Plotters vs Pantsers
May 11, 2019 1:54 AM   Subscribe

Why does Game Of Thrones feel different in this last season? Daniel Silvermint on Twitter explains what probably happened: George R. R. Martin's plan-it-as-you-go approach, where he cultivated a garden of plot seeds with only a vague idea of where each would lead, ran up against the showrunners' need to end everything in 13 episodes.
posted by JHarris (128 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
You could try unrolling the tweets using Thread Reader which turns it into a readable page. No affiliation, been using it as an avid Twitter avoider.
posted by techSupp0rt at 2:15 AM on May 11, 2019 [7 favorites]


The friend whose house I watch GoT at likes to watch those Inside the Episode things where the writers talk about their Process, and they basically lost me after episode 3 when they revealed that a particularly dramatic choice about the way GoT's world worked was made entirely for plot reasons.

To paraphrase: "There's nothing to suggest that it would work like that, but there's also nothing to suggest that it wouldn't, & the first way was more dramatic, so." No in-universe justification or anything.

Then episode 4 had at least three separate moments of "would it have happened like this, knowing these characters & the rules of the world? who cares, gotta make the Drama happen, plot for the plot god, WE ONLY HAVE TWO EPISODES LEFT, FLY, YOU FOOLS."

I get that this is preferable to letting the plot string itself out until you & I are petroleum deep beneath the crust of the earth, but I feel like they could have hired one or two more writers of the opposite school to advocate for the characters ("Look, I get that you have a destination in mind, but if you want that particular character to do that particular thing you gotta justify it because otherwise they wouldn't.")
posted by taquito sunrise at 2:46 AM on May 11, 2019 [16 favorites]


I'm sorry but this is bullshit. The problems are not with plotters vs pantsers. Its that B&W are poor writers who betray the source material's complexity and depth.

One can write with a destination in mind and still not commit howlers like the ones below:

BOOK SPOILERS.

cf

i) Dorne. Sand snakes. Amazing self-realized characters in book, another dimension to grand narrative sweep. In show, 1d cartoonlike embarrassments.

ii) Ramsay and Roose. Dull-witted sociopath and bloodless master manipulator in books that are utterly compelling. In show cartoon villain of the week and vaguely competent commander.

iii) Sea ramsay. Need I say more?

iv) Compress an existential threat that threatens an entire world and has been building for thousands of years into just one night of poorly-planned battle on a single field.

v) The relentless deus ex machinae and implausible outs that the plot-armored characters get in big fights. GRRM's books are relentless in showing what happens when shit goes tits up.
(see: brienne's misery when she tries to save the orphans in a tiny skirmish!). The battle for winterfell and of the bastards are two great examples; just awful.

etc. and etc.

( I will give them the ian mcshane version of the father character. Much closer to the GRRM model.)

In summary: the show has become the fairytale its source material tried to subvert..

---

To clear the air, look at this beautiful imgur about Sansa's costume journey (I think it's been posted before). The costumers kept to internal logic!
posted by lalochezia at 2:51 AM on May 11, 2019 [57 favorites]


Some minor inconsistencies are quite embarrasing (SPOILERS!)
posted by valdesm at 4:23 AM on May 11, 2019 [10 favorites]


So far, this is easily the weakest season of the series.
posted by fairmettle at 4:53 AM on May 11, 2019 [4 favorites]


I love the books but do not think they are holy writ and have never minded pantser-generated subplots being cut from the show to avoid convolution. (Meaning: Sarella is great but, on reflection, I don’t actually miss Dorne in the story sense.)

But a lot of these recent character decisions and behaviors feel abrupt, unearned, and at least moderately out of character, because all the characters involved have turned too quickly. Too much has been relegated to appearing offscreen, or is explained only in the post show BTS interviews. Aside from what’s described at the link, part of it has to do with setting up one ending in S7 that they appear to be burning down now, simply for the purpose of a fakeout on the audience, when the same storytelling techniques have never really been used that way in the show before. (One example of this was the heavy foreshadowing for a pregnancy for Daenerys that now seems unlikely.)

They should have spent more time in S7 seeding the things in S8 that currently seem like mood whiplash, and less time on what currently looks to be a lot of “FOOLED U LOL!” foreshadowing. A result of the problems with execution is that, in some important circumstances, we have no through-line of a character’s emotional life the way we used to. (I feel like we know about... 35% about how Jon feels about the reveal of his parentage, in a show that used to give us a lot more.)

There is one other issue that I think has contributed to the “different show” impression, and that’s the fact that they built so many new sets for this last season only that familiar locations like Winterfell look — maybe not so familiar? Stylistically similar, but definitely not the same sets or settings, and when they are, the visual style of the shots used to depict them is just... different.

Anyway, good Twitter thread.
posted by verbminx at 5:34 AM on May 11, 2019 [10 favorites]


I’m surprised to read that HBO wanted to keep the show going but its creators insisted on wrapping it up. Benioff is quoted as saying, “We always believed it was about 73 hours, and it will be roughly that. As much as they wanted more, they understood this is where the story ends.”

That explanation just sounds like more plotting! Like they have personal reasons for wanting to be done, but feel the need to justify the decision with this wooden offering about the series being 73 hours. A length of time which could not sound more arbitrary to me.
posted by little onion at 5:52 AM on May 11, 2019 [13 favorites]


I had to stop watching Lost when I realized the writers were pantsers and not plotters. The process was to literally just hand off new episodes to new writers. The mysteries were bunkum with no internal logic or planned narrative.

I knew Game of Thrones was going to end unsatisfactorily once I realized there were only 6 episodes left. There simply wasn't time to left to bring together all the different plot strands. The entire white walker plot strand just became a dead end with nothing interesting behind it. Brand? Dead end.

I know exactly how this show will end. All the characters now. It ended up being a show whose sum was less than what the parts promised.
posted by xammerboy at 5:57 AM on May 11, 2019 [7 favorites]


When it first started, the only question I asked was, are the books done? Learned that the hard way, not going to make the same mistake again.
posted by cendawanita at 6:02 AM on May 11, 2019 [2 favorites]


Honestly, at this point, I've enjoyed the ride (I did a full re-watch before this last season started, the only time I've rewatched the series at all), but I just want the final episodes to air so I can be done with it. It's dragged on for far too long from the viewer's end compared to the actual number of hours there are to be watched, and when this wraps up I'll be happy to put a bow on it and then never watch it again.

Also, Jon's dismissal of Ghost after the Long Night battle fucking pissed me off so much I nearly threw my television out my window. That, right there, THAT was the betrayal that broke me.

Two more episodes. Maybe 150 more minutes of this. And then I am done. Oh please dear god.
posted by hippybear at 6:15 AM on May 11, 2019 [8 favorites]


I maybe feel exhausted by a world of corporations and governments constantly spinning hollow justifications to fit the conclusions they have an interest in arriving at. So I don’t like to see the joints where our escapist fiction does the same thing.
posted by little onion at 6:17 AM on May 11, 2019 [20 favorites]


I stopped watching a few seasons ago when

OLD SEASON SPOILER
Jaime raped Cersei on Joffrey's tomb
SPOILER OVER

and I was just sick of seeing crap like that over and over and over. It simplified something whose version of it in the book was much more complex.

It sounds like I made the right decision because so many people are saying there is very little payoff here.
posted by King Bee at 6:23 AM on May 11, 2019 [12 favorites]


I maybe feel exhausted by a world of corporations and governments constantly spinning hollow justifications to fit the conclusions they have an interest in arriving at. So I don’t like to see the joints where our escapist fiction does the same thing.

"Plotting" is always going to deliver a product that's easier to make a quick profit off of. It sucks that culture is so utterly colonized by capital. That isn't to denigrate the craft of the thousands of people involved in the production, from grips to actors, but at the end of the day GoT exists to deliver money and accolades to HBO and generate shareholder value.
posted by Reyturner at 6:36 AM on May 11, 2019 [1 favorite]


The friend whose house I watch GoT at likes to watch those Inside the Episode things where the writers talk about their Process

Those are some of the best comedy on TV right now.
Benioff, staring blankly in 3/4 view: "yeah, we put Cersei on a dragon, which is.. it's kind of like a big dog? but it has more teeth"
Weiss, staring blankly in 3/4 view: "the audience knows that the dragon is a big deal. that's why she flew around on a dragon"
cut to scene of Cersei, earlier in the episode: "i am flying around on a dragon"
posted by Greg Nog at 6:40 AM on May 11, 2019 [43 favorites]


I've only had the misfortune of seeing the one after The Long Night, and it was a laugh riot.
posted by Reyturner at 6:43 AM on May 11, 2019 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: bunkum with no internal logic or planned narrative
posted by kokaku at 6:45 AM on May 11, 2019 [9 favorites]


if the story about HBO wanting a longer series but Benioff and Weiss demanding a shorter series is true, HBO should have straight up fired Benioff and Weiss.

