Game of Thrones - Why Execution Matters
DISCLAIMER: This article may contain spoilers.
Here we are, at the end of the road. And what we get? The biggest "screw you" in the history of television, that's what.
Oh, you like Tyrion? Let's make him the dumbest person in the show! Daenerys? Let's make her lose her shit with little to no explanation. Jaime? He killed the Mad King to protect the people, but no, he doesn't care about any of that. Jon Snow? Who likes Jon Snow, anyways?
Sigh... Okay, let's start again.
Like many, when I started watching Game of Thrones, I was mesmerized by its intricate world building, its multi-layered characters, but most of all, its unpredictability. Here was a story that, true to life, seemed chaotic and erratic. But underneath all that chaos, was a strong sense of inevitability.
In hindsight, while Ned Stark's death was shocking, it was the best choice GRRM could make. His character arc was complete the moment he renounced his honor in front of that crowd. Still, you wouldn't believe the author would kill the supposed main character of the show. I mean, where would the story go from there?
Fast forward to the latest seasons, especially 7 and 8, and we have immortal characters wearing the thickest plot armors ever, people teleporting from one place in the map to another, smart characters acting stupid for no reason, and nonsensical plans.
Unlike what most people are saying, though, I don't think some ideas are inherently bad. Daenerys turning mad? That's a nice parallel with her father and how history repeats itself. Bran becoming king? Could work if there was some subtle foreshadow. Since he's practically a walking history book, it could tie in well with the theme I just mentioned.
Everything boils down to one thing: execution. A stupid premise can be wonderfully executed, while the best high concept in the world can be written like dog shit. The problem isn't Daenerys killing children in cold blood (I know that sounds wrong, but what can I do?). The problem is that there was no time to develop any of that.
At Winterfell, she was kind of bummed because no one in Westeros liked her. When Missandei was killed one episode later, she proceeds to kill everyone in King's Landing, even after they surrendered. I don't know about you, but I think there are some story beats missing there. It feels rushed and sloppy.
What happens when you treat your characters like pawns in a chess board? They feel lifeless, running towards whatever ending you've decided.
The plot should come out organically FROM the characters, not the other way around. Otherwise, it just feels fake and that's the worst thing you can do to your audience: take them out of your story.
After there were no books left to adapt, characters started acting dumber and dumber, just to fill their roles in the planned plot. Tyrion is the worst offender, by far. In the end, he understood he wasn't as smart or as righteous as he thought he was. That could work, if his decisions came from difficult choices. They didn't. He was just as blind as everyone else.
My point is: if GRRM were writing the same plot, it could've been miles better. He knows how to let a story breathe, he knows how to play with the audience's expectations, and he understands his characters. D&D don't do any of that, at least not when working with their own material.
Giving credit to where it's due, I'd say they did a great job adapting earlier seasons. But writing your own material is different than adapting a pre-existing one. I wouldn't say one is easier than the other, but each demands a different set of skills.
The sad thing is that good writing is rare. Entertaining writing, on the other hand, is fairly common. And most times, I'd argue that being entertaining is good enough. But when a show comes along that arguably excels in both of these categories, alongside great acting and production values, you come to expect a certain quality standard. And when it shifts completely in the other direction, it's only natural that it got such a huge backlash from fans. We complain because we care.