Don’t think this is a burial of Game of Thrones; it really is one of the best shows on TV right now. But “the best” and “frustrating” aren’t mutually exclusive, and there’s a lot Game of Thrones does that it could stand to stop doing. Like, for example…
It Won’t Stop Killing The Most Interesting Characters
When I re-watched the series in my review of the beer, one thing that kept standing out to me is what a slog some of it was early on. A big part of the problem is and always has been that out of the twenty or thirty characters the show juggles at any given time, maybe half of them are interesting. And then they cack it, this season being no exception.
Fortunately, it keeps introducing new, interesting characters, and thus the cycle continues.
It Won’t Kill Boring Characters Off, Or At Least Push Them Off-Screen
Similarly, the show has the right attitude, which is that anybody can die, and doesn’t use it properly. Do I feel bad for, say, Stannis? Absolutely, and yes, he’s plot-essential and can’t be killed off. But he’s also a humorless stiff, even by Westeros standards, and when you’ve got a show with characters like Tyrion Lannister, that means he may be plot relevant, but we don’t need to see him on screen. The angry smart-ass in the sham marriage with daddy issues is way more interesting than the humorless brother of a fat idiot, no matter how much the show screws them both over.
It Needs More Focus
Yes, the books are sprawling, as they’re basically telling about a dozen stories of political intrigue at once. But the series, right from the start, has been unable to draw as tight a focus on its best plotlines as it deserves to. Seriously, no knock to Emilia Clarke, who’s done a great job, but Dany barely touches the actual plot: It’s like we’re watching two shows at once.
And yes, eventually she does actually get involved in what amounts to the main plot, but really, just either give her her own show, or have her show up out of nowhere riding a dragon.
It’s A Little Too Faithful To The Books
High fantasy has a problem in that authors are, one and all, obsessed with “world-building.” This is because their primary audience are obsessive nerds who love fussy little details like how you buy condoms in King’s Landing. It’s a trend that started with Tolkien and hasn’t stopped, even if it really should.
Martin is no exception, as an author. And the show feels an obligation to fit it all in that can work against it. There is no better illustration of this than in the first season, where, right after Ned Stark faces a veiled threat from Jaime Lannister, adding to the mood of threat and unease, the show immediately torpedoes that with what feels like an hour of him taking a meeting with the accounting department. Yeah, it’s in the book. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck.
There’s Always Room For Improvement
Again, this isn’t to knock Game Of Thrones. The show is one of the best things on TV. But it can always be improved, beyond adding more boobs and brat-poisonings.