In short, I trust that the team behind this show has a plan. Even if the show catches up to Martin before the books are released, they know the fates of these characters. They know where this story is heading. They're aren't just making it up as they go along. What they are attempting has an absurd degree of difficulty and they are pulling off something special. I was an admirer of the show before, but this is the season where I really fell in love with the vision.
    Last edited by Spinal; 03-25-2015 at 04:19 AM.
    Coming to America (Landis, 1988) **
    The Beach Bum (Korine, 2019) *1/2
    Us (Peele, 2019) ***1/2
    Fugue (Smoczynska, 2018) ***1/2
    Prisoners (Villeneuve, 2013) ***1/2
    Shadow (Zhang, 2018) ***
    Oslo, August 31st (J. Trier, 2011) ****
    Climax (No, 2018) **1/2
    Fighting With My Family (Merchant, 2019) **
    Upstream Color (Carruth, 2013) ***

  2. #327
    Administrator Ezee E's Avatar
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    Quote Quoting Spinal (view post)
    I recently completed the 4th season on DVD. As it's a rare point in time where I am caught up with everyone else, I want to offer a response to the criticism articulated well by DavidSeven above and shared by others.

    I think what David's pointing to is actually the most fascinating aspect of the series. There's no question that the show is exemplary is many ways: acting, production design, special effects ... it's all top notch. However, it's the way the showrunners have embraced and underlined Martin's structure that I think makes the show so addictive, heartbreaking and haunting. This is a story that not only undermines heroism but undermines protagonism itself. Shunning a traditional protagonist is something that has been done before obviously. But within the fantasy genre, where the hero's journey is the norm, it's still quite thrilling, quite startling.

    Much has been made of the high body count and the show's willingness to off beloved characters. But despite the constant shuffling, the elimination of characters never feels reckless. Each tragedy leads to new developments, new opportunities. Each death adds to the staggering history of violence, betrayal, oppression and deceit. This is D&D Fantasy rewritten as Samuel Beckett. As Beckett's plays illustrated the absurdity of human endeavor in the face of a meaningless, godless world, Game of Thrones allows us to ponder the futility and hopelessness of a world in which the machinations and power plays of men and women seem to spin round and round without gaining traction.

    The show knows that we are desperate for someone who will survive to redeem this mess and set it right. It hooks us into their hopes and aspirations. Maybe by the time we get to the end and see everything played out, one or more of these characters will fit the bill. (I have my guesses.) But what's most important right now, I think, is the web. And how the web distracts the characters from addressing the greater threat of the wights.

    I have heard others complain about the slothlike progression of the White Walkers. But to me, they function as a potent metaphor for an overriding threat too large to address in the midst of endless squabbling. I always think of climate change, with the wildlings serving as a kind of 'canary in the coal mine', symptoms of the death and desolation that awaits the larger world. There is just enough tension to remind us that we are observing a world largely in denial that it is falling apart.

    In short, I trust that the team behind this show has a plan. Even if the show catches up to Martin before the books are released, they know the fates of these characters. They know where this story is heading. They're aren't just making it up as they go along. What they are attempting has an absurd degree of difficulty and they are pulling off something special. I was an admirer of the show before, but this is the season where I really fell in love with the vision.
    Incredibly said.

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  3. #328
    The Pan Spinal's Avatar
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    By the way, I also have this personal joke when I watch the show that one of the magical properties of Valyrian steel is that it forces whoever looks upon it to observe that it is Valyrian steel.

    ex.

    Brienne unsheaths her sword.
    Hound: "Valyrian steel. I always wanted some Valyrian steel."
    Coming to America (Landis, 1988) **
    The Beach Bum (Korine, 2019) *1/2
    Us (Peele, 2019) ***1/2
    Fugue (Smoczynska, 2018) ***1/2
    Prisoners (Villeneuve, 2013) ***1/2
    Shadow (Zhang, 2018) ***
    Oslo, August 31st (J. Trier, 2011) ****
    Climax (No, 2018) **1/2
    Fighting With My Family (Merchant, 2019) **
    Upstream Color (Carruth, 2013) ***

