Monthly Archives: June 2013

“What do I have to do to die?”: Death (or lack thereof) in Band of Brothers

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For those wondering, the quote featured in the title of this post reportedly belongs to WWII Easy Company veteran Joe Toye, who said the words within moments of losing his right leg to a bomb blast. This incident is portrayed in ‘The Breaking Point’, one of the more visceral episodes of the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers.

Death is ever present in BoB, but is manifest in ways largely unexplored by film and televisual works that have preceded it. For one thing, the series acknowledged and exploited my expectations in ways that would bring about from me a very introspective response – one that makes me believe that Band of Brothers stands as one of, if not, the most cultural and morally important texts of the twenty-first century.
 
 
Friendly Fire
The fifth episode of Band of Brothers, ‘Crossroads’ opens with and repeatedly revisits a sequence where protagonist Dick Winters shoots and kills an unarmed German soldier. It’s a moment which the rest of the episode – and our understanding of Winters – hinges on. Of all things to haunt Winters, it is the death of a German soldier that earns the series’ deepest scrutiny. It seems to suggest that, in war, even the best made plans incur loss to the victor – in the lives of the “enemy”.

"... they were doing what they were supposed to do, and I was trying to do what I was supposed to do... under different circumstances, we might've been good friends." - Darrell C. "Shifty" Powers

“… they were doing what they were supposed to do, and I was trying to do what I was supposed to do… under different circumstances, we might’ve been good friends.”
– Darrell C. “Shifty” Powers

At the start of each BoB episode, the intimate interviews with Easy Company veterans shape the major theme examined in the hour of television to follow. Ironically, the above extract from an interview with veteran “Shifty” Powers does not feature in ‘Crossroads’. The episode’s theme, as suggested by the interviews, is the leadership that Winters’ peers believe him to demonstrate through his consistently correct decisions or bravery on the frontlines. This is subterfuge for the episode to examine a kind of leadership that can’t be spoken of. In displaying a resilience that every one of his followers must adopt, Winters’ hides his emotions stemming from the incident with the unarmed soldier. Through the window into Dick Winters’ internal conflict, we see that the psychological damage dealt to the combatants of war is inevitable. However successful the men of Easy Company were in their missions, the tragic reality is that they suffered in any case. Most of the intertitles that close a BoB episode celebrate the achievements of an ‘E’ Company assault or tactical display. This comes on the back of a show that readily exposes the fatal cost to Germans unwillingly dragged into defending Hitler’s cause. I guess that, in rightfully praising the fight to prevent the slaughter of millions of innocent people, we have to justify some of the more deadly acts of the Allied Forces.
 
 
Fighting the War Genre
By the time I’d reached the halfway point of Band of Brothers, I reckon I’d become vicariously chummy with a host of ‘E’ Company soldiers. There were the witty quips of William “Wild Bill” Guarnere, the infinite number of impersonations from George Luz, and there was even something in observing the solace that quieter men like Lewis Nixon or Eugene Roe took in watching others. This mediated relationship I had developed with the soldiers of Easy Company had the makings to leave me soulless – should they meet their deaths in the battles to come.

So when the impending doom of the Battle of the Bulge rolled around at the end of episode five, I thought we were heading into a particularly emotionally trying bit of the miniseries. I wasn’t wrong, but the tragedy to come was not quite what I had expected. Amidst the wooded desolation on the outskirts of the town that the episode takes its name from, ‘Bastogne’ opens with the grating sound of boots crunching through brittle snow. This soundscape and other foreboding cues had me asking which character was going to die, particularly in an episode where the central character was a man most likely to witness the casualties of war: ‘E’ Company medic Eugene Roe. As it turned out, the first excruciating death of the episode came to John Julian; a soldier first introduced to the audience only minutes before he’s killed. Later on, Roe and a French nurse with whom he shares a special connection, fail to save the life of a nameless soldier. The weight of his death has profound an impact as any – and his anonymity is representative of the ever-growing number of lives lost in the war.

