Sorry, Game of Thrones: It’s Not You, It’s Me

*opens DVR*

*casually surfs to GAME OF THRONES*

*selects ‘cancel series’*

*shudders with a sigh of relief*

I’m sorry, Game of Thrones, but I gotta go.

I know, I know. This is an obvious, almost obligatory post after one of the soul-wrecking finales of your show — the post-episode karate-kicking-over-your-television-while-weeping-uncontrollably demonstration. I’m the cartoon office dude flinging his office papers in the air while being all like FUCK THIS SHIT. I’m like that cat who is so done he won’t stop pawing shit off the table. And of course the expectation is, eventually the trauma will recede out to sea and next year I’ll once again tune in like a junkie to see what wacky shenanigans Tyrion is up to.

I’ve been there before, certainly. Where I was thisclose to being done with you, GoT.

And then I come crawling back. Every year.

But not this time, I’m afraid.

(I know, some of you are breathing your own sighs of relief: OH THANK A HOT SACK OF MOIST FUCKERY HE’S DONE WITH THIS SHOW NOW HE CAN COMPLAIN ABOUT SOMETHING ELSE FOR A WHILE. I hear you. I’m sorry for duct-taping you to a chair and yelling all my complaints at you. I learned it by watching you, Ramsay Snowbolton!)

It’s not you, Game of Thrones.

It’s me.

I just spent all weekend in a hospital — my mother took ill and so we buckled her into the Healthcare Express and took her on a ride through the inefficacy and poor communication of the hospital system, and while there you witness even at a distance human suffering with the volume turned way up. Next door was a man who coughed so hard and so loud and so wetly you’d think he was hacking up four soggy cats. Another woman had chronic diverticulitis — a manageable disease, but one that earned her a stay in the hospital for a week with no food. In the ER was a young girl (presumably on drugs) freaking the unholy fuck out — weeping and struggling and fighting — just to see her mother. People in hospitals aren’t there because they’re healthy or happy or just having a laugh. It’s pain all the way down.

And I need to watch some television shows that aren’t all about that. (Or, when they are about pain, they deal with that pain honestly and earnestly and not only as spectacle. The Leftovers is dreary as fuck but it looks long into the eyes of that suffering to try to understand it and to help you understand it, too.)

Like I said: it’s me, not you.

I watched last night with none of the shock I was supposed to feel at the series of deaths that it presented to us, and I felt only general queasiness and fatigue. I felt like I was making a face the whole time, a face like I had repeatedly been made to lick a lollipop that had someone else’s pubic hair glued to it with sugar glaze. I just started to feel like, why am I doing this? Why am I licking this pubic hair lolly? What’s wrong with me?

It’s not that it’s a bad show. To the contrary — it’s often amazing! It sets up these killer moments. It tells a sweeping tale with a confident hand. Some of the characters (though increasingly fewer and fewer for me) are great, complex, funny, tragic, compelling from snout to tail.

But I gotta quit, man. I gotta tap out. I just can’t do it anymore.

Here, in particular, are three areas where the show loses me. It takes these three things and for me, fails to treat them in a way that I can really understand or get behind —

*oh, and here there be spoilers*

*no really, spoilers*

*hey no, not kidding, back out now*


1. Women

Obviously, I’ve spoken on this subject before — (We Are Not Things: Mad Max Vs. Game of Thrones). But, yeep, yoinks, yowch. Last night was a pretty good example of how the show hates its audience almost as much as it hates its women characters, which is to say, a great deal, indeed. It was a parade of hurt and humiliation for the women of Game of Thrones.

It was like they were going for a world record.

Let’s just go through the tally.

We open on three little girls being visibly caned. Painfully and with sharp cries. (I almost turned off the episode right there. Some pedophile caning little girls for his own pleasure right out of the gate churned my stomach. Now that I have a child, it’s one of those things that really rattles me.)

Stannis’ wife hangs herself (after helping to burn her own daughter to death last episode).

Melisandre is humiliated by the defeat of Stannis.

Sansa is almost killed by… whatever her name is, Ramsay’s spurned ex-girlfriend. Sansa does little to take her own agency or power here (except to possibly willfully submit to more pain), but no, no, it’s Theon “Reek” Greyjoy the Burninator of Childrens who saves the day and flings the other girl down to the ground where we watch her head thud bloodily against the stone. (Then he leads Sansa to the castle wall where they just jump, because apparently that’s an okay way to leave a castle.) (I also think we can all agree that when Sansa discarded the corkscrew she used to unlock her room door instead of, y’know, jamming that corkscrew into the very tip of Ramsay Snowbolton’s dingus — we all shared some very real collective disappointment.)

Arya goes blind.

The little Lannister girl is killed (?) by the poison of the Sand Snakes just moments after being totally cool about being a child of incest (“Love you too, UncleDad. HRRK–!”)

Dany is taken somewhere and her dragon is a jerkoff and now she’s surrounded by a whooping war-band of… Dothraki? I don’t even know. (What an excellent visual metaphor for how the show treats women, by the way: a bedraggled dragon-queen all alone, surrounded by a noisy tornado of shirtless men of questionable virtue. See also: a metaphor for being a woman on the Internet.)

