Raw Emotions 

Raw Emotions 

After the fifth episode of Game of Thrones (The Door) last week, I started pondering what it is that makes us so emotional seeing a beloved character die on screen. After all, we know that when a character dies on TV or in the movies, it’s not real. It’s not like the actor who plays that character actually dies. What then, is it, that makes us so emotional when a beloved character passes away? Now, I’m not a psychologist nor do I have some degree in human behavior but I think I may be able to explain what it is that makes us feel so much for these characters and it comes down to, in my personal understanding, a few fundamental aspects that, when coalesced together, elicits the raw emotion that we experience. 

First being scene composition. Now this arguably works better in visual mediums than it does in books simply because you have both auditory and visual stimuli to help you. The way a scene is shot and executed is vitally important. If the scene was not properly lit, you wouldn’t be able to see anything and the impact of what is trying to be conveyed is lost. If incorrect camera angles are used you may not even understand what is going on and again, the impact of the scene is lost. But when the lighting is spot on, the camera has been placed in the most optimum positions and the music swells up into great crescendos and washes over you like a wave, that is when all the raw emotion is unleashed from inside you and culminates in this wonderful and/or sorrowful moment of exhilaration.

However, none of that matters if there is absolutely no emotional investment by the audience. To explain what I mean by emotional investment, I am going to use Hodor and Game of Thrones as an example. If you have been watching Game Of Thrones since the beginning, you’ve most probably invested roughly six years of your life in this show. That’s a significant amount of time. So, for six years, you watch these characters on screen. You experience their trials and tribulations. You are essentially on a journey with these characters and over time, they become less like characters and more like real, living people. And when something devastating happens to them, it’s as if that devastating act has befallen you as well. As a reader of many books, this effect is compounded as you are now in the head space of the characters (usually when POV chapters are used) and when a tragic act comes to pass, you are experiencing this act first hand and so the emotional impact affects you at exactly the same time and manner as it does the character. And that is the crux of emotional investment. You have spent (read: invested) so much time and learnt so much about these characters that, to you, they are no longer characters. They are living, breathing people that exist and whatever act befalls them, be it negative or positive, will affect you in much the same way as it affects them. 

Now, what I have sort of downplayed so far is the impact that music has in these moments of emotional exhilaration. Because a scene can be composed as perfectly as humanely possible and you could have invested your entire life in this character but without the musical accompaniment, the moment could fall flat on its face. This is not to say that every great emotional scene needs a musical accompaniment, some situations call for dead silence or white noise, however, in most circumstances, the musical accompaniment is not only needed but is a necessity. Again, take the Hodor scene from last weeks episode. Without that mournful Game of Thrones theme playing softly in the background, I’d argue quite vehemently, that the scene would not have had the same level of emotional impact. You may still have been sad but would you have experienced that raw burst of mortifying pain and horror? I’d argue not. 

So far, I’ve based a great amount of this discussion on scenes that brought about emotional devastation and horror but what about scenes that elicit moments of pride or excitement? That exhilaration of adrenaline just before a massive attack, like the one in Lord of the Rings on the Pelennor fields when Theoden and the people of Rohan charge the massive army of orcs that lay siege to Minas Tirith. These are the scenes that give us goosebumps and make us sit on the edge of our seats and cheer the protagonists on. These are the scenes that every person who has ever watched anything in their lives, looks forward to. These are the scenes that make pop culture great. 

So what makes these scenes so emotionally grand? Of course scene composition plays a massive role here, again and emotional investment is needed, to a degree but there has to be a third aspect. One that is able to make us feel this massive exhilaration of emotion and that is, what I believe to be, a primal human desire to see the protagonist in a commanding and powerful position. When Theoden is above the Pelenor fields, he is in a position of power and is about to charge the enemy. When the dwarves and elves charge the goblins and orcs outside Erebor in the Battle of the Five Armies, our protagonists are in power; they are going head first into battle to defeat the enemy. When Goku transforms into a SSJ 3 and attacks Kid Buu, we feel his power within us, we are with him all the way, urging him on in battle to defeat the evil. In all these situations, the soundtrack swells up in massive crescendos and builds up to a climactic crash of symphonic harmony as we see our heroes take on the big bad and, at least initially, attain a sense of victory. And that is when we experience this great burst of unadulterated emotion as we get goosebumps all over our bodies. We experience a rush of adrenaline as we finally see our heroes take on their enemies, full of pride and honour and valor. 

