The Game is On

I know I shouldn’t do this. But I can’t help it. This is my blog after all. So I find myself again writing on one of my absolute favorite TV-series in the language it was written and shot in. It’s been a while since I did a similar thing with BREAKING BAD, and hopefully I’ve learned my lesson there well, how easy it is to hurt somebodies feeling, just by sharing your own thoughts. So please, dear fans out there, nothing of what I will put down here is meant to decrease your enjoyment of one of the currently best shows on TV: GAME OF THRONES.

Peter Dinklage
Peter Dinklage in Season 2 of HBO’s series GAME OF THRONES

What’s different this time is, that GAME OF THRONES happens to be an adaptation of a series of novels. And in anticipation of the start of season 2 I did the „mistake“ to start reading the books. Damn. I should have known better. I should have guessed. I got into trouble. Deep, deep trouble. Because I couldn’t stop. Even worse, I had to almost „work“ myself though them, because otherwise I wouldn’t be able to return to my own work anymore. Ever. Again. I would be even more distracted than I already was. And now, finally, I am about to finish A DANCE WITH DRAGONS, the most recent available book, number 5 in the 7(+x) volume series, my head starts to be clearer, and it looks like I will get my life back.

Season 2 is coming to it’s peak with the Blackwater-episode on Sunday, which was written by the man behind the SONG OF ICE AND FIRE saga himself, Mr. George R.R. Martin:

George R.R. Martin
George R.R. Martin

This man took hold of my brain the last months to an extend, that I felt like being controlled by someone else, a warg maybe. I thought I knew some bits and pieces about storytelling, but my set of tools is richer now, than it was half a year ago. So many times I ran into the open knife – storytelling wise – that I really started enjoying being a reader again – an experience I haven’t had in years. Thank you so much, Mr. Martin. I’ve learned so much, and it made me confident to follow my own way, no matter how long it takes. And for that, again, thank you so much, my true king of Westeros I pledge my allegiance to.

So why this is such a great deal for me? Well, because it’s another living proof (next to shows like BREAKING BAD or MAD MEN), that it’s the readers and viewers who have been underestimated the last years, if not decades. We’ve been told so often, that viewers can’t follow complex storylines, ambiguous characters, big ensemble plays with major characters dying along the way. And now this one is breaking all the rules and is just still on the rise to it’s peek success. This maybe is even a greater joy to us upcoming authors, directors, editors, actors – and everybody else, than to the man himself? Well, I think even if maybe not publicly George R.R. Martin knows better than many of us. He’s been long enough in the TV business to know how much it sucks. He knows, how good things get destroyed – most of the times for good intentions, but as often for the death of an original idea. But the ongoing success of A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE as well as HBO’s GAME OF THRONES gives us an argument to our hands, with which we can defend our own ideas better. This is the valyrian steel equivalent in our pitching process know. But we should never forget, that it’s the audience who made this possible, because they’ve been taken seriously. This show and books may not be for everybody – and that’s another „secret“ to it’s success. You never can please everybody. So please let’s stop trying. Be good at what you love yourself, do your best to know it inside out, and bring it to life on page and screen. It’s as simple as that.

And every good thing needs fans to bring it to life. Oh, and they are all over the place, when it comes to Mr. Martin. Just three more links probably everybody know already, but I need to give them all a nod: For everything about the book series go here, for the HBO series here, and for some insight from the team behind it all look here. They are all doing a great job, the fans and the series creators/showrunners alike. Which brings me to D&D (no, not dungeons and dragons – the first ever roleplaying game I played), but David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, often referred to as D&D as well. Which is kind of fitting, when I think about it…