And then, of course, the 37-minute Cersei “nude walk of shame through the city.” They shave her head bloody, they strip her down and then she marches full-frontally through the city while the entire city proves that it is basically home to a bunch of cave-people as they pelt her with pretty much everything. Which I guess was supposed to be impactful but just started to feel really gross. And again feels a lot like a metaphor for women on that show or on the Internet — BE SHAMED FOR YOUR AGENCY, WOMAN. BE NUDE AND FLUNG WITH CABBAGE, FECES, AND OTHER UNCERTAIN FLUIDS. Hashtag Gamer-Gate!

That last scene was seriously like, 16 hours long. And the show very clearly wanted us to watch every moment of it. Like she was Jesus dragging the Cross through town. If you tried to look away the show reached out and grabbed your chin and demanded you watch. “DON’T YOU LOOK AWAY,” the show growls through its yellow teeth. “DON’T YOU GO TURN ON ADVENTURE TIME, YOU MOTHERFUCKER. YOU SEE WHAT HAPPENS. YOU JUST SEE.”

(I must note that all of this was startlingly well-acted, particularly the bit with Lena Headey as Cersei. And well-written and well-directed and all of that. Again, the problem with the show is not its quality, but rather for me, what it uses its deft skill to portray.)

Compounding this problem is that a lot of the suffering and saving is done by the men — Sansa is saved by Reek, Arya is taught a lesson by Jaqen, Dany is saved by a dragon and then deposited into whirling dudeland, Cersei suffers at the whim of the High Sparrow and then once inside is “saved” by that old creepy necromancer and his new pal, Zombie Mountain Man. Now Dany must be saved by her two dude lovers, and Sansa is in Reek’s hands (remember, he’s a hero even though he burned children alive), Cersei will exact revenge only at the behest of the king, and on and on — it’s women getting hurt and men doing the hurting and the saving.

Brienne, though, hey, she’s still cool.

2. Suffering

The show approaches human suffering with (to me) increasing cheapness. It’s nearly always spectacle and rarely always authentic or honest. That’s okay, usually, for a show like this — though certainly once in a while I like it when genre work actually tries to unpuzzle human emotions rather than just fling itself against them like an animal trapped in a Plexiglass box. Here, though, suffering is nearly always played for spectacle and surprise. They want your jaw to drop and your pants to soak through with pee because omg no they didn’t. But it often feels like they don’t really want to actually deal with the suffering in a meaningful way — it’s quick, mean, almost shallow. (Cersei actually gets close to it, and despite the pain of her walk of shame, Headey actually sells the emotion and makes you sympathetic for one of the most hated characters in the show. And her feelings as a mother are often sharply-drawn.)

Plus, it’s just suffering all the time.

I feel like we need oxygen in the show.

Some humor. Some moments. Some humanity.

You get them here or there, and they’re welcome and well-executed when they come.

But for me: not enough nowadays.

3. Death

The show similarly treats death as spectacle — and it works in that regard, narratively, when you use it sparingly. But the show takes its thematic motto (ALL MEN MUST DIE AND USUALLY PRETTY HORRIBLY IT’S NEVER LIKE A HEART ATTACK OR A SLIP DOWN SOME STAIRS IT’S ALWAYS ‘GUY GETS HIS PENIS CHOPPED OFF AND THEN FIRED THROUGH HIS SKULL WITH A CROSSBOW WIELDED BY THE HOWLING ZOMBIE OF HIS OWN FATHER’) pretty seriously. Almost too seriously and eagerly. Almost like a young Orson Lannister smashing beetles.

This is very much a personal thing but there’s a line you cross where you say oh no no character is safe and then once you kill off too many it becomes no, really, everybody is going to die, so it’s not even worth being surprised anymore, just be resigned to it, yawn, oh another death, oh and there’s another, and another, and that guy, and her, and hey I liked him, and oh she was horrible, and I think I’m going to go have a snack now, please send me a spreadsheet tallying all the dead-people data points in the morning for my recap.

It gets a little boring.

And it’s also somewhat disruptive, narratively speaking. Characters have arcs to fulfill. They are woven into the quilt of the narrative. But when you kill too many of them, the quilt stops demonstrating a pattern — it no longer looks like the end result will be a cohesive thing, a thing of vision and design but just some haphazard tangle of meaningless fabric-scraps. Death robs the narrative of shape and opportunity when used so quickly. Death becomes a series of check-boxes instead of the fulfullment of an arc. It’s bread and circuses. It’s a gladiator arena whose dirt floor is soaked with red.

(And it’s also a problem with TV, I think. So many shows become WHO WILL DIE THIS WEEK rather than WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO THE CHARACTERS. Death becomes a titillating expectation. Tune in to find out who gets hit by a car / mauled by a bear / killed by a hobo / crossbowed in the face by a dick-arrow.)

Granted, the show does often try to make the deaths add up — meaning, they culminate tragically, as a result of the character’s actions. They make their beds and then they lie in them, often quite dead. But more and more, it feels like in this storyworld what earns you death is literally anything at all. “Ah, she once looked at Cersei askance. A tragic death is earned again as she is torn apart by Westerosi coyotes on a tavern floor as the tavern patrons watch and visibly masturbate! All deaths are earned! All men must shit themselves upon morbidity! VOOLAR MORGLOBULIN!”)