And in the end, that is what is comes down to. As humans, we were designed to feel emotion and even though the characters we see on the screen may not necessarily be real, or are just a charade acted out by another human, we cannot help but get attached and develop feelings for them.

The Game of Thrones Conundrum 

The Game of Thrones Conundrum 

With Sunday’s big reveal at the end of episode 2 of season 6, Game of Thrones is now able to move on with the important narrative of the season. Which is great because I believe that if the Jon Snow reveal was prolonged any longer, the rest of the narrative would have been put on hold as everybody just waits around to see what happened to our naive, favorite character. And while the episode ended on a great note, the episode also displayed some it’s weakest elements to date. I’d like to state that I am not tying to assign blame to anyone but the fact is that most of the times that the show has gone “off book”, it’s displayed signs of weakness. Now, personally, I believe that this entire situation could have been avoided if the show runners had adapted the books more faithfully (for example including the Lady Stoneheart storyline or the Aegon storyline) or if GRRM could stick to a schedule but none of those things happened and we just have to accept that. However, I do not feel that it is fair to the viewers that the show now doesn’t live up to the standards it had set for the past five seasons. In terms of direction and cinematography and acting, the show has seen no dip in standards. In fact I would go so far as to state that they have improved greatly from the first season. But where this season is starting to fall short, for me at least, is in its writing, execution and the way the story is being told. Now to explain what I mean, I’m going to use three examples from the last two episodes that sort of display where, I believe, the show is slacking off. 

The first being the handling of the Dorne plot line. This particular problem began plaguing the show in season 5 where, for the first time, the show runners decided to go completely “off book” and change the way the Dorne plot is told. And it showed. The plot line was not all that interesting. Doran was conveyed as a boring character who did nothing but sit in his chair, which I have no problem with as that is how he is first portrayed in the book but then at least we later on found out that he is actually a very intelligent and cunning character who has a grand plan to get his daughter to rule all of Westeros. And then the show goes and kills Doran, ruining this incredibly intriguing plot line and character. Then we have Areo Hotah. One of the most badass characters in the entire series. A master with his axe and incredibly calm and incredibly likeable. A character with so much potential but again the show not only kills him off but does so in the most demeaning way possible for a character of his physical prowess. And finally Ellaria Sand, whose character in the show has one the most ridiculous plans in the history of television. Let’s break it down. She wants to go to war with the Lannisters for the killing of Elia Martell by killing every remaining Martell character (which in the show is Doran and Trystane). Great plan Ellaria. Not only is the plan a totally ridiculous one but it’s totally out of character. Ellaria and the Sand Snakes have basically become caricatures of their initial characters where all their flawed aspects are brought to the front. 

This is the just one example of how the show has suffered by the writers deviation from the books. And it pains me to say it because I believe a lot of the changes that have occurred were not only necessary, but they actually made sense and added more to the story. But this time it was different. An entire plot was changed and created entirely by the writers and unfortunately for them, it did not turn out remotely intriguing as the original. 

The second display of the shows’ recent slacking off can be described in the simple term coined “Hollywood lines”. These are basically lines of dialogue that are completely devoid of meaning, full of cliches and generally, just badly written. The show has, for the past five seasons, expertly avoided this trope. Nearly every line of dialogue from the past five seasons was beautifully crafted (with a few exceptions, I agree). This season, however, has seen some of the most cringeworthy lines of dialogue this show has seen. The writing for the Sand Snakes has been lacking since last season but the scene in which two of the Sand Snakes kill Trystane was horrible. I don’t know if it is maybe the delivery of the lines that make them seem that bad but it just did not work. Another example is Tyrion’s line in episode two where he says to Varys: “If I ever have an idea like that again, punch me in the face.” Now Peter Dinklages’ brilliant performance was somewhat able to veil how cliched and cringeworthy that line of dialogue was but its just another example of how the writing has moved from being expertly written and quite nuanced to being filled with cliches written in just to get a reaction out of the audience. 