> Some minor inconsistencies are quite embarrasing (SPOILERS!)

I knew something was off about Tormund's Jon-boostering in that scene, but it had been a while since I had seen season 7 and I couldn't quite remember exactly what was wrong about it.

but, man. that is _bad_. I think that's one reason the Starbucks cup thing went so viral — it's a small and relatively irrelevant bit of sloppiness that stands as a synecdoche for the more significant sloppinesses in seasons 7 and 8 as a whole.

Plotter, pantser, whatever — I'm on the record as saying that GRRM needs to take a more plottery stance for the last few books if he ever wants to finish them.1

The problem with Benioff and Weiss isn't that they're plotters rather than pantsers. It's that they're neither plotters nor pantsers. A plotter, in this scheme, is someone who slots their characters into positions in a tight little machine in order to produce a certain effect / tell a particular narrative. The disappointing thing about seasons 7 and 8 isn't that these characters are being slotted into a narrative machine, it's that they're being thrown around at random without any particular reason, for no particular payoff.

1: I've got this whole speech that I've bored my friends with multiple times about how the first book was this lovely little self-contained medieval-setting detective story, that GRRM got into the weeds in the second book when he started getting more interested in worldbuilding than in storytelling, and that the way for him to finish the series is to tear up all his notes about the deep background, write "R+L=J" on a 3x5 card, and then tell a story about R+L=J and the unexpected implications of R+L=J, like he told a story about Jaime + Cersei = Joffrey, Myrcella, and Tommen and the unexpected implications of J+C=J, M, and T in book 1.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 6:51 AM on May 11, 2019 [17 favorites]


Writing is hard. Writing endings is harder. Writing a satisfactory ending to massive multi-plot and subplot epic with a myriad characters that you didn't even start yourself and whose original writer can't even seem to keep under control is... not easy.

It's not that it's different writers or that it's 'ploters' vs 'pansters' (and the twitter thread goes onto say that there's usually a merging of the two in any given writer) it's that the two Ds have not done a very good job.

For one, they changed a key essence of the tale that GRRM was telling in that stuff had consequences - brutal consequences that went against your typical high fantasy. It was dark dirty. The obvious example is Ned's arc. Now it's just pure fantasy. A better writer might have been able to do it more smoothly - say as more magic entered the story - but with the Ds it's been grinding gears.

Plus the writing is just plain bad with massive plot holes and seems to be led more by fan service than anything else as it jumps the kraken.

As the man said "Big let down unparalleled / Like the last episode of Seinfeld few seasons of Game of Thrones'
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:05 AM on May 11, 2019 [4 favorites]


All this has happened before and all this will happen again.

Remember Battlestar Galactica and the whole "They have a plan" motif that was repeated endlessly about the cyclons. One of the creators later admitted there was no plan, it was just something that sounded neat and included it in the weekly show intro.

GoT is pulling something similar, going for spectacle and drama to bring in interest, rather than a narrative that makes sense plot and character wise. It's what a lot movie and tv fiction does.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:22 AM on May 11, 2019 [21 favorites]


self-contained medieval-setting detective story

that reminds me - fans of The Name Of The Rose may enjoy Robert Harris' forthcoming novel
posted by thelonius at 7:34 AM on May 11, 2019 [3 favorites]




All this has happened before and all this will happen again.

....

GoT is pulling something similar, going for spectacle and drama to bring in interest, rather than a narrative that makes sense plot and character wise. It's what a lot movie and tv fiction does.


break the wheel
posted by lalochezia at 7:35 AM on May 11, 2019 [13 favorites]


I'd rather a shitty ending now than two more books over ten years followed by a ghost writer penning the finale about several times more adroitly but several years after GRRMs death.

Wheel of Time is not an experience I want a sequel of.
posted by Slackermagee at 7:39 AM on May 11, 2019 [12 favorites]


I think this was one reason people were so disappointed more characters didn't die off during the battle with the Night King. The Night King seemed like an existential threat that could kill anyone, regardless of their smart or stupid choices, regardless of their life path. Now many characters have to die at the hands of other characters, and there's little time or writing to make those deaths make narrative sense. Hence, partly, the groaning over the deaths of Missandei and the second dragon.
posted by Hypatia at 7:49 AM on May 11, 2019 [4 favorites]


if the story about HBO wanting a longer series but Benioff and Weiss demanding a shorter series is true, HBO should have straight up fired Benioff and Weiss.

Yeah. I think this is actually what is going on, and I think it's really shitty. HBO execs would have been happy with five more seasons. The actors have been loving it. GRRM said five more seasons would probably be necessary. B&W are like 'nah fam we can finish it in 2 super short seasons'. Like seasons 1-6 had 10 episodes each - 7 and 8 were inexplicably short at a time when we need more time.

I think B&W - correctly - saw Game of Thrones not as a fun thing they exactly wanted to produce, but as a thing that would let them do exciting prestige TV. As a jumping off point to doing the things they actually wanted to produce. And I think GRRM got snookered - he asked them a few questions to see if they were 'real fans', but I think they probably googled the answers from the copious fan forums. They have had so many offers for 'as soon as GoT is over' - the stupid Confederate show, the new Star Wars films. And they just want to move on to what they think of as their best good life, without caring about whether or not this is true to spirit or not.

So in a way, this thread is both accurate and inaccurate. B&W are reverse engineering to get to the end in the appointed time, but they're the only ones decreeing that end, and it's mostly for personal ambition.
posted by corb at 8:09 AM on May 11, 2019 [38 favorites]


Now many characters have to die at the hands of other characters

A good portion of the latest episode was devoted to removing characters from the story in ways that didn't involve death but instead departure. It felt okay, but it also felt like cheating. They've whittled things down to the core group for the final two episodes in a way that is sort of cheap and annoying. But necessary since they didn't all die under the Night King.
posted by hippybear at 8:14 AM on May 11, 2019 [1 favorite]


Even beyond being plot-focused, it seems like what D&D really care about is fan service. For writers who are supposedly focused on plot, not a whole lot has happened over 4 episodes, and what has happened has tended to be unearned, poorly set up, and anticlimactic. What we have gotten are a lot of characters giving one-liners, hooking up, and (attempts at) epic battles. Shows based on fan service and drama aren't necessarily bad - that's what a Soap Opera is, and some Soaps are really well written entertainment. This is a bad soap opera, though, that doesn't actually seem conversant in the genre, nor does it have the time or format that pays off a soap. Making this a show about fan service and checking off plotpoints seems like an ill-conceived bid at making fans happy while finishing off a story that they don't seem to care that much about telling.
posted by codacorolla at 8:17 AM on May 11, 2019 [4 favorites]


I get that writing is hard, but that's not an excuse.

One thing that has struck me about the past few episodes of GoT and some other shows I've watched recently (ahem, ST:DISCO) is the colossal mismatch between the effort that went into crafting a good story and all the other prodigious resources that went into the shows—the cast, the extras, the crew, the SPFX work, the sets and costumes, etc. Without a story, all those other resources might as well be a music video. And the stories have not done justice to the resources used to tell them.
posted by adamrice at 8:18 AM on May 11, 2019 [33 favorites]


Maybe it's an age thing (because I remember all too well the time before the so-called Golden Age Of TV), but I'm still amazed when anything on TV is any good at all. Even if only for one season, let alone two, three, however many before a shark is glimpsed far, far below. So I'm not going to worry too much about Game of Thrones stumble from fabulous to merely "pretty darned good if you just don't worry about all the stupid stuff". Life's too short.

I am curious though as to which long running serialized shows haven't inevitably jumped that shark. I suppose Madmen probably qualifies, and I know many would argue for Sopranos and Breaking Bad (both shows that lost me not so much for their diminished quality as their profoundly crushing negativity, the long, slow roads to hell they were paving).