Death works in the show and it’s woven into the theme.

But for me, it’s again become too much.

I get it. We all die. But the weekly reminder is wearing me down.

And So…

I’m out. Can’t do it anymore. I like grim and I like dark but this feels like grimgrimgrimgrimdarkdarkdark (aka GRRMDRRK). I can only watch a show like this for so long before I feel gutted. I like the tragic thrill of watching horror movies (and make no mistake, Game of Thrones is basically a medieval mashup of a slasher film and a zombie movie), but horror movies are like, 90 minutes for a reason. Seeing this every week mostly just makes me upset. (See also why I had to check out of both the comic book and the show of The Walking Dead.)

It’s a shame, because it’s a show with some truly wild, wonderful moments — the riding of dragons and the death of gloriously cartoonishly evil villains and that super-amazing-bad-ass scene of all those scary-ass White Walkers pouring over the walls as they attack Jon Snow and the Wildlings (pro-tip: new band name if Scalzi doesn’t steal it first).

But I gotta say bye.

It’s okay if you still like it! No judgment. This is about me, not about you. It’s still a great show. Talented people are making it awesome every week. You do you. Me do me.

Maybe after the show is all done I’ll binge watch the horror and purge the toxins.

But week to week, can’t do it anymore.

Because right now, I’m rooting for the White Walkers.

*holds up foam finger*

*White Walkers #1*


175 responses to “Sorry, Game of Thrones: It’s Not You, It’s Me”

  1. I think the same people who watch/read and enjoy Game of Thrones are the same people who slow down on the highway to look at a bad collision on the other side. Which is always a *lot* of people. Enough to cause a major backup and usually several more fender benders.

    It’s kind of weird.

    I’m just not a fan of this unending train-wreck type of writing. It turns my stomach and makes me feel used, like I’m the writer’s toy. It seems cheap. And as much as I hear from people who love the books and the show, I still don’t see the appeal. Maybe it’s because I don’t want to?

    Dunno. But it’s interesting to me that many people have mentioned they don’t like the show because they’ve had trauma in their life and don’t want to experience it in fiction. I think there’s something to that. I used to watch a lot of grim stuff until some bad real life things happened. Now I mostly avoid it. But that kind of makes sense, doesn’t it? Grim is fun times ‘tii a person gets a taste of Real Life Grim. Then it’s not so fun anymore.

      • Yes, and it’s also light and beautiful and joyful. It’s called a spectrum, which GOT entirely lacks.

      • I think that was one of his points. With so many bad things happening in real life, some of us want a break from unrelenting darkness, or at least a glimmer of optimism, in our escapism. It’s not necessarily a right or wrong thing–just a matter of personal taste.

        • Exactly. And some of us have lived through some pretty rough stuff, and don’t understand why others would seek it out in entertainment, as spectacle, with nothing positive to balance it out.

    • I, also, totally agree with this. I have a friend who watches the show and defends it religiously, and I can totally see him in what you’ve said. It suddenly makes sense!

    • That’s the second-worst post I’ve read this month. The number one was that tumblr post about a named author insinuating that he’s a sexual predator who targets teenage girls.
      But don’t give up. Keep practising that condescending and judgemental attitude, not to mention, making up out random shit about people, who dares to like something you don’t, and then one day you will produce posts that surpasses that tumblr post in sheer ugliness.

      Or you know, you could take a clue from the actual post, you’re commenting on:
      “It’s okay if you still like it! No judgment. This is about me, not about you. It’s still a great show. Talented people are making it awesome every week. You do you. Me do me.”

      • Hmm. Okay. So you find it 100% normal for people to enjoy watching little girls get caned by a pedophile? To seek that out as entertainment? When we’re inundated with this type of thing in real life already?

        Might also want to watch the “condescending and judgmental” thing. You know, the whole pot and kettle idea.

        • Maybe there is an explanation of why people like it beyond people “enjoying watching little girls get caned by a pedophile.” Try to broaden your viewpoint instead of insinuating things about other people. In fact, try not to talk about other people as if you know what’s in their heads.

          • This.
            Kay, you admitted not having read the books nor seen the show, so what you are going on is reports from others as to what it’s like. I haven’t seen the show either but I’ve read the books. So I take umbrage to your assumption that I’m one of those people who slow down at accidents. I am in the midst of trauma in my life, and have been for some time. And yet I can read stories that involve all sorts of violence (say, like, the Miriam Black stories) and I can handle it. It only is a story. With a book at least, I can put it down when it gets to be too much. I can’t put away my own life when it’s too much.

            You’re trying to defend your side, but people on the other side are defending their stance as well. It would have helped your argument a little if you hadn’t started it by insulting people out of the gate. I think you can make the argument that it seems strange to enjoy stories that involve those elements you mention without passing judgment on people. We are, after all, people. Know what I’m saying?