Reaching the end of this episode, I couldn’t help but feel guilty for having hoped for the survival of soldiers I’d grown attached to. A sprawling war drama depicting real events could easily draw a dichotomy in value between central characters and peripheral (or altogether off-screen) figures. Band of Brothers elicits such a perception but subsequently criticises it by focusing on the deaths of soldiers of less renown. We are forced to think of the thousands of other soldiers’ journeys just like (or worse than) those we are watching. By drawing attention to the dire circumstances that surround but don’t entirely implicate the central characters of Easy Company, the story tries to tell us that their experiences are one of an unimaginable many. We cannot comprehend the sheer brutality of war through watching, reading or listening to any number of texts.

In a way, this barrier to reality touches on how, in semiotics, the signifier betrays the signified by trying to replace its completely unmediated form. In other words, recalling the past produces a distortion of reality, because we can’t be 100% faithful to exactly how things have happened. In Alain Resnais’ Hiroshima mon amour (1959), the central male character’s recurring dialogue is intended for his female companion as much as it is a reminder for Resnais’ peers:

“You saw nothing in Hiroshima. Nothing.”

Dick Winters’ aforementioned encounter with the German soldier in ‘Crossroads’ has merit in this discussion. The episode’s opening sequence offers no context as to why Winters has run to the top of a hill and executed the trooper. It’s a rather abstract moment in the scheme of the show’s structure. One might think of it as a dream sequence or something entirely imagined. The search for the reality of this situation is intensified rather than resolved in the next two iterations of the same event.

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The reality of this German soldier's final seconds is made unclear through contradicting recollections of the incident.The reality of this German soldier’s final seconds is made unclear through contradicting recollections of the incident.

The first of these plays out in real time when Easy Company execute an ambush on a small German contingent: Dick Winters is the first to enter the fray, running several seconds ahead of his assault team following a breakdown in communication between members of the latter. This time, when Winters finds the isolated German soldier, we see a slight sense of hesitation register on his face before he kills the man. As in the first instance, the victim shrugs at Winters moments before being killed, as if to ask ‘what are you waiting for?’ The whole sequence is over almost as quickly as it were at the start of the episode, and the gunfight to follow between the American and German forces leaves little room to reflect on what’s just happened. Later whilst aboard a train, Winters’ mind returns to the incident, where we see an entirely different response from the German soldier. A close-up of the soldier’s face reveals him to be a boy of roughly twenty years. The amicable and friendly expression that greets Winters degenerates into a look of horrified realisation just seconds before he is shot and killed. The pair’s exchange lasts several seconds longer than the earlier installments of the shooting. Which of these visions shows the true event? No one can be sure because the reality of it has been lost to time. The contradictory visions form a mise-en-abyme: with the two interpretations mirroring and yet destabilising each other to the point of deconstructing the reliability of any one person’s subjectivity. It’s a sad concept that ultimately justifies any event depicted in Band of Brothers. When we see the concentration camp in episode nine: ‘Why We Fight’, it forms a recollection belonging to the soldiers of ‘E’ Company rather than being classified as a completely unadulterated ‘reality’.
 
 
We Lucky Few
Joe Toye had experienced several brushes with death prior to the blast that claimed his leg. It’s insensitive to think that his words – given seemingly as a quip to fellow soldier Bill Guarnere – were a plead for a mortal release from the harshness of war. His words do, however, evoke a sentiment felt by all those ‘fortunate’ enough to return home from the war:

”… The real heroes are the fellas that are still buried over there and those that come home to be buried.”
– Babe Heffron

I get a sense of self-inadequacy from the veterans being interviewed in Band of Brothers. To have returned home from the war is a curse. The veterans seem to think that they would have best served their purpose in bringing about the Allied victory – or in at least saving the lives of some brothers in arms – if they had laid down their own lives in the battlefield of the Second World War.

