BLOG A Game Of Plotting

Steven Ellis wonders if Game Of Thrones is diluted by having to watch it in episodic chunks.

I’m having a problem with Game of Thrones .

I’m enjoying it, don’t get me wrong. It’s a fantastic show. I just have issues with the individual episodes; they aren’t long enough.

Each one feels incomplete to me. Characters and plots disappear for whole episodes or longer.

Now, I know that this is one, long, epic story. I know that each episode should be treated like a chapter in that story and each season a book in a bigger epic series. But I’m finding individual episodes a little disappointing. I always find I want more of this character or that storyline. The drip, drip, drip of – sometimes disjointed – plots here and bits there is really unsatisfying and is trying my patience.

When the show first came to our screens my other half was excited about it. She’s read the books and raved about a TV adaptation; almost all the people I know who’d read the books raved about it too. I’m not the biggest fan of the fantasy book side of our genre, but seeing as I’d heard nothing but good things about the books I thought I’d give this show a try.

By the third episode I was done. I just wasn’t getting into it. To be honest I think my other half was getting a bit irritated with me asking questions all the time. I guess this is one advantage of having read the books previously; so many characters, so many places, so many agendas; I just found it to all be a big confusing mess. The number of characters was staggering. I read somewhere that the show now has more named characters than any other TV show ever produced. During the production of the third season over 250 cast members were named. How are we supposed to keep track of them? I gracefully bowed out.

But my other half continued to rave about it, friends continued to rave about it, SFX continued to rave about it. I started to think maybe I should give it another go. I’d had a similar problem with True Blood . In single episodes I really didn’t enjoy that show either, but after returning from a holiday I watched three episodes in one sitting and suddenly loved it; multiple episodes in one go really made me enjoy the show more.

As luck would have it, Sky did one of their catch-up nights and showed the first five episodes of Game Of Thrones season one in one very long night. I decided to watch them. This time I got it. Seeing multiple episodes in one go made it easier to follow characters and plots, to see how everything fell together and intertwined. Unfortunately I still didn’t have a clue what half the names were, but it really didn’t matter; I was enjoying the show, not quite loving it, but certainly wanting to keep watching. I decided what I was going to do; not watch the episodes one at a time. For the rest of season one I watched two episodes at a time. And then I did the same for all of season two. And now season three is here and for some reason I’ve watched all the three episodes so far individually on the night they aired, and I’m not enjoying it as much.

When we bought the Game Of Thrones season one Blu-ray I watched it in three lumps and it was even better than the second and first times I’d watched it. I intend to do the same for season two when I eventually pick it up.

This show feels like it’s not really meant to be episodic. I know it’s an episodic weekly TV show, but I think watching it that way really does it a disservice. This is a show which should be bought in box-set form and consumed over a weekend, not rationed out bit by bit. There have been other densely plotted TV shows, both in the sci-fi and fantasy genre and outside it, but nothing with the scope and complexity of Game Of Thrones and none which are as faithfully adapted from an existing series of books.

There are a few other shows kind of like it: a single season-long story told in ten or twelve parts. I’ve already mentioned True Blood, and Dexter also comes to mind (both originally books series too) but in the case of Dexter and True Blood individual episodes aren’t quite as dense, the cast is fewer, the story more personal and far less epic. Other shows have season long arcs but those tend to also have threads running through each episode as well. It’s like a sort of two-tier writing; there’s a beginning, middle and end to each individual hour as well as parts of the season long arc sprinkled in as well. Game Of Thrones is far too densely plotted for that and it would be very difficult to have each episode like this. Hell, it would be difficult to have even a season like this. It’s all part of a much bigger whole. It deserves to be consumed in as bigger pieces as you can manage.

So there you have it. I know the solution to my Game Of Thrones problem is to watch it in bigger chunks. But I also don’t want to be left behind on the weekly front; I see how excited people get on a Monday morning knowing that a new episode is on later. I know I should save up a few episodes and have a Thrones night every few weeks. I know that’s what I should do, but again there’s the Monday excitement; I get swept up in the communal excitement and find I really don’t want to miss out. Even though I know I’m not getting my full enjoyment from the show this way. Still at least I know that at some point in the future me and Game of Thrones are going to sit down for a few nights of solid packed entertainment.

So, my question is Game of Thrones ; how do you watch yours? Are individual episodes satisfying you? Or do you get as lost as me? Do you like to save up episode and watch a few at a time? And do you think the show is much better as a “consume the entire boxed set in a weekend” kind of thing?

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