I am weeping like Brienne of Tarth, mourning the quality of storytelling.
Making a Long Night short is not necessarily a bad thing. How you continue the story afterwards, is crucial.
Bad choices are coming. Winter is over.
To put it shortly – epic Game of Thrones is destroying its legacy in Season 8 from Episode 4 on, as if everybody is in a rush to end it mindlessly and…spring is coming.
The series did and does a lot of work into creating buzz a fishing for attention even though already being one of the most successful and famous series in TV history. Emilia Clark and the Stark sisters are everywhere, you get pestered on instagram with GoT references, there is ton of fan action in all the channel possible and HBO is trumpeting about the end of the tale, before the original writer R.R. Martin even has published one. The story arc is way ahead of Martin who ended his last book No. 5 “Dance of the Dragons” in 2011, almost 8 years ago. It ends after Cercei´s walk of shame and even her action of blowing up the Sept of Baelor has not been happening in the books so far. Varys created the ending note of this version of the story and his role would play out differently in the dialogue-heavy, dreadful Episode 5 where he sells his legacy easily for a bit of logic of the North. Not very coherent.
How can they dare to create so much fuss and then not giving fans the cream, but only the box of the cake?
To be more precise Game of Thrones is the most successful, high-grossing phenomenon of internet based streaming video service history INCLUDING TV of 70 years beforehand. The streamers rule, as HBO found out, Netflix is flexing its billion dollar muscles, Amazon is throwing his messy Prime Video in and a lot of new players like Apple want to join the reach of VOD (Video on demand) paradise and build great epic stories. Most of these attempts fail or get canceled prematurely (unjustified examples are e.g. Sense8 or Colony) because these new streaming services closer to the audiences and their smartphones are still run by the same type of blockheads who were ridiculed in Network (1975). Great Kathleen Turner – she never weeped. The baby boomers are here to stay or mimicked by their GenerationX assistants who also want to become dinosaurs, quickly. Unfortunately with size does not come a proportional brain enlargement, I fear… only quick, quick, quick, next show, next movie, next assignment attitudes. Our times lack patience and humility, and balls to keep the quality up.
Warning: SPOILERS ahead!
The show (and the showrunners) have the money – the have the success and they seem to just want to go home and get over with it. In this non-sensical quality it exposes now, the show would have never grown to fame.
Yes, I am upset, like thousand other unsullied viewers – shitstorm is coming:
Why am I upset – because of the long, dim-lit battle scene, Episode 3? No, The Long Night is great. That was, despite harsh critique from many, an intense and good episode with a necessary twist, in my humble opinion. Think how to get out of this build-up of an invincible army of the dead, if you do not want to make another 3 seasons battling the Night King in the night and snow? In making Season 8 only 6 episodes long they have to deal with the Night King quickly or all will be a mess of interfering plotlines no one has the time to untangle. All pointed to a major climatic moment of either all dying in that battle against a superior villain (fun!), or a deus ex machina moment. The writers chose the “Arya out of Bran” moment, when she gets dropped from the sky behind enemy lines to surprise the cold heart of the oddly Bran-like Night King with a swift move of dropping a very famous dagger and ending the long night swiftly. Bam.
Ask yourself: how do you defeat an army which comes running in the night like turbo-zombies, armed with swords and half still in armour, not feeling any pain, in silence? Specially if this army is getting your own people who fall as new fresh soldiers who instil not just cold but horror – you have to fight your friends if they get killed, and have the guts (and breath) to kill them again. You either apply some serious magic or you catch the bastard only with surprise.
Very satisfying. One move – taught by the Many Faced God – and his reign was over, forever. A pawn in the game of thrones has delivered the decisive blow to the biggest threat in a 1000 years to everyone living. A little girl, made temporarily blind by an assassin´s sect devoted to deception, mummery and killing artfully in collecting bounty for a god who is dealing in death. A different one than the personified blue, icy death of beyond the wall, supposedly created by the Obsidian blade of the Children of the Forest to battle the First Men. His magic was broken by a dagger of Valyrian steel, hardened by magic and dragon fire in sunken Valyria, a dagger pried from an assassin´s fist, one that was aimed to kill the disabled Bran in his bed. Bran gave Arya this blade in the godswood in Winterfell, exactly at the place where she would use it against the ruler of White Walkers seasons later. Is that a bad ending of a long story around “Winter is coming”? Well, we are not sure yet, if winter is ending (which was just starting and may last for decades this time) but it ended the plague of the magic zombie army breaking through the big wall and the walls of Winterfell like butter on the blue fire of a zombie-dragon. A factor of surprise in the game devised by many players changed the tide. That is fine for me – IF you explain to us afterwards at least a bit how that worked and what Bran was seeing. And what the heck was going on in general with the wall, the three-eyed raven and the legacy of the Night King.
My point is, the big story arcs do not get tied up orderly and properly, because they do not take the time – and develop the choices of the characters in consideration we got used to and love. We are bound on a train of new rails laid by the showrunners rushing to deliver grand scale bloodshed with Cercei in minimal time. It´s the season 8 reduced scale and choices for characters developing away from their meticulously built up personalities that bug me.
