Winter is Here

Kristin Devine

Kristin has humbly retired as Ordinary Times' friendly neighborhood political whipping girl to focus on culture and gender issues. She lives in a wildlife refuge in rural Washington state with too many children and way too many animals. There's also a blog which most people would very much disapprove of

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60 Responses

  1. Doctor Jay says:

    I did not watch GoT. I did not read GoT. My daughter read the first one, and recommended against it. I trust her recommendations with all my heart, so I ignored it, though I learned quite a bit about the general setting and plot from her and from the zeitgeist.

    Likewise, Kristen, I trust you as well in your “wow this was bad”. We have disagreed on matters of taste before, but this opinion seems like it would cross over.

    I have a point to make, though, and I can’t quite make it with GoT, because I’ve never watched it. Instead, let’s talk about Twilight. I read the first book. I was not very impressed. Instead of talking about why I wasn’t impressed, though, I want to make another point.

    So, I didn’t like it, but clearly LOTS of people did like it. And the movies, too. So, what can I do with that? I am the final judge of what I like, so I’m sticking by my guns, and keeping my dislike. So then, what about my fellow man? Are they all morons, who are easily led by power fantasies? Should I adopt a stance of contempt for them?

    I don’t like that stance, so instead, as I was reading it, I asked myself “What’s good about this? What is it that people like about it? Why do certain scenes feel great to some people when they feel contrived and questionable to me. Why do people love this book even though to me, the main character Bella, is hardly a person at all?

    Related to this is “Why did people love The DaVinci Code?” There the answer is simple – it is very cleverly and expertly constructed so that each (short, and easily readable) chapter ends by introducing new information that results in a new cliffhanger. This pulls the reader through it something fierce, in spite of the contrived plot and kind of terrible prose.

    (In contrast, Stephanie Meyer’s prose is quite good, I feel. Evocative and clean.)

    So, what is good about GoT? What did people like? I mean, of course people like beautiful people half nekkid, but those are not hard to find these days. What else?

    I don’t know, I didn’t watch it, and I’m not likely to. But to me, to someone who is interested in the craft of writing, this is a good question to answer.Report

    • North in reply to Doctor Jay says:

      Doctor Jay, I’m gonna answer and this will necessarily be a bit spoilerish but, whatever, it’s 2020 and GoT isn’t exactly fresh content.
      What was good about GoT the TV show? Well for starters they cast it quite well. Dinkage was a fine Tyrion Lannister- he was prettier than the book says he is but hell we’re talking TV here. Jason Mamoa was a perfect embodiment of Khal Drogo. Sophie Turner was an excellent Sansa Stark and Sean Bean did an amazing job as Ned Stark as did Richard Madden playing his son Robb. I could go on, but suffice to say the showrunners did a decent job casting the show. It was also well budgeted and so had really solid support structure: the scenery, effects, costumes and settings were very well done. The animated opening was downright inspired and the soundtrack, while not exactly exemplary, was good above average workmanship.
      I commented elsewhere in detail but I’ll touch on this briefly: The Song of Ice and Fire (which is the book series of which Game of Thrones is the first book) is so well written and so well suited in its nature and structure for TV in its early concrete books, that all the praise I give above basically requires simply having a studio throw gobs of money at it and show creators who have read the books and have some fishing clue what they are doing. Benioff and Weiss met this very low bar and so they crafted a series that was a huge hit.
      What was good about GoT (A Song of Ice and Fire) the books?
      Well firstly they’re well written by a master of the craft and, especially early on, they’re thick and rich without being too too much. Later as fame and success strike off the shackles of editors Martins books overflowed into immobilized sprawling excess but his early books were meaty but not overdone.
      Secondly Martin is a world builder and it shows. The books give you endless hints and glimpses but there’s a seamless sense of a vast world lying just beyond the senses of the point of view characters.
      Thirdly Martin’s world is dynamic. What happens in one-part effects the whole. It can’t approach the complexity of real life but there’s a sprawling web of interests and intrigue that really is fun to keep track of.
      Fourthly Martin embraces a kind of fantasy realism. This is probably his most talked about quirk in that he likes to take fantasy tropes and brutally murder them in front of you. This can best be described as letting the obvious consequences actually occur. If you think about fantasy the fantastical is, in actuality, quite typical. You go in the forest of no return and return from it. You take the million to one shot and you score. You stick by pure principles and are victorious and admired for it. Martin doesn’t always adhere to this and it can be quite interesting. A character who is your -primary- point of view character in the first book sticks to his principles even as the cynical and scheming advisors around him warn him it’s ill advised… and in the end he gets his head chopped off and his innocent children cast into peril. The loving mother sacrifices possession of her enemies most powerful fighter and noble in exchange for not even the return of her two daughters but merely the promise to return her two daughters and it collapses her entire political and military position as her followers abandon her in disgust. A noble handsome young lord follows his heart, reneging on a political promise and an arranged marriage. Love doesn’t conquer all in this case, it drives a dagger into his heart and leads the penultimate dissolution of his entire cause. Martin follows these classic fantasy themes but where all fantasy jigs right Martin just carries on through to the obvious (in fantasy unthinkable) conclusion that thousand to one shots miss nine hundred and ninety nine times out of a thousand. It leaves a reader with their head spinning and makes it more difficult to guess what happens next- which in turn makes the books voracious reading.
      I could go on, but this comment has gotten long enough already.Report

