what i watched last week
ten years ago today: usa-portugal 2002 world cup

game of thrones, season two finale (spoilers)

I’ve been trying to convince my son that he would like Game of Thrones … it’s not his genre, and I can certainly appreciate that, it’s not my genre, either … and as evidence, on Google+ I posted a compilation video of memorable quotes from Tyrion Lannister, the character played by Peter Dinklage.

I mention this because, after two seasons, I know that my own entry point for the series lies almost entirely in the characters and the actors who portray them. Dinklage/Tyrion is at the top of the list, but there are plenty of great combinations of character and actor on GoT: Sean Bean/Ned Stark, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau/Jaime Lannister, Emilia Clarke/Daenerys, Aiden Gillen/Littlefinger, Charles Dance/Tywin Lannister, Maisie Williams/Arya, Jack Gleeson/Joffrey, Sibel Kekilli/Shae, Rose Leslie/Ygritte, Conleth Hill/Varys, Gwendolyn Christie/Brienne. People who watch the show can instantly picture these characters, remarkable given just how many characters there are in the first place. It’s also true that most of these actors were unknown to me before the series began, so it’s been a special pleasure to get to know them. (I come to Game of Thrones fresh, as I never read the books, and, to be honest, am not inspired to read them now. I’m sure fans of the books will have quibbles over the presentation of some of these characters.)

At the beginning of the series, I wrote, “I expect to be confused about who did what to whom.” After Season One, I wrote, “the storytelling was a bit hard to follow at times for someone like me who hasn’t read the books.” Now I’ve sat through two full seasons, and I still find myself lost at times. Some of this surely lies in the ease with which I get lost in even simpler narratives, and some/most of it comes from trying to tell such a vast story in a relatively brief period of time. I don’t envy the creators of the show, trying to please fans of the books while keeping people like me up to speed. However, I don’t think they always succeed. Sometimes I am confused because the show itself is confusing. I don’t have an easy answer for this problem, but there’s a reason why I’d use Peter Dinklage’s Greatest Hits as a selling point for the show, rather than trying feebly to explain the plot.

This is far from a deal-breaker, though. In fact, the fascinating characters mean I eagerly watch each episode, just to see what they are experiencing. The plot could enter a black hole, and I’d still tune in so I could see Tyrion, Dany, and the rest. Alan Sepinwall is one of the world’s biggest fans of Midnight Run, and once he mentioned that the entire Brienne/Jaime journey reminds him of that movie, I couldn’t watch the two without thinking the same thing, which is pretty fun.

The narrative isn’t purposely confusing … I don’t feel like the writers are looking at a place over my head. And it can be quite compelling. I don’t want to go overboard and make it seem like Game of Thrones’ plotlines are impenetrable; it makes as much sense as, say, Lost. But I do want to emphasize that while I am generally inclined to like or dislike something based on the appeal of the narrative, in the case of Game of Thrones, narrative takes a back seat to character and acting. Grade for finale: A-. Grade for Season Two: A.