Of The Satisfying Chunk

[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 Danceshe’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.


  1. Boom!

    YES! Yes to all of this. I thought I was the only one.

  2. I watched season 1 and my roommate keeps trying to get me to watch season 2 with the rest of our friends. Every time i walk past the den on Sundays it’s just people talking next to fires.

    • And it’s awesome.

    • Color me unpersuaded.

    • Hell some of the best series are people talking. Have you watched the West Wing? This is like sword and sorcery West Wing. What’s wrong with people talking? Is it just attention deficit, not being able to follow the conversations? IS it just pure old anti-intellectualism? It’s great talking, watch it for the talking, each time Varys sits on a table opposite from Tyrion I am riveted.

    • @volcaos–i’ll see that and raise you “The Wire” and “Mad Men”—but i feel in those shows, each episode is about a complete story and theme that just so happens to advance an overall, larger story. I think the main difference is sometimes you can go on too many diversions with storytelling…too many layers where you just start to lose track of whats what. I don’t think its a lack of attention, but more throwing out so much stuff, that eventually we want a payoff in a timely fashion.

    • @volcaos I love the West Wing, I own all of it, but for all the talking the West Wing does they also do a lot of showing. You get to see the campaign trail, the late nights, the situation room, the visit to a town hit by a tornado.

      What I’m trying to say is they should stop talking about dragons so much and show me the goddamn things in action.

    • The West Wing is a show about bureaucrats in suits, set in an office. The lack of swordplay did not offend my sensibilities.

      Also, each episode of The West Wing was about one or two issues which were raised and then addressed. Like, actually dealt with.

    • @wally I think having read the books really helps, you know who everyone is, but i started reading the books after watching season 1, and am still in the middle of the second book… so it is not really necessary. I do think the series gains from either repeated watchings or being familiar with the source material. And as I say below… the payoff thing… it’s just not that kind of book, it’s playing with what you’d expect from fantasy.

      @RoiVampire I understand that but I think what’s so interesting about both the series and the books is the way in which it goes against your preconceived ideas of what Fantasy should be. You want it to be about dragons and battles, but it is a lot more about politics and human nature. It’s just not that kind of story.

    • @Jim Sure, the similarity only goes as far as “it’s all talking about stuff, and it’s political”.

    • @volcaos That’s all well and good but that’s not what i was looking for. I think watching season 1 after all the hype had surrounded it hurt my perception. Everyone touted as the best fantasy thing since lord of the rings and if they had said it was a political thriller set in a fantasy realm i might have been more apt to love it. I’m just not looking for that kind of show from these actors and writers. Trust me, they are not going to be offended that Jimski and I don’t like they’re show. Pretty sure they’re good on fans.

    • @RoiVampire And that’s perfectly fine, if it’s not your kind of show there’s no reason for you to watch it. I just find it a bit unfair to criticise the show for not being something it’s not even trying to be. Like criticising an apple for not being a banana.

    • @volcaos–that may be true, but i really have no desire to do all that “homework” by reading hundreds of pages of support material to enjoy one tv show or comic book for that matter. End of the day i enjoy these things for escapism and entertainment, so my level of commitment is relatively low. I’m a big fan of “self contained”…and i suspect i’m in a very large group of people that feels that way. Now, if you’re the type that likes to do the work, then i can see how these types of things can be very fulfilling for you, but y’know..to each their own on that.

    • @wallythegreenmonster: I’ve never read the books. The show is wonderfully self-contained on its own.

    • @volcaos Are we worried the show will have it’s feelings hurt? Is my opinion of the show based on the word of mouth by fans unfair or just misrepresented?

    • @RoiVampire Not worried about what “the show” feels at all. It’s doing fine on its own.

    • @volcaos This is the first and will likely be the only time i voice my opinion on this show in any way shape or form. It’s not like i’m railing against it on the steps of the state capital. It might be unfair for me to not like it for what it is but it’s going to be ok. I’m just one dude who is fairly positive and I’m never going to mention my dislike for this show ever again unless asked my opinion. This show is not what I’m looking for right now and I’m ok with that because it’s making a lot of my friends very very happy and for that I can’t thank them enough.

