A Game of Thrones Community
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First off, let me put this (admittedly, at first look rage-inciting) headline into some context: I love Game of Thrones – both the show and the books (all of which I have read). I think it's got an incredible cast whose breadth is one of kind, it's got a production value which, also, has no equal on TV, it's based on an epic that is as unprecedented in its ability to be both fantasy and political thriller at the same time as it is in the sheer size of its world. This isn't going to be a rant about how, boohoo, the show isn't like the books or whatever. I am, though, going to measure up the show's writing to its source because, for better or worse, it is based on A Song of Ice and Fire and if something in the show falls short of what the books had to offer then that's something the show most likely could've done better. Talking a little bit about the books also means – quite obviously – that I'll be talking a little bit about the books, so if you don't want to know that Ned Stark dies there as well you should leave. Nevertheless, I'm not going to spoil anything that's not happened in the series yet so I think all Unsullied should be fine reading this.

Rather, I'm going to be talking about how, to me, Game of Thrones doesn't convert its source material into a TV show as well as it used to. And let's be honest, that's what it always did. It's what Peter Jackson did when he made the Lord of the Rings movies, and it's what David Benioff and D. B. Weiss are doing. They each set benchmarks for their respective medium but they also each adapted, not created the story.

Please bear in mind while reading that this is my opinion, what I feel like, not a factual analysis as that's impossible on matters of subjectivity. After a longer than expected introduction, here we go then!

I should probably start by explaining what I mean by „great“ and „drama“. Game of Thrones, much like many modern shows, can't be categorized into one genre. If you were to introduce a friend to it you probably would start by telling them it's a fantasy story. But that's not even half the truth. It's – during the first few books and seasons maybe most of all – a political thriller and dramathat comes with detective stories (think: Who murdered Jon Arryn?, Who tried to kill Bran in his bed?) spanning over several seasons and addresses historical issues like the medieval class system and power of religion.
Furthermore, I sort television series broadly into four categories:
  • abysmal (Under the Dome)
  • meh (don't watch any)
  • good (Homeland's first season)
  • great (Breaking Bad)
The first two I'm not going to bother explaining since we are talking about Game of Thrones here, c'mon! Shows that qualify for the third usually have solid production, writing without any major plotholes, a good cast and so on. They don't really have anything you could hold against them, they might excell at one or two of those properties but they don't take themselves somewhere wholly new, somewhere TV (that I have seen, bear in mind!) has never been before. That's where the last category comes into play. Breaking Bad, to me was outstanding at mostly everything, yet there have been shows before that had impeccable writing or were beautifully shot. There hasn't, however, been a character transformation like that of Walter White, nor a struggle to evaluate whether we are to like or hate Heisenberg with every scene anew. As Tim put that difference between good and great in TV.com's patented 4-Episode Test™ of Fargo:
„[...] whether it belongs in the highly gifted magnet school for hyper-advanced television shows, or whether it can just take honors classes at the local educational establishment.“
Now, Game of Thrones is a great fantasy series, the best the small screen has ever seen. It fulfills every one of the above criteria for a good show. I don't think we have to debate that. Nonetheless, it's only a good drama to me anymore. This may be due to the fact that we're four seasons in and the novelty of every character being a shade of grey is wearing off but that's not the case I'm trying to make. The characters can, and they do both in the books and in the beginning of the series, change the shade of grey we see them in, they can become likeable and they can fall out of our grace. An example for this is Jaime who, in season three, has one of the best character arcs I've ever seen. It combines a character development on his part in accepting and befriending Brienne with a character development on our part in showing us a very different Jaime Lannister, one who has always been there but one he has previously never shown to his or our world. This, to me, felt unprecedented when brought to screen even though I had already read it in the books. Other arcs that come to mind are Dany's in season one and the political scheming and plotting by (mostly) Tyrion in season two.

Season four, however, while certainly having the source material to build upon, didn't handle all its different story threads well. In my opinion it suffered gravely from a pacing problem (both inside individual episodes and the whole season) as well as missing a hard to pin down organic-ness or structure from its season-spanning character arcs.

The story up north was basically stale from the beginning. It was clearly spelled out in episode one that the Wildlings will come and attack the Wall. In episode nine they did. In between? Stuff. Dany's story started by taking another city and quickly became stale when she started holding court. The show hinted at conflicted decisions between following her straight dogma of abolishing slavery and being a generous, just queen who listens to her subjects but didn't go any further down that road when it has so much potential. Moreover, it so quickly disposed of Ser Jorah I didn't even know what hit me. Never was it mentioned this was one of the Three Betrayals she saw in her vision in the House of the Undying. Neither did they show that Dany was the least bit bothered about it afterwards.

Out of Arya and The Hound they attempted to make another Jaime/Brienne story when it just didn't have as much material. Their story was stretched as thin as a sheet of paper by the time they reached their destination. We sympathized a little more with The Hound, sure, yet in the end he was killed in a non-book fight that didn't make much sense in its origins (they just meet each other, off-road, on foot, in the great, greater vicinity of the Eyrie?) and it all didn't matter that much, put in just for the sake of having another big fight, a big Ah!-moment at the end of the season. Yes, it was a great fight, it made for great TV in those minutes, but it didn't make for great TV when looking at the whole season.

It feels like the writers tried so hard to make our lasting impression of each episode and the season overall so overwhelming that they forgot to take care of the dramatic structure and integrity. They had to conclude each story line in the finale, they had to save each big reveal till the end of an episode and ended up having to strech already thin story lines, make up unimportant ones, or even include some from A Dance With Dragons to fill the time before.

George R. R. Martin's books work when concluding every piece of the strongly fragmented story at the end of the books because he tells it in fragments, namely his famous POV-chapters. Those aren't linear in time. The series chose not to take that approach – with one or two exceptions like this season's penultimate episode, – instead telling the story linearly, which is why it doesn't work for me at this point. While following the books' narrative structure would make some great, decisive plot points not fall on the finale with the sacrifice of not having (almost) every actor in (almost) every episode, I'd like that better and I think it would make for better TV.

I hope I was able to bring my point across (I don't usually write more than three connected words together) and didn't offend anyone by criticizing the holy grail of shows. I certainly don't want to speak ill of the show – I still love it, I just think it lost (or at least didn't have in season four) what made it so very great at its dramatic core. Yes, there were scenes to be remembered for a long time, including Tyrion's trial and the Purple Wedding, and character arcs that scratched greatness in the above sense, like Sansa finally becoming a player. But they were merely moments in a much longer hour of Arya bickering with The Hound and Grey Worm staring at Missanei's chest.

What do you think? Has Game of Thrones slipped in season four?
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Headline: "WHY GAME OF THRONES ISN'T A GREAT DRAMA ANYMORE"
Contents: "why Game of Thrones used to be a 10 and is now a 9.5"
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The best episodes are 7, 8, and 9. 10 was awful compared to the rest of the show. Still, I'll be there next year. Can't wait to see more Tyrion, Jamie/Brienne, some Sansa, Arya, and everyone else.

The pacing this season seemed better by a hair than last season, but that could be just because Oberyn Martell was that awesome. :D
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It's true.
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Sn. 4 Episodes 9 & 10 paled in comparison to Ep. 8. But still I can hardly wait to see another season. i am loyal
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Part of the "problem" may be that seasons 1 and 2 were based pretty closely on books 1 and 2 respectively, while seasons 3 and 4 ended up splitting book 3, while adding elements from books 4 and even 5. This may have resulted in more material that "seemed" like filler, or just didn't fit as well, as in previous years, since they needed to build a whole season around the part of book 3 that came AFTER the Red Wedding.