Lastly, I feel this show has, for some arbitrary reason, felt the need to reduce itself into a bad parody of itself. What once was the shows greatest asset, that being shocking character deaths and unpredictable character moments, has become its weakest point. The killing of Doran was neither shocking nor unpredictable. The moment that scene began, an intuitive viewer could see that at least one of the main characters in that scene were going to be killed off. It was just a badly written and a badly executed scene. Then in episode two, Roose Bolton was killed and again, everyone saw that Ramsey was going to kill his father there and then. But what makes this particular scene unforgivable is the fact that Roose Bolton himself did not see it coming. He is one of the most cunning characters in the show and he would have seen such an attack from a mile off. It is the fact that the show has changed the characteristics of the character, just so that they could kill him off, that is unforgivable. It is like the show runners now believe that the only way to make a good tv show is to kill all the characters on said show. Sadly, that is not true. 

And this is core problem I see the show experiencing at the moment. The show runners are shooting “shocking” sequences just for the sake of it and because they can. Again, looking at Ramsey, we already know he is the most malevolent character around. It really was not necessary to show him killing his infant brother and mother. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not some prude who is averse to violence or gore or sex. But I believe that if it is going to be done, it should not only be done correctly but it must also be done with a reason. Redundancy is never good in show as fast paced and energetic as this one is. For example, I completely understood why Sansa’s rape scene was included in season 5 last year and I believe it was necessary to show just how malevolent his character really was (and still is). But now, the fact that you have proven that he really is that malevolent, the scene with his infant brother and step mother becomes unnecessary and superfluous. And it just looks like a desperate cry for attention. 

To end off, I’d just like to state that I understand to many of you, this post will amount to blasphemy but I guarantee you, there is no greater fan of this series (both book and tv show) than I am. I have spent a ridiculous amount of time exploring the lore of this series and I’ve gotten as attached to imaginary characters as one can get. With that being said, I just find it disappointing that the show is now, after 5 wonderfully crafted seasons, losing some of its quality and charm. That’s not to say it’s a bad show at all (far from it) in fact, I’d rate it second only, maybe, to Breaking Bad. It really is an amazing show but these minor shortcoming are starting to show in the most unflattering of ways. And that, to me, is the most frustrating part. This could have all been avoided had the show runners at least tried to incorporate many of the other plot points from the books. There was at least another seasons’ worth of material left to adapt form A Feast For Crows and A Dance with Dragons. And look, I completely understand the need to change the story for television but then they should have simplified it and not cut out total plot lines and characters. But I digress, I still totally adore this series and the direction and cinematography is on a level that is unprecedented for any tv show that has come before, or after it and I look forward to another amazing season of television. 

Wheel of Time Adaptation 

Wheel of Time Adaptation 

Just as prelude to this post, I would like to state that I feel the inevitable comparisons to Game of Thrones are unwarranted. The only things these two fantastic series have in common are that they are both a part of the fantasy genre. And that’s it. That’s where the similarities begin and end. However, the comparisons are inevitable and I’ve included it in this post for the sole purpose of proving a point.

This past week it was announced that, finally, a Wheel of Time TV series is being produced. This announcement was received, as usual, with a flood of both excitement and caution by fans of the series. Personally, I was over come with joy after hearing the news. I thought that it was wonderful that finally, this amazing (though slightly flawed series) is going to be brought to life on screen. I did however have some reservations. Reservations that I think most people would agree need to be handled with the proper care and attention for this series to be finely executed. 

