The HBO series Game of Thrones has been lauded as a shining example of amazing television, of what book adaptations should be like. It has also become such a cultural phenomenon that parodies, SNL sketches and internet memes have been dedicated to loving–or perhaps not so loving–mockery of it.
Anyone who was on the outside of this cultural phenomenon might have felt like they were hearing more about it than ever before, and part of the reason was outrage. Fans of the show are starting to get annoyed and angered by the series, as I have discussed before.
So what is all the upset about? Now that all is said and done, where did Game of Thrones go wrong? Why did season four make everyone so upset? Spoilers, obviously.
1. Controversy. The biggest thing that started all this was the rape scene between Jaime and Cersei, and perhaps enough has been said about that already, but it was definitely the inciting incident of people’s disappointment. After Joffrey’s wedding, and subsequent death, fans were eager to see how things would develop from there. We were not eager to see sexual violence, which happened or was threatened a few more times after Jaime raped (but didn’t?) Cersei. But any moral points about the rape aside, (it absolutely deserves much discussion, and I have not finished ranting about it, but it’s not my point here) the rape was merely a catalyst for people to look at the show more critically. A critical eye had been turned on it, but everyone, as a culture, was still pretty much in love with it. One moment, and it may have jumped the shark, because everything they do is subject to a more careful critical eye. This is when people noticed, even more…
2. Characters with nothing to do. Remember the Tyrell’s? They were up to some shady and interesting stuff. Remember when Brienne of Tarth disappeared for what felt like an eternity (she was awesome in the finale)? There were a lot of characters put on the sidelines in this season, which is all well and good, except that wasn’t going to happen with fan favorites like Daenerys. And as much as we all love the mother of Dragons, she still wasn’t really doing anything, and it left some of us wondering…”What is Olenna up to right now? I bet she is doing something fascinating.”
3. Lack of tension. As a whole, the season suffered from a lack of tension. It felt like each episode was going to consist of people talking to one another in different locations, then maybe a battle for a second, then more talking. When there was tension…
4. Predictable, kind of. It was kind of obvious that if the music was getting tense, or a fight of some sort was occurring at the end of the episode, that someone was going to die. It’s now become a joke that George R. R. Martin kills his characters off, especially now that everyone knows pretty much what happens at the Red Wedding, and this is making it easy to guess when there is going to be a death. The only question becomes when, especially if it’s a character that you like. And so, when you’re always on the look out for it, you’re seeing it coming.
On the whole, the season needed to not rely so much on violence, and sexual violence in order to keep it entertaining. Rather, some tension and relationships between the characters would go a long way towards making Game of Thrones feel as revelatory as it did in its first three seasons.