    • @RoiVampire And that is perfectly fine! You don’t have to watch or like shows you don’t like just because other people like them. Same goes for comics films or books, to each its own.

    • the pacing is the same in the books and the seasons. the books are good, and i’m almost done with the fourth. but i find i’m taking breaks and reading two other books when i’m in the middle of one of the books.

  3. Man… Buffy really was the best at that.

    Never watched Game of Thrones, but by your description it sounds like all of my least favorite things in one convenient package.

    Then again, so did Downton Abbey, and now I’m stuck in there…

    • yeah i was having this discussion with a friend about Buffy and then Supernatural. I felt that the shows worked better for me, when they were closer to a fun one and done episode instead of a multi part thing with too many layers. You get the one creature at the beginning and at the end you get the battle, and then a little twist to remind you that there is a bigger bad guy behind it all, with a couple of nice side character story lines that will get wrapped up within a few episodes. For me that’s very fun episodic storytelling.

    • Some of the one and done Supernatural episodes qualify as some of my favorite moments of television ever.

      Ghostfacers was amazing.

  4. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    The zombies do pop up again in season one. There’s a fight and everything.

    I don’t think Game of Thrones is a perfect show, either as an adaptation or a fantasy series on its own merit, but I do quite enjoy it and actually like the drinking and talking scenes. Coupled with Girls and the forthcoming Newsroom, I’m content with my HBO subscription. It’s a premium, for sure, but I’m not losing sleep over it.

  5. I actually disagree with almost all of this. I find that by and large that the big 2 are no longer providing me with ‘satisfying chunks.’ Aside from a couple of exceptions, Batman and Fantastic Four for example, I find that superhero comics tend to be kind of aimless recently. Which is why my monthly stack is almost totally dominated by creator owned books. Whether a mini or an ongoing, creator owned book almost always have an end point so the story is a completely one rather than an endless string of ‘satisfying chunks,’ or lack thereof.

    Also if you feel this way after watching Game of Thrones then you’re not doing it right.

    Double also, if you think Lost had a satisfying ending then you and I have a large disagreement over the definition of satisfying, and ending.

  6. As a reader of the books, many of the criticisms in this article apply to the books as well. There is a lot of meandering and there have been major events that took place “off camera” and were then told to the POV character. And some of the wandering around not accomplishing anything is a critique for the books as well. In other words, they are not perfect and HBO is doing a pretty impressive job being accurate to the source material.

    FWIW, I like the books and the show quite a bit, but they are definitely not perfect.

    • I agree about the books being the same as the show. I read the first four books many many moons ago before HBO was talking about talking.

      Over the years since I read them, as I look back more and more I’ve come to hate them. Not because of HBO, but because nothing really happened. I literally began skipping chapters that followed characters I didn’t like, somewhere in the second book. I did this all the way through the fourth book and missed NOTHING. Dany chapters? Skip that shit. Nothing ever happens.

      Yeah, the characters were good, and that is what kept me reading, until I realized nothing would ever happen. Then I stopped reading them altogether.

    • Also, for the uber literal readers who can’t read between the lines, who will say “things happened!” I should have used Jimski’s terms. Yes things happened, but not enough that I was satisfied after finishing those monster tomes. More things should have happened.

    • I’ve been reading them all straight through since December. Almost done with the 5th one. I can’t put them down.

    • Diebenny you skip the Dany chapters? I’m reading book 3 right now and the character with the most progression with the most happenning seems to be the Mother of Dragons.

      Mind you the Arya chapters seem to be really slow, but I can’t get enough.

    • I also read them straight through. They’ve been pretty fantastic MOSTLY. I found the 5th book finally wearing on me a bit. Its a great series, but eventually the sheer volume of death and gloom, however well told, was emotionally draining, and I found myself really WANTING to skip the Davos chapters and the newer POV characters that only got one or two chapters.

  7. yeah… about that… if Game of Thrones (the HBO series) were a comic book, I probably would have dropped it during the middle of season 2. Not to say I have not had some satisfaction in every episode, but it’s been very little. Which leads to me to my next point:
    I really want to start reading the book series now so I can fast forward and see what’s going to (possibly) happen. If that is one of the shows motives, well played.