I think the parts they got right were the Purple Wedding, Tyrion's resulting trial, the Viper and the Mountain, his final reckoning with his father - in short, the whole Tyrion/Lannister story arc. The part that didn't work as well for me was the Wall story, in which most of the politics, and Jon's rise in the Night's Watch was conveniently left out. Even the final battle, though they spent a whole episode setting it up, didn't seem as satisfying as in the book. The events leading up to the arrival of their "saviors" really weren't explained that well either.

Dany's story, admittedly, has faltered a bit, but the holding pattern she's in right now is probably required to some extent, by the greater overall story arc. She's biding her time, while growing into a greater role in the future.

In the book, Arya did spend a lot of the last half just wandering around with the Hound, so while they got it right for the most part (up until the end at least), it may have felt a bit drawn out to some. As for her sister Sansa, while they didn't strictly follow the book's story line, she ended up in a very satisfying place by the end, and I'm glad she's growing from a simpering little girl into a woman in charge of her own destiny.

Bran's story, maybe because it didn't really exist in the last half of book 3, needed to jump ahead a bit. Either that, or his character would have been forced to take this season off. Still, I can't say I'm disappointed in seeing some of his destiny play out a bit earlier than expected, because I really want to know how it turns out.

As for Drama, I think there was still plenty of it, and I'm not really worried that the show as a whole is suffering.
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I've had the feeling that the whole season was an "in between seasons" thing. I have enjoyed very much, but indeed, stories were stretched and filled with character to character conversations, mostly, only to arrive to SOME changes towards the end. Now many characters are in good places for things to start happening, but now the season is over :) I have not read the books, but it seems this part of the story belongs to the beginning of one of the books, so I guess that explains why it was so uneventful. It's normal that the core of the drama would be further on in the book, and that what we saw was preparation for what's coming at the end, in terms of drama.
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Lets be real its hard to convert 900 pgs into a 10 episode series. these seasons need to be 15 episodes or 30 min longer. This probably is also an attempt to get Martin to release the next book in the series since HBO said it only planned 5 seasons, because if he decides to kill of Tryion or Jon Snow they want the heads up so they can spin the promo. In the end the show can never live up to the detail of the book bc that would take 4 episodes for almost every 2 chapters and thats not how it works.
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As a non book reader, season 4 has been my favourite. I loved the Hound and Arya. Also, having characters with shades of grey is not a novelty, it is essential to any of us caring about the story, because it connects us to these characters - we all have shades of grey obvs.
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It is a novelty on TV (and in literature, as well, as far as I'm concerned). A cast that big, and no-one to root for because they're "the good guy/gal".
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Another fantasy epic series that would make an amazing TV series, if produced properly, would be the books that accompany the Magic: The Gathering trading card game. Seriously, the awesomeness that goes down in those books, would make Game Of Thrones seem ordinary.
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I know this is a heretical thought but I think the biggest issue lies with the source material. Martin's first book was amazing but every book since then has gotten more expansive and IMO much more in need of an editor. JRRM's devoted fans have grown accustomed to his style of ignoring any semblance of editing but I know I gave up a third of the way through Book 5 when it became apparent he doesn't have the fire in his belly to write this anymore nor will he let anyone make much needed cuts to his story for clarity.

If you thought HBO's season 4 (2nd half of book 3) was bad, you know have to admit that next year could be worse. Anyone that has read book 4 knows that it is going to be difficult for the HBO producers to make that thing nearly as interesting as what they've shown thus far. I really hope they make the combined book 4 and 5 two seasons and cut out all the extraneous stuff. Most of the stuff in both books bored me immensely. If they don't I really wonder if the series will be able to attract the GRRM fanboys and the mainstream so it keeps the ratings needed to finish the series with a budget worthy of Martin's initial vision.
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They will combine books 4 and 5. It makes sense since the series always followed a chronological order. Book 4 is set during the same time as book 5. Martin only split them up this way because he felt there wasn't a good point for a chronological caesura.
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Well season 5 will be like a new beginning.... expecting lots of new characters and lots of new places.
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This, non-book-reading mother truckers: THIS, THIS, THIS.
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"Game of Thrones doesn't convert its source material into a TV show as well as it used to."

Lost me awfully early. The only complaint I hear about this show, and I hear it OFTEN, usually begins or ends with, "...but in the books...". And not for nothin', it's getting silly.

A video interpretation of written source material has been letting down readers since studios have been buying rights to books. Some better, some worse, but it's a near universal truth that when a TV show or movie comes out, die hard book fans fill find something to belly ache about. Maybe the critisism is deserved, maybe it's not, but there will always be complaints.

So, is it the shows fault for venturing from the source material or the readers fault for expecting a more strict adaptation. Since the former happens so often it should be considered the norm, I point the finger at the readers. Seriously. Get over it. If you didn't expect edits and adaptations, you should have. It would be like walking outside in the rain without an umbrella and expecting not to get wet.

I got the impression that there were spoilers in your article, and judging from some of the comments, there are. So, perhaps I missed some great insights. BUT, if they're predicated on the notion of, "...but in the books...", with respect, I've got zero interest and shouldn't be concerned as to why "GoT isn't a great drama any more".
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For me the main interference of a book and a tv adaptation is the process how the medium is being interpreted. Books as always for me is most subjective. Every book, regardless of what is written, is controlled by the readers imagination. For me, written art is like visual art. It is explained by every individual according to his own grasp of the art. A Series is different. Feelings and emotions are more conveyed, particularly in drama, thru expression and action. The context must be shelled out and interpretation must be as minimal as possible to create an exact storyline. The words along with the action of the actors and the general atmosphere must be seen and not created by the mind, like in books.

What I'm getting here is you cant simply dismiss the that the series didn't use the material properly because it doesn't have the same intensity as the book or for any matter. If you ask the viewers (i say this according to my knowledge) they generally like where the story goes because comparison for them is not an option since they havent read the book. They somehow comprehend the story based on what is presented to them on the last 4 seasons. And that for me is the true test of a series. Does season 4 lived up to the expectation of the last 3 seasons? that is the fair question.
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That last question you pose was exactlythe one I asked myself when writing this article. And in my opinion it didn't. I tried to remove the argument that there be a difference in how a story is conveyed to the audience from the equation by mentioning that I very much loved, say, Jaime's season 3 or Tyrion's season 2 arc. That is, I loved how the show conveyed the story in previous seasons but only liked how it did this season.

Additionally, there were also a few elements that plainly churned my stomach in a bad way (again, Grey Worm/Missandei) - which is never a good sign for me - which also wasn't the case in previous seasons. These two things are basically the rough outline of my argument.
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well tobsh i really respect how you handled this battle of words. and i know its hardest to step down when you have already lay out everything. and that is normal. I know my last question might be redundant to say the least but refering to what you've said:

"This isn't going to be a rant about how, boohoo, the show isn't like the books or whatever. I am, though, going to measure up the show's writing to its source because, for better or worse, it is based on A Song of Ice and Fire and if something in the show falls short of what the books had to offer then that's something the show most likely could've done better."

See, the mear mention of "measure" automaticaly contradicts your first sentence. I applaude how you realy want to go indepth with all of the aspect of the show but again refering to the book is still as they say a process of comparisson.

