Game of Thrones Q&A with TV Journalists
By Winter Is Coming on in Editorial, Press.
Photo: HBO/Helen Sloan

Photo: HBO/Helen Sloan

A version of this article appeared in the Special Collector’s Edition Game of Thrones magazine. We will be reprinting several of the articles from that magazine for the benefit of our international readers and others who were unable to buy the magazine in stores.

Game of Thrones has had a lot of ink devoted to it over the course of its run. Three journalists who have been covering the show since the very beginning are TIME’s James Poniewozik, Entertainment Weekly’s James Hibberd, and the Huffington Post’s Maureen Ryan. We were able to pick the brains of these three TV journalists for their thoughts on the show: where it’s been, where it’s going and what its legacy will be.

What were your thoughts on season two as a whole? Was it better or worse than season one?

James Poniewozik: I liked the first season slightly better overall, partly simply because it ended so well, but it’s a close call for me. The second season, however, was not burdened by the need for so much upfront exposition, it was more confident in departing from the original (not always for the better, but in necessary ways), and it felt more coherently focused on a theme (namely, the origins of power and how power differs from mere strength).

James Hibberd: Season two was more confident. The first season started off a tad grim and stiff, then gradually improved and felt more comfortable in its own skin. The story was increasingly punctuated by welcome sly humor as both the show’s writers and the audience gathered a clearer sense of the characters. In season two, Blackwater received all the fan focus, but I was most impressed by the premiere. It deftly launched eight very different stories set in different locations in one hour and made it all feel coherent and equally compelling — that’s spectacularly difficult to pull off. Season one has the advantage of having a very clear narrative arc (since Book One has the simplest story of all the novels), but I think season two was superior overall.

Maureen Ryan: Generally speaking, Season 2 was better than Season 1, for a couple of reasons. First of all, in Season 1, the show had to do a ton of heavy lifting just to establish the world and to introduce all the characters and their relationships. Second of all, despite the big budgets and great casts, the creative team hadn’t quite figured out how to make the world dramatically interesting on a consistent basis — it was fitfully compelling, but early in Season 1 there were some frankly dull patches that didn’t do much to help create momentum or atmosphere.

In the second season, I think “Game of Thrones” took a big step forward in terms of overall quality and consistency — visually, it looked both more grand and more detailed (remember that pathetic tournament in Season 1? That kind of sketchy-looking affair is a thing of the past). It’s not that everything was on an epic scale — though much was — it’s that the world was much more visually arresting and did more work to communicate important parts of the story.

Also, it must be said that the cast — both new and returning — knocked it out of the park every single time they were given compelling material. Of course, in Season 2 there were even more cast members, and the show had to divide its focus even more as the number or storylines increased, so it could be frustrating at times.

 

What one thing has the adaptation got absolutely right? And what one thing have they dropped the ball on?

Poniewozik: The adaptation has managed to bring several characters more vividly to life for me than, frankly, the book on the page did—Stannis for one feels like a more complete and compelling invididual as played by Stephen Dillane, and Cersei feels more three-dimensional. But I think the second season suffered for giving certain players more screen time than the story required—Robb, for instance, and to an extent Dany. I also think the TV series has done less well dramatizing certain characters whose stories and conflicts are more internal—Bran, in particular, has suffered.

Hibberd: I cannot choose only one thing this show has gotten right. But the toughest aspects must have been building an entire fantasy universe — there’s so many details and decisions to be made — and juggling a story with so many characters without losing your audience. Moreover, the writers frequently improve upon the novels, making smart deviations that either make the story more clear or more interesting (like putting Arya and Tywin together). That said, there’s a couple casting choices I was disappointed by (though that’s probably inevitable with a cast this large) and some of the brothel scenes were pretty over the top.

Ryan: In my view, the show would have foundered if it hadn’t cast Tyrion or Arya right; if those actors hadn’t nailed their roles, the show’s foundations would have been much more wobbly and undependable. I think it took Peter Dinklage a little while to truly make Tyrion his own (his accent in Season 1 certainly was wobbly), but in the main, he’s been sensational in the role — he’s embodied the man’s wounded nature and his lust for life in equal measure, no easy thing to do. And Maisie Williams has been terrific as Arya, and puts my mind at ease about the future of her character — if anything, I’m greedy to get more Arya than the show has time for now. And I’ll join the chorus saying that “Blackwater” was one kick-ass hour of television. They’d been stingy with battle scenes until then, but that hour certainly made up for it.

As for less satisfying elements, Kit Harington has been wonderful as Jon Snow, and the show’s producers were wise to film the second season’s North of the Wall scenes in Iceland — those scenes looked appropriately spectacular and exotic. Having said that, I agree with many fans who think that the story of Jon and Ygritte, though embodied by two wonderful actors, was repetitive and not particularly compelling, especially in the second half of the season, and the developments with Quorin Halfhand were handled particularly clumsily. Stories from the book have to be condensed at times, we all get that, but this strand of the adaptation failed to create the pathos and tragedy that moved many of us who’ve read the books.

