Monday, June 10, 2013

there shall not be left stone upon stone

opening note: The natural thing for me today would be to comment on the announcements by both Apple (I mean, Siri will use Bing on search results? BING? How much does Apple hate Google?) and Microsoft (to a lesser degree, since the main deets were all given in the Xbox event) but I have to a) read them all first, and there's just so many, and that's considering I don't want to read press comments because if journalists start saying Apple is "innovating" for using flat design in iOS 7 I might just lose it and b) digest these announcements, discuss them with my peers and then form an opinion, which will happen somewhere around tomorrow or the day after. That being said, let's proceed.

This is not a review of The Rains of Castamere. It is a look at the current state of Game of Thrones up to yesterday's season finale. So OK, it is mostly about The Rains of Castamere but there's other things on it, such as spoilers, lots of spoilers. You've been warned.

If there's something to say about the ability of this series to move the spectator, it's that more than a week later, the image of a soldier stabbing Robb's Starks unborn child inside his wife has not left my mind. It was so awful. So raw. I haven't read the book's account of the Red Wedding (I was finishing A Clash of Kings when Season 3 started airing and it would have been kind of confusing to both read the book and watch the series at the same time) but I have read in various news sources that not only Robb's wife was someone else in the book, she wasn't even at the wedding, so we have HBO to thank for that horrible image.

There is no denying the fact that the Red Wedding was the most important event of the season and, as many have pointed out, amongst the most shocking of the series as a whole, right next to Ned Stark's beheading and Daenerys surviving a fire with three dragon hatchlings by her side. Although the scene started great (I was literally lying on my bed with about 70% of my attention on the TV, but when the soldier simply grabbed  Talisa's hair and stabbed her belly I sat upright and my jaw fell in shock), it kinda dragged in the middle - I mean, Robb was both shot multiple times and stabbed minutes later, and his mother was shot, given the chance to slice a girl's throat and then suffered the same destiny, so it felt like they were being killed slowly instead of efficiently - but in the end, it took away two main characters and a fantastic supporting one in the most horrible way possible. Also, much of the shock comes form the fact that the scene was very well set up as a light, even comedic wedding unfolded (the fact that the Frey girl was beautiful, the bedding ritual, the naming of Robb's child), only to be turned into a gruesome slaughter.

OK, the Red Wedding was great and an excellent example of why this series is amongst the best in television right now. That aside, what else happened in Westeros? As it turns out, not much.

It may come as a surprise for me to say that, seeing as I just devoted two paragraphs praising a single scene, but in this season I felt for the first time that the show was dragging on. For one, look at the finale: Daenerys walks into a sea of liberated slaves that call her "mother", want to touch her and lift her into the air, rock concert style (seriously, I almost laughed in this scene). I mean, WHO CARES? Season 1 ended with her rising from the ashes, naked, untouched by fire and surrounded with freaking dragons; Season 2 ended with a horde of White Walkers on their way to raid the Night's Watch. Both times I got this "the shit has hit the fan" feeling. In this case, I had a "this is a Britney Spears music video" feeling, and not in any possible good way. Probably I'm not the first one to say this, but the season should have ended with the Red Wedding.

Storylines this time around weren't that much exciting because not much was happening, which is truly befuddling in a show with this many characters. If there's not much to tell about one of them, don't tell it - just tell someone else's story. Best things in this season? Margaery (no particular scene, even just her presence made everything more interesting). The Jamie/Brienne will-they-wont-they relationship (I mean, really? But it was cute). Tyrion threatening to cut Geoffrey's c*ck (awesome - but also sad to think this was his best moment, whereas in Season 2 there were almost too many to choose from). And that's about it. And even those things are the sort of things that are meant to support a larger, more exciting storyline. In Season 1, it was Ned's investigation of the Lannister plot at King's Landing (coupled with Daenerys rise to dragon-motherness and weird sh*t happening in the North). In Season 2, it was the War of the Five Kings, culminating in the Battle of Blackwater (and some more dragon-motherness and more weird sh*t in the North).

Season 3 had no focus, it was a mere development of all the events that came before it. The Red Wedding wasn't Ned Stark's beheading or the Battle of Blackwater beacuse it wasn't the culmination of everything that led up to it. It was just something that happened, like so many other things this season (say, like Theon losing his c*ck. Out of nowhere. Hard to see how it fits in the bigger picture. And just plain awful. On that note, there were many scenes involving c*cks this season - leeches, anyone? - and lots, LOTS of bare asses on display. Maybe if you don't have much to say, you just show some ass?).

I'm not trying to say the season sucked, because it didn't, or that it has run its course, because it hasn't (obviously, as there are four more books to adapt). It just wasn't as entertaining or exciting as its two predecessors, and I don't know if it's HBO or George RR Martin's fault. I will start reading A Storm of Swords as of tomorrow and then I'll have my answer, but if the book proves to be just as dull-ish, HBO is still to blame for not making the necessary changes (after all, they changed a lot of things, and many for the better). I mean, just look at The Lord of the Rings. In the books, Aragorn didn't deny being the heir to the throne of Gondor, rather, he was wating for the right time to claim it. In the movies, the fact that he hid under the Strider persona and had to grow and learn and have epiphanies to claim the throne made his story all the more interesting and engaging (so yes, this was a nerdy example but I consider it to be a prime eximple of plot-changing gone good). Deviating from the source material is not a sin, and I say this as a very passionate (and zealous) writer, specially when the adaptation will be better for it.

Disappointments with this season aside, this series is still one of the best shows on TV and well worth its hour of air. It keeps you on your toes, doesn't let you stay too long on your comfort zone, and it's far from predictable (for those who haven't read the books, anyway). I can't wait for the next season and more characters that I love to day horribly on the screen. Valar Morghulis indeed.