Will Game of Thrones Jump the Shark?
Spoilers for Game of Thrones Seasons 1-5
Last season a myriad number of massive thrones plots came together in what amounted to an underwhelming finale. Stannis was instantly punished for his sins. Reek escaped with Sansa, which had been telegraphed all season. Dany flew off with her Dragon heroically but only after a pit fighting scene filled with moments where she, her dragon, or Jorah should have been flat out killed by spears. In many ways the ending of last season just felt rushed.
There’s good reason for that too. Season 5 consisted of material from Books 4 and 5 in the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin. This was the first time Thrones condensed material to this degree and it showed on the screen. Books 1 and 2 were adapted into the first two seasons where book 3 was split into season 3 and 4. This allowed for the material to be given it’s due. Why showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss chose not to continue with this method is unknown. It could be that with foreknowledge of where the books go they decided that many plot lines explored in books 4 and 5 were unnecessary to the overall narrative.
Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the case. Season 6 previews have revealed that a few plots that were ignored in Season 5 will be done in Season 6. This means that either the show writers intentionally rearranged things or simply forgot to include them. The Iron Born will return for the first time in a few seasons, after having been apparently forgotten by everyone in Westeros previously.
Adaptations are extremely tricky to pull off correctly. There needs to be the right amount of reverence for the source and room for creative expression by the filmmakers. One series of films that did this very well was The Lord of the Rings. Peter Jackson very nearly pulled off a perfect adaption, except for the Two Towers, the 2nd of the trilogy.
The book is an action packed adventure whereas the movie meanders and fails to ultimately reach the books level of success. What happened? Peter Jackson said on the commentary track that, “The farther they (the writers) got from Tolkien’s source material, the more they realized he actually knew what he was doing”. The film adaptation of the Two Towers is the one that goes the farthest from the book and as a result it is the weakest of the trilogy. There are multiple plots added to the Two Towers by Jackson that weren’t taken from the source material. This was also the case in the less successful Hobbit films.
That makes this season a potentially amazing or disastrous proposition. On one hand, without the constraints of the books the writers are free to wow and surprise everyone equally. On the other hand, without the books as a guide and source the show writing may dip significantly. For instance, the show writers could decide to listen to some of the shows critics and look to ‘improve’ on Martin’s narrative. The show has been criticized as sexist in the past and now all reports from this season seem to indicate it’s an ode to female empowerment. Are the showrunners over-compensating with strong females this season in reaction to these accusations? This could have disastrous effects on the plot. The worst thing that could happen to Thrones is a cliché filled happy ending.
So what I’m saying, if I’m saying anything at all, is that if the showrunners don’t have a good handle on where Martin’s story is heading, we could all be in for a disappointing ending. That said, I’m an optimist and am eagerly anticipating Thrones return tonight to see how it all begins to end.