[WARNING: The following is a Game of Thrones spoiler, in the sense that it deliberately sets out to ruin how you think of Game of Thrones. Proceed with caution, but only after several weeks of standing around and arguing in a tent.]
As I type these words, a show that drives me cuckoo bananas is about to stop happening for a while.
My lady and I don’t have very many shows in common anymore. I’m not going to watch So You Think You Can Dance, she’s not going to watch The Walking Dead, and neither one of us wants to sit through The Office another time. Whenever we find even the merest hint of common ground, we dive on it like a grenade. That is how I came to be watching Game of
Talking Thrones.I did it for love.
In case you’ve never watched it, Game of
Talking Thrones is this fantasy show that takes place in an amazing world you never see for more than a couple seconds per season. The viewer is hooked by the very first scene of the show, which features a terrifying attack by zombies who are promptly never seen again and mentioned maybe a couple of times over the course of the next two seasons. The territory full of the zombies is also home to these dreadful savages who are preparing to invade our heroes’ territory, which we are informed of direly before never seeing so much as a hint of them until about eighteen episodes in, when after all the buildup they appear for about ten minutes and seem fairly pleasant.
Also, oh my God, there are these amazing dragons that hatch and immediately get put in a box which is then carried around like your lunch. These dragons will determine the fate of the world, if they are ever shown another time.
One of the guys on the show is also like the Aquaman of Giant F***ing Awesome Wolves, and his brother is at war with some people who don’t have any GFAW, so naturally they send their GFAW away and never use them to do anything again. They’re shown for like ten minutes out of twenty hours, thus freeing up screen time for characters to talk to each other about amazing battles that are taking place offscreen. I will never forget the riveting scene where there was a huge, pivotal battle happening somewhere, and a guy came into the room to tell the characters what happened. Not to be confused with the exciting climax of the last episode, where a general we didn’t even know was fighting came into the room and said, “Guess what? We won, outside, while we were waiting for you guys to finish your conversation! We didn’t want to interrupt.”
It’s like Chekhov always said: “If you hang a pistol on the wall in the first act, talk about it incessantly for the next three acts without anyone ever picking it up. If anyone complains, look down your nose at them and say there are eleven more acts. If you can say something like ‘it must be too complex for you to understand,’ that would be great.” Or perhaps I misremember the quote. I do know the ironclad rule of storytelling: never show when you can tell, and tell, and tell and tell and tell.
Winter is Never Coming.
The thing is, this show began its life as a book, and I’ll bet as a book series it’s great. Given the structure of books, I’ll bet each volume has a beginning, middle, and end where a conflict is established at the outset and resolved at the conclusion. As opposed to whatever the living hell is going on over on HBO, where characters are just meandering around going, “Boy, I sure hate carrying my dragons around this desert” in five minute increments for ten frickin’ hours at a time. In the books, I’ll bet the guys who have been wandering around endlessly in the snow for this entire season actually have something happen to them between the front and back covers. Some things belong in their medium of origin. Not everything adapts.
If you think I have no idea what I’m talking about, good news: absolutely no one else I’ve talked to agrees with me about this. I know everyone
is wrong thinks I’m insane. When I was crabbing about this to friends last week, more than one of them said, “You’re griping to me about Game of Thrones seasons not having a beginning, middle, and end? You read comics, for Christ’s sake.”
Here’s the thing:
In the comics biz, we talk about what is generally known as “the Satisfying Chunk.” This is the nebulous amount of story necessary to make us feel like we got our money’s worth. I don’t know about you (well, actually, I sort of do) but I find that most of my comics provide me a Satisfying Chunk. If they didn’t, I’d drop ‘em.
As a kid, most of my comics contained a complete story in each issue while also advancing a larger plot, like your best modern TV series. When I returned to comics as an adult, I found that books were more “decompressed,” but they still featured more or less complete stories within six-issue arcs. Characters were established; they were presented with conflict; they faced the conflict and resolved it. Even within the arc, most issues were satisfying on their own merits.
I look at the comics scattered around me as I write. “Batman: Night of the Owls.” “Spider-Man: Ends of the Earth.” Dark Avengers. Each issue does the job while building to something larger. Each is full of cliffhangers while also having a beginning, middle, and end. Each is a Satisfying Chunk. Imagine that.
Say what you want about comics: generally speaking, I find myself satisfied with just about all of my $3-4 purchases while feeling vastly overcharged for my HBO. Comics know how to tell a larger, never-ending story while also giving the reader individual, actual stories within it. If only every medium could be so Satisfying.
Jim Mroczkowski thinks George R. R. Martin has got some giant brass balls slagging off the creators of Lost for their finale. If he’s such an expert on endings, he should try writing one sometime.