  4. #329
    The Pan Qrazy's Avatar
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    Book 4 was so boring I could not get through it (2/3rds in after 3 years). So I don't share your faith in Martin. That said, I hope the show makes enough changes to the story that it rises above that mediocrity.
    The Princess and the Pilot - B-
    Playtime (rewatch) - A
    The Hobbit - C-
    The Comedy - D+
    Kings of the Road - C+
    The Odd Couple - B
    Red Rock West - C-
    The Hunger Games - D-
    Prometheus - C
    Tangled - C+

  5. #330
    Quote Quoting Spinal (view post)
    I think what David's pointing to is actually the most fascinating aspect of the series. There's no question that the show is exemplary is many ways: acting, production design, special effects ... it's all top notch. However, it's the way the showrunners have embraced and underlined Martin's structure that I think makes the show so addictive, heartbreaking and haunting. This is a story that not only undermines heroism but undermines protagonism itself. Shunning a traditional protagonist is something that has been done before obviously. But within the fantasy genre, where the hero's journey is the norm, it's still quite thrilling, quite startling.
    Not to nitpick you to death, but uh, to nitpick you to death:

    I think it feels fresh to a mainstream audience as an anti-Tolkien fantasy, but to even a casual observer of the genre, nothing Martin does with Thrones is new. He's a guy who's successfully followed one trend after another his entire career. He started out in the 80s doing court-based melodrama, which was popular at the time. When the larger trend changed to a more realistic style of fantasy in the 1990s, he switched to that. Thrones is a combo of "grim dark" (heady violence, outr sex) with the soapy stuff he was doing before.

    The best I can say about him is that his prose is a large cut above what usually passes in mid-list genre novels. (I don't mean that as small praise, either. Martin can write and most mid-listers are God-awful). This is one area where the tv series must necessarily fall short-- it doesn't have Martin's terrific descriptions of commonplace things.

    Much has been made of the high body count and the show's willingness to off beloved characters. But despite the constant shuffling, the elimination of characters never feels reckless. Each tragedy leads to new developments, new opportunities. Each death adds to the staggering history of violence, betrayal, oppression and deceit.
    I don't think the deaths feel arbitrary, but they do feel empty to the point of gimmickry. Because the tv show leans heavily on sudden death -- and the threat of it -- as a way to goose the drama. The narrative equivalent to a jumpscare. I'd argue that only works up to a point. Eventually the audience becomes inured to it. I'd also argue that there is almost no real human drama on the show, no ideas to connect with, which is why they rely on violence in the first place.

    One thing I wish David had added: Watch how many scenes in how many episodes involve (1) two people in a larger, empty room (2) quietly threatening each other while (3) those threats amount to nothing.

    The episode to episode play seems to be 50 minutes of chatter and a quick 5 minutes of cliff hanger. Major plot points are saved for a final three-episode arc at the end of the season. (Other "golden age" shows, like Walking Dead and to some extent Breaking Bad, follow this pattern. It's part of what makes them perfect for binge watching but somewhat frustrating week to week).

    I have heard others complain about the slothlike progression of the White Walkers. But to me, they function as a potent metaphor for an overriding threat too large to address in the midst of endless squabbling. I always think of climate change, with the wildlings serving as a kind of 'canary in the coal mine', symptoms of the death and desolation that awaits the larger world. There is just enough tension to remind us that we are observing a world largely in denial that it is falling apart.
    The problem I have with the Walkers is that they were introduced early as a form of dramatic irony, and then the show did nothing with them. It's a subplot that hung in the air for three years. Dramatic irony only works if the special knowledge the audience has actually matters to anybody. Otherwise you're just wasting the audience's time.

    In short, I trust that the team behind this show has a plan. Even if the show catches up to Martin before the books are released, they know the fates of these characters.
    I lost a lot of faith in the producers this past season when they (1) did that thing between the two Lannister siblings that was wildly off-tone and then (2) were shocked by the audience's bad reaction to it.

    It made me think they had no idea what they were doing, and also pointed out the perils of shooting 13 episodes at once (if you alienate people half way through a season, you have no way to correct for it).

    I think the show succeeds mostly on the back of its performers and its production values, not on its writing.
    Last edited by Irish; 03-25-2015 at 01:20 PM.

  6. #331
    Producer Yxklyx's Avatar
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    It was hilarious to find Barry McGovern in Game of Thrones season 4 episode 7! As soon as I started watching the scene I was wondering why this actor was getting so much screen time - and he looked so familiar. A very distinctive actor. The only other role I've seen him in was The Luggage Salesman in Joe vs the Volcano.
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