One of you suggested this in the comments the other day and it sounded like a wonderful debate. The two biggest geek shows on TV are Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead. My guess is that both shows have a lot of crossover viewers, which means most of you are educated enough to offer your opinion on both. Therefore, I shall ask: Which is the better written show, The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones? Notice I didn’t ask which is the “better” show, but which show is better written.

In my eyes, this isn’t even a fair fight. The Walking Dead is a much better written show. I’ve never felt more worried for characters than I do during this show. At any moment, they’re in danger from either a zombie or fellow human attack, which leads to that necessary discomfort the audience must feel in order for the story to work.

The scene-writing is also top-notch, always so clever. They’re constantly setting up complex situations that don’t have clear resolutions, keeping you on the edge of your seat for up to 10 minutes at a time. My favorite scene of the year (in anything!) is the one where Rick sends his son and Michonne out to get food while he takes a nap in an abandoned suburban house. In the interim, raiders show up and take over the house, forcing Rick to hide.

If he tries to leave, they’ll easily catch and kill him. If he doesn’t, his son comes home unaware the raiders are there and they’ll kill him instead. These are the best kinds of scenes because there’s no solution. Every road traveled leads to failure. And if you set up that kind of situation, you better believe your reader/viewers are going to stick around to see what happens. The Walking Dead is filled with cleverly thought-out scenes like this.

Like any show, The Walking Dead has some good characters and some not so good characters. But on the whole, they’re good. Watching Rick fight a daily battle against losing his humanity is one of the better inner conflicts I’ve watched a main character go through. Watching inventive characters like the zombie-carrying sword-wielding Michonne emerge is beyond delightful. And meeting the best villain of the last decade in the endlessly complex “The Governor” was the cherry on top of Season 3.

Finally, The Walking Dead is really good at structuring its storylines. There’s almost always an episode goal (Find a way out of the house without the Raiders seeing you), a season goal (Get to the safe city, Terminus), and a series goal (survive and find ultimate safety) to keep everything focused and on track. There’s never a point in The Walking Dead where you’re saying, “Wait, what’s going on again?” It’s always clearly laid out.

Game of Thrones is a completely different animal, but good in its own ways. Its number 1 asset is its mythology. With The Walking Dead, the mythology is being built as we experience it.  There’s not a lot of mystery there.  But some of the things affecting the characters in Game of Thrones go back thousands of years. For that reason, you feel like you’re living in a truly immersive world, and every episode is a gift you get to unwrap to find out more about that world.

Another reason I love Game of Thrones is its restraint. Unlike certain fantasy franchises that throw a million pieces of fantasy at you a minute (orcs, spells, invisibility, giant spiders, talking trees), Thrones TEASES their fantasy elements. We hear about dragons, White Walkers, people coming back from the dead. But because these things are only hinted at, we don’t grow numb to them after five minutes. Instead, we eagerly anticipate when we’ll get to see them, which is another reason we’re so excited to keep watching.

Also, the relationships the show creates are captivating. Every character is connected to every other character in some way. To give you a taste, Cersei Lannister, the Queen, is secretly sleeping with her brother Jaime Lannister. We later find out that the three children the King and Queen have are not the King’s. They’re all from Jaime, which makes them inbreds. One of these children, the evil, unstable Joffrey, becomes King. Rumors spread throughout the land that Joffrey is the inbred son of Cersei and Jaime. Cersei must do everything in her power to keep this information from getting to Joffrey, since unstable kings who find out that they’re inbred probably aren’t going to take it well.

Finally, there are a lot of standout characters on the show. The empowered “mother of dragons,” Khaleesi, is exciting to watch as she goes from underdog outsider to plotting her Iron Throne takeover. Tyrion, the “imp,” played by Peter Dinklage, is lovely to watch if only because the character is so unexpected. Occasionally he’ll play the coward, only to follow it up by slapping the king. Arya Stark, the young daughter of the slain Ned Stark, is pulled from her family and must survive out in the wild. There’s the impossibly cold Cersei Lannister, whose utter hatred for the world drives her every action.  Her son Joffrey is so evil, you can’t look away, lest you miss him chopping someone’s head off. The always manipulative brothel owner, Littlefinger, charms with his whispering schemes and careful chess moves in order to keep his place in power. There’s always a character to look forward to here.


But here’s why Game of Thrones doesn’t compete with The Walking Dead. Whereas The Walking Dead is always clear – we always know what’s going on and can therefore participate in every aspect of the story – Game of Thrones is too often confusing. And it all comes back to one issue – there are too many characters.

In a show like this, a show that DEPENDS on you knowing the intricate details of every relationship, being confused about who’s who can destroy the enjoyment of an entire episode.  If I’m only just remembering that Robb Stark wants to kill Character A at the end of a scene where two characters are discreetly talking about Character A, I’ve missed the whole point of the scene. This happens a lot in Game of Thrones.

Tons of characters also means entire episodes go by without us seeing some of the characters. So when we finally come back to them, we barely remember what they’re up to. Again, two or three scenes may go by before we recall what they’re doing in this location in the first place. For example, I was watching Jon Snow traverse the North Mountains for an entire episode before I remembered, from a couple of episodes ago, why he was sent there in the first place.

No matter how you spin it, this is bad writing. One of the requirements of writing any story is that the reader always understand what’s going on. If they don’t, it can only be because you, the writer, don’t want them to for some reason. In other words, it’s the writer’s choice. But a lot of the confusion that comes from Game of Thrones is not due to the writer’s choice. It’s due to there being too many characters and too many camps to keep track of.

Another problem with Game of Thrones is that it errs on the side of “telling” instead of showing. It’s gotten better at this as the show’s gone on. But in the first season, there were endless scenes where two people were in a room talking. Therefore, instead of seeing troops move across the land, we hear two people TALK ABOUT troops walking across the land. Indeed, every other scene appears to be strictly exposition, which would often grind the show to a halt.

