Game of Groans – ‘Criticism is coming’
I have some news, some terrible news. It appears that Benoiff and Weiss have been sent to the Wall – the creative wall. This is the place where creatively bankrupt writers go to live out their days writing bad poetry, composing bad songs and telling bad jokes. Those who reach the creative wall take a vow to be celibate (no woman would find them interesting anyway), to hold no lands (they can’t make any up either because their imagination is so dull and obvious) and to die at their post. Once you reach the creative wall, you cannot return. This is where the Game of Thrones writers can be found. And they’re guilty of a terrible crime – the crime of writing bad television. And sadly, just as the red woman had done, they’ve tricked millions of GoT fans around the world into thinking it’s brilliant.
But why am I whining, I’m not paying for it anyway.
Every writer knows the rule, and it’s not hard. This rule is fundamental to every story ever told, ever. This rule applies to a story you might tell about a drunken night out, it applies to a story you might tell in a job interview, it applies to a story you might tell to get yourself out of a jam, it applies to a story you might tell to impress a woman. It applies to every story you will ever tell.
The rule is simple.
Everything that happens must be in service of the plot.
You might read that and find yourself a little confused so I’ll clarify. Anything that doesn’t serve the plot is filler. A story you tell at work about trying to get home after losing your wallet on a drunken night has a simple plot. Your motivation is to get home. Your story will be peppered with incidents that get in the way of your objective, like the cab driver who gave you bad directions, or the bus driver who saw you but kept driving. It’s that simple. You’re not going to cut to a completely irrelevant incident about a man who sells goats unless it relates to your attempt to get home. In the same way, telling us that the red woman is over 100 years-old is interesting, but only if it means something, otherwise it’s f***ing irrelevant.
Every book/film/comic etc has a plot. A plot can be served in a number of ways, but it must be served. Everything must come back to the plot, whether it be a man trying to find his wife’s killer, or a kid trying to get back to 1985 in a time machine, or an archaeologist trying to find kidnapped children. It doesn’t matter what the plot is, but all the characters and events in the story must somehow relate to it.
Without this rule, a story cannot exist. It simply won’t be a story, it will just be words on paper.
The GoT writers appear to have flagrantly disregarded this rule by presenting a show that is choppy, boring and confusing. Some have argued that behind all the events taking place on both Westeros and Essos there exists a plot, albeit a convoluted one. But I’m not arguing that the plot is convoluted. I’m arguing that the plot is non-existent. In Season 6 of GoT, viewers are provided with a bunch of independent events about characters they grew to love over the course of five seasons. We are 8 episodes in, with only 2 remaining and no one I know is able to tell me what the f*** is going on. This is because no one knows. And it’s not because Weiss and Benoiff are building an epic story, it’s that it’s becoming increasingly obvious they are clearly trying to stretch it out by bringing people back from the dead and expanding on the boring lives of irrelevant and minor characters.
Ramsay Bolton is the perfect example of bad writing. This character goes against everything the book and the show were known for – the conflicted man. There’s no internal conflict with Ramsay, no sadness, no love, no desire for happiness and no pathetic neurosis or irrational paranoia. No, Ramsay is simply a bad, bad man. He might as well play the bad guy in the next superhero movie. Ramsay versus Batman versus Superman. Every 12-year-old in the world would see it. But what I find truly baffling is when my friend Tim (an intelligent adult who is also a screenwriter in his own right) told me that he can’t wait to see Ramsay, flayed to the veins, upside-down, crucified on a cross, his house’s famous sigil. Tim just didn’t seem to acknowledge how unimaginative that kind of demise would be – and he spoke without a hint of irony. He is blinded by his fanboyism. He wants this to happen. You see fans think they know what they want but they actually have no idea. People loved GoT for its unpredictability and the way it could turn a plotline on its head, or change a character’s motivation in a heartbeat. By giving an audience exactly what they expect, you run the risk of being ‘boring.’ The antidote to this is to do something ballsy, to go out on a limb and take a risk. Instead of flaying Ramsay, keep him alive or let him escape. Give him a moment of redemption where he prevents a young boy from being raped by shoving his attackers off a cliff face. Unfortunately, Ramsay has committed too many sins in the eyes of the viewers to allow any kind of redemption. The only thing left for Ramsay is a brutal death, which we will see at some stage. But where’s the fun in that? Ramsay is a walking dead man. Thankfully we’ll be able to see the television’s laziest written character die at least, that’s something.
But why am I complaining, it’s not like I’m paying for it.
The dinner scene at the Tarly’s 17th century Spanish estate reeked of pointlessness. I wonder if Tarly’s angry father and cocky brother and lovely mother and adorable sisters will ever be seen again? I wonder if they will contribute in the ‘wars to come.’ I’d say it’s doubtful. Then why did we need to see that scene? Why was it there? Does Tarly need his family sword for some higher purpose? Or is that scene in the show simply because Sam is popular with the fans and Weiss decided that a dinner with Daddy might be interesting, before asking his assistant to contact Hollywood’s most talentless set designer.
The Tarly dinner scene was long and predictable. It was obvious that Sam’s father would deride him for becoming a maester. It was obvious his father would realise Gilly is a wildling and start yelling with such ferocity that he could be heard in the streets of Madrid. It was obvious that he would then kick Sam out of the villa. It was obvious that Sam would ‘take’ the sword. The whole scene was utterly pointless. So why was it there? How will it serve the plot?
But then again, why do I care? I’m not paying for this garbage with anything other than my time.