      • Kristin Devine in reply to North says:

        Yes, the casting – I will prob. do an article on it but with a couple of notable exceptions (Catelyn didn’t work for me) the casting is so perfect it surpassed what I imagined, and that, I don’t think has ever happened before in any adaptation for me. Sophie Turner became my favorite actress, TBH. Let me just give a shout out to Mark Addy as Robert Baratheon, as I was rereading the book I could hear every line in his voice and it was just a perfect match. And Jack Gleeson as Joffrey – I mean HOW did they find that kid, just absolutely perfect.

        Another thing I would say is the “oh holy sh—” moments did happen even in the later seasons of the show and were mindblowing. Now, from what I’ve read, they did have some basic idea of where GRRM was heading with it so I’m assuming at least the bigger plot twists will happen in the books too.

        The books broke my brain on a couple of occasions which I’ll write about over the next few months. Ned’s death is the obvious, but so many things happened where I was like “I didn’t know you could even DO that!” When I read GoT for the first time I was right in my peak stage of formulating the kind of writer I wanted to be and I learned from GoT enormously. He absolutely keeps so much of the fantasy rooted in reality, reality of human behavior which is something I vastly admire.

        And let’s not forget especially in the first book, there are some lines that are laugh out loud funny, esp. Tyrion and Littlefinger. It’s not all blood and doom.Report

        • Brent F in reply to Kristin Devine says:

          The problem with the later season is they were replicating the plot points on an outline from the author, without much understanding on how it all fit together and how one event leads to the other as an organic whole rather than getting through plot points.

          So the series’s earlier strength, the internal logic of the massive plot went away when they ran out of book. Ned Stark dies as a logical consequence of the entire King’s Landing book one plot built on every character acting logically based on their own character and motivations.

          In the latter seasons, stuff just happens, its not built up as individual arcs or as the consequences of one action happening after the other.Report

        • North in reply to Kristin Devine says:

          Yeah, frankly I maybe damn with faint praise because a lot of the casting was really well done. Mark Addy deserves all the plaundits and slipped my mind only because Robert is off the scene in short order. You are right that Jack Gleeson was a pure find as Joffrey- perfect combination of boy band pretty and petulant psychopath in one bundle. Catelyn… I don’t want to say she was amazing but I never doubted her exactly. She came off well as the savvy older mother character but she didn’t carry the side of Catelyn that would make Petyr want to burn the Kingdoms down over her. I found GoT’s Arrya absolutely grating, but considering I loathed the character that probably indicates good casting as well. And yes, Sophie Turner has become a favorite of mine as well.

          Yes we can’t forget the humor! I recall one book where a character, I think it was Tyrion, is getting just raked over the coals by the Queen of Thorns and he muses to himself wondering if Lady Olenna’s husband didn’t ride his horse off that cliff on purpose. I laughed so hard I lost my page.Report

      • Swami in reply to North says:

        “Mamoa was a perfect embodiment of Khal Drogo.”

        Speaking of Mamoa, wouldn’t it be super cool if he starred in a series where everyone walks around blind all day? Tens of millions of dollars to make a show that is too funny to watch.Report

    • I have reread my piece twice now and am at a complete loss how you can take what I wrote and spin that into “contempt for people who liked it.” I can assure you there are two people involved I feel contempt for and it’s David Benioff and DB Weiss, (and my contempt is shared by a lot of other folks too, including George RR Martin, so).

      Truth, everyone who liked GoT (and Twilight, for that matter) as it was would have LOVED it if it had been better. Me wanting a better final product doesn’t take away from any of those people’s enjoyment whatsoever. As I stated, I liked it just fine the first time because of all the good things about the show, some of which North hits on below. There are a lot of good things in GoT and I’ll be talking about some of those things in the weeks to come.