What’s interesting is that this exposition is a result of choices the writers made a long time ago. If you’re going to have a dozen factions all vying for the throne, you’re guaranteeing you’re going to have a ton of exposition. The Walking Dead doesn’t have that kind of complexity in its endgame. The endgame is simply, “survive,” so its exposition is often minimal, and we can focus more on the fun stuff, which is showing and not telling (characters getting into dangerous situations and then trying to get out of them).

Personally, I think both shows are great in their own way. But The Walking Dead is a cleaner more action-oriented story that can just “be,” whereas Thrones has to talk you through much of its world to get to its payoffs, which can sometimes feel like work.

What do you think? Which is your favorite show and why? Make sure to support your opinion with valid points about the writing.  And yes, this may be the nerdiest post I’ve written this year.

note: I’m on Season 2, Episode 5 of Game of Thrones.  Please note spoilers in your comments!

  • craze9

    Why would you start this debate, and even claim to have the answer (The Walking Dead much better written), when you haven’t actually watched over 50% of the episodes of Game of Thrones?

    • carsonreeves1

      I’m impatient and I think it’ll be fun.

      • craze9

        Fair enough. I think you should watch the rest of GoT. It’s light years better.

  • Craig Mack

    Slow day — anyone open to dropping a few notes on a screenplay I have in the Quarters at Page? Not sure if I’ll make the semis (probably not TBH) but I can resubmit a draft if I do. It’s a fast paced Action/Thriller 93pgs. Willing to trade quick reads.

    • Logline_Villain

      Send it over, Craig – email as follow: Sakhwood@aol.com

    • Logic Ninja

      Sure! jaybird1092 at yahoo.com

    • pmlove

      Sure thing. lovepeterm, gmail etc. Might take a few days.

    • bex01

      Fo sho!
      babelfish79 at gmail . com

    • Randy Williams

      I can vouch for pmlove. Freaking awesome if his notes on your draft anywhere approach the precision pinpoint discussion of weaknesses and how to work through them that I received on a draft of mine,
      Good luck on the semis!

  • hickeyyy

    I disagree. When was the last time watching Walking Dead where you TRULY felt like Rick was in danger? Carl? Michonne? Daryl? Sure, they might be in “danger” in episodes, but you never feel as though they could actually die. We know that some characters are just plain safe. The season 4 episodes where everyone was getting sick, were you really scared Glenn was going to die to illness? They aren’t going to kill any main characters with sickness. We can safely assume this. That took away the drama which turned boring. The episode you brought up with Rick in the house; did you really believe Rick or Carl would die that episode?

    Meanwhile, in GoT, unpredictability reigns supreme. There are characters you assume are 100% safe that are dead. There are people that you think will die soon that are still alive and kicking and more powerful than ever. There is no such thing as a safe character in this show. Every time someone I care about shows up on screen I become a nervous, sweaty wreck worrying for their safety.

    • carsonreeves1

      Game of Thrones’ unpredictability is a big part of why it works, you’re right. That’s one advantage of its many characters, is it has more opportunities to kill people off, which allows it that unpredictability. Although Walking Dead has had some surprise killings as well.

      As for Walking Dead, man, I’m on the other end of the spectrum. I thought for sure Michonne was going to die a few times. I thought Carl was a goner too.

    • charliesb

      I have to disagree. With GoT, there are very very few surprising deaths. The way people die may be surprising, but every death is the result of a direct action the character has taken or not taken and if you pay attention is telegraphed far in advance. Obviously I can’t get into too many specifics because of how far behind Carson is but even the deaths early on were predictable.

      As for the Walking Dead, there are only 2 characters that actually completely safe on that show, and the scenes are written so well that you (or at least I) actually question if a character is going to survive, or if they do, how they are going to make it happen. One of the beautiful things about this show, is the tension in these type of scenes (like the one Carson described, or the one with Lizzie in ‘The Grove’) is so high that you forget that you should be able to see what’s coming, and become completely engrossed in the show.

      Walking Dead, has had some weak moments and characters (Shane, Laurie, Shane). But Rick is so good, it more than makes up for it. His arc from Officer Friendly/Father, to ruthless Rick-tator, to Farmer, to man who understands that the darkness inside of him that surfaces when the people he cares about are threatened is something to embrace instead of shun has been hella engaging.

      I love GoT, but I gotta agree with Carson, Walking Dead is better.

  • ripleyy

    Game of Thrones is really fascinating not only because the mythology is so much (seriously, has anyone here ever played Skyrim?) but because everything is teased.

    You KNOW things are going to happen, it’s just a matter of time. So we keep watching scene after scene, slowly waiting for: a) winter to come b) Daneryes to eventually attack King’s Landing c), d), e), f), g), h), i), j) and k) to eventually come to a blow, while cleverly slipping in shocking moments without even realizing it. You see, as an audience we’re so focused on foresight that we don’t anticipate the NOW.

    I mean, they tease things in “Thrones” that won’t happen until season 8 at the latest. I don’t think there’s ever been a show that sets things up so far in advance before and it works.

    Alternatively, “The Walking Dead” is pretty great because there really is that sense of dread. Not only can things here happen without warning (like Thrones) but because the show’s DNA isn’t about teasing, it’s about setting things up, fulfilling that objective and have it turning out the wrong way. Also, because things aren’t so focused on plot (like Thrones), you end up finding yourself a lot more drawn into the characters, rather than the world.

    But both shows seem to deal with subject matters in a very mortally gray way (“look at the flowers” scene comes to mind, simply because it’s about a child who hasn’t grasped reality) and that means we’re never sure who we can side with. The characters in “Thrones” are so morally gray that you find yourself compelled to keep watching and the characters in “TWD” are so morally gray that you’re never quite sure how they’re going to deal with moments.

