Timely Game of Thrones Griping 8: The Offseason

By Bob Case Posted Monday Sep 4, 2017

Filed under: Game of Thrones 114 comments

This series analyzes the show, but sometimes references the books as well. If you read it, expect spoilers for both.

With season seven now wrapped up, it would be good to revisit some of the things I said many moons ago, when I first started my epic journey of complaining about Game of Thrones. Basically, what started all of this was a hypothesis. I believed that the show’s audience was in the early stages of experiencing what Shamus refers to as “story collapse”If you’re not familiar with the term, it’s explained in this series of posts., and that, sometime during the final two seasons, full story collapse would occur, and the show’s reputation would suffer.

The 'gitchy feeling' is my pet term for the feeling you get prior to story collapse.
The 'gitchy feeling' is my pet term for the feeling you get prior to story collapse.

Was my prediction correct? So far, no. (However, there’s still another season for it to come true.) Instead, many critics did something I didn’t account for: they experienced story collapse, but their opinions on the show’s overall quality didn’t change.

The best (and daftest) show on television

Take this review of season seven from Vox, titled “How Game of Thrones season 7 went awry: The series is so intent on fooling its audience that too much of its storytelling no longer makes sense.” You can read the linked article if you want, but hopefully the title is enough to make you believe me when I say that it’s pretty critical. The author makes many of the same complaints I made in my reviews, and is bothered by many of the same things I was bothered by. “Right at the worst possible time,” he writes, “it's become all but impossible to figure out just what anything on the show means.”

But then, after more than 1600 unminced words of criticism, the final section of the review starts with the sentence “Please note that none of this means Game of Thrones is bad.” Doesn’t it, though? To me, a TV show with nonsensical storytelling is a bad TV show. But maybe I’m wrong about that.

In case you think that’s a isolated case, try reading this review from the Guardian, titled “Game of Thrones: the best show on TV just became the silliest.” If you don’t want to read the whole thing, I can just give you some highlights:

“little things like “logic” and “character” have burst out of the seams . . . did any of the characters do or say anything remotely plausible for the entire episode? No they did not . . . characters telling each other exactly what they thought of them in great granite slabs of exposition . . . the characters felt like they were little more than window-dressing as the narrative groaned and twisted to see to it that Dany joined the war against the Walkers and the Night's King got his dragon . . . Characters aren't so much pieces being moved on a board than the board is being moved under them, credulity be damned . . . In a show full of dragons and magic, it's strange that the humans are starting to feel fake.”

Of course the humans feel fake. Look at the ones in the background of this shot. Painfully obvious CGI. You can see the pixels!
Of course the humans feel fake. Look at the ones in the background of this shot. Painfully obvious CGI. You can see the pixels!

But then, after spending most of the review laying into the show with no mercy, the author ends by writing that Game of Thrones is “still the best show on TV, and I will have an inappropriately passionate argument with anyone who claims otherwise. It's just a shame it's also now one of the daftest.”

This sort of thing is frustrating for me to read. I don’t believe that it should be possible for a show to simultaneously be both the best and the daftest show on television. To me, those are mutually exclusive states.

I could list more examples, but you get the idea. In the last part of this season, several sites whose reviews are usually positive followed a similar pattern to the above two: the body of the review seems to describe a one or two-star show, but the final rating is four-five stars or the equivalent. When this disparity is acknowledged, the reasoning given is usually that the show is an entertaining spectacle. From the Vox review: “I finished watching almost every episode of season seven with a stupid grin on my face, and it only became apparent how little sense it made once I started trying to write about it.” From the Guardian: “To the series' credit, if you are going to paper over gulfs in logic, the best way to do it is with explosions, zombie bears and flaming swords.”

Curiously, none of the reviews mention how entertaining it is to watch an aunt fall in love and have sex with her nephew.
Curiously, none of the reviews mention how entertaining it is to watch an aunt fall in love and have sex with her nephew.

There is one particular word, conspicuous by its frequency, that floats around the universe of Game of Thrones criticism, the use of which I think is telling. That word is “satisfying.” Again and again reviews will use that word to refer to developments on, or episodes of, the show. Wondering if I was crazy, I googled the names of several other prominent shows along with the word “satisfying” to see if this was a common occurrence. Based on my highly unscientific research method, it’s not. This is a word that the world has settled on to describe Game of Thrones in particular.

It seems that so long as “satisfying” things keep happening, most critics will continue to like the show, and in the end it doesn’t much matter if those satisfying things make no sense, or go nowhere, or are reversed in the very next episode. But if the world at large is going to take this show seriously, then in my opinion it should matter. This is the opinion I’ve settled on. This is the windmill I’ve decided to tilt at.

Ordinarily, I keep topical soccer analogies out of my posts here, but this one is too perfect not to use. In the early 2000s, Real Madrid had a player named Claude Makelele. He did his job so well that to this day people refer to a certain style of midfield play as “the Makelele role.” But Makelele was not a flashy player who could make long passes or dribble around people, so Real Madrid’s management, not properly appreciating his importance to the team, sold him to another club in the same offseason that they bought David Beckham. Legendary player (and expert headbutter) Zinedine Zidane, who played for Madrid at the time, famously said “we’ve put another layer of gold paint on the Bentley, but we’ve lost the engine.”Or something like that. I’ve heard different wordings of the quote from different sources.

Game of Thrones keeps adding new layers of gold paint to the Bentley. New deaths, new emmy-bait monologues, new CGI showcases, new shocking twists. But they lost the engine a while ago.

What exact species of bee is in my bonnet, anyway?

Why do I care about this so much? On any list of the world’s injustices, “critics are too forgiving of Game of Thrones’ faults” is going to rank pretty low. Sometimes I feel like the grumpiest grump in all of Grumpistan, shaking my fist at a decadent public and demanding that it stop enjoying things.

Stop enjoying the scenery! It's internally inconsistent! Dragonstone is supposed to be on an island with no significant agriculture! You are objectively a bad person if you think this shot is pretty!
Stop enjoying the scenery! It's internally inconsistent! Dragonstone is supposed to be on an island with no significant agriculture! You are objectively a bad person if you think this shot is pretty!

In fact, the idea of people liking the show doesn’t bother me. I suspect that part of it is its sheer popularity. The show is huge – more than any other show since Lost, and possibly moreso than Lost itself for that matter, Game of Thrones can plausibly lay claim to the title of “television event.” It’s not just that so many people watch it, but that it’s referenced everywhere. Almost anytime there’s any kind of double-cross or unexpected twist in the news, there’ll be some commentator or another along shortly to tell us how this is just like Game of Thrones.

It’s hard not to get swept up in something like that if you’re part of it. When I was thirteen, I didn’t particularly like football. But then the Chargers had a season where they went all the way to the Super BowlAnd, once there, got absolutely housed by the Steve Young 49ers., and I got swept up onto the bandwagon. I still didn’t really like or understand football, but I liked watching Chargers games. Up until that point I wasn’t familiar with the idea that a San Diego sports team could be good, and it felt like I was part of something big and exciting.

Game of Thrones is riding a similar wave. There’s nothing wrong with that. I can’t bring myself to disapprove of people doing the same thing I did with the Chargers. And even I can’t help but chuckle whenever I hear the Cleganebowl airhorn. But here’s the thing: as Uncle Ben has taught us in so many Spider-Man reboots, with great cultural ubiquity comes great responsibility. I believe that when a show becomes this popular, it takes on a moral dimension that it didn’t have before. And in this case, the moral dimension is a troubling one.

Explaining what I mean by that is going to take its own post. It turns out I have at least one more week of griping left in me. I’ll see you next Monday.



[1] If you’re not familiar with the term, it’s explained in this series of posts.

[2] Or something like that. I’ve heard different wordings of the quote from different sources.

[3] And, once there, got absolutely housed by the Steve Young 49ers.

From The Archives:

114 thoughts on “Timely Game of Thrones Griping 8: The Offseason

  1. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Instead, many critics did something I didn't account for: they experienced story collapse, but their opinions on the show's overall quality didn't change.

    Thats because most people did not watch the show for the story,but for the actors showing their skill.It rarely maters whats being said,because most of these people can read from a phonebook and still make the experience enjoyable,engaging and dramatic.

    1. Grimwear says:


    2. N/A says:

      To a point, yes. Writing quality simply isn’t the be-all and end-all of a show – in point of fact, on a long-running TV show, there’s an argument to be made that plot plays distinctly second fiddle to characters, but cinematography, musical score, scenery, etc, these all play a part as well.

    3. Agammamon says:

      Actor skills and interpersonal drama.

