Wednesday, May 14, 2014

TELEVISION: The Game of Thrones pacing conundrum

When it comes to television, I like a lot of different things. I like drama, comedy and even the occasional reality show (as long as it doesn’t involve singing or the Kardashians).

What I truly love, though, is high concept drama that can rock you to your core from episode to episode.

That’s why shows like Lost, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Sopranos, The Walking Dead, Sons of Anarchy and Big Love all have spots high on my “favorite” list.

HBO’s Game of Thrones currently has a spot on that list, too. However, I’m starting to worry about the future of the show.

Before everyone starts attacking me, I still think the show is good. That’s the problem. The show is too good. The cinematography is outstanding, the scripts are scintillating and most of the cast (two noteworthy exceptions) is amazing.

So, what’s the problem? The cast is, quite simply, too big.

Because of the expense associated with producing Game of Thrones, seasons are limited to 10 episodes. Game of Thrones canvas than pretty much any other drama I can think of.
So we basically get about 50 to 55 minutes of story each episode – for 10 episodes a season. And how many characters are there to cover? I’m not sure, but I can safely say that there are more characters on the

There are four more episodes left in season four. As it stands now, we’re only seeing most characters every other episode. And when we see them, this past week’s trial of Tyrion notwithstanding, we’re generally only seeing them in 10-minute increments. So, when you add that up, that means we’re seeing characters for an average of 50 minutes a season. Is that enough for you?

I mean, take a look at Daenerys. Let’s forget for a second that she’s portrayed by one of the weaker acting links in the ensemble. This is a character that is the “Mother of Dragons.” So why do I feel like falling asleep during her scenes? We’ve essentially spent 30 minutes with her this season and she’s done nothing but trudge from one city to the next – and occasionally whine or make vacant threats and pronouncements.

Then you have a character like Stannis – who I’m sure did something terrific in the books – but he is so boring on the show I’ve actually taken to fast-forwarding through him. Since the screen time is so limited for these characters as it is, it seems like a travesty to actually fast-forward through anything.

My other big complaint is Reek. I didn’t care about the character when he was Theon. I certainly don’t care
about him when he’s doing his audition for Fifty Shades of Torture. I’m sure Theon still plays into events to come (I try to stay spoiler free) but he’s done nothing of interest this season.

On the flip side, I think we’ve only got to spend about 20 minutes with Arya. I’m not going to lie, Arya is my favorite character, so I’m always in the mood to spend more time with her. Even when we get to spend time with her, though, the only exciting thing she’s done this season is help the Hound massacre a few of her enemies in the season premiere. She wasn’t in the last episode and the episode before we got four minutes of watching her practice Tae-Bo.

I could go on and on about how little we know Margaery, or how Sansa’s limited air time isn’t making her any more sympathetic, or how only seeing Brandon and his really bad wig isn’t exactly helping me engage in their crow searching.

Like I mentioned above, I try to go spoiler free. And, yes, because of the show’s nature, a lot of people are going to be killed off. More characters are going to be introduced, though, too.

I honestly don’t know what the solution is, but I would start by expanding the episodes to an hour and a half in length. It doesn’t completely solve the problem but it does help. Also, and I know this is sacrilege to book fans, but some of the side stories need to go. Those books are thick tomes. You can’t possibly include everything.

The truth is, hard choices are going to have to be made to fix the show’s pacing problem. I’m just wondering
if anyone will have the guts to actually address them.

Game of Thrones is a show that should be winning every award out there. It's not -- and it's not just because the voting blocks have an aversion to fantasy. The pacing issues are holding the show back in more ways than one.

For every great scene like Tyrion on trial, Joffrey dying, and Arya exacting revenge we are also getting side character scenes with Stannis, Reek and Sansa's crazy aunt.

I just want a better balance.

What do you think? Are there other characters you want to see more of than you do?


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