Firstly, there is the issue of pacing. The show runners will have a mammoth task ahead of them. I think we can all agree that The Wheel of Time was insanely detailed and, at times, overly verbose. Everything was described in detail, and then repeated again a couple chapters down the line. In that respect, the show runners will have a simple task in that descriptive repetition is not needed in a visual medium. The difficult part for the show runners is going to be the streamlining of senseless plot lines that became convoluted over the series and “simplifying” the story for TV. This will no doubt anger hard core fans, but unfortunately, it is a necessary process that needs to be properly executed. Now this does not necessarily mean that plot lines need to be cut out or whole characters killed off (*glares at Game of Thrones*) but instead the show runners will need to streamline certain narratives by fast tracking the less interesting parts and spending more time on the parts that are more intriguing. For example, in The Great Hunt, there are many chapters showing Rand and the gang just traveling with no real exposition in between. The show can either choose to remove some of the traveling (and use establishing shots to inform the viewer of their current destination) or use the traveling time as expository moments. And while it pains me to see details cut out from TV and movie adaptations of books, I see the necessity in doing so and The wheel of time will need simplifying and streamlining much more than any other TV show or movie has had before. If the show runners are able to crack the code on the pacing and simplification issue, The Wheel of Time could become one of the greatest shows to ever air on television. 

Unfortunately, pacing is not the only issue that will be plaguing The Wheel of Time’s TV adaptation. The show runners are going to have to find a way to make this story appeal to a large audience. While Game of Thrones is a fantasy series, it is not your general, conventional fantasy like The Wheel of Time. It had its politics, sex and nudity, main character deaths and the fact that a lot of the show is grounded in reality (especially the first couple of seasons), to appeal to massive audiences. That is, arguably, why Game of Thrones has done so well (in addition to the great writing, directing, acting etc.) The Lord of the Rings is more of an apt comparison for The Wheel of Time in that it’s more of a classic fantasy and getting a mass audience behind classic fantasy is not as easy as it might seem. Personally, I have met many people who would look at you in derision when you discuss The Lord of The Rings but will join you in a heartbeat when you want to discuss anything about Game of Thrones. I believe that this is going to be The Wheel of Times greatest hurdle; especially in the first couple of books where the focus is mainly on channeling and the powers of each of the characters as opposed to the politics. 

Furthermore, the show will have to ensure that they cast the characters properly. Casting is probably the most crucial element in getting this show right. The producers are going to have to use some “Marvel Studio level” casting in that they have to cast correctly. Marvel Studios has yet to cast a character incorrectly. If the producers get the right actors, they will most definitely succeed. A list actors are not a necessity. Good actors are a necessity. The biggest hurdle here will be the marketing department. They will push for A list actors even if they do not fit the role; just so that they can put a name on a poster. The producers are going to have to stand their ground and insist on actors that are right for the role and not just because of their name. 

Lastly, this show is going to have to get a proper budget and will have to air on the correct network. Without a decent budget, this show will most definitely crumble. There is no way this show will be anywhere near decent if they’re stuck with a lousy budget. Last years’ dreadful Winters Dragon “prequel” is proof enough. However budget is not the only concern. The show will also have to have a proper home. There is no way this show will prosper on an ordinary network with censors and restriction. While The Wheel of Time doesn’t really have any nudity or sex in it per se, it is most definitely hinted at and if the show runners are anywhere near clever enough, they will exploit. However, the nudity and sex is not the reason this show needs a proper network. That reason is due to the violent nature of the series. The Wheel of Time is incredibly violent and while the details in the books aren’t near as gory as they could’ve been, it’s still an extremely violent series and I would hope that the show runners not hold back when it comes to this. HBO is obviously first choice, if possible. Netflix and Amazon are probably the next best thing if HBO decides they’re not interested. 

Honestly, I believe that The Wheel of time has the potential to be one of the greatest television series ever made. It has a rough road ahead of it but if the producers and show runners do their jobs properly and with great attention to detail, they may just be able to pull off something amazing.