        • Nice derailment there, but no. I don’t need nor want your approval of my bookshelf. I have, as the saying goes, zero fucks to give.
          What I’m objecting to here are your nasty and mean assumptions, that people who watch/read GoT like to gawk at car crashes and also cause more accidents and don’t know anything about bad stuff. Assumptions that you made about actual human beings, whom you don’t know anything about, other than they like a series which you *drum roll* only have heard about second hand, just so you could feel morally superior, without actually being it.

  2. Thing is, in the book, a lot of stuff was earned that wasn’t really earned in this series. They took dramatic shortcuts. The storyarcs in ASoIaF are tragedies, and while not written as well as Shakespeare, they’re by nature just as brutal as the endings for Othello, King Lear, MacBeth, etc.

    But the show doesn’t want to earn it. In the book, the wildlings’ presence at Castle Black strains Jon’s relationship with the Watch, but there are a few in the Watch who get it. Jon is murdered because he decides to attack the Boltons with the Watch and the wildlings. He violates the dictum of the Watch and he violates it badly. By interfering in the wars of men, Jon gives in to his own hamartia–his inability to separate himself from his family and see the Watch as his only family is his tragic flaw.

    It’s just cheap short-cutted in the show. The Sansey thing is really obscenely ridiculous. It’s so out of character for both Littlefinger and Sansa. But the grindingly slow politics of books 4 & 5 make bad TV. And I’ll admit books 4 & 5 are slow and not on the thrill-rush level of books 1-3, but their twists feel earned, and they feel real.

    • I feel the same way. Although the books are long and winding, there’s much more behind the bad things that happen. While the show has done some things I like different from the book, I think it ultimately falls short compared to the books.

  3. As far as I’m concerned, the White Walkers have been the only honest actors in the entire series. They’ve been totally upfront about who they are, what they’re planning to do and how they feel about everyone.

    “OK, you’re a wight. And you’re a wight. Mastodon – yeah, the whole band – you’re wights as well. Oh, we’ll raise your babies to be immortal incarnations of unnatural winter, so they’ll be fine but you- yeah, you’re a wight.”

    Their honesty is refreshing as a winter-mint flavored gum.

  4. You do make some valid points. I can see the side that defends the series, but I can also see your points. We do have to remember the points of a story, but it seems that the story is losing the points by too many of its points. Sure, we know how the medieval period was, hardly a fun place. On the other hand, you need a point to stay with the story. Like suspense. And how can you have that if they kill off the characters before they can even complete their arc? And besides, it wouldn’t kill the writers to offer some hope to a semi-happy ending. I prefer endings that are technically good, but with a huge cost. I want realism but in a way that makes sense and brings the story together, and satisfies the viewer/reader.

    I watched the first episode, and it was cool and all, but I got bored. And I don’t know why. First EP of the first season. And I was like, meh. The music is epic. And I don’t doubt the acting is great. I don’t doubt Martin does a great job writing in the books, but there’s something missing. If you are going to have all the stuff that was mentioned in this post, you need to have a big point. Rape is bad and evil. You can’t just have rape in a story for the heck of it, even if it is right for that time period or theme. Rape happens, A LOT. It is something that is going to happen to characters. BUT, we don’t need to make it okay. It should never be okay. So there’s needs to be a balance. Something to cast light on this darkness. LotR did this. It could be dark in places, but still had the light win out. Same with Star Wars. Even if we pump up the nasty stuff, we can still pump up the light. Right?

    I know, Chuck, you have things you don’t like in fiction, and I don’t blame you. Not at all. But the story needs to be true to itself. And on the other hand, it’s not being true to itself if it does not have balance. And the series most likely will end up just like you said it is. Because that’s what the viewers want. Just like the Romans, they gotta have their nasty time before a huge audience.

    Yes, it’s sick. People are sick. And there does need to be people who will stand up and point out what is wrong with society. Which you are doing.

    Sorry about your mom. I am close to my mom, she is also the reason I write. And yeah, in your shoes I wouldn’t be in the mood for a show like that either.

    Maybe you should write a blog post on how to put characters through hell, but with balance. With your feelings on the popular shows, and your skill at teaching writing, I think it would be a great post. Maybe a 50 Ways post.

    • As a GOT fan, here’s my theory–I think GRRM has a point in the BOOKS with all the suffering. I think the show doesn’t. They’ve added a lot of things and messed up the order of everything and to some extent I know why–GRRM might never put the next book out at this rate–BUT there’s no goddamn reason why all the things mentioned above need to happen in the same bloody episode. In the books, Arya going blind, Daenerys’ downfall and Cersei’s walk of shame are all at least half a book apart. They’re part of the story, but it’s not the same thing at all.

  5. As a writer I say, either swim or get out of the pool. Watch the show,or watch something else. Honestly, all of these camps over “GOT is too this or too that.” If things are intense in your life right now, choose, to back away from the deep end. I didn’t watch for ages. I was going through hell in my life and knew that the books were the high end, “Tolkien Line” of Dark Fantasy.” Now, that things are better in my life and that my own writing is pretty intense, I caught some of GOT. I instantly thought its more like Shakespeare. Richard the 3rd was no cake walk, neither is Titus. No artist, writer or show should have to do A,B, or C. If it fails, it fails. From what I’ve seen, this show will not. I also think the whole show will end in misery but the figures that they have the will to live on. Anyhow, we have MANY choices in what we read or watch. Mostly, I enjoy being a grown up and making those choices.

