June 1, 2012

High Class Trash - Is Game of Thrones Really As Good As We Think It Is?

"Game of Thrones" has it's finale this Sunday and I can't wait. If you've been following my recaps* over the course of the past two seasons, you've probably noticed I'm kind of a Thrones' junkie. I even snatched up the books so I can be more in the know. Yet as we approach the end of the season and the unbearably long wait until season 3 sometime in Spring 2013 (!!!) I find myself just wondering how "great" the show really is.

For me a "great" show needs to transcends the boundaries of the space it exists in. Yeah, I know that sounds incredibly TV watcher pretentious, but stick with me here folks. The great TV dramas including "Mad Men," "Breaking Bad," "The Wire," and are both gripping narratives and also statements about something**. "Mad Men" so far seems to be about the passage of time between generations, how history both personal and national shapes us, and how the media forms our sense of self. "Breaking Bad" is a study in self control, power, and the shifting nature of evil. "The Wire" is about all the little interconnected pieces in a city. If you encounter fans of any of these shows they'll be able to talk about what makes it good, but they'll also be able to talk about what it's "about" (it's about tha game, life, power yo!)

There is no doubt that "Thrones" kills it on almost every level. Incredible production design (and budget), great acting, interesting characters, loads of sex and violence, magic, dragons, teleporting cloning warlocks you get the idea, but I struggle to figure out the deeper meaning behind the whole thing, because so far I don't think there is one. This partially due to the immense cast of characters the show has. "Breaking Bad' and "Mad Men" both have super strong protagonists that cary thematic weight, and "Thrones," shit, I don't even know who the central protagonist is? Robb? Arya? Jon Snow?

It's also excessively pulpy and trashy. It revels in excessive violence, gratuitous nudity, and a fantastic genre. A show like "Breaking Bad" is violent as hell, but it doles it out in small doses and each kill has a weight. In "Thrones," just last week we got people chopped in half, chopped diagonally, leg chopped, head crushed, and eye arrowed. Let's not forget last seasons excessive horse killing. If that's not all pulpy I don't know what is.

This desire to satisfy the audiences need in place of story makes it weaker in more line with gore fests like "True Blood" and "The Walking Dead," which aren't "bad shows, they're just not on the same level as the great shows they're "second tier." Other shows in this group that I've put "Thrones in include "Sons of Anarchy," "Homeland***" and even though it pains me to say it "Spartacus." Tune in at the bottom for a TPG power rankings of my favorite shows on the air.

Maybe I should listen to David Simon and judge "Thrones" on it's weightier themes after it's aired in it's entirety. Perhaps then it will work better thematically.  If each season is based on book, maybe I should judge each season as one story, kind of like the "Harry Potter" films. But for now, I'm going off what I'm seeing, and what I'm seeing is an awesomely trashy fantasy pulp epic. I'm fine with it, but wish it was something more.


Tier One
1. Breaking Bad
2. Mad Men

Tier Two:
1. Game of Thrones
2. Spartacus
3. Homeland
4. Boardwalk Empire
4. True Blood
5. Walking Dead

*If you're looking for a recap for last week's episode "Blackwater" - here it is: people got chopped up.
** I still haven't seen "The Sopranos," yeah I know, I gotta get on it.
*** "Homeland" is just "24" in a different package.


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    HBO Game of Thrones Season 6 Episode 1 Online

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