Response towards the latest season of Game of Thrones has been pretty-luke warm as off late. That is until last night's episode dropped. Both fans and critics alike were bowled over by the artful story-telling, un-nerving soundtrack and epic set-pieces. The transition from 'shaded-grey characters' to more traditional 'good vs bad' character models has finally been proven to be as effective and compelling in the Game of Thrones universe.
With Ramsay being the quite-essential 'bad guy' and Jon Snow being purer than, well snow, the episode proved once and for all that it hasn't lost it's edge now that the television writers don't have George R.R. Martin's books or his infamous a-moral characters to fall back on. However, the success of the episode may have marked an even bigger turning point in television as a whole: did it prove that television is now as viable an option for telling epic, effects-based stories as it's cinematic counter-part?
Story AND Effects
Traditionally film-makers have had to decide; do you want to tell your story on the small-screen where character driven plots are given the length and scope to thrive but effects-budgets are dismal, or do you tell your story on the big screen where the CGI will look amazing but character develop will suffer? The Wire is one of HBO's most famous television series not only because it told a gripping, realistic and riveting story of the 'tale of Baltimore' but also because this story was told using a potato to film it. I mean the budget and equipment The Wire ultimately had to play with was appalling. And it showed a lot. Whilst the acting and story was on par with a Shakespearian tragedy, the quality of the footage looked like a student-film at best. Although the low budget is partly attributable to the show's low ratings, most of HBO's back-catalogue have never been acclaimed as 'great' because of their graphics and effects. That is until Game of Thrones.
The Perfect Storm
Improvements in the quality and cost of CGI effects has coincided with the meteorite rise of the Game of Thrones fandom. As such HBO has had the resources to pay for these now more affordable effects. This has meant that the show is no longer over-shadowed by the cinematic forum in the CGI it can now create. This marks a revolution in just how much the television medium can now accomplish. Long, drawn out and imminently layered story-lines can now be backed up with epic, sweeping visuals on par with any summer blockbuster. The fact that HBO submitted last night's episode to the Emmy's over any of it's other episodes proves this. Last night's episode was as visually spectacular as it was a masterclass in story-telling. The battle scene was one of the best battle scenes ever put to screen; big or small. It will most likely be compared to the likes of Ran, Gladiator, Platoon, Apocalypse Now or The Thin Red Line in years to come. And this is unprecedented!
Arrived Too Late?
The possibilities of what can now be accomplished on the small screen is pretty much endless. The likes of HBO can now potentially be heard in the same sentence as Warner Bros or Universal. And this is an extremely exciting prospect. However, has it come too late? Despite being in what is commonly defined as the 'golden age of television' many are speculating that television's days are numbered. In a time when Youtube stars are bigger than television stars and piracy is the norm, will Game of Thrones be both the first and the last truly epic television show? Fewer and fewer people are buying television sets now meaning lower revenue and therefore a lower budget for shows to work with. In a time when the Casey Neistat's of the world are more famous than the Nev Schulman's and lower budgets in return for fewer ads are favoured how much room is there for a great epic, high budget television series?
The Silver Lining
Alas not all is doom and gloom! As Game of Thrones itself preaches; those who survive is attributable to those that adapt. HBO understands that the tide is turning and although fewer and fewer young people are buying televisions, their shows are still universally popular within the 18-24 age bracket. As such HBO Go has been launched to gain revenue from this audience as well. Sky.com is also as popular as Sky Atlantic in watching Game of Thrones. Again this means more revenue for GOT and therefore greater effects. We're also living in an age of merchandise and Conventions. Whereas Generation Y may not be willing to pay for it's intangibles as much, it has proven more and more willing to pay for more tangible, direct goods and services instead. Again, this is another source of revenue that future shows should take head in noticing.
Last night's episode has been just one of many revelations that have been occurring in the entertainment industry as of late. That being said it was still a significant one. It showed once and for all that television could achieve anything that cinema could with regard not only to story but also visual effects. That said, how much future television shows will be able to utilise this will depend on their own ability to adapt to the entertainment business as a whole. In a time where competition from all mediums is fierce but people's time is limited, advances in CGI could guarantee television's survival. However, gaining the budget required to pay for these visuals may come from less conventional means that off the past. Ad revenues may have to become a past thought in a time where the tide is turning towards merchandise and conventions instead. Only time will tell what will ultimately happen. In the meantime, let's just enjoy this series for what it has accomplished, and continue to conspire what is yet to come!