Sunday the second season of Game of Thrones ended. Unlike last season, I’m not sure this one will earn as many rewards.
Most of the strengths were still present. Strong acting from the principals including the child actors. Good writing. Excellent sets, dressing and costuming. And keeping fairly close to the source material.
The flaws were reduced. Each character was given more time in the spotlight. There were fewer sexposition (plot exposition during explicit sex scenes) – although they was still some.
But the second series introduced new flaws. Many are in the source material as well.
The first series had an ensemble cast, but a strong focus on Ned Stark. The second lacks that focal point. The plot also had a central through line of the events surrounding Ned in King’s Landing. The second is a jumble of scenes spread throughout the Seven Kingdoms and beyond. Finally, the book and series suffers from middle act syndrome – the setup was done in series 1, but series 2 offers only complications, but little resolution.
In adapting the material it is almost impossible to avoid. Both the book and the series try and avoid this by providing mostly complete character arcs. Tyrion’s time as Hand of the King. Danaerys’ time in Qarth. Theon’s time as Prince of Winterfell. But this doesn’t work for all the characters. Arya and Sansa and Jon have their arcs stop in mid-point. Catelyn lacks an arc and acts mostly in service to the plot.
The result is that many episodes ended up being just a jumble of scenes. Each scene is quite good on its own merits, but the whole is fractured.
The other force balancing this is the build up to the battle of Blackwater at King’s Landing. The books do a better job building the fear and tension in the city leading up to the siege. Both have a satisfying climax in this battle. But it is apparent in the tv show that this is only an important event to a limited number of characters.
Some of the flaws are the tv shows alone. In simplifying the plot and cast list for tv some of the nuance is lost. Every plot line has a reduced set of supporting characters. Some of the complications were removed or modified to fit the running time of TV or reduce the need for exposition. Often the result was fine. Sometimes it made it not quite as compelling. Sometimes it made it confusing. But this simplification was never an improvement over the original.
At the end of the series the characters are generally in the same place as at the end of the second book.
Peter Dinklage, playing Tyrion Lanister, remains the strongest actor in the series. He has some excellent scenes throughout.
In all, I’m still happy with the series, but I think it might lost viewers as it moves into season 3.