Thursday, June 16, 2011

Game of Thrones: That's what I'm talkin' about

As much as I've enjoyed Game of Thrones, I haven't been inspired to post anything about it after sharing my initial impressions. The first season has been solid, and almost Jacksonian in its fidelity to the source material. There have been off notes here and there, some of which have been chronicled by Alazander on his blog. But the fact that a curmudgeonly fault-finder like me hasn't felt the need to chime in tells you something about the show's quality.

On the other hand, there hasn't been much that's really surprised or impressed me either. Of course, having read the book makes a difference. The fact that the show has been so faithful to the book has actually caused me to disengage a bit. I already know what's going to happen in the story, and in general, the show handles it exactly as I would expect.

Anyway, now's a good time to check back in with Game of Thrones - not only because the season finale is this Sunday, but because the penultimate episode really is worth talking about. If it's still sitting on your DVR, or if you're planning to rent the series later, please stop reading here. Don't let me spoil it for you.

I knew it was going to suck losing Sean Bean. That was the brilliant part about casting him as Ned Stark (or perhaps just a fortunate side effect). For me at least, watching the last few moments of Bean's tenure on the show roughly approximated what I felt when I read about Ned's demise in the book. The shock value was gone, of course, but I did feel a familiar sense of dismay at losing an [honorable character | great actor], and an appreciation for the courage it takes to provoke the audience like that.

Not surprisingly, there's a certain amount of nerd rage over this scene coming from people who haven't read the book. I can understand being saddened or disappointed - in fact, that's how you're supposed to feel. However, people who carry their negative feelings over to the "real world" (as much as the internet can be called the "real world") just don't get it. They're the equivalent of soap opera fans who conduct letter campaigns to get beloved characters written back onto the show after they've died.

"Great news! I wasn't vaporized after all! That was my, er, twin brother who was impersonating me because... ah, who gives a shit? I'm back!"

Fortunately, this ain't no soap opera. Ned will stay dead, and the negative feelings provoked by his sudden execution will pay dividends throughout the series. For one thing, it sets off a juicy blood feud between the Starks and Lannisters. But more importantly, it fosters a sense of tension that will carry over to the rest of the series. We now know that no character/actor is safe.

Well, I already knew that. But it was nice to be reminded.


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