(Warning, here there be spoilers)
Let’s talk about A Song of Ice and Fire. I love it. Mainly, I love the books, but the HBO series is really good, too. I wouldn’t mind if they left the gratuitous stuff out so my kid could watch it, but he still has King Julien, so it’s all good.
I love all the ancillary stuff, like the rumors and analysis vids on YouTube. One of my favorites is the GOT Academy, where two guys in Israel examine the series in depth. They get kind of silly, but one of the guys is a history professor and draws some pretty interesting parallels between Westeros and our world.
Anyhow, I’ve noticed something surprising this season. Something disturbing. Something that must not be.
Westeros now has one hell of a rapid transit system. And, oh yeah, primary viewpoint characters can’t die anymore.
It’s about 1500 miles from Winterfell to King’s Landing. If you’re using wagons, as the Starks and Baratheons did in the first season, it should take you about seventy days. I think George R.R. Martin cheated a little and said it would take six weeks in the book. Medieval travel wasn’t fast, and the distances were immense. Throughout the series, travel has been getting quicker and quicker. Now, John Snow can get from Winterfell to Dragonstone in a few hours if traffic isn’t an issue. Arya can get from Bravos to The Twins, have a last supper with the Freys, drop down into the Riverlands for a snack with some Lannister soldiers and a rock star, and then zip up to Winterfell in time for breakfast.
I get it. Travel Time doesn’t make for good TV (Although, Time Travel does. Go figure.), and it looks like they’re trying to wrap up the series, so they need to move things along. Also, the show’s outpaced Martin’s writing, and things are getting written by TV guys instead of an introverted, detail-obsessed nerd. So, yeah. I guess we’re gonna have to live with it. Still, the timeline of the Night King’s invasion is not mapping well with what’s going on in the rest of the continent and it’s starting to put a lot of pressure on whatever organ produces disbelief suspension.
Honestly, that’s not what has me concerned. What’s got me sweating is this sudden inability to kill off a viewpoint character. John Snow got resurrected after what, two episodes of being dead? I was happy to see him come back, and it was nice to see Ramsey get his just deserts, but he was never a viewpoint character. Neither was Stannis Baratheon, who I’d say was the last death that surprised me.
Ever since the beheading of Ned Stark, we’ve been put on notice. Characters are going to die, and nobody’s safe. This is one of the best things about the story. You never get to relax. Every move your favorite character makes might be their last.
Now everyone’s wearing plot armor.
And that brings me to the battle of the baggage train.
The setup: The Lannister Army is returning to King’s Landing with their plunder from Highgarden. Somehow, Daenerys Targaryen teleports a Dothraki horde and one of her dragons about a thousand miles and ambushes them.
The payoff: The battle culminates with a confrontation between Dani, Bronn and Jaime Lannister.
Travel time craziness aside, this is probably one of the best battle scenes in the series, with the possible exception of the Battle of the Bastards. One of the best, until it suddenly isn’t.
The third thing I’ve noticed is, with George out of the mix, the fight scenes are looking a lot more Hollywood. Martin doesn’t really write a lot of fight scenes. Most of his narrative is centered on the politics, emotions and maneuvering that goes into a battle. The actual fights themselves are often more implied than detailed. This actually makes sense. Fight scenes aren’t all that interesting unless you’re going to examine the feelings of the characters involved, and since the viewpoint character is usually a lord watching his peons die for him, it’s all abstract.
This season, the viewpoint characters are actually getting directly involved in matters, in true action hero fashion. Definitely a Hollywood thing. The failure of the payoff in this scene tells us why this is a mistake.
Somebody should have died.
Bronn could have killed Dani, or at least her dragon. Jaime could have killed her, and the dragon could have killed anyone. But, they all survived. The writers rescued them.
Bad move, guys. George would have put another notch or two in his keyboard.
So, what do you think? Have you been watching the show? Do you like where they’re going this season?