(spoiler free considerations on the TV Series – and a poll)
And so, with Season 8 the TV series inspired by GRR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire has completed its course, giving us poor, starved-for-updates readers the chance of seeing how the story wraps up – and in consideration of the long hiatus between books this is indeed a life saver, because my hopes of seeing the book series completed have suffered for the protracted wait. But I will come back to this topic in a short while.
From the very first season aired, Game of Thrones gathered an ever-growing fan base composed in equal measure of book readers, who were more than happy to see this amazing world and story translated on the small screen, and of newcomers who fell in love with Westeros and its characters – and in many instances turned to the books to learn more. To say the truth, it would have been next to impossible not to be fascinated by this tale of power, politics, family feuds and vengeance, in which the truly fantastic elements are few but have enormous impact, like the existence of the Others (or White Walkers), zombie-like revenants dwelling beyond the high ice Barrier that has protected the realm of men from them for centuries. And dragons, of course – let’s not forget the dragons. 🙂
Like all screen versions of successful books, A Game of Thrones does not follow precisely the template of the novels, which makes sense because the two narrative mediums have different requirements. Still, the portrayal of the actors who gave life to the characters has been consistently outstanding, and indeed one of the best elements of the TV series, together with the various locations chosen to represent the different realms of Westeros. And of course the CGI has improved as the story progressed and the increasing success brought ever-expanding funding for the show’s designers, so that it was possible to recreate more and more of the elements that have made A Song of Ice and Fire such an epic tale.
These stunning visuals have helped to balance out some of the narrative problems suffered by the show once it moved beyond the point reached by the novels and the scripts did not have the support of GRR Martin’s writing anymore: it’s a very personal opinion, of course, but once the show started to walk on… uncharted territory, so to speak, having to rely only on Martin’s outline for the story instead of the actual books, both plot and characterization felt different – thinned out, would be the best description I can offer. And in some cases they seemed to fall quite short of the mark.
This sensation gained strength with these last two seasons, which were restricted to seven and six episodes respectively instead of the usual ten of seasons 1 through 6, and many of the comments I read over the internet seem to share my perception. My choice of keeping this commentary spoiler-free prevents me from offering actual examples, but my impression is that the creators were hard-pressed to close all narrative threads and so they choose (or were forced, I don’t know) to proceed with such swiftness that characters and events did not develop in an organic way, but rather with abrupt and often incomprehensible changes that left me with a bitter aftertaste.
Personal reservations notwithstanding, I would still give to Game of Thrones a high rating and still consider it a game-changer in the portrayal of epic fantasy on the small screen: it’s undeniable that it altered the vision of the genre even for people who did not read or watch it before, and that it brought a great number of new enthusiasts to it, who might not have considered it worth of their time before. And if that is not the sign of downright success, I don’t know what is. There is a bit of dialogue in the last episode whose meaning I can safely share and it’s about the importance of the past: that past, the huge amount of story that carried us until this end, is what kept us enthralled until now and will still keep us interested in the stories of Westeros. Because stories are the main reason we read books, so we can get lost in them.
That said, I would like to submit a little poll to you, about the continuation of the book series: we are aware that George Martin loves to take his time writing books, and A Song of Ice and Fire has become a very complex tale that moved well beyond the originally plotted trilogy, which should without doubt present its own challenge besides the more “ordinary” ones of creative writing. So here is my question. The hiatus between books has increased over the years, since A Game of Thrones was published in 1996, A Clash of Kings in 1999, A Storm of Swords in 2000, A Feast for Crows in 2005 and A Dance with Dragons in 2011, and there is no idea of the time in which the next one, The Winds of Winter, will be released, making it 8 years of wait, so far, for the next-to-last book in the series. Moreover, I think that the pressure on the author to finish might have been somewhat lessened by the portrayal of the events in the TV series, so how do you rate the possibility that Martin will feel greatly motivated to bring the remaining two books to completion in the foreseeable future?
For the record, I rate myself “hopeful but worried”…
The poll will stay open for a week. Let me know what you think! Dracarys!