For this week’s Game of Thrones article over at UGO.com, I looked at the most shocking moments from the first season of the show (season two returns on Sunday, April 1 – set your DVRs). Despite being written as individual, humongous novels, one of the most impressive things about George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series is how well it adapts to a serialized medium. That’s due in no small part to the fact that Martin isn’t afraid of pulling the rug out from under his audience, and is a skilled-enough storyteller to do it well.
It’s not spoiling anything to say that this trend continues throughout the entire series, as Martin kills off characters that were once focal points, elevates minor ones, and keeps plates spinning while bringing in wholly new story arcs and angles. The second book, and basis for the show’s second season,A Clash of Kings, is my favorite of the series, as it manages to keep all the shocking and sometimes gruesome surprises, even amping them up a bit from the first volume, while also maintaining a high level of quality.
I still like the books that come afterward, but while reading them, I increasingly started feeling like they were oftentimes little more than “tragedy porn,” as terrible, awful, unthinkable things continued to happen to characters I want to have at least some measure of success. There’s nothing wrong with giving your characters a hard time – it’s what makes good drama – but the tragedy has to be leavened with triumph occasionally, otherwise, you end up just chasing the high (or low, rather) of your last tragic event.
I love the Song of Ice and Fire books – they’re an absolute triumph, and I’m excited to see every last one of them adapted to television as long as it’s handled as artfully as Game of Thrones first season, but I still find it fascinating how shock value, which was once a great strength of the series, slowly evolved into a crutch.
Check out “Game of Thrones’ Shocking Moments,” but beware, there be SPOILERS ahead.