      I have to admit that I used to like NCIS. Up until one day I sat up and realized that it had turned into a horribly written show about horrible people doing horrible things in the name of patriotism.

      But up until that point I was invested in the actors, their characters, and basically the soap opera that went on around all the ‘Murrica, FUCK YEAH!’ stuff.

      And there were several other shows that I turned off after multiple years when I realized they were just rehashing the same character beats over and over and that was all the show had to offer anymore – despite the actors still being on point.

      1. Pete_Volmen says:

        You think NCIS is bad? Check Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders. Never seen such jingoism in a show before. Which is too bad, as Criminal Minds itself (while not as great as it was) is still great to watch. Too bad one spinoff failed and the other is terrible.

  2. Da Mage says:

    There must be a little sunk cost fallacy acting here, most of us have been following this series for 6 or 7 years at this point, and just because these later seasons have lost their way a bit, isn’t going to undo those REALLY good first few years.

    We continue to watch it because we’re too invested as this point not too, but I agree, the writers have really lost their way since they got past the end of the books…..turns out TV writers are nowhere near as good as novel writers.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Not really.Compare to lost and dexter.Yes people continued watching those as well because “Hey,it was good before”.But they did not praise them for those final seasons.

      1. Syal says:

        Dexter got bad in Season 3; the reaction to Seasons 3 and 4 are the right comparison points I’d say.

        1. Jokerman says:

          It got bad? Season 3 i thought was great, and season 4 was my favorite of the entire series…

          1. Syal says:

            Matter of taste I guess. I stopped watching at the end of Season 4 because I thought the show was too far offtrack. Season 3 confirmed that Dexter using company property for nefarious purposes really was as poorly planned as it appeared, and a lot of Season 4 only happened because Dexter decided not to end it earlier, which is just about the fastest way to convince me a show is wasting my time.

      2. Harper says:

        GoT really can’t be compared to Lost or Dexter, maybe Lost to a certain extent( and I would argue there was still a sizable fanbase that stayed loyal to the end) but Game of Thrones is such a different phenomena. Its so widely pirated, so deeply ingrained in the current culture. Red Wedding reactions were a genuine draw on youtube, nothing like reactions to other shows before.
        The idea that audiences have invested SO much into this narrative and characters that they’re willing to convince themselves its still good is probable.
        Like the Avclub is generally a good site for reviews, give or take a little condescension, but they haven’t given an episode of GoT anything less than a B for a long time and they don’t criticize it the way they do with other better shows.

    2. Bloodsquirrel says:

      TV writers are nowhere near as good as novel writers.

      Well, let’s be fair, the novel writer may or may not have given up after realizing that he doesn’t know how to end his series, any may or may not be seriously planning to ever finish Winds of Winter.

    3. tremor3258 says:

      I suspect some of it is sunk cost, some of it giving the final season a chance to bring this together; the ‘satisfying’ level may drop if season 7 has similar issues.

  3. Daemian Lucifer says:

    See,heres the problem:You think that the story is the main part of a tv show.Its not.Its a composite medium.And as a composite medium it does not have a single main part,but rather several.The main part of a tv show(as well as a movie) is acting,story and cinematography.Any one or even two of those can be utter shit if the third one carries them through.

    Or,if you wish a football comparison:if a team has shitty attack and midfield,but a very strong defense,they will still be able to tie most of the time.Same as a team that has crap defense and midfield,but amazing attack.The result of both of those would end up the same,whether the score in the end is 0:0 or 7:7.

    Complaining that one(or more)parts of a composite medium sucks is fine.But to claim that the whole thing sucks just because of that one part is silly.

    1. Bubble181 says:

      I think the problem mr B faces here is similar to Shamus’ problem with the later Mass Effects.

      GoT started out as a series with a good story, believable characters (well, for a fantasy setting), good worldbuilding. Details first.
      It’s now evolved into a massive schlock- and action-fest. More dragons! More bg explosions! More big set pieces! More intense brooding!

      The story used to be one of the reasons to watch the show. It was a….I wouldn’t say intelligent, per sé, but at least a good story. Now it’s all actiony.
      I don’t think a movie or show needs a good story to be good. A lot of action movies have crap for story. You don’t go to see Terminator vs Transformers IV: The Roboting for the story, but for the action sequences and to enjoy a good romp.
      But a switch-and-bait leaves a bad taste for the people who DID go see it for that reason at first.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        But mass effect switched more than just the story.It had a huge change in its gameplay as well,and almost the whole cast of chracters was replaced*.ME to ME2 was a far bigger change.The quality of visuals in got has remained the same,and the remaining characters are still acted well(discounting euron).

        *And lets not even mention the change in the business model,what with more and more of the main story being put into the dlcs,instead of just some inconsequential side quests.

        1. Harper says:

          Those changes are what strengthens the analogy for me. Mass Effect 2 and 3 had better gameplay and visuals than the first and the story was as crappy as Shamus said.
          GoT had simpler visuals early on, and the story was still roughly coherent( though retroactively it had big holes) and it went the way of Mass Effect. The GoT season 2 finale had 1 physical boat and a big green explosion to justify the lack of anymore, with a really gripping drama at its center, just compare that to the Wight-hunt with the zombie bear and the general stupidity of all the characters involved

      2. BlueHorus says:

        I wonder if there’s something about it being fantasy in particular:
        ‘it’s all make-believe anyway! Stop overthinking it you nerds – dragons don’t exist!’

        So people are more forgiving. They’d tear apart a crime drama for this kind of writing, but since most people don’t take fantasy seriously, they’ll just breeze over a character as badly written as Cersei is now as par for the course.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          They'd tear apart a crime drama for this kind of writing

          You arent aware of the plethora of csi spin offs I take it.

          1. BlueHorus says:

            Yep. I used to watch a couple. Incidentally, I really miss that that ‘puts on sunglasses’ meme that David Caruso spawned. Seeing one of those in a thread was a…
            ( “¢_”¢)>⌐■-â–  / (⌐■_â– )
            C.S.I.ght for sore eyes.


            But CSI et all have consistent characters, predictable plots, simple and consistent morals, decent pacing, basic logic and maybe even a bit of forensic science – they’re not good per se, but they aren’t the same as GoT in a lot of ways.

            And when’s the last time CSI: Miami or any of the others won an Emmy?

      3. BlueHorus says:

        I also wouldn’t mind if the show was just action shlock and ‘splosions and tits – but there’s long sections of ‘quality’ dialog (guys, did you know that THEON DOESN’T HAVE A COCK!?) and nonsensical twists.
        And the show seems to want you to take this crap seriously, even when you damn well know the writers don’t.

        It’s a problem I’ve long had with the Metal Gear games. Look, make this shit up as you go along if you want to, but don’t waste my time with massive cutscenes and don’t ask me to take it seriously or care. That’s just insulting.

        Side Note: This ten-minute window for editing a post sucks. I used to find it annoying, now it’s just cut one of my comments in half and I actively dislike it.
        Can it be changed?

        1. stratigo says:

          this show has always been action schlock and tits :P. And talking porn. Like the actors have consistently given off such a great performance that I never minded how illogical the world building was. And it has always been somewhat poor, filtered as it is through a series of men who don’t know what they are trying to emulate beyond the window dressing(eg a feudal system)

          The story has never been particularly consistent.

          1. Mousazz says:

            The world-building in the first, say, 3 seasons of Game of Thrones was illogical? A window-dressing? Inconsistent? Really?

            Care to provide examples? Because I’m confused. I remember the beginning for being rather logical and consistent, especially when it came to the political power dynamics.

      4. Alex says:

        “I don't think a movie or show needs a good story to be good. A lot of action movies have crap for story. You don't go to see Terminator vs Transformers IV: The Roboting for the story, but for the action sequences and to enjoy a good romp.”

        But the Transformers movies aren’t good romps – they spend far too much time on cringeworthy comedy and childish jabs and not enough on the characters and the action people actually came to see. You can make a simple plot work, but it at least needs to be good enough to not get in the way.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          That is true.A much better example I go to is pacific rim.Bare bones story,but damn enjoyable fight scenes.

    2. Risven says:

      Not at all silly. If story is the main important piece for a critic, then they should and have every right to complain about it. It can, and does, for some critics, ruin the entire experience.

      “This steak is great, but the sauce they put on it has just a little urine in it.”
      “This meal is a composite, you can’t complain that one aspect you personally don’t like makes the whole thing bad.”
      “…but I really find urine in my sauces to be gross.”

      I think Game of Thrones often has excellent cinematography and stellar acting. But the writing, plot, pacing – all those have gone out the window, and it has made the experience change from pleasing to annoying for me. The cinematography and acting don’t carry it through for me.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Complaining that one(or more)parts of a composite medium sucks is fine.

