You know the more I think of this, the more I think it’s a bad idea and I should stop. But I’ve never been one for listening to myself when I know something’s a bad idea, so let’s just roll with it and see what happens, shall we?
Recently we’ve been trying our hand very loosely at other forms of media besides gaming and as such, we have delved into the likes of long-running comic series, graphic novels (also comics), even poetry, for some odd reason. And today we’re going to be talking about a very popular TV series based on a slightly older series of books which have, in recent years, become known as Lord of the Rings for adults. Seriously.
A Song of Ice and Fire is the name of the series of books, with the first book called A Game of Thrones. HBO, the network everyone loves to watch because of how much it celebrates gratuitous sex, eventually picked up the series and called it Game of Thrones, and that series is now in its third season. Look, the series really, really doesn’t need any introduction from me. You all know it by now, and you all ought to pick up the books and give them a read. They are one of the best examples of adult-oriented, mature storytelling with multi-dimensional characters and a sea of grey areas between very little black and white. There is political intrigue in droves and it’s all about character interaction, conflict, crazy schemes and plots, and of course, lots and lots of sex. Sometimes all in one chapter.
One very unique element about the books is that they are not told in a strict chapter sense, where each is numbered and follows sequentially, but rather from the perspective of characters, where a chapter can happen simultaneously or before or after other chapters, and each chapter follows exactly one character, including their thoughts, their perspectives and their words. Effectively, this makes author George R. R. Martin the world’s most successful schizophrenic with an onion fetish.
Now season three of Game of Thrones has just begun and so far it’s been great. There have been two episodes which I won’t discuss in too much detail in case anyone hasn’t watched them yet. What I do want to discuss, however, is the way the world is getting more coverage as we go along. See, in the first season we were effectively focusing purely on three battles; this then led to just a few locations. We had The Wall, for Jon’s battle in the North; we had King’s Landing, Winterfell and later, The Eyrie, for the Starks’ conflict with the Lannisters; and we had Pentos, the Dothraki Sea and later, Vaes Dothrak, for Daenerys and her part of the story. However by the second season we saw Renly going his own way, Stannis finally introduced to the plot, and Theon opting to reclaim his Ironborn roots. More locations. A lot more, but enough to manage an hour-long TV spot each week, for ten weeks.
The first two seasons of Game of Thrones culminated in the perfect representation of the first two books in the series A Song of Ice and Fire, however with the third season we have things going differently already: The third season only represents the first half of the third book, A Storm of Swords. What this then means is that a fourth season will have to be filmed, most likely also ten episodes long, and we will require two years to cover one book. This has obvious benefits in that it prolongs the series and allows Martin to get out his sixth and seventh books at his regular pace so that by the time they’re out, the TV series won’t have overtaken them. But it also has a few drawbacks.
One of these drawbacks, quite simply, involves the number of newer characters introduced in the third book. There are quite a few. Already with just two episodes, we’ve met a fair number of them, but I dare say, there are still a few more. And with new characters comes new locations. While some older locations will be abandoned, not all will. What this then means is that during the ten-episode-long season, we will not always get to see what’s going on with certain characters, as only so much story can be fit into an hour-long schedule and as such, the writers will have to forgo some stories in favour of others. You might argue that this is a good thing, because it means no character gets too much screen time, but I would caution that mindset because this season specifically, is a very important one. It builds up to the next season in a way I cannot explain without going into spoiler territory, and I worry for how much story can be told, when characters have to fight for screen time.
Thing is, let’s say we’re done with season four and with season five of Game of Thrones, we are onto the fourth book. For those who’ve not read the series, the fourth and fifth books happen in parallel and are divided geographically, where book four (A Feast For Crows) follows certain characters in King’s Landing and surrounding areas, and book five (A Dance with Dragons) follows certain other characters in the North and across the Narrow Sea, before bringing it all back together. The reason for this was because the original book was too long to be published, and so Martin had split them, but that obviously does not need to matter for the series, so HBO might well opt to run books four and five simultaneously, splitting them up in terms of chronology just like what they’re doing with seasons three and four.
But then we need to deal with all the new locations introduced there, including the new characters. Take note, we’ve still not seen locations the likes of Dorne, Braavos, Volantis and so much more.
Is it going to get to a point where we see one of our favourite characters this week and then only see them again in one brief scene three weeks later?
I obviously cannot say for certain, just yet, but it is something to think about. Make no mistake, I have absolute faith in the guys behind the TV series to pull it off with some splendour and I look forward to watching every follow-up season, including the currently running one. And yes, I know I’m getting far, far ahead of myself by considering future seasons in this light. Still, the point remains that so far in two episodes of season three, we have barely seen that much of any of the characters, with exception perhaps being Margaery, and I cannot help but wonder, what if the series added an extra half hour to each episode and broke away from traditional scheduling?
By all means, share your thoughts in the comments.