  8. wow. totally agreeing with all your points. The wife and I tried season 1 and the beginning of season 2, only because we kept hearing how amazing it was, but could never get into it. I do feel the show was way to decompressed for me to want to follow week to week. After a few episodes, we just stopped watching it.

    The Andy Sandberg SNL skit about “i make sure there are lots of boobs in the show” was pretty hilarious take on it.

    The satisfying chunk thing is important for me as well in comics and tv. I really want to feel that i get a story each time and i kind of feel that the “oh its a slow burn” excuse for super decompressed storytelling really becomes a crutch after a while. For me personally i don’t want to wait a year to figure out one plot point, or made to feel like i’m only getting a small piece of the story.

  9. Kelly (@annaluna) says:

    I like this perspective better than the IM conversations we had. Whether or not there’s a “Satisfying Chunk” is a more specific issue than “why do you like this crappy show where nothing happens?” 🙂

  10. I don’t disagree with most of this but I kinda like the Game of Thrones formula and pace. I would like to see a little more action but I think they do a respectable job of keeping me engaged.

  11. Not sure that a great TV show has to have the beginning, middle, end dynamic. Maybe its just the current season by season viewing that makes it problematic.

    I think of The Sopranos and that whole series was really just a chunk in time without resolution.

    Also Game of Thrones has tied up many stories throughout its two episodes. Ned Stark, Tyrion, and Arya have all had great arcs and they are in very different spots from when the series began.

  12. Gotta say I really like the show. I tried reading the books several years ago on recommendation from a friend and had to stop about 50 pages in – it read heavy handed and amateurish.

  13. tripleneck (@tripleneck) says:

    I’m glad that I read the ‘A Song of Ice and Fire” books before the TV series started. So I look at the HBO version as a sort of greatest hits collection of vignettes from the books. There will never be an affordable way to faithfully adapt the ASOIAF books into a TV or movie version. The plot is just too complex and there are just too many characters. Martin himslef has said many times that he left Hollywood in the early Nineties so he could go back to writing novels and he set out to write a story that could never be told on screen. Well, it did become a TV series and he’s acknowledged the irony in that.

    If you like the GoT TV show, its characters, and plot then know that it’s the equivalent of the Cliff Notes to the real story which is in the ASOIAF series of books. There is a LOT that’s being left out of the TV show, huge bleeding hunks of awesome story. What I’m trying to say is that you should be reading the books. The TV show is just another TV show. It’s fun and I enjoy it, but for me it’s no Breaking Bad, Boardwalk Empire, or Mad Men.

  14. I stopped watching after two episodes, but from what I recall, I mostly agree with the Jim.

    Except isn’t there a lot of fucking and dwarf who is even more awesome than Puck? Those are two pretty pursuasive points.

    Maybe Geoff Johns is consulting on Game of Thrones pacing?

  15. Oh man.. I just read a whole article about how much one person hates a TV show. I need to manage my time better.

  16. I enjoy “Game of Thrones” in spite of all the problems which pointed out in the article. I love the writing and the performances. But those problems are there and it’s not my problem that dragons and epic battles are expensive.

    Meanwhile, “Breaking Bad” consists of consistently well done and imaginative episodes as well as overlapping and complete character arcs and is almost never boring. Oh and if it sticks the landing it might end up being one of the best television series of all times. To me, it provides a much better model for so-called “decompressed” storytelling.

  17. Disagree, I assume most people have pointed out the limited resources problem of TV, but I do feel like the seasons are satisfying chunks of character drama, while containing parts of a larger, MUCH bigger story. Season one was actually just an Act 1, it introduced the characters and set up the conflict. The inciting action is the death of Robert and the subsequent rise of Jofferey. That one thing starts the war, sets up Rob as king of the North, makes Tyrion hand of the king, sets aryia on her way to being a bad ass killer, and all of these things are based around the central conflict of who is on the Throne.

