Arts, Television

‘Thrones’ Holds Onto Its Charm Despite A Longer Narrative Leash

As beloved characters like Tyrion and Arya are whisked across the Narrow Sea, the political landscape of Westeros and the Free Cities look ripe for change. Humbled kings, scorned queens, and glorified bastards are just a few of the character transitions welcomed in the first two installments of Game of Thrones’ fifth season.

The motives of those vying for the throne, left ambiguous at the end of Season Four, have begun to reveal themselves, carving a path for Thrones-stapled conflicts: deceit, death, and wit. Straying further from George R. R. Martin’s original work than ever before, the show’s creative team will take us to places unmentioned in the books, crafting a distinct narrative. Under the story’s prevailing ambiguity, all viewers will be left wondering whose head will be the next to line the walls of King’s Landing.

At King’s Landing, we find the Lannister twins with their backs against the wall. Their enemies smell the stench from their father’s untimely demise on the latrine. Later, Jaime enlists the help of a certain sellsword, in an effort to recover Myrcella from the den of the Sand Snakes in Dorne, who blame them for the death of Oberyn Martell.

At the Wall, we find Jon on the eve of Mance Rayder’s execution. In an effort to please Stannis and preserve the life of a man he respects, Jon tries and fails to convince Mance to bend the knee. As Mance burns before the Red God, Jon directly defies Stannis by giving Mance a quick death with his bow and arrow. In a strange turn of events, Stannis also acts with mercy, offering to legitimize Jon’s bastard status and make him a Stark by law. Seeking to use Jon to his advantage, to raise the bannermen of the North. But before Jon could refuse, he is raised to a new post within the Brotherhood.

In Meereen, Daenerys deals with the woes of internal politics. Grappling with dissent and murder in the streets at the hands of the Sons of the Harpy, a rebel insurgency group, Daenerys is forced to choose between mercy and muscle in exercising her queenly authority. Unable to satisfy all parties, she is left with problems and dragons, both growing at alarmingly uncontrollable rates.

In Pentos, Tyrion enjoys life from flagon to flagon, He’s left with little options besides following Varys to Daenerys in what seems like a futile hope for survival. And in the Riverlands, the adventures of Pod and Brienne trudge onward, as coincidence would have them closer to finding the Stark girls.

The new season still captures the spirit of what we’ve come to know as Game of Thrones. The new directions and liberties taken in the narrative department will certainly breathe a new kind of life into a show headed down a dead end. Delineating from the groundwork set up by Martin could prove to bring the show into its own unique kind of existence.

The flaws that were seen in earlier seasons, however, seem to be especially apparent in the newest. In terms of world building, consistency is key. If a world is to operate in a certain way, it ought to function like clockwork. Everything should fit. And sometimes in Westeros, the Free Cities, and all the other places we’re now sent across, things don’t fit with a simple click.

One example is some inconsistencies within the show’s dialects and accents. There is a nuance to saying “five-and-twenty” instead of “twenty-five.” Accents and dialects denote regional separation and language differences. These are the kinds of differentiating factors we look for in a fantasy when we do not have clear cut distinctions like the orc and the elf. What was fairly consistent in seasons past, has become a victim to creative liberties. Take Daario’s accent for example. Nevermind the physical change from Season Three to Four, Dutch actor Michiel Huisman can’t quite land the character’s accent. In certain scenes, the audible changes from English to Dutch to American are distracting and can easily take you out of Meereen. The little things matter.

Another problem exacerbated in the show is a spatial issue. Everything feels so close and cramped now. It takes virtually no time to travel and any character can be anywhere at a moment’s notice. Look at Stannis’ trip to Braavos or in the latest episode, the coincidental encounter of Brienne and Littlefinger in an inn. Amazing that Brienne should find Sansa, so shortly after finding her sister. Recall the very beginning of Game of Thrones Season One, when the Stark family had to migrate to King’s Landing, a trek that would have taken some time. This kind of travel was best handled between episodes, which it did. Sadly, that is not the case anymore as characters seemingly teleport to and fro within an episode. For worlds on a large scale, precision and consistency is key to believability.

In spite of these things, Game of Thrones is still riveting and some change is welcome, but not to the essence of the world we set out in. What do we say to these kind of changes? Not today.

Featured Image Courtesy of HBO

April 23, 2015

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