Ian Thomas Malone

A Connecticut Yogi in King Joffrey's Court

Monthly Archive: July 2014

Monday

21

July 2014

1

COMMENTS

Game of Thrones Finally Acknowledges The One True King Stannis Baratheon

Written by , Posted in Blog, Game of Thrones

One of the downsides, perhaps the primary one, of adapting an epic book series is that certain characters are naturally going to get less screen time than they deserve. Game of Thrones has taken this to a whole new level, mostly out of necessity. While George R.R. Martin is content to have characters disappear for multiple books at a time, this isn’t really realistic for a television program.

The biggest victim of this so far has been Stannis Baratheon, King Robert’s rightful heir. His prominence in season two and the splitting of A Storm of Swords into two seasons makes a statement like this puzzling, especially since Stannis isn’t even a POV character. The problem is that the show has hardly done the one true King justice, while allotting large amounts of screen time to characters who are just as absent from chunks of the source material.

The main problem is that Stannis’ portrayal in season two doesn’t do the character justice, though Stephen Dilane was a strong casting choice. Book Stannis is a strong leader with a firm sense of right and wrong who helps uncover the Lannisters’ deception along with Jon Arryn. In the show, he’s introduced as an easily manipulated power hungry religious loon. The show backs off of this a bit in season three, but the much of the damage is done. At least in the viewers’ mind.

Until the season four finale, it was difficult to talk to fans of the show who hadn’t read the books about the one true king. Using strictly television logic, Stannis’ survival past the Battle of the Blackwater is puzzling. He’s portrayed as the “big bad” to Tyrion and Renly and those types of characters tend to die in season finales. And yet Stannis prevails.

The show’s lax characterization of Stannis deprives the character of his rich personality, which makes him one of the books’ strongest characters. While it’s easy to judge Stannis solely by Ned’s characterization, his maiming of Ser Davos, and his devotion to Melisandre, that just scratches the surface of his personality.

Stannis’ defense of Storm’s End during Robert’s Rebellion is consistently referred to as indicative of the middle Baratheon’s personality as a whole. He had it far worse than any of the other commanding usurpers and was perhaps the only one other than Ned Stark who could’ve held off the Tyrell’s under such dire circumstances. His rigidness proved to be an asset.

Which explains why he’s considered unlikable, but it’s easy to forget how little that actually matters. Stannis might not have been a friend of either Ned Stark or Jon Arryn, but he commanded their respect. The Tyrell’s were the only significant supporter of Renly who didn’t defect to his cause and that was a foregone conclusion anyway.

Stannis commands loyalty even in places where the reader/viewer isn’t supposed to expect it from. Ned refused to back Renly because Stannis was the rightful heir, a move that cost him his life. Davos supports him even after Stannis maimed his hand. He works with Jon Snow even after he was rebuffed on his offer to legitimize him as the heir to Winterfell.

Stannis grows quite a bit as he grapples with his sense of duty to the realm. We see him as more than a man seeking his right to rule, but rather as someone who understands that he is the only person who could actually bring order to Westeros. This point is eloquently featured in the show when Davos and Stannis visit the Iron Bank of Braavos in perhaps the show’s only deviation from the books that served to benefit his character.

While it’s slightly upsetting that the episode dedicated to the Wall didn’t end with Stannis’ arrival, it was great to see him have his moment of triumph after a turbulent two seasons. Since season four didn’t fully catch up with Jon’s plotline, this can sort of be excused. Fans have much to be excited for in the upcoming season as Stannis’ relationship with Jon Snow supplies the meatiest storyline of A Dance With Dragons. By saving The Wall, he shows that he’s the only one who doesn’t crave power solely for the sake of power. He chases justice.

Games of Thrones has an opportunity to let Stannis shine opposite one of the series’ most popular characters, which in turn should raise his image in the eyes of the fans of the shows. Hopefully the show won’t use him as a foil for Snow, who is occasionally at odds with Stannis but manages to gain his respect and eventually helps him rally northmen to his cause. I wouldn’t put it past the show to elevate the Snow legitimization conflict, but that in it of itself would be a further bastardization of Stannis’ character.