    In the end, both shows are great in their own way. However, the kicker is, is that each show has an illusion of not just urgency, but stakes.

    “TWD” has the illusion of stakes, when in reality the stakes aren’t as high. They are high because we are invested in the characters.

    “Thrones” deals with the illusion of urgency by repeatedly setting up moments that will never come not in this season, or the next, but maybe five seasons down the line. Plus, the illusion of urgency works because there are repeated goals entwining like thread on a rope.

    Much like the characters in “Thrones” who are all being manipulated not just by a higher presence (perhaps by fate, or the gods) but by each other. We know Character A is going to attack Character B, thus we want Character B to realize Character A is out for that person.

    I think “Thrones” squeaks in front. Both shows have the longevity if the immortal jellyfish, but I think it doesn’t just come down to how much content each show has, but because the stories keep us on our toes – and that is really the lesson learned: Want to be a great writer? Deal the unexpected card and win.

  • http://screenplayamonth.tumblr.com FilmingEJ

    Carson, I have to disagree. I don’t wanna be a debbie downer, but I honestly think The Walking Dead is one of the worst written shows on television right now.

    • carsonreeves1

      Why? I want to know!

      • http://screenplayamonth.tumblr.com FilmingEJ

        Don’t get me wrong, I love how it started. Season 1 could have been the start of something great. But they started spreeeaaaaading out the story, and a lot of it felt like filler. I knew I shouldn’t have expected zombie attacks every thirty seconds, but their so-called character development was more like “aimless conversation”, followed by someone eventually dying. That seems to be the pattern they follow right now.

        But I haven’t seen Game of Thrones, so maybe you were right to rank TWD higher. I just have stopped the Walking Dead altogether.

        • charliesb

          What? (and I say this with comradery) But GTFOWTBS.

          Morgan, Rick, Herschel all great character development.
          Michonne, Daryl, Carol, good character development.

          We can argue about the rest (except Glen, I’m really not happy with they did to Glen).

          If Rick finding and talking to Morgan in ‘Clear’ is “so-called character development”, I really want to know what you think is good?

      • pmlove

        I’ve only seen series one and half of episode one of series two (TWD). I’ve seen none of GoT (but I’ve read the books).

        I watched series one of TWD and thought ‘ah, but who cares’. After a few years, I recently tried series two, in part by the rave reviews you gave but still I was bored by part way and stopped. Which is a shame because I’m in desperate need of a great TV show to pick up.

        Walking Dead falls down on the premise. The opposition is always the zombies. People I don’t care about and am not engaged with. It seems later they build on the human stuff, so I can’t really comment.

        In Game of Thrones, there’s a hell of a lot going on. I had a chat with a mate of mine who’s really into it after I finished the last book and he started telling me about all these things that had happened that I essentially had no idea about. But that’s the charm right there. I’d still had fun en route. If you want to dig deeper, there are whole plot lines you’ve missed (books here, can’t speak for the TV show). But it must be better television as we care about every single character and every character is the antagonist for another character.

        So you get conflict city, depth city, arc city and a whole bunch of other metropolises of value.

        Now – this is the BIG caveat – part of the reason why GoT is the buy in. We believe that this will all come together in a massive arc. A plot so clever and interwoven that we’ll be blown away. It’s been teased. But it hasn’t quite delivered yet. I’ve put up with (SPOILERS) Brienne wandering around for a whole book looking for Sansa and achieving nothing. That was dull. But I stuck it out in the hope of something greater. I still believe that greater will come. But if it doesn’t, it will absolutely diminish the quality of the rest of GoT.

        TWD, on the other hand, might be simple but it pays for it. Maybe TWD gets good later. But when series two opened with another ten minute zombie attack I thought – I’ve JUST HAD A WHOLE SEASON OF THIS CRAP I CAN’T TAKE ANY MORE. And that, I think, is why it probably isn’t a great show. I’d love it to be. I want something to watch. But at the moment, it isn’t TWD.

        • charliesb

          Since you’re looking for a show, I recommend Hannibal and/or Vikings (especially season 2). Of course I like TWD, so I guess take my suggestions with a grain of salt.

          If you like shows with a strange mythology, I really loved Carnivale.

          • pmlove

            Thanks! Not familiar with any of these, so will give them a go. And GoT, obviously…

          • ripleyy

            Hannibal is deliciously written. That in itself should top both TWD and GoT for being the best written show out there.

          • charliesb


          • http://www.facebook.com/julien.deladriere Julien Deladriere

            +1 for Carnivale. A bit obscure at times but one of the best mythologies ever.

            And if you’re looking for something more in the TWD/GOT vicinity, try
            Spartacus. Hold on through the (admittedly flawed) first 4-5 episodes
            and you’ll be rewarded with one of the best-written series of the past
            few years.

    • Scott Strybos

      Sorry, but I have to down vote you…

      • http://screenplayamonth.tumblr.com FilmingEJ

        Hey it’s cool, opposing opinions are a thing.

        • Scott Strybos

          Here, I’ll balance it out with an upvote. I don’t even know what the consequences of the votes are, if any…

      • Nicholas J

        Have any reasons why?

        • Scott Strybos

          As much as I want to, I can’t say WD is better than GOT because I have never seen GOT.

          Still I believe WD is one of the best written shows because the tension WD elicits from me as a viewer is palpable–I get a knot in my stomach when I watch. The cliff-hangers are expertly plotted, have me on the edge of my seat, crying-out at the TV. I care for the characters–I do feel something when they die or are in peril.

          I can’t name many other shows that have done this, that engage me so completely.

          So, No, I cannot say with certainty that WD is better than GOT but I can say The Walking Dead is one of the best written shows on TV.

