Game of Thrones – “Baelor”
“Love is the death of duty.“
Last week, Noel Murray at the TV Club wrote an essay entitled “When spoilers help: The Game of Thrones defense.” (There are no spoilers in the essay, so you can click in safety.) Murray took an opposite approach from me when he settled in for Game of Thrones: he looked up stuff, consulted viewers’ guides, and felt it better equipped him to enjoy the series.
And when I say that he took the opposite approach from me, I mean it. I avoided any and all information about the series. I knew about the casting, sure, but I didn’t know anything about Westeros or what a Dothraki was, or how to spell
Targareny Tagareynen Targaryen. I went in completely and utterly cold to a series, which is something of an abnormality for me. I like to do research because I do like to know if a series is worth 4 to 6 hours of my time (the minimum range I give hour-long dramas to grab me), even more so if I’m going to write about the damn thing.
(For what it’s worth, I part of me wish I had done what Murray had done, but I don’t think it would’ve helped many of my problems with the series.)
I’m not a complete spoilerphobe, though I’ve certainly come a long way from where I used to be. I used to purposefully spoil myself about Lost, but stopped after I thought I had figured out the twist in the season 3 finale, and then used spoilers to confirm (I was correct, by the way). After that experience, I stopped visiting SpoilerFix or frequenting sites that prided themselves on such scoops.
In the process of learning how to spell Targaryen, I spoiled myself in minor ways. For instance, I knew about the coup in advance while I looked up bits about Syrio, and was able to draw theories about what would instigate it (I was correct about the death, though not about the boar). Otherwise, I went to incredible lengths to avoid plot points about Game of Thrones.
Thanks to Twitter, I was able to avoid looking at information about ABC’s upfronts, as they provided a big old spoiler for a currently running cable program. Given that the only cable program running at the time where spoilers would matter was this one, I stayed away from stuff about the upfronts.
But then I stupidly read something on ABC’s Web site for its fall shows (I didn’t know which show had the spoiler in the press release/description/cast), and was spoiled for this episode.
I had theorized that Ned would die at some point a number of episodes ago. I honestly figured it would be this season (some of this was motivated by the fact that Sean Bean is just too busy of a guy to stay tied to the show, but most of it was just that Ned’s kind of too noble/stupid to survive in this narrative world for too long), but didn’t want that confirmed for me. Character deaths are something special, and are not a puzzle to figure out (unlike the season 3 finale of Lost, where Darlton goaded me into it!).
Knowing this gave me some time to prepare for Ned’s death, so that when this episode came, I kind of wished they’d just go ahead and do it already, instead of letting it hang there, mocking me. When it did finally happen, I didn’t feel a great deal about sorrow. I felt sad for Sansa (Sophie Turner was killing it even just standing there, looking all pleased that she had saved her dead) and Arya, and I thought that the sequence leading up to his execution was really well done, particularly Ned’s vain search for Arya in the crowd and the council’s mad rush to convince Joffrey he’s only making things worse (when they really should’ve tackled the executioner).
Now, look, I get emotional during television shows, movies, and books all the time. I was sobbing into throw pillow by the end of (SPOILER) this scene from season 1 of The Wire (I was sniffling just trying to find that link) and I still cry during (obviously a SPOILER) the end of City Lights even though I’ve seen it like a gazillion times. And I say all this to counter the discourse that I’m a soulless human being, and that that would be the reason why I wasn’t particularly moved by Ned’s death.
And even I found my lack of a reaction curious. Was it that I had this spoiled for me? Even though I figured out the season 3 finale of Lost (and then had it confirmed for me), I still got a real thrill from that last scene (so good). And, as I said, I had kind of predicted that this would happen anyway, so maybe I had already just decided that it would, and be pleasantly surprised if it didn’t.
But I think it’s really just because I’m not very emotionally engaged with this world, or with Ned as a character. If Arya had bit the dust, I would’ve just been angry and stopped watching the show* since she, along with Tyrion and Bronn (my new OTP), is one of the few reasons I watch every week. I mean, I probably wouldn’t have been as outright furious as this guy is about Ned’s death, but still kind of upset.
*I would not have stopped watching the show. There’s only one episode left, and I’m going to finish the damn thing. This is why I don’t understand people who say they’re going to stop watching the show because of Ned’s death. Mostly I suspect these people are just mad that the one actor they recognized is dead and now they’re stuck with actors they don’t know. And it upended their expectations, but that’s a good thing.
So now we’re moving into the last hour of the season and I imagine some folks who haven’t read the books, and possibly are on the fence about the series (like I am), are wanting the show to stick some sort of landing. I have no idea what they’re expecting, or talking about. First, an ending is a really overrated thing, and should not be the only criterion from which to evaluate a narrative work. An ending does not suddenly make all the faults or all the good things worse or better. It has an influence since it’s the last thing you see, and it’s why finales are “so important”: they need you to want to come back, and it’s why the use cliff hangers and/or game changers.
From what I’ve been told, the ending should be pretty intense, if it’s anything like the book. I’m not letting my expectations get away from me. This is a series in which I was bored and frustrated for five hours and then absurdly thankful that the following four hours had decided to be comparatively more interesting and engaging. This is a series in which a major character’s death did not move me to feel much of anything, and a story world in which I have very little invested in whatever it is that these characters seem so desperately to care about.
This doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the show, I can, but I feel like that’s where my involvement with the show is probably going to end.
But maybe I should just go ahead and read what happens so I can prepare myself for it. What’s one more spoiler between acquaintances?
- Despite all this, I did like the episode. Tyrion presenting his backstory (which was truly horrible) was motivated and organic (most things are motivated and organic when a drinking game is involved). And I really wish that Jon’s internal struggle had been given a bit more time. I was really like this conflict for him, and wanted more of it.
- What I wanted less: Daenerys. I officially do not care about this at all, and I don’t think much will make me. Also: I swear to whatever deity you believe in, if those dragon eggs stir, begin to hatch, now that Daenerys is a prime position to assume control of the Dothraki (if they let her), I will roll my eyes SO HARD.
- I didn’t take any notes when I watched the episode since it normally takes me 2 hours to watch an episode when I do. It was very refreshing. I’ll take notes next week.
- That was a pretty high toll. And very funny. I enjoyed the straightness everyone played as Catelyn laid out what the Starks would have to do, particularly that there was only one “acceptable” daughter.
- Surprised that Jaime got himself caught.
- I love that Arya didn’t steal some food. Little bits of character business mean a lot.
- June 15, 2011