        If thats the most important part for you,fine,write a book about it.That still wont make it objectively the most important part,or the most important part for everyone.

        As for your analogy,it doesnt work because the meat,the sauce and the piss are all about taste*,so not a composite.A composite would be a food with great taste but smell like sewers,like durian.

        *Disregarding the health issues that would further break the analogy.

        1. BlueHorus says:

          That still wont make it objectively the most important part,or the most important part for everyone.

          Who said ‘objectively’?
          When did Bob say that his opinion was the right one to have?
          When did Risven?
          Who said you were expected to agree with them or not?

          Who and what are you arguing against, ‘cos they just stated opinions.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Why are you focusing on just half of what I said?Bob did express his surprise that so many critics are giving the show good reviews when they complain about the story of the show.Hence why “not the most important part for everyone”.

            True,I couldve left the first part of that comment out,but I was putting it in preemptively.Mostly because of Bobs promise about the moral responsibility he promises for next time.

            1. BlueHorus says:

              Because fundamentally this is a matter of opinion. Like so much of the stuff you end up arguing about on this site.

              Someone dislikes thing A). They say they don’t like thing A) and give reasons. Often they’ll say ‘But maybe other people don’t care about thing A) as much as I do.’
              You come in and say that it’s not all about thing A) – some people like thing B)! Stop getting caught up on thing A), man. It’s not about that for some people!
              They say ‘But *I* think thing A).’
              -cue endless, circular discussion-

              It’s often hard to work out what you’re arguing for, or why you’re bothering. Sometimes people just think different things than you do, and that’s okay?

              You don’t always need to challenge them on it, even if you disagree.

        2. Gethsemani says:

          Urine is sterile, baring that the person who expunged it is suffering from a urinary tract infection or similar. So most of the time drinking urine is actually one of the safer options available (and why survival courses likes to point out that you can drink your own urine 2-3 times before it starts becoming so concentrated it gets toxic) if you can’t get your hands on purified or boiled water.

          Whether urine is something you’d ever want to drink or not is another question, but there are almost no health issues involved, excepting aforementioned dehydration and UTIs.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Well,if you want to be really picky about a footnote,then Ill be picky in return.Healthy urine isnt sterile either.It only has less bacteria than the threshold of what is considered to be an infected sample.

            Also,even disregarding that,urin still consists of waste products that can be dangerous to drink in larger quantities,and can be irritating to the skin even in smaller quantities.So yes,there are health hazards in getting in contact urine even if its from a healthy person.

  4. BlueHorus says:

    I’m reminded of the 2004 Battlestar Galactica remake – the general consensus there was that the show was great until the final few episodes – or even the very last episode.
    But there were warning signs and inconsistencies long before that (Wait, Kara’s just back, no reason? Now Gaius Boltar’s got a sex cult?!).
    It was only after the series ended that it all fell apart and people got angry. Most people, anyway.
    And of course, as someone else pointed out above Shamus had a similar point about Mass Effect.

    Bob’s ‘ponzi scheme of storytelling’ metaphor fits pretty well here. As long as there’s something happening, people are distracted from the flaws/hoping it’ll all make sense in the end.

    I’d love it if everyone turned on the show after it was over, though.
    Send in the shit-flinging chimpanzees, just like Mass Effect.

    1. Cubic says:

      Like so many others, BG was better at teasing than delivering the goods.

      I think it lost the plot with the insertion of the Very Important Iraq War episodes (beginning of season 3, or something) and even if I actually liked them you could begin to smell the gangrene … The last season was just appalling nonsense.

      1. Kylroy says:

        *Every* show is better at teasing than delivering the goods. Even shows that manage to stick the landing hit their highest points somewhere else. When you haven’t ended yet, every theory is plausible and everyone gets to imagine they’ve got personal insight on what’s *really* going to happen. But sooner or later the writers have to collapse that waveform and dash a lot of people’s hopes. (Well, unless you’re GRRM…)

        Breaking Bad remains my gold standard for prestige TV ending – it wrapped up all the plot threads in a satisfying manner, and still didn’t stick with most folks as much as their other season-enders had. It’s a lot, lot harder to make a merely adequate show finale than it is to make an amazing mid-run season finale.

        1. Matt Downie says:

          Breaking Bad was set in ‘the real world’ and was a lot more focused than Lost or Battlestar or GoT – there were really only a couple of characters the audience were invested in. That must make it easier to wrap things up. They didn’t need to explain mysteries or tell us how the world was changed by the events that had taken place.

        2. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Madoka magica has its high point(s) in the end of the show(movie).Though is it accurate to call peak depression as a high point?

          1. Kestrellius says:

            Madoka Magica had its highest point at the end of the series, and its lowest point at the end of the movie. You had ONE JOB, HOMURA.

            Granted, “PMMM’s lowest point” isn’t saying much, considering that it’s probably the best-constructed TV show I’ve ever watched, but I’m still annoyed about Rebellion. The ending was great! It was the perfect resolution to the story! Why did you have to screw it up??

            1. Supah Ewok says:

              For the money, usually.

              1. Fizban says:

                For the money, explicitly. The writer has admitted in interview that the original plan for the move was exactly what you’d expect considering the end of the series. Then someone suggested they leave it open for more sequels, everything changes and we got. . . that. The actual story of which could have made a compelling OVA, two at most, if it was followed up on and not preceded by an hour of pointless fan-wank.

                Except so far they seem to have forgotten the idea of further sequels. Instead we get a bevy of spin-offs which didn’t need the movie to exist, while the forced 180 is left hanging as a perfect testament to thoughtless sequel-itis.

                1. Kestrellius says:

                  The thing is, I actually quite liked the movie up until the twist. It wasn’t on par with the series, but it was good, and it contained two of the best action sequences I’ve ever seen.

    2. jawlz says:

      I liked the BSG reboot, ending and all, and think that most of those who were upset at the ending really kind of watched large parts of the show leading up to it with a particular set of blinders on.

      It’s kind of a touchy subject for many, so I’ll only touch on things in a very light manner (and Shamus should feel free to modify/delete this if it is going too far on the politics/religion line), but my guess is that much of the backlash against the BSG finale came down to a difference between the show’s core audience and the show’s creators. Sci-fi as a genre, with a few notable exceptions, is generally not the place where you see religion, so the ending of BSG with the “Starbuck is an Angel; God did it!” was going against genre expectations. I also suspect that the core sci-fi audience is generally skeptical about religion and God(s) in general, and so reacted even more strongly against it.

      But in the BSG reboot, the religion was (to my eyes) baked in, at least as far back as the first season where we were explicitly told that Baltar’s seemingly random choice of what part of a Cylon fuel refinery should be bombed was the work of the hand of God. I suppose a viewer could still chalk that up to random chance, but I thought the cards had been laid on the table at that point, and therefore the finale (3 years later!) wasn’t at all problematic for me.

      (I suspect that a very similar set of audience preferences/expectations explain how pleased many were during the last season of GoT to see the High Sparrow explode into a mist of green goo, when he was one of the less torturing/murdering and more help-the-poor/altruistic types [though not necessarily good or upright], but I digress.)

      1. I never watched BSG beyond S1 (I randomly bought the boxset off a friend, never chased the rest of it up), but now I might have to give it a rewatch to see if I can spot this.

        I was pretty hacked off by the asploding sept, mostly because in the books the resurgence of the “main” religion was pretty interesting (and, now I think about it, also a counterbalance to the sudden seeming prominence of the R’hllor faith). But I guess the show writers weren’t interested in the nuances and possibilities of that thread? And by asploding a whole bunch of people, they also cut off a whole snarl of other plot threads that they’d otherwise have to resolve some other way. Meh.

      2. ehlijen says:

        The religious angle was in it since the pilot, yes. (And the original also had strong religious motifs, essentially being about a space exodus.)

        But from the get go, the religious angle of the show was the least…how to put this…tangible? The show tried very hard to set itself up as hard, low tech scifi with character driven stories. All the while, the religious plots kept their best to sit on the fence between delusion and real, so much that it failed to actually contribute much.

        Take the cylon fuel refinery bit: Why exactly can’t Baltar say “Hey, I’m computer scientist, not an engineer, and you can’t tell squat about what’s in each building from these photos” ? (A running theme with early baltar: sure, he has a big secret, but he at times goes out of his way to lie about stuff). And why can’t he say “I can’t be sure, but this s the most likely target?”
        There is no reason why he needs to be pushed to be definitive. A military strike should include secondary targets, after all.
        But he is under pressure so he can make a random guess which turns out to be divinely insired…or does it? dun dun duuuun!