“… you could do just about anything, and after the war was over… you lost a lot of that, or at least I did – I lost a lot of that confidence.”
– “Shifty” Powers

“I cherish the memories of a question my grandson asked me the other day, when he asked me: ‘Grandpa, were you a hero in the war?’ Grandpa said: ‘No, but I served in a company of heroes’.” - Mike Ranney, quoted by Dick Winters

“I cherish the memories of a question my grandson asked me the other day, when he asked me: ‘Grandpa, were you a hero in the war?’ Grandpa said: ‘No, but I served in a company of heroes’.”
– Mike Ranney, quoted by Dick Winters (pictured above)

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The “Fun” Will Never End: Adult Ambivalence and Mobile Audiences in Adventure Time

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Well this is awkward.

Here I am talking up how spoilery my TV blog’s going to be and yet that just isn’t the case this week. Why?

Because Adventure Time doesn’t really have a plot to spoil. Sure, it has its episodic plots but they’re usually synopses recycled over and over again – in line with Plankton’s failed attempts to steal the Krabby Patty recipe in Spongebob Squarepants, or the happy endings to Tommy and friends’ misadventures in Rugrats. On paper, Pendleton Ward’s Adventure Time is really just like any other cartoon program ever made. Episodes are generally eleven minutes long, televised in pairs and plopped on either end of commercials to fill a half-hour timeslot. Yep, right down to the aesthetic of the title cards introducing an episode, everything about this show suggests it’s tailor-made for children.

With the name 'Pendleton' and a beard/glasses/coat combination putting many eccentrics to shame, how could this guy not manufacture something as weird and whacky as Adventure Time?

With the name ‘Pendleton’ and a beard/glasses/coat combination putting many eccentrics to shame, how could this guy not manufacture something as weird and whacky as Adventure Time?

But if you’ve heard positive reviews of Adventure Time, you probably know it’s not just for kids because you’re recounting a much older audience member’s first-hand experiences with the show. Funnily enough, I’m not the only one in college with an Adventure Time poster on their wall, and I do experience beanie envy when I see a friend walking around with Jake on her head. Few other cartoons can elicit this kind of public display of affection to be deemed okay, and though I did wear my Yoshi slippers literally to death, video games are an entirely different can of beans. The hysteria around Adventure Time is impressive in its own right.
 
 
I’m a tough, tootin’ baby…
According to this terrific video by the PBS Idea Channel (seriously, what it covers in the first five and a half minutes is brilliant stuff), the idea of nostalgia is pivotal to Adventure Time’s appeal. This is a no-brainer when I consider how the show casts me back to a younger version of myself. The aforementioned episode title cards are just one part of the program structure and form reminiscent of a bunch of cartoons I watched as a little fella. At a content level, references to my childhood are seen in Finn and Jake’s side-scrolling sequences and 8-bit escapades that featured in many a 90’s video game. However, the guys at PBS see all this as a simplified reading of the grand nostalgia Adventure Time evokes in adults. This nostalgia is a ‘classical nostalgia’:

“… a pain or an ache for a time passed that you can’t recreate.”
– Mike Rugnetta, PBS Idea Channel host

When you watch Adventure Time then, it’s as if you’re opening one of those time capsules you buried in primary school, and inside is a text frozen in a time you simply can’t return to (which reminds me: I never recovered mine. What did I write? I’m sort of curious but not enough to warrant a frenzied digging act under the watchful eyes of a hundred freaked-out children). As Don Draper’s fascinating pitch on the ‘Carousel’ demonstrates, this romantic nostalgia is primarily found by re-examining artefacts from that utopian era – essentially meaning that Rugrats and a host of other childhood cartoons could already do what Adventure Time tries to do, right?

Not quite. For one thing, I think that the timing of Adventure Time’s arrival is crucial to its effect on kids who grew up with the advent of cult media. I’m at a point in my life now where relationships, career prospects, and other important facets of my being are experiencing significant change all the time. This can all be very overwhelming and sometimes I wish things were much less complex/daunting/frustrating/[insert negatively-loaded word here]. That Adventure Time should pop up at a time when I’m feeling like this means that Pendleton Ward must be calling out to me – the viewer looking to momentarily escape the trappings of adulthood. TV shows have the effect of moving the viewer to an alternative space where their problems faced in reality don’t exist. On its quasi-adult audience who grew up on a diet of shows like it, Adventure Time has an added temporal effect, where the longing for a childhood still easily recalled is evoked through visual and auditory signatures of that bygone period.

