Episode 227: The Dragon Demands

Episode 227 for the week of February 4, 2018, in which we interview The Dragon Demands, co-head administrator from the Game of Thrones Wiki. We have a TV show spoiler filled discussion relating to his youtube videos outlining his research and analysis about what went wrong with HBO’s Game of Thrones.

Notes: Apologies for the repeated technical difficulties in regard to recording our guest’s audio. Dragon Demands provided a summary document with links to the videos.

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12 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. The Dragon Demands

    The board is set. Now the pieces are moving…


  2. Jared

    Great episode guys! Gotta fix that audio tho :P


  3. mrkorb

    Despite the audio problems, this is an amazing interview and really sheds light on why all the stupid changes made in the HBO adaptation of Game of Thrones happened. An absolute must listen episode.


  4. Michael Bootsma

    Agreed. thanks for airing this. hope we get better stuff coming down the road.


  5. I was very mixed about this episode. At the beginning, Dragon Demands seemed to argue that there was only one valid way of reviewing a piece of media, and it was through measuring the media against the stated claims of the creator, and that any interpretive/formalist/cultural critique coming out of “English major” reviewers was not only wrong, but symptomatic of the system’s overall corruption; I vehemently disagree with the whole “objective review” position championed by a lot of geeks, and it was one of the things that I found so obtuse and cringeworthy about the Gamergate phenomenon.

    Including the authors intention’s in an analysis is fine (although I would argue that “behind the scenes” promotional material is hardly going to be objective); including the creator’s biographical information is a bit odd but okay; offering a psychological evaluation of the author and then using that evaluation to describe their work is very strange; but saying that this narrow lens is the only framework for discussing media is madness. I mean, how would the Dragon Demands analyze GOT if there weren’t supplementary material provided on the DVD and D&D never gave any interviews; or god forbid analyze a pre-DVD piece of art. He would have to do the same thing that people have been doing for hundreds of years – he would have to use critical reasoning, interpretation, and draw on theoretical frameworks. But then by the end of the interview he’s declaring GOT sexist and racist, which were very un-GG things to say, so I couldn’t really get a read on the guy, other than the fact that he takes GOT way more seriously than I do.

    To me, the show was a solid (if shallow) adaptation for the first few seasons, but as it started veering off the books it fell apart. I can point to aspects I love (like the music, some of the performances) and to aspects I despise (sexposition, poor planning). I doubt it’ll be the only adaptation ever made, especially since its source material hasn’t even been fully published yet. I’m not particularly excited about the prequels, but I don’t feel D&D need to be drawn and quartered for making a sub-par adaptation of a series I love, nor do I feel it tarnishes said series in any way. Dragon definitely makes some interesting observations about the creators prioritization of performers over character, but I doubt that’s uncommon in the world of TV. I think if Dragon were searching for knowledge rather than a conspiracy, he’d find creators on other shows saying similar things about their actors, or lamenting how little time they had to write the script for one episode or how little time they had to shoot for another episode. Producing a TV show is exhausting work, and unlike novel-writing, there are deadlines.

    Having said all that, I did find the podcast riveting, for good and bad reasons – I admire Dragon’s hard work and articulation, just not his dogmatism.


  6. The Dragon Demands

    …I wanted to know why Benioff and Weiss made bizarre changes from books to TV series.

    I didn’t want to hear someone else’s evaluation of those changes. We know they’re bad. We know they’re out of character.

    No “thought” went into them. And thus there is nothing more to discover – if your goal is to discern their intent. Benioff and Weiss don’t have an alternative artistic vision of “Westeros” — they just do things impulsively to show off the actors crying on cue.

    We couldn’t figure this out because we were over-thinking it.

    They’ve…they’ve STATED as much, in Blu-ray commentaries that alleged “critics” never even bothered to watch.

    I analyze media as a Historian, not as an Art critic. My training is that Death of the Author is impossible, Context is everything, and you’re not trying to “interpret” medieval art or literature, but to try to discern what it’s creator intended. Or what it says about them and their motivations.

    So when I saw DVD commentary of Benioff, Weiss, and Cogman flat out saying “oh yeah, we totally rewrote Dorne just to show off Indira Varma and make her the focus…we reconceived the role to make it worthy of the actor’s talents”…I believe them, as the sum total of what they were trying to achieve. In the words of Syrio Forel, I see a cat.

    “When it started veering off the books it fell apart” — WHY? You’re not addressing the “WHY” – why did it go off book? And specifically in the ways that it did?

    Answer was simple: D&D aren’t “professional TV writers” but basically con men who managed to fake their way into a position of authority….and who impulsively “show off” their favorite actors. With no thought to the repercussions.
    You and I, because we are not idiots, then proceeded to waste a couple of years desperately trying to find “reasons” or “themes” behind these changes. There are none. Other than actor favoritism.

    ….I had no idea the Gamergate brownshirts were touting some sort of “objective review” thing…whatever that means.

    I’m arguing, as a Historian, that it is impossible to remove something from its creator’s Context. Which means that NO, you cannot review “art” without reading the author’s own statements on it. And Benioff and Weiss’s “own statements” are word for word blunt admissions that “we’re just showing off the actors”.