My last sentences:

"If you ask the viewers (i say this according to my knowledge) they generally like where the story goes because comparison for them is not an option since they haven't read the book. They somehow comprehend the story based on what is presented to them on the last 4 seasons. And that for me is the true test of a series. Does season 4 lived up to the expectation of the last 3 seasons? that is the fair question."

Referse to the concept of the viewers who havent experience reading the book, and in process has no comparative process to argue. The only argument they would have is if the last season satisfy the former 3 seasons storyline. And for me It does. I wouldn't defend the story of Missandei and Grey Worm in the context of your observation. But i believe that every aspect of the POV even the tiniest lines create an idea and a concept and in the process the truth of the premise. I fully appreciate that some secondary character are highlighted in a way that don't push the story further. Why? because the storytelling becomes organic. For me this is a character driven story. You have to paint, in a good amount, the story on how this character moves the story rather than how the story moves the character. So for me Messandei and Grey Worm's scene is an important part to create the life, the culture and the present morality of the character.

Again, I believe that GOT might not be as good as what others say but I'll still look at what the show has given and appreciate it for the god and the bad and be thankful for a worthy viewing.

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WOW! I didnt read the books, which is why you have your opinions as stated in your article. If you didn't read the books, you would not have even written this. First off, Arya and Hound was WAAAY better than jaime and brienne IMO. The fight between brienne and hound was best fight so far, and they used this fight to put BOTH the mountain and the hound on a similarity as their lives hang in the balance, they said the mountain couldn't be saved yet they are trying, they hound said he was a goner yet didn't show what happened after Arya left(and they added the hounds words stating that unless someone was close then he was as good as dead). so they gave his character a slight chance of hope. Who was dany when it started? just a girl, they showed us how she came into power, and NOW they are showing us that power requires her to LEAD! you didnt like the court scenes, yet season one had how many court scenes? so you should have expected her to have them as well. Her role this season was showing us how being a leader is a drag. all the shit you have to do, i loved it, because she is not just throwing her dragons out and coming up with victories, she used her Army. This was so awesome to see because they could have had her cross the sea and just go to town with the dragons, but the show is smart, like jojan said in begining of season 2, it WILL BE YEARS BEFORE THEY ARE GROWN! and she understands this, so she is leading, learning, DEVELOPING most of all!
This show doesnt do anything that hasnt been done before? ummmmm...tell me a show that has a dwarf whose mom died giving birth to him, with twin brother and sister who have( in the beginning) incest secret kids, whose sister lies about them to the whole family and westeros kingdoms, this is just a small example, but this is only one of at least a dozen things NOBODY has ever seen before. but this certainly can be said for soooooooo many shows! Ill write more later going out with friends tonight.
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i think it has a different approach u never know what is going to happen (people are bored with the typical plots of seasons like supernatural,grimm etc)
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Totally agree with everything too :-)

Accept for the non-book fight being good, I didn't like it, it was unbelievable, I was cringing with every blow. The Hound punches her hard in the face twice and knocks her to the ground, gets on top of her, smashes her in the face twice more and then head butts her, yet somehow manages to get killed by her, yeh right.

Grey Worm staring at Missanei's chest - nice 1, I've wanted to have a look myself for many years, ever since she played Sasha Valentine in Hollyoaks :-)

The guy that played her brother in Hollyoaks (Cal Valentine) currently plays the Grounder 'Lincoln' in The 100 - both of the 'Valentines' have U.S. tv jobs at the same time :-)
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Totally agree as well. Even last season wasn't great, it just drags on and on. When you look back at what 'actually' happened it wasn't a lot. They drag on various themes and topics for most of the season with an eventual end point. It's too formulated, you know it's building up to something and you have to wait the whole season virtually to find out. The best part of this season was the killing of the King.... finally! The attack on the wall was pretty pathetic I thought, especially after how much of a build up which spanned various seasons...
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This has been my biggest complaint as well, everything you say is on point. There is a lot going on but simultaneously nothing is happening, I felt as if we're not moving forward in the story. Episode 10 was excellent I think because finally we're getting information we want but it's the last episode already.. Yes this season a lot has happened, but the pacing was really off to me. I really enjoy the talks such as Jaime and Tyrion about the cousin and the beetle (? I don't remember). It just 'is'. But a lot of stuff is just not on point I think. But then again most people really enjoyed this season so it's just my own opinion.
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The problem here is you say "This isn't going to be a rant about how, boohoo, the show isn't like the books or whatever" but your whole review did just that. I get what you are trying to say but you cannot compare the two and everyone forgets you cannot make a show following any books exactly since on TV some of the stuff wouldn't make any sense since you can't film thoughts and ideas like you can write them in books. I thought and many others agreed with me that season 4 had the most drama of all the seasons so far. Between Joffrey's death and Tyrion's trial alone the drama and suspense were earth shattering. I see this all over the internet where people keep getting upset that things are not enough like the books but everyone needs to remember this is their take on the books and how they see the world of Westeros and I thought most of the changes added to the story and also made it that much better. Don't get me wrong I do understand how you feel but you seem to be reviewing what you would have done if it was your show and that is the problem with adapting books to TV and movies. I really thought Season 4 has been the most exciting and kept me wanting more every week more than past seasons and as the fantasy and magic elements grow it only adds to the show. I can see how some people like straight Drama and suspense but they forget this is a fantasy world first and everything else is a bonus.
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I apologize if this didn't come through clearly enough: I'm not trying to fault the show for not being like the books, just saying that, given what the books offer in story, the show didn't adapt that story as well as in the previous seasons. Obviously, those events you cited were earth-shattering on TV but they were also some of the most earth-shattering in the books. This is what I tried to say with the sentence right after the one you quoted.

Consider this: I set my critical satisfaction with what GRRM wrote as the zero level. That I have to because I can't pretend the show is to credit for the Red Wedding - it came from Martin's feather. Now I contemplate how I would, as a critic (that we all are, undoubtedly), rate how the show handled that event or story line.
The way from point A to point B doesn't matter - and I don't much care if it differs from the books - but these basic points are set by the books. Tyrion will, for example, in every version of the show start out the season being stripped of his powers and married to Sansa, point A, and end killing his father, point B. Did I think this evolution was well-established in his character? Did I think it all made sense story-wise? Did his interactions with other characters work? These questions, in a way, don't have anything to do with A Song of Ice and Fire, they're merely objective critical criteria. And I simply felt this season didn't do as well as previous ones, take Tyrion's here and Jaime's from last season for example. Tyrion's transformation from Hand of the King to Kinslayer just wasn't executed as well as Jaime's transformation from Kingslayer-Incestist to Savior-of-Millions. To me.

What do you, as someone who liked this season better than previous ones (I think), think of those 'filler' scenes I addressed like Grey Worm and Missandei? Did you not mind them, did you even like them?

I do have to wholeheartedly disagree with you on your last sentence, though: The first three books/four seasons especially are almost only drama/suspense and fantasy second. The fantasy elements are always there, sure, looming in the background, giving the whole story a certain drive and incentive. However, even with Dany who, through her dragons, has the closest connection to fantasy, these elements are rare and most of her problems and story lines stem from human conflicts.
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In my last sentence what I said was completely true and GRRM has said this over and over, his idea for the story was to create a fantasy trilogy if I remember correctly and it morphed into something greater. I agree the first 2 seasons were Drama/suspense and the later were more fantasy but the whole story was based on the idea of creating a fantasy story.

