For this edition of “He Said, She Said,” we discussed one of the most-talked about shows on television that has yet to be discussed on The Wise Guise. So simply two opinions was not enough… we had to go bigger! So we brought in the in-laws!
It’s the show that has caused much controversy from fans and critics on the right and the left for its gratuitous sexuality. A series that, when it began, many doubted could be successful given the fantasy epic genre and the dozens of complex, nuanced characters. A series that started out a hit and has only grown in ratings and accolades. A series with much bloodshed behind it and surely much ahead. There’s a lot to talk about with Game of Thrones and, with two seasons in the can, five books written, and much more story remaining to be told in books and on the screen. So, for this edition, we’re bringing you the perspective and reflections from Seth and Taylor Wiedemann in addition to myself and Palmer. Taylor is Palmer’s sister who is probably the most obsessed with the show out of the four of us. Seth has read each of the books, so he brings that perspective. Palmer and I bring our usual perspectives in assessing Game of Thrones season 2… enjoy!
DISCLAIMER – SPOILER ALERT: It’s been over a week since the season 2 finale aired, but there are spoilers about the entire first two seasons of Game of Thrones below. Additionally, Seth discusses some differences between the second book and the second season.
Joseph Said: “These are questions for wise men with skinny arms.” And so those of us with skinny arms (who think we’re wise) begin to debate for another 10 months about the fate of the seemingly hundreds of characters on Game of Thrones while waiting for the next season and wondering whether we should pick up the third book and start reading ahead. Twenty episodes in to television’s fantasy epic and the series is as engrossing as ever before.
I’ll be honest. The first few episodes of this season of GoT, though enjoyable and better than most things on TV, were missing that special something. Tyrion, portrayed masterfully by Peter Dinklage, was the highlight of each episode. As many critics, bloggers, and columnists both Christian and secular have mentioned, the show’s tendency towards providing 2 to 4 minute moments of pornography began to become obnoxious and annoying, taking away from the rest of the series. (That’s another discussion for another time, as I have thoughts of writing a blog post called “Okay… we get it” discussing how some shows on HBO and Showtime have gotten lazy with their storytelling at times, leaning far too heavily on graphic sexuality.) But with the season’s fifth episode, “The Ghost of Harrenhal,” beginning with the shocking death of Renly (the gay JFK of Westeros, in my opinion, which now that I think about it, should have foreshadowed his early demise), and moving through Dany’s adventure beginning in Qarth, Jon Snow’s journey beginning with the search party, Arya’s deal beginning with Jaqen, and Tyrion’s planning for how to defeat Stannis’ superior army. The episode had some of everything and it excited me for the second half of the season.
With the season now over, it’s very clear to me how important that fifth episode was, setting in motion events that concluded in the epic battle of Blackwater and the rippling aftermath of the season finale. I haven’t felt this way about a season finale since the multiple-cliffhanger, speculative story arc spinning webs of Lost season finales. Loss of characters forever. Ambiguous endings for others. Wrapping up certain problems for some characters while introducing new problems for each remaining characters, often leading to the introduction of altogether new characters.
But the most amazing feat of this show through two seasons is not how they’ve managed to adapt an epic into a hugely popular TV series for the masses, but how they manage to make us feel so deeply about so many characters, even ones we’ve only just met or only seen on screen for, on average, 6 minutes per episode. Each death stings. Each character feels like a deep family friend or a mortal enemy who has personally wronged us. As the universe expands and the characters become more complex and ambiguous, it only makes us more invested. That’s the magic of this story, these characters, and this show. And that’s why I wish that I could simply say, “Valar Morghulis” to bring it all back again.
My favorite part of the season finale, by the way: The Temptation of Daenerys Targaryen, both by the wintry iron throne and the image of Drogo and her baby in the tent. Powerful imagery. Biblical implications. Magical conclusion.
Palmer Said: I’ll be brief. It won’t be as long as the others, because I don’t believe in blogging longer than I would read, i.e. one to two paragraphs. I was a huge Game of Thrones skeptic from the beginning. I’m not sure how I was convinced to watch the show originally, especially given the violent and suspenseful 15 minute preview scene with White Walkers. I’m pretty sure some form of trickery was used by my husband. That being said, the show’s rich characters have hooked me. And when I say rich characters, I mean the Stark family. After the execution of Ned Stark last season, I was really looking forward to this season, seeing the Lannisters get their just desserts. Throughout the second season, I swore I’d stop watching the show on multiple occasions due to the pornographic scenes that we were forced to begin skipping altogether. They added nothing to the value of the show and just seemed to be HBO trying to shock instead of relying upon the rich characters of the story. Or George R.R. Martin is just a big perv… However, armed with our fast forward button, Tyrion’s wit and the dynamic friendship which developed between Jaqen and Arya convinced me to watch until the end.
All in all, I hesitate to recommend this season to anyone because, unless you’re already hooked on the characters, I don’t necessarily think I want to put a stamp of approval on a series with such content.
