Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Woe in Westeros: The Game of TV Thrones [Guest Post]



By GW Thomas

SPOILERS BELOW FOR GAME OF THRONES THROUGH LAST SEASON

The battle ax of success is a two-bladed bitch. Take George RR Martin for example. He wrote for decades, publishing award-winning science fiction, novels of fantastic depth of character, and even worked in television for a time. Now with the success of The Game of Thrones, GRRM has everything. The fattest bestsellers, the hottest cable show, the possibility of a feature film. Martin has even won the name "The American Tolkien." How many of us haven't wished for that kind of success?

But that ax has a second side, remember? That sharp edge has shown itself recently as execs at HBO have turned up the pressure on George to write the sixth book of what will be his seven-part masterwork. Martin has told avid readers before that it takes him two years to write one of his Song of Fire and Ice books. And therein lies the rub. TV shows are made every year, not every two. So what does Martin do with this kind of JK Rowling-level pressure?

He could do two things I hope he'd never do: 1) let other people make up the next season (as HBO has threatened to do), or 2) hand in some quickly written crap. Both of these choices will produce a sad end to what has been an amazing run of television. Hacks (even talented ones) watering down Martin's vision would be the low road to another Legend of the Seeker. Martin quickly throwing together the last two books could lead to storylines that remain unfinished or faltering like the mysteries in Lost. HBO should think carefully on all of this.

I think I have a solution. There has been some discussion around how many seasons the show will go. The producers say seven. HBO says ten. George says, "Let's see." So what will they do after the seven bestsellers? My answer is TALES FROM WESTEROS, an anthology show based on the larger show. Imagine it. Ten episodes about different characters in different parts, different times, of that amazing world. These, of course, would be written by others under GRRM's watchful eye, with Martin providing the last and best episode (probably about the dragons). This would buy HBO and GRRM another year. And whenever they needed more time, do another one. Or after all the regular books are done, fill out the ten years with more. (Martin was producer on the new Twilight Zone and edited a tribute book to Jack Vance set in his world, The Dying Earth, so he has experience at this kind of thing.)

Some episodes I'd like to see would include:

Another nice part of this idea is we could see some past characters return, like Ygritte played by Rose Leslie, who died in last season's storyline. I'd love a smaller story about Ygritte and Jon Snow before he left the Free Folk. More info on the dangers of the land beyond the wall, please.

Arya and the Hound traveled together for most of Season Four. Lots of opportunities for stories on that journey. The same for Brienne of Tagarth and Jaime Lannister as they made their way south. This would be before Jaime lost his hand, perhaps? Jojen and Meera Reed, Brandon Stark, Hodor's journey to the frozen north has plenty of room for things to happen too.

Grey Worm and the Unsullied have tons of potential still. I'd like a story without too much Daenerys Targaryen or dragons in it (I'm probably in the minority there.) Jorah Mormont is a favorite so he'd be in it for sure. If Jason Momao would return as Drogo, a Dothraki tale would be as welcome too.

Nothing says you have to stay within the current time frame either. Theon and Asha Greyjoy as children is intriguing. Of course, you could do this for lots of characters, but the bizarre Greyjoy childhood would work well. The Lannisters as children is another way to go but not as interesting to my mind. (The opening scene of Season 5 featured a young Cersei Lannister and a friend visiting a fortune teller. Imagine same but as part of an hour drama.)

Bronn and Tyrion Lannister are probably the best buddy team since Fafhrd and Grey Mouser. (Though in Season Five, it's Bronn and Jaime Lannister!) You could do an entire show about these two. Petyr Baelish and Varys are naturals for a convoluted story of matched wits. Of course, you'd have to include Pycelle because Julian Glover is Fantasy royalty. There are plenty of other groups of characters matching wits. You could even bring Joffrey back (Don't wait too long. Jack Gleeson is a growing boy, of course. You want a avoid any Harry Potter stubble.)

In a show with a zillion characters (and there will be new ones this season), small episodes around two or three of them would not be hard to do as long as you gave the viewer some way to know when in the chronology they are watching. Smaller stories could allow the show to explore different kinds of narratives: romantic encounters, horror tales, magical and mysterious questions, military and martial matters. The smorgasbord of storytelling could be as wide as Westeros itself. Unlike allowing HBO writers to finish the series, these episodes are contained within Martin's greater vision and would not lead to anything as awful as Lena Headley in a skin-tight leather suit carving up white walkers in slow-mo. (Legend of the Seeker fans, you know what I mean!)

George, HBO, I hope you're listening.

GW Thomas has appeared in over 400 different books, magazines and ezines including The Writer, Writer's Digest, Black October Magazine and Contact. His website is gwthomas.org. He is editor of Dark Worlds magazine.
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