Writers need to stop trying to outsmart their audiences (WARNING: Very long post! Spoilers for a variety of media inside!)

Sephzilla

Herald of Stoptimus Crime
Member
Oct 25, 2017
11,817
GOT spoilers...

I agree with everything you wrote but this:



Having just finished a full rewatch of the series a couple weeks ago, I can confidently say that you're right about one thing: GRRM did a fantastic job tricking everyone into believing what the characters thought about themselves. As early as Season 1 when she burns the witch alive, Dany has exhibited a nearly uncontrollable and irrational rage. As early as Season 1 when she tells Drogo to get her the throne, she has exhibited a narcissistic attitude wherein she deserves the love and adoration of the people by virtue of her birthright alone.

Dany has never shown that she cares about the common people. Yes, she cares greatly about freeing the slaves -- she was a slave once and the slaves adore her for it. Yes, she is enraged when the masters crucify the children. Dany and her advisors attribute this care and rage to her desire to protect everyone. They describe her as someone who is caring and benevolent. GRRM tricks the audience by telling one plausible explanation and so no one notices when they are shown an alternative, plausible explanation. Dany is not benevolent and caring, she believes she deserves the throne over all others and she believes her authority should not be questioned. She will happily kill anyone and did massacre people by the 1000's simply because they dare to take a different point of view.

So when Dany gets to Kings Landing, she is there to punish those who would not stand behind her. If the people went into the city to flee her, they did not believe in her and therefore deserve to die in her mind. And so she kills them.

Now don't get me wrong, the post-episode behind the scenes illustrates that the showrunners/writers had no idea what they were doing or why, but the action itself is supported by Dany's character and actions from the very beginning. We know GRRM gave the writers a brief version of what he expected to happen to the characters. Presumably, Dany obliterating Kings Landing with innocents inside was one of those things. The writers followed orders, but they failed to understand why. Thus, what should have been another Red Wedding-calibur shock followed by revelation that we'd missed everything the whole time instead fell flat and appeared to be wholly inconsistent.

So the writers did fail us here. But the actual action was not the problem -- it was the reason why.


Game of Thrones always made sure to do subtle things that made you think Dany was being good and altruistic when the truth was she was a bloodthirsty conqueror.
 

Matthew77

Avenger
Oct 29, 2017
1,804
Massachusetts
It doesn’t just effect creators. I remember back on Gaf in the original Stranger Things thread people trying to turn it into a puzzle box show and theory crafting eleborate nothings out their ass, and both me and HStallion trying to point out no this is just a pretty straightforward but well told tale and multiple people arguing with us for pages at a time.
 

Plywood

Member
Oct 25, 2017
3,067
The best part was there 0 satisfaction in killing him. And it happened in the most mundane way.

It was great.
100%, it was a kill that amounted to nothing, they essentially coordinated an attack on and killed a farmer and it was reflected in what became of Thor though with some comedic qualities of course but it was still effective.
 

Dekim

Member
Oct 28, 2017
739
Whenever I see "subverting expectations" all I can do is roll my eyes at this point. Too often subversion has become a crutch to cover up subpar writing.
 

ckareset

Member
Feb 2, 2018
2,857
You are ignoring an important element to game of thrones, marvel, and star wars. These properties are not written by one person which makes people think they can decide on what should happen
 

Version 3.0

Member
Oct 27, 2017
1,838
Great OP, OP!

Subvert my expectations all you want, I enjoy it. Just please try to be quality while you're doing it. Because a lot of the time you're not.
But this is how I feel. Subvert, or don't, I don't care. Good storytelling needs to be the priority, though.

Early Game of Thrones shocked me, and I loved it. Recent Game of Thrones did, too, but I hated it. Likewise, a predictable moment might be great, or terrible. Predictability doesn't undermine enjoyment, but that seems to be the thinking of too many writers.
 

Kill3r7

Member
Oct 25, 2017
7,484
It's all about execution. In game of thrones, the fight of the Hound vs the Mountain was long expected by fans but it felt quite flat to me as the whole situation about how it came to be felt so manufactured
I am not sure I follow. The whole idea of Cleganebowl was manufactured. It was nothing more than fan service. If the Hound died during the long night helping Arya survive, his arc would not have been any less satisfying. It was pandering.
 