I do appreciate the "filler" scenes because I think the directors are trying to establish these characters are very important to them and want to let the audience know this. The problem with moving from books to TV I have repeated many times that you can't film feelings and thoughts and in the books GRRM can show what these characters are thinking without going into too much actual story. With these we will have to agree to disagree.

I completely understand setting the bar at zero with the books and I think this is the problem with all of the critics, if you were reviewing based on pure TV performance I would take it a whole lot easier but when comparing the two there seems to be an overall bias for some who have got too attached to the books. You need to look at it as if it was only a show since it would be impossible to transcribe the books to a TV show without these important little tweaks to show viewers what readers already know about some of the characters. I know you aren't trying to fault the show and you mean well but my point was you might not have intent but you do everything you set forth to stay away from. I guess I will always be partial to the fantasy side of the story since there is so much drama/suspense already in the world of TV. I might like the last season more because I have been looking forward to this part of the story since it started as well.
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I guess we'll find out whether I'm subconsciously biased next season when the show takes on A Feast for Crows, arguably the 'worst', or rather most inaccessible book of the series, ergo much room for the series for improvement over the book.
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Wow, I had just the opposite thought about season 4. Seasons 2 and 3 were mostly filler and little thriller. Not saying both seasons didn't have good scenes but seasons 2 and 3 could have been condensed into one season. On the other hand, by episode 7 of season 4 I came to realize how crisp the writing was. It was my opinion that the writers finally learned what to cut out and what to leave in. In my opinion season 4 didn't slip. Instead season 4 reignited my desire to watch.
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I think the show in general is much better than the books it cuts all the bs and get to the point
I read a book and a half (more like heard it on audio tape) and I could not grasp all the names and side stories being thrown in the air
Seeing the story on tv makes it more clearer
The problem with the show that here too much Drama (pointless boring dialogues) and not much action

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I can't decide whether these ignorant complaints stem from (a) refusal to acknowledge the strictures placed upon the show's creators by the realities of TV in 2014 e.g. there is an unwillingness to accept that budgets are limited and a great deal has to be covered in 10 40 minute episodes. something that has nothing to do with 'art' except that the makers have done an amazing job of realistically handling resourcing issues as well as all the other limitations this particular medium places on its makers.
(b) the usual fate which befalls all popular art endeavours that start off in the so called 'cult' 'fringe' or 'indie' markets which transcend that market to achieve a more widespread popularity.

It doesn't matter if it is the work of a street artist, auteur, or indie band; if the makers achieve success in the mainstream, those followers whose borderline personality disorder compels them to join/create an elitist following around the film, music, or TV show's makers, have such a twisted outlook on creativity that commercial success no matter how accidental, is inevitably regarded as treason against 'the original' fans.
Fickle fans whose demands are more unreasonable than an old tin pan alley producer who treated artists as his personal property, convince themselves that their choice to listen to, read or watch something gives them proprietorial rights over the work and its creators.

The first half of the OP appears to be devoted to forcing "Game of Thrones" into a pre-labelled box until it is conceded that the show doesn't fit into any of the neat boxes preferred by the paint by numbers critics who are only capable of comprehending something in terms of other, already accurately critiqued work.

This sort of ersatz criticism which is always 100% subjective, using indefinable criteria such as 'greatness' or 'drama' never actually tells us anything about the work in question. Look at the OP, we are told the Jaime character arc in season 3 was great but others arcs in season 4 weren't great, no attempt is made to define what a great character arc is - no, that seems to be beyond the critic's abilities; so the yardsticks used are totally intangible making a thread one devoted to negativity free of supporting evidence or justification.

Maybe this is a bit harsh, after all this is hardly the first assessment of anothers work where the person doing the assessment fooled themselves into believing negative criticism is always honest criticism.
If I go to the gaming board I like to hang in, many of the posts in threads of as yet unreleased games will be loudly trumpeting some marketers web site copy, hyping the game up so far that nothing could possibly live up to the expectations placed on the thing.
The instant that game is released, the commenters do a 180 and suddenly the developers are bums, the code is weak unoptimised tradh and the game is either noting like 1.0 or exactly like the first iteration. It doesn't matter which, both are equally bad sell outs.
It strikes me that the game wasn't bought to play - it was bought to whine about.
I don't just get it, and I find this far too widespread, inane hacking at others' endeavours as tacky as it is dull.


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Whoops, this is gonna be good!

Where my ignorant (nice choice of words, ignorant of what, exactly?) complaints stem from:

(a) If you had thoroughly read the OP and my comments on it, you'd realize that I very much acknowledge the constraints TV production lays on the creators. I also said they were doing a fantastic job at it, only the job they were doing this season was less fantastic than before (concerning this particular part of the show), thus giving it merely the adjective good for purposes of conveying the difference I see between this season and previous seasons or other shows. My opinion, which, as also previously stated, nobody forces on you.
(b) It will disappoint you to hear that I am a very special kind of hipster that doesn't quite at all fit into that category: I read the books after I saw the first or first two seasons. I am thus an "original" show fan.

"The first half of the OP ..." ff.:

Desperately trying to believe there are no pre-existing "neat boxes" don't make it so. If I want to talk about parts of a show that encompasses elements from various fields of literary art, to get into your nomenclature, I gotta label those to be able to refer to what I mean specifically. Those "boxes" are what makes us able to categorize various items by common properties. I think they're quite handy. If I say that GoT "can't be categorized into one genre", it feels like I'd speak your mind.

"This sort of ersatz criticism which is always 100% subjective":

Oh, um, if only I hadn't raised that concern!
"Please bear in mind while reading that this is my opinion, what I feel like, not a factual analysis as that's impossible on matters of subjectivity."
Oh.

"... no attempt is made to define what a great character arc is - ...":

Seriously, did you even read what I wrote? Also, you kind of dug your own grave here when you said "what a great character arc is", implying there is an objective measurement of it, directly contradicting yourself.

"... the person doing the assessment fooled themselves into believing negative criticism is always honest criticism."

Neither is positive criticism. In fact, there is no correlation - neither direct nor reciprocal - between the negativity or positivity of criticism and the honesty of it whatsoever.

In general, you seem to make the broad assumption that I, or in fact anyone who dares to criticize this show or any other piece of art, have evil intentions. I don't. The most ironic part of your post is, maybe, that you tell me off for allegedly criticizing the shit out of Game of Thrones when that is exactly what you did here.

I really don't know who, or what (elephant?), stepped on your toes but here are my well-wishes. I'm hoping for a speedy recovery!
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Not to rain on your parade, but I'm just wondering why the hell we should evaluate every aspect of this show when the disappointment made by the show-runners (if there is any) is less than memorable. I cant see the logic of criticizing a show when all it given us is a great and one of a kind viewing experience. I'm also trying putting my foot on your shoe but still i cant comprehend why ruin a good viewing experience by nitpicking every single fiber of the show. Lets talk about shows that is more deserving of our criticism and responses.
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Should a show be exempt from criticism just because it's very good overall? Should I not be allowed to like most, but not all things about something? I can find points to critique in Breaking Bad and I still had a one of a kind viewing experience. So do I with Thrones. But nothing should, or ever is, exempt from criticism.