Anyway -- what success stories have I missed that may put the current GOT stumble into greater context?
posted by philip-random at 8:29 AM on May 11, 2019 [6 favorites]


For me, Season 5 is where GOT became a different show. Up until that point, it was all about tight plotting and close-up character development. From S5 onward, it became all about "we need to hit X, Y, and Z plot points, so let's get the characters in the right positions to make that happen." That's when you started to see characters doing things that didn't make any sense. S7 and S8 just saw an acceleration of that.

Here's my question, though -- why was HBO in such a rush to wrap up the series? Like now they're left without a marquee property, desperately pinning their hopes on GOT spinoffs that may or may not work out. Certainly it's doubtful any of them will be as big as GOT. So what gives?
posted by panama joe at 8:38 AM on May 11, 2019 [4 favorites]


(erm, just read the thread. okay, so it was D&D who wanted to wrap things up. still, what gives? do they really think they're going to make something bigger than GOT? unlikely at best.)
posted by panama joe at 8:45 AM on May 11, 2019 [2 favorites]


I am curious though as to which long running serialized shows haven't inevitably jumped that shark.

The problem is that there are now a number of shows that start really strong and promise a narrative arc with a conclusion when there was really no plan for that conclusion and that’s different than jumping the shark. I hate to talk like one of those fans that’s owed something by the producers of the show, but the truth is I have very little free time to watch TV and GoT is literally the only show I’m watching now and I do feel like it was a significant investment of my time and I was promised some kind of payoff to see how some characters I grew to care about turned out. I don’t think that’s going to happen now and really like others upthread I just want it over now. I should have learned my lesson from Lost or BSG but I think I felt that since they were working from some source material the ending would be more satisfying.

Honestly, my greatest fear about the series until about 2 years ago was that it would be absolutely faithful to the brutality and self interest of the inhabitants of Martin’s world and it would end on a real downer, but even that would be preferable to all this deus ex machina crap that’s happening.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:53 AM on May 11, 2019 [13 favorites]


I have read all the books, first with excitement, then later with growing boredom and disillusionment. I don’t think GRRM had any real plans about the lord of light, Catelyn Stark, what Bran really is, etc. A certain brand of fantasy author gets carried away with grand sweep and endless new ideas . I’d have been happy with Dorne and especially the Iron Islands just staying occasionally mentioned external forces. When the drowned god stuff came in is when he lost me. I slogged through it to get back to the characters he’d done such a good job of getting me interested in.

By comparison, something like the Broken Earth kept a smaller but still interestingly open feeling cast, and wrapped up nicely in 3 books.

I’m still enjoying the show for what it is. It could be better plotting this season, but GRRM left everyone hanging for too long. I blame him for how it’s turning out.
posted by freecellwizard at 8:55 AM on May 11, 2019 [7 favorites]


I am curious though as to which long running serialized shows haven't inevitably jumped that shark. I suppose Madmen probably qualifies, and I know many would argue for Sopranos and Breaking Bad (both shows that lost me not so much for their diminished quality as their profoundly crushing negativity, the long, slow roads to hell they were paving).

Just from what I've watched? The Americans finished VERY strong -- I'd say it was one of the most consistently well-crafted shows ever made. That's true of The Wire, and Girls, too. It's true that lots of shows get shaggy the longer they're on air, but I don't think that's the problem with Game of Thrones. Benioff and Weiss didn't run out of story; they rushed through it because they were having to write it instead of adapt it. The Kit Haringtons and Sophie Turners of the show are probably happy for the chance to pursue new opportunities, but it's a shame for the audience (because Martin definitely isn't finishing this thing).

The generous answer here is that Benioff and Weiss are bored and want to pursue their own projects with more creative freedom. Because I'm a cynic, I'll also add that future show-development deals will be written to make them a ton of money.
posted by grandiloquiet at 8:57 AM on May 11, 2019 [7 favorites]


I don’t think season 8 has been godawful, but, yeah, there’s a lot wrong with it.

But here’s the real problem: I tried to binge re-watch the whole series before season 8 started, but only made it through season 6. When season 8 started, I was a bit surprised that it felt like I hadn’t missed anything at all. And, well, I hadn’t, really. Not much happens in season 7. There are only three plot points of note in seven episodes, and the biggest of them is rendered moot just two episodes later.

There was so little development in season 7 that now the show is forced to rush everything, anticlimactically snipping off any and all plotlines that get in the way of the central Family Feud drama, even if that means making the looming threat of the destruction of all humanity suddenly disappear in a puff of smoke while somehow sparing every major character.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:08 AM on May 11, 2019 [4 favorites]


I am curious though as to which long running serialized shows haven't inevitably jumped that shark.

The Leftovers. The Americans.

Hmmm yeah that's pretty much it.

(not including the Wire, because S5 was such a letdown)

(not including shows like Deadwood or Firefly that got axed prematurely, because that's kind of a different thing)

(tempted to say Star Trek:TNG and DS9, but those shows had enough unevenness throughout their runs I'm hesitant to give them an unqualified 'yes')

(Twin Peaks sorta jumped the shark halfway through S2, and then somehow unjumped with S3. pretty unique and somehow perfectly Lynchian)
posted by panama joe at 9:10 AM on May 11, 2019 [6 favorites]


NYPD Blue ran for 12 years of 22 episode seasons and never jumped the shark.
posted by hippybear at 9:24 AM on May 11, 2019


I know exactly how this show will end.

It seems that one of the off-brand Sarahs Connor will wind up on the Iron Chair. I will be delighted if a new character played by Linda Hamilton swoops in and takes all.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:25 AM on May 11, 2019 [6 favorites]


I am curious though as to which long running serialized shows haven't inevitably jumped that shark.

Northern Exposure.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 9:37 AM on May 11, 2019 [9 favorites]


I don't watch GoT but I found the thread interesting in terms of writing styles. It also reminds me of DM'ing styles in D&D. One of my friends is a plotter, the other is total pants, but both run enjoyable games.
posted by Pastor of Muppets at 9:38 AM on May 11, 2019 [1 favorite]


Once again: Babylon 5 did plotting best. It's a shame that's not something that anyone can probably realistically do any more.

In this case, I'm sad that GRRM lost the passion for his own story and sticking everyone in this position, but at this point it's also on the other dudes for trying to just get it all over with too.
But since we'll never get any kind of ending out of GRRM at this point, this is better than nothing even if the execution is weak.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:39 AM on May 11, 2019 [6 favorites]


I’m on season 5 of the Americans after just starting it a few months ago and it’s been great throughout . Leftovers I watched 5 esipodes of season 1 and it leaves me bored and cold. Does it get better?
posted by freecellwizard at 9:42 AM on May 11, 2019


still, what gives? do they really think they're going to make something bigger than GOT? unlikely at best.

They're working on Star Wars now.
posted by painquale at 9:43 AM on May 11, 2019




I hate to talk like one of those fans that’s owed something by the producers of the show, but the truth is I have very little free time to watch TV and GoT is literally the only show I’m watching now and I do feel like it was a significant investment of my time and I was promised some kind of payoff to see how some characters I grew to care about turned out.

Here's a question: why aren't you owed something by a person who you're paying to hear a story from? If you're at a party and someone takes 30 minutes of your time telling a story that ends up going nowhere, aren't you going to be angry at them for wasting your time? Much less since you're literally paying for either the books or for HBO (or maybe you're pirating it, but it's still a product).
posted by codacorolla at 9:44 AM on May 11, 2019 [14 favorites]


Blake's Seven became godamn awful in its final season then managed to turn it around to have one of the greatest endings ever.

May be GoT will do that ...? Ha ha haha hhaaah ha
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:47 AM on May 11, 2019 [7 favorites]


Leftovers I watched 5 esipodes of season 1 and it leaves me bored and cold. Does it get better?

Kinda hard to answer this one. Personally I think it was all pretty consistently good throughout, but if you're not dialed into the aesthetic of the show, it might never grab you. Certainly by watching more of it, you may find more to like. But if you're not into the general vibe of the thing, I can see how it could all come off as rather ... dour.