JCHandsom

Avenger
Nov 3, 2017
3,721
With regards to BB’s ending I always appreciated it for how it sought to heal the ones hurt most by Walt. Fuck Walt, he deserved his death, but I appreciate how the people he hurt got to come out of it to some degree in the end
 

Flaurehn

Member
Oct 25, 2017
1,139
Mexico City
I generally agree with the OP



But man, regarding Dany I don't agree here. The red flags about Dany have always been there. She's openly talked about destroying cities in order to get what she wants.
Tyrion wanted to kill Cersei, and openly told the people of King's Landing about killing them all, yet he did no one of those things, and also no one has ever said "Mad Imp Tryrion" and such
 

Seesaw15

Member
Oct 27, 2017
3,965
Great write up.

I also think "Subverting Expectations" has just become a catch all /disparaging term that has lost all meaning at this point. A writer not choosing to fulfill the fan theory you cooked up in your head isn't "Subverting Expectations".
 

mbpm

Member
Oct 25, 2017
1,216
Great write up.

I also think "Subverting Expectations" has just become a catch all /disparaging term that has lost all meaning at this point. A writer not choosing to fulfill the fan theory you cooked up in your head isn't "Subverting Expectations".
but antman should have been the one to kill thanos the first time around, that would have been great.
 

Zen

Member
Nov 1, 2017
3,061
GOT spoilers...

I agree with everything you wrote but this:



Having just finished a full rewatch of the series a couple weeks ago, I can confidently say that you're right about one thing: GRRM did a fantastic job tricking everyone into believing what the characters thought about themselves. As early as Season 1 when she burns the witch alive, Dany has exhibited a nearly uncontrollable and irrational rage. As early as Season 1 when she tells Drogo to get her the throne, she has exhibited a narcissistic attitude wherein she deserves the love and adoration of the people by virtue of her birthright alone.

Dany has never shown that she cares about the common people. Yes, she cares greatly about freeing the slaves -- she was a slave once and the slaves adore her for it. Yes, she is enraged when the masters crucify the children. Dany and her advisors attribute this care and rage to her desire to protect everyone. They describe her as someone who is caring and benevolent. GRRM tricks the audience by telling one plausible explanation and so no one notices when they are shown an alternative, plausible explanation. Dany is not benevolent and caring, she believes she deserves the throne over all others and she believes her authority should not be questioned. She will happily kill anyone and did massacre people by the 1000's simply because they dare to take a different point of view.

So when Dany gets to Kings Landing, she is there to punish those who would not stand behind her. If the people went into the city to flee her, they did not believe in her and therefore deserve to die in her mind. And so she kills them.

Now don't get me wrong, the post-episode behind the scenes illustrates that the showrunners/writers had no idea what they were doing or why, but the action itself is supported by Dany's character and actions from the very beginning. We know GRRM gave the writers a brief version of what he expected to happen to the characters. Presumably, Dany obliterating Kings Landing with innocents inside was one of those things. The writers followed orders, but they failed to understand why. Thus, what should have been another Red Wedding-calibur shock followed by revelation that we'd missed everything the whole time instead fell flat and appeared to be wholly inconsistent.

So the writers did fail us here. But the actual action was not the problem -- it was the reason why.
To add, GRRM is responsible for Dany developing this way, D&D simply failed to execute on it to where the doubt in people's minds that she was really benevolent or narcissistic would take hold. What we get is some people piece it together easily enough, some can see the direction but want more buildup, and a lot of people are left completely shocked because they were allowed to completely believe Dany was just a well meaning savior all along.
 

Solo

Avenger
Oct 25, 2017
6,026
Great post OP! Seeing all of the bullshit on GoT laid out like that is scathing. D&D have no clue what they are doing.
 

HStallion

Member
Oct 25, 2017
26,406
Another thing is that writers often think they know what their fans are actually craving and missing that mark by a mile. If you're gonna subvert expectations then you should be well aware of what those expectations are in the first place.
 