If you're an Adventure Time fan that hasn't seen season four's second-to-last episode, you should probably do something about that.

If you’re an Adventure Time fan that hasn’t seen season four’s second-to-last episode, you should probably do something about that.

There is, however, no age limit to who can experience the show’s nostalgia and subsequent appeal. The folks at PBS identify Adventure Time’s “nostalgia-within-nostalgia” where Finn, Jake, and a host of other characters are constantly experiencing this emotion themselves (the PBS video gives a series of in-show examples that allude to a period of time preceding the events of Adventure Time. You really should watch it). Adventure Time offers a family-friendly mirror-image of ourselves when we see Finn and Jake tackle standard moral and ethical dilemmas pertaining to themes such as friendship (‘Video Makers’) and doing right by others (‘Another Way’).

However, the scope of problems encountered is simply too broad for the cartoon to be labelled a kid’s show. The most poignant and heartwrenching episodes of Adventure Time are those linked to the past, wherein characters deal in themes of identity (‘Susan Strong’) and mental illness induced by painful experiences (‘I Remember You’). The confronting meanings in these kinds of episodes hits home with older audiences while it whistles right over the heads of children who can’t relate to the nostalgia being conveyed. In an era where television bombards us with entertaining plots that nevertheless remain removed from our own fairly ordinary lifestyles, Adventure Time could be the TV show that begs the most introspective response from a coming-of-age viewer.
 
 
We are in the computer world
That all got a bit sad, eh? Let’s rein this one in with a look at how Adventure Time could shape an alternative and, in specific cases, better method of serial television storytelling.

A uni friend of mine has a theory about the direction TV is heading. If my time at uni has taught me anything this semester, it’s that a sustainable mode of watching television on the Internet is inevitable (here’s a very… hmm… “text-dense” group project of mine for those who feel okay about mixing pleasure with pain). We’re consuming stuff online like never before and there’s no way we’re going to revert to our old ways of watching television at any point in the future.

Anyway, my friend’s theory: Short-form content viewed through channels such as YouTube is catering to an on-the-move audience who readily find the time to watch videos lasting a few minutes over those that run for an hour. Television networks have embraced this prospect by releasing webisodes – relatively short online videos that act as subsidiaries to a regular television program. This mode of viewing is quickly becoming the norm and here’s where we arrive at the crux of my friend’s argument. He believes that television will become a series of episode ‘chapters’, released in weekly batches and lasting roughly ten minutes per chapter. The plots within each chapter are self-contained but weave themselves into the seriality of chapters within and beyond the episode it belongs to. A central idea or character POV could be the unique axis around which each chapter revolves.

This Pendleton original series is a YouTube sensation. Its short form and seriality could be key to developing a new way of making television.

This other Pendleton Ward original series is a YouTube sensation. Its short form and seriality could be key to developing a new way of making television.

It’s some revolutionary thinking, but not far from what we’ve seen in the multitude of cartoons that have been around for decades. However, the popular contemporary television at the centre of my friend’s theory concerns mature themes and seriality, much unlike the comparatively simple cartoons of ye olde days. Adventure Time has begun to bridge that gap. While I can’t necessarily spoil a plot of sorts, I can tell you that – unlike its primarily kid-orientated cartoon counterparts – Adventure Time does convey a sense of seriality one can only experience through watching it (perhaps because it can be read so personally at times). A short-form model of making and distributing television is unlikely to work with some programs (particularly those with complex ensemble casts reminiscent of HBO classics) but it does beg some looking into. Audiences willing to consume this format have made themselves known with the advent of many short-form digital platforms such as Funny or Die and the aforementioned YouTube.
 
 
Come on, grab your friends
Never mind the fact that the top two names I’ve wanted to give my future sons have been Finn and Jake since before Adventure Time was even created, the real weirdness from the cult cartoon series comes from every episode that’s as oddly endearing and unique as the last. The unbelievably strange gags and constant experimentation with audience expectation make this show a spectacle before you even arrive at its deeper and more personal meaning. It’s really something best experienced in groups, so grab a buddy or two and escape to the Land of Ooo every once in a while.