One thing I think all the fans did agree on though was that the showrunners absolutely stuck the landing. I never watched Lost, but I think the idea is that Lindeloff 'learned his lesson" from his first go-round.
posted by panama joe at 9:48 AM on May 11, 2019 [2 favorites]


It was only four seasons, but Black Sails was consistently good. The first season was solid, and from the second season on it was on another level entirely.
posted by dogheart at 9:51 AM on May 11, 2019 [4 favorites]


The Leftovers takes many twists and turns. It's like the weather; if you don't like it, wait a few episodes.
posted by bleep at 9:53 AM on May 11, 2019 [1 favorite]


I guess one thing about The Leftovers is that each season did introduce a new setting and set of circumstances, so I guess it is possible for someone to like one season more than another. But I wouldn't say the general vibe of the show changed much.
posted by panama joe at 9:54 AM on May 11, 2019


Does it get better

Do you think Lindelloff explained too much in Lost, and you’d rather even more things were made up and then just never referenced again? Then yes.
posted by sideshow at 9:54 AM on May 11, 2019 [2 favorites]


I haven't seen the show. I gave up reading the series at the end of book four; I thought it started out on a very high level in book one and then went on a gradual but distinct decline with every subsequent book. When I finished book four and realized I'd just read a complete mess that I hadn't really enjoyed, I stopped.

Nonetheless, I think I have a pretty good sense of the narrative arc of the story, and from the unavoidable twitter spoilers I've seen regarding the current season ...

It makes no narrative sense.

It just doesn't.

Don't get me wrong, I think there are any number of ways that the story could have gone. I don't think there was a single plot locked in with a single set of possible survivors. But given how things seem to have gone, if the battle against the undead went down the way it did, the humans needed to lose.

Lose hard.

Lots of death.

The last few episodes should have been a desperate scramble of whoever managed to survive back to King's Landing for a final final stand that maybe goes a different way.

Unless the show has somehow ended up being completely different from the books in most respects -- which I have not gotten the impression it is -- then the current situation simply MAKES NO NARRATIVE SENSE given the story. Not a twist. Not a surprise. Just ... an incomprehensible direction given the premise. Hamlet springing up and saying, "No, really, I'm fine! I didn't tell anyone, but poison doesn't affect me for some reason!" Galadriel putting on the ring and everyone saying, "Well, thank goodness it's in good hands now!" and then everything works out fine.

I can only conclude that the people currently writing the show do not understand it.
posted by kyrademon at 9:59 AM on May 11, 2019 [18 favorites]


Anyway -- what success stories have I missed that may put the current GOT stumble into greater context?

The Americans, definitely. Began well, if a bit ‘mission of the week’ but pretty quickly became more than the sum of its parts. Total opposite of late-stage GoT in that, while there are unexpected developments, they all feel earned and true to character.

The Wire. There will always be season-ranking debates as each one broadly tackled a different theme but quality remained pretty consistent. There is some debate re: S5 developments but those were at least intentional on the part of the creator and (IMO, at least) amount to more of a difference of opinion than a GoT-style quality drop.

(On preview: broadly seconding panama joe.)
posted by myotahapea at 9:59 AM on May 11, 2019 [2 favorites]


> The last few episodes should have been a desperate scramble of whoever managed to survive back to King's Landing for a final final stand that maybe goes a different way.

yes exactly. If you told me before the season started that by the 5th episode the night king would be dead and winterfell would still be standing, I wouldn’t have believed you for a second. Or rather, I would have said “oh. so d&d fucked it up.”

right now the northernmost surviving non-zombie should be living in moat cailin.

The folks who did the opening animation understood where the show is going. Those ice blue tiles were supposed to get all the way down to king’s landing.

The only way they can salvage this is if episode three were a tremendous fakeout and bran is the new night king.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 10:08 AM on May 11, 2019 [6 favorites]


(also, if they were to salvage this, they’d have to have daenerys burninate every last one of her shitty westerosi ”allies” before winging back to meereen on drogon. grey worm can come with her, but all the lannisters, spiders, and starkgaryens need to die.)
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 10:11 AM on May 11, 2019 [5 favorites]


re: shows that stuck the landing: it’s showing it age now, and the middle seasons were so pitch-black bleak that they’re kind of hard to watch, but I think Six Feet Under stayed consistently good all the way through and finished perfectly.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 10:16 AM on May 11, 2019 [11 favorites]


I feel like this thread has been taken over by the book people, the ones who are mad that we didn't get to see Strong Belwas and that Lady Stoneheart and JonCon/fAegon were perfectly cromulentlegitimate plot points that shouldn't have been ditched. As you may have guessed by now, I'm not one of those people. I've read the books, and will read the last two if/when they ever come out, but I am no longer anticipating them as I used to, and that in no small part was due to the last book, which, while having its engaging moments, was still very much pantsed.

Here's the thing about painting yourself in a corner, which makes the image memorable because it's so slapstick-funny: it's trivially easy to avoid. You just do the corners first, and work your way toward the center, leaving an unpainted passageway that you will do last, starting at the back and going up to the door. If you have a relatively complicated room layout, you may have to plan it out a bit, probably one room at a time. What GRRM has done with the books is to continually add on rooms, with weird passages interconnecting them, and if you wanted to sketch out a plan for getting them all painted in the right order, you're not sure that they even make sheets of butcher paper that big. Just one relatively small part of the tangle has its own name, and it's instructive as to how it was solved in the series: some of the characters involved in it don't exist in the series. (I mean, what's Victarion's function in the plot? To bring the dragon horn--itself one of the most ridonkulous plot devices in the series--to Meereen, to either steal the dragons or convince Dany to kill his scumbag brother? And maybe Dany finds a dragon horn exploder in the Dothrakis' loot horde? But maybe Euron has a dragon horn exploder exploder...)

And, let's face it, die-hard book stans, there's really two things that infuriate you: that D&D have cut stuff like that from the series, and that GRRM does things other than eat, sleep, shit, and finish the books. The two sentiments may not be that compatible. And I'm not giving a full-throated defense of D&D by any means; I mean, Confederate, WTF were they thinking? But they do think that the series should come to an end, and that not everything in the books deserves the full ride, and even with all the time I've invested in the books, that is not a sentiment that I disagree with.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:41 AM on May 11, 2019 [4 favorites]


Also, I'd argue for Breaking Bad.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:42 AM on May 11, 2019 [8 favorites]


To be honest, I like that the show is ending on a sour note. I wouldn't want the story told in the TV show to supplant the story told in the books in collective memory. I'd prefer that we think of GoT as an unfinished story.

I'd like more books from GRRM, but I think it's better for the series to have no ending. The books constantly upend narrative convention in order to feel more like a history, and history doesn't obey narrative conventions like having a pat ending. I find the structure of the books pretty unique... it's as if they're written by a mostly-omniscient narrator who can see everything going on in the world in the present, but he doesn't know what's going to happen in the future, so he has to make educated guesses about who to track in order to write a good story. Sometimes he gets it wrong and someone he's been tracking unexpectedly dies, or sometimes a peon unexpectedly comes out of nowhere and becomes a main player. It's more like reading the papers of an omniscient journalist than reading the studies of an omniscient historian.

And I bet that narrative structure is why GRRM can't figure out how to finish the books. Real history feels like it has an arc, but it never actually terminates that arc, and it never ties off into a tidy conclusion. GRRM can't really buck that structure without also making the series something that it never was. I think that D&D also realized that there's no good way to give the series a satisfying conclusion, so they're just ripping off the bandaid as fast as possible, giving it a conclusion that's totally unlike anything that came before, just so that it can have a conclusion.
posted by painquale at 10:42 AM on May 11, 2019 [12 favorites]




I don’t think GRRM had any real plans about the lord of light, Catelyn Stark, what Bran really is, etc.

I get the same impression.

This is a tangent, but pantsing seems similar to running a game of d&d but you're the DM and the players.

And the thing about running a game where people can act naturally in a world full of high fantasy is that the person in charge of the world needs to understand all the boring lore reasons for how the fantasy stuff works. What is a "spell"? What is a "zombie"? What is a "god"? That way you can be consistent and considered, and players can understand the natural results of interacting with those things and use that information to act logically in the future.

Just, for the love of God, don't get too proud of that lore and bore everyone else by calling it by it's name.
posted by Reyturner at 10:53 AM on May 11, 2019 [2 favorites]


The only way they can salvage this is if episode three were a tremendous fakeout and bran is the new night king.