    Season 2 was the first part of the long act 2, it was mostly rising actions, leading to something which is still seasons away from being realized, for example the b and c stories of the Dragons and the Dead, which will collide with the A story eventually, but if it they are not set up they arrive as a Des Ex, and it ruins the story. WITHIN all of these things are smaller Character stories, which are your chunks.
    Season Two could be called broken into a bunch of smaller quests with B)eginings, M)iddles and E)nds :
    Tryion as Hand (had b: Hi i’m the hand, m: Oh no the kings a jerk I’d better save us from the oncoming hoards, and e: Epic battle where I lead the men and save the city)
    Jon Snow proves himself to the Nights Watch B) goes from servant, to ranger, to the one representive of the Nights watch to meet the king beyond the wall
    Theon is a Jerk B: helping Rob by going to his father, Turning on Rob and taking Winterfell, It all falling apart on him.
    Catlyn: B) trying to help her son win the war, finding her sons way is not best and releasing the KingSlayer.
    Rob: going from a man fighting for a kingdom to fighting for Love…

    Not all of the Characters change, because their time will come later. Sansa, Jofferey, Jamie, Ayria, many of these people learned things but did not undergo a full story arch, but they are now set up for it.

    It had chunks and I’m satisfied.

    • @luke-

      I agree with you but I think it is a lot more difficult to see those aspects if you have not read the books. I’ve read the books and loved them. I just finished season 1 and it was immensely enjoyable to me, but I was kind of suprised that it has been so popular with the wider audience.

      All that said though, (and someone might have already said this) I found it odd that Jim criticized all the ‘talking without doing’ in GOT while in the same paragraph mentioning that he enjoys Walking Dead.–Which I also enjoy (comics and TV) but I think that show is the epitome of talking and not doing.

    • I agree. It has satisfying chunks within chunks, like the capture of The Imp, and his release. I’ve never read any of the books either, and it “get” most of it so far. I do find the wide cast of characters a bit daunting at time, but overall, I’ve enjoyed the series. I’m currently watching the DVD set of the first season, which I’ve got checked out through the local library. That’s one of the best deals for the bucks $$$.

  18. I think part of the problem with the Game of Thrones HBO adaptation is that the creators of the TV series feel beholden to the source material. Books aren’t TV and TV isn’t books. The books themselves are long and meandering (Martin needs to hire a better editor), which doesn’t necessarily play well in a serialized format. Seriality allows for the organic formation of characters and story, based on the rapport developed between particular actors or on particular story threads that simply “work” better on TV than in the book. Because the creators of the TV show don’t want to tweak the source material too much, they lose out on the natural flexibility of a serialized medium. One of the strengths of AMC’s Walking Dead adaptation, in my opinion, is the creators’ willingness to deviate from the source material.

  19. I suspect I find my “satisfying chunk” in each episode of GoT because I’ve already read all books in the series. Each episode doles out an expected plot point which fills a niche. But I agree that it’s no way to run a TV show. Because it’s a visual medium, the TV show begs to show the big battles, even though the whole premise of the show is that these battles are already won or lost based on the behind-the-scenes games being played.

  20. I haven’t watched the show, but I did try reading the first book. I made it about 30% before I realized it just wasn’t my thing. I wasn’t engaged, and I figured out that fantasy writing is just not really my thing. I’ll read them in comic book form (for example, Skullkickers is totally rad.), but I just can’t get into fantasy books anymore.

    As for comics, I usually feel like I got my money’s worth, but there are times I don’t. Typically, that’s an indicator for me needing to drop the book.

    • I think an argument could be made that Tyrion has taken Ned Starks role as the “main” character. One of the reasons I like the books and the shows, is because of the huge cast and multiple storylines. Some aren’t as good (not a fan of Dany’s story), but I love the grey aspect to most of the characters. And even though they weren’t featured as much this season, Brienne and Jamies scenes were perfect. My two favorite characters, and I already can’t wait til season three 🙂

  21. I think people need to understand this is an incredibly expensive program and showing the big battles (I guess no one is counting The Blackwater for some reason?) would be prohibitively expensive. This isn’t Mad Men or West Wing because the amount of locations and characters in one episode of GoT is more than an entire season of either of those programs.

