Game of Thrones. The Final Season Approaches
Wednesday, April 10, 2019 at 2:20PM
Ben Miller in Directors, Emilia Clarke, Emmy, Game of Thrones, Lena Headey, Maisie Williams, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Peter Dinklage, TV, endings, sci-fi fantasy, zombies

Though The Film Experience has not covered Game of Thrones in the past beyond the occasional mention, a couple of our contributors are big fans and since the final season is the television event of the year, we're opting to break tradition and cover each episode. Here are Eric Blume and Ben Miller, who will be writing up the final episodes, to grill each other on their experience of the series to date if you'd like to join them in this refresher. - Editor.

ERIC:  Ben, I’m excited about working on this project with you. Let's start at the beinning: Have you been a fan of the show since the first episode, or did you join somewhere in progress?  What made you fall in love with it?

BEN: I got into it on the ground floor.  I was never much of a fantasy book reader (no Harry Potter, no Lord of the Rings), but this seemed like one of the first shows where people were genuinely excited for the potential of what it could be.  I knew a few people who had read the books, but I went in fairly cold and with an open mind.  You also have to keep in mind of what HBO was doing at the time...

I had just got off binging The Wire and Boardwalk Empire's stellar first season was finishing, so I needed something else to watch.  I gave it a shot, and I was impressed at the scope of the first episode.  I also appreciated that I had ZERO idea what the hell was going on.

ERIC: Ha!  Yes, I often have no idea what is going on in any given episode, especially since there are about 850 characters that come in and out of seasons. 

BEN: What was your introduction to the series?

ERIC: I wasn't a ground-floor viewer, as I thought it wasn't a show for me (I'm not a fantasy fan, in particular).  I only caught up with all the episodes a little over a year ago, as I knew that this final season of Game of Thrones was pretty much going to be THE television event of the year, and I didn't want to be shut out.  Plus, so many people I respect had loved the show for years that I finally thought, 'okay, I'll try it.'  And I was floored by how great the acting is, and how well-written the show is.  The direction within the first season is a little spotty, with more than a few needless, self-conscious "trying to look epic with lots of extras" shots in the early episodes, but as the show develops, the directing is just off-the-charts.  Usually, the kind of director who excels at putting together a fantasy world and expertly shoots action sequences is not the same director who knows how to calibrate actors and hit the emotional beats with subtlety and finesse.  This show manages to find those exceptions, and the amount of trust the creative team has with each other is quite astonishing.  

What characters and storylines are the most (and least) compelling to you with as we hit the final season?

BEN: No question, Jaime Lannister is the most complex character. Here's a quick summary:  



That is quite the roller coaster. 

Also, I might be alone in this, but I REALLY dont care about the Jon Snow-Daenerys relationship. Let them figure out they are related and let's move on. 

I have a tendency to enjoy the smaller character moments (like Jaime talking about killing the Mad King) over the big battles. 

Directors are an interesting topic, because I think they get lost in the mix of prestige TV. GoT seems to be the one place where directors have really started or rejuvenated their careers. Alan Taylor got Thor: The Dark World specifically from this. Neil Marshall was essentially in movie jail until his episodes came out, now he's directing Hellboy. Michelle MacLaren was considered the NEXT female director, and you better believe that's because of these episodes. She almost directed Wonder Woman.

Knowing the scale, scope and complexity of this world, which director would you want to give a chance at this?

ERIC: Wow, that's a really interesting question.  I'd like to see one of the fantastic contemporary foreign directors have a go.  Tom Tykwer might be an interesting choice, as he works big or small.  Or Bong Joon-ho, since Snowpiercer had that tightly-coiled pace and the acting was so stylized.  Or one of the great French guys who are just spectacular but don't usually get to work in the genre:  Jacques Audiard or Olivier Assayas or Guillaume Canet.  Or Justin Kurzel, whose MacBeth looked and felt like a Game of Thrones episode.  From the TV world, I'd love to see the directors from Bodyguard (Thomas Vincent and John Strickland) do an episode...their ability to create tension and shoot in inspired framing was a thrill to watch on that show. 

