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DIGITAL DEBATE WEDNESDAYS: Game of Thrones Beyond the Books

Welcome back to Digital Debate Wednesdays! Every Wednesday, the staff of The Ace of Geeks will get our keyboards ready for a good, old fashioned nerd argument, and you get to hang out with us! Feel free to email us any ideas you might have for future debates, or let us know in the comments! Until then, here’s this weeks topic:

This week marked the finale of the first season of Game of Thrones to fully move beyond the books, and it was very different. Did you feel like the new season was better without Daddy Martin’s books as a framework, (although OBVIOUSLY Martin was still involved) or worse, and why?

This discussion will contain many of the spoilers. ]

Grant Corvin: In terms of quality, it was very good overall. It had a ton of huge moments, and although it had its fair share of slow moments, it REALLY stuck the landing with its two final episodes. Most of the characters had their moments to shine, it had a slow burn pace with a great payoff, and some really brutal moments. Also, Lyanna Mormont (or however you spell her name out) is already one of my new favorite characters because if her presence despite being a child. Also, regardless of one’s opinions of issues people had with Season 5 (namely how Sansa was handled), the show runners clearly listened to the fans complaints while still finding ways to work it in organically.

Sam Stafford: Moving past the books has been a mixed bag. On the one hand it’s fun to not know what’s going to happen, and it’s satisfying to see the plot progress. A lot of the major plot points are taken from Martin’s plans for the books (which he gave HBO before the show started) and were anticipated; there are even still some coming up that the books foreshadowed long ago that TV is now finally setting up and strongly hinting at (cmon Cleganebowl!)

On the other hand, some scenes have suffered IMO from not having a well written reference point, introducing an element of schlock into a series that has previously been defined in part by having realistic consequences for characters instead of action movie cliches and scenes that depend on a stack of improbable coincidences.

Arya’s chase scene with the Waif — it was an exciting action movie sort of scene, but it hinged on (a) Arya being caught totally off guard while acting uncharacteristically reckless (b) Arya somehow surviving what should have been a fatal gut wound (c) the Waif acting like the Terminator instead of a professional assassin. The entire scene could even have been cut since it ended up right where the previous episode had left off, but TV demands periodic action scenes to keep the audience engaged. It felt very shoehorned-in.

Rickon’s run. The battle that ensued was amazingly done, but it bothered the hell out of me that Ramsay’s entire plan there hinged on him making what should have been an impossible shot. In this series we’d normally expect that if Ramsay had been that overconfident in his abilities, it should have bitten him in the ass by having him miss the shot. To get to the same result without having to depend on supernatural luck (and this is the way I suspect Martin writes it if he ever gets around to finishing the book series), taking the single long range shots could have been a fake-out, and at the critical moment he’d have had his archers fire a volley in Rickon’s direction.

And while I’m on that episode, Wun Wun’s dramatically timed death was dumb, because Ramsay should/would have shot Jon in the face while the sad music was playing instead of shooting the already-dying giant and then monologuing at Jon.

To end on a positive note, everything at King’s Landing has pretty much been A+. I didn’t know until we saw Lancel in the sewers what was going to happen there, but it was an absolutely perfect move for Cersei to make and perfectly foreshadowed by the story Tyrion told Dany in the previous episode about the Mad King.

Looking forward to next season.

  • Grant Corvin: Yeah… that Rickon thing I agree with. Although it’s arguable some of those shots (at least the initial misses) were intentional to draw Jon Snow in, as that’s exactly the kind of mind game one would expect, and that Ramsey still could have hit him. That being said, how did Rickon NOT think to serpentine?!
  • Sam Stafford: Oh, I definitely read the Rickon scene as the initial shots being intentional misses to keep drawing Jon out. Ramsay even played that up by screwing around and taking one of the shots without looking. That’s why it would have been perfect to have the final shot be an entire volley — “I don’t know if I can beat you, but I know that my army can beat your army,” remember? Ramsay always plays games that are rigged in his favor; playing by the apparent rules he had established was out of character for him, and actually making the shot basically defied the laws of physics.

    I just pretend in my head that they did it the better way and that makes the episode more enjoyable.

  • Nick Bailey Jr: Even shooting the giant was a mind game. It riles up Jon Snow and lets Ramsey fight him ‘one on one’, so he can claim to have beaten Snow in singles combat. All mind games.