# Dany looks like a fool since she gave in to follow Jon Snow, somehow enchanted by him bending the knee. The aunt is doing what she says – and he is getting all the praise. She brought the dragon and 20.000 Dothraki screamers and Unsullied and they pat the bastard on the back who turned the North over to Dany as if it all was a great prank. It wasn´t , they are insolent and ungrateful. She still seeks to consolidate with him, even though she realised that she has the better claim to the spiky cold throne. She seems the only adult in there surrounded by brutes. You do not do this to the breaker of chains, Mother of dragons. Khaleesi is regressing being the foolish inexperienced girl she was before marrying Khal Drogo. Does she act like the conquerer of Mereen and Astapor, unifier of the Dothraki hoards (where she burned all the leaders) and scourge of Slaver´s Bay? Standing there idling in front of Kings Landing, Grey Worm without a helmet, no champion in sight, no plan, that looks like a bad idea – it is one, and makes no sense. It gets her friend and translator killed. Triumph and strength is what is needed against the Queen of the Iron Throne. You just subdued the Night King and saved the World, one of your winged babies gets killed by an insolent Kraken with an unholy (and unlikely) marksmanship – and you go there on foot to “talk”? Who wrote that? Burn the walls down, kill half of the resistance in the city and those nasty scorpions and walk in through the flames, putting a boot on the face of Cercei – that is “talking”.
# Jon looks like a bad lover, a bad king of the north, a bad brother and a bad keeper of secrets. And he did not defeat the Night King – his little sister does while he is hiding from blue flames. Clumsy, at best.
# They both together make a strange couple and unlikely lovers – that was the first mistake, that they hop in bed in season 7. No need to. Their sisterly love and respect is enough conflict, when they find out that they compete for the throne and are family.
# Brienne´s virginity taken by the golden hand. Really? Unnecessary madness of “showrunner wrap-up” and pseudo-conflict was imposed on Brienne and Jamie. Why the heck do they have to hop into bed, other than finally make her a women – which is great, of course, but built on trauma. He made her a knight, in a beautiful scene, that could be enough – they do not have to seal this with their genitals. It was never Brienne’s first concern to get laid, and maybe even her motor of being so brave and pure. And then being dropped like a hot potatoe. One rejection broke her up, after winning all these battles and skirmishes and surviving this far? Suddenly becoming all emotional as if she does not know Jamie? One night turns the probably best knight in whole Westeros into a weeping maid? She should have head-butted him and stomped off, not being caught dissolving in tears. How can you destroy a character´s arc so diligently, making her look bad – and “weakly female” suddenly?
# Arya is the true hero – and nobody of any clout announces that, let alone give her half Westeros for it – other than Dany. The queen has the balls to say what the proud Starks cannot – but why does everyone remain silent and not search for her, parading her around? A little girl and a cripple saved all their asses, forever. And all they do is sitting around in gloomy mood and drinking themselves away like at a boring weddingparty.
# Sansa becomes the ice-queen of the north, spilling secrets about her brother in an instant to a loathed Lannister who is the closest advisor to the perceived enemy of the family, Dany. Why exactly we do not know. Jealousy, anyone? And she herself justifies her evolution with her grim abuse and traumatic experiences. Really? What does that mean to other women who got raped, sold and deceived by their friends? Is this now dangerously underlined as an aspiration, a forge to harden the resolve? No way.
# Tyrion keeps having only occasional bright moments, but seem to have forgotten all about the grim Game of Thrones he was playing in King Landing and all history about it. Specially how cruel his sister has become. Its generally a good idea to give an ultimatum and let Cercei choose her fate before burning down the city, but walking there with a mini-squadron of unsullied and standing like sheep while the smallest of the posse is making all the talk – all in front of a big wall, well manned, dozens of scorpions and arrows lurking? And addressing his sister directly, while she stands on a wall above with a hostage? Suicide. Why is poor Missandei killed and not stupid Tyrion (he was once the most drunk and most wise of all) getting peppered with arrows. Makes no sense to let him live, Cercei…
# Cercei is looking bad because she is taking her time to kill a slave, but not the hated brother – who she blames for her son´s death. She had a bounty on his head, and now she lets him stand there like duck, unharmed. No way.
I could go on forever, Gendry´s proposal to Arya e.g., gleaning in his reward for something (for birthright?) – read other articles plucking apart the aftermath of the Long Night. I still had high hopes after the 3rd Episode, which I liked a lot – a dark, fast shooting Ridley Scott style like in Gladiator, making a confusing medieval battle in the night palpable. War is always a mess, specially if reconnaissance is missing. They fought well and died, with a minimal but still important death count among major characters. Mourning them is fine, specially Theon left the stage with dignity before everything else goes down the drain.
Episode 4 was it was an opportunity to address a lot of things we always wanted to know and could only guess. Nothing of that sort. If you waste the fourth of only 6 episodes in that way, there is no time left to properly develop a good and epic ending. It will all go down in artificially kindled fire and blood – but not in a good way. “The Expanse”, e.g. sci-fi excellence in comparison, delivers a brilliant Episode 4 “Reload” in Season 3, beautifully crafted around the theme of “salvaging/salvation” strongly forwarding the story but also giving space to small moments, character development, twists and comic relief (like Gunny entering the bridge in a critical moment, saving the day with a joyful “Hi, fellas!”). Compare the synchronous flashing of bot engines turning the Mormon Nauvoo around accompanied by a minuscule but tight Belter fleet against the backdrop of stars with 20.000 burning arakhs getting extinguished for nothing riding a charge into the darkness against an invisible enemy. The Expanse pulls of a masterpiece in narrative design and exactly the contrary to what is happening in GoT right now. That is the quality of storytelling I want to see and bathe in – not messing in up and becoming lazy in the end. I guess I am done with Game of Thrones, a sad, sad tale of not caring about your own success, the audience, or having done so many things right, more than 80% of the time.
Bad choices go a long way, specially if you try to shortcut their scope.
For being shallow and cheap we could dwell in other series’ fodder who had a less fulminant start…