 

Do you think Game of Thrones is destined to end up in the pantheon of great HBO dramas (The Wire, The Sopranos, Deadwood, etc.)? Or is it another True Blood, a show with some shocking twists and turns but is more of a guilty pleasure than a serious drama?

Poniewozik: So much of this depends on how well the book series succeeds, but before the series was ever made, the books reminded me a lot of Deadwood—they took a familiar genre and both dirtied it up and deepened it. The series clearly has much higher ambitions than True Blood’s sexy escapism—whether it achieves them, we’ll have to see.

Hibberd: I think it already is. You don’t see True Blood in contention for best drama at the Emmys (two years in a row, no less). Right out of the gate, Thrones established itself as a show to be taken seriously, and part of the credit for that goes to HBO for successfully marketing the series as a grown-up drama. It would have been very easy to make Thrones look like a show that’s only for us geeks.

Ryan: I’d say it’s somewhere between those two poles, certainly more on the “Sopranos” end of the spectrum that “True Blood.” The thing is, “True Blood” wasn’t always as chaotic and lazy as it is in its most recent seasons; it was once a pretty well-made genre piece that managed to sneak in some social commentary and even some humor into all the loony carousing amongst supernatural types. When it was good, it had discipline, and that’s something that “Game of Thrones” has never lacked.

“GoT” has had to be disciplined: It’s budgets aren’t small, but every penny counts, and deciding which story lines and characters will get screen time and how to structure this giant story — those are concerns that require a lot of planning, and the drama’s producers have clearly given every choice serious thought. I think “GoT” will be in the pantheon of much-loved, quality HBO shows that maybe aren’t quite at the pinnacle (though, of course that assessment could change).

The problem, or the obstacle, is that the books can go deeply into each character’s psychological journey and moral dilemmas — in a number of cases, the show can merely sketch out those issues before it moves on to the next plot or character. That buffet approach is understandable and even necessary (that’s generally how TV works), but despite the rich visuals, the great performances and the good writing, the constant switching can make for an experience that feels somewhat superficial now and then. I enjoy the show a lot and I don’t mean to sound as if I’m disparaging it; I think it rises to many, if not most, of its challenges in a stirring and intelligent fashion. My main point is that there are structural impediments that face the “Game of Thrones” adaptation: It may just have too many people to plunge deeply into any of their stories the way we’ve gotten into Tony Soprano’s mind or delved deeply into the concerns of Don Draper or Peggy Olsen on “Mad Men.”

Having said that, the writers have done a good job of uniting the characters’ stories and concerns via carefully thought-out themes. I think that one theme in particular — how contradictory alliances create moral dilemmas for an array of driven outsiders, interlopers and rejects — is actually the “star” of “Game of Thrones,” not any one individual character. And depending on how that theme is developed and amplified in coming years, “GoT” may yet make it into the highest ranks of TV drama.

 

And, lastly, without getting too spoilery, what are you most looking forward to in season three?

Poniewozik: I feel like I know which (spoilery) scene a lot of fans are looking forward to, but for me—giants! But in a greater sense, one of the biggest things for me in A Storm of Swords was the events Beyond the Wall—what we learn about the Wildlings and their culture not only set up the bigger plot game of the series, but (with the more egalitarian, in some ways radical social structure of the Wildlings) complicates the series politics, with the contrast with the feudal system of Westeros.

Hibberd: I’m more dreading than looking forward to the spoilery moments. That said, Book Three was probably the most fun reading experience I’ve ever had and it was due to the strength and pace of the story. I really love Daenerys storyline as she gains confidence as a leader and begins gathering and using her army. The developments in Brienne and Jaime’s relationship is also a highlight.

Ryan: I won’t say what I’m sure someone else is going to say (I’m betting R.W. is mentioned). So I’ll just say what I’m anticipating most is not an event or a scene, but a feeling: I really look forward to that sense of being immersed in another world and completely entranced by what I’m seeing on the screen and enveloped by what I feel for the characters. That’s what epic stories set in other worlds can do for us — they can help us lose ourselves in tales that, when we think about it later, aren’t all that divorced from the pain and joy we feel on a daily basis (but sadly, in our reality there are fewer dragons).

Thank you to James, James and Mo for sharing their thoughts! Be sure to follow them on Twitter and their websites for all of their coverage of the show as we head towards season three!


57 Comments

  1. Caelra
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    Ooooh very nice! Thank you from one international reader!

  2. D'Arcy
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    I, personally, cannot wait for the Queenscrown episode.

  3. Anne
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    Good interviews, I have been following these commentators from the beginning and really enjoy their reviews

  4. WompWomp
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    This is a stellar interview. What a substantial and balanced set of opinions. To my delight, they are tempered by a love of the series, show and books alike.