    I think some of the negative comments on here regarding GoT speak more to our collective lack of attention span more than anything else. Distract me with battles and magic and dragons and oh yeah I guess there should be some plot and character development in there somewhere. People want ice zombies? Well you’ll get plenty in season 3, sorry you had to wait (I guess the ones in season one and the end of last nights episode don’t count). You want dragons? Well they just hatched and are the size of small lizards. Did you expect them to grow overnight? They are living things, it takes years to reach a mature size for any living thing. That’s right, this is a SEVEN volume series, sometimes plot points are introduced but take a long time to develop. Dragons and ice zombies aside, I think what really seems to bother people about GoT is the realism. People hear fantasy and they want LOTR or Skullkickers or D&D, fireballs and tons of battles all the time. This isn’t that kind of fantasy. The show, and even more so the books, aren’t for someone who can’t put a little effort in. If you just want to sit back and be entertained then put on Buffy. If you want to think a little, try GoT.

    • this

    • I resent the statement that this is a thinking person’s show and i don’t like it because i don’t want to think or i have a short attention span. I’ve gone through every season of the West Wing and the Wire. My hang up is I wanted fantasy from this fantasy show and didn’t get enough of what i was looking for. so i stopped watching. I am just not in the mood for this type of show right now but that doesn’t mean i’m not a thinker or that i have a short attention span. Sometimes people just don’t like things because they don’t like them. and thats ok.

    • Take it easy friend, no need to get all defensive. I went back just now and read all your comments in this thread and they have nothing to do with my point here. This was more directed at people that are complaining that there aren’t ice zombies and dragons in every episode.

      That said I do think this is a thinking person’s show and that people who have short attention spans won’t like it. However, just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean you aren’t a thinking person or that you have a short attention span. I was just responding to comments on this thread and discussing what, to me, seemed like some of the root causes of people’s dislike of the program. GoT is different from most other shows on TV, including most other HBO dramas, and I was just pointing out that because of those differences this show isn’t for everyone. In a way we were agreeing, sometimes people just don’t like things. I was attempting to articulate, based on comments here, why that seems to be the case.

      P.S. – Why do people keep bringing up Mad Men, West Wing, and The Wire? How are they in anyway related to GoT?

    • @USPUNX Just in the way that those shows are also mainly talk, which is one of the criticisms made of GoT

    • People are bringing those shows up since they are also shows where, like GoT, heavy dialogue scenes are king. The difference is that unlike those 3 aforementioned shows, GoT is a strict adaptation of a book series where it seems like every season is going to be a novel (I haven’t seen the second season yet, no no spoilers!). Being as this is the case, a season of GoT will have different beats to cover than a season of Mad Men or West Wing, and will do so much differently since each episode is a chapter instead of a fully contained episode. There are very specific pros and cons to this, as Jim has mentioned. The con to doing what GoT does in a season isn’t that there’s a lot of talking. The con is that you see the major sum of all this talking at the end of the season as opposed to the end of the episode, in most cases.

    • tripleneck (@tripleneck) says:

      @ comicBOOKchris

      IMO, GoT is not a very strict adaptation. So far, season 1 & 2 have generally followed the first two books, but some events from book two have already been left out or pushed back until next season. Season 3 will only cover 1/2 of the 3rd book in the series. There are whole characters that have been left out of the tv show entirely. Popular and badass characters, too. Some readers are pretty angry about it. Some characters’ personalities and acts have been changed in the tv show. Again, there’s been much fan handwringing about those cases. There are a few entirely new characters like Ros the whore that are generally hated by the books’ readers. She seems to serve one of the series prime plot-forwarding strategies derisively known as ‘sexposition.’ For some reason, GoT characters seem to explain themselves & their world at length while naked or while having sex.

      As someone who loves the books first and foremost, I’m happy that the show is succesful. I hope it brings more readers to the original source material. But, I wouldn’t rank it up there with the greatest hour long TV dramas that have been mentioned in previous posts. If you want the real Westeros, read the books.

    • I get those comparisons but they seem fairly superficial. GoT is very different from those shows. First it is a full hour where both West Wing and Mad Men are only 42 minutes due to commercials, so GoT (like The Wire) has an additional 15 minutes of content to provide in every episode. However this is also counter balanced by the fact that both shows have overall longer seasons that GoT so this point is kind of a toss up.

