This might be a shocker, but I really like Game of Thrones these days again. There was a time there between the first two seasons and me devouring the books in the interim that I was losing more and more patience with the tv series. This came to ahead in seasons 4 and 5, which started a severe break from the narrative of the books, while at the same time retaining the drum solo that was the entire experience of A Dance with Dragons and A Feast for Crows. But something curious happened by the time season 6 came about. I started to like the show again.
For all the grandeur and quality of the book series, the ability to communicate grander and less mainstream ideas, combined with an infinite budget and more deliberate pacing, a book is in many ways a superior form of storytelling to a tv show constrained by budget, time, and sheer possibility and legality sometimes. Yet seasons 6 and 7 of Game of Thrones drew me in once more. Why is that?
Robert Hewitt Wolfe is a former staff writer for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and was the showrunner for Andromeda when it was a show with potential. In an interview he once gave, he put a succinct point into what makes television, as a medium, unique from more standalone fair. To quote the essence of his words: “In movies and books it doesn’t matter how unlikable for irredeemable your characters are. In television it’s not so simple, you need a reason to invite these characters into your home every week after all.”
This right there is the essence of why I got into Game of Thrones again, I think. Having been done with the book series, a huge problem with that the characters may be a bit too rounded. They have issues over issues, to the point of being completely unlikable. Jorah Mormont in the books is a cruel and kinda rapey asshole, in the tv show he’s a dashing Byronic hero. Tyrion Lannister is similarly violent and brooding, in the tv show he’s House fucking MD. For all of the shows faults of “not getting” the essence of the books, with the chance pretty good that we’ll actually get a happy ending as opposed to a hollow ending that befits a postmodern narrative, the tv show still holds my attention as opposed to the books.
Part of that may be because Martin hasn’t finished the series yet and fans are waiting, but the reason I lost most of my interest in A Song of Ice and Fire is because of darkness induced audience apathy (thanks, TV Tropes). All the characters are unlikable, everyone is horrible and makes bad decisions, combined with the fact that the last two books were fifteen hundred pages of elevator music, it’s not hard to see why the investment in the series would diminish over time without a conclusion at hand to round off ones opinion on the characters, stories, and themes.
For all the shallowness that the adaptation has to bring, I’m at least still invested in the stories of these people. Combined with the fact that the show has gotten past the book materials and a finale is in sight, the darkness for a lot of these characters has ended. Combined with the charisma of the actors, even the villains are a lot of fun now, or at least it’s fun to see them get their comeuppance. Maybe these feelings are shallow, but it speaks to what Wolfe said in his interview in regards to the main job of tv: getting you to come back every week. In that regard Game of Thrones succeeds where A Song of Ice and Fire is currently failing me.