      Let me explain a little bit about my non-fiction writing process. I have a notebook full of article ideas, most of which are incomplete meaning I can’t stretch them ON THEIR OWN into a complete article, at least not without a lot of work. When circumstances arise that allow me to talk about a certain subject of my interest, particularly when it’s something I haven’t talked about yet, I run with that.

      As I rewatched GoT this time I realized it had a lot of the elements I’d long hoped to write about but hadn’t yet. And since it’s something that people feel strongly about, it would be a good milieu within which to do so (and some of my most widely read pieces are about things people feel passionately about). Plus I thought it would be a nice replacement for the V-Day series. I’m writing about GoT because it suits my purposes, not because I am trying to feel superior to the artless clods who happen to disagree with me.

      It really is just as simple as that. Me trying to come up with a) content for the site that doesn’t make me want to kill myself from tedium writing about it and b) me exploring some things I wanted to talk about already.

      This game some of you run on here where I’m some sort of obsessive weirdo being blown hither and yon by the vagaries of my whimsical passions, writing as catharsis, sorely in need of the comments section, be it you or Veronica or Stillwater or whoever’s in the mood that day, to issue a gentle correction to my ignorant stupidity wears so thin, I can’t even with that. I’m fifty years old, I’m incredibly serious about writing, I put ages of time and research and thought into it long before I met any of you, and I do not need any of you talking down to me as if I’m a clueless rube that just fell off the turnip truck and turned on a tv set for the first time in 2017.

      This is a site full of people who like to pick things apart. I don’t know what you expect, other than articles written for people who like to pick things apart. Ranty articles where people pick things apart are fun to read, they’re fun to write, and what’s more, agree or disagree, they get people talking.

      Which is kind of what this is all about, you know?Report

  2. Jaybird says:

    I heard a rumor that George RR Martin is totally working on Winds of Winter now that he’s been in lockdown and it’s totally going to come out next year.Report

  3. When you reread, consider interleaving AFFC and ADWD as described here. I did, on my last reread, and it worked well for me, with much less time spent thinking “Why is telling us this instead of betting in with the story?”Report

  4. North says:

    You and I disagree about much, Kristin but we most assuredly agree about this. Game of Thrones on HBO was an utter abomination. I imagine if you offered any HBO exec the option to go back in time and shoot Benioff and Weiss in the heads they would have done so.

    What Martins Game of Thrones offered was a very interesting story in a very interesting world. On top of that it offered a story that was very well, tightly and interestingly written and scripted for the half or so of its body of work and was unfinished and thus open ended. This is, in TV, the equivalent of a perfect bicycle with heavy duty training wheels that morphs into a motorcycle once you’ve ridden it enough to be able to manage such a vehicle.

    All Benioff and Weiss had to do was faithfully interpret and correctly cast the first half of the books and they had a hit on their hands. They did a tolerable job of this task and thus had a hit on their hands whereupon the horizons opened up and they fell flat on their face. And, as you note, they don’t even care. They’re just like “lol we facerolled the most popular mass fiction phenomena of the decade for lulz!”Report

    • Kristin Devine in reply to North says:

      This is EXACTLY my point (and the same point about the Veronica Mars reboot as well). The people doing the show (in this case D + D) didn’t even CARE that they didn’t give the fans the quality of program they were hoping for. It was as if they were giving everyone a middle finger, including George RR and the actors (a couple of whom are rumored to be highly dissatisfied with how it came out.)

      And that this absolute disregard for the fans coexisted alongside showruining levels of fanservice is utterly baffling to me.

      But more about that to come.Report

  5. Swami says:

    If you want to rewatch a great show, I strongly recommend Buffy. The first two seasons were so so, but after that it is absolutely gold. Even better than I remember. It streams on Amazon.Report

    • Michael Cain in reply to Swami says:

      Rewatching Buffy episodes is fun for me on two levels. One, Whedon could write*. Two, it was something my daughter and I enjoyed together. She bailed after season five, but I was going to stick it out.

      * When I was in graduate school the first time, the graduate floor in the dormitory watched Charlie’s Angels. I always told myself, “If the whole PhD math thing doesn’t work out, I can go to LA and write. I know I could write this.” Many years later Buffy was when I decided I had serious doubts about that. The musical episode was when I decided that no, I couldn’t abandon a technical career and write for TV.Report

      • Swami in reply to Michael Cain says:

        Whedon and the writing team somehow managed to make an emotional superhero story with non stop laughs. In hindsight it is interesting to see how they continuously upgraded and refreshed the “extended” Scooby gang for comic relief. At first we had Xander and Cordelia, then Oz, then Anya, Spike, and finally Andrew.

