Regular readers will recognise this as a regular feature on my blog, the part where I have a pop at the marketing strategy of one of the most successful TV companies of all time, over one of the best TV series of all time. So here were go.
2015 draws to a close and, yes, HBO are once again idiots.
I am talking about the news that Game of Thrones is once again the most pirated TV show of the year (The link is to the BBC, because we’re British, but really it’s covered just about everywhere -Ed). Now, I say this every year, but as well as being a victim of its own success, this is partly a result of their approach to DVD releases.
Time and again I insist that people pirate because of convenience rather than expense. Given the popularity of Game of Thrones as a series you would have expected it to be the best selling Christmas DVD. But it’s not. Why? Because it’s not on sale until March.
They do this every damn year. They do this every year, when other shows are available on DVD practically as soon as the series is out. HBO could have topped the DVD best-sellers list with Game of Thrones at the end of 2015. Instead they topped the most pirated list.
How does this happen? You wait all year for a Game of Thrones season to come, and then it’s gone in a flash. And we have another year to wait (And that’s just for the DVD release… -Ed).
Season five seems to have been one of the more controversial of the series. Barely an episode seems to have gone by without some new outrage gripping the internet. For me, though, I think it’s been the best yet. Dark, bleak, serious, and with an edge of storytelling with no regard for what anyone wants.
Episode nine of a series of Game of Thrones is where the exciting stuff happens, traditionally.
That, to be honest, is going to be a bit of a struggle with season five. It has its detractors, but I think that actually it has showcased the very best of the series yet. The darkness is closing in on all sides, and the story marches along like the White Walkers themselves are snapping at its heels.
Quite what can be pulled out of the hat as a season crowning moment remains to be seen. I, for one, will be very disappointed though if it doesn’t see a whole new crowd swearing off the series entirely.
I’ve seen more than a few people say that they’re no longer watching Game of Thrones, for more than a few different reasons.
Some I can understand. If you actually don’t enjoy it, then fair enough. One of the most common reasons is dislike of the violence, particularly towards women, that the show displays. I get the discomfort, really I do. But I also question what they thought they were watching, when they first set out. It isn’t a new facet, at any rate.
The other, even more perplexing, reason that I’ve heard is that it’s too bleak, it’s too hopeless. Which is, frankly, bizarre. We are coming to the end of the fifth season in what looks set to be a seven-season story arc. Of course things are bleak and hopeless now. We’re coming into the darkest moment before the dawn. That’s how basic conflict in storytelling works.
How many Game of Thrones viewers do you reckon have also read the books? A third? Fewer?
I don’t mean, how many started watching the series, picked up a copy of A Game of Thrones, and are presently marooned midway through A Clash of Kings, whilst the series picks over the bones of A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons.
The truth is that, however good the books are (And they are very good -Ed) the fact that they tend towards the sprawling epic side of fantasy fiction (And they are epically sprawling -Ed) will always make a five-series-and-counting TV series more accessible to 90% of people. That’s a criticism of neither, but a fact of life.
The fact is also that the distance between the books and the show is growing with each season. There are several storylines in the TV series which do not, directly, stem from the books. Others are being truncated, abbreviated, accelerated, to make up for the fact that whilst George R.R. Martin can take as long as he bloody well likes to finish his story, TV execs are a lot less patient.
So if there seems to be a lot going on in Thrones, spare a thought for those still labour through the books (And waiting for the next one to be published, which to be honest takes the bulk of the time -Ed).
It’s notable what season length can do for a series.
Contrast with Gotham, which seemed to drag on for-bloody-ever. With Game of Thrones we are now on episode six of 10, more than halfway through. It still gets me sometimes that there have been five seasons. I remember watching the first, and I’m sure it can’t have been 10 years ago…
Nonetheless, a lot has undeniably happened. I feel like I ought to offer some sort of “Previously, on Game of Thrones” with these reviews.
We’re at the halfway point in the series now, and so far this is shaping up to be the best season yet.
There is so much going on that these reviews seem to be getting longer and longer, still with subtleties woven into the story. I’m impressed at how well they seem to be coping with the myriad strings of story, and how distinctively Game of Thrones it still feels.
At the same times, it feels for the first time like we’re into the real meat of the grand story. I can feel it deepening, without undue haste, with each episode. Mainly it’s through the fact that not a second seems to be wasted, no more time spend plodding about with insignificant characters doing not much at all.
When the first four episodes of this series of Game of Thrones were leaked online, I made a conscious decision not to binge them all.
I’d like to be able to claim that it’s out of some great commitment to copyright and respect for the law. But to be honest, I just didn’t think I could cope with a three-to-four-week wait between episodes four and five. I’m impatient like that, and the wait for season five itself was bad enough.
Was I vindicated in my decision? This episode ought to show us.
It’s strange, really, that we’re five seasons into Game of Thrones.
Five series of death, violence, a little bit of sex, and some of the best story on TV.
What’s interesting is that it has become it’s own entity. All adaptations either define themselves, or become shadows of their source, and it seems inarguable that Game of Thrones has not done the former. I can’t be bothered to look up the viewing figures, but the series has once again topped the most pirated list.
Each series adds more layers, more characters, more plotlines like a spider to a web. I didn’t altogether rate the third season, but on the whole it has been a remarkably consistent upwards curve. And season five looks already set to continue that trend.
It’s amazing what a phenomenon Game of Thrones has become. Even in our fad-ish world of viral whatevers, it really does seem to have taken over.
Especially amazing given that it’s a fantasy series about dragons and knights, packed to the rafters with sex and violence.
Actually, these days it’s more violence than sex. I like to think that the story has gotten so interesting and labyrinthine that even “sexposition” can’t untangle it. I shudder to think how impenetrable this would be to anyone coming in cold to the fifth season.
You know what, though? Good.
You wouldn’t come into a book at chapter seventeen and start complaining that you can’t immediately pick up the plot threads, so it’s a mystery quite why for years that same arguemnt was used to stop TV shows from having extended story arcs.
(Yeah, we may have stumbled on a bugbear that needs a whole blog post of its own, here. How about we just get on with the review? -Ed)