It is indeed nitpicking when something isn't done as well as before but still pretty darn good - that doesn't make the criticism any less valid. It simply lowers the show (in that respect) from great to good on my scale. Overall, and I can't repeat this often enough, Game of Thrones is still one of the best shows on TV in my opinion.
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Well miss the point why don't you its easier that way.
Nothing stepped on my toes my criticism still stands despite your attempts to dance round the edges of it with the same vague semantics that your OP has.
My point is you criticise the show (which incidentally I don't overly rate myself) using undefined, subjective criteria.
If you want something to be 'great drama' tell us what you believe great drama to be, even better how it is that this show misses being great drama. Why do you believe the show should set being 'great drama' as an object of their production?
The show doesn't fit into a neat little box - few shows other than the standard tripe do, claiming that it almost nearly fits into a random selection of boxes is pointless - like analysing TV drama using venn diagrams illustrating which sets and subsets it fits into, which ones it overlaps with etc.
It could be done but would mean about as much as counting the number of words used every 40 minutes.
If you feel weird about someone hopping into your critique the way I have I suggest you read what you posted about the show, because that was how you approached the task of reviewing 'Game of Thrones' - I didn't respond as some sort of fanboi "ooh how dare anyone say bad things about GoT" I responded as I did to see how you would take a somewhat negative ping at your efforts.
I did try and back up what I said with examples using more objective analysis.
Lastly I have yet to meet a hipster who describes themselves as such. Being hip is an unconscious state of being, and the term is something others dub a person with, rather than the person him/herself because striving to be a hipster is more than somewhat unhip.

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So, just to be sure I understand this correctly, you baited me writing an intentionally aggressive comment in order to see how I would respond to such criticism? Stay classy, this isn't Dr. Lecter's therapy room.
The rest of your comment makes it clear you either don't want to understand what I mean or you simply won't try to - otherwise you would've responded to my attempts at explaining myself. Therefore, we should stop this right here and go our seperate ways on this topic.

Still, I can't refrain from one last remark: If I were to explain sarcasm to someone I'd use your last paragraph here.
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Sometimes I wonder why producers weer off the already successful source material in the first place. Why not just follow it to the letter. The writers already have the recipe for success so why the need to poison it with their own ideas of how they think it should be?

Well sometimes book narratives don't quite translate to television but when you start to change the plot line completely then you're left with a double edge sword that can cut you in ways only GRRM could dream up.

However the rather huge differences between the books and the show aren't that bad in my opinion. I think they're doing a great job at producing great television, in spite of the differences but the question is are they necessary? Not really, but forgivable.

Drawing a parallel between GOT and LOTR (which is a huge inspiration for GOT), there are huge differences between the books and the movies as well, but looking at them separately they are both amazing works of art and should be celebrated separately. The LOTR movies corrected some things that I think was necessary, so changing the plot isn't always for the worse, just not always necessary.
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"I don't usually write more than three connected words together."

Wow. Then you really need to reconsider because this isn't just a good article - it is also a piece of really good writing. Well done. I don't even watch the show, I tried once but couldn't get into it. (I know, I know! How scandalous and foolish of me!?) but I have seen every other show mentioned above.

My point is that I was immersed in your article from beginning to end and there wasn't one part I found confusing or poorly worded. Just solid work all round!
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Thanks!
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Stop apologizing. Many of us feel the same way. The magnificent drama of the first season has become reduced to: walking, walking and talking, 'what, no boobs in this episode?', who kills whom how and how gory. I can't decide if I would have liked it a lot better without having read the books or if it made even less sense...
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If this is really how you feel why are you even watching? How does your imagination not run wild during these episodes? I think the reason some people feel this way is because they either read the books and are looking for differences or just don't have a vivid imagination and haven't brought their minds into the world of Westeros. When watching any show if you are just watching and waiting to be amazed you will always walk away disappointed. I have always found a way to enjoy any show that I decided to spend my time watching and I try to put myself into the world if it's a drama, Sci-fi, fantasy, horror or even documentary. What are you trying to get from the show, a quick thrill or a 5-10 year experience that will open your mind to many other ways of thinking. I guess everyone has a different way of being entertained and some will find disappointment no matter what the situation. I heard from someone once that a heroin addict gets the best high the first time they hit the needle and spend the rest of their lives chasing that one high and always being disappointed with the experience. I guess this is the way I interpret some of the comments here and other television and movie forums.
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Well, obviously you put yourself in any good show you watch, but imagination shouldn't really be required, should it - 500 people with imaginations work on shows so you don't have to. You use imagination with books. Where would you cramn it? I don't compare them at all, books and show/movies, never did, I've said this a hundred times. Why I watch? Costumes, mainly, by now. As for the heroin addiction, sorry, but there are shows out there that knock my socks off, imagination or not. True Detective comes to mind, Fargo, many more. Some still pull in all my dread and awe on a cellular level, which is what i call good drama. The rest is just good entertainment. Which is what this thread is about.
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Season 4 has been mediocre and a complete disaster in terms of translating its source material.

Why was it never revealed that Joffrey was the one who sent the assassin to kill Bran, thus making Tyrion resent him all the more and giving him more motive to kill Joffrey?

Why didn't Jamie tell Tyrion the truth about Tysha? It makes absolutely no sense that Tyrion decided to visit his father's bedchambers without the knowledge that he was enraged and went there to confront him because he ruined Tyrion's one chance at true love. It was never wholly about Shae, although the show made it seem that way.

The pseudo-rape scene between Cersei and Jamie was an absolutely travesty, and completely taints his redemption arc. It also fails to convey what was one of the best sex scenes in the books.

There was a lot of filler in this season, and most of the filler included violence and perversion just for the sake of it (The orgy at Craster's Keep storyline).

The moment when Lysa revealed that she had poisoned Jon Arryn (and set everything into motion) at Littlefinger's request, I doubt audience members even cared because in this show the past is largely forgotten. It's all about the shocking the audience with all the big gory moments without any of the magic of the rich tapestry of George Martin's writing.

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Why didn't Jamie tell Tyrion the truth about Tysha? How would they portray what happens later in the show after his escape? If you think about it, it would be almost impossible to keep this part going after his escape. There would be no way to show his thoughts about it unless they did some flashback scenes and they have stayed away from flashbacks in this show.

I believe the rape scene was needed for us to truly appreciate the amount of hate Cersei had for Tywin. When the scene happened I didn't understand why they added it but after seeing the last episode I understood the directors needed a way to make the audience understand that she was so horrified with her father that she would do anything to destroy him even if it meant forgetting about the rape next to their dead son. I just don't think it would have had the dramatic impact when she talks to Jamie in the last episode. We need to remember many of the books chapters had the characters thoughts and feelings and it is impossible to add them to the series since you can't film feelings and thoughts. I think the scene was definitely needed and there was no other way to show Cersei's feelings without it being out of place. Also it doesn't taint Jamie's redemption arc it just adds to the value of his good deeds and shows how he decided to take the power away from Cersei and showed how he was done being a puppet. Once again there was no way to show his feelings and thoughts on screen without adding a powerful scene.

The Craster's keep scenes were also needed for the same reasons, there was no other way to show all of the girls feelings without adding some scenes.

