Game of Thrones– The Second Season

Long running serials are difficult to sustain, episode after episode after episode. One way to avoid monotony of course is to have a plot so gargantuan, involving so many characters and sub-plots, that you avoid repetition altogether. What you do not avoid is your audience losing the ability to keep up with all the comings and goings and toings and froings, or in this case killings and thrillings.

Game of Thrones is after all, a war flick. Its about multiple families fighting to be able to sit on the Iron throne, and be king of the mountain, so to speak. What this particular sprawling story has in common with other gigantic sagas, for instance the Lord of the Rings, is that by and large, the age of magic and dragons is in the past, though not entirely. But comparisons with LOTR should probably end about there.

There are very few characters in Game of Thrones that one can identify with, or much sympathize with. They are mostly all egocentric, petty, by turns vain and stupid and arrogant, not to mention bloodthirsty. They’d put their mother’s head on a pike if it would put them on the Iron throne. In other words, this is not an epic with subliminal Christian values, and a clear-cut demarcation between good and evil, between the good and the evil. No, it’s all shades of gray, or at least Grayjoy (one of the families in the story).

What are the virtues of the series: 1) its many and varied spectacular venues, whether in Iceland or Morocco or Europe or somewhere else. It doesn’t lack for eye appeal; 2) there is enough fantasy thrown into this war epic that it can sustain the interest of those not particularly looking for an ancient version of medieval war mess. More like dungeons and dragons for beginners. 3) some of the acting is very good indeed (see Peter Dinklage) and can sustain your attention, but there are hardly any memorable lines, though there are some scorching scenes. 4) no expense was spared on this show. It must have cost a zillion dollars, and it looks like it too— the costumes, the settings, etc. are pretty spectacular.

On the down side: 1) gratuitous nudity here there and yonder. This is not for the young, nor for the easily tempted or distracted or led astray. 2) there are too many story lines and too many subplots. You can’t tell the players without a program…. but this word just in. A TV show should be able to stand on its own merits and two feet, without a guide for the perplexed. Then there is thedecided propensity to kill off the better characters, though not all of them. This is almost as irritating as the last episode of season 3 of Downton Abbey. 4) the playing up of the sordid and numerous examples of the abuse of women in antiquity. It is certainly true to life in that respect. This is no story of Camelot— at all. 5) it reveals the ugly underbelly of war….. there is nothing good about it. It’s just one injustice after another, one killing after another, one suspension of all ethical rules, all sense of honor, or loyalty, or trust, after another. With all the battles and fighting and different armies it is hard to tell whose winning or losing. It’s rather like tallying up the score in a cricket match. Who exactly is ‘not out’ yet?

On the whole, the down side outweighs the upside of the series…. but it does have the capacity to be compelling watching. Check out just the last two episodes of season two….. But of course season three is already with us.

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  • Dan S

    The unfortunate thing about this TV series is that it pales in comparison to the books. The 2nd season suffers especially from heavy cutting of material from “A Clash of Kings.” Premium cable, like HBO, seems to demand salaciousness, resulting in “Game of Thrones” the TV show being far more gratuitous than its written counterpart. The show seems to revel in revealing what is mostly hidden in the books. (For example, Renly Baratheon’s relationship with Loras Tyrell is explicitly laid out in the TV show, while in books everyone merely talks about their suspicions of the Renly’s predilections.)

    For me, it is this heavy-handed spell-it-out-for-our-idiot-viewers handling of Martin’s brilliant novels that make HBO’s adaptation barely tolerable viewing. I’m really just watching to see great actors speak Martin’s dialogue (which is mostly intact).

    If you want to truly enjoy this series, it must be read.

  • Brian

    The killing off of main characters follows the novel’s storyline. While certainly disconcerting, it is more true to life in that respect and lends an air of unpredictability to the whole series. Wait til you watch season three…

  • rvs

    Thanks for this post. I have become a fan of the show, but I am also mindful of its shades-of-grey experiments, some of which are more black than grey, and some of which are not. The death of Ned Stark reminded me of Christ’s death in certain respects, and Socrates’s death, perhaps. I also find Tyrion’s sensitivity to outsiders and to the marginalized by be compelling, though other aspects of his character are not. Finally, this show appreciates the importance of deep magic (Narnia!), and in this way I think the show argues for a kind of re-enchantment of the world that is very much needed after the Enlightenment’s frigid philosophies, not to mention the Christian fundamentalist’s cold and deadening systems.

  • Stephen

    It’s one of the best shows on TV right now. My wife and I both really enjoy it. Great story and characters. Like Ben said, they spare no expense. The only negative for me is the over-the-top nudity. Some sexual scenes are so graphic it’s almost unwatchable.