    Oh my yes. D&D need to be made pariahs as a warning to the next ten generations that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. That we can never allow people like them to slip through the cracks again and take advantage of us.

    “Conspiracy”? Lazy impulsive morons who follow a consistent pattern of behavior.

    Dogmatism? Were I as patient as the midnight sleep, by jove, it would be my mind.

    I want action. I am planning and LEADING action. Not sitting back and saying “eh, there’ll be another adaptation in 40 years”.

    This is a “clear and present danger” and the reaction so far has been “shrug and just let Cogman be rewarded with running a prequel”.

    NO. You weren’t listening. “Other TV writers say similar things”….be specific. Can you cite even one? What I’m hearing are broad platitudes and good old fashioned denial at the nightmare scenario we find ourselves in.

    ….what “basis for comparison” were you ever using that Benioff & Weiss were “normal”? Because going through all of their interviews after Season 5 onwards…I mean, retroactively going over stuff from Season 1 and such….I felt nothing more than a massive sense of betrayal, that no one realized just how crazy it was to hire two movie script writers with absolutely no television production experience. The video clip of Benioff MOCKING GRRM and glibly remarking that he flat out lied to him that “I know how TV production works” when he didn’t have any of those objective technical skills.

    In summary:

    1 – You object on an abstract philosophical level about how I’m “interpreting” the Game of Thrones TV series. But didn’t really offer a concrete explanation of “Why are Benioff and Weiss making these changes?”….and even said we don’t need to watch the Blu-ray commentaries.

    …when the “smoking gun” was in the Blu-ray commentaries the whole time, openly. Blunt admissions “we’re just showing off the actors”.

    2 – Empty platitudes that “this is no different from what other TV does”.

    I’ve been through the interviews. Seen the nightmare accounts by directors that Benioff and Weiss don’t believe in “deadlines” and production was falling apart.

    What is the bar set at? Hypothetically, what evidence WOULD you accept that Benioff and Weiss were unqualified to begin with? That all of this as an avoidable disaster?

    We’re going to set things to rights and take back everything we’ve lost.


  7. The Dragon Demands

    ….You didn’t answer my question.

    1 – You balked at the concept that there can even be one objective “answer” for why did the TV show change things from books to TV series.

    2 – You just waved aside that other TV must sound like this in production – citing no examples.

    Text doesn’t convey meaning well; I’m not trying to antagonize you but to win you over to my thinking. I’m taking you out of the Socratic cave and showing you the light.

    I’m not making a thematic interpretation – trying to discern the themes the writers intended. Or what I can read into it.

    I came with a simple question, “Why are Benioff and Weiss changing things from books to TV series?”.

    And the reality is that when I lined up all the cited evidence, quotes from commentaries and interviews, with UTTER CONSISTENCY, the reason they give is “we impulsively wanted to show off the actors emoting really hard, preferably with no dialogue, and with no thought to the repercussions – artistically or even logistically in terms of production”.

    We couldn’t wrap our heads around this because they’re stupider than we are. So we kept over-thinking it. Like a man trying to discern “reasons” why Joffrey killed Ned Stark….trying to discern what his long-term goal was….when he’s really just an impulsive idiot, who acts with no thought to the repercussions.

    This was only further backed up by nightmare reports from production staff that Benioff & Weiss aren’t qualified at basic TV production. That they really are just two slick con men who managed to dupe their way into running a TV show, but no one wants to admit it.

    YES, our goal is revenge. Yes, our goal is to reduce Benioff, Weiss, and Cogman to public pariahs. Yes, this is rational: so they can’t hurt anyone again, and as a warning to anyone else who tries to do something similar.

    And not even in the face of Armageddon will we compromise.

    Because Rhaenyra has an army…


  8. Dragon, I think we approach art/media in fundamentally different ways. All that matters to me is what is on screen and whether it is effective at doing what it’s trying to do. I don’t need D&D’s half-baked excuses to know that the writing of GOT deteriorated in the latter seasons. You’ve done a lot of research and identified some of the reasons for that, and I would agree with you. But I think the bigger reason is the one that they don’t mention in the audio commentaries – that at a certain point they no longer had rich, well-written, well-constructed source material to develop, and had to make it up as they went along.

    But here’s my question, what would it matter if D&D were experts on the books and their audio commentaries suggested they had every intention of making a faithful adaptation? That wouldn’t have made the final product any less faithful. This is the problem with limiting your critique purely to author’s intent. Woody Allen hated how Annie Hall turned out. Does that make it any less of a great, influential film? In Breaking Bad, Vince Gilligan originally intended to kill Jesse Pinkman at the end of season 1, but because of the writer’s strike and after witnessing what Paul brought to the character, he decided to change the script. Was this a betrayal of Breaking Bad? Or is it just part of the creative process. Filmmaking/television production is so much more complicated than you’re giving it credit for. In French New Wave, the filmmakers regarded the script as the least important element, something that merely brought artists together so that creative energy and spontaneity could be ignited. By the same token, television actors have contracts which ensure a certain amount of money and screen time. This fact alone means that a book series like ASOIAF, with its 1200 named characters, is going to have to be dramatically reconfigured.