Pretty much every added scene of removed parts were done to replace characters thoughts and feelings that couldn't have otherwise been portrayed on TV like they were in print. I believe they couldn't have done a better job at translating the books into a TV show then the directors have. The problem seems to be no one tries to imagine how to translate these things because they already understand how the characters feel since they have read their thoughts in the book so it is hard for you to understand why it wouldn't have fit without the added scenes.
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"Why was it never revealed that Joffrey was the one who sent the assassin to kill Bran, thus making Tyrion resent him all the more and giving him more motive to kill Joffrey?"
I believe there was a scene between Cersei and Tyrion where they connected and she basically admitted it was Joffrey who sent the assassin at some point in season 3 or 4.

While I completely agree with you that Tyrion didn't have strong motivations to visit Tywin, it would have been hard to pull off for the show - the last (and only!) time we heard of her was back in season 2 - more than two years ago - when Tyrion met Shae in his tent.
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"While I completely agree with you that Tyrion didn't have strong motivations to visit Tywin, it would have been hard to pull off for the show - the last (and only!) time we heard of her was back in season 2 - more than two years ago - when Tyrion met Shae in his tent."

I think they could have easily pulled it of by reintroducing the story. Make someone mention the background story earlier this season in a sentence, rewrite that whole beetle-cousin dialog and there you go. It just became obvious by season 3 that they wanted to merge Shae with Tysha as soon as we saw Shae actually fall for Tyrion (as opposed to the books where it was left open), they planned this a long time ago.
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I loved most of season 4, so I had no issues with it, really. My concern is how they will integrate books 4 and 5 into a season next year. Granted there was a lot of character attrition in book 3/seasons 3 and 4, but having to follow Jon/Stannis, Danerys, Arya, Tyrion, Jaime, Cersei, Reek, Bran, Sansa/Littlefinger, the new characters in Dorne/Myrcella, and the new characters from the Iron Isles will be pretty schizophrenic--- even by GoT standards. Since very little actually happens in book 4 (5 fares better for me) I expect the showrunners will need to inject some events... otherwise the first 5 episodes will be character x goes from point a to point b and postures a bit. Rinse, repeat with every cast member.
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Actually, the writing on the show is VASTLY better than in the books. Almost every change made, improves the story and characters over what the books offer. The pacing is better, too. The books are average at best. Most of the story arcs just trail off into noting like American wrestling storylines, and every chapter seems to include either a very long description of what people were eating, or what they are all wearing.
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I don't see the books as average myself, but I completely agree the show vastly improves the story, not only with spoilers of things to come - Jojen's death, how White Walkers are made of, Arya bound to met Melisandre again after they left the Brotherhood, etc. - but also with details like Lommy being avenged with the very sword used to kill him, the whole new side of Tywin as seen by Arya at Harrenhal, or the new and improved Margaery, Ramsay, Missandei, etc.
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Some of that stems from leaving out other characters completely, thus being able to give existing supporting characters more depth, which is obviously the right way to go when adapting books into a series. That doesn't make the writing better though - there's a difference between a novel and a screenplay, after all.

Why do you think Arya is bound to meet Melisandre again?
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It's on the show, as seen from 0:50 to 0:53 of this short vid of their scene One of the things the writing of the show improved was precisely their connection; they were able to met at the Brotherhood, antagonize over
Gendry and meassure one another over the Red God that Arya first met through Jaqen "the Red God demands it" H'ghar, none of which happened on the books.

It also gave Thoros added dimension as man of faith, made him &
Melisandre part of the same mission to convert Robert & Stannis respectively, and put Arya in a completely different place than she was in the middle of them, all of which for the better of the storyline and its characters.
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@tobsh: the scene never happend "off-screen", it never happened at all. Melisandre of Asshai never met Thoros of Myr, she never visited his Brotherhood, never knew Beric Dondarion was possible, never even seen Arya Stark or talked to Gendry about herself.

If it weren't for the show, we wouldn't even know she was a slave girl.
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The great strength of the show's format is being able to do scenes that happened "off-screen" in the books. If they're meaningful like this one, I approve.
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One great thing about the series is that "it is different"... what reads on paper may not transpose to film... but also... the author, who is intimately involved in the production, has the opportunity to round out characters, make corrections or even add plot intricacies e.g. Tyrion not doing "some big confession" to hurt Jamie... so things can be different - "better" (?) I don't know but with two different mediums and with time between then lets assume the author has an unique opportunity... and we are the beneficiaries of that ;-)
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I'd say "different" also help for some reason; it makes it more comfortable to dicuss incest among the Crasters or the Lannisters than on a special episode of Law & Order SVU; to accept religion from R'hllor priests than Battlestar Galactica; to embrace the magic of Jaqen's face, Bran warging or the Baby Walkers turning rather than the special effects of OUaT.
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I agree with your points, but one season that is not as good as the others doesn't mean it isn't a great show. I would argue that season 5 of the wire is a bigger drop in quality than the one on Game of Thrones, but there are few who would say that The Wire isn't a great show.
How the story goes from here will be more important as adapting the source will get harder and harder. How the hell they are going to incorporate the Dorne, Iron Islands storylines and Tyrion's now he is out of King's landing, without it getting too fragmented is gonna be an interesting task.
On Jamies redemption arc. This season really put a break on that and I hope they pick it back up next season. I really want to see him fill in a few pages in the book of the Kings guard.
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I love every ep of season 4 and still heartbroken after Oberyn's death.
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I'm just randomly writing down my thoughts and criticism and what I like and what not...

This show is the weirdest thing. I think that overall D&D are making a good job with their adaptation and then we get things like Grey Worm creeping Missandei which feels so out of place. That was, in my humble opinion, an utterly pointless way of using screentime. Sure there are a few tumblr users who now ship the "couple" but other than that... I don't think that anyone would trade a scene in King's Landing to a scene about them. And then we have D&D's own Littlefinger/Varys in King's Landing and they were so good. And so not in the books. I'm genuinely confused about the show.

The show is starting to slip with its ability to convert source material into a TV show, I agree. I read an interview with the showrunners and they said that they stopped reading online comments because of the pressure it put them under. Now I'd like to say that it's a good thing. I mean, they miss all the pointless trolling and the butthurt book fanatics that scream bloody murder because Strong Belwas was omitted from the show, so good for the showrunners... But they also miss out on the actual constructive criticism about the show.. Which could mean that they can start to slip a bit.

However, I don't think they slipped that much in season four. They added a lot of their own stuff and stretched already thin storylines to their breaking points but I expected this. This is what we get when they divide a book into two seasons. That being said... Arya and the Night's Watch were way too stretched out...

The next season is going to be the most crucial in my opinion. This season's slips most people should tolerate (not silently of course, people should criticize every show they love). They were expected. But the next season should be perfectly adapted. A lot of the storylines slow down and a lot of new storylines and characters are introduced. If not adapted well, the fans will not be happy that a big part of the show is going to revolve around these new characters and storylines. D&D did a terriffic job with Oberyn (better than GRRM I might add... I have no idea how he became this 'cult hit' in the book circles) so if they keep the same line with new characters, I have no worries at all.

So to answer your final question. I think Game of Thrones slipped in season four. I expected it to slip a bit so I'm not all that worried.