      The main difference as I see it is that–SEASON 1 SPOILER–since Ned Stark’s death there is no central character. All three of the other shows have one or a small handful of very strong central characters. West Wing-Martin Sheen as the President, Mad Men-Don Draper, The Wire-McNulty. All three shows are ensemble casts certainly but they all also have a strong central character the drives the action of each episode, and many times the entire season, forward. GoT doesn’t have this. Also, unlike The Wire, there is no central villain. Sure the Lannisters are a bad bunch but what about the Greyjoys? Or the Wildlings, White Walkers, Tyrells, or Littlefinger? Defeating any one, or even two or three, of these doesn’t save the day and doesn’t end the war and doesn’t put the world right. And as the books, and show, progress the list of “bad guys” only gets longer.

      It’s because of all this that I said GoT is a thinking persons show and requires some effort from the viewer. It is also why I still don’t see how West Wing, Mad Men, or The Wire are comparable shows. All great programs (well I’ve never watched Mad Men) but not really similar to GoT. In terms of narrative structure I would actually say Treme is the most similar show I can think of to GoT.

    • @tripleneck: I have to disagree. While there certainly have been changes, pretty much all of which I think were well justified, GoT has to be one of the truest adaptations I’ve ever seen. As someone who also read the books before the show I am very impressed with both how true they have stayed to the source and the changes they made. I don’t want to list specific things for fear of spoilers, but almost none of the things have had or will have a serious effect on the narrative. I know to fans like us they can seem egregious but if you stop to think about them almost none of them are. That said, Ros is a terrible character.

    • I think those shows originally entered the conversation because someone accused Jim of not liking GoT because of all the talking, whereas he rebutted that he likes West Wing just fine. He was trying to say that his beef with GoT wasn’t the mostly talking aspect, but others detailed.

      I agree that the shows are different beasts. The fact that there is no major anchor character like Mad Men is certainly something that differentiates it, but also the fact that it’s trying to cover a different type of ground than those shows due to it being based on a novel. Whereas Mad Men and West Wing episodes are episodic with a general overarching plot, Game Of Thrones episodes are strictly chapters and therefore will have a different feel to those shows. Judging from the VERY cautious reading I did of this article, I think Jim did a good job of describing the cons of doing a series like this.

      @tripleneck You’re right, though compared with something like True Blood, this is a lot more of a reflection of the specific story bits of its source material.

  22. First let me say I am a big fan of the books and the show. I can kind of agree with Jim, especially WRT Season 2. The second book is the hardest one to get through. It’s like “The Two Towers” of GOT. I thought the payoff was well worth it, but you have to plow through a LOT of pages to get to it. Season 2 has had pacing problems, but so did the book.

    Also, with the show, I know they have to make some changes, because they can’t get in all the detail of the books. Sometimes this can be confusing, because people might not understand the history or motivations behind someone’s actions. In a couple of cases, it has actually made it better. Some things need to be slowed down, but others need to be sped up. I think they could have easily left the fates of Tyrion, Cersei/Tommen, and others as a cliff-hanger for next season. This would have left them more time to give proper attention to things that were rushed.

    My main criticism of Season 2 is the lack of scale and grandeur. I know this is a TV show with a limited budget, so there are spending limits, but they really seem to have cut back on the production budget, which in turn makes the show feel smaller. For example, during the riot in King’s Landing where the Lannister party was attacked, King’s Landing looked like a small alley instead of a city street. The streets are described in the book to be much larger. The battle of the Blackwater didn’t even take a full episode on the show and was of much smaller scale. This should have carried over across a couple of episodes. They left out a large part of Tyrion’s impact on the battle which helped their forces win (the chain).

    I’ll keep watching – I’ve really enjoyed the performances, and the (infrequent) action and (frequent) adult content set this apart from most shows. And I’ve loved the books.

    Say, when does Spartacus come back on? Now THAT’S a show!

    • The producers of the show have given a couple good interviews about a lot of what you mention here. Essentially The Blackwater, even though it was smaller than in the books, took up a HUGE part of their production budget. I think stretching that over multiple episodes would just be impossible due to how much things cost. It may look small compared to LOTR or how the battle was written but in terms of a being only one episode of a television series it was pretty ambitious and, I thought, pretty impressive.