Nah. Baby Sam.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:01 AM on May 11, 2019 [1 favorite]


But since we'll never get any kind of ending out of GRRM at this point, this is better than nothing even if the execution is weak.

I remember before the last Harry Potter book was published there were fake "leaked" versions floating around on the internet, which were actually book-length fan fiction and at least some of which were apparently good. Has that been happening at all with asoiaf - not just smaller fics about specific characters but big attempts to write an ending?
posted by trig at 11:01 AM on May 11, 2019 [1 favorite]


Apparently that sort of thing is as old as the novel itself.
posted by panama joe at 11:06 AM on May 11, 2019 [1 favorite]


I quit GoT when Littlefinger was monologuing and giving prostitutes sex lessons, but then I came back for S8 because lbr the books aren't going to be finished and I wanted an ending of some kind. The first episode of S8 made no sense to me (book reader), so I went back and started watching from S5, and now I am so obsessed and in love with the characters and the world and everything is GoT, but at the same time, I still think of it as the show where Littlefinger gives prostitutes sex lessons--my expectations are pretty low.

I think it helps that I never watch interviews with the writers--the True Detective dude was such a wanker that it put me off TV writer interviews forever.
posted by betweenthebars at 11:18 AM on May 11, 2019 [2 favorites]


Did a ctrl + F for Justified, which stuck its landing and then some. No mentions. Some days I wonder why I even give you people favorites.
posted by Ber at 11:24 AM on May 11, 2019 [18 favorites]


Apparently that sort of thing is as old as the novel itself.

That's a great story. Apparently Cervantes never finished a continuation of his first book either, despite promises...

posted by trig at 11:32 AM on May 11, 2019 [2 favorites]


GoT will be one of the few series that I'll have actually watched to the end. In the last twenty years or so I think that I've only watched all of Battlestar Galactica and we all know how that turned out. I'm usually happy just watching the first two or three seasons and then bailing because they're seldom worth following any further than that. I kind of liked the old pattern where shows would just get arbitrarily canceled mid-story, leaving us forever wanting more.
posted by octothorpe at 11:43 AM on May 11, 2019 [3 favorites]


Silvermint is too innocent about the GOT screenwriting and goes too easy on it.
All the writing and plot development since early on outside of the limited constraints of borrowing from GRRM's books has been dominated by a hack writer's mindset.
posted by Bwithh at 11:45 AM on May 11, 2019 [1 favorite]


What I don't understand is everyone saying the last two seasons were shorter? Except there's an extra season? One season per book? Supposed to be seven books? (10+10+10+10+10+10+7+6)/7 = 10.42 episodes per book?

The last couple seasons are much worse, but they had the time had GRRM known what to write. It's much easier to condense source material. D&D don't know how to tell their own story so that's how we got the garbledygook fanfic that are the deathly hallows of ice and fire.
posted by avalonian at 12:31 PM on May 11, 2019


That's a great story. Apparently Cervantes never finished a continuation of his first book either, despite promises...

Miguel de Cervantes is not your bitch.
posted by mikelieman at 12:46 PM on May 11, 2019 [9 favorites]


I'd throw Hannibal onto the pile of long-running TV that had fairly steady quality (I think the very last half season of Red Dragon was weaker than the rest, but not a complete failure). Arguably, Hannibal got better with time. It's also worth noting that with some series, the dip in quality comes from the practical constraints of the network or the genre. Farscape is a good example - the fourth season is actually the strongest of the show, but they had cancelation sprung on them without much warning, so the ending is a cliffhanger and the two wrap-up long episodes (while not bad) clearly are rushing through things. GOT doesn't have those constraints, though - the opposite, actually. The network basically threw money and time at them.
posted by codacorolla at 12:49 PM on May 11, 2019 [2 favorites]


the books are BAD. they're bad! rereading them feels like reading tiresome textbooks for a class that i loathe with one of those godawful professors who is proud about how many students fail his class. i hope long after his death his estate releases his final manuscripts which are just marginal doodles of dicks and boobs and him writing over and over and over "idc lol".
posted by poffin boffin at 12:51 PM on May 11, 2019 [19 favorites]


Breaking Bad gets a lil' shaky towards the end and I'm not a huge fan of the actual ending. Considering that's it's a pure and admitted seat-of-the-pants show, though, it doesn't do too badly (and the last season has a couple great episodes).

The Wire S5 gets shaky, too, but it's mostly the one subplot (or is it two intertwined subplots?) and the last couple episodes actually wrap up perfectly so I do count that one as sticking the landing.
posted by atoxyl at 1:16 PM on May 11, 2019 [2 favorites]


the books are fine. they’re not deep and not great, and by halfway through the second one I was beyond sick of reading the phrases “half a heartbeat” and “much and more” twice a page, but they’re alright in a pageturnery way that reflects GRRM’s background as a television writer.

I’m not a huge fan of extruded fantasy product, but as extruded fantasy product goes they’re okay. they won this particular extruded fantasy product non-fan over.

basically I think they’re too good to excoriate, even if they’re not precisely good. they’re something to praise with faint damns.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 1:26 PM on May 11, 2019 [12 favorites]


There's also a separate category of "shows that just kinda end." I would put both the Sopranos and Mad Men into that boat. Not great endings, not bad endings. Not even mediocre endings. Just a matter of "Hey, we're ending this here because that's where it ends."

I think a lot of the dissatisfaction with the Sopranos ending derived from this. People wanted some kind of climactic, decisive ending, but what they got was more of a "Maybe he dies and maybe he doesn't, but whatever happens, it happens in another story, because this one is over."

And I think this fine. If showrunners weren't burdened with the expectation that endings should be climactic and decisive, maybe TV would have fewer bad endings.
posted by panama joe at 1:33 PM on May 11, 2019 [7 favorites]


Six Feet Under had the best finale of all time, and wrapped up the show in a very cool way.

So now the Game of Thrones books are bad? Really? The books are pretty fucking great, that’s why they made a TV show out of it that was a raging success for a decade.

The biggest problem is that they went into an unfinished series and nobody knows what the ending is, including the author. Well, no shit the ending is all over the place. They probably should have figured the storyline out before now, they had 10 years to do it. Maybe the people in charge of this thing suck at their jobs, or maybe the ending as imagined doesn’t translate well to screen, or...who knows. Next time, they should wait for a series to be finished before televising it.
posted by Autumnheart at 1:43 PM on May 11, 2019 [4 favorites]


Say whatever you want about Game of Thrones, just so long as we’re all agreed that the ending of Dexter was perfectly flawless.

Perfectly.

Flawless.

posted by Sys Rq at 1:48 PM on May 11, 2019 [2 favorites]


The books are pretty fucking great, that’s why they made a TV show out of it that was a raging success for a decade.

guess what? we have different opinions! and that's allowed in this world and also on metafilter! gosh! jeepers! golly!
posted by poffin boffin at 1:49 PM on May 11, 2019 [7 favorites]



i) Dorne. Sand snakes. Amazing self-realized characters in book, another dimension to grand narrative sweep. In show, 1d cartoonlike embarrassments.

ii) Ramsay and Roose. Dull-witted sociopath and bloodless master manipulator in books that are utterly compelling. In show cartoon villain of the week and vaguely competent commander


I'm going to lay this at the feet of GRRM as well, because they are absolutely the embodiment of what the article was talking about: multiplication of plot threads and characters, with no real endgame for them. By the third book, characters and groups should have been in the process of getting pruned off, but instead hwe get added more characters that obviously Martin finds fascinating, but they really have only a tangential at best connection to the overall plot line. I mean yeah, they're compelling. And yet I can't really remember what they hell they were doing.

The Sand Snakes and Ramsey and Roose are perfect examples of GRRM losing narrative control of the story. It's as if LeMort D' Arthur interrupted the story to say "MEANHILE, over in Constantinople, Marco Polo is... now MEANWHILE, down in Katmandu...." So D&D end faced with a bunch of mostly useless characters they have to deal with.