  5. queenofthorns
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    I’ve always agreed with Hibberd’s assessment of the series the most, of these three anyway, and this is no exception. :) For example, I agree with him that Season one got better and better as it went along, whereas the first episode of Season 2 was the strongest.

    Following on the last question posed I cannot wait for

    “A dragon is no slave.”

    “Myhsa Myhsa Myhsa.”

    “I only rescue maidens.”

    And on a more somber note

    “Not my hair, Ned always loved my hair…”

    The final “You know nothing, Jon Snow”

  6. Pepi
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Thanks! Awesome to see some S2 love which, I know, is pretty frequent from the critics, but not as much from the fans.

  7. Yago
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    Very nice interview. I was pleasantly surprised to see they thought the second season was slightly better – Most people who read the books think season 1 is superior, just because they don’t like the changes in the 2nd season.

  8. GerB40
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    queenofthorns,

    “Jaime Lannister sends his regards”. People are going to flip when they hear that..

  9. Mags Giantsbabe
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    It’s really great to read that a professional reviewer actually likes Kit Harington’s Jon Snow, beyond the disheartening fan responses you actually get on the internet (i. e. “he’s so pretty” or “he’s so boring”) and also that they are generally positive about season two. I’ll still buy the dvd.

    Please keep the interviews coming, the magazine sounds great. Someone was actaully kind enough to post my copy to me, but it’s still with someone else here in South Africa, so I can’t read it yet.

  10. Anonymous
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 1:34 pm | Permalink
  11. John W
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    I’m going to make a prediction that Season 3 will be a good one in terms of Emmy love for GoT.

  12. Darquemode
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    Agreed with much of the critis’ points honestly, but left wondering why Mo Ryan always gives answers three times longer than the others? Ugh! I’d rather hear more from Hibberd and Poniewozik persnally…

    Most anticipted Season 3 events for me personally…
    -Jaime and Brienne’s adventures
    -Brotherhood Without Banners!
    -Mance %#$#^^& Rayder!

    Honestly the other aspect I am really excited for is seeing what smaller characters and aspects of the books make it into the series. Especially in King’s Landing.. Will there be Kettleblack’s? (even next year if not this year) More Kingsguard cast and named? What lords and ladies will make the cut over the next year or two….

    Xho and Marbrand are sure bets to be cut… but will we get to see more Kingsguard other than Ser Meryn Trant? Next year we should get Ser Arys Oakheart, maybe Swann the year after? Will Ser Blount appear at all? Will some be metioned this year and then officially cast like they did with Beric?

    I’m intrgued as to the roles that might show up that have not been outted by castng announcements….

  13. TheWoodOfTheMorning
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    I know many book fans are waiting with bated breath for the RW, but i’m most excited for the immediate aftermath to see how they depict everything outside the castle. Tents ablaze, Arya , the Hound and Stranger with that axe!, etc.. Here’s hoping all that doesn’t get glossed over.

  14. Maxwell James
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    Great little roundtable, and I think Hibberd in particular made some terrific points. S201 was an excellent, inspired piece of filmmaking, much of which was sustained throughout the rest of the season. I was surprised by how much criticism it got on this site.

    And he’s totally right that season 1 was easier (relatively speaking of course). It’s more satisfying on a narrative level, and season 2 had bigger errors, especially in the Jon Snow and Daenerys storylines. But season 2 was also better shot, better edited, better acted, and funnier – and not just because Tyrion took Ned’s place as the most central character.

  15. Varamyr Fourskins
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    Granted, I like shows like The Sopranos and Mad Men, but they seem so mundane compared to Game of Thrones. You’ve really got to be in the right mindset to care about their little stupid problems. But the epic-ness of GoT sucks you right in — the politics, the religion, the philosophy, everything that’s at stake, etc. Even though the story takes place in an imaginary world, it somehow seems much more relevant to me than the dealings of petty mobsters and office workers.

    But, if you just want to be entertained and zone out in front of the TV, GoT probably isn’t going to work for you, because of the number of characters and the complexity of some of the issues they deal with. It’s much easier for Joe Shmoe to understand what motivates Tony Soprano than Littlefinger, for example. But if you’re intrigued by some of the darker aspects of human nature, and have more than a five-second attention span, then you’ll be hooked.

    Personally, I’d not only rank GoT ahead of shows like The Sopranos and Deadwood, I’d rank it ahead of movies like LOTR. And, if the novels Tolkien wrote are masterpieces, then the novels GRRM wrote are even more so, because they go so much deeper, and deal with issues that are much more real and immediate. The character development is better, the relationships are more intense, the world is grittier, etc. And yes, I know “fantasy” and “masterpiece” are two words most intellectuals don’t use in the same sentence, but much of that stems from herd mentality. Since the haughty intellectual’s world is built solely on status (i.e. who they work for, how much money they make, where they went to college, how many awards they’ve won, etc.), they tend to validate each other out of fear. No one wants to be the first to take that leap.

