Retcon This! Game of Thrones Season 2

It’s been a week, so spoilers are fair game, kids. You’ve been warned.

Half man, all swag

It took me some time to warm up to season 1 of Game of Thrones. So much, in fact, that I abandoned the first episode halfway through and didn’t go back until months later because it seemed like everyone I knew wouldn’t stop raving about it. Sure enough, by the end, I was pretty engaged. I was never blown away, but I was definitely interested enough to see more, even if they did kill off some of my favorite characters. I went into season 2 hating Joffrey and Cersei and loving Daenerys, Arya and Tyrion. The rest of the show’s hefty cast I was pretty ambivalent about. This is a show with a lot of characters, so it’s hard to care about all of them… and then a whole bunch of new characters came in. Uh-oh…

Luckily for me, Tyrion shined throughout the season Peter Dinklage is the star of the show now. Every scene he’s in is golden and Tyrion had a lot to do. The same can’t be said for the Mother of Dragons. Daenerys spent a lot of season 2 wandering around the desert and the rest of it hanging around with new pals. Sure, she lost her dragons and had to get them back, but not until the tail end. For the bulk of the season, she was spinning her wheels in the sand. The newly awesome Khaleesi was the only thing that made losing Drogo okay and the momentum of her story was completely lost. The same thing happened to Arya, though her journey started better before screeching to a halt when she became Tywin Lannister’s wine wench. I’m ready for her to do stuff again. That would be nice. I wasn’t a huge Jon Snow fan going into this season, and it’s a good thing because his doe eyed emptiness couldn’t be more boring. NOTHING happened on his season-long trek beyond that Wall until the Lich King showed up to mug at the camera like he was guest-starring on The Office and Jon wasn’t even there for that! They could have simply walked to Mordor in all the time they took meandering about the snow.

Harumph

Game of Thrones has a lot going for it. There are some legitimately good moments throughout the season. Most of the characters are written well and their dialogue is good. The cast is full of remarkable actors. The show is absolutely gorgeous. The sets are stunning and it’s shot incredibly well. The biggest problem with Game of Thrones, especially in its second season, is that it breaks the cardinal rule of storytelling: show; don’t tell. There’s a lot that happens that we only hear about. Theon walks into Bran’s room and essentially says “Hey, little man. What’s up? I totally just stormed your castle. I’m a prince now. What are you gonna do about it?” Did we actually get to see the fall of Winterfell? No. These characters are at war and yet we only see one real battle in the entire season… In the penultimate episode! Oh, and the battle was amazing.

“Blackwater” was by far the best episode of the season. The show doesn’t have to be a white knuckle thrill ride of action, but after 10 episodes of hearing about all the fighting going on, it was nice to actually see some of it. “These are brave men at our gates… Let’s go kill them!” was a great moment in an episode full of great moments. The rest of the season, though, was frankly a bit tedious. In approximately 10 hours of television, what actually happened? Let’s see…

  • Joffrey continued to be absolutely terrible in every way. He’s a great villain. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a villain sentence babies to death on TV.
  • Tyrion continued to be awesome in every way. He’s an unlikely protagonist.
  • Arya got captured and escaped after pouring a ton of wine for the enemy.
  • Daenerys got a boat… Or at least she got the money to buy a boat.
  • Jon went camping in the snow and met a girl. Then he killed a dude for making fun of his mom… Or something.
  • Robb won a lot of battles we didn’t get to see.
  • Theon (whose name I learned in this season) became a villain and got captured.
  • Stannis killed his brother (whose name I’ve already forgotten) and lost the one battle we did get to see.
  • Bran and the other Stark kid (whose name I don’t even know) got fake killed and are on the lam after Winterfell burned… And we didn’t get to that, either.
  • Oh, and monsters are coming!

Sure, there were a lot of scenes where people talked about a bunch of other stuff, but in terms of real plot and movement, that’s pretty much all that happened. The cast is so big that the show is spread too thin. There are so many characters that need to have a little something happen to them at least every other episode that there’s not a lot of time left to drive the main plot in many of them.

A man speaks in the third person and is a total pimp about it

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t actively dislike Game of Thrones. I watched it every week and I look forward to its return. I just don’t love it like so many others and I think there are some legitimate storytelling problems that need to be addressed moving forward. Then again, the show is a massive hit, so why change it? There’s a lot to like, but the pacing needs work. At no point was it “Find the girl and get the hell off that farm, already!” slow, but it didn’t work for me. Here’s hoping we get to see some fights against the White Walkers without wasting half the season just hearing about all the wicked evil they’re spreading half a world away.

And hey, kids! True Blood is back this week! Let’s hope there’s actually a plan for Lafayette this season. But that’s a story for a very different time. If you missed any of season 2 of Game of Thrones or want to see what all the fuss is about from the very beginning, check HBO Go. It’s a pretty awesome service.

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Who ARE these people!?

Lee Rodriguez is a co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of Panels On Pages. He is also a freelance graphic and web designer, action figure customizer, swell guy, and an awesome dad.

I'm even on Google+... Kind of.

Comments (13)

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  1. Jason Kerouac says:

    My take as a MASSIVE fan?

    You’re not wrong about any of this, but you’re not entirely right.

    Arya’s slow boil was very important, I think. Similarly, I feel like everything North of the wall NEEDS to feel tedious to convey how harsh it is up there. Dany? Totally agree… her portion of the season felt awkward to me. It didn’t build as naturally as season one did. But, to be fair, she has only a scant presence in book 2, at least as far as I’ve read.

    As for the battles… the show has a limited budget and certain things it needs to do with that budget. Not showing us ultimately pointless battles isn’t a big loss, really. But then, I’ve always been of that mind. I don’t need to see a big set piece of a battle if what transpires therein isn’t important. It’s enough for me to know who’s winning. Darkwater was different, because so many of the details actually ARE relevant.