A Song of Ice and Fire is a perfect example of what happens when an author thinks he doesn't need editing any more, and the TV series, for all the faults of D&D, is fundamentally flawed because of it.
posted by happyroach at 2:34 PM on May 11, 2019 [9 favorites]


You made a declarative statement, I made a declarative statement.
posted by Autumnheart at 2:34 PM on May 11, 2019 [8 favorites]


It's as if LeMort D' Arthur interrupted the story to say "MEANHILE, over in Constantinople

Le Mort D'Arthur is pretty rambling. Arthur fights his way to Rome. Saves the church and everyone from the bad guys. Crowned Emperor by the Pope! And then this supposedly important event is never mentioned again. Sir Gareth gets an entire chapter. A rousing adventure where he saves the girl and defeats evil. And then he's only mentioned in passing for the rest of the book, and doesn't play a pivotal role in much of anything.

For me personally, I'm fine with it. I like rambling books when the worldbuilding is decent. Or history books which can't resist going off on tangents about interesting characters, even when those characters end up not doing much in terms of the war or central theme of the book. These asides and tangents give a better feel for the time and place.

Just look at our current reality. A million different threads and a million different people that all feel important right now. Some will end up being crucial and others not so much. But in the telling of the story, in the present sense, they're all important now. I do like it when authors and historians mimic this sensation of everything happening at once.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 2:55 PM on May 11, 2019 [6 favorites]


I quit GoT when Littlefinger was monologuing and giving prostitutes sex lessons, but then I came back for S8 because lbr the books aren't going to be finished and I wanted an ending of some kind. The first episode of S8 made no sense to me (book reader),

Er, you bowed out at the sixth episode of a serialized drama and came back at the sixty-eighth, eight years later? I'm surprised you found it intelligible at all.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:05 PM on May 11, 2019 [1 favorite]


I read every book in the series as they were published. I've watched every episode of the show the day they were released. I haven't bothered to watch the latest episode.

I just haven't made time for it because I don't think I care anymore. Maybe more honestly, I don't want this half assed slap job to infect my own superior head canon. I think the show always seemed better than it was because it leaned on the girders of the books. Even people who hadn't read the books could feel there was something more happening behind the scenes. All the characters had a history, the events had gravity.

Now? Eh, I just don't care. The characters simply aren't the same characters. The events don't make sense and the rules have changed.

I don't really need to see cool stuff happening in CGI. That was never the point of the show. How can somebody work so hard on something and not understand that basics of what made everything work?

I have access to the internet so I know that something stupid happened when a bunch of formerly not stupid characters did the exact same stupid thing that was stupid 3 seasons ago and stupidly failed to learn from it again. I also know that some tacked on characters managed to pull of something highly unlikely in order to move the plot along in some direction to ensure something I don't care about will affect the husks of characters I don't recognize, to finish a plot that doesn't seem important. I can watch a youtube video of the 'highlights' but investing 90 minutes of my time in something that's not even trying to respect the audience seems silly.

*I budget my MetaFilter time, so I would have spent 15 minutes on this site somehow. This doesn't count as GoT time. I'm reading a book instead of watching the show.
posted by Telf at 4:00 PM on May 11, 2019 [4 favorites]


Er, you bowed out at the sixth episode of a serialized drama and came back at the sixty-eighth, eight years later?

Yes. I'm glad I did because I'm really enjoying it and it will be good to have an ending even if [spoiler] doesn't happen and [spoiler] and [spoiler] takes the Iron Throne.
posted by betweenthebars at 4:04 PM on May 11, 2019


I'm going to lay this at the feet of GRRM as well, because they are absolutely the embodiment of what the article was talking about: multiplication of plot threads and characters, with no real endgame for them.

I think that one of the things that GRRM does absolutely best - and what has made me desperately love the books, but also get sadder and sadder about the television series as it went on - is kind of to show the immense consequences to the world of all of those things that are usually foregrounded in fantasy epics. Like - it is meant to be a deconstruction of fantasy and it is really, really good at it.

The best insight into the mind of GRRM is an interview he did around his thoughts of Tolkien:
Lord of the Rings had a very medieval philosophy: that if the king was a good man, the land would prosper. We look at real history and it’s not that simple. Tolkien can say that Aragorn became king and reigned for a hundred years, and he was wise and good. But Tolkien doesn’t ask the question: What was Aragorn’s tax policy? Did he maintain a standing army? What did he do in times of flood and famine? And what about all these orcs? By the end of the war, Sauron is gone but all of the orcs aren’t gone – they’re in the mountains. Did Aragorn pursue a policy of systematic genocide and kill them? Even the little baby orcs, in their little orc cradles?
And so it is absolutely fascinating, for me and many others, to see GRRM actually explore that shit. So let's take Dany - she's portrayed as a genuinely good person, who faces some shitty life circumstances. In ordinary fantasy, she would rise above that, and become, as the interview says, "wise and good". But in GRRM's book, she shows the consequences of learning to rule kind of on the fly. You see her torn in many directions as she tries to become one type of king after another type of king. And despite being a good, kind person who wants to do the right thing - she's not going to be a good ruler, because she doesn't plan out what's going to happen in advance. Or - you've had big wars between the Lannisters and the Starks taking over the country. Well, what does that mean for it? What does it mean to have big battles, and smaller people getting involved in versions of those big battles, and tearing everything apart? What does it mean for mid level people to just seize something to hold onto? Okay, you have active, intervening gods in the world. Well, what does that mean? How much do they care and why? That multiplication of plot threads has a serious role in defining the world that the plot exists in, and I love them all.

But you can't do that in a show as easily, and you definitely can't do it without spending a lot of time on people talking in rooms. And the showrunners clearly really, really loved the spectacle. They spend a lot of time on it. But GRRM didn't. He spent more time on detailing feasts and council chambers - because that's where the meat of development happened. But it's not as fun to watch on TV for general audiences. And that's why we are what we are.
posted by corb at 4:08 PM on May 11, 2019 [25 favorites]


I feel like producers underestimate their audience’s capacity for development. West Wing was a show about people talking in rooms, and it was very successful. So was House of Cards, which definitely made its point about how the pen is often mightier than the sword.
posted by Autumnheart at 4:14 PM on May 11, 2019 [1 favorite]


West Wing was a show about people talking in rooms

I thought West Wing was a show about people talking in hallways walking, always walking and talking.
posted by hippybear at 4:16 PM on May 11, 2019 [14 favorites]


(For that matter, they were both specifically about governing.)
posted by Autumnheart at 4:17 PM on May 11, 2019


I was telling my wife (a huge Martin-only fan, and dedicated D&D loather) this morning that I came up with the '20/20 Hindsight Plan' - which possibly would have solved everyone's problems, but would have created much bigger ones later on, I think.

Basically at the time of the re-negotiated 7-8 forecasted ending, around S4's end, HBO should have collected Martin and D&D together and said, 'Right, look, we need an ending. And a good one at that. So here is what we propose:

• HBO will pay Martin $5m over the course of the next year to write up as detailed a final series outline and conclusion to the book and TV series at the same time.
• HBO will pay D&D $2.5m each to execute that outline and ending for the TV series.'

Obviously had they done this they'd fuck up the industry afterwards for sure. But I can't help but wonder what a bit more imagination elsewhere in the creative machinery would have done to avoid this shit.
posted by northtwilight at 4:21 PM on May 11, 2019 [1 favorite]


In thinking about it, what was $10m? The cost of an ep in S6-7, right?
posted by northtwilight at 4:22 PM on May 11, 2019


I remember reading years ago that GRRM and HBO met and he gave them the broad outline of his plan for the end of the show, but my google-fu is failing me at the moment.
posted by hippybear at 4:24 PM on May 11, 2019 [1 favorite]


Yes, I heard that as well, but clearly that info wasn't enough. I don't understand (other than their pure hubris) how those two could have just plowed on through without asking for help.
posted by northtwilight at 4:40 PM on May 11, 2019


If the final two episodes end up being really good this entire thread is going to end up being embarrassing.

If....
posted by hippybear at 4:48 PM on May 11, 2019 [7 favorites]


And, let's face it, die-hard book stans, there's really two things that infuriate you: that D&D have cut stuff like that from the series, and that GRRM does things other than eat, sleep, shit, and finish the books.