    • James Michael

      I definately agree.
      Here’s a Walking Dead episode. They try to get somewhere. Something stops this from happening. as they try and fix this a bunch of zombies rock up. they have to hide/fight them off. they manage to get away in the nick-of time (phew) Next episode, same thing and so on and so forth.
      this is probably a very simplistic reading of it, but that’s how i felt watching it – plus zombies get old real fast.

  • Sebastian Cornet

    Holy Roman Empire, Batman! You actually wrote this article. I thought it’d be a throwaway idea, but lo and behold, here it is.

    Another thing to remember is that both these franchises are adaptations with enormous sources, so the first thing to do is decide how to preserve the essence of the story and avoid cramming the adaptations with everything from the books/comics. The Walking Dead did a much better job than this.

    Season 2 of GOT is when they had too many characters and factions to take care of. Even people who didn’t read the books felt their storylines (particularly Stannis’) felt truncated. Benioff and Weiss were trying to have their cake and eat it, too. I wouldn’t call the result a failure, but it’s definitely clumsy.

    Episode 9 of season 2 (don’t worry, I won’t spoil it) is a mini-movie in that they focus on one self-contained arc and deliver the goods. Every other time they’re stretched too thin.

    Can’t say much about the Walking Dead, unfortunately. I always felt the Romero movies made this show redundant. I watched the pilot and while I appreciated how skilfully it was written, I don’t think it added much to the zombie genre. Maybe I’ll give it another shot again, but for now…I feel like watching Dawn of the Dead again.

    (And I mean the original, BTW. Not that shitty asswipe of a remake.)

  • Kirk Diggler

    “In my eyes, this isn’t even a fair fight. The Walking Dead is a much better written show. I’ve never felt more worried for characters than I do during this show.”

    You spelled “Game of Thrones” wrong.

    • James Michael

      hahaha I laughed hard at this. I dont think there’s been a show in history like GoT where literally any character can die at anytime. Watching Walking Dead you never think that Rick is going to die (if he was played by Sean Bean then maybe)

      • Marija ZombiGirl

        Poor Sean Bean… Not an actor but a walking spoiler ^^

  • Steffan

    I am in a weird position in that I have never read a single world of the novels on which GoT is based and I have read every comic of TWD but have only seen the first season.

    I used to say that TWD comic was the best continuing narrative being told. I’ve cooled on it slightly after it’s latest arc, however; I could not get into the show. Comparatively (and, as an avid reader, I can’t separate the comic and the TV show… I just can’t), the comic is so much better and the reason is that it is so much grittier and raw than the show. The tone of the comic is so dark. I hear about The Gov. from the TV show and he sounds like a shulb compared to the comic. I dunno. I can’t get behind a show that takes its source material and waters it down because it’s on TV. I mean, I had to PUT THE COMIC DOWN BECAUSE IT WAS TOO INTENSE at one point… the first and only time I’ve ever done that in a lifetime of reading and it did it all through sound. It was brilliant. The show is stinky in comparison.

    And, as I’ve said, I’ve seen every episode of GoT and I get so frustrated at it. How it dishes out the its meager stories piecemeal is a huge drawback. So. Little. Happens. I feel. And, I’ve got a lot of friends who have binged on GoT (like myself) and have enjoyed it… because you sort of bend time and watch all the slow episode and end on the hint or aftermath of some huge happening.

    Those same friends tried watching Season Four weekly and found themselves disliking the show. I, too, started watching it weekly and found it uninspiring so I just waiting five weeks and watched it in chunks on a borrowed HBO Go account.

    Carson’s right about the mythology and I think that GoT has filled the void Lost created when it ended. Sweeping conspiracy theories abound when talking about GoT, similar to how people speculated about the island and Echo and the numbers and the smoke monster and the and the and the…

    My opinion: both shows are mediocre and benefit from high production value and a geekiness that draws today’s TV watches in.

  • andyjaxfl

    I have to disagree. I don’t think The Walking Dead even belongs in the same conversation as Game of Thrones.

    • David Sarnecki

      I can’t believe this was even seriously considered for conversation.

  • SendHimtoBelize

    GoT is by far the better written show. TWD has an incredibly simple dramatic structure, and unlike GoT, very little backstory to work with. The first season of TWD was fantastic but the subsequent seasons have been very poor. During the first season there was mystery surrounding the outbreak and there was a possibility of civilisation surviving. In short the characters had something to aim for. In subsequent seasons the characters just aim to survive and the dramatic formula is JAZ (just add zombies) which the writer can summon at will. This is completely alienating to non-zombie viewers. In GoT the viewer can wonder how the complex character relations will unfold and affect the fates of the characters we want to succeed. In TWD we wait for zombies to turn up at inopportune times. In terms of character, TWD fails completely here again. The zombie apocalypse pretty much renders the past irrelevant; everyone has a similar aim and limited decisions to make. These are the factors that define character, so it’s no surprise that the characters are completely flat. To surmise TWD is garbage from a writing standpoint.

  • Gregory Mandarano

    Game of Thrones is so infinitely better than TWD. Its like the difference between a ten course meal and popcorn.

    • pmlove

      One has too much going on and the other is perfect for the screen?

  • Scott Strybos

    The tension that The Walking Dead elicits from me as a viewer is palpable–I get this knot in my stomach when I watch an episode. I cannot name many other shows like this, that engage me so completely. And for that reason I too rate it as one of the best written shows on television.

  • Scott Strybos

    My finger is going to cramp down-voting all the Walking Dead haters posting today on this board, so let this comment serve as a mass, all encompassing vote down for all of you.
    !! DOWN VOTE !!

    • charliesb

      LOL. Can’t we just love both for completely different reasons? Both have had good moments and bad, good characters and bad. Besides I don’t think we can have a definite answer to which is “better” until they both end.