    I’m also no fan of the time spent on Jamie Lannister, a character who – as far as I’ve read – is barely even in the books. I feel as though he takes away from attention that could be spent on other characters. He’s a good actor and a good character, but he’s almost too much. Though his eventual importance could be something significant.

    But wait… did Theon die? Am I misremembering? I thought he was just knocked unconscious to be traded for his men’s freedom; I didn’t recall him being killed.

    Anyways, it’s as I said on the PoP!Cast; book one had to grab you and sell you on the story and the world and the characters. It did, as did season 1. Book two, I feel, was then a lot of moving pieces into place for the future, and I get the sense the resultant payoff will be huge. Time will tell.

  2. Joshua says:

    I haven’t watched the season, but based on things I’ve heard, here and otherwise, they’ve fiddled with the story progression significantly from the books. For one thing, Daenerys is still pretty prominent in A Clash of Kings. Granted, she’s all the way across the sea, but her buildup in book two is fairly prominent and from what I’ve heard, nearly non-existent in the show. For instance, her dragons don’t disappear in the book.

    Jaime’s buildup, I assume, is because he’s such a prominent character later in the series. He’s my favorite character in A Song of Ice and Fire, so while showcasing him so early on is technically wrong, I don’t mind because more Jaime Lannister is never a bad thing.

    I can’t comment too much having not seen 2/3 of the season, but I feel like your list of things the season shows happening is kind of long and it seems like you’re dismissing it as nothing happening, especially considering how many smaller, more nuanced character moments you totally ignore. I could take almost any show and if boiling it down to main talking points could make a case for any show seeming boring. I’m not seeing you weren’t bored, but I don’t think listing out what happened makes a very strong case for it.

    All that said, stick with it, season 3 and 4 should be (keyword “should”) a fun ride. Though personally, I’d recommend the books over the show; they’re a billion times better.

  3. Tito Cruz says:

    I was bored with this season until the last two episodes. I couldn’t help but get the feeling that things were being left out or screwed around with and this has given me the urge to pick up the books (and I will). There is a lot going on in the show and a common gripe I hear from people is that they have to watch an episode more than once to fully understand it.

  4. Kaiser says:

    I thought nearly every episode had something really good and cool going for it. Whether it was great dialogue between a duo of characters (Ayra/Tywin, Jaime/Brienne, Varys/Tyrion, Tyrion/Cersei, and so on), or good plot/action twist (bastards murderings, theon turning villain, shadow baby/renly’s death, dragons stolen, catelyn releasing jaime, tywin/tyrells saving kings landing, Jon going double turncloak, and so on), or just fantastic television production …mainly in the last few episodes with ‘Blackwater’ probably being the best hour of TV a series has ever witnessed on screen.

    If that’s not enough then what’s more to ask for? You have a series with great drama, great characters, twisting plots, and a production that is worthy to give it all care and believe in it.

    I think the only real complaint is this should have been atleast a 12-14 episode season. From my understanding Book 2 has a lot more material and characters and trying to do the same thing within the same timeframe might have been the cause of it all feeling a bit rushed.

    I think nonetheless a great accomplishment was done this season if you stopped thinking about “what more could they have done” and starting looking at the material for what it is.

  5. Denim says:

    I liked this season, but felt that it could of been better. There were characters I liked that were introduced in the second book that we did not see in this season (yes, even more characters)
    The Dany story felt odd to me as they really strayed from what happend in the book.
    As far as not seeing the battles, that’s how the book is, the only battle they go into detail is the major one we saw on the show.

  6. Dan Mahoney says:

    Couldn’t agree more, Lee. @Kaiser – 12 to 14 episodes??? They could (should) have told this story in 5.

  7. Mahoney – Michael Bay would have told this story in five episodes. You’re asking for the flash without any of the substance behind it.

  8. Kaiser is right in that an extra few episodes would have given them the room to let the story steep and blossom more appropriately

  9. KomicKev says:

    This kind of complaint from the article is very similar to complaints I read about “Lost”. Too many characters, long drawn out plots that don’t seem to be going anywhere, etc.

    I wasn’t always in LOVE with Lost, but once it was gone, I missed it fiercely (I’m over it now, thanks). I really, really LIKE Game of Thrones and its myriad characters and story lines and everything else. If it runs the course and we see 5, 6, 7 seasons and the writing and the acting and the set pieces (budget) stay the course, then I daresay it will turn into a series that I will LOVE and remember for a long time.

    I never even really heard of the books before, but now I am reading them (much like I never really was aware of the Sookie Stackhouse books before True Blood, and now I am a fan of those). So, I’m getting the best of two worlds – – deep, multi-layered mini-series every year and new books to enjoy in the meantime.

  10. Lynx says:

    Well, the lesson for you is: at least do your homework for what you write. Instead being ignorant and worse shamelessly proud to display it, it is easy to search online to get the correct information.

    Stannis’s brother = Renly
    The other Stark kid = Rickon

    But of course, people will only learn if they feel the need to, so I am wasting my time… as always.

    • I do research. I research EXTENSIVELY in my writing. That I don’t remember these characters’ names is indicative of my overall point. As a watcher of the show, I shouldn’t have to research to find the name of the characters. It should be ingrained into my memory. I live in a world of minutiae. These characters are just not memorable. Also, I don’t ever remember having heard the name “Rickon” in my entire life. I don’t doubt that’s his name. But he’s such a non entity to the show that I don’t know if it’s ever been said.

    • Jason Kerouac says:

      Hey, look, Lee! You got a snarky comment too!

  11. Ben Gilbert says:

    “Where Are My Dragons?!!” is the new “WAAAAAAALLLLLLLLTTTTTTTT!!!!”

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