That's a bullshit strawman. I'm perfectly ok with cutting stuff from the series. I expected it. What I'm not ok with is having stuff in there and fucking it up. I mean, oh noes, the books couldn't possibly just be translated directly to the tv screen that would never have worked. No shit, that's why these two assholes have been paid so much - to do the actual work of changing an unfinished epic fantasy series into a tv series with an ending. Not to just toddle around poking at an existing story and then shit their pants at the end and say "so the bad guy died because uh, I gotta go!"
posted by the agents of KAOS at 5:05 PM on May 11, 2019 [14 favorites]


Lord of the Rings had a very medieval philosophy: that if the king was a good man, the land would prosper. We look at real history and it’s not that simple. Tolkien can say that Aragorn became king and reigned for a hundred years, and he was wise and good. But Tolkien doesn’t ask the question: What was Aragorn’s tax policy? Did he maintain a standing army? What did he do in times of flood and famine? And what about all these orcs? By the end of the war, Sauron is gone but all of the orcs aren’t gone – they’re in the mountains. Did Aragorn pursue a policy of systematic genocide and kill them? Even the little baby orcs, in their little orc cradles?

Tolkien's entire body of work is meant to be a myth cycle, is it not? This makes only slightly more sense than complaining that Le Morte d'Arthur doesn't address Arthur's tax policy. Also, do Tolkienian orcs even have babies? Aren't they grown in mud holes like some sort of fungus?
posted by Caduceus at 5:16 PM on May 11, 2019 [2 favorites]


Someone up thread mentioned the Broken Earth series and I second that.

It's a beautiful piece of word building that spans centuries, has fantastic characters, a coherent plot and comes to a very satisfying conclusion after only 3 books. I can't say enough about it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:20 PM on May 11, 2019 [7 favorites]


Seriously, I keep re-reading it, so damn good.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:21 PM on May 11, 2019 [3 favorites]


Standing by The Expanse series as my trash read of choice.
posted by Artw at 6:55 PM on May 11, 2019 [7 favorites]


> Tolkien's entire body of work is meant to be a myth cycle, is it not? This makes only slightly more sense than complaining that Le Morte d'Arthur doesn't address Arthur's tax policy. Also, do Tolkienian orcs even have babies? Aren't they grown in mud holes like some sort of fungus?

Tolkein's whole thing was about building a world. The storytelling part was more like gravy for him. Or maybe it's more like he found an infinitude of stories in his world and decided to focus his effort on a couple of them and leave notes on a few dozen hundred bunches more. I'm sure he could have riffed on at length about the pre-industrial agricultural systems of Gondor, but he was more of a political and social historian than an economic one, so his notebooks were mostly about that.

Working on Middle Earth in this way freed up Tolkein to avoid derailing LotR away from the half-dozen heroic dudes sailing overhead on fucking eagles, hell-bent on dunking jewelry into hot baths.
posted by ardgedee at 7:22 PM on May 11, 2019 [2 favorites]


Worth noting. Every time I've heard Martin talk about Tolkien, he starts with a disclaimer along the lines of standing on Tolkien's shoulders. He's a huge fan. He wouldn't have written GOT were it not for LOTR, but what made it worth doing for him was to pull back from the high fantasy stuff and take some time to focus on such pragmatic concerns as, "well, how would this world have worked?"
posted by philip-random at 7:47 PM on May 11, 2019 [2 favorites]


Wow. I'm honestly surprised by the amount wailing and gnashing (...and what reads as fan-entitlement) from you guys. I've never thought of "the blue" as snooty or highbrow, but definitely more introspective and patient.

I'm in no way an insider at HBO or GoT, but I do know a lot of people who know some other people. I can assure you that though the direction that (showrunners) D&D have gone in for the final 2 seasons hasn't been everyone's cup of tea, they do have a real plan. If they manage to pull off the ending that's been described to me - and I think they will - there will be a lot of people who will be very happily surprised, and will finally understand why they've been wrong about seasons 7 and 8.

I'm not going to spoil anything, but I can't help but leave a cryptic hint. **Spoilers Below**





**Seriously! Don't read if you want to be surprised! Spoilers Ahoy!!**









OK: I won't give any details about the plot, or the final disposition of any of the main characters, I'll only say that you'll come away from the final episode with 2 things on your mind: Hodor, and a snowglobe.
posted by Anoplura at 8:57 PM on May 11, 2019 [8 favorites]


Hodor, and a snowglobe.

And then in the credits, Ser Pounce's heart monitor flatlines.
posted by dannyboybell at 9:17 PM on May 11, 2019 [16 favorites]


Me: And, let's face it, die-hard book stans, there's really two things that infuriate you: that D&D have cut stuff like that from the series, and that GRRM does things other than eat, sleep, shit, and finish the books.

the agents of KAOS: That's a bullshit strawman.


So, I guess I hallucinated all the people who complained bitterly and at length over all the excised characters and plot lines, as risible as some of them may be on reflection (Zombie Catelyn Stark? What was he thinking?), not to mention the latter, which caused Neil Gaiman to write this infamous post. No, you personally may not have been in this group, and good for you. #NotAllASOIAFFans, I guess.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:20 PM on May 11, 2019 [3 favorites]


Oh, there's definitely people who are annoyed by those things. That wasn't the bullshit part of your comment at all.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 10:01 PM on May 11, 2019 [2 favorites]


they do have a real plan

I assume you haven't seen Battlestar Galactica. And God only knows how introspection or patience are supposed to prevent people from recognizing terrible writing, or when it became fan entitlement to say so.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 10:03 PM on May 11, 2019 [6 favorites]


I assume you haven't seen Battlestar Galactica

Some of us were doing our best to forget we had, thank YOU very kindly
posted by ominous_paws at 12:55 AM on May 12, 2019 [4 favorites]


I mean sure, there are terrible theories and bad fan wank out there, but to flame in and announce all the complaints in the thread are such is just... plainly untrue. I've refused to go within an inch of the books and it's still startlingly clear when the show switches from something solid and true to something that feels like it was plotted out by an overexcited toddler.

One of the ideas I've most enjoyed about this stuff is that often individual nitpicks don't matter at all, but if your brain suddenly starts finding that it's nitpicking a lot, it's often indicative that the overall quality of the writing, the internal consistency or however you want to put it, is failing, and on some level your brain is less convinced in the moment and starts pulling things apart. I've not put that particularly well, but that's why I'm not a TV critic. Sadly. What an awesome job.
posted by ominous_paws at 1:06 AM on May 12, 2019 [11 favorites]


BSG is something I watched until I was too triggered to endure any more. Television shouldn't be cruel.
posted by hippybear at 1:10 AM on May 12, 2019 [1 favorite]


Like, with all the horror that has gone on in GoT, it has never left me feeling as soiled and awful as did the even short amount of BSG that I watched.
posted by hippybear at 1:11 AM on May 12, 2019 [3 favorites]


the long, slow roads to hell they were paving

BSG is something I watched until I was too triggered to endure any more. Television shouldn't be cruel.

are the reasons I've stopped watching several shows. What the hell is the point of watching something that depresses you?
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 3:18 AM on May 12, 2019 [2 favorites]


Cersei on a dragon

If true, the kind of spoiler which assures me that having no access to the show this year comes as no loss.
posted by filtergik at 3:56 AM on May 12, 2019


Hey everyone, if you're depressed about GoT suddenly switching from overgrown-garden-of-plots to mate-in-seven-moves, or Battlestar Galactica's spacefaring commode of the soul, might I ask if you've tried Steven Universe? (Sure, you can feel free to imagine that I look like a Hare Krishna as I ask that.)

- Bite-size episodes at 11 minutes each,
- Very strongly plotted (you can spot foreshadowing of late-show events in the first episodes),
- CARTOON FOR KIDZ, so you know it won't destroy your will to live, but
- Surprisingly dark at times, like when you find out about one character's millenia-long love for another,
- Vibrantly gay, and happy about it!
- Has tremendous, gigantic secrets that will make your jaw hit the floor when you discover them, and
- It's actually not over! Season 6 (probably) starts later this year!
posted by JHarris at 8:13 AM on May 12, 2019 [11 favorites]


What the hell is the point of watching something that depresses you?
"What you need," the Savage went on, "is something with tears for a change. Nothing costs enough here."

("Twelve and a half million dollars," Henry Foster had protested when the Savage told him that. "Twelve and a half million–that's what the new Conditioning Centre cost. Not a cent less.")

"Exposing what is mortal and unsure to all that fortune, death and danger dare, even for an eggshell. Isn't there something in that?" he asked, looking up at Mustapha Mond. "Quite apart from God–though of course God would be a reason for it. Isn't there something in living dangerously?"

