Posted on Friday, August 21st, 2015 by Angie Han
In terms of viewership, Season 5 was Game of Thrones‘ best yet. In terms of narrative quality, however, the jury’s still out. Even as the season was showered with praise for highs like “Hardhome,” it caught a lot of flack for its uneven pacing and nasty twists. What Game of Thrones could really use right now is a valiant champion to fight for it in the court of public opinion.
Luckily, it seems to have found just that in Damon Lindelof. The Lost creator — who knows a thing or two about angry fans — has unleashed a long rant defending the show, and taking the “haters” and “clickbait-y media culture” to task. Read the Damon Lindelof Game of Thrones comments after the jump.
I don’t watch television to find things to gripe about, and I think we live in a clickbait-y media culture that exists to pick things apart. I love-watch Game of Thrones, so I’m immensely forgiving of things that perhaps are not the strongest attributes of the show. And despite the fact that George R. R. Martin has flamed the Lost finale, there is a schadenfreude aspect of me saying, “Well, I kind of hope Game of Thrones sucks at the end, too, so they’ll know it feels to have somebody say that to you.” But I don’t think the Lost finale sucks. And I want Game of Thrones to end awesome, because I’m a huge fan, and I have every reason to believe that it is going to end awesomely.
He additionally pointed out (as many others have before him) that the shocking, often cruel twists that pissed people off this season are part of why we all fell in love with the show in the first place.
But when you are in the zeitgeist, and when you are loved, there’s this part of it—people threaten to stop watching, people say “it’s not as good as it used to be,” people say, “If you kill this character, I will stop watching the show.” One of the things that people fell in love with about Thrones was its willingness to kill anyone—but you can’t kill Jon Snow, you know? You can kill anyone—but you can’t kill Tyrion. And you can’t kill Dany. As long as you don’t kill those three. And it’s like: “But I thought you loved the show because we killed Ned Stark! He was the un-killable character!” So we have to be willing to do that.
And Lindelof had no patience for fans who threatened to quit Game of Thrones.
… And I see people pushing against Thrones where it’s like, literally from week to week, someone will say, “This is the most excellent show, this season is firing on all cylinders, it’s never been better.” And then because of one story move—Stannis burns his daughter—suddenly [the reaction is] like, “I cannot watch this show anymore. I’m quitting you, Game of Thrones.” And I’m thinking: “No, you’re not. Don’t be an ass.” That’s like my 8-year-old saying, “We’re not best friends anymore.” When I see a blogger—thank God I’m not on Twitter anymore, because I get into all sorts of trouble—or a critic, or a recapper say, “I’m done with your show,” if I were running that show I would call them up and say, “You are not allowed to watch my show anymore. I’m going to f–king alert everybody in your life to watch you. I’m going to hire a private eye to tap your media consumption, and you better not ever watch it again. Are you sure you want to do this?”
It’s true that many people threatened to quit after the more controversial episodes, only to sheepishly return the following Sunday. (The series-high numbers for the Season 5 finale are proof that viewers weren’t exactly clicking off in droves.) And shows certainly shouldn’t feel compelled to kowtow to fans. If the showrunners want to kill off a fan favorite, that’s their prerogative.
But dismissing frustrated fans as childish “haters” doesn’t allow much room for valid criticism or intelligent debate. And just as Game of Thrones isn’t obligated to give the fans what they want, viewers don’t owe it to Game of Thrones to keep watching if they’re not having fun anymore. Even if their reasons for quitting are frivolous or irrational.
Then again, as a TV maker himself, Lindelof has a pretty good understanding of the challenges of episodic storytelling, and may be more generous as a result. He quite reasonably points out that not every episode can be “Hardhome,” and that the “Hardhome”s of the world only work because of the less thrilling work that went into the setup.
According to him, a show only needs to be good some of the time anyway. “You only need to demonstrate excellence once a season for me to view the entire season as excellent, or the entire show as excellent,” he said. Which is all well and good for him, but that’s a real YMMV situation. We’d be willing to bet lots of fans demand a higher ratio of quality to filler, whether from Game of Thrones or another series.
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