    • If we have many choices in what we watch or read, why do you read GoT commentary that irritates you so? Your own logic doesn’t work when it’s applied to your comment.

      • I didn’t see any words resembling “it irritates me to read this “. Chuck made commentary and people are conversing about that, even disagreeing with it. Nigia1’s comment, to me, reads as “people are spending too much time trying to tell the writers what GoT should or shouldn’t be”. Maybe that’s not right, but that’s what I got from it.

  6. Yeah thanks for this Chuck. I have never even watched the show because I knew suspected where it was headed. I have read all the books, multiple, multiple times. But recently I got a copy of the audio book for the first book in the series, and as I was listening I kept thinking “Oh yeah, this bad stuff happens to this character, and this bad stuff happens to this awesome character”. And like a quarter of the way through I just wasn’t even enjoying it.

    I recognize a lot of what GRRM is trying to do, and applaud most of it, I just couldn’t deal that kind of negativity anymore. So I made the decision to be done with the whole series. As a side note, as much as I loved it I have kind of come to the same conclusion for the Joe Abercombie first law books. I had to quit in the middle of my third re-read.

  7. I’ve also never seen this much intensity over Law and Order’s SVU. It had a drop of humor and the rest was acid. I knew enough not to watch too much of that show. Not sure why this is not treated in the same way. Maybe like me, we want our fantasy more beautiful, more noble GOT just ain’t that. Trust me, when the show gets to be too much, I’m not gonna blog about it. I’ll watch something fun.

  8. You are not alone. I started to question my loyalty to the show at Sansas depressing wedding and the rape scene gave me nightmares. I can no longer watch repeats because it is nightmarish. You are so correct it is has now become who will die this episode. If you kill all the likable good characters who is there left to root for. Everybody is dead and evil wins. I’m like what kind of people are writing these shows. Some brilliance but a lot of sickness.

  9. Well said, Chuck. That’s why I could never get into the series. Human suffering shouldn’t be in fiction for amusement, and GoT just feels like the fevered gore lust of a madman. To me anyway. Maybe if Martin toned it down just slightly I wouldn’t feel this way. But as it sits, I feel like the series is there for the same types of people who liked to watch ants burn under a magnifying glass as children. These ants just happen to wear tunics and ride dragons.

  10. I sincerely hope that Game of Thrones represents the last gasp of the patriarchy, as it does seem to take every patriarchal value and amp it to the max. If there is any redemption in this tale of “life is a horror show” it may be that at last we will see how the current concern with EQUALITY–for women, for queer folk, for people of color–is an attempt to keep us from living in a world like that.

  11. I tapped out halfway through the first season. I agree 100%. There are horrors we need to focus on because we can make the world better for others. When life gets gross or painful or scary I am gonna sit right there, eyes wide open, pouring out empathy and love as fast as I can make it regardless of how these things make me feel inside. I will not participate in manufactured horror for the hell of it, because that just…dissipates my *mojo* (or whatever) into the air. It diverts the emotional baddassery I reserve for important real life enemies.

    I’ll be interested to see if your curiosity gets the better of you when the next season rolls around. I’d rather get a full body wax than watch one more second of it.

  12. Since I haven’t entirely given up on GofT…despite having to pay for it when it comes on Amazon Prime, I stopped reading once SpoilerTown came up. That said, if you didn’t cover the continual gore-fest agenda, well…you’ve got a stronger stomach than I do. There are images I have burned into my brain that will be found on autopsy. Still, opiates are what they are…and who knows, when Amazon Prime comes howling with blood, I may just answer the call.

  13. Having read all the books, I would like to note that at least half the things related to women happen in the books, BUT not anywhere near so close together. Arya DOES go blind, and it’s part of her process. Cersei DOES have the walk of shame, and I think it was a fitting end. Daenerys does go through all that, and it’s really hard to watch.

    The big difference is in the books these things all happen like half a book apart, instead of ALL AT THE SAME TIME WTF GoT.

    • Exactly so, I feel like with this series, all the character building and political intrigue have been cut in favour of ALL THE GORE AT ONCE. which is not how it happens in the books. Which is why watching this series has been so exhausting.

  14. I don’t go to horror movies. I despise gore-porn. And despite what one super-pious commenter said in this here blog, I am not a knuckle-dragger who cranes her head to get a better view of traffic accidents. I don’t read books filled with misery. I’m a card-carrying feminist from way back, and I hate seeing rape used as a titillating plot device. And yet . . . I love GoT with a fiery passion. There are incredibly strong and interesting characters, many of them women; there’s an epic scope and a level of tragedy to rival Shakespeare and them there Greeks. I can’t wait to see what happens to the characters next. There is heartbreak and heroism and daring-do and dragons. I love dragons. If you don’t like the show, fine. Don’t watch it. But don’t get all preachy-perfect on the rest of us.