"There's a great deal in it," the Controller replied. "Men and women must have their adrenals stimulated from time to time."

"What?" questioned the Savage, uncomprehending.

"It's one of the conditions of perfect health. That's why we've made the V.P.S. treatments compulsory."

"V.P.S.?"

"Violent Passion Surrogate. Regularly once a month. We flood the whole system with adrenin. It's the complete physiological equivalent of fear and rage. All the tonic effects of murdering Desdemona and being murdered by Othello, without any of the inconveniences."
posted by Apocryphon at 3:09 PM on May 12, 2019 [4 favorites]


Leftovers I watched 5 esipodes of season 1 and it leaves me bored and cold. Does it get better?

I started it because I thought it looked interesting, and then stopped it because it left me cold. Then I started it again and....I mean....wow. It turned out that I loved that show so, so much. SO much.
posted by biscotti at 3:52 PM on May 12, 2019 [1 favorite]


One thing that has struck me about the past few episodes of GoT and some other shows I've watched recently (ahem, ST:DISCO) is the colossal mismatch between the effort that went into crafting a good story and all the other prodigious resources that went into the shows—the cast, the extras, the crew, the SPFX work, the sets and costumes, etc. Without a story, all those other resources might as well be a music video.

I watched a couple episodes of Outlander and made the mistake of watching the Behind the Scenes after with the producers explaining how they flew an Indian tribe to Scotland, built a pirate ship for one scene, built an entire town for two quick scenes, and on and on. It made my stomach turn, and I could never watch that show again.
posted by xammerboy at 4:45 PM on May 12, 2019 [2 favorites]


Edit: somehow got my comment in the wrong thread. Oops.
posted by traveler_ at 8:29 PM on May 12, 2019


BSG is something I watched until I was too triggered to endure any more. Television shouldn't be cruel.

are the reasons I've stopped watching several shows. What the hell is the point of watching something that depresses you?
I quit GoT around Season 5 when I hit my peak capacity for unrelenting rape and sexual violence across the board, and have been glad for it. I like the world that GRRM has built, but I’d prefer to engage in it as history rather than personal narrative, so I look forward to the eventual wiki summary of the saga when all is said and done, and that’s the distance at which I would like to keep these characters.

TV should not be cruel. Your consent to have the writers inflict their cruelty on you is always yours to withdraw.
posted by bl1nk at 8:45 PM on May 12, 2019 [3 favorites]


If the final two episodes end up being really good this entire thread is going to end up being embarrassing.

Ok, odds are increasing after tonight’s battle of King’s Landing. (NO SPOILERS). This was the kind of epic wrap up shock of an ending yet mostly consistent with our heroes’ known strengths and weaknesses I was expecting.

Now I’m thinking the White Walkers were just an unsolvable TV plot problem that the writers decided to dispatch with as quickly as they could do they could focus on tying up the really central stuff.

Fucking Game of Thrones. Just when you’re ready to swear it off for good, they throw down something amazing and reel you back in.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 11:05 PM on May 12, 2019


But dont read the internet if you want to enjoy things! Everyone hates everything!
posted by Justinian at 12:34 AM on May 13, 2019 [4 favorites]


Yeah, without giving spoilers, I think the last episode shows you how they are taking some bones given them and trying to make soup out of it. But I think the real problem is there is no way that they could finish this in the episodes and time allotted and have it be satisfying - so they are showing us things that probably get various threads built to in the books, but in the show just look disjointed and unearned.
posted by corb at 4:20 AM on May 13, 2019 [2 favorites]


> This was the kind of epic wrap up shock of an ending yet mostly consistent with our heroes’ known strengths and weaknesses I was expecting.

(SPOILERS BELOW)

...

...

My favorite part was the scene where Jon, Daenerys, Tyrion, Grey Worm, and Varys sang "All Along the Watchtower" together.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 5:28 AM on May 13, 2019 [12 favorites]


so they are showing us things that probably get various threads built to in the books, but in the show just look disjointed and unearned.

I would be amused if GRRM was just waiting to finish the books until after he saw what the showrunners did so he could purposefully go in a completely different route to make them look bad.
posted by gusottertrout at 5:46 AM on May 13, 2019 [8 favorites]


I've been rereading the LA Book Review's episode reviews, and I think there's some interesting commentary on why anything done via TV would not be a satisfying resolution (no spoilers):
This isn’t Benioff and Weiss’s fault, as such; the problem is forcing this sprawling, excessive show to conclude, and I suspect that the deep falsity of pretending that things like the world have conclusions will ruin the show. There’s a reason that “High Fantasy” lives in the longue durée: books and movies stretch back and forward in both temporal directions, because that forces verisimilitude onto wildly ridiculous material (dragons and ice zombies, oh my!) by embedding it deeply in time, into a world that’s been going on for a long time and will continue even longer. The deeper and longer it goes, the more real it will feel. This is the power of that narrative staging: generations, prophecies, long-foreseen disasters, and ancient enemies will make an incredibly unrealistic story feels old and alive: if it’s been going on for a long time and will go on for a long time more, then everything that happens in it resonates forward and backward. Killing Ned was interesting because his story stretched back, because he’d had a long and interesting life that it brought to an end; killing Robb and Talisa was interesting because their story could have continued, because they had a future. Time made their deaths matter.

Killing Jon or Dany will be as boring as not killing them, I fear, because the story won’t go on without them. We’ve seen most of their story already — they were children when it started — and when it ends with their deaths or coronations, it will be their end. The show will turn out to have been their stories, their lives and deaths contained and narratively packaged by it; a show defined by its mess and chaos and sprawl will suddenly turn out to have always had a center. And centers are false; hasn’t the lesson of this thing been that the stories that power tells to legitimize its brutal grasp on power — that make “great houses” the protagonists of history — are false?

Endings and conclusions are also false in a way that unexpected deaths are not. An unexpected death contains the story it has cut short and the story that could have continued, and that’s its pathos; because a conclusion wraps it all up in a neat narrative container — and makes everything turn out to have been leading up to that — it’s a lie: nothing really ends conclusively. Life is lived and died in medias res, and death is just the beginning of mourning, and the smartest thing GoT ever did was remember that no one is the center of the story; if you think you’re the protagonist, you’ll die and at best it will turn out that you’re just the new protagonists’ motivation, or just be forgotten. But to end the show with the deaths of some and the crowning of others — which is what we all know they’ll do — is to announce that, no, THESE were the protagonists all along. The other lives and deaths just didn’t matter as much, it will turn out; this really was the story of the Starks, or the Targaryen’s, or whoever.
posted by corb at 8:39 AM on May 13, 2019 [8 favorites]


HBO will pay Martin $5m over the course of the next year to write up as detailed a final series outline and conclusion to the book and TV series at the same time.

The entire thread has been about how Martin doesn't work that way. They won't get a detailed outline because Martin is a cat herder that follows one kitten for a while, and then hey, this other one is going over here, and look at this one chasing it's tail, and he forgets the herd is supposed to go in a direction at all.

If you want a plot that wraps up coherently, you want someone else. Alan Dean Foster maybe, or Brian Sanderson- he'd have the whole thing wrapped up in 300 pages. And there also wouldn't be any on-page sex
posted by happyroach at 1:55 PM on May 13, 2019 [3 favorites]


Brian Sanderson- he'd have the whole thing wrapped up in 300 pages. And there also wouldn't be any on-page sex

They should have Patrick Rothfuss do it.

hah hah sob

Also, thanks for the link to the LATimes, corb. Very interesting and basically where I'm at. From another property HBO is about to put on the screen:
AV: Jon, wait, before you leave... I did the right thing, didn't I? It all worked out in the end.

DM: "In the end"? Nothing ends, Adrian. Nothing ever ends.
The conundrum GoT faced was presenting an ending to something for which any ending would be a betrayal to the storyline of one character or another.
posted by Justinian at 3:57 PM on May 13, 2019


So instead they decided to betray every single character
posted by Apocryphon at 10:07 PM on May 13, 2019 [2 favorites]


Ok, odds are increasing after tonight’s battle of King’s Landing.


You what now.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 11:26 PM on May 13, 2019 [2 favorites]


A visual outline of the HBO series.
posted by fairmettle at 2:03 AM on May 15, 2019 [5 favorites]


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