The Game Within a Game: Handling Narrative Adaptations in Game of Thrones

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Warning: For those up to date with the TV series who haven’t read the books, there are really minor spoilers ahead. Seriously, they’re so minor it’s probably not even worth having this disclaimer. I just write about some trivial differences between the books and TV series that you really won’t give two shits about. THAT’S NOT TO SAY YOU WON’T LIKE WHAT I’VE WRITTEN.

Oh God, please don’t leave.

Good, now that you’ve got past the bold font, I assume I’ll have your attention for the remainder of this: my first ‘No Post on Sundays’ article. It’s hard to say what you can expect to see in my weekly posts in terms of a consistent structure. I know I’ve got a tendency to ramble on if I love a television show enough, so I’ll be limiting myself to just the one overarching topic for each show per week.

And how could I possibly avoid Game of Thrones for my first post?
 
 
The Red Reception
In the wake of last week’s episode, it’s really tempting to write about the Red Wedding, but what’s to be written that hasn’t been seen by anyone who’s used the Internet in the past seven days? And honestly, the pain’s still too raw – even for this up-to-date A Song of Ice and Fire reader.

"N-no... not my paycheck".

“N-no… not my paycheck”.

That aside, I’d rather talk about the characters that are still alive (the few of them anyway), because the trend this week is to ask why we should keep watching Game of Thrones. Viewers are becoming attached to underdogs, altruists and well-meaning lords and ladies only to have them slaughtered while a gloating shit giggles from his Iron Throne. When Joff smirks, he’s really responding to the tens of millions people worldwide sitting slack-jawed in front of their screens. Fans aren’t ready for the constant emotional beating that GoT offers, as Twitter will have us believe. Will these affected viewers come back for season four?

The answer is yes, though it’s not as simple as saying, ‘if readers can stick with the novels then viewers can stay with the series’. In the case of George R.R. Martin’s fantasy world, it is the TV version that attracts the less involved consumer; using every bit of screen time to show something new, astounding or sexy (I’ll add that the show’s use of sex is NOT superfluous, though boobies do inform quite a few GoT conversations I’ve had). On the other hand, ASOIAF readers sign up for a denser narrative, enduring a Catelyn even more skeptical of her son’s war plans; and finding the answers to such mundane questions as ‘what were all the ingredients in Tyrion’s dinner?’ It’s safe to say that people who read through to the Red Wedding will generally prove to have a heightened investment in the fantasy world of Westeros, against someone who has reached the same point in the television series alone. Something else, then, must motivate the viewer to persist with Game of Thrones.

But I digress. The Red Wedding changes nothing for the single-text TV consumer. The motivation is the show’s hype, and that’s something they’ve always been caught in –more so now than ever. What’s really worth looking at is how ASOIAF fans can watch thirty hours of something they’ve already read about in excruciating detail.
 
 
A Tale of Two Texts
There were not many differences between the first entry in the A Song of Ice and Fire novels and the premiere season of Game of Thrones. Aside from adding Ros to the cast (who represents a number of prostitutes featured in the novels) and omitting an intriguing flashback of Ned Stark’s, the TV series remained very faithful to the narrative of its original text. This sat perfectly fine with Martin’s devoted readers; satisfied by the notion that their beloved fantasy could be adapted for the small screen with such flawless presentation. Deviating from the story’s origins at such an early stage would depict HBO as commercial fiends to the readers; distorting the reality of the story world and missing the point of the novel’s sprawling and often confusing narrative.

But everything changed with Ned Stark’s death. His beheading was a pointed statement from the show’s creators, who had held out against audience expectation and killed off the intrepid hero whom newcomers to Martin’s universe had pinned their support to. The brutal outcome of the first season, however, was reached with no debate:

“Commuting Ned’s sentence in the show would have been a betrayal of everything we love about the books. When people ask us, “Did you ever think about keeping Ned alive?” The answer is no.
The Lord of Winterfell had to die.”

– David Benioff, writer/episode director/executive producer/
co-creator of Game of Thrones

Ned Stark's death marked a massive turning point for all viewers - even those who knew it was coming.

