Every Thursday in Rambling Dispatches, resident malcontent Quinn McGee rants about whatever he damn well pleases.
So the first episode of Game of Thrones’ third season aired this Sunday, and you can bet that I was huddled around my Xbox on Monday to watch it on HBO GO. (If you’re listening, HBO, that’s something I wish I could just subscribe to without getting a cable package.) It’s not hard to see just how Game of Thrones became a phenomenon, as people love it for various reasons; they just plain love fantasy films/television shows, they love tasteful nudity, they are fans of incest, or just because it boasts some of the best screenwriting on television right now. It’s honestly one of the best adaptations of a book to film media done to date, and I say this with confidence after being a huge fan of The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. I think a lot of this success comes from doing the books as a television series, as opposed to a movie; you’re afforded more time to be as through as possible.
I know I’ve spoken out about certain novels being extended to more adapted parts than they need to, but for some hypocritical reason, I’m completely ok with Game of Thrones spanning 10 hours for one book. I think it’s maybe because it wraps up in a short amount of time, and doesn’t require a three-year ordeal just to reach closure. Look at how The Hobbit ended for example. The first movie ended with the party looking at their real destination, but ultimately accomplishing nothing aside from getting a few swords and increasing team unity. It was necessary to establish some plot, but again, I digress from the real point here.
Game of Thrones might be one of the more fascinating examples of modern media adaptations. Just based on monetary success alone, the show is proof that you can do so much with relatively little. Sure, $5-6 million an episode seems like a lot of money, but to think that Ashton Kutcher makes close to a million per episode for a show that is half the length of GoT and dwarfed by it in scale, it’s really not much. Yet despite the (relative) lack of funds, the show draws some of the highest ratings that HBO has ever seen. HBO has this knack for creating a few gems every now and then with fairly modest means, and this just seems to be the next in a long line. A lot of this success can be seen when you look at the amount of times the season premiere has been torrented since it was released: a million times, a number that broke all previous records according to TorrentFreak. (If you find it weird that a statistic like this exists and torrenting is still an issue that apparently cannot be controlled, you can join me.)
Anyway, it’s plain that people will do whatever it takes to see the show, at least beside subscribing to the network. It makes sense why you wouldn’t subscribe to it, since you need a basic cable subscription to even get access. It’s a plan that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, because I bet people would pay HBO directly to subscribe to their service. Their HBO GO app is loaded with movies, comedy specials and previous seasons of some of their shows, so it is really no different than Netflix, except there’s no middle man. I’m sure there are more back-room dealings that I don’t understand, but fuck it, I don’t have to understand. I just know it doesn’t make sense to me. With that in mind, it doesn’t surprise me that it was torrented so heavily, but what surprised me was that HBO was flattered and took the torrents as a compliment, as opposed to the expected knee-jerk reaction to their profits being stolen. They saw it as something that ultimately wasn’t going to hurt their DVD sales, and thought that if so many people were going to download it, they were making a worthy product.
And they really are making a worthy product. Game of Thrones is going to evolve the television world into something that it should have always been. With the extreme amounts of money being paid to people who distribute television, we should demand more. Game of Thrones showed that with the right script and the proper application of money, you can almost make anything possible. AMC is another champion in this regard, but HBO is doing this in one of the more niche genres, and that’s fantasy. Try hard to think of the last great fantasy series to air on television? You would be hard-pressed to think of a really great one, and even then it would probably be closer to sci-fi fantasy. Game of Thrones shows that you can release a fantasy series and actually have people from all walks of life enjoy it. I don’t think I have seen a cult following toward a strictly swords-and-dragons fantasy entry since Lord of the Rings. Coming from a fan of the fantasy realm, I’m really excited to see what’s going to happen to television networks when it comes to creating new shows. There is a large pool of unused ideas in this area, so you can bet I would like to see more to come.
Point is, if you haven’t started watching Game of Thrones by now, you should start. And if you’re an avid fan of the show like me, then I think it’s time for us to get excited for the future, as season four has been confirmed and ordered and I think big things are on the horizon for us fantasy series fans. Here’s hoping that George R.R. Martin lives long enough to see the Game of Thrones series to the end.