  16. Arkash
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    Hehehe, it’s coming, it’s coming !

    It was great to read from those guys !

    As for someone who said Kit’s Jon Snow was not that loved among the fan community… well… I’ve always think these were isolate comments. Most people really enjoy his portrayal and I find him excellent.

    The scene I’m personally awaiting the most is Jaime’s first encounter with Varg… Locke.

  17. GreatJon of Slumber
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    I think I’m at the point (and Season 3 should seal it) that this show has leaped to the pantheon of great HBO dramas, for sure. The Wire perhaps stands in its way, and Deadwood and The Sopranos are right next to it right now.

  18. Darquemode
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    GreatJon of Slumber,

    Agreed.
    I personally think on many levels it joined the elites when Season 1 aired. No show had ever had such an amazing level of production, that is, until Season 2 of the series! XD

    If Season 3 holds the level of excellence set by Season 2, or even surpasses it, there can be no doubt that Game of Thrones is one of the best series ever on HBO.

    However, I do think that the Sopranos and The Wire have a slight edge since they ran their full course and can be judged in their entirety. I do not think that having a satisfying conclusive is prerequisite for being a great series, but I do think it may push one series over another… At least in my mind.

  19. GeekFurious
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    I love reading Mo Ryan’s thoughts. She’s pretty brilliant.

    And having worked with her on a charity project a few years back I can tell you that she is someone who dives deep into the things she is passionate about. So if anyone knows these books, she does.

  20. queenofthorns
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    GreatJon of Slumber: The Wire perhaps stands in its way, and Deadwood and The Sopranos are right next to it right now.

    Hrm, having watched Deadwood right after finishing Game of Thrones S2, I think Deadwood is still the better show overall (though generally they are very comparable, more so than The Wire or The Sopranos and ‘Thrones, IMO). I feel like I could write a thesis about the parallels between GoT and Deadwood. There are a lot of characters and themes that are almost directly analogous – in particular the struggle of women in a world completely dominated by men via the well drawn, varied, and sympathetic female characters.

    I will also add that Season 3 of ‘Thrones may very well put it on top where it belongs given the source material. :)

  21. whiteladder1984
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    I think the thing I’m most looking forward to right now is the Hound v.s Dondarrion fight, just to see the “wtf” reaction on my non-book reader friends’ faces when Thoros resurrects Beric.

  22. queenofthorns
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    GerB40,

    To me that scene was always more about Cat than Robb hence why I selected the quote I did. YMMV. You are correct that much shit will be flipped around the world. ;)

  23. Zack
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    I could not possibly be more in agreement with Mo Ryan in regards to her response to that third question. I think it’s destined to be a surface-skimming show rather than a really deep one, just by nature of the huge cast, and that’s probably what’s going to keep it out of comparison to my very favorite shows of all time.

  24. Maxwell James
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    Pantheon-wise: based on the first two seasons, I think GoT is very comparable in quality to the Sopranos. Including a similar flaw in my opinion: both shows are a little too determined to wallow in the dark side of human nature, though I think the Sopranos was arguably worse in this regard. It made up for it with flights of immense imagination, such as “Isabella.” GoT is of course a more complicated story to tell, and less satirical.

    I wouldn’t put GoT anywhere near The Wire or Deadwood yet, or Breaking Bad for that matter. Deadwood is peerless in terms of taking the viewer into a world that really feels like part of our history. Breaking Bad is simply the best-plotted show ever, with some of the most incredibly vivid cinematography to boot. And The Wire is just amazing in terms of its web of intricately connected stories, how well they are told and how seamlessly the show moves between them. As good as it is, GoT seems clunky by comparison.

    That said, it’s no insult to fall short of those three.

  25. Drfunk
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    Darquemode:
    Agreed with much of the critis’ points honestly, but left wondering why Mo Ryan always gives answers three times longer than the others? Ugh! I’d rather hear more from Hibberd and Poniewozik persnally…

    Most anticipted Season 3 events for me personally…
    -Jaime and Brienne’s adventures
    -Brotherhood Without Banners!
    -Mance %#$#^^& Rayder!

    Honestly the other aspect I am really excited for is seeing what smaller characters and aspects of the books make it into the series. Especially in King’s Landing.. Will there be Kettleblack’s? (even next year if not this year) More Kingsguard cast and named? What lords and ladies will make the cut over the next year or two….

    Xho and Marbrand are sure bets to be cut… but will we get to see more Kingsguard other than Ser Meryn Trant? Next year we should get Ser Arys Oakheart, maybe Swann the year after? Will Ser Blount appear at all? Will some be metioned this year and then officially cast like they did with Beric?

    I’m intrgued as to the roles that might show up that have not been outted by castng announcements….