Haunted

Member
Nov 3, 2017
1,329
So basically, millennials have ruined television.

This game of one-upmanship between internet fans and writers (Westworld great example) doesn't result in better television.
 

King Alamat

Member
Nov 22, 2017
1,019
Half agree.

Walt got away clean he got a 'heroic' ending and got to take out every single one of his enemies in a variety of OTT ways.

For such a piece of shit character it was soft on him.
He's dead, most of his money's gone, his family will never forgive him and he's more than likely remembered as a nazi.
 

Flaurehn

Member
Oct 25, 2017
1,139
Mexico City
So basically, millennials have ruined television.

This game of one-upmanship between internet fans and writers (Westworld great example) doesn't result in better television.
I agree, people really liked Westworld Season 1, and in fact on Reddit I never read any criticism about the mysteries being solved so early, it was the opposite even, people were engaged by it, and by watching how it all unveiled like they had guessed right, it was actually a symbiotic cool relationship between show and viewer. And then they (Nolan and co.) took the wrong lesson from it and had to ruin it for the second season where most people checked out, which is a shame because underneath all the nonsense there were a lot of things to like in the season.
 

Blader

Member
Oct 27, 2017
8,552
Is "I couldn't follow along" really the root of the Westworld S2 criticism? I enjoyed the puzzle of it and thought it made sense as it went along more or less, though I binged most of the season rather than going through it weekly which probably helped.

In any event, I've enjoyed every single piece of media mentioned by the OP, so I don't know what that says about me haha.
 

Plotinus

Member
Oct 30, 2017
252
So, only two of the six pieces of media discussed in the OP are actually doing the thing OP is complaining about? Am I understanding that correctly?
 

jph139

Member
Oct 25, 2017
3,430
Massachusetts
I think the main issue is subverting the plot, or subverting the "theme." And I say theme here but I can't find a better word - I'm thinking of, in Endgame, the Avengers killing Thanos and then there's suddenly a timeskip. This subverted the plot audiences were expecting - the Avengers go fight Thanos and reverse the snap. But it didn't throw off the overall mood, intention, or direction of the story.

Being unpredictable, "upsetting" your audience, shifting gears suddenly... that's all fine, and can make for a memorable experience. But you can't destabilize the work, and you can never outthink the fans. I remember talking about a possible timeskip in Avengers 4 last summer... I just never thought they'd do it, nevermind stick with it.

In general (dumb) fans and (bad) writers seem to think a complex plot makes a show/movie/book smart. It doesn't. Complex characters and complex themes make them smart.
 

Kain

The Fallen
Oct 27, 2017
1,182
Yes, a thousand times yes.

In the Westworld case I didn't know about the Reddit thing but it was clear as day that the writers wanted the second season to be as shocking as they could and what we got was a confusing incoherent stupid mess. The overall plot was simple but they split the story into parts, changed the order of events and confused everyone so you could not know what to expect. Absolute garbage.

Bottom line: writers, don't ever ever ever ever EVER listen to us fans, we're trash and we want our stupid head cannons to be true and when they aren't we riot. Don't pay attention and do your thing. Don't be hacks like D&D or paranoid like Nolan. Do. Your. Thing.
 

Kinthey

Avenger
Oct 27, 2017
5,023
I am not sure I follow. The whole idea of Cleganebowl was manufactured. It was nothing more than fan service. If the Hound died during the long night helping Arya survive, his arc would not have been any less satisfying. It was pandering.
You're right, but I think if executed in a more natural way or perhaps more meaningful, like for example the Hound getting over his fear of fire, it could have still been more fulfilling despite being obvious pandering.
 

Border

Member
Oct 25, 2017
7,092
Game of Thrones just went down the same road that The Walking Dead did. They got obsessed with trying to shock you by killing off beloved characters (or at least, making you think that they were killing off beloved characters).

Nowhere is this more obvious than in The Long Night, wherein the TWD technique of "show character completely swamped and overwhelmed by undead, then cut away" is employed half a dozen times. This Walking Dead-ifying of GOT has been present for a while though -- Arya gets stabbed over and over and lives.....Jon Snow dies in a season finale and is brought back to life 1-2 episodes later.
 

