David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are remarkably bad at their jobs.
In case you weren’t aware, Benioff and Weiss are the showrunners on HBO’s astoundingly expensive and outrageously successful fantasy series Game of Thrones. They have arguably the most difficult job of any showrunners in the business, with dozens of actors to work with, several world-spanning storylines to coordinate and a budget that would intimidate the Iron Bank.
But last night, they proved once and for all that they don’t know how to keep an audience invested in their show.
When I started watching Game of Thrones, the first season had just finished airing. There had been a ton of buzz from the moment the now legendary twist played out on the small screen, but as I binged my way through season 1, I couldn’t find anything worthwhile to grasp hold of. After all, if everyone is on the chopping block, what’s the point of getting invested in any of them?
But that’s the brilliance of George R.R. Martin’s story — he lures you into a temporary state of calm before pulling the rug out from under you and beheading one of your favorite characters. By the time season 2 rolled around, I was excited in spite of myself. How would a story this chaotic stay on track for 10 more hours? I had to find out, and 49 hours later, I’ve seen every single episode.
And the show delivered! I have been hopelessly devoted to watching Game of Thrones on the night it airs for four seasons now, but I began to get nervous last week when the show blew the doors open on a threat far greater than any fire-breathing dragons or violent heirs to the throne.
Like many of my favorite TV critics, I was concerned that the show might have set the stakes too high by bringing the White Walkers front and center in episode 8, but against all odds, it wasn’t the massive CG battle that made everything else seem pointless — it was the untimely and poorly handled death of one of the show’s bravest, most fascinating characters.
WARNING: SPOILERS FOR SEASON 5, EPISODE 9 FOLLOW BELOW.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Weiss defends the decision to have Shireen killed by saying the comically inappropriate death scene was “entirely justified” by the narrative. “It was set-up by the predicament that Stannis was in. It will be awful to see, but it’s supposed to be awful.”
“It’s supposed to be awful.”
That’s the sentiment from one of the people running your favorite show. My Sunday night was “supposed to be awful,” and dammit, it sure was. Any growing sympathy I had for Stannis is gone. I would now prefer that everyone involved with the battle for Winterfell take a nosedive into the nearest frozen lake. We also lost one of the best ongoing friendships — the one between Davos the Onion Knight and Shireen. Providing Davos ever returns, I can’t imagine he will take Shireen’s death lightly.
But the worst thing of all is how utterly predictable and boring the decision was. The Lord of Light decrees it must be done, and so shall it be done. Stannis is now firmly established as a character who cannot think for himself, and the viewers suffer the consequences.
Game of Thrones the TV show was never going to follow A Song of Ice and Fire to a tee, but this season in particular has been irreversibly marred by bad decisions behind the scenes that have nothing to do with the novels.
The season began its descent into misery when Sansa was forced to marry the show’s most gruesome villain, Ramsay Bolton (née Snow). The sexual violence perpetrated against her character was gross and unwarranted, failing to provide any meaningful character development for anyone involved.
So what have we learned? Benioff and Weiss have some vendetta against the young, female actors on their show? It’s too difficult to corral this many actors week in and week out, so we might as well torture and murder the ones that aren’t actively participating in an important storyline?
By the time Drogon came to the rescue last night, igniting the Sons of the Harpy and attempting to wash the brutality of the earlier scene from our mind with even more violence, it was far too late. I was already numb to the tiresome pessimism of the show and its crew.
Like the rest of you, I will continue to watch Game of Thrones, as it’s still more entertaining than anything else on television at the moment, but when (or rather if) the battle begins in earnest next week, it’s going to be a struggle for me to raise a banner for anyone other than a new team of writers to end the vicious cycle that the team began this season.