  15. All great points, Mr. Wendig. There are several stories that I’ve given up on, and in many cases, it’s over the topic of what I call “Torture Porn”. Whether that be the TV show Criminal Minds where the stories are weak and the questionable motives seem repetitive, Dexter / Hannibal where murders seem intrinsic to the point of the show, or even the movie series SAW, where the torture is a part of the premise, I don’t have a problem abandoning a particular show. My reply tweets to you were in jest, but your blog post above (along with your previous ones that I’ve just now read) hits close to my views. This is a hot button topic and jesting doesn’t work there. Apologies.

    This brings up one other point that while I know you’ve addressed but I want to revisit, because it also strikes me: The concept of abandoning a story/series — for _any_ reason — relatively far into the thing.
    Obviously to you (and to others – the MarySue blog comes to mind) there is a point which you say enough and no more, and I get that. But I would think that might have been reached earlier in the series for some folks. Reading the comments above, I see it has for some.

    People vote with their feet, and this case with their eyeballs. If any future showrunner wants to try to “top” this show, I think they’ll find there’ll be a bit more pushback based on GoT feedback of late.

  16. The one thing the finale did for me was get me excited about the forthcoming book(s). The events of this season, as they approached the end of the standing written material seem to have gotten particularly brusque in the approach to events. They have needed to squeeze a lot more material into the same number of episodes and also extrapolated on things that haven’t yet occurred in the books. So it feels like things got a lot choppier and developed more quickly. I’m interested to see how GRRM takes the same general events and breathes some space into them.

  17. Well said, both the article and most of the comments I read. GOT has gone completely off its nut, it’s one-dimensional and sadistic but keeps people watching because they’ve already invested so much in it. I was drifting away from it this season (esp. after Sansa’s rape) but figured I’d check in for the season finale. Sorry, I did. What shameless and ridiculous self-indulgence. You’re right, there is nothing left to balance out the violent excesses. I’m done.


    I couldn’t do Game of Thrones either. Checked out a while ago, back when Jamie’s hand got chopped off. I didn’t even make it to the Red Wedding! The show was too grim for me before it got to most of the grim bits!

    In retrospect, I wonder if killing Ned Stark was even a good idea. People say GOT is trying to replicate the Red Wedding, but to me the shocks started at the very end of that first season.

  19. Thanks for this. I like GoT, but I haven’t been into it this season for a reason similar to yours. My dad had a massive heart attack in early March, which led to an 8-week stay in the ICU, a stroke, vision loss, open-heart surgery to place a mechanical heart pump, unexplained GI bleeding which required 7 blood transfusions in 12 hours, and a spot on the heart transplant list. My family & I have suffered enough. There have been enough tears, torture and anxiety to go around. And I agree with you – the show is VERY well-acted; the costuming, settings, and effects are magnificent. But I can’t watch now. My heart is too heavy.

    Best wishes to your mom and hopes for a speedy recovery.

  20. Many agreements here… I think most of us – readers, tv-watchers, writers – have big love for dark story mechanisms, but artistry is vital in execution. GoT (the show) is taking a complex setting, long character arcs, and a skillful balance of action and intrigue from ASoIaF and keeping ONLY the action bits. It seems at this point that the characters are hardly recognizable, that their relationships and histories don’t matter anymore at all, and that everyone is disposable so what is the story exactly?

    We spent 4 seasons on character storylines and then a 5th season seeing nearly all of those storylines wasted for apparently no reason. In the books, balance is struck with each death and you can trace the lines to see their impacts on the bigger picture – but the show just kills folks without bothering to lay a foundation of reason, failing completely to establish a cushion for the world to fall back on when it loses major protagonists. THERE IS NO BIGGER PICTURE ESTABLISHED IN THE SHOW.

    We are left with: Ice zombies with very little explanation. Magic that may/may not have any actual relevance. Dragons that may/may not eventually do actual stuff. A kingdom that doesn’t really seem like a kingdom so much as a cardboard cutout background of a castle in a middle-school play. And, of course, a bunch of crazy individuals strewn about that are REALLY mad at each other but we have kind of forgotten why (and we really don’t care anymore cus they will all prolly just die anyway).

    Looking forward to the next books, but not really harboring hope for the show. I also gave up on TWD for similar reasons… Endless cycles of human failure and tragedy are unsustainable – an audience gets desensitized and can no longer connect with characters so far gone. Better just to find some sort of conclusion and get there, LOST style.

  21. I’m quit watching this TV-series on the middle of season 5. It’s just too much… It’s time to end this up untill the complete fail.

  22. So…Basically the same issues I’ve had with it. never watched the show, but I’ve spoken to enough people you’d think I watched every episode the night they’re aired. I feel like the whole thing is a spook fest. How far can they go before people get the idea that this is all for shock value. Not saying that the show isn’t good, but I don’t like it when shows/books kill of people or anything else terrifying and mean to be impactful, just for shock value.

  23. I often wonder if GRRM has ever truly experienced horror in real life, or if he’s got a secret fascination with German dungeon porn.

    The characters of ASoIaF are phenomenal, but no one family’s life is fraught with so much loss in the real world as the Starks are.

