Head Games

So a few days ago I griped about all those non-book reading fans of Game of Thrones complaining over having anything from the book mentioned in their presence.  Well book readers, don’t sit there all complacent in your superiority, because today, I’ve got a bone to pick with some of you.

Last night saw the finale of the third season of the show, and in the week leading up to it, anticipation was high that we would see a certain “Lady Stoneheart.”  I’ll be nice and not go into any detail as to who that is, but it’ll definitely be a huge moment when she turns up, one a lot of people thought would be a perfect capper to the current season.  I’ll admit, I was excited at the prospect.  But the credits rolled without any sign of her.  Still, I was pleased with how things went; a series of escalations, as we saw last night, can be just as impactful as a steady course punctuated by a huge jolt at the end.  So I took to the internet to check out the reactions to what I thought was a pretty great victory lap for Season 3, and a promising lead-in to Season 4.

And I saw people complaining we didn’t get Lady Stoneheart.  That we should have gotten Lady Stoneheart.  That we were sure we were going to get Lady Stoneheart.  They’ve spent three years being wrapped up in the narrative and adaptive skill this show has so clearly demonstrated, and because they didn’t get the cool moment they’d worked themselves up into expecting, they were now down on the episode.  It felt like being served a great steak only to have someone say, “Yeah, but I was hoping for chicken.”

So, just as the rabid non-spoiler crowd feels entitled to a pristine landscape in which to watch things at their leisure, the fanatical those in the know want to see their favorite parts done their way on their schedule.  It’s the curse of any adaptation; you’re competing with years, sometimes decades, of preconceived notions and mental images of how things should be.  Peter Jackson deserved that Oscar for The Return of the King for even daring to put The Lord of the Rings on film, given how deeply held that book is.  I know you’re never going to please everybody, but we kind have to be willing to be pleased at some point.

Anticipation and expectation are perfectly fine, but we also have to be willing to engage a work in the way the creator intends us to.  It’s not their job to reach into our heads and show us exactly what we want to see.  They’re interpreting just like we interpreted, only with realities and limitations that don’t exist inside our heads.  Was I a little disappointed Lady Stoneheart didn’t show up last night?  Sure, it would have been a cool moment.  But we’d just been gut-punched the week before.  Surely there’s nothing wrong with stopping for a breath instead of trying to say, “Well if you think that was something, watch this!”  Episodic television needs room to breathe.  And with the meandering sprawl of the fourth and fifth books looming before them, I’m not surprised the producers decided to hold off on somethings until next season.  It may not have been the best choice for the Game of Thrones in our heads, but it was the best choice for the Game of Thrones on the screen.


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