  23. I didn’t like the first book. I don’t feel there was much conclusion to it.

    But the main reason I didn’t read further and only watched one episode of the show: Unceasing dreariness and maliciousness to one’s fellow man.

    Someone say something funny once in a while.

  24. Jim, if your definition of a “satisfying chunk” is the conclusion of a story arc then you’re not going to be happy with the series or the novels. The Ice and Fire series isn’t structured quite like traditional fiction so there’s no reason to expect the HBO series to conform to any expectations of and fantasy you’ve seen before. The books have a sense of dread and danger that builds throughout (at least until that fourth one) and maybe that’s not coming through in the HBO series. Maybe it is and people just don’t have the patience for it. Maybe they’re not picking up on the clues that things in that world are slowly getting freakier and freakier. Hard to say, because once you’ve read the books you can’t unread them and watch the show fresh. But the writers are doing a fantastic job of picking out what they need and weaving storylines together. Also, all of the dialogue in Game of Thrones is topnotch. Anyone who complains about too much dialogue in this series is complaining about too much GOOD dialogue.

  25. Just as a historical note, I came up with the term “satisfying chunk” and to see it take on a life of its own like this is quite thrilling.

  26. Read the source material, it’s the best fantasy series ever written. Yes, ever.

  27. I do like describing it as “The show about a family of morons and their rich neighbors they don’t get along with. Y’know like Medieval Married with Children.”

    The best part of this show is the fact that they never waste a scene. Every scene always pushes a character forward or fills in their motivations. Jamie Lannister basically disappeared most of the season because they didn’t just have shots of him sitting in a cage doing nothing.

  28. Well I’m still watching season 1 on DVD, I do not pay for HBO, not even for Game of Thrones. I will say that what I have seen so far, stays true to the book for the most part. Much like turning Lord of the Rings into a movie from the written word, things get lost.

    The books that make up the Song of Fire and Ice “Game of Thrones” is a very good read.

    The show may seem to go slow, as the books do jump from character to character much more then Lord of the Rings ever did.

    What sets Game of Thrones apart from other books, is that Games of Thrones has a more political intregue feel to it, rather then a fantasy feel for the most part.

  29. If you want a good show to watch then Teen Wolf is the ticket.

  30. You seem to be a simple man with simple needs. If you’re so disturbed by the content of the show, then why watch?

  31. It’s all about the looooong pay off, which I love. I’m current with the books, and holy crap, it DOES get awesome(r) 🙂

  32. Nearing completion of the fourth book, I still ,may just do what Ron did and read the rest on wikipedia. (It sucks to learn from the comments above that there doesn’t seem to be an endpoint, even from the completion of the latest book).

  33. Our week on How to Cure Cancer isn’t until July.

  34. It is kind of funny that everyone is choosing to talk about/bash/defend GoT while really no one has commented on the actual point of this article, The Satisfying Chunk. Then again, being so negative about a show that has such a loyal fan base I assume Jim knew exactly what he was doing. Was this ever really about The Satisfying Chunk or was that just a thin veil with which to cover an article about how much he dislikes GoT? I guess we’ll never know…

    • We might not ever know but it definitely reads like he wanted to write about what he doesn’t like about GoT and then thought “how can I tie this into comics?”.

  35. I’ve never really considered the concept of “The Satisfying Chunk” but it makes a lot of sense to me.

    I think the friction we’re seeing in these comments has nothing to do with whether or not you “get” Game of Thrones, I think it has more to do with a person’s affinity for a novelistic approach to television.

    A show like Game of Thrones is continuing an experiment (arguably started by The Sopranos, and continued with stuff like Lost, Heroes, The Wire, Mad Men, etc) about whether a TV audience will be Satisfied with a Chunk that is more akin to a novel than a traditional television show.

    A novelistic approach to structure and pacing grants a show the opportunity to spend more time on character development than it might if it has to tie up all loose ends and reset the table every 44-50 minutes. But it also removes a bit of freedom — with a book, the reader gets to decide how many chapters constitute a Satisfying Chunk.

