In this line of work, separating the shows you feel obligated to watch from the small number you eagerly look forward to seeing is sometimes trying. And this spring, I haven’t anticipated anything more than each week’s “Game of Thrones.”
The HBO series capped its second season on Sunday night with a slightly extended finale. Yet while the penultimate episode was a soaring highlight — so good, in hindsight, that a letdown was perhaps inevitable — the season’s last hour buckled in places under the weight of having to juggle so many concurrent subplots.
Spoiler alert: If you haven’t watched, read no further.
Yes, there were some splendid moments, including the surprisingly kind exchange between Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and the scheming Eunuch Varys (Conleth Hill), indicative of the bounty of terrific supporting characters the series has produced; the escape of young Arya Stark (the terrific Maisie Williams, whose scenes with Charles Dance throughout the season were simply sensational); or that final shot — paying off the first season’s opening sequence — with White Walkers amassing beyond the ice wall.
Still, there was so much business to cover even in 65 minutes, the finale left almost nothing but loose ends. And while that’s doubtless fine with die-hard enthusiasts of the George R.R. Martin novels, given the lapse between TV seasons it was slightly irritating to be left hanging so completely on virtually every front.
Granted, the amount of ground the series covers and its diverse geography is one of the aspects that has made “Thrones” so intoxicating, and in that regard, a slightly unfulfilling payoff is a relatively small price to pay. Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss also probably don’t get enough credit for their insane juggling act, which makes even most complex serialized dramas seem as pale as those aforementioned walkers by comparison. So I stick by my earlier appraisal that the show boasts “a scope and grandeur like nothing else on television.”
Even so, there was a moment in the finale when the ghost of the Dothraki chieftain — hardly an intellectual type — suggested determining whether he was dead or alive was a question for “wise men with skinny arms.”
Alas, that’s a pretty good description of my tribe. And if we don’t get to nitpick the shows we really like, well, what do we have left?