        The show wanted to have it both ways for too long, and went to too great lengths to get there, and failed to properly connect much of it to the otherwise very grounded setting, so that by the end, in my opinion, they could not honestly ask the audience to shed off all that doubt that had been deliberately planted in the show to have the ending be taken seriously.

        1. BlueHorus says:

          The religious aspects to the plot in BG (to me) were by far the worst. The rest of the show was gritty, believable, intelligent, gripping, well-realized…
          Except when it just, wasn’t, because spirituality. People started doing really silly things in the name of visions etc, and I was like ‘why have you put that in this show?’
          Multiple people died for no other reason than Kara bloody Thrace had a feeling, at more than one point in the story.

          Also: Did anyone else just hate Gaius Baltar? It always annoyed me that he just kept coming back, stronger.
          From the very first episode, he was cowardly. He was manipulative. He was dishonest. He would often make really bad decisions because a pretty woman was involved. And worst of all he often wore a terrible, terrible suit.
          And yet he just kept winning. Now he’s chief scientist! Now he’s president! Now he’s a cult leader!
          No, they aren’t gonna imprison him! Or ever find out what he did! Why would you want that to happen? Tons of better character will die in this series, but not him!

          …wait, was he a GMPC?

          1. Stephen says:

            I don’t know how BSG could have avoided religion. The few remaining humans have barely managed to survive the apocalypse and live each day under the constant fear that the Cylons will show up and finish them off. All while they’ve been reduced to living in space ships.

            Is it any wonder that desperate people will turn to religion? What else is there for these people in the show’s universe to put one’s faith in? Humanity’s technology, military, organizational skills and political abilities were all either brushed aside in the Cylon attack or were so insignificant as to not even matter.

            I thought it was perfectly in Baltar’s character to refuse to ever admit he didn’t know the answer to something. He is such an arrogant man he cannot simply admit he doesn’t know. I think he also is desperate to keep himself useful to those in charge so as to deflect any attention into his role in the apocalypse. So for me, his actions were in character.

            1. Alex says:

              But they didn’t just turn to religion, the religion was actually real. You can’t have the second coming of Christ in the third act and pretend that you foreshadowed it adequately because the protagonist is a Christian.

              Battlestar Galactica was at its best when it was a story about religious people in a secular universe. It was at its worst when it was a story about religious people in a religious universe.

      3. BlueHorus says:

        [T]he ending of BSG with the “Starbuck is an Angel; God did it!” was going against genre expectations. I also suspect that the core sci-fi audience is generally skeptical about religion and God(s) in general, and so reacted even more strongly against it.

        That’s an interesting point. You’re probably right about the core audience for sci-fi being more skeptical about religion than a lot of other groups – but I’m not sure that it’s all that relevant when it comes to a TV show.

        Stories are 100% crafted. If it’s in the story, it’s because a writer put it there. God didn’t make that thing happen, the writer did. Or the writer made the God of the story make it happen. Hopefully because the writer has a plan.

        A person’s view of religion in real life doesn’t so clearly transfered when dealing with something that is fictional.

        I think it’s less that people rejected the religion in the story than they went with an explanation more rooted in story criticism:
        i.e the writers were just making it up as they went along and the wheels fell off their proverbial car.

  5. Bruno M. Torres says:

    The critics’ reaction reminds me of the legendary piece Harold Bloom wrote about Harry Potter and the fallout it caused. I think most critics can indeed see how bad the show got, but are afraid of dealing with the angry mob. Perharps they are testing the waters before dissing season 8?

    1. Droid says:

      Is this what happens when someone wants to be edgy and eloquent at the same time?

    2. Kestrellius says:

      Taking arms against Harry Potter, at this moment, is to emulate Hamlet taking arms against a sea of troubles.

      Well, okay. I thought the HP books were pretty good, but I’m curious to see what your opinion i —

      It is much better to see the movie, “The Wizard of Oz,” than to read the book upon which it was based


    3. Mistwraithe says:

      I think that is exactly what Todd at Vox was doing. I think he can see the wheels coming off and indeed he mentions many of the problems. But he finishes with saying that it doesn’t mean GoT is bad, partly because it is still entertaining, and partly to reduce the amount of flaming he gets in the comments.

    4. Nimas says:

      I always felt that J.K. Rowling was actually pretty decent at writing kids in school, but was utterly generic at writing more standard fantasy.

      Take this with a grain of salt, as I stopped reading the Harry Potter books after Chalice as I just realised I was *not* enjoying the experience after I finished the book.

      I have however read the first 3 books after that point maybe 3 or 4 times because (on top of being much shorter) the pretty imaginative and mostly believable kid characters was still enjoyable, and I could imagine a better series in my head :D

  6. Leonardo Herrera says:

    “Satisfying” is the term I was looking for, thanks.

    To me, it looks like the writers got the most popular fan theories and applied them all into this season (well, except for Cleganebowl, which they are undoubtely saving for the last season.) Of course Jon will be riding a dragon, of course Jamie will join the alliance, of course Bronn will be with them, Thormund will die saving Brienne, Cersei will die in flames, Jamie will die after trying to save her (and probably will do so in Tyrion arms, forgiving him or something like that) oh my God, they are salivating writing this as we speak.

    I’m almost hoping for a Zombie Hodor at some point.

    1. Cubic says:

      Zombie Hodor holding open some big door in the Wall would have been fun.

  7. Christopher says:

    This is giving me flashbacks to Lelouch of the rebellion. Or maybe Mass Effect 2, to use an example closer to the site’s heart(Or Fallout 3, to be current with Ruts’ posts). Your worldbuilding can be inconsistent and your plotting can be bad, but you can still be a very popular thing because you do other stuff well. And I’m certainly not above liking stuff with poor writing that’s still very exciting to experience. It’s just a matter of what’s most important to your enjoyment. I played Horizon Zero Dawn earlier this year, and that game has a ton of good worldbuilding that answers every how/why question in the book. I think Shamus would love it. On the other hand, similar to how I feel about the first Mass Effect, I think the main story in the game is really pretty boring on a human level. It’s full of generic characters that do more exposition than characterization. It hasn’t got an ounce of levity. It’s terribly down to earth and grounded despite there being robot T-rexes running around. I can’t remember any of the music either, and the gameplay got old as it went on. It might be stable, but I didn’t care about what happened in it that much. Just being competently put together in the worldbuilding department wasn’t enough on its own for me, all of the other ingredients to the game are important on their own.

    Game of Thrones might be completely collapsing, but apparently it’s still exciting and people have an investment in these characters after years of watching the good seasons. I still haven’t watched more than season 1 and won’t defende it, but I can certainly understand why people would still love watching it even if it’s dumb.

    And at the same time, I can sympathize with why someone that makes analytical videos feels like its unwatchable and frustrating. I look forward to more post, I was wondering what you were gonna do until it started up again.

    1. JDMM says:

      Code Geass to me feels like you wake up one morning and you go out to the kitchen and you go through the routine with the person you live with (flatmate, parent, sibling, significant other) and then at some point you notice that they’re not breathing and it’s a zombie and they’re missing most of their skin and you have a hope that things can go back to the way they were before, in season 1, but they never can and at certain points they resemble that person you knew before and it’s like a dagger in your heart because you know it can never be like it was before

      1. MadTinkerer says:

        There are some good videos out there explaining what happened to Code Geass in detail. In a nutshell, someone in charge decided the show would move from a later timeslot to an earlier timeslot where most of the season one content would not have been allowed or would have been severely compromised.

        To bring this back to GoT, imagine if GoT season 1 was even more faithful to the books because G.R.R.M. himself was the creative director, but it was originally broadcast late night on SyFy instead of HBO (in a parralel universe where late night standard cable TV has the same broadcast standards as HBO), and SyFy suddenly decided to broadcast season 2 during the afternoon for kids to watch, so the original plan for season 2 had to be scrapped entirely and there literally wasn’t any time to plan ahead so every episode was written as they went along and, other than the actors and set design, the show was completely unrecognizable from before. And then G.R.R.M. decides to quit television and literature forever. That’s more or less what happened to Code Geass.

        So hey: no matter how much Lost or GoT frustrates you, at least the people in charge didn’t do what they did to Code Geass.

        1. Fizban says:

          Speaking of Code Geass: I still can’t wrap my head around what’s supposed to be bad about the second season. I’ve heard about the timeslot change before, and sure the second season had less explicit shockers, but if anything I’d say that benefited it. In contrast to Valvrave the Liberator (same writer), which was a nice ride of twist-every-weeks leading into the most boringly obvious conclusion in the world, Code Geass gets mired down (in a good way) by the long-term fallout of some of those twists. Granted, I’ve only watched it the once (all at once) and it’s been a while, but the stuff in the second season was plenty grabbing even if it’s watered down in some way I don’t know.

