Skip to main content

The Two “Game of Thrones”

I have a problem: I kind of want to watch Game of Thrones again.

Not the actual show Game of Thrones, of course. I hate that show. But the imaginary Game of Thrones that I conjure up in my head, which is fun and dramatic and has these wonderful female characters that I love from the books. I really want to watch that show, especially since it now has new plotlines to offer.

This happens every year. The hiatus between seasons is long enough for me to forget how much I dislike the show, and instead imagine that it’s all the things I wanted it to be. It fades into pretty gif-sets on Tumblr, with book-related excitement filling in the gaps. And even though the show has beaten any optimism out of me at this point, I’m still curious. Maybe this time will be different. Maybe this time will be all Awesome Badass Moments, and not horrible misogyny and nonsensical plots.

It won’t be. Of course it won’t be. The show has almost free rein this year, and we’ve seen what happens when it invents its own plotlines. It’s the nonsensical story chaos in Dorne. It’s shock over substance. The show is capable of developing interesting characters and stories — Shae in seasons two and three, for example — but it doesn’t seem to want to make the effort these days, when pointless shock-value misogyny comes so easily.

And it seems that I’m not the only one who has a huge disconnect between my idea of Game of Thrones and the actual show. People involved in making the series seem to have a similar problem.

Take Sansa, for example. Sophie Turner has said that this season is “probably Sansa’s best yet. It’s her really coming into her own…. Viewers will finally get that storyline you’ve been craving for the past five seasons.” Which sounds great, except that we’ve heard it before. Before season five, Sophie Turner said that Sansa “tries to take command and begins to manipulate the people who are keeping her prisoner,” while the showrunners said that “she’s either going to die or survive and become stronger. She’s chosen the latter option and she’s learned from an incredibly devious teacher.”

We all know how that turned out. In fact, that quote from the showrunners was from an interview after the horrific Sansa plotline aired last year. And that same interview tells us what the writers’ priorities will be now that they can truly do whatever they like. “Sansa is a character we care about almost more than any other,” they said, as they explained why they added a plotline where Ramsay Bolton repeatedly raped her. “There was a subplot we loved from the books, but it used a character that’s not in the show.” So instead of removing it, as they did with stories like Arianne Martell’s or the Iron Islands Kingsmoot, they decided to bring in one of their “leading ladies.”

And I just want to underline that statement again: they loved this subplot from the books. Let’s be generous and say that they loved Theon’s plotline in Book 5, how he struggles to refind himself and escape from Winterfell. But if that was the case, they didn’t need to keep the Jeyne Poole plotline. They could have had almost anything else happen in Winterfell. But they loved that plotline, so it became Sansa’s big moment for the season. Her chance to “grow” into a heroism role. Because don’t doubt, even if by some miracle she doesn’t have a horrific and violent plotline this season, she’s only “earned” it by undergoing that trauma and surviving it first.

The exciting, thoughtful, well-written Game of Thrones that most of us like to hope for doesn’t really exist. It’s a wonderful lie that has somehow taken hold. The show isn’t magically going to reach its potential, because the writers don’t want it to take that direction. The shock and misogyny is what they want to sell, and so they’ll continue to do so, no matter how many times we imagine that this time will be different.

Rhiannon

Rhiannon Thomas is the author of A WICKED THING and KINGDOM OF ASHES. She lives in York, England.

9 thoughts on “The Two “Game of Thrones”

  1. I would like to see Sansa’s plotline in Winds of Winter on screen, quartering, tourney and political machinations, with possibilities for both action, romance and drama.
    I would like the sparrows as they are in the book. The High Sparrow is openly misogynic, stating that women are wanton by nature, but he also cares or claim to care about the starving and defenseless. Misogynic people can have their redeeming qualities, but then the story must be written well.

    Arianne and Quentyn Martell could have added much even to a reversed plotline, and the dornish knight Darkstar would have made a great villain on screen. But we haven’t seen what happens to the iron islands in the next season, there might be a kingsmoot yet.

  2. I know how you feel. I totally understand if you want to skip this year…but at the same time, it’s not like the next book(s) are coming out anytime soon. Odds are the show will be over by the time we finally get Winds of Winter. And even though the show ending might be different than the book ending, at least we’ll GET an ending. I do miss your reviews, too. I would have loved to know what you thought of Tyrion meeting Dany for the first time (which almost made up for the rest of the crap with Sansa and everything).