Thanks for this post! I am absolutely terrified at criticizing anything publically so I'm glad there are people like you! The attitude a lot of people have nowadays is that you can't criticize something you like and assume you hate the thing you criticize.
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This EW interview with D&D gives a small preview on what's to come in season 5.
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Since the books get larger things will be cut from the show. However they ended up added some terrific stuff and not so terrific stuff as well. I loved the books but I gotta say I was easily bored with certain storylines (Bran) but HBO added some great material. Yes the Arya and Hound road trip was boring at times because I just wanted her to get on the damn boat! I could go on....I think season 4 was my favorite even though changes were made. I wonder if it had say 12 episodes instead of 10 would the pacing have been better? Maybe they wouldn't have to cram so much in and maybe spend more time fleshing out the changes they made.
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12 episodes could work better, though there's no way of telling if they wouldn't make up even more stuff to fill the extra two episodes.
However, my issue isn't solely with the quality of the stuff they added but also with the quality of the stuff they adapted. They just didn't quite hit the mark (as in hit the mark on greatness previously exhibited) on Tyrion, Sansa or Jon this season when in previous seasons - which also had only 10 episodes - they did.
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I think you raise some interesting points. From a macro-sense, this season did have a few issues. I think the reason is they adapted this season from the last two-thirds of ASOS, and so they had to stretch a couple things.

Look at Oberyn, in the books he only appears in like three or four chapters, while in the show his part was greatly extended. Now, his character worked on tv and the fans loved him, but other plots suffered from the stretching (like Arya's). And because of the lack of material to adapt, they invented some plotlines instead of borrowing from later books.

I mean, wouldn't it have been cooler that instead of Yasha rescuing Theon they could have used some of the Iron Islands chapters from book 4 (I suppose most of the budget went to the action scenes and not locations and new cast members).

Nevertheless, I still love GOT and it's still my favourite show; and I'm not too worried about season 5 since they have a LOT of material from the next two books.
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I often dismiss these articles as some sort of attempt to engage in arguments with what is perceived as "the fans" of the show, or to asses the half a dozen of "I agree" comments akin to a massive majority that watch - or download - the show (about 7.1 million viewers last time they counted), but I'll give this the benefit of the doubt:

Let me start by saying I watch Game of Thrones not because it wins awards, it's HBO, has massive ratings or is considered a great drama, I watch this show for one simple reason: it makes me feel.

I'm not talking about childish pissing contests: my Jon is no better than your Bran nor my Bran better than your Jon, I don't care if Daenerys or Arya get more screen time in the finale and I'm not going to stop watching the show if they kill off Davos or Tyrion.

I watch this because I don't know whether I want Brienne or The Hound to win their single combat, because I neither want Tormund nor Grenn to die, because I don't know whether I mourn the most for Ygritte or Oberyn.

It's strangefor me, when so many shows promise me I'd get invested in fairytale princesses (OUaT franshise), female surgeons (Grey's Anatomy) or anti-heroes (Revenge, Scandal, etc.) only to fail miserably at it, to bet on elaborated sex scenes (Vampire Diaries, Reign, basically anything in the CW) to grab the attention they will never get from me or bet on shipping characters with mediocre to poor results.

I don't watch Game of Thrones to see who will end up with whom, or because it has strong female characters I actually do get invested in, or even because it grabs my attention for all the right reasons. I watch Game of Thrones because it gets emotional for me in the sense I feel every human emotion watching this show, and I'm able to weep, laugh, scream and so on with these characters I'm invested in.
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You and I have chatted about this on the respective episode threads. I fully agree with your assessment.

They are intentionally pushing ooo/ ah moments for the TV watchers in order to elicit specific memories from people, so that the ooo/ah moments is all that they remember. For me it is similar to SOA and Sutter's penchant for shock moments in order to make up for the fact that when the time came, he couldn't kill Clay. It really is just a basic psychology of marketing to get your consumers to think a thing is better than it actually is. Because they know what the water cooler conversations are going to be and how they can go about.

Some guy says eh it is an all right show, it has kind of dropped off in quality. Second guy says, are you kidding did you see, insert ooo/ah moment, red wedding, purple wedding, the king of the others, etc. How could you say that it isn't the best show ever created?! There is no real debate and each side goes off to believe they are in the right. And that is it. It happens in the comments about the episodes.

Now I too enjoy this show, and I enjoyed this season. But because they are intentionally doing this, they are intentionally dragging Arya's plot, Bran's plot etc and speeding up others in order to give a semblance of continuity. It then starts to create plot holes big enough to drive a truck through. The biggest current one is Arya and the Black Gate. Lysa dead or not, they were her men, they are Robin's men now they are allied with the Stark's and know who Arya is to Robin, there is no way in hell they let her leave. No way at all. They did that to help to redeem The Hound, who inexplicably is a fan favorite despite being a craven and a coward who rode down a little boy and did who knows what else for Joffrey. They wanted that I'm protecting her speech from the Hound to Brienne, despite the fact that he was just looking to sell her and that is it. And the fight between the two of them was great, one of the better fights or the series. But it made no sense, both of them(not the Hound) wanted to protect her. There really was no issue that couldn't have been resolved with 15 minutes of conversation or whatever gold Jaime had given to Brienne to fund her expedition (because the Hound was looking to sell her). To call that thin as a sheet of paper is being unbelievably generous. And then they created a future plot hole that is pretty big depending on which side you fall on from what she found out on the island.

The problem I think most readers have is that despite knowledge of the story and the great visuals of the show. There is a better story to be told here and a better way to go about it. Many shows have succumbed to this problem and that problem is repeating ad naseum what gets them the most recognition. And for GoT that is there ooo/ahh moments. But even some of them are cheap ooo/ahh moments. There were and are better ones to be had. Take Braavos, it was a good scene with Davos and Stannis in the Iron Bank and we got to see a bit of Braavos through them. It should have been Arya, seeing her character who really has had the worst of it see that new place, where nobody knows her, nobody is after her, and see that glimpse of hope, see that awe of seeing a new city and that glint of determination to make herself into something more and we could have seen that through the eyes of a child and through the great acting of Massie. That is a scene that was kind of stolen for a cheap ooo/ahh moment. Davos and Stannis could have gone to Braavos off screen, we could have just seen the inside of the Iron Bank. But at that point in the story that the writers wanted to show their little ooo/ahh moment and it lessened the story in my eyes.

They do this because that is what gets tweeted and gets them recognition they are going to continue to do that and likely it is going to get worse. Because there isn't that many oooo ahhh moments in the next bit of plot. So they are going to have to make stuff up, like the stuff with The Hound and Arya, Bran and the now deceased Jojen. Jon and Sam, Cersei and Jaime. And now presumably Varys and Tyrion. It seems like they are wanting to partner people up and for me that is concerning because the next plot will be better if it hold closer to the books and doesn't try to hit the viewer over the head trying to impress them.
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I completely agree. The producers are focusing on putting in the oooh ahhh moments without bothering to develop the storylines enough for the oooh ahh moments to have a proper impact.
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I really liked season 4, but it was fairly methodical in parts compared to season 3, so I see your point
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If anything I saw it as chaotic:
- relationships were falling apart (Davos & Stannis, The Lannister & The Tyrell, Jon & Ygritte, etc.),
- fairly solid sides were re-assembling like Ramsay, Reek & Yara (or Bolton, Ramsay & Reek), The Reeds & the mutineers at Craster's, The Baby Walkers & The White Walkers, etc.
- new characters were spinning things out of control (Oberyn & the trial by combat, The Bank of Braavos and its growing influence over the result of the war, Qyburn and his growing influence over Cersei, etc.)
- not to mention, the fairly clever spoilers for the books: the White Walkers were Craster's babies, how Jojen was meant to die, Brienne finding out Arya was still alive, etc.