Flaurehn

Member
Oct 25, 2017
1,139
Mexico City
I think the main issue is subverting the plot, or subverting the "theme." And I say theme here but I can't find a better word - I'm thinking of, in Endgame, the Avengers killing Thanos and then there's suddenly a timeskip. This subverted the plot audiences were expecting - the Avengers go fight Thanos and reverse the snap. But it didn't throw off the overall mood, intention, or direction of the story.
This is actually a thing with ASoIaF books, take for example the Red Wedding, which is THE "subverting your expectations" moment of the whole series, it wasn't a surprising moment because it came out of nowhere, there were tons and tons of hints about it, but because the writing made the reader comfortable and unaware of the signs. In this case "subverting your expetations" was actually a "Holy shit, everything unraveled in an organic and believable way!" And the same happened in the open scene of Endgame
 

Wonderment

Moderator
Oct 27, 2017
8,464
Good writeup, OP. Summary advice: make the thing you want to make without worrying about anyone else.

You need to be careful in listening to certain voices, particularly on the internet. We see this in politics, where all some vocal critics want is to have the political party all for themselves. Same with some of these franchises, some of these vocal fans want ownership of the "status" they think they've "earned" by having "figured everything out" or "how things should be or should have been done", where the creators end up being lesser for having done the very things they predicted would happen, or not have followed their advice. An odd set of expressions for an enthusiast.
 

Sephzilla

Herald of Stoptimus Crime
Member
Oct 25, 2017
11,817
Subverting expectations is only effective if the thing you substitute in is better than what the audience originally expected/wanted. This is why I think Last Jedi and Iron Man 3 stumbled.
 
Oct 27, 2017
3,924
Canada
Subverting an audience's expectations only really works when the twist is still realistically within how the character, world etc. has been built up to at that point . You cannot have a character/world all of the sudden do a 180 on their development and expect the audience to not get upset. It is just lazy writing.
 
Oct 29, 2017
1,170
Good post. Although I still think the real issue with recent GOT is not any particular plot development, but the fact that they're leaning so heavily on the fast forward button that it makes everything FEEL arbitrary, even if it's not.
 
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reKon

Member
Oct 25, 2017
3,628
definitely going to read all of this later, but based on what I've read I think I agree
 

Avitus

Member
Oct 25, 2017
3,380
I just wanted the characters to finally matter in TLJ after the hamfisted ANH speedrun (look it can kill three planets!) by JJ. It failed.
 

RedMercury

Member
Dec 24, 2017
6,817
Audiences are so savvy now, or if not savvy they consume so much media and read so much about it that the expectation coming from the audience is to be outsmarted, to be subverted. I think writers and directors realize there are so many things competing for people's time that people are going to gravitate to the things that give people a feeling that they have been surprised
 

Blader

Member
Oct 27, 2017
8,552
The funny thing about WW S1's mysteries being cracked on Reddit so early is that Nolan and Lisa Joy hadn't even cracked them themselves until later in production. Filming was halted for a while for them to focus on writing/rewriting because they hadn't yet gotten the stories straight when they'd started. IIRC they had seeded things early on, like the Man in Black finding the maze pattern within a host's scalp, that they weren't sure what to even do with at the time.
 
Oct 28, 2017
4,010
To add, GRRM is responsible for Dany developing this way, D&D simply failed to execute on it to where the doubt in people's minds that she was really benevolent or narcissistic would take hold. What we get is some people piece it together easily enough, some can see the direction but want more buildup, and a lot of people are left completely shocked because they were allowed to completely believe Dany was just a well meaning savior all along.
This is a great, concise statement.
 

Ralemont

Member
Jan 3, 2018
1,824
Dany has never shown that she cares about the common people.
Well, except for caging her dragons for a season because they killed one shepherd's kid.

Regardless, I think it's incorrect to say that "this is who Dany was all along" because it's quite clear the show wants you to believe she's now crazy, which she wasn't before.

On topic: if anyone believes GRR Martin isn't going to throw in twists just for the sake of it being "not what happened in the show" then I've got bad news for you.
 