    I want a whole show of Brienne and Pod.

    • Seriously?! There are many, many families in real life, especially during wars, not to mention Holocaust, or even families who have been victims of serial killers, who have experienced far more loss than their parents and eldest brother being killed, while five other family members are alive, with one of them remaining disabled. There are lots of people who lost all their family members. There are lots of families where *everyone* was killed.

      I find it quite ironic that you started that post with a reference to ” horrors in real life”.

  24. I think certain aspects of this season were clumsily handled and underdeveloped. I love the books. The show does have some amazing moments, but it is too much ACTION, ACTION, ACTION, when it needs more finessing between deaths and other exciting scenes. I will continue to watch it, but they really need to massage the story a little more. Give us more foreplay to lead up to the action.

  25. Sorry to hear about your mom Chuck, sincerely hope everything turns out to be okay.

    As for Game of Thrones, I can see where you are coming from, and if you’re out, you’re out. Nothing wrong with that in the slightest. As you’ve said in the post, you aren’t shaming remaining GoT fans, you’ve just made your choice.

    I’m going to stick with the show as, despite what I see as some missteps (both big and small), I do still enjoy it. Mainly because I want to see how the whole thing ends, and because I still have the belief (hope?) that in the end there will be some kind of payoff, some kind of balance (the wheel will be broken!). And I believe the characters that will come through for the good of this world will be Dany, Arya, Sansa and …Jon Snow. I’ve suspected this from Season 2 onwards – will see if that pays off.

    I think Sansa will take her own agency and show some fight (finally). This HAS to happen. Arya’s tale of revenge will progress as she works her way through the list, but I have a feeling it will come to a head and she will need to move past living for vengeance. Dany will continue her rise to greatness and eventually give Westeros the leadership it needs.

    And I just don’t think that is it for Jon Snow.

    Melisandre is in Castle Black, and he have seen how the Lords of Light are able to recover from what should have been death blows (remember The Hound cleaving up that Lord of the Light guy, he seemed okay afterwards). I think it will be her that somehow brings back Jon, opening up a new plotline between the two.

    These 4 will play major roles in the world of Westeros, changing it for the better… I think.

    Those are my predictions, but of course they could be way off. And I haven’t read the books (yet) so don’t know if they shape things up differently.

    But I still do believe there will be a payoff, a worthwhile one. I think the showrunners (and GRRM) have taken the adage of putting a protagonist through more hell than they should be able to take, then even more hell, before coming out on top, to the extreme. Have the methods been the best? That’s for the audience to decide, and each person will have a different outlook. But I don’t believe their goal has been to sicken or disgust people for the sake of it. Unfortunately, with so much going on and so little screen time, a lot of it gets rushed and certain story elements don’t get the time to develop and breathe that they need, and it comes across as just pushed out for shock value. Especially this series, which I understand has pulled the events from two books into one season. Hopefully they will learn from this.

    Anyway, we will see if I’m right or if the whole thing is just an exercise of suffering. But for those deciding enough is enough – nothing wrong with that. To each their own.

  26. Huh. As I was reading this, I kept thinking about how I tuned out of the Walking Dead after the third season.
    And then you actually mention The Walking Dead and I feel a bit vindicated.

    So it’s NOT just me who can’t take the constant grim darkness and the whole ‘Wonder who dies today?’ feeling. It’s exhausting.

    It doesn’t have to be Adventure Time (though nobody dare insult Adventure Time, I mean it!), but please, give me a chuckle every once in a while. Even just a reason for a character to smile, seriously.
    If the world was this gruesome and dark and hopeless all the damn time, well, me? I’d probably blow my own head off in that type of world. Because what would be the bloody point?

  27. Completely understand. I watch through my fingers every week, knowing each episode stays with me for around three days after, flashing things into my mind that I wish I hadn’t seen. And I feel the sadness. I wish I could stop watching. But I won’t! I have to watch. Also, you are amazing Chuck.
    p.s Jon Snow is going to become one hell of a white walker.

  28. Best wishes for your Mom’s health and well being. Maybe you should try finishing the story by reading the books instead? that way you can put it down when you chose, but still get the gratification of the endings for each character remaining.

  29. That’s exactly how I felt reading the otherwise amazing Stephen King’s Under the Dome, which was so relentlessly grimdark and deadly that it depressed the crap out of me. When I heard there would be a TV adaptation, I pre-checked out. I believe my thought process was “Nope, not going there, not even sticking my toe in that toxic water.” Self-preservation, dude. Do what you have to do.

  30. Can I just chip in here with; the books are nicer, people still die of course and it’s still pretty grim, but there are good moments too. I love game of thrones as a series of books. But frankly, the TV show makes me feel a bit sick.

  31. Ugh, I basically hit this point about most of what people call “good TV” a while ago. I’m not saying everything needs to be kittens and unicorns, not at all; I’m just tired of graphic, unsubtle brutality and degradation as the go-to solution to every narrative problem.

  32. Sorry to hear about your mom, Chuck. Wishing the best to her and your family, as I understand with stress of illness. I admit, I’ve never watched GOT, but I have to say, a series or movie with a believable plot line and story, has gone the way of the dinosaur. Just, can’t find them. I prefer books.