  • witwoud

    I watched one episode of Game of Thrones and two of The Walking Dead, which proves that The Walking Dead is twice as good. Neither of them really tickled my fancy, though.

    There was one aspect of The Walking Dead that puzzled me: how did these zombies, which move at 0.02mph and can be killed with a single shot to the head, manage to overpower the US military? I got to that scene with the abandoned tank and found myself thinking: how on earth could that happen? Nazis could do this on a good day, but brainless zombies? Seems unlikely.

    So, I was wondering if this is something that’s explained later in the show, or do you simply have to handwave it and carry on?

    • Scott Strybos

      By sheer numbers… And to kill a zombie you need a carefully aimed shot to the brain. Nothing else will take them down.

    • Guest

      The reason why just about everyone is a zombie is explained later in the show.

  • Linkthis83

    I think this is a futile debate. There is no obvious winner except to those who prefer one over the other. And both groups will be correct for their exact reasons. It is worth diving into each to try and understand why some may love one show over the other, but deciding one is “better” is subjective to the viewer.

    I prefer GOT over TWD. I was into season one of TWD and then it turned into The Talking Dread in season 2. I stuck with it until around season 4 and then asked myself “Why am I still watching this? I stopped being invested a season ago.”

    I love the line “I’m doin’ stuff. Lawrie. Thhhaaaaannnnnggggs.”

    And this video cracks me up:

  • Nicholas J

    I love both shows, having read all the source material and having seen every episode. I could compare the two all day long, but I’ll try to keep this short.

    Walking Dead is nowhere near the same league as Game of Thrones. Talking only writing here…

    Every season, every episode of GoT is fantastic. It’s constantly building on what came before and ramping up the stakes without ever crossing into the ridiculous.

    The first season of TWD is great. The second half of Season 4 was also surprisingly good. Everything in between blows pretty hard. I almost stopped watching it in Season 4, but am glad I stuck around, because they are finally starting to dig deeper than “OMG A ZOMBIE KILL IT!”

    Somehow, GoT makes the source material better. The limited POV of the books is broken on the show, as we get scenes between characters that we would never get in the books. Watching the show is like reading the books for a second time and getting insider info. It also stays very close to the source material, but here’s the important part: Any changes made to it are typically for the better!

    TWD comics are awesome. They are a perfect blueprint for a television show, so it’s such a bummer that the creators pretty much throw them out the window. The fact that the comics are so much more complex, entertaining, action packed, ground breaking, deep and emotional, while being made on a smaller canvas compared to a television show, says a lot about how much the show misses opportunities left and right. And any changes made to it are typically for the worse.

    GoT is second to none when it comes to character work. Every single character is deep and complex and fascinating. Every. Single. One. I could talk for days about any character on the show. Oh, and there are over 30 of them.

    This is the area where, to put it bluntly, TWD sucks. Season 1 had some great character work. The second half of Season 4 did as well. Everything else in between, not so much. Tell me 5 things about Daryl other than physical characteristics or something like “He uses a crossbow.” How about Carol? Michonne? Anything you name was probably in Season 1 or the second half of season 4. I mean, Tyreese has been around for two entire seasons and we don’t know a thing about him.

    GoT has phenomenally complex characters. Jaime Lannister is a prime example. He’ll do something terrible, and then something great, and you always know why. We understand the motivations for every action he takes.

    Compare that to the Governor in TWD. He’ll do something terrible, then he’ll do something kind of good, and people think that makes him complex. No, that makes him inconsistent because we never understand why he does the things he does. I can make a dude save a child and then kill his mother, but that doesn’t make him complex. That’s just having a character do things for no reason. What was the point of making Maggie take off her shirt in Season 3? Why does he like some people but then hate others? We rarely understand a thing he does.

    Do I need to tell you how GoT is groundbreaking?

    I can’t think of what TWD has done that I’ve truly thought “Well I haven’t seen THAT before!”

    Every character on GoT is important in some way. They all have a part to play and they all affect the plot. They are all active and their actions have consequences.

    Many TWD characters have long chunks of wasted screen time. Andrea in Season 3 didn’t do crap except flirt with the Governor. Herschel just advises Rick on shit. Tyreese is there for muscle. Lori stood around for an entire season and looked mad about stuff so they killed her because she had no reason to be on the show. Maggie exists for no reason whatsoever other than giving Glenn something to do.

    Every action on GoT has consequences. The entire plot is one big domino effect. Jaime pushes Bran, so Catelyn takes Tyrion, so Jaime attacks Ned, etc.

    TWD does this to a point, but so many other things are just swept under the rug. How did Judith disappearing affect the plot in any way? Merle or T-Dog dying? The CDC pathologist’s discoveries about the zombies?

    I could go on, but these are the biggest reasons that stand out to me. GoT isn’t without its problems, but there are a ton more problems with TWD. Sure TWD is simpler, but that in no way makes it better. GoT accomplishes more with plot and character in half an episode than TWD does in an entire season.

    • charliesb

      I think I can agree with most of your points on GoT except this one:

      Every single character is deep and complex and fascinating. Every. Single. One.

      I don’t want to pull out a list of characters that I find boring on GoT, because at the end of the day it’s subjective. I despise Daenerys and love Jorah and most people will disagree with me. But I would like you to tell me what is deep and complex about

      1. Ser Barristan
      2. Ramsay Bolton
      3. Samwell Tarly
      4. Jon Snow

      And not based on the characters they are in the book (Snow happens to be my fave) but as they have been presented through the last 4 seasons of the show.

      As for the character points you brought up about TWD.

      Tell me 5 things about Daryl other than physical characteristics or something like “He uses a crossbow.” How about Carol? Michonne? Anything you name was probably in Season 1 or the second half of season 4. I mean, Tyreese has been around for two entire seasons and we don’t know a thing about him.


