Mhysa – Season 3, Episode 10
“Some people grow to love their chains.”
After some glorious hours of television viewing across all three seasons, Game of Thrones has marched its way to the top of the hill with an audience of 13.6 million. Its character-driven plot means every episode is an opportunity for richer character development, and that’s why we’ve not torn ourselves away from the fantastical world of Essos and Westeros.
This season saw the Tyrells come into their own: Olenna’s witty, satirical scripting differs from that of the other characters and Margery’s position of power over Joffrey meant tense clashes with Cersei. Elsewhere in King’s Landing, the Tyrion-Shae-Sansa love triangle gave a whole new dynamic to the previously existing relationships. In Mhysa, Varys unsuccessfully tried to persuade Shae to leave and relinquish her love for Tyrion; Shae’s character is intriguing because she is so shrouded in mystery, her constant defiance could be her downfall, or may perhaps later reveal secret intentions which she may be harbouring. Our other Lannister, Jaime, progressed this season too. We saw a new paradigm of Jaime’s personality through his secret confessions to Brienne, but also his chivalrous, caring side when he rescued Brienne from the bear pit.
However, some characters’ development was completely lacking this season. The epitome of this has to be Theon – in a dungeon, still in a dungeon, yet again in a dungeon. A huge amount of screen-time was wasted watching Theon’s character progress nowhere – spatially and metaphysically – with the result of a very anti-climatic revelation of his captor’s identity.
Problematic in a different way was Jon Snow and Ygritte’s romance. There were some aesthetically beautiful scenes between these two, including their final tragic romance scene in episode 10. Ygritte confronted Jon over his desertion, only to shoot her lover with a bow and arrow as he rode off on his horse. To me, there was something very reminiscent of the kind of bittersweet moment you get in traditional Japanese films, yet something about it didn’t work. Perhaps the impossibility of the scene’s logistics (how did Ygritte track and catch-up with Jon so swiftly?), or maybe I just never bought into the fast-tracked romance of the pair to begin with.
I am not the first to admit that many of the episodes this season – with the exceptions of episodes 4 and 9 – felt like ‘fillers.’ Irritatingly few storylines progressed or pivoted, some were completely unnecessary, and many characters trudged the same ground. It begs the question of whether splitting one book into two seasons for financial reasons can really be justified in terms of viewership.
As an audience we have invested so heavily in the characters that it seems almost too late to turn away. At 10 episodes a season, lasting an average of 52 minutes for seasons 1 and 2, and averaging 56 minutes in season 3: a Game of Thrones watcher alone has invested 26 hours of viewing time, not to mention the copious hours book-readers have put into the fantasy on top of that. Looking at the viewing figures it seems that the dwindling storylines have not decreased the numbers of watchers, but whether the series has reached its peak and pushed the its audience’s perseverance too far remains to be seen in season 4.
Having already devoted so much time to the characters and their stories and after two previously compelling seasons, have we, as an audience, accepted the shortcomings of season 3 too readily?
Worth a Note
◊ In terms of series viewership on HBO alone, Game of Thrones is second only to The Sopranos – a fantastic achievement for a fantasy drama series.
Worth a Look
◊ On a different trail altogether, Aamer Rahman’s tumblr blog caused a stir in its critical discussion of the role of race in the series. It focuses on the Dothraki tribe and their position in the uncivilised/civilised binary which coincides with historical tropes of black/white, colonised/coloniser.