Raven Knighte: I think maybe a better way to phrase the question might be “do you think it fit with the established story line of the books that have already been published? What could it have done without?” When Arya left Braavos, she was done there… she went to learn to be an assasin, not follow some religious fanatical cult. J’aquien had his own agenda for her – he had names on a list. Some of them were the same ones that Arya gave him, but he only promised her three. So now a girl has skills… and her name. Cercei knows about all the wildfyre under the city. So does Jamie and Tyrion. Jamie knew about it because that is why he killed the Mad King. Jamie had an argument with Tywin and Tyrion about using it, and Cersei was there. Tyrion told Dany about it, so now she knows. Varys knows, and surely Jon will figure it out when Sam sends ravens from oldtowne. So this was all pretty well established in the books that SOMEONE will be blowing up King’s Landing.

  • Sam Stafford: A theory I liked about the Faceless Men was that they were actually an arm of the Iron Bank and the whole death god thing was mostly for show. We established way way back that the Lannisters were deep in debt to the Iron Bank and the Iron Bank wasn’t happy with them. Then we strangely never heard anything else about the Iron Bank after that scene. Wouldn’t it have been cool if the reason the Faceless Men took Arya in, trained her up, and then turned her loose to return to Westeros was because they knew she’d dedicate her life to wiping the Lannisters off the face of the continent?
  • Raven Knighte: That would have been interesting! I would like to think that the whole “faceless god” thing is a cult, and the Iron Bank uses the cult as a “debt collector.” Given that Arya has it out for the Lannisters (mostly, and a few other people too) it would fit in nicely with whatever vendetta J’aquien has going on, and whatever “collection efforts” the Iron Bank needs.

Seth Oakley: I struggle to enjoy most of HBO’s shows. The story telling doesn’t really appeal to me, they tend to have these long drawn out plot arcs that leave me unimpressed at the end. Sopranos did it, The Wire did it. I prefer episodic material with seasonal arcs worked into to keep everything connected. While I’m sure what they are doing appeals to people who like this, I never really watched the show for the story. I liked watching HBO’s rendition of Martin’s work. I read the first 5 books, and enjoyed seeing how they put the words on the screen, what they thought things looked like, how they portrayed the characters. I think that I enjoyed the parts of season 6 that were in the books the most. Watching Gordy from Black Hawk Down negotiate with Chief Inspector Fred Abberline for the surrender of Black Jack Randall’s castle was really funny to me. The part with the play about Joffrey’s death was really good too, it shows how people in that world portray their own world. I thought parts of this season was weak for that reason, they didn’t appeal to people who wanted to see their interpretation of the published books.

Mark Foo: I enjoyed the season overall, but was disappointed that they didn’t take the time to build a few things up for a payoff later on. The two main instances were the Hound showing up at a church / farm and knowing they’d be killed to bring him out of retirement, but it didn’t need to happen in one episode. The other one was Euron showing up, killing his brother, then claiming the throne. Both felt rushed and suffered for it.

Raven Knighte: I think that there’s going to be a lot of compression of storyline, and time compression (hell, how far is Meereen from Dorn anyway and how the hell did Varys get back so fast?!) and a lot of rushing, now that we’re getting down to the end of things. I can see rushing or cutting out certain elements, but rushing important plot points could confuse the story a bit. So yeah, rushing = bad. And I have to agree with Seth about watching the show to see an interpretation of the books. That’s why I started watching – I read all the books and wanted to see how they would come to life. Sam mentioned earlier that there are no reference points from here on out with regard to published material – but I don’t think that will affect much of anything since the books have established a pretty solid frame of reference. The characters have solid personalities, so it’s not difficult to be able to say “so-and-so would do this or that,” and the world map is pretty well fleshed out so there would be no shortage of places for characters to play. Martin developed this world so well that if HBO or anyone else wanted to, they could keep this show going for generations.

  • Seth Oakley: Yeah, that was odd. Yara: Theon, we should get out of here. Oh, hey, check it out, we’re in this bar now. We should go to see the queen. Oh hey, we are here now. We should go back. Holy shit, I’m on a boat again!
  • Nick Bailey Jr: Things definitely progressed super fast.
  • Sam Stafford: On the other hand, Tyrion’s journey to Meereen in the book was kind of agonizing so maybe it’s okay to compress those travel times a bit.
  • Nick Bailey Jr: There was also more than him sitting around and drinking.
Mike Fatum
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Referred to as a God Among Men, the Greatest Man that Ever Lived, and That Dude Over There…No, The Dude with the Long Hair and the Goatee…Yes, That Guy, Mike has grown up being known and loved around his apartment. In addition to being a successful film director and editor, he loves video games, movies, comic books, board games, and his wife and cat. He’s been friends with Jarys for over a decade now, and they started hosting a radio show together on college that became the genesis for the Ace of Geeks Podcast. When he realized he had so many talented friends who could write, the Podcast became an entertainment website, and here we are.

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