      1. Loyal to a fault
      2. Had a complicated relationship with his mother(alcoholic) that has led to complicated relationship with a motherly type character (Carol)
      3. Is amazing at surviving on his own, but HATES to be on his own
      4. Was beaten by his father and abandoned by his brother
      5. Is craving male fatherly/brotherly acceptance


      1. Is very good at living in a state of denial
      2. Is extremely adaptable to her circumstances
      3. Wishes she had had the strength to kill her husband
      4. Finds it difficult to accept responsibility for her own action and inaction
      5. Ok fine, Carol only has 4, if I don’t count the last half of season 4.


      1. Has strange taste in art
      2. Believes strongly in retribution
      3. Believes Hoe’s before Bro’s
      4. Despite her angry exterior, is very nurturing and protective
      5. Has a great sense of humour

      Tyrese appeared in the second half of season 3, most of what we learned about him was in season 4. Season 3 was a bit of a mess because the show runner was fired.

      1. Hot headed
      2. Has very little hope in him
      3. Thinks he’s got game
      4. Doesn’t like killing zombies
      5. Protective of his sister (to a point)

      • Nicholas J

        Props for actually listing things about TWD characters! But I feel like you stretched a bit. And keep in mind those are central characters (minus maybe Tyreese) that have had hours of screen time. The fact you listed things like “doesn’t like killing zombies” and “has a great sense of humor” after watching hours of character development says a lot.

        As for GoT, I too love Jorah (fantastic character) over Daenerys, but she is still great.

        As for the others, being brief here…


        IMO Ser Barristan is a baller. He hasn’t had much actual screen time (it’s seriously probably less than 15 minutes) and his time is still coming, but his depth has been explored a bit. He wants nothing more than to serve a great leader. He’s spent his time serving drunks and maniacs, and finally has a place next to someone he believes in in Dany. He is very prideful and so being the first one removed from the Kingsguard was very humiliating for him, and is what drove him to forsake everything he has ever believed in and seek out what he believes to be a true leader in Dany.

        Ramsay Bolton is as sadistic as they come, finding enjoyment in manipulating and bending others to his will through sick and torturous methods. He has no regard for human life and people are basically his play thing. Yet at the same time, he has daddy issues. His entire motivation in everything he does is seeking his father’s acceptance. His sadistic nature also comes from his father, but in a less subtle way. He will literally do anything to be seen as a true Bolton.

        Samwell Tarly is the epitome of a scared coward. He’s much more suited for the library than for the sword, but he has his moments of brilliance. He’s never been accepted anywhere in his life, so when he finally has brothers and a babe, he discovers parts of himself he never knew he had in him, and is slowly progressing toward becoming a suitable Watcher of the Wall, which seems to be the thing he desires most next to love.

        I’m running out of time so do I have to tell you what makes Jon Snow fascinating? He’s actually one of my least favorite characters but I think the answers to this are obvious.

        And if you REALLY want to see the difference, start thinking about character arcs and how GoT characters have changed compared to TWD characters.

        • charliesb

          Well I was trying to be brief. :) I could go deeper with my write ups and bring up the exact episodes and moments to explain my descriptions, but I don’t know if anyone here would find that interesting except me. ;)

          Also I think for Tyrese I probably should have put “is freaked out by killing zombies” It’s an interesting characteristic, because he’s the size of a house and looks like someone who wouldn’t get unnerved very easily.

          I feel like your descriptions of Ramsay and Barristan are accurate, but have not been explored on the screen. If I asked a person who has not read the books but watches the show, I don’t believe they would paint as deep a picture as you did.

          I feel like very few characters have “arc-ed” on GoT (as of yet), in fact it is their refusal to change and grow that has led to many downfalls. But Jaimie, Tyrion and Sansa have had great character growth and development (Sansa only this season).

          On TWD sadly only Rick has had a really great and interesting character arc IMO and probably Carol. Other characters have changed, Carl, Daryl, Michonne, Glen but not in a way that was as satisfying. The Governor had an arc I guess, but it was kind of a mess and I liked it a lot less than the others.

          • Nicholas J

            If I asked a person who has not read the books but watches the show, I don’t believe they would paint as deep a picture as you did.

            I agree with this, but that doesn’t mean the info isn’t in the show. There is just so much going on and it is a lot to keep straight that a casual watcher will miss many details. But at the same time that’s what makes it awesome. You could seriously watch each episode fifty times and still gain new insights. Most Walking Dead episodes I watch once and then never feel the need to revisit.

          • bruckey

            The Governor’s comeback as Brian was a little bit messy

          • hickeyyy

            As a show watcher and not a book reader, I agree completely with Nicholas J. I have watched through GoT (two times, actually, to get my GF caught up) and I caught all those characteristics he listed.

            Meanwhile, I am a Walking Dead reader and watcher, and I know things about, for example, Tyrese that many don’t. For instance, he used to be a NFL player for the Falcons but only played a couple years before having a shoulder injury that took him out.

            That’s a minor detail, realistically, but still; I know a TON about GoT characters from the show, and I know very little about TWD characters based on the show.

    • Kirk Diggler

      I agree with point 3, it’s the main reason it’s a better show than TWD. Great character work. Except Stanis. Stanis is just a bore. Everyone around Stanis is great though. But it might be a Jessica Rabbit thing. Is he boring, or is he just written that way?

      • Nicholas J

        I think Stannis is a great character, but he’s not really for me. I find him rather boring as well. One thing I do love about him though is his belief that no good deed washes out the bad. For instance he can reward Davos for his service to him, yet he chops off his fingers for the very same reason. It’s a pretty cool conflict in his character.