  3. I feel exactly the same way! I don’t read the books and I don’t have any interest in them, but I enjoyed so many things about the show. Up until last season, the good– strong bad ass women with all sorts of power, excellent actors, great production values– outweighed the bad– rape for titilation, dead sex worker after dead sex worker, excess T&A, weird racism– bug last season was almost all bad.

  4. It really won’t get any better based on the leaks of the first episode. Also it seems that rape=empowerment for Sansa this season. Her only motivation will be revenge and the only emotional response to her trauma will be anger. I’m not saying she can’t feel angry nor want revenge, but something is seriously wrong if we don’t get more varied emotions after she had been repeatedly raped every night, implied beaten, and locked up all day. Not to mention that this was all happening in her parents bedroom in her childhood home. I mean, that was her last safe place and now it represents that violation.
    I doubt we’ll see any PTSD type symptoms, depression, or even fear about being at The Wall surrounded by known rapists. It’s really gross too that they really didn’t think that this girl seeing her father decapitated in front of her, being sexually assaulted and nearly raped in season 3, almost being killed by her own aunt, and being subjected to the whims of a sadistic king while also losing almost all of her family to a vicious murder scheme, wasn’t already sufficiently traumatized and motivated to regain her home. Nope, none of that mattered. She had to be placed into an illogical situation in which every person acted out of character so that she could be raped by their Villain Sue.

  5. The show was mostly on track until the 4th season – it still had a few huge problems, but the major storylines made sense. Sansa was doing fine in the Vale, already showing some progress as a character and lots of potential. And then all went down the drain. Now even if Sansa emerges as a “strong” character, it will be just rape as empowerment (whatever “strong” is supposed to mean – the showrunners seem to think that anger and desire for vengeance is the only way to show strength).

    The irony is, even if we assume the showrunners inserted the nonsensical Sansa in Winterfell plot to further Theon’s storyline, they still failed. I thought it actually harmed Theon’s arc. Theon starts out as someone who has no regard for non-noble women (or any common people for that matter), using them and discarding them as things. And then he evolves into the man who overcomes his deep fears to help Jeyne Poole, a steward’s daughter, a “nobody”, someone the old Theon would have never considered a human being worthy of saving. Doing this for Sansa is not the same. It reverts Theon back to his pre-Reek self, but doesn’t move him anywhere beyond that. Even without Jeyne or anyone else marrying Ramsay, Theon could have found his strength by helping any of the common servants at Winterfell. This would have pushed his character growth further than helping Sansa. Of course, furthering Theon’s arc shouldn’t be a priority when deciding what to do with Sansa’s story. However, if this is what the showrunners were trying to do, it still didn’t work, and the Sansa in Winterfell storyline didn’t benefit anyone at all.

    To me the biggest disappointment last season was Dorne. There was so much potential – Arianne trying to fight for what she believes is hers but misjudging and facing obstacles, Ellaria urging forgiveness and peace, the Sand Snakes, each pushing from a different angle to achieve her goal, and all the while Doran, patient and calculating, playing the long game. I wasn’t happy when Arianne’s character was cut, but there were still so many ways to keep the spirit of the Dorne storyline even without her. Instead, everyone involved in this plot became a caricature, and Ellaria and the Sand Snakes were turned into flat, indistinguishable shrieking harpies, who want to harm an innocent girl and start a war despite all the claims Oberyn made about little girls’ safety in Dorne. And now some Episode 1 leaks are floating around, that would make the whole thing even more pointless. I’m still in denial and hoping they are somehow fake, but probably my hope is misplaced.

    1. I just looked up/watched the Dorne plot from the first episode this season….it got worse. O____O I didn’t think it could get worse but it did…..and the worst bit is I have a sneaking suspicion this is their attempt at making “strong women” characters and I am so *insulted* by it if that is the case.

      1. I just watched it, and it was worse than expected. And the worst it, I think you might be right. The way the scenes were shot made me think we were supposed to cheer for Ellaria and the Sand Snakes. We were supposed to think they were cool and doing the right thing. So to be a “strong woman,” you have to be thrusting spears through the brains of family members, who are too “weak” because they didn’t start a war that would destroy thousands of lives. Okay… Let’s avenge Oberyn by murdering what’s left of his family. Excellent logic. And to think how happy I was last year that Dorne would be in the show :(

  6. The Mountain That Rides (Gregor Clegane) was responsible for the downfall of House Nymeros Martell.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *