Lots of my reviews at the moment seem to be variations on a theme of “just read the previous season(s) review because nothing’s really changed”. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by that, after all for the most series the writers, producers and directors don’t change much, so why should the show they make Yet over and over I’m saddened that my criticisms of previous years haven’t been heeded and the same mistakes are being made over and over again.
So, yes, Game of Thrones season 3, much like season 2 but a little bit worse. Or maybe not worse, maybe I’m just a bit more tired by it. As I worked out last year, with the number of storylines and characters, there’s only about 2 or 3 scenes for each thread every other episode, and the number of threads I care about is steadily decreasing. In fact I’d probably be pretty happy if they got rid of all the storylines except Daenerys and her dragons raising an army over the sea and Tyrion and the assorted goings-on at King’s Landing. Those two stories could cheerfully carry the series, and every time we were taken away from them I found myself irritated and bored.
What works with both those stories was that they actually had all the elements necessary for good television – a blend of politics, drama, personal troubles, character development and humour. They are fun to watch, interesting to analyse and have characters that evoke emotional responses, whether sympathy for Sansa, revulsion at Joffrey, pride at Daenerys or pure entertainment from Bronn. Tyrian is still my favourite by far, managing to elicit all those emotions and more; leaving me laughing at his wit, sighing at his misfortune and intrigued by his plotting pretty much every scene. Somewhat surprisingly I found myself having a similar response to Jaime Lannister, whose storyline with Brienne has really opened up his character and given the actor a chance to flourish.
Outside of that though there’s an awful lot of sludge. The Stark children (legitimate and otherwise) are spread across the lands on a variety of quests. Particularly frustrating for characters and audience alike were the series of near misses as they came within spitting distance of emotional and satisfying reunions and yet missed each other every time. Instead they’d just find another in a long line of oddly poetically named grey haired men with giant chips on their shoulders. The only thing more boring was the plot with Stannis and the witch character. Oh and pretty much anything set North of the wall.
As for the much talked about surprises of the season (don’t worry I’ll stay spoiler free) I’m sorry to say that I just didn’t get the emotional punch. Maybe because I was spoiled, maybe because I was pretty bored of the plots and characters by that point, or maybe because I thought the special effects were so hilariously bad, and the smash cut to black afterwards so cheesy, that I was laughing too hard to be sad.
I think part of the problem I have with Game of Thrones is that most of the characters are so stupid, or at least so focussed on just a single goal, that they don’t realise just how catastrophically self-destructive their actions are in the long run. It seems wrong that someone like Tywin Lannister, supposedly such a good strategist, can’t see how his actions towards his own family, the Starks and, well, everyone in existence, are only going to lead to bucket loads more trouble in the future. Meanwhile the ‘things’ north of the wall and Daenerys grow in strength and I for one just want them to GET ON WITH IT. I don’t know (and don’t want to know) how many books we have to get through before the looming threats stop looming, but it can’t come soon enough for me.
Yet again though, after a poor review, I still have to admit that I’ll be tuning in for next season all the same. Tyrian and Daenerys really are enough to get me to watch and the genre is still unusual enough to have some appeal. I realise that does rather undermine my strident tone, but I never really claimed to be anything other than weak willed.