  • Midnight Luck

    A. B. Or Option 3?
    I’m going with 3.

    I am sure no one really gives a shit about my impression, since i tend to not fall in line, but, whatever.
    If anyone does happen to care:

    I think i got through one episode of Game OT, but it just doesn’t have anything vaguely interesting for me. I don’t remember a thing from it, except some vague image of a guy on a horse being chased? Him or someone else crushing heads? I don’t know. Just images i barely remember. Yes i need to give it more of a chance i am sure, but all i got from it was boredom. I hate exposition, there is always a better way. And battles and names and Lord of the Rings bullshit-oh-my, i find aggravating and just poor all around.

    Then there is the Zombie one, tried three times to get through the 1st episode and plain couldn’t seem to do it. Poor poor writing. Bland and uninteresting across the board. Again i am sure i need to give it more time, but when it is utterly painful to get through, half an episode is all i can do. Bad filmmaking, bad characters, bad writing. I actually like the ideas of Zombies, and really enjoyed Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland, but they were fun and well crafted. This just feels like shite.

    If u put either of these shows up against Breaking Bad well, we are talking stratosphere of difference. No contest.

    So shows now? Orange, Halt and catch fire, and Mad Men. I am enjoying Mad the most probably, but just barely. Halt is gaining and getting even better 9 episodes in, Orange is always good, but second season didn’t pack quite the punch or interest of the first. Still miles ahead of Dead or Game though.

    So, wouldn’t choose one over the other. I think both have poor writing for different reasons.

    • charliesb

      I can accept you disliking TWD, or GoT, but I just can’t get behind you saying that Orange is the New black is miles ahead of either. It’s ridiculous and insulting in so many ways and the exact kind of programming that the main character (Piper) would think is great and edgy.

      • Midnight Luck

        Sorry to have insulted you. Not my intention. Just giving my honest thoughts.

        Everyone has their likes and dislikes. Mine differ from yours.

        I find Orange to be interesting and many of the relationships intriguing. The writing is strong, the situations well set up, the characterization is great, all and all well rounded.
        Doesn’t have the action of the other two, and no Zombies or Mythical creatures, so, I guess that must be where it doesn’t cut it for others.

        Who wants to watch a bunch of Women in prison?

        • charliesb

          Sorry, I didn’t mean that you were insulting, I think the show can be pretty insulting. I think the show suffers from an over simplistic and small minded stereotypical view of the types of women in prison.

          It can be fun, and some of the interactions between characters are genuinely moving. But the extremely bad racial, economical and educational text and subtext in the show is extremely unfortunate.

          • Midnight Luck

            No problem.
            I will have to consider what you are saying. I don’t feel that the show is being small minded and stereotypical. However I am also not of any of the races they may stereotype. So it may not be as obvious to me. I may not pick up on the things those of specific races might.

            I do think though, that many of the things the show plays off of, that could be considered insulting, are actually done for a reason. To show that it is not considered an issue to the Guards, the other people in the prison of other races, even to certain people of the same race. That pigeon holing people, that assumptions, and generalizations, and racism as a whole, do happen all the time. That racism from the people in power, from gangs of a different race, even the same race, all occur to shift the power, to gain control, to belittle, to create fear.
            I don’t see it done in an insulting way, or in a simplistic way.

            But, as I said, I will have to think about it and look at it closer. Consider what you are saying, and see if I am glazing over or possibly missing something.

    • Nicholas J

      Can we get some actual examples or are you just giving empty opinions? I’d love to know why you consider one of the best pilot episodes ever made (Walking Dead) to be bad filmmaking and writing.

    • Magga

      Halt and Catch Fire has had some pretty bad and inconsistent writing too, though. It is getting better, last two eps were very entertaining, but the likable uncle of a boss hiring his cop buddies to beat up a guy for being a jerk? The programmer digging a hole in the garden looking for the giant? Is he a lunatic or not? The show couldn’t quite seem to decide, until now when they decided to be more of a fun romp, which works well. Mad Men is consistent genius

    • drifting in space

      The problem with Halt is not the writing or the show’s premise; I think it’s the casting choices. The main guy is just too cheeseball. The punk chick is too cliche. I like the underdog guy, and the scenes with him and his wife are somewhat realistic for what they are going through.

      I find myself loving the show, hating the cast.

      [EDIT] My wife watches OITNB and GoT and prefers GoT, with OITNB a very close second. Then again, she also loves Parenthood, which is a show I cannot get into.

      • Midnight Luck

        I am not sure I agree.

        The Punk Chick (Mackenzie Davis as Cameron Howe) is so in line with the 80’s. If you have ever seen SOME KIND OF WONDERFUL she even looks just like Mary Stuart Masterson. Same hair cut, same punk attitude. I think the characters fit the time period. It might seem cliche now, but might not have been during that time period. Just like any scantily clad female singer acting sexually onstage might seem cliched, well, in the 80’s MADONNA began that shit. She was not cliche, she invented so much of it. So, if you look at anyone doing her kind of performance now they probably seem so cliched, which they are. However, if you saw a TV show about a Pop star like her, you would also feel it was so cliched, because we have been inundated with it for so long now, but if it takes place in that time period, she wasn’t a cliche, she was highly, highly original.

        I agree, the main guy is a bit over the top and does contain some cheese. But as the story goes on he makes more sense and becomes less gorgonzola.

        I know not everyone is going to love it because it is about building computers and building systems which seem to most people as exciting as the invention of the bucket for carrying water. But I love the realistic interpretation of the time period. The playing off of the idea everything was so important, without using the catnip excitement of greed like Wolf of Wallstreet shoving Mazerati’s and Billions of dollars down our collective greed feeding throats. No they are stressing over $1200 and 256k Ram. They were going to the big show Comdex with almost no one there. They were Geeks and Tech Nerds (no disrespect to anyone in the field) before that became a badge of honor and prestige as it is now.