          Is it supposed to be that lacking the cheap shocks caused them to delve into the source of the supernatural powers/related characters? Yeah, that stuff was grating, but that sounds like a more specific complaint. I could see it being a much bigger problem for people watching episodically as it came out, but I didn’t. Conversely, if I’d tried to binge all of Valvrave at once I’d not be surprised if I’d burned out and dropped it halfway through.

          ‘Cause that’s a pretty striking statement, “at least the people in charge didn't do what they did to Code Geass.” I can see a change between seasons, but nothing so drastic.

          1. Grudgeal says:

            It’s been a long time since I thought about the second season of Code Geass. It was, I think, the show that really got me into show analysis, trite as that may sound, because the whole second season turned me off immensely and I spent a lot of time (at the time) picking apart exactly why.

            I think the part that really got me about the second season are a few things: First, it is the sense of serial escalation, and secondly (tying into this) there’s the feeling that the attempt to escalate everything abandons some of ‘A leads to B’, instead we just get ‘B’ without the ‘A’ step. The serial escalation was the feeling that everything must be more, all the time. The stakes must get higher and higher, the plot must get more and more dramatic, and the weapons must get shinier and shinier to make fights more and more exciting. I mean, obviously all shows do this, but Code Geass got a bit too fast about it. Like, it takes only a handful of episodes for the show’s reach to go from ‘rebuilding in Japan after the events of season 1’ to ‘all of China follows us’ to ‘and now I will TAKE ON THE WORLD’ with sudden leaps in focus, like that Chinese bloke with his super-mech and his “I know you know I know you know, so *I* did this which you didn’t know I knew I know you knew!” battle with Lelouch that gets practically irrelevant three episodes later. And while you say Code Geass didn’t have “a twist an episode” in the second season, that’s exactly what it felt like to me. It got a bit unrealistic after a while; the show never seemed to take a break or devote more than two-three episodes to a problem before throwing itself in a new direction with abandon. Like, the reason why the Euphemia incident in Code Geass season 1 got so shocking, despite the twist coming seemingly out of nowhere, was because it was a) foreshadowed a bit with Mao and b) followed a period of relative calm. Season 2 had too little calm ,by comparison, going from Japan to exile to China to the Geass Cult to the Black Knights’ Rebellion to the FLEIJA to the Emperor of the World from one moment to the next.

            Combined with this is the feeling that a lot of the show’s elements in the second season felt like cheap, otaku-bait fanservice. Like, the part where CC lost her memories and became a maid? Why a maid? Why is this even happening (from a scriptwriter’s perspective, not from a story perspective — it was because of the power transfer and yadda yadda)? Also the maid? Suddenly a ninja. Out of nowhere. Why’s she a ninja? Because the theory she was a ninja was really popular on 2chan, apparently. And the whole Orange becoming good and a major character. Again, it seemed out of nowhere and happened because he was popular. Again, if they’d stuck to only one of these twists that could work, but I’ve seen too many anime. I know what standard things are usually made for the sense of fanservice and ‘Rule of Cool’, and cramming so many into so short a period became oversaturation in comparison to the slightly more moderate season 1. Like, season 1 had the one Flying Robot with Giant Laser Gun prototype. By the next season, everyone got a new Flying Robot with Giant Laser Gun every two episodes. Don’t do that and expect me to find drama in your Giant Robot fights; if you do that, go whole G Gundam or Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann and admit it’s all just for the fun of seeing grossly overpowered machines out-overpower each other.

            I think in all, the main problem with season 2 of Code Geass is that it escalated everything in Code Geass, and to me simply escalated it beyond a stress point where I felt the show still had verisimilitude. A lot of things that could have been shocking on their own if foreshadowed right could have worked if there hadn’t been another shocking thing happening last episode and there being no foreshadowing (like the Black Knights’ Rebellion. Honestly, why would *anyone* of you trust Schnitzel? He’s been trying to kill you! Did someone replace your brains with sawdust this morning?).

            It’s a bit of the same problems I have with the GoT show to be honest, only with the addition (in GoT) of the show having apparently missed like 70% of the books’ subtext on the nature of power, the character’s actual character and the role of the marginalized in Westeros society.

            1. Fizban says:

              Ah, so basically the reverse of what I was thinking. It sounds like I rushed through the gratuitous twists and forgot them while focusing on the character moments instead. That gives me some idea of what to look for if I get around to re-watching it.

          2. Mousazz says:

            I myself also didn’t find anything bad with Code Geass R2, but then again, I’m a weirdo that enjoyed the prequel Star Wars more than the originals (especially the kitschy lightsaber “duel” in episode IV), so I dunno.

            I don’t want to say my opinions aren’t valid but… Mr. Plinkett’s review of the Star Wars prequels is also completely right, and I ended up agreeing with it completely. It turned me from genuinely enjoying the prequels to having them be a ‘guilty pleasure’. I’m pretty sure that if I read enough Code Geass R2 reviews, I’d feel the same way about that show.

          3. ChrisANG says:

            For me, it was the re-tread of the high-school part of the show. The first season had built up a lot of momentum going into the finale, and season 2’s hard reset to something close to the early season 1 status-quo really killed the momentum. The series then had to spend the next several episodes building up momentum again, and by the time they finally left Japan they’d used up a third of the new season.

            Also, they spent a bunch of the first season teasing some sort of ancient world-spanning secret society of Geass users/granters/temple builders/?lost technology? apparently connected to the planet Jupiter, and then dropped that plotline without resolution in the second season.

            Edit: Also, I second BlueHorus, that 10-minute-window-to-edit thing is pretty annoying.

  8. Joshua says:

    It’s been described by several people as seeming more like fan fiction for the past few seasons. This suddenly made me think of The Force Awakens. Enjoyable to watch, but so many plot-holes and stories that don’t make sense.

    I haven’t watched the show past the third season, but have somewhat kept up with it through these posts and others. You usually hear the term “un-filmable” thrown around books like these (or LotR, Harry Potter), but in this case, it might be true. It’s not just the length, but the deliberate way that the books are subsectioned off into POV chapters: Not just to show what’s happening to different characters, but showing what’s happening from their (biased) perspectives, and never necessarily knowing what’s the factual truth.

    Having a camera display the events on screen tends to have an objective, 3rd person view that eliminates the ambiguity. You also add on consolidation of characters and showing characters in scenes where they don’t make sense because you’re already paying the actor and giving them something to do both result in character motivations that don’t make sense.

    1. Thomas says:

      Fanfiction was what I was thinking of – in a positive way. Fanfiction is consumed fastidiously by thousands and thousands of very devoted people but it’s core offerings are storytelling related, but not storytelling in the way Shamus and Mr B deconstruct.

      It’s about creating a series of possibilities and desires in people’s heads, anchored in their attachment to characters formed in some way (either good storytelling or what I now think of as ‘the Marvel method’ – jokes and onscreen comradery) and then fulfilling those desires.

      I don’t think Game of Thrones just has explosions and effects left – I don’t think that fits the way people talk about it. But it’s abandoned storytelling and is all about fulfilling these fanfic desires now. Dany and Jon meet! They f***! There’s a zombie dragon! The wall is breached! These fights are happening.

      I think Mass Effect 2 operated the same way, complete with Marvel method. Mass Effect 3 had the Marvel method but completely flounced creating and fulfilling desire possibilities.

      1. BlueHorus says:

        Here’s something I’d love to see: the show just playing to its strengths for the final season.

        Forget the politics. Forget Cersei & Euron’s dumbass plan to betray everyone. Drop him into one of the plots holes he opened up and never mention him again.
        Forget Jon & Dany falling out then making up again over the fact that he’s a Targaryean.
        There’s only two sides to the story: The Living vs the Dead.

        Instead, just go straight to the action and the fanservice. Epic battles. Cleganebowl. Jamie finally kills Cersei and runs off with Brienne, who incidentally teaches Sansa to sword-fight first. Arya is given a zombie’s face, an obsidian dagger and sent off to do as much damage to the enemy army as she can.
        Dothraki vs wights on a field, Unsullied vs White Walkers in a castle, Jon & Dany vs the Night King in midair, using dragons.

        By far the worst thing about the show – at least for me – is the nonsensical nature of the plot, when it tries to be complex; so often it seems like a waste of time.
        So make it simple. Even if the resulting show is substantially shorter it’ll be a lot more fun.

