Why Game of Thrones is failing

I’ve been an avid reader of this series long before they decided to turn it into a TV show.

This was the first time a fantasy book grabbed me so hard I could actually call myself a fan in that fanatical sense. This was what fantasy ought to be. Forget the battle between good and evil, the endless talks of the chosen ones and destinies, forget all that and focus on the complexity of the human character. That alone is enough to produce a wonder.

This story gave me the ambition to write. It still does.

When I heard they were making a TV series, I was carefully hopeful. I knew some of the actors, I knew and loved some of HBO’s past shows (Rome!) but there are so many things that can go wrong transplanting a book story into a TV screen story.

Glad to say, my doubts were needless. While there were many simplifications of the original story, most of it made sense. The show even expanded the character interactions by some new and exciting scenes. It gave us engrossing exchanges of character conflict.

But now, with great sorrow, I see the show has begun to lose its momentum and is being watered down into a typical mainsteam blockbuster.

The primary reason for this, I believe, is the lack of guidance by the books. Until now, the screenwriters and producers could rely on the solid foundation of the grandmaster himself, George R. R. Martin. George even wrote the script for one episode per season, so he was definitely around to be asked for details.

With season 6, I think George had probably distanced himself from the show so it couldn’t influence his writing of the remaining books. I know he’d stated before he doesn’t read the fan theories so he has plausible deniability if anyone accuses him of stealing ideas (which has happened to some authors).

Here are some examples of why this show is losing its grasp on my very demanding attention.

The main premise of Daenerys’ story arc in season 5 was the underground movement in the conquered city of Meereen. For the first time, Dany faced an enemy that she couldn’t fight off or run away from. The sons of the Harpy were so determined to get rid of her that they didn’t run from Drogon even after he’d burned several of them.

In season 6, the sons of the Harpy are simply butchered by the Dothraki. Where is the might of the old houses of Meereen? Why did an underground movement put all its strength OUTSIDE the walls to butcher some random people? The whole Sons of the Harpy plot was solved in less than a minute of screentime.

Dany promised to keep Slaver’s Bay free of slavery and yet she took all her ships and soldiers west. How did she ensure security? By executing two of the slave masters, one from each city. It was said countless times that these cities are not kingdoms but oligarchies, rules by councils of aristocracy and merchant princes. Would killing one man per city truly ensure slavery does not return?

The whole situation in Slaver’s Bay was so poorely brushed under the rug it’s beyond ridiculous.

One of the greatest disappointments in the last season was Tyrion. The premise in Season 5 was “Here is a man who knows how to rule a city, who knows how to stamp out corruption.” I expected a marvelous cat and mouse battle of Tyrion and the Harpy of Meereen, with Tyrion using his entire skillset to come out ahead of his enemy. What happened? Tyrion recruited some red priestesses which apparently placated the people and sons of the Harpy but when the slavers brought ships to besiege the city (again, something Tyrion actually has experience with), it was matter-of-factly solved by Daenerys who now has full control of her dragons. Very convenient.

As they grew, the dragons turned more and more feral and at some point, Dany had lost control of them completely. This was a riveting conflict with herself and brillianty shows the burden or rule. Why does Dany now have full control of the dragons? How did she acquire this control? Some fans online say it was her burning of the khaals that had caused this. Brilliant. If the show actually told us this. But it didn’t which is why this is just another of the fan theories out there. It is a sad day when you have to look up what the apologists’ theories are to make sense of what you’re watching.

There are other disappointments. Arya, for example, is released from her service to the Faceless Men without any penalty whatsoever. Jaqen trained her for months, gave her forbidden knowledge and abilities. For what? So she can not use them as her plaything, killing anyone she wishes? All this after the show worked so hard to build up the Faceless Men’s obsession with righteous murder, worship of death and the careful dealing with the Many-faced god. Where is this devotion when Jaqen gives Arya leave to go away and kill however she wishes?

Season 7 has managed to kill much of the drama and conflict the previous seasons worked so hard to establish. I will remain an avid watcher of the show but now I will be looking for what to AVOID in my own fiction, not trying to emulate it.

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2 thoughts on “Why Game of Thrones is failing

  1. I think you’re definitely right about the lack of source material being problematic for the show. It’s been speculated that the series won’t end at 7 books and GRRM is actually terrible at estimating things like release dates and lengths of his work. ASOIAF was originally planned to be a trilogy: The war of 5 kings, Dany’s invasion, White Walker invasion. We see how well that went.

    My guess is that the showrunners want to keep the action going so they shifted their focus on the main plot points without having access to the transition that GRRM is putting in to his own books. If he is withdrawing to focus on finished TWOW, it makes sense. So the showrunners had to get Dany to Westeros ASAP and resolve the conflict in the North so they could get to the other major conflicts to come.

    GoT works as a TV show in my view, but it’s no longer a book adaptation.

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