        “Wanna see my impression of Gandhi?” May be the best send off line to a vanquished villain ever.Report

    • rexknobus in reply to Swami says:

      Couldn’t agree more about Buffy. Damn fine show. Amazing writing. Season 2 (with some isolated great moments) was overall so-so, but it is worth it to catch up on what happened in the season so as to be invested in its last episode. Some great stuff there. And then enjoy (well, keep some Kleenex handy for the tears) the rest of the ride.Report

      • Swami in reply to rexknobus says:

        When it originally aired, I seem to recall not enjoying the last two seasons as much. 20 years later and I can’t understand what I was thinking. They were fantastic.Report

    • Kristin Devine in reply to Swami says:

      Buffy is the most personally meaningful show I ever watched (though now that I’ve seen The Queen’s Gambit I may have to make it Number Two). I have tried to rewatch it several times and due to constant interruptions from small children have never been able to manage it, but I completely agree.Report

  6. Michael Cain says:

    All of my adult life, there have been book series where I was concerned that the author would die before the series was finished. The first of those was Zelazny’s Princes in Amber. (Later, the second set of five.) These days, I have to admit the possibility that I may die before the series is finished. David Weber was a problem. But he whipped through an end to the main part of the Honor Harrington series, and the first Safehold series. Martin’s Game of Thrones is the only one on the list now. I admit that I have pretty much given up on them. Neither he nor I are getting any younger.

    • Ozzzy! in reply to Michael Cain says:

      Ahem, Mr. Patrick Rothfuss would like a word…

      (Kingkiller chronicles are great fun, if you haven’t tried them yet, I would still recommend them despite the lack of book 3)Report

      • Michael Cain in reply to Ozzzy! says:

        I didn’t seem to be taken by Kingkiller Chronicle as much as some others. At one point the Dresden Files was on the list, but since the only real question there now is what kind of demigod Harry turns out to be, it’s just dragging along. I almost missed the release of the latest one. Jacka’s Alex Verus books are now in the same category: I’d like to see how the big story arc finishes up, but he’s taking absolutely forever to get there. I haven’t read the one that came out last month yet, maybe he’s picked up the pace.Report

      • JS in reply to Ozzzy! says:

        I do enjoy reading people complaining about the Kingkiller Chronicles, mostly because they label the main character a Marty Stu.

        And at first glance, it absolutely fits. Brash, enormously skilled at literally everything he does (music, magic, fighting, and later sex so great that we’re talking ‘Seduces a succubus’ level of performance straight out of the gate).

        Except, and this is the part I really don’t get, that’s only true if you absolutely, 100% ignore the entire framing device (which is “Current Main Character tells his backstory”). Because current main character is shown to be unable to do magic, does not sing or play instruments, is single, and got his butt handed to him in a fight against the local yokel.

        Like…the story literally starts with showing him failing at basic magic and not being rich/successful/powerful, and someone asking for “Well what about all these legends about you”.

        It’s like watching people see’ “4” and “2+2” and struggling to figure out what mysterious symbol connects the two.

        Worse yet, it’s pretty easy to put together two things. First, and simplest — he tells the story as a braggart would, because he’s telling the story of his boasting, arrogant youth. Of course it’s overdone and boastful! So was he!

        Secondly, it’s incredibly obvious who the King he killed will be, why he killed them, and why the process broke him. And, of course, that it was all his fault.

        No wisdom, you know? Folly of youth? Classic tale of hubris and talent leading to bad karmic end?

        It might not be your cup of tea, but you don’t even need to whip out “unreliable narrator”, you can just say “Okay but yes, he tells the story of being super-awesome in the past but — and I cannot help put point this out — the present, which is not told from his perspective, he is distinctly NOT AWESOME”

        The only thing more fun is Thomas Covenant discussionsReport

        • North in reply to JS says:

          Hooo boy, Thomas Covenant. That is a big ball of wax. But in defense of the critics even Donaldson probably recognized he’d gone over the line. That’s where Linden Avery came from.

          FTR I adored all of Donaldson’s books set in the Land. I’m actually rereading the final saga right now.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to North says:

            The final saga? I bought a copy of the first of the final saga trilogy from Mediaplay, of all places. (It was a signed copy. I asked the guy behind the counter “was he here?” and the guy laughed. “No. We just lucked out and got some that were signed.”)

            I didn’t dare crack it.

            Is the final saga, like, *GOOD*?Report

            • North in reply to Jaybird says:

              Hmmmm well it really depends on if you loved the previous sagas.