    I don’t always agree with Mo’s assessment of things but she’s got a point about the Jon storyline. Whereas the book has no problem putting some characters in the back burner to focus on key events, the limitation of the adaptation shows in the fact that these actors are under contract. Robb and Dany predominantly have had made up storylines that frankly either went nowhere at times but felt like “fillers” (seriously how many “WHERE ARE MY DWAGONS” whining could go on before a rushed out climax). These “gotta add stuff for these actors” moments ultimately culminated in sacrificing some key arcs of the second season.

    Second season overall was a good adaptation but Mo’s right, that Jon arc was prob the weakest moment. Qhorin is one of the badass characters introduced in the books and they completely botched the casting and the arc. Seriously, Qhorin being “meekly captured” off screen? WTF was that. There’s a reason why every wildling knew who the @$#@ the Halfhand was in a world with no social media. Because they knew he was the worst crow they could face in the wild.

    Qhorin teaching Jon about true sacrifice and leadership (as he asks each of his men to suicide for the greater good) Only to make a final last stand when he knew capture was inevitable and make a much more “plausible” fake fight. I realize he’s a minor character in the grand scheme of things but it would have added a lot to Jon’s character development on having another father like figure (besides the old bear) to teach him the realities beyond the wall. Lol, didn’t mean to beat on a dead horse but i guess I’m still sore about that whole arc.

    As for season three, I’m hoping the hype doesn’t kill the season. Expectations will be at an all time high for readers and non readers alike. S3/S4 will be the meat of how this show will be judged in history imo, a great success could easily catapult it in the top 5 shows of all time.

  26. Jentario
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    Just listened to this again: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pVVXH6nBCaA
    I <3 this composer so much!

  27. Matt N
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    I love Maureen Ryan’s episode reviews, but her answers here are infuriatingly vague.

  28. Nancy
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    Zack,

    I would have to agree with that too. I think GoT will go down as one of the most ambitious dramas attempted and I am sure, if it stays on the right track (and whoever said that is going to depend how the remaining books go is correct), it will be highly regarded. With such a wide scope and so many characters, you are not going to be able to delve deep into them in way that Mad Men can with Don Draper, Breaking Bad with Walter White, Sopranos with Tony or even the Walking Dead with Rick. GoT just is not that type of the show.
    I think GoT has proven that a show that does have fantasy elements can be well done and acted and I think it will give networks more confident in attempting something in a similar genre that is done with quality.

  29. Turri
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t watched any of these other HBO shows, so I can’t comment about their merits. But I’d argue if we’re talking global appeal, GoT has already left them behind.

  30. Mark
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    A useful exercise for book fans: write down your 10 favorite moments from A Storm of Swords (up to the RW, assuming season 3 ends there). After the season is over, see how many the series “nailed”.

    My tally so far:
    - Season 1 nailed 8 of my 10 favorite moments from AGOT.
    - Season 2 nailed 3 of my 10 favorite moments from ACOK.

  31. Miss
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    I agree that S2 had less technical flaws, that Robb’s increased presence had some unfortunate consequences, the brothel scenes were OTT, and that the show’s buffet approach inevitably sacrifices depth. I’m not sure how much I think the medium change excuses that, probably less sure than Ryan. My big disagreement I think is that without Tyrion and Arya being cast well, the show would’ve foundered. Tyrion I can understand, but Arya has been more of a side character IMO than she seemed in the books. I think the Tywin and Arya scenes were also not the unmitigated improvement on the books as suggested above, for me there were pros as well as cons.

  32. Eric
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    I think this show is great, but considering the first two seasons have been chiseled and done, – no, this show really has no shot of reaching the ranks of The Wire or Deadwood. I’m kind of amazed they gave it a Peabody already. Enlightened hasn’t even won a Peabody, and it’s a deeper piece of work than GOT. In fact, I’d list a few more shows, even some network shows, that come out ahead.

    Don’t get me wrong, Game of Thrones is a very smart show, especially considering it has to reign in all that spectacle, but it doesn’t really get my mind moving nearly as much as the forementioned shows. It’s exhilarating, then it’s over. The first season was kind of amazing in how you could consider it a visceral portrayal of medieval life (even though it’s fantasy). But in Season 2, that kind of wore off, and it just became a really beautiful, sexual, violent extravaganza.

    I’d put it about dead-even with Fringe in terms of entertainment/intellectual stimulation.

  33. Miss
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    Game of Thrones has the potential to be its own kind of The Wire, but I agree that with the trajectory mapped out by the first two seasons, it’s not going to get there. The show’s priorities are just not going to make it possible. Certainly more intellectual than True Blood.

  34. Joshua Taylor
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    Zack,

    I think the fact that its an adaptation holds the show back. And I’m not talking in terms of a faithful adaptation either. Shows like The Wire and Deadwood are plotted out and episodes are designed for specific characters, themes and ideas. Whereas GoT is skimming the surface, adapting what they can to be faithful to the book, changing things when they think they need to be changed. The HBO pantheon doesn’t have to maneuver between the inspiration that comes from original ideas and what makes sense from a practical perspective.

