Game of Thrones

'Game of Thrones' Fans and the Expectation of Perfection

'The Last Watch,' HBO's 'GoT' documentary, is a reminder to not overlook the bigger picture

Courtesy: HBO

Focus equals feeling. That’s what my mentor, Keven Undergaro, always says to me. “Focus equals feeling.” It’s a strange saying, and it took me too long to embrace, but it’s rather self-explanatory. Wherever you place your focus is what will ultimately determine how you feel. I think if we as audiences could adopt an awareness of this mantra, our viewing experiences would be that much more enjoyable. That would in turn produce a safer environment for creators to take risks (which most fans claim they want), thus cultivating more daring and sought-after entertainment.

The problem with that is, when you are trying to do something that has never been done before, or make something that has never been made, inevitably there will be minor mistakes—sometimes major ones. As a content creator, I know this cycle well and have been on the other side of public scrutiny too many times to count. I’ll spend dozens of hours prepping for a two-minute red-carpet interview, editing a YouTube video or rehearsing for a scene, only to make one mistake that then diminishes every successful aspect of my creation and effort. Or at least that is what the internet tells me. But what if we allowed creators to make mistakes the same way we allow our friends and family to make mistakes? What if we eliminated the pressure to be perfect, and just let them play? What if we looked for the good in art, instead of immediately harping on the bad?
We’ve all had that friend or family member who hates everything. Even more so than that, they seemingly enjoy hating everything. If you don’t happen to know anyone like that, then consider yourself extremely blessed because it’s truly exhausting. There are people who seem to go through life waiting for something bad to happen so that they can complain. That one bad thing will then outweigh the 10 wonderful things that will subsequently be forgotten or overshadowed. It permeates into their jobs, friendships, relationships and even the way they view content. This has never been more apparent than in the Game of Thrones two-hour documentary that aired Sunday on HBO.

After viewing The Last Watch, it feels impossible to not look at GoT like the masterpiece it truly is. The biggest takeaway from this behind-the-scenes look at the show is how incredibly hard everyone worked. From the actors who had to sit through hours of hair and makeup, to the stunt people who were called to set at unreasonably early hours, to the crew who made and placed the snow, everyone worked tirelessly to ensure an incredible show for us. This final season, though, we barely saw any of the above discussed on Twitter or otherwise. Instead, what we saw was the “Starbucks” scandal, the water-bottle incident, Jaime’s (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) miraculous growing hand and other gaffes. Not sure what I’m talking about? Don’t worry, I’ll explain …
It’s OK to look at things with a critical eye, but it’s also OK to like something that is imperfect. We have to give ourselves permission to enjoy content that is flawed.
During the fourth episode of season eight (“The Last of the Starks”), a coffee cup is seen on the table in front of Daenerys (Emilia Clarke). The cup soon became the no. 1 thing trending on Twitter, with most major publications running entire stories on it. In fact, when The New Yorker ran their big interview with Clarke just hours after the series finale, the first five questions were about the accidental beverage. (Side note: It was not actually a Starbucks cup, despite what Twitter would have you believe.) 

You can choose to focus on the cup that was left on set, or you can remember that in this scene, Khaleesi commits one of her finals acts of kindness—she makes Gendry (Joe Dempsie) a lord, and we are reminded why we once loved her so much! It is an extremely touching moment where a bastard rises to the top, and Dany is able to see his true colors, despite where he came from. Unfortunately, though, some people were more interested in pausing the scene and zooming in on a craft-service whoopsies. Would it have been ideal if someone had caught it before I watched it in my living room? Sure. Did it ruin the rest of the scene? Absolutely not, because I have decided to focus on the big picture, not the little coffee.

In the water-bottle incident, same thing. During season eight's sixth episode (the series finale: “The Iron Throne”), not one but two water bottles were left on set. This scene took place 46-ish minutes into the episode, when the surviving rulers of Westeros are gathered in a council. One bottle was between Samwell Tarly’s (John Bradley) legs, the other between Ser Davos’ (Liam Cunningham) legs. Alright, even I must admit that two water bottles in one scene sounds a bit like the crew was exhausted by this point. And it's most likely because, uh, they were. But, we have waited eight years for this moment. It is during this scene where we find out who is going to sit on the titular throne! This has been the question every single fan has asked from day one, and instead of talking about Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright), people are talking about water bottles. Are you f—ing kidding? Many upset fans actually asked why they weren’t more careful on set after the coffee-cup incident. As per TV-making 101, the water-bottle episode had been filmed months prior to the coffee-cup episode airing.
Fans were further outraged this season that you could see a bulge where Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) is supposed to have … no worm; that Dany’s braids changed in the premiere as she and Jon rode horses; and in Jaime’s final moments, when it looked like the hand that was supposed to be gold was actually flesh. Jaime and Cersei (Lena Headey), two of our lead characters, are facing their epic (or tragic, depending on your point of view) deaths, and people are zooming in on his hand to check the material. Mind-boggling! I’m sure there were other similar complaints that I missed or decided to drown out, but these were the ones that took over my timeline. Let me be clear: If you don’t like the episode, that is without a doubt your prerogative. There are major plot points that you might disagree with, characters’ arcs you didn’t enjoy or dialogue you thought was forced. But don’t be the kind of person who lets a water bottle ruin the show for you.

The documentary opened by calling Game of Thrones the most popular show of all time. Because of that, it is also the most scrutinized show of all time. Plenty of other shows have had craft service left out on set, but fans just aren’t looking for it the way they are on this show. Why don’t we focus on the unbelievable attention to detail from the cast and crew during every episode?

We learn of a woman who has to figure out a way to accommodate a character’s sleeves being rolled up, per the director’s request, when a jacket is too thick to roll. We hear from a man who sprinkled individual pieces of fake snow on the ground to make it feel like it just casually blew inside. The cast and crew created entire lands and spent 55 nights shooting one battle. Makeup artists worked 18-hour days. Parents were away from their children. Everyone lived out of their suitcases for months. Temperatures on set teetered between unbearable and unsafe. The list of specifics goes on and on, but it is abundantly clear that everyone’s heart and soul went into their job. Here is the most ironic and upsetting part: People worked tirelessly on this show, attempting to pay attention to every detail, but in the end, it’s the details they missed that we hold against them.

It’s unfathomable the amount of time, energy and money that goes into creating a show of this magnitude. That being said, people are still human, so there are bound to be mistakes. Truthfully, it’s unbelievable with all of the things going on that there weren’t more errors! In this case, we are also living in a fantasy land. So you’re telling me people have an easier time accepting that Dany can walk through fire, but her hair being in a slightly different style is ludicrous? Give me a break.

Even if you have more legitimate concerns with the show than what liquids are being left on set, you can still decide to fixate on the good. I have started to train my brain, and you’re welcome to join me. When one blunder happens on the show, or when there is a twist I don’t agree with, I think about 10 amazing moments. I focus on the incredible performances or the stunning sets. I try and remember all of the things they are doing right, instead of the small mistakes they made. It’s OK to look at things with a critical eye, but it’s also OK to like something that is imperfect. We have to give ourselves permission to enjoy content that is flawed. I, like most people, enjoy the feeling of loving something more than hating it. So if I have the choice, I will always pick to focus on the good. Focus equals feeling, and I feel like feeling good.

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