              I did enjoy them enormously. I was a very young kid when I read the first one and so I kind of *ba-bumped* over the rape issue and while I furrowed my brow over it I wasn’t moral enough to be outraged more than I was curious to see where this very unorthodox twist was going.

              The final saga. It has everything I wanted. It has the Land. It has the Ranyhyn, it has basically all the monsters and baddies that previously were experienced and then you go into them, view them from different directions. Some of the baddies switch sides and it’s AWESOME.

              Do you like Linden? I do and so I get a lot of Linden being awesome. Warning, do you dislike Linden? Full disclosure there’s a lot of Linden being her frustratingly self-effacing, self-doubting self and it’s brutal.

              But, seriously, do you want to go under the hood? Donaldson puts all his cards on the table. Have you ever played a really awesome game of D&D with an intricate world setting and, in the end, when the campaign ends the DM basically lets you ask any questions you want and he answers them all? That is these books in a way. Donaldson really shows you what he was thinking with so much of it. There’s time travel so you get to see famous past events and famous past characters. There are philosophical discussions of why his cosmology works the way it does and the nature of time, death and choice. There’s psychology, there’s epic battles. There’s really earnest sappy (and sometimes tear jerking) poetry. Holy fish, I love this saga!

              But it depends, depends, DEPENDS on whether you liked the first two sagas. If you only reluctantly read them or death marched through them then this final saga is that experience cranked up to an eleven. But if you enjoyed the sagas or loved them as I did then you will quite likely find the final saga deeply satisfying. I did. God(ess?) it was delish and so much exquisite resolution!

              So if you have any love in your heart for the Land then read these books and enjoy- they’re long, they’re wordy, you’ll need an online thesaurus a lot, and they’re yummy. But if you only Hateread the Unbeliever or the Sunbane Chronicles then RUN AWAY (and send those signed copies to me!!).Report

              • Jaybird in reply to North says:

                I loved the books. I didn’t read the last trilogy because I was afraid that it would suck.Report

              • North in reply to Jaybird says:

                I have read some people who claim they sucked but their reviews made me say “Why did you read any of the series to begin with?” Whereas when I read the reviews of those who loved the books I nod and say “Yup, the final saga is Donaldson turned up to 11.”

                You loved the books? Have faith and read the last trilogy. I’m jealous of you getting to read them for the first time.Report

          • JS in reply to North says:

            Well, I mean — and trying to avoid major spoilers here — the whole conceit there is a ‘king is the land/land is the king’ setup.

            We’re a little spoiled on portal fantasies, which I suspect leads many to simply jump on the ‘of course it’s real not a delusion’, which sort of negates literally the whole set up.

            Is it real/is Covenant hallucinating is literally the core of it, and either way (due to white gold on one, his own mind on the other), everything good and bad in the setting has to also exist in Covenant.

            So there’s a literal incarnation of Evil there, so Covenant must have the potential for that sort of evil within him.

            I think a more experienced version of Donaldson could have found a different, less amazingly jarring/off putting/holy crap wtf dude method of getting that across.

            But the whole dichotomy doesn’t work, the whole plot of the first trilogy doesn’t work, unless readers grok that Covenant’s got that potential to be Evil (with a capitol E).

            Especially since, well. The story is basically covenant making everything worse via refusing to fully own up to his sins. Bargains and deals and various weasel ways to ‘atone’ or ‘apologize’ without admitting to himself that there’s no fixing some things. Just…accepting what you’ve done.

            Anyways, I don’t blame anyone for hitting that particular scene and noping out. It’s a rough scene in a rough early work.

            At least, that’s what I’ve got for the first trilogy. Never read the last and been a long time since the second.Report

            • North in reply to JS says:

              I agree with every line you wrote SJ. It’s a perfect encapsulation of the first trilogy. As a fan I, of course, think the pay off is decent but even in its era and most especially today the core sin of the first trilogy and of Thomas Covenants great crime is a really tough lift.Report

        • Ozzzy! in reply to JS says:

          Who is the obvious king kvothe will kill? Otherwise yes the frame and nature of stories is very much a part of the story being told.Report

          • JS in reply to Ozzzy! says:

            Ambrose — the son of a powerful noble, so one undoubtedly in the line of succession. Think on the nature of their interactions, their antagonism is built on their mutual, character defining flaws (arrogance of talent versus arrogance of wealth and power).

            It’s already moved from schoolyard fights to attempted murder, but Amrbose has not had his wealth or power in any way diminished by each of Kvothe’s “victories” — but he has given Ambrose multiple reasons to keep escalating, and Kvothe has been repeatedly warned to step back, keep his head down, stop making it worse….