  9. JDMM says:

    There are two solutions I can imagine to this paradox, the first is that the critics were much more lowbrow (or appealed to by such) than one might think, that the sex and the violence of it being a HBO show was the appeal and so when the plot went off the rails noone much cared because they were still being satisfied.
    I’ve noticed something along those lines a bit, critics treating it as disposable genre trash and meant to be consumed that way, critics falling into “It’s not to meant win awards” shouldn’t happen but if they were attracted to that violence in the first place one can see it

    The second is a general sense of relief it isn’t becoming Lost or Battlestar Galactica/the power of the plot. Plotholes after all are about the failure of a functioning narrative however this narrative is coming to an end and certainly audiences can tolerate a lot if they sense a purpose behind the nonsense. Christopher Nolan has built half of his filmography off of the idea that climactic narrative overrides even such considerations as to whether the emotional cartharsis is even actually real and if a strong climax can make us ‘forget’ the world may be a dream it certainly could convince many the storyteller knows where they’re going.

    1. Fizban says:

      I see it as the simple fact that some people can’t accept the idea that something they like is objectively bad. De-coupling the expectation that good=like and like=good takes effort, but the reflexive property does not apply when one side is an opinion. I’ll defend plenty of stuff I like as being better than it’s given credit for or dismissed without good reason, but I’ve also come to accept that plenty of stuff I like is bad. Bad in ways that don’t bother or even count as a plus to me, but bad.

      Instead the closest most people can come is the conditional rating, where the rating only applies if you like that sort of thing (and is of course positive). Which is perfectly fine, if anything I prefer ratings that take into account the audience rather than pretending objectivity, that’s more honest and useful, but ignoring the flaws right after stating them is still annoying. If you’re gonna maintain a high rating in spite of a pile of new problems, you have to explicitly call out that you’re ignoring them and why.

  10. Hawk says:

    Just popping in to say that it’s nice to hear another native San Diegan shocked that a San Diego team can win.

    The Chargers are dead to me now, though. But they haven’t been a real team since Dan Fouts and Rolf Benirshke left.

    God, I’m old.

  11. Jabrwock says:

    I find the same thing with Doctor Who. Episode is fun to watch. Then afterwards, fridge logic creeps in and I spend 20 minutes venting about what didn’t make sense. And then I eagerly await the next episode and the cycle begins anew.

  12. Syal says:

    I don't believe that it should be possible for a show to simultaneously be both the best and the daftest show on television.

    It’s the Late Night
    Double Feature
    Picture Show.

    1. Oliver Edleston says:

      I wanna go-oh-oh
      Oh! Oooooooh-oh.

  13. Thomas says:

    For what it’s worth, you may be disappointed, but I consider the reaction a successful called shot. You said the writing was bad and people would notice soon. It was and they did!

    I feel this even substantiates Shamus’ Mass Effect 3 story collapse theory. We’ve got a proven example of bad writing building up and suddenly people realise all the new writing is bad. Its fits Mass Effect well.

    Just maybe there’s a final aspect of story and character that GoT is meeting and that keeps the trust.

    1. Munkki says:

      Ironically enough, season 9’s pantomime episode would go on to revitalise public interest in the artform across the english-speaking world, inspiring such classic productions as ‘Naughty Horsie’s Art Class’, ‘Pie Excursion – to Space!’ and ‘Hamlet on Rollerskates’. While audiences at the time were fiercely divided on the merits of its inclusion in Game of Thrones, no-one can argue against its place in history as one of the most important pieces of television aired that decade.

  14. Dirigible says:

    I can already guess at the “Moral Dimension”: The popularity of a show that makes no sense is going to cause more shows to focus on spectacle over logical storytelling.

  15. “the idea of people liking the show doesn't bother me. I suspect that part of it is its sheer popularity”

    Not true for me, I could care less about the popularity. I’m watching because of the characters firstmost, and the lore second, and then the main story/plot (which is not really that original).

    1. Droid says:

      Is it a bit like the story in Dark Souls, then? I mean, looking at it objectively, most people will realize that the story of the DS genre is pretty vague and very mysterious/mythical sounding stuff that maybe you don’t criticize because you have no frame of reference in such a world. Obviously, the reason for that vagueness is that then, individual bosses, enemies and items can be more easily explained, and “time is convoluted” is the nr. 1 excuse for completely nonsensical stuff. But that doesn’t detract from the experience of the game, because a game about exploring, looting and fighting your way through, even when all odds are against you, doesn’t need an airtight story, but tight exploration, loot and enemy design.

      Or, the rationale I used in the past: “After all, they did nail that consistent theme, so maybe that’s enough to give you a consistent story?”

      1. Fizban says:

        Oh I will criticize the story of DS3 up and down and around and ’round. It may have been a relatively small impact, but their apparent disregard for the events of DS2 definitely bugged me the whole time.

    2. Mousazz says:

      I couldn’t care less

      Fixed your idiom. While it only slightly annoys me, it’s a massive pet peeve to others, so watch out.

      1. Droid says:

        Those comments, though…

        Warning: The following comment can induce headache, annoyance and death!

        Allow me to play doubles advocate here for a moment. For all intensive purposes I think you are wrong. In an age where false morals are a diamond dozen, true virtues are a blessing in the skies. We often put our false morality on a petal stool like a bunch of pre-Madonnas, but you all seem to be taking something very valuable for granite. So I ask of you to mustard up all the strength you can because it is a doggy dog world out there. Although there is some merit to what you are saying it seems like you have a huge ship on your shoulder. In your argument you seem to throw everything in but the kids Nsync, and even though you are having a feel day with this I am here to bring you back into reality. I have a sick sense when it comes to these types of things. It is almost spooky, because I cannot turn a blonde eye to these glaring flaws in your rhetoric. I have zero taller ants when it comes to people spouting out hate in the name of moral righteousness. You just need to remember what comes around is all around, and when supply and command fails you will be the first to go. Make my words, when you get down to brass stacks it doesn’t take rocket appliances to get two birds stoned at once. It’s clear who makes the pants in this relationship, and sometimes you just have to swallow your prize and accept the facts. You might have to come to this conclusion through denial and error but I swear on my mother’s mating name that when you put the petal to the medal you will pass with flying carpets like it's a peach of cake.

        1. Nimas says:

          Oh god, I didn’t realise you were quoting there initially. I was 5 lines in trying my damndest to give the benefit of the doubt, wondering where the normal comments from twentysided went before just giving up on the ‘mustard doggy dog’ line and properly re-reading your initial comment.

          And yeah, that was actually beginning to physically hurt.

  16. Cerapa says:

    I really like the engine loss analogy. I feel like the show still has momentum, but just isn’t generating any extra. It’s just rolling on under the power of the earlier seasons, which made us invested in the characters and the world. And as long as the breaks aren’t tapped too hard, then it’ll still be enjoyable.

    I think the problem though is, that you’re looking at the last season as a seperate entity from the whole. People call it the best show, because the earlier seasons were good enough to make it so loved, and people will still remember it fondly unless the show fucks up in a more major way than it has now.

    1. Boobah says:

      And as long as the breaks aren't tapped too hard, then it'll still be enjoyable.

      Continuing the metaphor with a homonym failure? But I also get this image of the writers with a chisel and hammer tapping at fractures in the show… so it works both ways.

      I especially like the idea of your aiming at both readings.

  17. Grampy_bone says:

    There’s probably a basic level of cognitive dissonance at work here. When you’ve invested a lot of emotions into a show that drops off a cliff in quality, your two options are to admit you like a bad show or argue why the show isn’t actually bad.

    Best example of this: Star Wars prequels.

    It will probably take awhile for people to work through the dissonance and parse things more rationally. It may never happen; some people still insist the Star Wars prequels were actually good.

    1. Redrock says:

      The Star Wars prequels aren’t nearly as bad as most people think. They aren’t great and aren’t even good, but they are mostly mediocre. Episode II is probably the worst, but the others? Quite fun at times. Yeah, yeah. I know that sort of talk is taboo in the Internet, but that’s exactly the problem. There is an enduring myth that the prequels are TERRIBLE, much like there is the enduring myth that GoT is GREAT. Both are varying degrees of wrong.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Quite fun is not the same thing as not bad.The room is quite fun.So is breaking dawn 2.And troll 2,of course.Plan 9 as well.And a bunch of other truly terrible movies.The prequels are demonstrably terrible.

        1. Nimas says:

          I still prefer the ridiculous lightsaber fights compared to Force Awakens version of lightsaber fighting, which may be more ‘realistic’. I feel that the prequels overly elaborate, almost Hong Kong martial arts movies, fighting style made me feel that the lightsaber was actually workable in a universe with goddamn guns.