  33. Eh it could have been done better. I can see the all rabid fans chewing you a new one dood. How dare you say their show isn’t the greatest. All the LOLZ I was like that for Potter back in the day. I picked at the show it never got good for me I wanted it to there are DRAGONS dood DRAGONS! I wanted it soooo bad. But alas it wasn’t meant to be. The story lines seemed like there were big pieces missing so I checked out the books and Ahhh there was my answer. Not to mention shock TV has never been my thing. If I want Rape, Gore or Death and shit I’ll watch the news or read the news paper. I never saw the Titanic or Passion of Christ either WHY? Because I know how it ends. :In death: The show is too predictably gory for me. Pssst Guess what? Someone’s gonna die. Horribly.. Eh ok … He pulls what I affectionately call a JK. White Queen syndrome.. KILL THEM! You have to have a haughty voice when you say that though.and Oh by the way women are foils, incredibly misogynistic, but the super fans will disagree. What ever yall say, Fool yourselves if you like. Not my gig but props to the geeks geeking out. I get that way with Dr who and he dies Allllll the time. Not SAW style though …

  34. Right there with you. As the end credits rolled I was ready to check out for good. THAT death was just so senseless and clearly doesn’t serve the story. Plus all the woman-hating gets me down.

    BUT…. after 24 hours to reflect, I began to wonder if that death wasn’t what it seemed. Apparently GRRM insisted on Jon’s parentage being handled right in the show before he agreed to sell them the rights, so it makes no sense whatsoever for him to have died now before that particular EPIC mystery plays out fully (because who the fuck cares about a dead guy’s parents?). So we’ll see what GRRM does with the next book and where the show goes as a result. Jon could be rescued by a friendly, or be resurrected when they try to cremate him (assuming he is part Targaryen, there’s clearly precedent for that).

    But there are definitely still other reasons to not watch any more and so I think I’ll wait until it all wraps up then watch the remaining seasons in one go if people can reassure me of some good reasons to do so.

  35. I think you are supposed to be horrified by the show. And especially by the walk of shame Cersei has to take, which is long and excruciating in the books as well and told from her perspective. The good acting and the fact that it felt authentic where other parts feel cheap means you are supposed to identify with her even if you hate her, and I think it was supposed to make you uncomfortable. And/or guilty if you’ve ever slut-shamed Cersei at any point in the series. which plenty of people have.

    I like Thrones because it presents what I want to see in more fiction: a wide range of female characters with different personality types and levels of agency developed in a complex way. I don’t care for strong female character cardboard cutouts. I want variety and complexity, so yay ASOIF for its variety of strong, weak, active, passive, smart, stupid, badass, wimpy, annoying, evil, and good female characters.

    But, I’m also the target audience for grimdark. Even when I was younger I sought out dark stories with violent content that affirmed what I had experienced of the world, which was that “plot armor” (or whatever the real-world equivalent of that is) protects no one, even if you think you’re strong and in control or above it or whatever. Violent content doesn’t usually bother me (though I did feel physically ill during the Theon torture scenes where he is sexually assaulted, shamed for liking sex, and then castrated, because I could tell by the level of nudity and ASS ASS ASS that it was supposed to be titillating, which disgusted me. A bit like the Dany rape scene — why so much with the nudity if we’re supposed to be upset by this? That was one thing they did right with Sansa’s wedding night even though the scene served no real purpose*).

    I think bad things should happen to main characters, because most of the time victimized characters are slotted into minor roles where you can forget about them and don’t have to care (sorry, Mad Max). I think a dystopian fantasy show about war has to be pretty violent. So I appreciate that aspect of GoT.

    But, it’s definitely not for everyone, and the amount of screen time allotted to the characters is vastly less deep than the level of psychology and empathy you can explore in a novel. Where the reader is allowed to take their time. Different mediums, different strokes. The show is often crass and blunt for the sake of being crass and blunt, just to prove it can. The books are like that, too, but it’s way more in your face in a visual medium. I like both but I probably prefer the show because it cuts so much extraneous bullshit from the books. So I have the benefit of knowing the bullshit, but getting to see the trimmed-down and mostly-improved version.

    *In the books, Reek has a knife and has the chance to stab Ramsay, and the scene is pretty tense. There’s a point beyond the gratuitous “boohoo more bad things happening.”

    I’m sorry about your mom. I hope she improves. *sends nice thoughts*

  36. I only ever watched one episode – number one. Why? You number one explains it. Why would i want to watch a show that treats women so badly, and suggets that it’s sexy. It apalls me that people not only accept that treatment of woman but think it’s a good show. this sort of acceptance contributes to all the abuse of women that is rife in the world. It’s not you, mate, it’s Game of Thrones; you should have stopped watching it a long time ago.

  37. Now I’m feeling weird because I will still watch the show…

    I know, I know, a lot of suffering and not a real development of characters, but I have to watch something, right?
    Maybe because I’m in a good mood, I really dont’ get touched by the deaths, but a little worried.

    Hey! This is a fantasy show! And the hope is the last to die! 🙂

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