            So it honestly seems pretty straightforward that this feud — born of mutual arrogance and brash youth — is going to result in Ambrose, coming into power, moving to crush the irritating nemesis of his youth.

            And I suspect doing so by striking not at Kvothe, but at someone close to him (the girl he loves), leading Kvothe to go straight for roaring revenge — and doing something incredibly stupid in the process that kicks off the Armageddon he’s running from.

            Kvothe has been blind to the consequences of his arrogance, he keeps justifying it away or being able to juggle it into another temporary victory, or at least avoid the worst of the splash. That’s not…sustainable.

            We know he kills a King. we know he’s deeply in love with a shady figure. The most likely target is Ambrose, the most likely reason is something to do with the girl as Ambrose moves to balance the scales.Report

    • I think we all have that same fear LOL.Report

  7. James K says:

    I feel like I was a bigger fan of the end of Game of Thrones than most, though it definitely wasn’t without flaws. I’m interested to see your take on the books.Report

    • Kristin Devine in reply to James K says:

      just wait I’ll make you hate them as much as meReport

    • Michael Cain in reply to James K says:

      Really? I’ll never forgive the writers. To pick a plot thing, they wasted one of the great lines from season six, Tyrion’s “Don’t eat the help,” to the dragon and it worked. So much they could have done with dragons willing to listen to Tyrion. And I always wanted the last shot to be a slow pullback with Tyrion sitting on the Iron Throne where he doesn’t fit, scowling that Dinklage scowl, forced to take the job he never wanted, losing by winning.Report

  8. Jaybird says:

    One thing I can’t help but notice having noticed is that Game of Thrones more or less disappeared for a while there.

    We got Season 8 and then (fart noise). It was gone.

    I mean, even The Sopranos gets talked about from time to time.

    This essay of yours is the first I’ve seen since a few months after Season 8 ended, I wanna say. Like, there aren’t even people saying “just watch the first two seasons” (like The Sopranos).Report

    • North in reply to Jaybird says:

      The later seasons destroyed the earlier ones. The early ones were convoluted, layered and interesting and you believed in them partially because they were good and partially because they spoke of great things to come. Knowing that great things, or even tolerable things, aren’t coming it makes it all a pantomime; a waste.

      Terrible endings can do that to shows. Consider Battlestar Galactica; the final season took everything they valued in the seasons before, soaked it in lighter fluid, set it on fire and then pissed on the flames just to show how even piss wouldn’t put the sucky burning out.Report

      • JS in reply to North says:

        Endings are hard. Doubly so if you didn’t really plan on it or it was sort of scribbled on a napkin by a guy who hadn’t really worked it out himself.Report

        • North in reply to JS says:

          I get it, but the shit that poured out of D + D when the training wheels came off suggests that they never gave a damn. It was so utterly standard schlock.

          Hell, even HBO’s interests suggested longer, more sprawling timelines and less immediate resolution. D + D’s manners with it suggested that they not only didn’t care how GoT went but that they simply wanted to be done with it as quickly as possible.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to North says:

        A million years ago, I talked about reading Game of Thrones (the first one!) and feeling dread.

        One of the tricks that any entertainer knows about is “heat”. That is, creating a desire in the part of your audience.

        I’ll talk about pro wrestling.

        Good guy vs. Bad guy. Babyface vs. Heel. They have a match. Every time the babyface gets something going, the heel stops his momentum by punching him in the face. Sometimes the ref’s back is turned. Sometimes the heel has the babyface in a side headlock and gets a quick blow in. Once he even does it in front of the ref and is made to endure a short wrestling lecture about how punching in the face is illegal and, seriously, if you do it again, you’re disqualified!

        And you’re watching this match and, over and over again, you see this guy who is trying to follow the rules get punched in the face.

        Finally events conspire and the heel tries to pull a fast one, knocks the ref over, OH NO!, turns around and *POW*! GETS PUNCHED IN THE FACE!


        It doesn’t even matter who wins the match. The important thing is that punch. That one punch that pays off the heat. That one punch that makes you glad you spent your money. That one punch that will get you to buy a ticket next time.

        I was reading Game of Thrones and I thought that Martin was doing a great job of building up heat. I *HATED* Jaime. I *HATED* Cersei. I *HATED* Joffrey. I kinda liked Tyrion. I kinda liked Ned Stark. Um. I think I liked Arya? I didn’t like anybody else.

        I mentioned to Maribou that I didn’t like Jaime. She told me “he gets better, he’s one of my favorite characters now”.