Looking to the future of the series, it appears as though Stannis could find himself deeply involved in the eventual Targaryen conflict if the R + L = J theory holds up and if The Onion Knight is successful in retrieving Rickon Stark from the cannibal island. Preview chapters of The Winds of Winter show Stannis’ looming decision regarding the fate of one Theon “Reek” Greyjoy, which will undoubtedly shed more light on Stannis’ overall sense of justice.

Stannis is a perfect example of the depth of characters in A Song of Ice and Fire. While Martin never goes too far out of his way to give the spotlight to the one true king, he’s much more of a three dimensional character than anyone at King’s Landing would have us believe in the first two books. While conventional logic would suggest that Stannis has about a zero percent chance at having a happy ending at the end of the series, Martin has a tendency to keep the reader guessing. Perhaps the Lord of Light will stand with Stannis. I know I will.

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Tuesday

1

July 2014

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Yahoo, Community, and the Cancelled TV Show

Written by , Posted in Blog, Pop Culture

The popular fan mantra #sixseasonsandamovie took an improbable step closer to reality as Yahoo announced it is picking up Community for another season. An earlier post focused on the unlikelihood that such a pickup could happen and quite frankly, given who picked it up, I can’t say any of that was unmerited at the time. The popular opinion was that Hulu was Community’s best bet and hope began to dwindle once that fizzled out last week.

There was never any question that Community had value to somebody. Few shows on TV have half as good a fan base. That value translates best into buzz appeal, which is likely Yahoo’s primary reason for picking the show up. Yahoo is a bit of a dated website to begin with before you consider that it actually does have original programming. Community will bring significant attention to that line-up when it returns next year.

Buzz is also the big reason why Netflix should never have been considered a season contender to pickup Community in the first place. Netflix didn’t need the exposure. They’ve done that already with Arrested Development and to a lesser extent, The Killing. A show that aired on network TV for five years comes with a pretty hefty price tag that Yahoo can justify by the exposure alone. Even before we consider that Netflix has actually been referenced in multiple Community episodes, it’s fairly safe to say the average Community fan knew what Netflix was and probably had access to it in some form. They probably also know what Yahoo is, but the original programming angle is new territory for many.

29% of the new shows that premiered on network TV in the fall of 2013 were cancelled, a number that’s largely consistent with previous years. Most of those were rightfully cancelled though critical hits like Enlisted and The Trophy Wife are mourned. Cable shows fare a bit better, but in most cases, the reaper is kept at bay because those networks can afford a little more time to see if a show can be successful.

So what can we learn about Community’s revival? Is this lightning in a bottle or a shift in the TV dynamic. The latter is tempting, but it’s still the former.

This worked because Community has a massive cult following that’s been fostered in this sort of environment for years and a network looking for a shiny show to get some attention. Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon all could’ve picked it up, but they didn’t because quality alone isn’t a reason to bring something back from the dead. If that were true, 2013 wouldn’t have been the year that Enlightened and Bunheads left before their time. Television can still host Shakespearian tragedies, there’s just more hope now than ever before.

But now in theory, Yahoo is out of the mix for whatever show gets a big fan campaign next year. There’s still Hulu and Amazon who haven’t hosted a refugee just yet. Will they? Maybe, but if they do it’ll be for economic reasons and not for quality purposes.

Over the years of covering TV ratings, a common reaction I’d hear when people would respond to a grim prediction I’d made was, “but it’s so good.” There was a time where that really didn’t matter and it’s good that we’ve moved toward a direction where now that sort of matters. Ratings still influence cancellations but the landscape has evolved to the point where shows like Community can survive to the natural conclusions that fans desire.

Is that a good thing? Fundamentally, yes. I think people were starting to come around to the idea that Greendale wasn’t going to be saved this time and we won’t know if it really should’ve until the new season comes on next year. I’m excited to find out.

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