Do you have any contributions on that front? 

BEN: I have a feeling that Anthony and Joe Russo could do an episode in their sleep after making the MCU films, but I would love to give Ang Lee a shot. He knows how to do effects-driven spectacle, but he would also bring the heat on all the smaller character moments. He would be my number one, though Bong Joon-ho is an inspired choice. 

ERIC: And who do you feel are the acting MVPs on the show?

BEN: Peter Dinklage is now and always will be the MVP, though he is becoming more and more relegated to the sidelines lately. Runner-up would Lena Headley, who just oozes evil but does it with such righteous justification. That character could have very easily turned into a caricature without her performance. 

In the realm of actors, has a show ever launched this many careers? Dinklage has taken his place as the famed character actor he so richly deserved to be. Emila Clarke is in everything with a $100 million budget and overblown expectations. Even people who aren't on the show anymore like Richard Madden and Pedro Pascal have parlayed major careers from their short stints. Personally, I'm hoping Joe Dempsie transfers his charisma and likeability to something outside of Westeros. 

ERIC: Dinklage provides a crucial subtlety for the show, and agreed on Headey...she's skillfully avoided caricature, and she manages to go both big and small with her choices, often within the same scene.  I'm hoping she finally wins her Emmy this year.

But I marvel at how great all the acting is on the show.  Even someone like Emilia Clarke...on the page, some of her lines could be laughably bad, but she commits and holds you emotionally.  Two other actors also floor me:  you mentioned how Jaime Lannister has had the biggest arc, and I think Nikolaj Coster-Waldau has done a beautiful job of making that character soar.  And Maisie Williams, who plays young Arya Stark, is without hyperbole one of the single best child actors I've ever seen do anything.  She plays with the same set of complex colors that the adult actors do, in a way that's rare and sometimes shocking. 

What are your hopes for this final season?

BEN: I’m not sure there is something I specifically want, not a certain plotline from the books to pop up, or a certain storyline to play out in a certain way. Basically, I just like spending time in this world with these characters, but that time is winding down. This world is so tightly constructed with all these moving pieces, it will be really interesting how it all ends. 

I was thinking of other finales that I want it to model itself after, and my preference would either be the righteous finality of Breaking Bad or the moral complexity and open-endedness of The Wire. That being said, this might be the most anticipated final season ever, so anything short of perfection will probably be a let down. 

If I had a specific preference, I'd like to see Gendry on the Iron Throne. I do not have high hopes. I would love to see something like the White Walkers killing EVERYONE, but they don’t have the balls to do that.  

ERIC: I like your hopes for this final season.  I have to say that the White Walkers element is my least favorite ingredient in the show, mainly because I'm enthralled by the human drama, and the White Walkers take it too far into the realm of fantasy for me.  That's my only "worry" for this final season, is that we spend too much time on the action sequences and not enough with the characters.  

The creators of the show can be merciless with the audience, which is part of the addiction to the show:  they never let us feel too much hope, but just enough here and there to keep going.  I like the emphasis they place on the dark and ugly primal impulses we all have, and the show is never greater to me than when they focus on the blackness and take it to operatic extremes.  It's one of the few pieces of art in any medium where I've sometimes found myself breathless by what the characters are doing.

I'm eager to cover the show with you over the next weeks.

ERIC:  Will you watch silently alone, or at fan group viewings? 

BEN: I generally watch alone, mostly because my wife watched the first episode with me and then noped-out when Jaime and Cersei were caught banging. 

I imagine watching it with a group of people who are actively invested in the show would be an absolute blast. Just look at those videos of Leslie Jones watching with Seth Meyers. I appreciate the joy of the whole experience. 

That's probably the thing I am looking forward to the most when it comes back. I want to sit and stew in the happenings of the episode, then read the boatloads of content for the next three days breaking the episode down while the preview of the next episode is broken down like the Zapruder film.  

BEN: I can't imagine another show having this kind of universal impact any time soon. And we will be here to break it all down!

Continue the conversation in the comments. When did you fall for the show? Favorite character? Any hopes for the final season?



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