        That told me two things: the first was that Jaime doesn’t die for a while. The second was that my heat wasn’t going to get paid off.

        The entertainers create a debt. I mean, you can enjoy a movie where the good guy doesn’t overcome adversity (doesn’t have to!) every once in a blue moon (starring Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen!) but the most *SATISFYING* stories have stuff like in that match above. Adversity, adversity, OH MY GOSH THEY KILLED HIS DOG… and now we go Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone.

        But a story where everything gets subverted? Like, the bad guy doesn’t become a friend. The *RIVAL* becomes a friend. The bad guy doesn’t get to become the LANCER.

        And I began to realize that Martin was writing checks that would never be cashed. The debt was never going to be repaid. I’d never get what I wanted.

        I didn’t watch the show. Nothing has really made me suspect that I made a mistake in not watching it.Report

        • James K in reply to Jaybird says:

          I think part of your frustration is that Martin never intended to pay those debts off. A Song of Ice and Fire isn’t merely a subversion, it’s a deconstruction. It’s a (pointed) commentary on a particular kind of fantasy novel, and therefore deliberately isn’t doing the things you expect from a normal fantasy story.

          I admit I was sceptical when I first heard of the HBO adaptation. I liked the books a lot, but I didn’t think it would do anything for anyone who wasn’t really conversant in fantasy novels. When its popularity took off I figured I was wrong, but given some of the reactions to the ending (not that there weren’t legitimate criticism) I realised that people liked it, but didn’t understand what they were watching.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to James K says:

            Subversions are all well and good. As are deconstructions!

            If they hit it out of the park? Golly! Heck, they make previous versions obsolete!

            Like, Watchmen? The Dark Knight Returns?

            Heck, you don’t *NEED* superhero stories after those two.

            Except those stories only really hit *PROPERLY* if you’ve got all of the tropes internalized in the first place, don’t they? Like, if you speak the language of comics, the language of Watchmen just comes naturally. And while Dark Knight is pretty good, isn’t it so much better if you know who Oliver Queen is?

            I imagine that watching the Dark Knight Returns fight without having spent years reading John Byrne and Denny O’Neill and Mike Grell could still be awesome…

            But it misses something. Like it doesn’t understand its source material, really.

            Did you see the Watchmen movie? Jeez, those scenes with Rorschach in prison were pretty cool. The opening credits were kinda cool.

            Anyway, the movie failed. (Terry Gilliam was asked if he wanted to do Watchmen. He read it and said “I couldn’t do this in fewer than five hours.” IMAGINE THAT MOVIE AND WEEP.)

            I have a friend who, 4-5 years ago, said that he isn’t going to get the next Winds of Winter. “It’s not going to pay off”, he said.

            Martin is subverting stories that have now been subverted a thousand times. By the movies, by comic books, by the nightly news.

            And now he’s got double-duty in not only subverting and deconstructing Tolkien, he’s got to subvert and deconstruct his own goddamn show.

            It’d have to have one hell of a payoff for that series to be rewarding at the end of it. And if it’s not supposed to be rewarding…

            Well. I have only but so much money and only but so much time on my hands and I’d like to spend my free time enjoying stories instead of enjoying lectures about how I’m enjoying stories incorrectly.Report

          • North in reply to James K says:

            Do you think his grinding to a halt in writing the series is, itself, a deconstruction of the genre? Personally I doubt it. We’ve seen this before. Popularity begets freedom which begets ruin. Shorn of editors Martins plots sprawled endlessly like Robert Jordan’s before him and the glacier of his edifice has become simply too big to easily advance.

            I fear that it’ll go the same way Jordans books did. A ghost writer mercilessly cleaves off the extranious material and wraps the saga up in an abrupt manner.Report

            • James K in reply to North says:

              No, by “not pay down the debt” I mean that he expected to finish the books, but not in a way that was conventionally narratively satisfyingReport

              • North in reply to James K says:

                Oh I certainly grant that he could have gone that direction and having it be, roughly, the way that the show ended can, if you squint, be an unsatisfying resolution that’d fit the bill. But it was so mind blowingly stupidly arrived at that I struggle to believe that was truly what Martin had in mind, or else he had far more detailed a plan to get there. Like, maybe, Dany and Griff having a huge new slugfest over Westeros and then Dany having to slug it out with the dead and then, in the end, everyone being so exhausted and wracked from the experience that they’d go “Eh, Bran, why not? Everyone else is dead.”Report

              • Michael Cain in reply to James K says:

                I have sometimes wondered if the very long delay is partially, maybe even primarily, Martin vs the publisher. With Martin on the side of, “The readers don’t get what they want, despite investing the effort to read 2.5M words.” And the publisher saying, “We’ll let you die with the series unfinished before we’ll take the ill will that produces.”

