Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Idiot Box: Game Of Thrones - "Valar Dohaeris" and "Dark Wings And Dark Words" Reviews

[Note: Yeah, sorry, I know it seems like this blog has turned from a movie site into a TV site overnight, but I'm still in catch up mode here. Read the intro to my Doctor Who review the other day for the gist of why I'm doing this, and why I'm covering both of these in one sitting.]

Well, it's been another year, and we're now one more season closer to that wonderfully awkward lunch meeting between the head honchos of HBO and George R.R. Martin, where they politely ask him to get off his ass and finish the last two damn books already. Last season ended with the aftermath of Stannis Baratheon's ill fated raid on King's Landing and the even more ill fated attempt by Theon Greyjoy to take Winterfell....for some reason. Also, viking zombies. Lots and lots of viking zombies.

The first episode back is called Valar Dohaeris, a title that is apparently so nerdy it requires you to know the fake High Valyrian language from the book series just to translate it. It's mostly just catch up work dealing with the loose ends of last season and setting the stage for the current one, getting closer with Jon Snow's new traveling companions the Wildlings, and introducing their much talked about leader Mance Rayder. We also get a bit of bitchy family squabbling among the various Lannisters who aren't currently being led through the countryside on a leash, some more of Robb Stark brooding, Stannis licking his wounds with the fire lady, and of course Daenery's and her army reminding us that they have cool CGI dragons.

I know it sounds like I'm bashing the show, and maybe I am a little bit, but you have to understand that as much as I've enjoyed the series up to this point, I've never been what you would call a die hard Song Of Ice And Fire fanboy. Having not read the books, I am ill-prepared to squee at the moments an avid reader would know portend exciting events in the future, and I can only take the televised story as it goes and only for what it is. On that score alone it is certainly above average and one of the few successful examples of a genre I love on television, but even so, my blase attitude persists. Its just that after watching this show this long, I think the sometimes glacial pace and the repetitive narrative structure are finally starting to get to me.

The second episode Dark Wings and Dark Words, despite not having much of either, is a little better, but even so, the formula that is proving tiresome for me remains. Between these two episodes we get about as much of what I like as what I don't, with just enough intriguing bits and supernatural mystery to keep me going through the slower parts, like Geoffrey's ten thousandth angry convo with his mother, or pretty much any time Robb or Sansa Stark are on screen. The second episode also introduces a few new characters including the Brothers Without Borders eluded to in the previous season, and a weird little boy that I guess is from Bran's extended family and shares his strange abilities, but apparently on a much larger scale.

Its hard for me to really criticize the show on the same level as I would, say Doctor Who, because unlike that series which only has to honor the characters and isn't working from an established source material, this narrative direction is pretty much set in stone. The fact that I want the whole thing to be Jon Snow beyond the wall fighting zombies, or that I'm waiting for The Drowned God to rise up from the depths and start wrasslin' with R'hllor Godzilla style is beside the point. Whatever parts I may find boring or even wrongheaded aren't the shows fault, and I have to either accept them or move on to another medieval fantasy epic on TV, as soon as anyone else starts making a better one.

For all my lack of excitement, I can't say the show has really gotten any worse, and there's still more than enough here to hold my interest and justify continuing with it. My Game of Thrones fatigue might just be my own cross to bare, and others will no doubt take my gripes with a grain of salt when they see no discernible drop in quality. I don't know, maybe after that last Who misfire I'm just cranky when it comes to all my favorite TV shows. Hopefully the Ice Warriors coming back next week will perk my spirits up. 

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