    As we see here, some people don’t mind losing that freedom because they’re satisfied by the chunk the producers give them. Others really dislike having their experience restricted by a weekly schedule.

  36. Any fan of science fiction knows the structure of political intrigue/talking about battles is what made Foundation so great, and that around every corner there is a Dune reference, from Wildling/Fremen, to the Face Dancer/Faceless or whatever, to the political wranglings…. I see g.o.t. to be just a fantasy tribute to science fiction.

    • This is a very interesting point. Never thought of GoT in relation to Dune but you’re totally right about how many parallels there are.

    • I’m generally not a fan of fantasy, but I’m a big fan of Dune, so all the connections to Dune (the political intrigue and the amount detail within the world) are why I think I really like it.

    • @theempireneverended…”I see g.o.t. to be just a fantasy tribute to science fiction.”

      I see more Jack Vance in it than anything else.

  37. “And what do we say to death? Not today…”

    “Power resides where men think it does. It is a trick, a shadow on the wall. But even a small man can cast a very large shadow.”

    “Any man dies with a clean sword, I’ll rape his fucking corpse!”

    “Those are brave men outside – let’s go and kill them!”

    I would rather a have a show with dialogue like that than any amount of battles and dragons and whatsohaveyou. Plus, I’m pretty sure that after after the first few episodes, every ep in Season 1 had at least one swordfight. Double-plus: there was that episode last week that did show a whole battle.

  38. Transformers, or John Carter, they’re always there if you want to see fights and dragons.

    I think it’s a great show, based on a great book. But then again. I hated Lost, and you seem to like it. I prefer good storytelling where I can find it.

  39. Believe it or not, GoT isn’t about action. It’s a book about people. Characters, reacting to the people and events around them. You know, just like Talking Dead. Er, I mean Walking Dead, right?

    (I love Walking Dead but come on, there were HUGE chunks of talking this year with no action)

  40. Crippler nailed it.

    The “there’s too much talking in Game of Thrones” to me equates to “why don’t they shoot some more zombies in The Walking Dead”

    Both being TV shows with limited budgets, of course you’re not going to see Braveheart-scale battles every episode. Or at all.

    For me, riveting dialogue between two enemies can be far more exciting than clashing swords. You want that watch ANYTHING else with swords and Ye Olde English speak in it.

  41. I don’t quite see how building characters and relationships that you get invested in instead of seeing generic meat puppets get thrown at giant monsters is a bad thing…

    The “excessive” talking in this show makes the little bits of action all the more powerful. Stannis’ siege on Kings’ Landing is one of the greatest things I’ve watched on TV because I’m genuinely worried about characters that I love. Characters that I’ve watched grow and change. Adding more action to Game of Thrones would dilute it and make it just another fantasy show.

  42. I still can’t believe so many people fell for this.

  43. As much as I’m loving the books, up to a Storm of Swords (so far the best one yet) I find the TV show to be kinda meh apart from Tyrion.

  44. “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”


    There are a lot of unanswered dangling threads in the books, but that is one of the things I love and keeps me reading.

  45. I actually wish there was MORE talking. I love the conversations on this show. And I also don’t want to see the dragons and wolves for half the episode. I like that they are used sparingly. When they show up, it’s special and important. I love this show.

    Here’s a question for Jimski: If you want more action on screen and less conversations, why do you avoid So You Think You Can Dance? There’s a whole lot of on screen movement there and very little conversation. (And no, that’s not meant as a snide insult, I love SYTYCD)

  46. I like the show, but Jim’s got a point. Season two needed some more payoffs. Let’s hope season three has some.

    • I loved season two but I agree with you here. I read the books before watching the show and the more I talk with my friends who haven’t read them the more I realize season two really didn’t have the ‘oh shit’ moments season one did. The second book CERTAINLY had those moments but for some reason they didn’t translate to the screen as well as the big shockers in season one did. (SPOILER: Then again, even in 5 books, Ned losing his head is still maybe the biggest shocker yet. Doubt that can ever be topped!) But stick around because book three (seasons 3 and 4) is FULL of shocking moments.

  47. Greatest false premise in the history of the internets.