    You seem to be approaching GOT like a prosecutor in a murder trial who has uncovered some damning evidence. But what crime have D&D committed other than making a sub-par adaptation? You keep calling them con-men, but they’ve still made one of the most commercially successful TV series ever? I doubt HBO or even the majority of viewers feel conned. I agree critics haven’t been nearly as harsh on the latter seasons as they should have. Check out the “Unabashed Book Snobs” podcast for a great deconstruction of the show. But at the end of the day, D&D haven’t forced you to watch, so why not do what most frustrated book fans have done and just stop watching? There are heaps of better shows out there. There are heaps of better shows on HBO. If you’re a fan of crime shows, check out The Deuce. It’s about the vice trade in 1970s New York and it’s excellent. Life’s too short man.


  9. The Dragon Demands

    The empty platitudes you just replied with indeed exemplify “the corruption and failure of the entire system” of critical analysis – Death of the Author etc.

    1 – You say that the show got bad because “at a certain point they no longer had the rich, well-written, well-counstructed source material to develop, and had to make it up as they went along”.

    ….when I’m discussing changes they made since *Season 2*, even Season 1. Or the mess in Season 5 to cutting Sansa’s Vale arc and what they did to Dorne COMPARED to what was ALREADY in books 1 to 5.

    This isn’t a rhetorical question, I want you to address this specific point: Your answer for “why did they abandon content from the current novels?” (Dorne, Sansa, Jeyne Westerling)….is, in all seriousness….”because they surpassed the novels”?

    That isn’t what happened.

    2 – This is not part of the “normal creative process”. Con men who are actor-fanboys faked their way into running a major TV show – despite being utterly unqualified purely on a technical level of production.

    You’re again not citing any “evidence” that this is “normal background chaos for TV production” as it were. You’re just making an appeal to emotion. When in reality, we keep getting nightmare reports of just how little D&D ever knew about how to run a TV show. Is not having a “writer’s room” full staff….normal, on a TV series of comparable scale?

    Yes, I am approaching D&D and Game of Thrones like a prosecutor on a murder trial, as I have found damning evidence. I’m proud of that approach. Their crime was making a mockery of artistic integrity.

    “Oh just stop watching” — when incompetent writers on major comic book series do offensive things in them about women and minorities, we don’t just shrug it off as “their artistic vision”.

    We actively campaign to have them removed.

    “Just stop watching?” – there’s only a dozen or so prestige level dramas on TV at a time, and as they are winning Emmy awards, they set a standard for the rest to follow.

    Fundamentally, there was *always* a smoking gun of evidence that Benioff and Weiss are just riding the coat tails of the actors…actor fanboys “showing them off” emoting randomly. “Death of the Author” artistic criticism made it easy for them to con everyone. As is the….defeatist, attitude, of “It’s bad so we’re not even going to criticize it to condemn it”.

    That led to a “brain drain” in which anyone willing to negatively criticize the TV show stopped covering it….so there’s nothing left but blind praise. As if the free press stopped covering a government scandal “because we don’t like it”. Critics exist to analyze failures.

    But you’ve made some long rambles in the comments here that don’t add up to a cohesive whole. You’re waffling. First you say that the show got bad “because they surpassed the books” (in Season TWO, ser?)….then, you claim Death of the Author or freedom of artistic expression means we can’t even judge D&D as “bad” on a philosophical level (contrading your first point). Third and last, you make a lazy appeal of “eh, why do you care?”….which just sidesteps the entire issue entirely.

    You. Are not. Helping.

    Nor are you deterring us. We’re not going to wait for you to catch up, we’re going to rebuild the “critical universe” / media watchdog /public gadfly that we should have had in place. From the ground up if need be — the people up top abdicating doesn’t mean we’re giving up, but that we need to rebuild.

    Because Rhaenyra has an army.


  10. MJ

    @Valkyrist It seems you haven’t listened to the whole argument in the cast? I know audio sucked but still…

    The points were:
    1) they are taking money and time away from some truly brilliant TV that could be alternatively made
    2) those hacks are and will be getting further contracts down the line. For now we know of two other distinct IPs that they will ruin. I hope they won’t survive the backlash for StarWars though


  11. The Dragon Demands


    The rule you followed led you to declare that it was impossible to discern why Benioff & Weiss made changes from books to TV series, and so you never did any basic research, and never knew for seven years.

    The rule I followed…led me to find out that Benioff & Weiss bluntly admit why they made these changes in their own Blu-ray commentaries. Which no one bothered to check. And it turns out that reason was “pander actors based on personal favoritism, with no regard to fictional storyline”. Not only is this an answer, it is an answer which may serve to HARM and REMOVE them.

    The rule I follow led me to this.

    If the rule YOU follow led you to…apathy and inaction…of what use to you was that rule?

    And of what use to me or anyone are *you*?

    Rhaenyra has an army.


  12. The Dragon Demands

    This comments section doesn’t have an edit feature to tone down some of my prior posts. So I joined the site’s forum, will continue there.


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