The Atlantic’s editors and writers pick their favorite moments from Breaking Bad, The Office, Orange is the New Black, and more from the past year. (And episode hoarders, beware: Spoilers abound.)
The cloak-and-dagger plan to unmask @natsecwonk is straight out of Game of Thrones.
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But a social media blockbuster of incredible proportions.
Let’s just call Game of Thrones for what it is: A sexy political campaign featuring two years and twenty episodes of people making empty promises to the masses, and power plays for one dumb job. The only thing missing were attack ads, and thanks to Mother Jones, we now have them.
Well played, MoJo. Well played.
HBO has a message for the thousands of fans begging to pay for its online streaming service, HBO Go, exclusively. Thanks, but no thanks. We don’t want your money. Even if you’ll just pirate our expensive stuff, otherwise.
Why is HBO turning away hoards of people practically begging the company to take their money … evenmore money than they currently make per subscriber right now? TV is complicated, but let’s make this simple. I’ve got three big reasons why HBO Go won’t go it alone: the price reason, the political reason, and the demographic reason.
"If wars were arithmetic, the mathematicians would rule the world."
–Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish
If there’s anything to be learned from the events that led to the country-spanning civil war of Game of Thrones' second season, it's that warfare is not a numbers game. The clash of kings that threatens every life in Westeros came from one fatal hunting trip and one unjustified execution. As Arya Stark says in a Game of Thrones trailer, “anyone can be killed” —and when that “anyone” is a person with power, the consequences are often severe. But if wars aren’t arithmetic, which of the four “kings” stands a chance in the game of thrones?
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If Justified, Dexter, and The Walking Dead have found success by straying from their origins, Game of Thrones has found success by staying on the straight and narrow. The series’ first season was so doggedly faithful to its source material that HBO made headlines just by changing the name of Theon’s sister—Asha, in Martin’s novels—to Yara. But showrunner Dan Weiss recently commented that there would be more deviations from the source material in season 2, and they began to appear in last night’s “The Night Lands.”
For a series as revered as Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire,” such changes are often poorly received. The Wire creator David Simon drew headlines last week when he complained about bloggers who review a TV series episode-by-episode, arguing that their criticism is useless “until there’s a beginning, middle and an end” to the series’ overarching story. Game of Thrones has the opposite problem: Many of its biggest fans already know each plot arc’s beginning, middle, and end—or at least as much as the first five books in the series has revealed.
Like the first season, this one looks to be a triumph, though (also like the first) it takes a little while to gather velocity. Unlike Martin, who dumps readers in the middle of unfamiliar settings and circumstances and challenges them to keep up, showrunners Benioff and Weiss are more deliberate. Several scenes have been inserted with the apparent intent of reintroducing existing characters—here’s a quick confrontation that tells you what you need to know about Cersei Lannister; here’s another that summarizes the history between Catelyn Stark and Petyr Baelish—presumably on the assumption that there will be a sizable population of new viewers who skipped season one. (If I may pause to offer advice: Don’t be one of them.Start at the beginning like a sensible person.)
Thus far the second season takes greater liberties than the first: some, as above, in the service of clarity; others for the sake of concision (an issue that will loom ever larger); and still others to make explicit an idea that Martin’s books offered only obliquely—the fate of Craster’s sons, for example, or the exact provenance of Melisandre’s shadow assassin. In Martin’s telling, it is unclear whether newcomer Margaery Tyrell is a true innocent or devious schemer; the casting of Natalie Dormer (Anne Boleyn in Showtime’s The Tudors), with her sloe eyes and longitudinal necklines, quickly puts that question to rest, substituting one kind of mystery for another.
However one feels about Benioff and Weiss’s infidelities, though, it is clear that they know what they’re doing. The meticulousness of the show may differ in its particulars from the meticulousness of the novels, but it is unmistakable—in the first-rate dialogue, the sharp segues, the careful sowing of seeds that will bear fruit episodes later. The spirit of Martin’s epic, moreover, is ever in evidence, glinting with malice and irony.
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I don’t want to deny that I write in fantasy, I think I obviously do. There’s magic and there’s dragons and swords, and all the traditional trappings of fantasy here. But I’ve also written in other genres in the past, a lot of science fiction, horror, and books that are strange hybrids of all of these things.
I’ve always agreed with William Faulkner—he said that the human heart in conflict with itself is the only thing worth writing about. I’ve always taken that as my guiding principle, and the rest is just set dressing. I mean, you can have a dragon, you can have a science fiction story set on a distant planet with aliens and starships, you can have a western about a gunslinger, or a mystery novel about a private eye, or even literary fiction—and ultimately you’re still writing about the human heart in conflict with itself. So that’s the way I try to approach this thing. And while I may work within a genre, I’ve never liked to be bound by them. I have a lot of fun in frustrating genre expectations, using a bit of this or a bit of that, and doing something that hasn’t been done before.
— George R.R. Martin, author of ”A Dance with Dragons” and creator of the series that inspired “Game of Thrones,” discusses sex, fantasy, and science fiction with Rachael Brown. Read more at The Atlantic.