June 15, 2014
Why The Biggest Battle Sequence In Game Of Throne Underwhelmed
The second to last episode of the fourth season of the hit HBO series Game of Thrones should have had everything going for it. It was a massive battle that had been building all season, and yet it was as boring as watching snow fall.
The FoxNews‘ recap by Brian Henry proclaimed that the episode, titled “The Watchers on the Wall,” was summed up as “Bloody battle a bore.”
However, Variety‘s Brian Lowry declared, “the fourth season’s edition proved another epic of theatrical-blockbuster proportions,” and added, “the scope of the episode was enormous, if not equal to the grandeur.”
Were the two Brians watching the same show? Personally I agree with Brian – both of them.
Lowry is correct that it was an epic of theatrical-blockbuster proportions, but as I’ve made a point of saying a few times now, big battles do not make for good story telling. So while the scope of the episode was enormous, it was as Henry pointed out, a bloody bore too.
Part of the problem is that Game of Thrones tends to be more story-driven than action packed, and this episode seemed to miss the storytelling. A reason for this is that apart from John Snow, Sam and Ygritte, even readers of the books might have to go back to the books to remember the names of the other characters.
The second season episode “Blackwater,” which was also the second to last episode of that season, was the first episode to take place in a single location and involved the attack on Kings Landings by the forces of Stannis Baratheon. It featured numerous characters on both sides – from Stanis to Tyrion to various knights, Queen Cersi, her son King Joffrey, Lady Sansa, etc. There was plenty of storytelling along the way AND an epic battle with ships, wild fire (a sort of magical Greek Fire) and plenty of sword play.
“The Watchers on the Wall” was really more about a lot of unnamed Wildlings from the north as they attacked the Men of the Night’s Watch. The episode also combined two separate actions – the attack on Castle Black and the siege of the Wall – into one massive battle. Maybe this is a good thing because big battles are sparse in Game of Thrones and should remain so, but the pacing for such an action packed story was slow.
Those who didn’t read the books could have believed that the Battle of Blackwater Bay and the siege of Kings Landing could have gone either way. In fact, the story is presented that (spoilers) Stannis might actually win. There are twists and turns along the way and things you didn’t see.
By contrast, the attack on Castle Black was as predictable as tales of good and evil get. (Spoilers) The only big twist that folks might not have seen coming is that Ygritte – Jon Snow’s wildling lover – would get shot by an arrow just after making contact with the oh-so-honorable bastard son of Ned Stark. But was it any surprise she’d utter in her Northern English but meant to sound wildling accent, “You know nuthing Jon Snow.” He may not know “anything,” but we kind of knew you’d say that.
Perhaps the bar was set too high for this episode, but over all this season of Game of Thrones – which is actually the second half of the third book A Storm of Swords – has delivered. With one more episode to go, chances are there will be some massive twists in the final episode that will make us forget that this one was kind of dull.
Image Credit: HBO