Clash of Kings Retrospective

Obviously I’m talking about the story.  If you’re going to get uppity about spoilers, kindly depart or don’t complain.

So I was looking over my hope and fears for Clash of Kings.  I hope they don’t screw up this, I hope this character isn’t annoying.  These were the fears of an apocalyptic doomsayer.  Not that they were wrong, but they were wrong in an oddly specific way, like describing the outline of an empty puzzle.  I foresaw doom in various supporting characters.  Wow this is necessary for the story but this is annoying as hell.  Most of these fears turned out to be groundless.  Not because they were done well, but because what I worried about simply wasn’t included in the show.

As a fan, this did have a tendency to drive me nuts during the show.  I could never justify cutting the “She Slapped Him” scene, I’m still angry about that one.  But it drove me just as crazy the first season.  All in all the show still holds up well.  This season, much more than the first, existed in vignettes.  Characters talk to each other between plot points waiting for things to move along until they eventually do.

These talky moments could be mistaken for fan fiction.  They’re moments between moments presented in the book.  Conversations that occur between the book’s plot points.  Tywin and Arya, Robb and Not-Jeyne, everything Littlefinger did.  This is going to get me in trouble if anyone actually read this, but this season felt low-budget.  I know it’s not a low-budget show.  But the repeated use of small, enclosed sets and complete absence of as a many supporting characters as possible made it feel cheap compared to something which feels expensive such as Boardwalk Empire with its vintage clothing, massive sets, and too many gangsters to remember.

Onto the story, I’ll be more specific as I sift through my DVR for repeated viewings.  The showrunners wisely seem to have realized that Jon and Dany’s storylines are not exactly the book’s most compelling.  Beyond the Wall, there’s a lot of shots of twenty people walking or standing on hills.  I would say the most interesting scene here from a kind of meta standpoint is when Sam discovers the cache of obsidian, which is a setup for his later nickname, Sam the Slayer.  It’s interesting because that’s the threshold for what’s included, subplot wise.  The Reeds and Edmure Tully are absent, as are the Brave Companions, Ramsay Bolton, who have larger roles throughout Clash of Kings, whatever they may get in the season finale.  You really get the sense that Qarth was included because it had to be.  Storm of Swords is Dany’s great moment.  In order to get there, we all have to wade through Qarth.

Far and away the best storyline of the season belonged to Theon Greyjoy.  I feared they had not earned his face-heel turn into a villain.  However, they played up his negative relationship with his family and it worked really well.  This probably the only storyline that benefited from the added scenes.  Those scenes with him and Balon Greyjoy were probably the best in the entire season, followed closely by anything with the awesome Charles Dance as Tywin.  Tyrion’s scenes were great.  But, he gets roughly half of the book.  Clash of Kings is Tyrion’s time to shine.  I wish he’d gotten more time, but to get the time I’d like they’d need to do a proper 24 episode season as the Seven intended or even 12 episodes like Boardwalk Empire.

After next week I’ll be able to post an updated version of my hopes and fears for Storm of Swords.  I have no hope that they’ll actually show Dany conquering the three cities.  Even the book doesn’t include the war for the last two, although a generous dragon budget for Astapor would be nice.  My opinion, season 3 should end with Astapor and the Red Wedding.