DeFlip Side #195: A Swan Song of Ice and Fire

DeFlip Side #195: A Swan Song of Ice and Fire.mp3

Welcome everyone. I’m Christopher DeFilippis and this is DeFlip Side.

After eight seasons, the groundbreaking HBO drama Game of Thrones has come to a close – bittersweet news for a book fan like me, who has been invested in the show from the start. No one was more excited than I was to hear that George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy saga was coming to the small screen. If anything deserved long-form adaptation, it was A Song of Ice and Fire.

But I also had trepidation. I mean, would they screw it up, like just about every other genre adaptation I’d ever seen? But when the first episode ended with Jamie pushing Bran out the window, I knew that they would do it right. Not only right, but superlatively. Everything was spot-on: the casting, the costumes, the locations. Martin’s world had been brought to life. I hadn’t felt such a purely fannish thrill since Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Lord of the Rings. But unlike Tolkien’s masterwork, Martin’s book series was still unfinished.

And still the seasons went on. As the show runners were running out of books to adapt, Game of Thrones became the first adaptation I’d ever watched that eventually eclipsed the source material.

Now this put me in a weird position. I’m a book snob, and I’ve always read things first before watching their adaptations. Now, I show I loved was threatening to spoil a book series I loved. And so at first (of course!) I resolved not to watch it – at least until Martin put a new book out.

But considering the endless wait between books, that resolve evaporated after about a nanosecond. So on I went, following the exploits of Arya, Jon, Daenerys, Samwell and the rest, right until the final episode.

So, was it worth it?

Well… I’d never call it bad, but the show did become an increasingly mixed bag as it got further and further from Martin’s roadmap. Granted, show runners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff had a million plot points to resolve in a finite amount of time. So they had to streamline by hitting some of the big story posts:

Daenerys gets to Westeros – check;

Jon fights the Night King north of the Wall – check;

Said Night King kills and resurrects one of Dany’s dragons to destroy the wall – check;

And, of course, Jon is revealed to be the true heir to the Iron Throne – check and mate, in fantasy tropes.

Oh yeah. And Arya? She kills tons more people.

So far as I was concerned, things had unfolded in a very intriguing way, culminating in Season eight’s triumphant “The Long Night” in which Jon and Daenerys took out the Night King in a truly amazing battle that featured Arya’s most triumphant kill yet. I mean, it was awesome.

But then it was like the show runners had invested so much in the Night King story, they forgot about resolving the overall story about who gets the Iron Throne. And that’s when things started to fall apart. It was like they didn’t know how to end it. Their solution? Take all of the remarkable character growth that we’ve witnessed over the last half-decade, and push it out a window.

And to that point, consider Jamie, perhaps the series’ most compelling character. He grew from a child-murdering sister-shtupper into an honorable and heroic man. But since the writers didn’t know what to do, they completely stripped him of all that nuance and brought him right back to where he was in the first episode, running to Cersei’s aid and dying with her as the Red Keep collapsed down on top of them.

And about that, what was with Daenerys laying waste to King’s Landing, burning a city full of innocent men, women and children alive? Granted, she always had a vicious streak in her quest for power, but always as a champion for the weak and oppressed. At the end of it all, she devolved into just another mad, murdering Targaryen. Which made it inevitable that Jon would have to kill her – yet another anti-climax. And Jon, the true king, goes north again to the Night’s Watch, where he began. And Tyrion is once again on the Small Council, trying to bring some order to this mess of a kingdom.

And so the story comes full circle. And everything you’ve seen and been so invested in over the years never really mattered. Disappointing? Yeah, ya think?

But here’s where the book snob in me comes to the rescue, because my wordy little heart is convinced that Martin will do his story justice and bring it to a much more satisfying conclusion. Assuming, that is, that he ever puts out another book.

Now Martin has been on record saying the main reason the book series has stalled is because he doesn’t want to screw it up. Well, I’m here to put you at ease, George. No matter how you decide to wrap it up, I’m positive you’re gonna stick the landing much better than the TV show.

And I for one can’t wait to find out how it ends – all over again.

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