'Game of Thrones' and 'The Killing': A Nice Night for the New Violence

The Atlantic Wire
'Game of Thrones' and 'The Killing': A Nice Night for the New Violence
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'Game of Thrones' and 'The Killing': A Nice Night for the New Violence

Well, that was quite an episode, huh? After three seasons of waiting, fans of George R.R Martin's Game of Thrones novels finally got to see a filmed version of what is arguably the biggest moment in the series. Was the long wait, the excruciating buildup, worth it? I'd say yes, absolutely.

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Obviously certain moments of the show will never quite live up to whatever the books stirred in our imaginations. The goings on Beyond the Wall, for example, were much grander in my head than they've been on the show. And the Battle of the Blackwater, with all that swirling green wildfire, played out a bit more epically when I read A Clash of Kings. But obviously a television show is able to capture other events with more immediacy; on screen we really felt the closeness and terror of Ned's beheading in season one, we cheered heartily for Dany's dragons as they laid waste to the slaver city. And the same was the case for the Red Wedding, a tense and terrifying scene that was as hard to watch, yet giddily satisfying, as I'd hoped it would be.

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Knowing it was coming because of the episode's title, I spent the evening in knots, oddly worried about something I've known was coming for two years. And when the chilling moment came, it was even more brutal and visceral than, well, I could have imagined. I wasn't thrilled when we found out that Robb's wife was pregnant a few weeks ago, because it felt excessively mean to kill her and her child off when we were already going to lose so much, but when when it happened last night it only felt true to the horror of the scene. And it was horrible, sadder and scarier than simply reading it on the page could convey. When I read the Red Wedding scene in the book I had to go back a few times to make sure what I thought happened had really happened. Obviously there was nothing in doubt last night.

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And people were so surprised! Which, of course, was a large part of the satisfaction. The Red Wedding has been the series's biggest well-kept secret, and it was fun to watch the uninitiated react in shock and amazement last night. That's the joy of Game of Thrones, and really any series like it — sharing it with other people and watching them go through the various stages of surprise, delight, and shock as the wild story unfolds. The Red Wedding is, in my opinion, the most profound of such moments in GoT, but there are certainly few more doozies awaiting us next season. Still, I must admit, there was a slight chord of disappointment in the air last night. Not over how the episode turned out, but because now it's done. The most significant twist has come and gone and that's that. Now it's going to be Dorne and the Iron Islands and whatever Dany's doing for the foreseeable future. Sigh. Oh well.

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It was a violent night on TV all around, with the Game of Thrones bloodbath happening in the middle of the two-hour season premiere of the resurrected The Killing. Wary of the first two seasons' gloom and tedium, I wasn't ecstatic about the return of the show, but by the end of the two hours I was, somewhat begrudgingly, hooked again. Obviously it helps that we're dealing with an entirely new case, meaning we'll no longer be subjected to the minutiae of a Seattle mayoral campaign or perpetually grieving parents stumbling around their house like zombies. Which isn't to say that the new story isn't grim. It most certainly is, dealing with murdered child prostitutes and whatnot. It's just a different kind of grim, which is welcome.

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Detectives Linden and Holder are back, of course, and actors Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman are as welcome sights as ever. They've got great chemistry, and it's blessedly more complicated than the simple will they/won't they dynamic we typically see in such pairings. (That said: Will they???) And I like that this murder is connected to a case from Linden's past — it gives Enos a little more to play than she had in the first two seasons. We still got some of the boring old "I'm ignoring my son" guilt stuff last night, but this new murder, or murders, is stoking something more internal in her, something I'm excited to see unearthed and explored. Who knows what Holder's deal is going to be this season, but does it really matter? It's Joel Kinnaman doing funny gangsta-speak. That's all we really need, isn't it?

All told, it was a pretty compelling, if violent, evening of television last night. Game of Thrones more than delivered on a much-anticipated scene — I was trembling for a half-hour afterwards, and I'm not usually one to react so strongly to television, let alone something I already know is coming — while The Killing tantalized us with another somber, rainy mystery. I'll be sad to see Game of Thrones go away for another year after next week, but at least there's this new thing to spend Sunday night with. And of course The Newsroom is on its way. Talk about gruesome.

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