Now, onto arcs. A character’s arc is simply a change that they go through in the course of a story. For example, a common arc is a male starting off as an arsehole but becoming a good guy after a humbling period of adversity. Jaime Lannister is a character who should have died two seasons ago. He’s not funny anymore, not charismatic and not remotely interesting. His role in the season 6 is vague at best. Jaime suffers from the same problem that Han Solo suffered from in Return of the Jedi. Solo’s arc finished when he was placed into carbonite by Vader. He was a selfish smuggler, then he helped the rebellion and became a hero. In return of the Jedi, Solo had nothing to do because his arc was complete, so George Lucas sent him to Endor where he guarded a door during that ridiculous Ewok battle. Jaime is now experiencing the same irrelevance in season 8 of GoT as Solo did in Jedi. King Tommen sent him to the Riverlands not because he had dishonoured the faith, but because he was getting far too boring.
Make no mistake, Jaime Lannister needs to die as soon as possible. There was a cringe-worthy scene in episode seven when Jaime tried to relive his badboy days by threatening to hit one of the Frey men in the face if he didn’t stop talking. This clunky and immensely unfunny dialogue made it seem obvious that the writers are having a really tough time writing for Jaime at the moment.
Cersei is another utterly useless character. She spends her days moping around the Red Keep awaiting her trial. Gone are her conniving ways. Gone is her beautifully bitchy tongue along with the cold glances of her psychopathic eyes. She has literally done nothing in season 6. I don’t know why she’s still alive.
Again, I’m not paying a cent to watch this trash, so why am I upset?
Bran’s arc is still developing which is why his story is the best in the series and I found the Hodor twist to be fascinating – but it won’t mean anything if it doesn’t serve the plot and I have my doubts that it will. The twist indicates that Bran has unimaginable power, yet part of me suspects that the writers weren’t aware of the implications that the Hodor twist presents. Part of me suspects that the Hodor twist might have been conjured up by a handful of 31-year-old script doctors in a Beverley Hills Starbucks.
‘Hold the door Jake, I got a tray of caramel Frappuccino’s!’
‘Hold the door? I thought you said Hodor!’
‘No, but ‘hold the door’ kinda sounds like Hodor doesn’t it?’
‘Shit dude, are you thinking what I’m thinking?’
The death and subsequent resurrection of Jon Snow has irreversibly affected the GoT world. We now know that Jon Snow will survive the entire series. He can’t be killed again. He won’t be killed again, for that would be ridiculous. Jon Snow’s survival is the strongest indication yet that he will rule the Seven Kingdoms, or at the very least, he’ll be one of the winners when the saga is all but over. This is just another incident that makes the GoT world a less fun place to be a part of. The writers should have killed him. That would be ballsy. That would have angered the fans, making them more rabid, more obsessed and even hungrier for vengeance. But by resurrecting Snow, the fans were given what they want. He’ll now march on Winterfell and destroy Ramsay as part of the climactic ending for this series. You can see that coming like Ned could see winter.
Now, onto Daenerys. What I find remarkable is the nerve of the writers to repeat her ‘unburnt’ performance for a second time in the series. In the brilliant ending of the first season, Daenerys leapt into her husband’s crude crematorium and came out unscathed. It probably stands as the greatest moment of the entire series and one of television’s greatest scenes in recent memory.
Wash, rinse, repeat. The writers, starved of inspiration, decided to make her do it again, in almost the exact same way, only this time she took down some Dothraki rapists with her. The climactic music in that scene and the awe of the crowds of Dothraki surrounding the burning hut made it seem as if we hadn’t seen her do this before. It’s like the writers had forgotten about the first season or they’d hired some script-doctor who has only seen the last few seasons. I can see how the conversation would have unfolded.
‘How about we have her burn down the hut, kill all the men and then emerge naked?’
‘It sounds familiar.’
‘yeah it does, doesn’t it?’
‘Who cares, write it in. I’m bored. Fire up Netflix.’
I’m not finished with Daenerys. I’ve started muting her cringe-worthy speeches because I can’t stand hearing her speak in that awful language about men in stone houses and iron suits anymore. Her story is just becoming far too tedious. Yes, we know you’re the unburnt mother of dragons and breaker of chains etc. Give us something interesting. Give us something different.
Two of GoT’s best characters, Tyrion and Varys have also become useless in this irredeemable season. They walk around the pyramid talking. They walk around the city talking. They sit around the throne room talking. This is because Tyrion, like Jaime, has an arc which is complete. He killed his father. Tywin’s death resolved the inner conflict that Tyrion harboured for his entire life. He is now as flacid as his twin siblings. Varys, the secretive and seductive former advisor to the king also just sits around talking. What happened to these colourful souls?
There are some positive aspects to this season, but only a few. Theon Greyjoy has had a wonderful role in the series thus far and Alfie Allen has done a superb job by announcing himself as the finest actor in the series. His character is fragile, meek and tortured, yet beneath his skin lies a thirst for vengeance, for himself, the Greyjoys, the Starks and the Ironborn. Arya Stark has also matured greatly in the past two seasons and I look forward to seeing her return to Westeros to reunite with Sansa, who is becoming a strong female character, much like her mother.
But overall, Game of Thrones Season 6 is boring, underwhelming, repetitive and bereft of a plot. This should be of grave concern to the writers, but with the number of viewers rising every week, it won’t surprise me if they continue down this path of wearisome monotony.
But what do I care, it’s not like I’m paying for it.