Review: Game of Thrones; Or, A Guide to the Flora and Fauna of Westeros

How riveting was Game of Thrones last night? We saw Bran have a dream, talk to Osha, and walk. We saw Jon talk to Mance Rayder and walk. Arya and her rag tags walk, get captured, talk to their captors, and then walk some more. Sansa eats lemon cakes (is that the only pastry in Westeros?) and talks to an old woman. By the time we got to see Joffrey look at fabric samples and explain the mechanics of a crossbow, I was already on the edge of my seat and couldn’t handle the excitement.

For those of you who missed last night’s episode, that description is only slightly facetious; seriously, nothing happened. The show is turning into a nature documentary, just endless shots of people walking through the forest (or frozen hellhole). For all the plot development that accomplishes, they might as well just start talking about the trees they’re passing. Or maybe explain the biology of direwolves.

I don’t think I’m spoiling the plot in saying that we can expect a lot more walking and not much else. Storm of Swords, which this season is based on, is one of the longest entries in George R.R. Martin’s series from which the show is taken (and for the record, none of the novels are short), and also one of the least eventful. It takes all the book’s eleven-hundred to get Bran from Winterfell to The Wall, and Brienne and Jaime to King’s Landing. Everyone’s story line stagnates, at least on the Westerosi end of things. Daenerys is the one saving grace, as her story line contains all the intrigue, amorality, and gore that we’ve come to know and love.

Oh, and do you remember that song “The Rains of Castamere” that they sang before the battle of Blackwater last season? Well, I hope you liked it, because someone sings at every opportunity. The books would be noticeably shorter if they’d quit reprinting the lyrics to it.

I tell friends to skim the third book. I was hoping that the show would do some of that work for me, trim some of the excess due to the constraints of a ten-episode season. I was even more excited when they included Robb’s wedding at the end of the second season; that doesn’t actually occur until the third book, and I’d hoped that was a sign they were going to speed the story along. But, alas, the third book is getting slit into two seasons, which means we get see every inch of Westeros, every tree and rock and critter, in painstaking detail.

For those just joining the series, don’t think this kind of slow crawl is representative of the whole show. Stick with it, and that goes for even veterans who find themselves bored by the lack of momentum, especially in contrast to the velocity of the first two seasons. Because when the action does resume, and I promise it does, the events make Ned Stark’s beheading look like a walk in the park.

Ian McCaul has spent his whole life in Kalamazoo, MI, except for a brief detour at Grand Valley State University, where he recently graduated with a degree in English and writing. His short stories appear in the online journals Pulse and Laptop Litmag.