P.S. I’m not very good at waiting for next season so I Googled all the spoilers on the big deaths and moments from the next books… and I can’t believe I haven’t spoiled them for Joseph yet! It’s only a matter of time…
Seth Said: As the token person who read the books in this “They said They said” palooza, I feel obligated to give my assessment of how the HBO series finale did justice to the novel. So I will.
Now it’s important to note that, overall, this is a 1,009 page book we’re talking about (U.S. paperback version), and HBO has to cram all that into a 10 episode time crunch. Plus, they have to deal with R.R. Martin notoriously weaving an endless number of characters into multiple, vastly complex story lines.
So, somewhere along the line, you’ve got to cut some crap, and I definitely understand the need to combine certain characters and story lines to make things simpler for the audience to remember. I get it. Some entire sequences that aren’t essential to the story should be cut out, right? Fine. Lets see what was in the book that we can cut out of the finale:
1.) In the book, Dany goes to the House of the Undying of her own free will to learn about her fate? With her dragons in tow? Get that outta here!
2.) In the book, Sansa doesn’t go with the Hound because throughout the book she had made plans to escape with the knight-turned-fool she saved at Joffrey’s birthday joust? Don’t need it!
3.) In the book, Arya uses her last death wish to trick Jaqen H’ghar into helping take over Harrenhal? Cut it out!
Wait, what?! In case you didn’t know, in the book a group of Rob Stark’s banner men were being held prisoner at Harrenhal. So Arya agreed to not name Jaqen in exchange for his help killing the prison guards, and consequently taking over the castle. But that was before she become cupbearer to a major character NOT named Tywin Lannister. Which was before she decided to leave the castle by killing the guard at the gate BY HERSELF.
And who was she a cupbearer to? Oh nobody, just Rob Stark’s bff this whole season. Roose Bolton ring a bell to anyone? No? Ok. Then superb job HBO!
Definitely one of the most interesting story lines in the novel is Arya Stark, and even with all the discrepancies I’m still a fan of her portrayal in the HBO series. However, I can’t help but feel like the show had a bit of a swing-and-a-miss with her character’s possibilities. All in all I have to say I’m definitely looking forward to the third season, and the good news is I won’t have to worry about knowing what will happen. I’m sure HBO will surprise me.
Taylor Said: For those of you who watch Game of Thrones as religiously as I do, maybe you have also been feeling a lack of “payoff” in the first 8 episodes this season. I want to be clear – I LOVED this season. So much so that I have seen every episode at least twice. I have my Sunday night viewing, where I take in the epic scale of the show and, by Thursday, I need to be reminded of the smaller events that occurred. Often times, this is where the answers to so many of my questions lie. The devil is in the details with Game of Thrones and I try not to miss them. For the last 10 weeks I have had so many questions that demand immediate attention – questions that my husband (who has read the books) could have answered but for whatever reason made the decision not to.
The season 2 finale was a jackpot of answered question and comeuppance, a.k.a. “payoff”. As I re-watched the episode on Thursday, I made a list comprising all of the “pay off” in episode 10. The bullet point list was over 20 points long. So I condensed them into the three most notable “payoff’s”.
1. Theon’s comeuppance
What more do I need to say? My loathing for Theon this season came quickly. We have been waiting the majority of the season to see his idiotic plan fall apart, and to “Prince” Theon, I can’t imagine a much worse fate then “his” people turning on him. AND after such a great speech too?! I look forward to seeing Rob and Theon’s last conversation next season.
2. Khaleesi getting her dragons
Similar to last season, the finale gave Daenerys Stormborn Targaryen the respect she deserves. It seems to me that Khaleesi coasts through the regular season getting by, and being fairly entertaining, but in the post season (a.k.a. season finales) she brings the heat. Literally. #punny. Find me someone who didn’t want to see the bald guy with purple lips meet a terrible fate. Thanks Khaleesi! I’ve learned my lesson. I won’t be underestimating you again.
3. Jon Snow enters Mance Rayder’s camp and, WE REALLY SEE A WHITE WALKER!
My favorite character on the show is Jon Snow (possibly because of my love for his direwolf Ghost).
The story line with Jon has had me on the edge of my seat since he went beyond the wall. I could tell that good things were in store for Jon. I just wasn’t sure what R.R. Martin was planning. Knowing that he is going to be a spy in Mance Rayder’s army is such a “pay off”. Storylines like this are the reason I watch the show. It is going to be a long road for Jon Snow (and Ghost wherever he is), but I look forward to following them back to the wall. Last and possibly the biggest “payoff” of all… WE REALLY SEE A WHITE WALKER! We have been waiting since the first scene of the first season… and it did not disappoint! It brings to mind the scene from Lord of the Rings in the mines of Moria when Gandolf reads about the drums in the deep signifying a terrible end for the dwarfs. “Drums, drums in the deep… they are coming.” By the time you hear the drums, it brings a terror because you know what they signify. That’s what I loved about the horns warning of White Walkers. As soon as you hear the third horn, you instantly know what it means. I loved the visual effects for the white walker and the addition of the Nazgul screech.