          I may be influenced by the fact that some of my favourite Star Wars media was Jedi Knight and the guilty pleasure of Jedi Academy.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            The video games are the reason why I find the prequels so boring.If they cgi everything,then why dont they at least have some fun with it?Heavily choreographed lightsaber fights may look nice,but if you compare them to video games where you get to swing the saber in conjunction with a plethora of flashy powers,they are just lame and uninspired.Especially the yoda one,where you have this incredible jedi master who is able to effortlessly control buildings,and what do you have him do?Push one rock a bit away then jump around like a pinball on ecstasy.

            Not to mention that this is the same year matrix was released,the movie that revolutionized cgi action flicks and brought kung fu back to the west.If the prequels did the effects well,them the rest of its flaws couldve been forgiven.But a movie that spends all that money on effects and have them be so bad even back then,thats just a waste.

            And while I may dislike the farce awakens because of how derivative it is,at least it did what it set out to do competently.A competent ripoff is still better than an incompetent original idea(not that that much originality,unless compared to the farce).

  18. 4th Dimension says:

    Almost anytime there's any kind of double-cross or unexpected twist in the news, there'll be some commentator or another along shortly to tell us how this is just like Game of Thrones.

    So can we now say that as far as public is conerned the GoT is Dark Souls of TV shows :D

    1. Droid says:

      *points up to the post he just made about how GoT and Dark Souls might actually be similar in how they prioritize their story*

  19. Bloodsquirrel says:

    I don't believe that it should be possible for a show to simultaneously be both the best and the daftest show on television.

    Well, that depends on how seriously you have to take the show in order to enjoy it.

    One of my favorite shows was The Vampire Diaries. Calling it “daft” would be an understatement. It was downright demented, and not in a deliberate way. If I ever found out that I was talking to one of the writers on that show, I would back away slowly and make sure not to let them out of my sight. The characters were as morally reprehensible as they were self-righteous. For several seasons running the plot was basically a constantly worsening chain of events brought on by one stupid, short-sighted, selfish decision the main characters made after another. The romances went out of their way to make no sense.

    And it was glorious. The show had enough genuinely good production values to make sure that watching it was never painful or a slog (the casting was usually damn good), so it was always fun to tune in and see what atrocities the main characters would commit this week, and what new problem they’d cause for themselves, all while brooding about how much it sucked to be them.

    The big difference between it and GoT is that VD was never unreservedly good. The main characters were always unsympathetic asshats, so I never had the experience of watching a show that I was once deeply invested in get stupid. It was always just a great, ridiculous roller-coaster ride.

    Also, you may find that it takes a year or so of the show being over before people look back and say “man, that show really fell off in the last few seasons”. There are a lot of times where people will excuse a show’s faults because “Well, it’s not over yet, so maybe they’re building up to something. You have to wait and see!”. That’s what happened to Bleach, and then when it ended abruptly without answering any of the questions the last storyline had raised people resorted to conspiracy theories about how WSJ had cut off the author prematurely.

  20. jawlz says:

    I think there’s a shift in the way critics are looking at it – early seasons were written about with many of the things that you have in mind – does this make sense, are the character motivations clear and shown well, is there an internal logic to the show (temporal, geographic, philosophic, etc). And for the most part in the early seasons this all held up.

    But in the latter seasons, we’ve seen a shift in the show’s concentration from all of that to spectacle. And that works as well on another, different level.

    I think you are on to something when you note how critics describe the show – faults and all – as still ‘Satisfying.’ Satisfaction as a measure of worth is used in a different context than other complementary words. In terms of ‘criticism’ (such as it is), I see the descriptor used most frequently in fast-casual dining and junk food. And I think that makes sense – you’re not looking for something that is ‘fulfilling’ or ‘good for you’ in those contexts, you’re looking for something that’s going to give a quick hit of happiness/good feelings.

    FWIW, I think that GoT is basically operating along those lines at this point, and it’s doing that relatively well. It’s just a different set of lines than it was operating under when the show first started.

  21. ehlijen says:

    It’s the disses and sick burns that keep people watching. There are assholes on this show, and when they get told off, it feels glorious and cathartic. It doesn’t need to make sense, it just needs to be vicious.

    The script is written towards delivering as many awesome revenge scenes as possible, they don’t need to make sense.

  22. Duffy says:

    I think part of why people aren’t as upset is that it’s ultimately hitting all the larger plot notes that we kinda felt or figured were coming. So even while the details are pretty damn wonky this season more than any others, it hits every major checklist item that we expected. I bet if the show was going way off into left field constantly in ways no one could have possible expected then you’d see more backlash.

    From what I noticed the single most bizzare and unpredictable scene (Dany’s great northern overnight rescue) had some important ramifications with the death of a dragon and it’s wightification, but it was also pretty out of left field compared to well everything else this season (every other major story beat was either dead on for expectations or pretty damn close) and had the most backlash. After that things settled back into wonky but predictable which offset the cost of the writing blunder.

    Momentum is important, especially when you’re starting to sell drama over logical consistency. Do I think the writing quality has dropped despite more or less still enjoying the show? Yes I do, and I think it’s directly related to running out of book material to base the connective tissue on. I think they have the high level checklist to march to the finale and are just not very good writers trying to create all that binding material to bring it all together. Sure they do occasionally write a really good scene that’s not based on some book scene, but it’s not nearly as common. I think this season really shows how heavily they leaned on the books.

    Don’t even get me started on making Jon’s real name Aegon, that makes me think the book plot is gonna keep around some stuff I was really hoping was a feint…

  23. Coming_Second says:

    Never, ever thought I’d see Claude Makelele namechecked on this site. Thank you, Bob Hope.

  24. Sannom says:

    Sure they do occasionally write a really good scene that's not based on some book scene, but it's not nearly as common.

    Ah, but ask yourself : did they really write a good scene, or are the actors just that good? Lena Headey and Peter Dinklage still gets praise from even the most virulent critics when they get a chance to show-off their acting chops.

    1. Duffy says:

      The one that comes to mind right away is the “Chaos is a ladder” speech from season 1. The scene’s framing, writing, and delivery all worked to make a very revealing presentation of Baelish’s motivations and its so important to his character that there are several callbacks over time to it, and it’s one of the few places the sometimes ridiculous amount of random nudity/sex wasn’t just filler or for shock value.

      Tywin’s introduction scene in season 1 is also not from the books (though it may be an allusion to a scene with Sam and his father, but with radically different points) and is pretty damn good all around, it really sets the tone of Tywin. Also pretty awesome that Dance was actually skinning a deer in that scene.

      Though as a case of bad scenes they added being saved by the actor(s) I would present all the Tywin and Arya scenes from Harrenhal as pretty bad overall. They make little sense aside from jamming the two characters together, the framing does nothing special, and the characterization seems out of place. But in the end they are saved almost entirely by Dance’s acting. If you cut them nothing is really lost besides some mostly inconsequential history lessons.

      Good actors can save a meh or bad scene, but when everything in the scene works I can give them credit for putting it all together. It just didn’t happen that often in my opinion.

  25. Redrock says:

    GoT’s popularity currently annoys me for two major reasons. 1) I work in political science and journalism and it makes my blood boil when people start seriously discussing and analysing GoT politics and drawing parallels to the real world, all the while maintaining an air of ubearable intellectual smugness. 2) GoT completely eclipsed the absolutely brilliant Twin Peaks revival, and that is just plain wrong.

    1. Lizard Viking says:

      I think that’s what pisses me off too. In a way I don’t mind people still liking this series even if it has gotten really stupid, I understand people wanting to see Cleganebowl and zombie dragons. What I hate is how people still act if it is an intelligent or thoughtful series.

    2. Distec says:

      Sundays have been very busy for me as of late, because up until recently it consisted of a full course of Twin Peaks -> Game of Thrones -> Rick & Morty in one sitting with my brother and I. And the GoT portion feels so weightless when sandwiched between two superior shows, but particularly after the fever dreams of Twin Peaks. And, of course, GoT is all anybody wants to talk about, and I’m left coyly recommending The Return to anybody adventurous enough (but not too hard for obvious reasons).

      I’m not too burnt up about it, because I always knew an auter Lynch production would be niche compared to the Megachurch of Thrones. But it does sting a little to see vastly more creative shows get overshadowed in this way, especially when my peers still seem to pretend that GOT is being clever at all.

