Wednesday, July 10, 2013

CONSEQUENCES, or Why Game of Thrones Is The Best Show On Television

OCTOBER?  I haven't written here since OCTOBER? Yeesh.  I am sorry, Meat-Heads, you are more than over due some meaty content, so here we go!

CAUTION: There will be spoilers.

So for the last couple years, we've been in a bit of a television renaissance.  The original name of this post was actually going to be "Why Breaking Bad Is the Best Show On Television," and while I still think it is pretty heads and shoulders above the rest (the scene in the parking lot with Hank from season 3 is probably the best sequence I've ever seen in a TV show), I recently finished catching up on a show called Game of Thrones.

As I'm sure you already know Game of Thrones, the game show, where contestants compete in toilet-based skill tests in order to win great prizes,

And Clay wins the "Most Obvious Joke" section of our contest...
It is also a widely popular Medieval fantasy show from HBO that just ended its third season.  Of course you know what it is, everyone watches it, it's breaking downloading records, and it's turning everyone who thought the Lord of the Rings movies were only "kinda cool" into full fledged Fantasy nerds worthy of all twenty sides of the dice.

The next season of Fantasy Football might take an interesting turn... I retain my "Most Obvious Joke" crown...

But why?  Why is it so popular, more so than other "attractive people humping and killing" shows like Spartacus: Whatever, or the modern, sexy King Arthur retelling Camelot?  While I'm sure a lot of it has to do with the dreaminess of Peter Dinklage

What makes it different is that it's extremely well written.  More specifically, what makes it so well written is that every decision any character makes has CONSEQUENCES.

Lack of character consequences might be my least favorite thing in anything, be it movies, tv, or comics, but I feel like it especially stands out in TV shows where you more or less know that nothing the main characters do, no matter how stupid, is going to come back on them because their actor's name is in the main credits, and the status quo has to be maintained for next week's episode.  There's a certain late-night, basic-cable gore-fest which is wildly popular but drives me NUTS for this very reason.  The story drives the action, instead of the action driving the story.  Game of Thrones is the first show I've seen in a long time where the action actually drives the story. The characters make decisions, and have to live (or die) with the consequences of their choices.

**************SPOILERS BELOW******************

There are many instances of characters making a clear decision, and then having the consequences of the decision come back on them at a later point, but there is one that stands WAY out, given how unexpected the consequences were, and how it actually cut off the head of television series tropes as we know it:  The Red Wedding.

A handful of episodes before said Red Wedding, our de-facto hero, Robb Stark, made a promise to an old man that he would marry this man's daughter in exchange for aid in battle against the Lannisters, the family who had his father killed.  Later on, Robb Stark meets, and falls in love with, a different woman, in a very par-for-the-course TV relationship, marries her, and continues along with the narrative, now with a new character for Robb to play off of.  Everything is fine, everything is great, hey they're at war, but they're in love and really cute together, so whatever, right?  He's got his mom and wife around, this'll be just like Everybody Loves Raymond, but with slightly more chain mail!

Robb, his now pregnant wife, his mother, and most of his troops arrive back at the home of the old man and offer their awkward apology for Robb's hasty nuptials. Robb offers his own uncle to marry the man's daughter as recompense, the old man agrees, and they have a big wedding feast!  Great!  Wedding scenes are always good, fun TV, right?  What's the worst that could happen?

Well in any other TV show, the fact that Robb broke this more or less minor promise to the old man would probably either get forgotten, or glossed over by some expository dialogue during the wedding feast, but not in Game of Thrones.  No, no.

Robb Stark made a decision, albeit a seemingly minor one, and had to live with the consequences.  He betrayed a deal made with the old man, so the old man teamed up with the Lannisters, and used the wedding feast as an opportunity TO MURDER ROBB, HIS MOTHER, HIS PREGNANT WIFE, AND ALL OF HIS TROOPS WITH HIM AT THE MAN'S HOME.  EVERYONE. DEAD. ALL.

Do you realize how crazy that is?  That'd be like if mid-way through a later season of Cheers, Shelley Long came back and burned the bar to the ground!  It'd be like if Walker had to deal with the civil suits filed by all the people he'd kicked through windows over his years of Texas Rangering!  It'd be like if Carl had to actually deal with the fact that his foolishness got Dale eaten by a zo--wait, that actually probably would have been a good thing to do...

Robb Stark's decisions came back on him, and just like that, the story of a son seeking revenge on his father's killers, the main driving story of the series, is lopped off at the head, leaving viewers in shock, because they DO NOT know what will happen next.  Let the choices your characters make dictate what happens to them, because it will always make your story better, and leave your audience guessing.

...unless they've read the books your thing is based on.

Until Next Time,


also, just because: