August 28, 2014

Summer TV left a lot to be desired, so let’s go back to Game of Thrones

Posted in Judaism, Pop Culture at 12:02 am by chavalah

Sansa (Sophie Turner) Arya (Maisie Williams) and Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) a million years ago

Sansa (Sophie Turner) Arya (Maisie Williams) and Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) a million years ago

But first, a quick recap of True Blood‘s final season and The Leftovers‘ first one.

Despite my hopes last year, True Blood just sank this year. I can find little of spiritual or any kind of thoughtful consequence to pull out of the rubble. Except to say that I think it says a lot about the overall failings of the show that after seven seasons, the only way they could think to wrap things up for title character Sookie Stackhouse was to marry her off to a man we never even meet. Ugh.

The Leftovers was a little hit and miss. After nine episodes, I kind of appreciate the main characters, but I feel like I’m being duped. First of all, there’s a dichotomy between the fact that this departure thing is supposedly a global issue, and yet we are predominately experiencing it through the trials and tribulations of a few people from a small, predominately white middle class town. The three recurring characters of color are all marginalized in one way or another in a way that feels blatantly obnoxious to me, particularly with Wayne and Christine and their hug cult/Asian harem baby messiah craziness. Second of all, although showrunner Damon Lindelof apparently wants the audience to not focus on what happened during the departure but how the characters deal, there’s so much focus on the external–unexplained cracks in the wall or teeth on the ground, to exploding pipes and people who act like they know you until they don’t, and most of all, the crazy, crazy animal activity. It’s disingenuous to say that the show itself, not only the characters, are prodding the audience to want to know the answer.

But probably the reason I feel most excluded from The Leftovers is because I’m pretty sure that the departure is the Christian Rapture. Again, Lindelof tells us that this is an unexplainable event that targeted people from all religious and non-religious backgrounds. But so far, to my knowledge, the show hasn’t featured a non-Christian character. More to the point, the schism between Reverend Matt and his followers, and the new, nihilistic cult of the Guilty Remnant are literally framed by Christian liturgical music. Episodes have included a profile of the reverend and a Christmas-themed number to signify a break from tradition. Even the crazy deer with whom main character Kevin Garvey has several run ins can apparently be seen as Christian imagery. Although some of this might not be intentional framing, art tends to speak for itself.

So, instead my mind has traveled back to a show where I feel more connection–Game of Thrones. Oh, Game of Thrones, which, as I predicted, came, saw, and conquered nothing at the Emmys earlier this year. :p. In keeping with tradition.

I know not what liberties The Leftovers has taken with it’s source material (True Blood has taken so much that you can hardly call them the same story anymore,) but an interesting one in Game of Thrones involves the three protagonist Stark siblings. Benoiff and Weiss claim not to like themes, but for whatever reasons (probably to beef up the individual stories) there now lies a common thread between Sansa, Arya and Bran in season four.

I wrote a few months ago about how Sansa’s decision to side with Littlefinger became more autonomous to her. I didn’t mention that Arya’s encounter with Brienne, and Bran’s near encounter with Jon never happened in the books.

Like with Sansa, her younger siblings were now presented with a tenable choice–should they put themselves in the care of a family member or someone charged by family to look after them? Or do they choose their own paths?

I already wrote a bit about the girls, so I want to focus on Bran. His dilemma is similar to theirs broadly and different in specifics; first off Jon is family, and ergo Bran knows he’s trustworthy. The bigger issue is that the brothers have different ideas about what would be best for the boy. TV Jon, who, unlike book Jon, presumes Bran to be alive, most definitely wants to take his brother back south of the Wall for his own safety. Poor Bran, watching, paralyzed, as his brother draws near, faces an internal conflict–part of him wants to be reunited, but the rest of him has faith in his path to find the Three Eyed Raven. This is a lot more visceral than Jon and Bran’s canon almost-encounter in season three. But back then Jon was alone with the enemy and Bran was stuck in a tower. By tweaking the particulars for season four, the show runners made certain that Bran, like his sisters, had to make a definitive choice.

There’s pluses and minuses in changing character motivations from novel to screen. But I appreciate that visual media favors characters to be more proactive. These changes allow the Stark siblings to come alive on the show, similar to how their reflective POV chapters serve them in the books.



  1. […] that Lady Stonheart from the books espouses is probably best realized on the show by Arya. Like last year, the Stark girls parallel each other, this time by being placed in sexual positions with people […]

  2. […] written in some depth about season one and season two, though I’ll have to rehash some bits in order to come to terms with the final […]

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