Monday, May 23, 2011

Sean & Megan Watch Game of Thrones: A Golden Crown

From the blog that brought you "Lynn Phegley Watches Lost," get ready for another experience that redefines the art of recapping TV shows!

Sean T. Collins is a friend to the Cool Kids and avid devotee of George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Fire and Ice" series of books, upon which the HBO television show Game of Thrones is based; he is currently chronicling the series on two separate blogs, one with book spoilers and one without.

Megan Morse is Ben's wife who has never read the Martin books and does not typically go in for the fantasy genre but loves Game of Thrones for reasons she doesn't even fully understand.

Each week, Megan will provide her analysis of the show from a neophyte's standpoint and then Sean will interject with his informed reactions and insights, answering her questions and commenting on her observations.

Whether you're a nerd or a newcomer, if you're watching Game of Thrones this is the recap for you!

Megan: I liked this episode. It had more of Daenerys, which I liked. I think she has the strongest arc since she started out from a very weak place and gets stronger every week. I like watching her progression. As a former actress, I appreciate her performance the most since she has had to change it up. She's awesome right now. I'm sure by the time she's headed towards world domination I'll hate her.

Sean: I think everyone in the Daenerys material performed well this week, especially Harry Lloyd as Viserys. He has arguably the least sympathetic character in the show on his hands -- well, him and Joffrey -- and in a handful of lines with Ser Jorah Mormont in Dany's tent, he makes us realize why he's so awful: He was crushed by the weight of great expectations before he even began to live. I thought his little breakdown during his confrontation with Mormont echoed Dany's realization a few weeks back: Both of them know he doesn't have what it takes, but they both had to maintain the charade well past the point where it did either of them any good.

Here's a question for you, Megan: Do you consider the Daenerys storyline the "main" storyline for the show, or just the one you like best? Since she's so separate from the rest of the action -- even more so than Jon at the Wall, since Jon at least knows most of the rest of the cast -- I'm curious as to how it reads to you. I'm especially wondering about how you phrased that last bit "I'm sure by the time she's headed towards world domination I'll hate her." Is this because you feel that if things go according to plan and she successfully marshals the Dothraki to invade the Seven Kingdoms, she must come into conflict with some combination or other of the rest of the main characters?

Megan: I don't see Dany's plot as the main one, that's definitely whatever's going on with and around the Starks in my view, but hers is my favorite. That's basing things on screen time though; since the Starks and Lannisters are on screen the most, I feel like the people who create the show want you to think of them as the main plot. Going by growth, though, Dany has definitely evolved the most over six episodes. I'm actually looking forward to her interacting with the rest of the cast. What I meant was that as much as I like her evolution, it's also happening so quickly that it does make me wonder if at some point her core personality will shift to the degree I may not like her as much; she's just very unpredictable, which is good but could certainly also alter my feelings toward her.

They got away from the murder of the old Hand a bit this week, but that was fine with me. One of the things I like about this show is how there are so many story lines going, but none really feels like it needs to be there every week, so if they take a break, it doesn't bother me. The only one I want to see every week is with Daenerys, but even when they didn't have that last week, it was ok.

Sean: Well, they did get away from the old Hand's murder...and they didn't. Dot dot dot...

Megan: I hate all the kids on this show and all their names, specifically Bran. He's a little idiot of a kid and I would have been totally fine if he had died. Actually, I like Joffrey because I'm not supposed to like him and he does a great job making sure I don't. I smile every time I see him because I know something awful will come out of his mouth. Obviously I love Arya too; she's not part of the "I hate all the kids" blanket.

Sean: Aw man, poor Bran! What did he ever do to you?

Joff's definitely on that love-to-hate tip. Arya's an interesting case in that her wannabe-warrior games are in their own way just as rooted in a fantasy version of how the world works as Sansa's "some day my Prince will come" routine.

Megan: I love how sassy Tyrion is. He's funny, which is nice since everybody else is cool but can be a bit grim and dour. He gives the show flavah. He's probably the only main character who doesn't take himself too seriously. You need that balance.

Sean: I think he beats the rest of the world to the punchline by laughing at himself before they can laugh at him. That said, I think it's pretty clear his status as a dwarf has embittered him toward all the "normals" out there.

Megan: Those sky box jail cells seem totally practical and would be useful in real life.

Sean: Every once in a while, George R.R. Martin will come up with some wonderfully practical yet totally epic-fantasy invention or architecture. The Wall is one case; the sky cells are another. In the books, the Eyrie is even more spectacular and impregnable.

Megan: I don't really have any feelings on the Stark-Lannister stuff since it seems to be in a bit of a holding pattern. It's like a pot of water where I'm still waiting for it to boil. Obviously you had the big fight last week, but mostly it's still buildup, so it doesn't really have my attention yet.

Robert wasn't in it enough, but I liked the little speech he gave to Ned about how he picked him as his brother.

Sean: Agreed; I'll extend that compliment to Renly's angry freakout over all of Robert's "back in the good old days" nostalgia during their hunting expedition. A gay man not particularly interested in bloodshed yet born into a family where his jock brother ends up becoming king precisely because he's the best person at killing other people would indeed have it tough in the bloody society of the Seven Kingdoms; worse, as what seems like a pretty smart dude, he'd soon realize that things were pretty much always this way, if not worse, so lionizing the past would get pretty sickening to him.

Megan: The last scene was awesome. Something needed to happen to Viserys. I'm kinda gonna miss his douchiness, but he had to go. I'm only a little worried that his presence helped Daenerys grow, so she'll need a new driving force toward becoming greater, but I'm sure she'll find one.

Sean: This reminds me of something I read from one of the critics who was sent the first six episodes as a preview screener by HBO before the series started to air. I don't remember who it was, but she made the point that since all Daenerys and Viserys had to play off of was each other, pretty much, their relationship felt much more fleshed out than those of any of the other main characters, all of whom had like two dozen other main characters to talk to. Do you think that's a good read?

Megan: Yes, I'd definitely agree with that. It intrigues me to see where she will go without him. They definitely did flesh out that relationship a lot, to the point where she needed more just as a character; she started so meek, then got stronger with him as opposition, but now she's outgrown him and needs that next person to challenge her. I'm very much wondering and looking forward to finding out if she will just continue to evolve and get bigger in personality as I alluded to above or if there will be a point where she just becomes comfortable in who she has become and settles down somewhat.

How graphic is the description of stuff like violence and sex in the novels versus depiction on the show?

Sean: Just as graphic, if not more so. I'd imagine that was a big part of the appeal of the show to HBO's executives! I do want to note that in both cases I've never felt it was gratuitous. In the case of the sex, I think Martin spiced everything up as a corrective to the fantasy genre's tendency to be kind of sexless, at least as far as epic fantasy goes. That subgenre is much more J.R.R. Tolkien's offspring than that of lusty sword and sorcery like the Conan stories. And in the case of the violence, to be blunt, it's an anti-war series, and thus instead of glorious battles between good and evil, you've got desperate men hacking away at each other with giant shards of metal until pieces come off. It's an ugly business in both the book and the show. Actually, I think the duel between Tyrion's sword-for-hire and Lady Lysa's knight during Tyrion's "trial by combat" was the perfect demonstration of that, right down to the part where the mercenary held off the killing stroke in case the loser would be permitted to simply yield and live, but Lady Lysa did nothing to stop the fight there and the crowd in the gallery even booed a bit.