  35. tweedie
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    Deadwood and the wire are incomparable in terms of the quality of the drama to anything else…ever. That said I enjoy GOT better. I agree ep201 was very impressive but for me ep203, 204 and 209 were the absolute pinnacle of the show overall. Ep204 was so strikingly nasty and bleak that you just had to laugh at the audacity of it all.

  36. Zack
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

    Joshua Taylor,

    Indeed.

    I think if I were running this and I had the budget for it, I’d aim for 12-13 episodes per season and have quite a few of those episodes each season be devoted only to one specific plot. “Blackwater” was such a success as an episode it rather spoiled me. But I think that’s what it would take to really let things breathe, and give us a lot of time to focus on one particular plot.

    That said, even if it can’t live up to Deadwood, Breaking Bad or The Wire…as far as entertainment goes, it’s solid. Just doesn’t ever feel as convincing as those others despite the ambition.

  37. Gaius Baltar
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    I rate GoT much higher then other named HBO shows. Mainly because GoT got me fully on emotional basis, which cant be said about other shows. They are so US centric, its very hard to find it interesting even if i can recognize its quality, it simply not interesting me.

    On other hand GoT cant be expected to be priced as best or most intelectual drama. Books are great for many reasons, but not for being some philosophical masterpiece. And GoT cant go so deep into individual characters for obvious practical reasons.

  38. Anna Krakina
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    Surprised that nobody quoted SFU for the HBO A LIST, the greatest, in my opinion, with the Wire . That said, i think as one of the journalists that the line for GOT is between True Blood and the ones you mentionned (Sopranos, Deadwood, the Wire). As Boardwalk, very good show but lack of substance that can get them to the top. The authors made a brilliant job but the books are a nightmare to adapt especially with the internal POV’s structure. So, obviously we miss a lot of the characters’ subtleness and they have to walk the line to respect the plot, so absolutely challenging. But what a great cast, reseeing some episodes, i had some exhilarating moments watching these people play.
    There were some really interesting points in this interviews by the way, very well argued and advocated, subtle. It’s rare enough to be mentionned.
    And i wait for the wonderful Diana Rigg’s moments, Emma Peel for Highgarden , what a delight !

  39. House Snow
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

    Zack: Joshua Taylor, Indeed. I think if I were running this and I had the budget for it, I’d aim for 12-13 episodes per season and have quite a few of those episodes each season be devoted only to one specific plot. “Blackwater” was such a success as an episode it rather spoiled me. But I think that’s what it would take to really let things breathe, and give us a lot of time to focus on one particular plot.That said, even if it can’t live up to Deadwood, Breaking Bad or The Wire…as far as entertainment goes, it’s solid. Just doesn’t ever feel as convincing as those others despite the ambition.

    I see people write this but I don’t think it would work that well. Blackwater took place in a very short time period. Most of the other scenes feel like they are stretched out over time aand people cross each others paths quite a bit. So there would be quite a few chroniclogical issues if you tried to focus an episode around say 3 story lines. You can do it for the major set pieces where everything is happening in one place, but I don’t think you can pull it off under other situation.

  40. Alan
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

    Mark:
    A useful exercise for book fans: write down your 10 favorite moments from A Storm of Swords (up to the RW, assuming season 3 ends there). After the season is over, see how many the series “nailed”.

    My tally so far:
    - Season 1 nailed 8 of my 10 favorite moments from AGOT.
    - Season 2 nailed 3 of my 10 favorite moments from ACOK.

    It’s interesting, but I don’t know that that is a fair way to evaluate the series. It isn’t — and shouldn’t be — a direct plot-point for plot-point retelling of the book. Game of Thrones was a relatively simple story and book compared to the others. It didn’t lend itself to a 1:1 translation, but it was much closer than anything else.

    I think it is more fair to ask what % of storylines both maintained the core theme and were enjoyable. I think season 2 performs better that way.

  41. Zack
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

    House Snow,

    I don’t think you’re following…what I’m saying is the show doesn’t take the time to delve deep enough into the characters, to just let them do their thing and talk or whatever, so you’re left with only broad strokes in the mad rush to cover all the big plot moments.

    But if, throughout the season and the cutting-between-lands episodes, here and there you splice an episode focused on the stuff beyond the wall, an episode spent with Dany, and so on, it provides fantastic opportunities to develop their personality.

    The scenes wouldn’t necessarily take up more ‘chronological’ time, but would be things that would actually happen that we don’t get to see. That’s the entire purpose behind it. But you’d need to add an extra few episodes a season.

  42. Alan
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

    For me, The Wire stands alone. It’s compelling, rarely boring, and approaches and serious and important subject matter that is almost never addressed in a thoughtful, even and thought-provoking way. While Game of Thrones hits basic human themes, the only book that I think comes close to that level of nuance found in The Wire is Dance, and I doubt the series can pull off what I read.