                If the HBO writers, once they had passed the material in the published books, had taken the approach of checking off: (a) redemption arc; (b) evil queen dies spectacularly; (c) star-crossed romance; (d) sane resolution of invincible dragons; and (e) Tyrion and Bran in the obvious proper places; the GoT series would be held up as one of the greatest of all time.Report

              • The next volume will sell a billion copies, no matter what. I have a hard time picturing a publisher who’d give that up.Report

              • The last of the Harry Potter novels eventually sold 65M copies — to an audience that was assured they would get every single trope they wanted. As soon as the word is out that Winds of Winter sets up an ending no more satisfying than HBO’s, sales tank and the seventh book is toast.

                Martin sold the publisher on a three-volume deconstruction of high fantasy, a cool concept. Five volumes and a disastrous HBO ending later, the publisher sees a money pit.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Michael Cain says:

                People will buy “you have to *EARN* your happy ending!” but “there ain’t no happy ending” is an acquired taste.

                Best when you know about it at point of purchase, rather than during the closing credits.Report

        • Kolohe in reply to Jaybird says:

          I gotta think in wrasslin’ with the now sometimes years-long storylines there are ‘bad guys’ that became ‘good guys’, either temporarily or permanently?

          Also, it’s fair to say that Jaimie Lannister gets his comeuppance before he turns into a ‘good guy’Report

          • Jaybird in reply to Kolohe says:

            The whole heel/face turn thing can be done to magnificent effect. Yes.

            There’s also the difference between “melodrama” where you’ve got a villain, a victim, and a hero and something approaching a more mature drama where you’ve got a villain who… is kind of a victim? And a victim who, it turns out, is kind of a hero? And, yeah, a hero who is kind of a villain?

            And these stories can be very good indeed.

            If they are surrounded by small payoffs here or there. Little victories for the good guys. Here’s a down payment on what I owe you. That sort of thing.

            If you find yourself watching a show where the bad guys always win, consistently. Where HHH has a match against Chris Jericho and Chris Jericho gets in one, exactly one, piece of offense in a 20 minute match. And then HHH squashes Kane. And then HHH squashes RVD. And then HHH squashes Umaga. And then HHH squashes CM Punk.

            Ugh. You stop watching. Even if HHH drops the title to John Cena or somebody, it’s still…

            You can’t get excited. Even when you hear that HHH has a match against Sting at wrestlemania. You can get excited by the entrances… but you know it’s going to suck. AND THEN IT’S EVEN WEIRDER BECAUSE THEY DON’T REMEMBER HOW THE NWO WORKED.


            The debt can be big. It can even grow. But you have to have hope that it’ll be paid off. If it won’t be, it’s best to just say “okay, we’ve got a sunk cost thing going on”. Cut your losses.Report

            • InMD in reply to Jaybird says:

              This is sort of why I gave up on the Walking Dead several years ago. Not exactly because bad guys win (they always do in horror) but because there stopped being any payoff. It was out of the frying pan into the fire without resolution. I think the writers actually ran out of ways to go from frying pan to fire other than inexplicable decision making by characters.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to InMD says:

                There’s this weird psychological trick that I’ve kind of seen used to pretty decent effect every now and again (and JJ Abrams is a *MASTER* at this and GoT and, yeah, the Walking Dead used it too).

                People who grew up enjoying stories where the debts get paid can really get sucked into stories where Ned Stark gets beheaded at the end of Season One.

                HOLY CRAP!!! WHAT A DEBT!!!!!!!


                And so you get sucked into the story because the huge debt that gets incurred early makes you start salivating like one of Pavlov’s dogs because you know that when a debt gets incurred, the debt will get paid.

                And, jeez, what a debt!

                (Setting up mysteries does a similar trick. Remember the first three seasons of Fringe? Lost? Good times.)

                But you can decondition people from salivating if they stop getting fed after the bell is rung.Report

  9. InMD says:

    I never watched GoT not necessarily because I was opposed, I just tend to get to these things late. After seeing the reaction to the end I can confidently say that short a long term stay in a fallout shelter I never plan to.

    I sympathize that trying to end any long running show satisfactorily is hard. It’s made worse by the tendency to try to squeeze out every last penny until the wheels fall off. The only person I know who seemed happy with the ending of GoT is my dad but he takes a strange delight in popular disappointment. That tells me all I need to know.Report