♡♪!?

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,880
Dany locked up two people inside a vault in pitch darkness to die of starvation. Conquered a city, crucified all the slavers, then decided to bring slavery back anyway, left it in military rule. Now you could say these are bad people and her intentions were good, but her intentions still are "good" she says this respect of fear in the grand scheme of things will help Westeros. In my opinion It's not so different from many respected policians who have blown up countries claiming to make the bigger world feel safer. I don't believe this writing was done just to shock people but it was a story and theme they thought was worth telling.
 

Flaurehn

Member
Oct 25, 2017
1,139
Mexico City
Regardless, I think it's incorrect to say that "this is who Dany was all along" because it's quite clear the show wants you to believe she's now crazy, which she wasn't before.
Exactly, people that are going "Dany was mad all along" ignore that even in the last episode she went crazy because genetics, they even spelled it out loud, whatever previous personality she had in the show doesn't matter, she suddenly snapped because "Targaryens"
 
Oct 25, 2017
5,524
I agree, people really liked Westworld Season 1, and in fact on Reddit I never read any criticism about the mysteries being solved so early, it was the opposite even, people were engaged by it, and by watching how it all unveiled like they had guessed right, it was actually a symbiotic cool relationship between show and viewer. And then they (Nolan and co.) took the wrong lesson from it and had to ruin it for the second season where most people checked out, which is a shame because underneath all the nonsense there were a lot of things to like in the season.

They're the kind of people who watch Columbo and hate it because you know who the murderer is and how he did it.

Give us a good journey with great characters and we won't care about the destination.

Instead this season has been people doing illogical things for no reason other than shock value or making things explode.
 

Morrigan

Armoring
Moderator
Oct 24, 2017
9,731
What a fantastic OP! I skipped the part about Avengers 'cause I don't care about those movies but I agree with just about everything else.
In case you haven't heard, some others did not feel the same way.
lol

I'll quote GRRM himself to see how blatantly different (and superior) a writer he is to D&D:

Tl;dr

“I’ve been planting all these clues that the butler did it, then you’re halfway through a series and suddenly thousands of people have figured out that the butler did it, and then you say the chambermaid did it? No, you can’t do that.”

(Note, I don't even agree with the example of Arya/NK in the video to highlight this, but the core of what he's saying is what's important here.)

I mean, that whats obsessed fans DO though. They're always gonna obssess over a work and therefore figure things out quicker than the casual audience. Imagine if GRRM had gotten mad that people figured out Jon Snow's parentage (and people figured it out quick, I saw a forum post from like 2002 that talked about it) and decided to change everything...
Yep. See above.

I generally agree with the OP

But man, regarding Dany I don't agree here. The red flags about Dany have always been there. She's openly talked about destroying cities in order to get what she wants.
In order to get what she wants, maybe, but this wasn't it. She had already obtained what she want with minimum casualties. She had already won. This was a moment of random, inexplicably and uncharacteristically evil rage. Everyone has been over this, repeatedly.
 

Spinluck

Avenger
Oct 26, 2017
5,635
Florida
The funniest thing about the GoT criticism on this forum is that the same people grilling the writing are some of the same one's praising the show in the casting thread and the Miguel Cinematography thread. People assume disliking the writing suddenly means they are saying nothing about the show is redeemable.

It's unfortunate because writing is where many want to connect with the show. It's the heart of it all and it's all a mess.
 
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Sephzilla

Herald of Stoptimus Crime
Member
Oct 25, 2017
11,817
In order to get what she wants, maybe, but this wasn't it. She had already obtained what she want with minimum casualties. She had already won. This was a moment of random, inexplicably and uncharacteristically evil rage. Everyone has been over this, repeatedly.
It wasn't out of nowhere. Dany over the last 2 seasons has pretty openly indicated that she wanted to go into Kings Landing guns blazing. Then she finally got her chance and felt cheated out of it.

Plus, as a reminder, as early as season 2 Dany was openly touting stuff like "When my dragons are grown… we will lay waste to armies and burn cities to the ground" and "I will take what is mine with fire and blood". Dany destroying Kings Landing sure seems like it was always in her mind.