    In the end, though, I think every other drama ever is in play. For one, people are romanticizing some of these shows. The Sopranos was frankly repetitive, and I feel like if people sat through every season now, they would get bored at times. Mad Men requires you not being incredibly tired of the same old theme. Breaking Bad is great — but while I’ve liked it very much, it should have been three seasons long. Deadwood? The second season was somewhat of a mess and it’s helped by not having to end. Same with Rome.

    I’ve loved all these shows. But Game of Thrones isn’t worse — it’s different. It’s more exciting, with a bigger scope and a faster pace. I’m not saying it isn’t great to wallow around in Walter White’s skull for five seasons, but I’m not sure it isn’t just as great to hit five characters for one season (equivalent) in GoT.

    Give GoT some time and appreciate it for what it is. It should try to add some depth, but it doesn’t need to be Mad Men or Breaking Bad. It can be Band of Brothers and be awesome just as well.

  43. Gonfaloniere
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

    Miss,

    I’m curious what you mean in saying that GoT had the potential to be “its own kind of Wire” because I don’t really see the comparisons as strongly as I do with Deadwood. (Both Westerns and heroic fantasy are shopworn genres where people are certain that they know how the time-honored plots are going to play out, and both GoT nor Deadwood manage to subvert those expectations – at least the books of GoT do, there are certainly some alterations to the TV series such as Talisa that would rather confirm stereotypes of heroic fantasy than subvert them.) And the mining camp of Deadwood was at least as foreign a world to its TV audience as Westeros.

    But The Wire is widely known for its extreme realism, and for David Simon’s talking about how he wanted to show how individuals and their actions are powerless in the face of impersonal institutions (the docks and their industry can’t be saved; a new generation of Omars, Stringers and Avons grows up when the old one dies or goes to prison; even good cops end up juking the stats, etc.) I’m not really sure how that compares to GoT’s far more fantastical world in which individual actions have so great an impact on institutions (like the Kingsguard, or the Night’s Watch, or Daenerys’s entire arc with the dragons.)

    Or did you mean that GoT resembles The Wire in the plethora of fascinating characters whom we follow and the lack of a single protagonist, unlike Mad Men, Breaking Bad and The Sopranos?

    I have to admit that part of the problem for me in comparing this show with other great TV shows is that I’ve known and loved the books for a long time, so I’m often watching the show and comparing it to the version I’ve had in my head for a decade, rather than following along in suspense as I do with all these other shows. I often have no idea whether I dislike something because it genuinely doesn’t work as gripping TV drama, or whether it’s because I’m so attached to my reading of the books that I dislike the show for interpreting things differently (and in my mind, of course, wrongly!)

  44. sareeta
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

    Hibberd writes the funniest and most entertaining reviews, james poni….the most intellectual and mo the harshest (not a bad thing. I think it stems from her love of the books and expectations for great tv. Can’t wait tho read their weekly reviews. I think sepinwall has lost his love for the show and the community.

  45. Drfunk
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

    The story and scope of the characters may indeed rival the Wire, but the shows lacks its execution. Simon smartly told each of his seasons in a sort of stand alone story of one aspect of the dysfunctional modern institutions. Though you’d appreciate the continuity of the storyline with each subsequent seasons, one could watch through random seasons of the Wire and still get a compelling drama on its own. Whereas the Wire managed to keep most of its cast even to bring them in very briefly in some seasons, D&D seem obsessed on keeping us appraised of EVERYONE they ever introduced.

    Blackwater is a clear example of what GoT could be like in a Wiresque manner. Not because they spent the big bucks or the fancy green CGI but rather the intense focus on a single storyline within this vast epic tale. We got to see a deeper sides to everyone involved in that conflict instead of a 5min montage of fan service only to be transitioned to the next character in line.

    I’m in no way disparaging the series as a whole. It still turned out much better than I ever hoped it would be (considering other tragic fantasy stories which got butchered on TV *cough legend of the seeker, camelot cough*). That said no matter how great GoT currently is at this time, it’ll have to seriously change its format for it to belong with the Wire/Breaking Bad level of compelling drama. Perhaps focus on specific storylines (emulating the books), and somehow keep all of the cast under contract (like the Wire did).

    On a side note, what most people don’t realize about the Wire is the masterful way each seasons got transitioned into the next rather than individual episodes. Most typical shows (including GoT) make a big showcase of the new talent they sign for the show but we don’t get to see them till the new season starts. Simon somehow managed to cameo those actors before they become major players in subsequent seasons. It would be a much better way to introduce the characters, just not sure what the difference in budget was between the Wire and GoT.