      1. Redrock says:

        True, I think I’am more concerned about the media’s reluctance to see beyond GoT especially when superior shows are right there. The amount of coverage Game of Thrones has been getting is obscene: beyond mere recaps we get numerous think pieces, essays, miscellaneous news and speculations each week. But both The Return and, as you mentioned, Rick and Morty, are far more deserving of such exhaustive coverage. And while it’s okay for viewers to just watch whatever they like, the media more or less has an obligation to promote less popular and more important content. I mean, that’s what being a critic or an expert is all about, at the end of the day. And I think that the media failed miserably at that.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Wait,what?Since when is the obligation of media to promote less known things?

          Being a critic has nothing to do with the obscurity of stuff you criticize.Being an expert has nothing to do with the obscurity of the knowledge you posses.

          1. Redrock says:

            It’s not about obscurity. It’s about quality. The preceding post was about how there are so many A film critic’s job is to help people discover good movies, not harp about what’s already popular because it gets more clicks. At least, that’s the idea. Alas, these days the media’s goal is singular – getting clicks, which is done by writing about something that people already like and would therefore want to read about, usually in search of confirmation that they are oh-so-smart for liking it. Even better if it’s something heavily promoted by a studio or a network or a publisher or whatever, which makes the media’s job even easier.

            But yes, being an expert is pretty much about the obscurity of knowledge. I mean, Merriam-Webster defines expert as “having, involving, or displaying special skill or knowledge derived from training or experience”. The key word is “special”. Knowing something that everybody else knows doesn’t really make you an expert – it’s knowing something that few people do.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              A film critic's job is to help people discover good movies, not harp about what's already popular because it gets more clicks. At least, that's the idea.

              No,its not.It never was.Even back in the days before television there were plethora of people writing long essays about Shakespeare,dedicating decades of their lives examining and critiquing the work of one of the most popular and well known writers in the world.Now why would they do that for someone practically the whole world knew about even before internet?

              The key word is “special”.

              Special is not the same thing as obscure.Take Rob Paulsen.Everyone can learn to do his job.You just memorize a script and then say it out loud into a mike.Sometimes you dont even have to memorize it,you can read it out loud.But he is an expert voice actor because he can do it SPECTACULARLY.Its not obscure,its not difficult to learn to do,but it damn well is difficult to do WELL.Thats what special means.A good critic doesnt have to dazzle you with obscure stuff(heck,Bob here uses a football thing,mentioning world known events and people),they have to dazzle you with well presented stuff.

              1. Redrock says:

                Mixing up a lot of stuff here. There is a difference between scholarly critique and analysis and media work, which is, again, about informing people first. You can indeed spend years writing articles on Shakespeare (although, most of what you would be writing would probably be redundant at that point). But if a modern media outlet would keep writing about Shakespeare instead of bringing new authors to the light – well, I’d say it’s failing at it’s job. Unless it’s Shakespeare Weekly, of course.

                Then you go on to confuse skill and knowledge. Skill doesn’t have to be obscure to be special, a skill can indeed be wielded spectacularly. But you can’t say the same about knowledge. You have to possess rare or unique knowledge and insight. Otherwise you are just a performer. Nothing wrong with that, that just doesn’t mean you are a, say, film expert. In my opinion, a true film critic is someone who has watched a LOT of movies, including a lot of old obscure movies, and can really analyse a given film within he broader context of cinema in general. Just kinda being into pop culture and having access to a keyboard is something different. Not something worse, mind you, just different.

                To give you context, I used to review movies. I actually hosted a radio show on a news radio station, where I would talk about films, the industry, interview filmmakers, stuff like that. And I was pretty good, mainly because of my geeky childhood, just like a lot of pop culture critics on the Internet these days. But I never did and never will call myself a film critic, because my knowledge of the classics is very limited. But even then I’d try to bring attention to some smaller films which would release alongside big blockbusters, because you can’t actually say anything remotely fresh or useful about something that’s been discussed by every single person with Internet access.

                So, all in all, yeah, I think the media should be more responsible in helping people discover new stuff. Otherwise it’s just a circle jerk of studios, journalists and fans.

    3. MarcoSnow says:

      In response to your first point, I agree; most socio-political Game of Thrones analyses are downright embarrassing. To cite one particularly bad example, AV Club once ran a review that drew parallels between Daenerys’ rule of Meereen and the American occupation of Afghanistan. As you can imagine, it was an unbelievably ham-fisted and superficial comparison.

  26. MarcoSnow says:

    You’re definitely not alone in your bafflement towards Game of Thrones‘ bizarre critical consensus, Bob. In a well-grounded fantasy setting, story and details should absolutely matter.

  27. Kerethos says:

    I summed up my opinion on this season to a friend the other day with this:
    “None of what happens makes any sense, characters can’t even seem to keep their motivations consistent for an entire scene, it’s a mess. But hey, I like the dragons. The dragons are fun.”

    I’m enjoying the nonsensical mess and CGI dragons vs undead now. It’s an entirely different kind of enjoyment than the first seasons gave me, because if I bother to think about how anything is supposed to make sense my brain hurts as it tries to rationalize how time works in Westeros…

  28. Preciousgollum says:

    I started looking forward to season 7… ending with disappointment; says enough.

    Personally, I think I can trace this issue back to one main problem:

    The development of MAIN PROTAGONIST.

    At the end of Season 6, the conflict had culminated to Cerci vs Dany (even though they hadn’t met) – Breaker of Chains vs Queen of Revenge – some could even have been rooting for Cerci.

    By the end of the first episode of Seasing 7, it was very clear that this narrative conflict had given way in favour of making Dany the main protagonist, which, although straining credulity, I could have settled for, since we are in the final stretch. Dany’s War Campain scenes, however, were the first Red Herring.

    By the end of seven episodes, the machine had worked tirelessly to transfer the MAIN PROTAGONIST title to JON SNOW, with him now bein the most SPECIAL CHARACTER of Game of Thrones that ever was or will be… he even had sex with the previous main character.

    Meanwhile, the role of Cerci has been to become villainous cretin in chief. If Dany is presented as a Kickstarter funded initiative, Cerci would appear as Goldman-Sachs, in every scene.

    So, we had a Seven Episode Bait ‘n Switch, in the form of MAIN CHARACTER, although one which surprised nobody if the audience was paying at least a bit of attention… not to mention marketing etc.

    And yea, it does seem as though Season 7 wanted a week-to-week set of ‘event-scenes’ that could feature in media & make easy conversation; the TV show pacing plan being to bore people for 50 minutes, so the LAST 10 MINUTES SEEM EPIC by comparison…

  29. But then, after more than 1600 unminced words of criticism, the final section of the review starts with the sentence “Please note that none of this means Game of Thrones is bad.” Doesn't it, though? To me, a TV show with nonsensical storytelling is a bad TV show. But maybe I'm wrong about that.

    Well I mean, yeah…you are. You and Shamus both seem to really struggle understanding the impact of aesthetics in the media you both comment on, which is odd considering how it’s media that’s…y’know, visual in nature.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      Struggle understanding, or don’t value it as much as other people might?

      Bob has comment on the visual language used: specifically mocking the Crenelations of Deep Significance between Arya and Sansa last week.
      Also a few weeks ago pointing out Cersei’s Evil Shoulderpads and the new black uniform for the Queensguard.
      And a joke about Dragonstone, this week.

      Anyway, GoT isn’t some David Lynch-style, artistic non-linear cinematic experience.
      A lot of the runtime of the show is spent on the story; characters talking about what they’re doing, why they’re doing it.
      That’s what drives the show forward, and it is Not Good.

      1. Struggle understanding, or don't value it as much as other people might?

        Both. They’re not mutually exclusive perspectives. They can dismiss/praise whatever aspect of a product they themselves prefer obviously, but doing so doesn’t make for a particularly objective point.

        If TUN were just saying of GoT, “This show does things I don’t like.”, then hey no problem. You do you. But he aint. He’s saying, “This show does things I don’t like, and is bad because of it.” For crying out loud, his final paragraph was about how he’d discuss the show’s moral responsibility to adhere to his preference for concise world building and plot structure.

        And when confronted with evidence that other people have a different assessment of the show, he compares it to him as a teenager rooting for the Chargers. He explicitly frames that perspective as childish, temporary, and influenced by a mob mentality. That is, in no uncertain terms, a dismissal. It’s not that he doesn’t value it as much as other people, he devalues it in its entirety.

        In the end, these are very well written and eloquent articles of a man who wants people to agree a show is bad because he doesn’t like what it does and doesn’t really bring more to the table than that. That’s fine. It’s his party and he’ll cry if he wants to, and in truth I cry about some of same things, but that’s not because he convinced me with a successful argument.

  30. Quiet Moping Café says:

    I hope Bob makes some blog posts that aren’t about Game of Thrones.

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