Thursday, June 12, 2014

How Can "Game of Thrones" Possibly Continue?

As the dragons grow, will the quality of Game of Thrones decline?

Maybe they just are trying to adapt what cannot be adapted (in the present television industry.) Because the eventual, titanic size of the dragons is not the only problem the show faces. Now production is moving too fast to stop, and (as always) the show will go on, whether it should or not.

The dragons, up until now, have continued to impress more each season. They are easily some of the most convincing CGI creatures ever put to film. But they were noticeably absent for much of this season. A large part of this is because they genuinely didn't have much of a role to play (they will play a much larger role in Season 5, with showrunners beginning to adapt A Dance With Dragons.) The other reason for the dragon's absence this season, plainly, was due to budget. And that is fine; their absence was perfectly logical in the context of the plot. If the show had an infinite budget, the dragons could have been thrown in a few more times, but as it is, it is fine.

But now I am worried for the future of the series.

To say that the role of the dragons has continually exceeded expectations, is an understatement. The quality of these three brutally savage characters has only gone up. But there are other areas of the show that have, however quietly, taken hits due to budget limitations (not including the disastrous Battle at the Wall-which seriously awoke me to the budget crisis, like a hard kick in the groin.)

Drogon in Season 1

 The dragons in Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Drogon in "A Dance With Dragons"?

The size of a fully grown dragon in Ice and Fire (Season 7?)

From seasons 1 to 3, the producers' bank account has been able to manage the weight of the content. Seasons 1 to 3, and 4, have done a fantastic job with the resources at the directors' and producers' disposal. But from here on out, starting with Season 5, things will be different. Starting with Season 5, Game of Thrones is going to get many notches more complex, more ferocious, and more expensive. Bigger dragons, bigger battles, a bigger world, and more characters.

Right now I believe they are working with about $6-7 million dollars an episode? (The amount has been stagnant since Season 1.) Well, this is pathetic. Consider the well-known fact that in the final two seasons of Friends, the cast of six made a million dollars an episode. Including further necessary costs, the final two seasons of Friends had a budget equal to or exceeding what Game of Thrones has working with for four seasons. Outrageous - Friends can be shot on nothing, while Thrones increasingly requires more and more money. HBO is taking greed to a whole new fucking level, and they are raping the child they have adopted, and are making a massive fortune off of it.

More blows are driving a stake between producers/the show and Martin/the novels, and the difference between their interests is widening. Season 5, airing in Spring 2015, will be out before the sixth novel, The Winds of Winter. And from here the series' future looks confusing and uncertain.

Season 1 adapted book one; Season 2 adapted book two. The third book, A Storm of Swords, was split into two seasons - Season 3 and Season 4. But Season 4 is also starting plot lines from the fifth volume, A Dance With Dragons. Martin is now hinting that he may need eight books to conclude the series (previously, he was going up to seven.) But producers of the show have been very clear that the show will be finished in seven seasons. And now, perhaps starting with Season 6 in 2016, the airing of the show is going to overtake the release of the novels; trying to cover ground that Martin has told the writers about, but which will not be published in time. (The producers have been adamant that they will not take any breaks between seasons, to allow the books' publication to catch up to the pace of the show.) George R.R. Martin has suggested that the television series be ended with a film or films; giving five times the budget of one television season - say, $200 million, or whatever it would be - to three hours in a film, for what is sure to be an epic and absurdly expensive final battle/final battles, involving three full-sized dragons and tens of thousands of soldiers (scope that could be compared to the Lord of the Rings films - or perhaps the scope of Thrones' climax will even surpass that...)

And there are many, many more components to all of this, and it will probably all get in a worse tangle as this all begins to play out.

The show is improving in some ways, and weakening in others (the Battle at the Wall was a mood-killer), but overall the show is improving. Season 4 is an improvement over Season 3. Joffery's wedding was possibly the most astounding scene of the series so far. And the Viper's murder was much more horrifying than the (gratuitous) Red Wedding (The Red Wedding was much better in the novel.)

I just don't know if I see Martin coming out of this, and remaining on good terms with showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, or HBO. It's all a balancing act, and will take a miracle (or several) from the gods, for the show to finish without the quality lowering. I feel that whatever happens next season will be a strong indication of what we do or don't have to look forward to in subsequent seasons.

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