    PS: Whoever mentioned SFU earlier is totally right. There’s a reason why it dominated the awards for most of its duration, which is why I still hold a grudge on Alan Ball for making such an awesome series only to make junk food fare in True Blood. Though lately Banshee seems very interesting so he’s even on my books :P

  46. Turncloak
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

    Hoping they nail this scene:
    Jaime: “You think you can beat me in a fair fight”.
    Brienne: “I’ve never seen you fight”
    Jaime: “The answer is no”

  47. Turncloak
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

    Also, would love to hear you guys interview Andy Greenwald from Grantland!

  48. Watson
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

    Turncloak,

    I love Andy Greenwald, but considering how casually he approaches the show, (and most other things,) I’m not sure his commentary would be all that well received on this site.

  49. Nezzer
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

    Turncloak:
    Hoping they nail this scene:
    Jaime: “You think you can beat me in a fair fight”.
    Brienne: “I’ve never seen you fight”
    Jaime: “The answer is no”

    That dialogue was in S2 already, in episode 8.

  50. Joshua Taylor
    Posted March 12, 2013 at 3:11 am | Permalink

    I know he had some comments mid season 2 that stemmed from frustration but he raved about Blackwater…is Sepinwall lost to us? If so, that’s a blow.

  51. b1narys3rf
    Posted March 12, 2013 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    The show serves its genre at the same time it transcends its genre. So if you’re not into fantasy stories it won’t compete with the other HBO series or cable dramas. Personally I expect it to become my favorite as long as D&D continue their overall solid adaptation work.

    I also don’t get all the praise for Ep. 201. It’s by far my least favorite of the entire series because it was like a double-shot of unnecessary retread exposition and tone-deaf scenes. Although it was an example of the greater unevenness of S2, I think S2 is underrated because while its lows are lower its highs are also higher. There the critics & I agree.

  52. Maxwell James
    Posted March 12, 2013 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    Joshua Taylor,

    I don’t think Sepinwall was ever one of “us,” so to speak, but I haven’t seen any sign that he’s down on the show. He expressed some frustration over how it manages its many storylines – but he still likes it & almost included it in his top 10 from last year.

    On the other hand, I think he’s justifiably irritated with the assholes who keep posting spoilers in his comments section.

  53. Darker than white
    Posted March 12, 2013 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    You can’t try to compare GOT with other shows by how deep you get into the main character because it’s not set up that way. When all is said and done, I believe that what will set GOT up as one of the best shows ever will be that it is so different in terms of not having a traditional main character. I see the main character as the world itself and it’s personality defined by the characters that inhabit it. In no other show can you ask 100 fans who their top 10 characters are and have 100 different answers.

    There is a reality tv show on tbs called the “King of Nerds”, in which contestants strive to win the “Throne of Games” by competing in contests. One was a trivia contest including the usual star wars and star trek questions. They asked what is the nickname of the hound’s brother? All 3 competitors knew the answer. “The mountain who rides” is such a small part of this world but they all knew his nickname.

    In my opinion, GOT will easily have the biggest cultural impact of any hbo show ever made. I believe it will be considered in the catagory of star trek and star wars when it’s all over in terms of cultural impact.

  54. WildSeed
    Posted March 13, 2013 at 1:04 am | Permalink

    Finally finished this interview . Poniewozik, Hibberd and Ryan make good points for
    seasons one and two, much discussed here as well. The expectation of bringing the
    books to screen is an ongoing debate, but everyone gives general approval for raising
    the bar in it’s production. Season three will help cement GoT’s place in HBO history,
    the scope of production and upcoming story arcs has to galvanize new viewers and
    seasoned readers.

  55. Eleanor
    Posted March 13, 2013 at 5:35 am | Permalink

    I remember reading Mo Ryan’s review of the first 6 eps of S1 and thinking, “finally! somebody other than me has noticed Peter Dinklage’s appalling accent!” It seriously threw me out and I’m glad she’s mentioned it as an improvement. I’m still not sure if his accent really did improve or I just got used to it.

  56. sean
    Posted March 13, 2013 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    I’m just commenting to say how awesome of an idea I thought this piece was. The disconnect between entertainment writers and fans isn’t a wide as some, but for big popular shows it can widen because it begins to become commercialized, excessively repetitive and thin in content (only so many interviews with the same actor with the same questions and same answers before even die hards say enough is enough).

    So, to go out and find the writers that followed the show from its birth as a ‘no idea what to expect’ hyper-risky epic drama in an oft-dismissed genre and get their reactions of the ride was a brilliant way to reconnect writer to viewer as the fans we all are. Love all the work you guys put into this site, cheers!

  57. Mrs. H'ghar
    Posted March 14, 2013 at 3:19 am | Permalink

    Thanks so much for posting this WiC! Efforts to find the magazine on stands were futile, as a woman probably was too slow in shopping for it. Since photos are so plentiful online, the articles are really what many of us wanted to see, so thanks again for posting! Interesting to see so many points of agreement regarding S2 with this woman and the trio interviewed above. Huzzah!


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