Ned Stark’s death marked a massive turning point for all viewers – even those who knew it was coming.

Ned was dead and Martin’s readers now understood the TV series for what it was: a faithful companion piece to the novels. But for the adaptation to truly complement the original, it would need to tap into something the readers desired, but the novels could not deliver. By the end of the first season, ASOIAF readers were assured that the hands capable of tackling such a challenge were in control of Game of Thrones.

Season two saw the series take its first big step away from its parent. Plot points weren’t being omitted, they were being reimagined well within the boundaries of the original story world. No example of this is more pertinent than Arya’s chance encounter and subsequent interactions with Tywin Lannister (who substitutes somewhat for Roose Bolton in the adaptation). The conversations between this pair formed some of my favourite moments of season two before I’d even read the books but in retrospectively examining the scenes after reading A Clash of Kings, I loved them even more. An odd paradox was at play: The TV show was being unfaithful to the plot of the novel but utterly loyal to its story in that if this relationship had been struck between Arya and Tywin in A Clash of Kings, it would look a lot like what we were seeing on-screen.

Certain alterations to the storyline like the one above had the effect of appearing to omit important plot points. My own greatest concern was for Bolton’s absence from the storyline. To this day, I’m not entirely certain why he wasn’t introduced earlier in the series. I can only assume the show’s writers did not want to foreshadow his involvement in the Red Wedding any sooner than was necessarily done during his stay at Harrenhal. Delaying Bolton’s involvement in the plot altogether may have been the only solution to concealing his status as a traitor, as his character is downright creepy. Maybe tomorrow night’s episode will link him to a certain biological relation of his and thus justify his noted absence as being part of a nicely self-contained season arc.

By way of the novels, season three should have seen the first of one of the story’s central characters go off the radar in Theon Greyjoy. His torture scenes with He Who Must Not Be Named Just Yet were probably the show’s most squeamish, but they were some of my favourite sequences from the season. Game of Thrones was no longer just reworking bits of the plot here and there, it was filling out the blanks left by Martin’s books (the fancy word for these narrative gaps is hyperdiegeses. Mmm yeah). We don’t hear from Theon from either the third or the fourth novels in ASOIAF and when he finally does pop up in book five: A Dance With Dragons, he’s experienced an unbelievable amount of change. GoT is making an active audience out of readers, who try to interpret this season’s ‘origins’ sub-plot in relation to what’s become of Theon in the latest ASOIAF novel.

It seems each reimagined plot point tries to tell us something new about how GoT wants to separate itself from – but arguably accompany – the novels. Gendry’s involvement in the Dragonstone story arc doesn’t so much undermine the existence of Edric Storm in the novels as it suggests Gendry shouldn’t take a back seat in the television show plot (though it does help that the single-text consumers now have one less name and face to remember). Robb Stark’s wife, Talisa (experiencing a name change from Jeyne in the novels), who is much more involved in the adaptation’s events leading to the Red Wedding, can potentially be read as a response to fan theories concerning the novel version of herself. Book conspiracies about Robb’s unborn prince or Jeyne’s involvement in plotting the Red Wedding are pretty much rejected by Talisa – kind of, ya know, – getting stabbed in the belly.

Early edits of episode nine showed that Edmure's wedding was not ruined by the Frey/Bolton betrayal but by Talisa Stark's temper after jam was spilled on her dress.

Early edits of episode nine showed that Edmure’s wedding was not ruined by the Frey/Bolton betrayal but by Talisa Stark’s temper after jam was spilled on her dress.