Those two accomplish the impossible. Or are as close to doing so, as anybody currently living could be. To be fair, I came from the show to the books, not vice versa. But this having said, I thought season 1 did the first book justice. Yes, it had to skip episodes, chapters, characters and parts of the story, but it created the world anew in a different medium. Usually more dies, than in this particular case. The first season breathes, lives and tells the story. You have to take into account here, how hard it is to live with the limitations of a „small“ budget and tight TV schedules, even if it’s HBO. Compare the time they had, to the LORD OF THE RINGS or now THE HOBBIT. It’s just not fair to judge them by those means. Still it’s better than anything else on TV. There are changes you have to do, like the age of some characters for example – but apart from that? There’s almost everything in their, the brutality, the intrigue, the sexuality, the grim medieval flair. They shoot on location (!) in Europe (!!) with mostly european (!!!) actors. It hardly can get any better than that. To come to a point here: for season 1 I loved both, watching the show first, reading the book afterwards – both great experiences and each fantastic for itself. Now, with season 2 it’s vice versa – I read the book first. And I had my little troubles with season 2 so far. Mainly, it’s the pace of the show. This is something I feel first, being an editor myself. It’s what defines my job at the bottom line. Now it sometimes feels rushed. There are scenes which play out perfectly well, others are already over, before they started. This got a lot better in the second half of the season. And I feel that there’s some more lines on their hard drives, being cut away to trim those episodes down to their limits, to fit the frame. Maybe they’ll find a way on the Blu-ray, we’ll see about that in the near future. This would be great. I think that here is the major thing TV needs still to improve. It should be possible to exceed the playing time of an episode, even by a couple of minutes, if it’s worth it! Please HBO, be so brave. We watch it anyway, we stay up late, we get up late to go to work, we suffer enough around the show and love it all the way, please leave us those extra minutes and moments, which end up on the cutting room floor. I know they are there. I can feel them. Do it for us.

Season two suffers from that effect the most. As you may know, book three, A STORM OF SWORDS will be split into two seasons. That’s a great decision considering the pace of the show as a whole, and it will serve it well. But A CLASH OF KINGS needed a bit more room to breathe, than it got. I guess 12 episodes would have done it better justice, or maybe even a few added minutes here and there, as I just suggested. I know the TV business (and it’s sometimes even worse in commercials) and it’s restrictions, but come on, this is 21. century, we can do better than that. We want some extra-time, we want extended episodes, maybe just on HBO go. But please, give them to us, and even more so, to the series creators. And more money. If you won’t, we will. Please just let us give it to them. Put up a kickstarter page for each episode, and be amazed by the outcome. We’ll pump up the volume. Big time. You bet.

Everything else I’d like to share now are spoilers, or thoughts, speculations about the show and it’s characters, but I am afraid to mention anything out in the open. Ah, what the hell, let’s break bad :) So if you haven’t read the books (including the fifth in the series, A DANCE WITH DRAGONS) just stop right here. I warned you. Spoilers ahead. Last chance. It’s just one thing, about Jon Snow… and some… options.

[spoiler] First of, I strongly support the idea of his parents being Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen. Which would make him the „third“ Targaryen to ride the dragons next to Daenerys and Aegon. Well, so I thought until the end of DANCE, but… I don’t think he survived the attack. But I think the opening of the book gives us a strong hint on what will happen with him. My guess is, that he’ll become ghost. He’s been warg’ish already, so this should be possible, and we haven’t read about this possibility yet. I mean, lady is dead, Sansa lives, Bran does it both ways, Arya dreams sometimes, of Rickon we don’t know, well and poor grey wind… well, you know. And how well would „ghost“ fit then. And who knows, maybe it’s possible for a warg to control a dragon as well… [/spoiler]

In other words, speculating is the fun (and only) thing to do, while waiting for THE WINDS OF WINTER during a never ending summer… dear George R.R. Martin, I start to think that it’s you behind global warming! Winter is all we want…

– – –

PS: Für all jene die in den Genuß der deutschen Hörbücher gekommen sein sollten – Band 17 ist inzwischen erhältlich, und wird wieder von dem unerreicht großartigem Reinhard Kuhnert gelesen. Nach drei Monaten Dauerbeschallung klingt inzwischen meine innere Stimme schon fast wie seine. Chapeau, Herr Kuhnert.


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