IMO There's no method to it: battles were not aiming to a final conquest, conquests weren't made by huge battles but rather common poisoning, several achievements were made by chance and fate alike.
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I agree a 100% I feel like they try to fit too much into each episode, which is why it kinda annoys me when they add things that weren't even in the book, like if you are already having trouble fitting everything in why would you add more unnecessary stuff. To me I really liked how things went down between the Hound and Arya in the books and I thought it was the start of a darker shift for Arya while making the Hound look a little better, it was interesting to see that flip. I feel they have been making Arya darker, but in a more psychotic way than in the books, or so it seems to me. I also really didn't like that "rape" scene with Jaimie, because I think for those that didn't read the book that set his character not only back, but back in a way that he was never evil before, Jaimie would never rape anyone let alone his sister, I really didn't appreciate that change. Also all the ridiculous things going on with Bran's story is annoying.
Ultimately, I feel like in the first season they did a good job of adapting the book to tv, but since around the middle of season 2 it has started to drop fast in consistency. I am just worried how they plan to show the end product of the characters, because really to me I find the differing shades of grey of the characters and why, the most interesting part, far more so than the fights or the sex. The show as is expected just feels simplified, it is still a good quality show and entertaining, it just hurts my heart sometimes when my favourite part or character gets skipped over or completely altered.
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I still think it is a great drama, but I can sympathise with most of what you say. I think a lot of book readers felt there was a pacing issue with season 4, but this generally wasn't felt by non-readers.

A big problem with A Storm of Swords is that it is too long for one season, but, having chosen to effectively end with the Red Wedding, there isn't really enough left to fill another 10 episodes. (When reading the 2-part version of the book, the RW appears in part 2). Having established episode 9 as the "big" episode doesn't really help matters either. If there had been a significant event at the beginning of book 4 or 5 (which didn't require a load more characters), I suspect what was covered in this season would have been dealt with by episode 5 or 6. But, they obviously decided that the Wall battles would be in 9, and that slowed everything up.
An alternative structure for seasons 3 and 4 isn't immediately obvious to me. Do you have one in mind?

When it comes to filler stories, we have to be practical about characters in a television production. In a book, if GRRM doesn't want another Jon Snow chapter for 300 pages, then that's not a problem. But if a show wants to keep the largest possible following (so that it keeps being funded), then it has to have the main characters in at least every other episode. I suspect there are also union/contractual rules on how many episodes a star must appear in.
So, inventing filler episodes for Jon (Craster's) and Arya doesn't bother me greatly. The entire Yara plot seemed completely pointless, but non-readers enjoyed it and I probably would have too if I knew no better.
The one big advantage the show has is that it can show interaction between non-POV characters, such as Varys and Littlefinger.

I totally agree about Dany and Jorah's dismissal and I'd rather that they'd have spent some more time on this and less about Missandei/Greyworm. But, then, I've always found that the show's version of Dany is far less emotional than we get in the books. This maybe because of the age difference, but also because we get her thoughts.

I suspect that things will be better paced next season.
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You're absolutely right that they have limitations in how inconsistently they can use characters. Maybe I should alter my point to: If you gotta do fillers, do good ones.
Jon attacking Craster's keep was one of the better ones, as well as very reasonable since they left Coldhands out completely (at which my heart bled, btw. - still, understandable). Arya's I could've borne, Yara was hard on the fence and the enunch love bit just killed it - especially since they could've used that time for meaningful Dany stuff.

Unfortunately, I lent out my copies of Swords parts 1 & 2 so I don't know when the first ends and the second begins. If you say the Red Wedding doesn't appear till the second part I can tell you it would make one hell of a season opener (though, again, difficult with actor contracts) but I don't know if season three would've had a satisfying end streak - reading the book you can just turn the page. Watching the show you have to wait 9 months.

I do acknowledge that turning this series of books in particular poses an incredibly big challenge and I'm a big fan of the job the writers have been doing till parts of this season.
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Though I understand your point of view mostly, you did explained them quite well.

Still I want to say I really enjoyed season four.

From a pure perspective of watching a TV show as I never read the books, I liked season four more than all the other seasons. I really enjoyed many of the scenes and big moments.

There were many big moments that make my jaws dropped !

I loved season one very much and that is what got me hook on the show. I was still in awe of the show with season two. Somehow season three seems to lose its awesomeness and felt a little boring. I think part of the reasons was the frustration of many heroes dying and evil winning. Added to that was what you have mentioned, getting tired of the characters repeating themselves.

However many things changed in season four and some characters shifted.

Both me and my wife loved season four. I think this could be because we never read the books and never knew the difference.

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While I might not agree with all your points, I have to say that's a great analysis.

I haven't read the books, so on one hand I'm not burdened by expectations, but that means I'm also unaware of what I'm missing. Either way, I do think that you're right about the pacing. It feels like the events have moved slower now than during the first two seasons. Maybe that happens in the books too, but for someone who just knows the TV series, it's a shame.

When you watch the show you want as much as possible crammed into its measly 10-hour seasons. And that's why it's a little frustrating for example to see Dany "just" rule for a whole season, solving the problems of her minions. Her story line did not move sufficiently forward from a TV perspective, even though I understand that her story lines must wait for the right things to happen in Westeros. Sure, in a book a slow pace works, because in writing you have much more time to explain events, and it's not usually a problem in a TV show either, but it's a bit of a drag to watch on GoT. I expect so much from it, knowing that the universe is huge and there are so many characters to deal with. Every second counts on this show.
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That might just be a part of the problem book readers have with this season - A Storm of Swords, which season four is mostly based on, is widely regarded as the best book of the entire series. Mindblowing events just keep coming from behind every corner.
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It is my favorite of the series.
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I think you did a good job of bringing your point across, and there are some arguments I'm willing to agree with.

As a non-book reader, I greatly enjoyed this season for the most part. But the more I hear about some particular changes, the less impressed I am. Benioff and Weiss have a creative license to carve their own path, but if they are going to handle things differently, then the quality should be at least equal or better than that of the literary source. If they end up with worse results due to their choices, then that's a failure on their part.

That said, I don't mind the "made up" scenes. Arya and The Hound or Missandei and Grey Worm had enough chemistry for me to keep their interactions interesting, even if the adventures of the first duo dragged on for a little bit. Tyrion's story about bugs irked me not because it was a bad or an useless addition, but because it was woven in at a poor moment.

Pacing was a problem in some of these episodes, unfortunately. But I still can't imagine any other approach than a (mostly) linear structure working for what unfolds in front of us. I know people who claim to be put off by GRRM's writing style, and who aren't as enthralled by the various PoVs of his characters by not finding enough consistency there. In the end, the solutions used by the show are more user-friendly.
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Fair points. Of course, it's an entirely subjective matter whether you're thrown off by Missandei and Grey Worm's love story. Also, and I apologize if that didn't show through clearly, I very much agree that B&W should have their creative license. They did a great job incorporating non-book material like what happened to Craster's sons. Other parts, though, simply feel too much like a filler to excite me. I liked Arya and The Hound's chemistry, I love each character individually as well as their actors, but it was simply too much of nothing happening for my taste - especially knowing there is so much to tell that has been left out!
Hearing you say this as an Unsullied makes me wonder if I am able to see the shortcomings more clearly because I've read the books (and am biased towards the books) or if I see shortcomings where there are none because I've read the books (and have a set mind on what is supposed to happen).
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