The narrative adjustment with the biggest potential to once more shift the storytelling landscape concerns a trio you’d think unlikely of carrying such a responsibility: Osha, Rickon and Shaggydog (seriously, how hard is it to think of a good name for a direwolf? You’re probably better off naming it Glen or Steve than what Rickon came up with. Well, maybe not, but you get the point). These three separate from Bran, Hodor, Meera and Jojen at the end of A Clash of Kings, which translates to the second season in the TV series. I can think of no other reason for delaying their departure in Game of Thrones than to say we’ll see them again next season. If this is the case, then it’s vastly different from how Theon’s hyperdiegesis (there’s that sexy-ass word again) is treated in the show. We have Theon’s arc in A Dance with Dragons that we can refer to in interpreting what’s happening to him in the adaptation. With Osha, Rickon and Shaggydog, we’re less privileged – having only been told where they’re reportedly located at the end of A Dance with Dragons. Season four could see the first time the show sheds light on something the reader doesn’t know about, and that’s big. All in all, I’ll be pretty disappointed if I’m completely wrong with this prediction, but can there by any other reason why Osha and crew have hung around?

When it comes down to how it handles its characters, Game of Thrones models itself on a juggling act, with new balls being thrown into the mix all the time. When a character dies, it’s as if a ball enchantingly vanishes. If a living character were to go missing for too long, a ball would be dropped – and audiences don’t like their magic shows ruined.
 
 
A Feast for Dragons
Game of Thrones is certainly insured against losing viewers for one more season. Season four will cover more of the best moments from Martin’s series, taking its inspiration from Blood and Gold, the second volume of the third book: A Storm of Swords. In a way, season four will be one big stretched-out finale to the seasons that have come before it.

“We always envisioned season three as the place we needed to get. If we made it through season three and we could do season three right then it would be all worthwhile.”
– D.B. Weiss, writer/episode director/executive producer/
co-creator of Game of Thrones

Weiss seems to imply that the first three seasons are self-contained within the Game of Thrones universe in that they document the War of the Five Kings in its entirety. I would extend this idea to include the fourth season. While the war will have fizzled out by then, the second half of A Storm of Swords still retains the war’s aesthetic before everything seems to ‘restart’.

Come book four (A Feast for Crows) and the corresponding fifth season of GoT however, there’s some serious time to be spent at the drawing board. The storylines of A Feast for Crows and the first half of A Dance with Dragons occur simultaneously, with characters split between the two novels. I found Martin’s approach refreshing against the standard linear storytelling he’d been using, and thought he was able to control suspense at various points, with certain characters’ fates remaining ambiguous or unknown. But this is something the Game of Thrones writers must compromise in depicting the events of books four and five. This jumbled sort of storytelling just won’t translate well to TV and it goes against the show’s tendency to keep as many characters in the limelight as possible. I have every bit of faith that the GoT crew will handle the challenge admirably and still find ways to keep many viewers on their toes.

Game of Thrones has shifted A Song of Ice and Fire readers to no longer ask why the TV show continues to reflect the narrative of the novels less and less and instead wonder how it will formidably demonstrate what its medium can offer that the books can’t. The changes to ASOIAF made in GoT don’t present a strictly alternative universe but a faithful version that caters to the parameters of television and the needs of its varied audiences.
 
 
Predictions for ‘Mhysa’
Ahead of tomorrow’s season finale, I thought it might be a bit of fun to predict some of the things we might see:

1. ‘Mhysa’ – Valyrian for ‘mother’ – is the title for episode ten. Like the two season finales before it, resolving Daenarys’ season arc will form the basis of this episode.

2. It’s too soon for Joff and Margaery Tyrell’s wedding – we haven’t been introduced to one of its illustrious guests. The first Dornishman to feature prominently in ASOIAF arrives at King’s Landing before the Red Wedding and it’s high time he arrived for the royal matrimony. No sign of him in this promo, but Tyrion at 00:31 sets the scene nicely. This winteriscoming.net notice suggests I’m wrong.

3. There is however, a sign of Theon at 00:29. Methinks it’s time we found out the identity of his captor.

4. All corners of the realm seem involved in this ep; with Jon Snow, Ygritte, Yara Greyjoy, the King’s small council, the Baratheons, Bran and company, and a few others nabbing spots in the promo. Expect a lot of exposition to set up the next season, as has been the case with previous finales.

That just about wraps up my ramblings, I hope they’ve tickled you senseless. I don’t really want to adorn the start of every one of my future posts with spoiler alerts, so let this be a first and final blanket notice. You’ve been warned.

And now his post is ended.