        I like the casting choices. I really like Scoot McNairy’s (Gordon Clarke: the underdog guy) wife Kerry Bishé (Donna Clarke), as the Brilliant tech wife who keeps saving the day yet is very undervalued by almost everyone and gets payed very little. She is fantastic.

  • GYAD

    Sorry, they both suck.

    GoT consists of nothing but exposition, skinny women with their tops off and shock character deaths which aren’t so shocking once you realise that they always happen to reverse the obvious story (i.e. the son should avenge his father’s murder…but instead he’s killed).

    Even the supposedly Machiavellian politics are pathetic compared to the work of someone like Alfred Duggan in novels – sorry, he never got adapted for TV – like “Leopards and Lilies” or “Three’s Company”. That’s really great writing.

    As for The Walking Dead, it’s just a bunch of Yanks wandering around the woods and every so often a zombie tries to kill them. Compared to the mayhem of a zombie flick like “28 Days Later” it’s snooze worthy. Americans are too comfortable to do the apocalypse properly.

    In terms of putting characters in terrible situations, still nothing beats The Shield.

    • Malibo Jackk

      “GoT consists of nothing but…, skinny women with their tops off and….”

      Thank goodness for Fast Forward.

      “As for The Walking Dead,… every so often a zombie tries to kill them.”

      Thank goodness for FF.

    • ArabyChic

      Just out of curiosity, what shows do you like?

      • GYAD

        Recent shows: Longmire, Graceland, The Shield, Love/Hate, Jack Taylor, Jack Irish, Mad Dogs, Strike Back, Braquo, Engrenages, The Killing (DK), Les Revenants, Inspector Montalbano, A Young Doctor’s Notebook, Rev, Life.

        • Nate

          Strike Back? Come on, dude. You can’t say one show sucks because it’s full of skinny women with their tops off and then go on to mention another show you like that does the exact same thing.
          From what I’ve seen of GoT (which admittedly isn’t a whole lot), the sex scenes help develop the characters (for example, Khaleesi going from scared, submissive girl to becoming a bit more dominant).
          Strike Back is full of it just because the lead characters are sex pests. Every single episode has at least one scene where Scott gets his end away with the episodes supporting female (hotel manager, rebel leader, reporter, Czech intelligence analyst, Israeli assassin). His first scene showed him bending a hooker over a table.

          • GYAD

            Yeah, but sex wasn’t my only problem with GoT. I’m quite happy to admit that Strike Back has terrible, porny sex scenes — but that isn’t why I watch the show; I like the characters, the action and the banter.

            At the end of an episode of SB I feel like I’ve been entertained. At the end of an episode of GoT I feel like someone has just read me the telephone directory.

    • Nicholas J

      skinny women with their tops off and shock character deaths

      Okay, so what about the other 95% of the show’s content?

      • GYAD

        Exposition, like I said.

    • brenkilco

      Never heard of Duggan, though apparently he was fairly prolific and quite popular in the fifties. Was his popularity largely limited to England? Course lots of bestselling authors of historical fiction and doorstop sized bestsellers get forgotten. Rafael Sabatini, Alan Drury. But their names still ring a vague bell. This guy. No clue. Is his stuff still in print?

      • GYAD

        I’m not sure how popular he was overseas but even in the UK he’s fairly obscure. Thankfully he has a loyal following which means that most of his novels have been reprinted fairly recently and can be bought cheap.

  • Randy Williams

    Haven’t had the pleasure of watching those shows. Lots of useful points in the article, however, on creating compelling drama. Thanks.

    Having no idea who’s in that picture on top, then, I’ll caption it,

    “Orlando Bloom and Emma Watson’s love child”

  • Somersby

    Carson reviewed the pilot script for GoT back in March of 2011.
    I remember being taken with the writing, especially since the script introduced a legion of characters—all with unusual sounding names (therefore not at all easy to remember.) Still, the script was a compelling read and I managed to have a pretty clear idea of what just happened…without being able to recall many of the characters’ names.

    For me, that was a testament to good writing.

    I’ve watched every episode of the series, and I have to agree with Carson on one point. There is an abundance of “telling” scenes—and because of the high character count and infrequency with which some of the characters appear, it’s easy to get lost. For example, Robert Baratheon, King of Westeros, has a brother who has an apparent legitimate claim to the throne. But the brother (Stannis) has been in only 16 of the forty broadcast episodes—and in comparatively short, dense scenes, at that.

    “Who is that again?” would be my frequent question during viewings of the series.

    “It’s Robert’s brother. I think.”

    Good enough.

    HBO has succeeded in making GoT event television, to coin a marketing phrase. Not sure how they managed it, but it seems to work. I find myself watching not so much because of the story (I know I’m going to be asking “Who’s that again?” at some point in every episode), but because most of my friends watch it and I don’t want to be the one feeling left out.

    That’s kinda sad. I know.

    But I could easily drop the series if something better came along.

    And that’s a testament to writing that’s not so good anymore.

    I loved the first season of Walking Dead. It was a fresh take on an old standard. Plus, there was a lot of fun to be had in meeting the new characters (most with easy-to-remember-names.)

    And it was BIG. Lots of action. Tons of locations. A whole CITY being overrun by zombies. Cool.

    Then season 2 put us basically in ONE location. A rural farm. A few new characters, some interesting relationship dynamics, but the action consisted of one thing. Slaying zombies.

    And boy, did they slay zombies. Every episode. Bullets, swords, knives, spikes—you name it—to the brain in a thousand colorful ways. And the sound effects! Wow. It seemed to be the only thing keeping me awake.

    By season three I want to check out, but Misses Somersby still wanted to watch. (Who am I to argue?) By the end of that season I was praying that someone, anyone, would put a spike through MY brain.

    Still, like a zombie, I’ll probably watch the next season… cause that’s what we dead people do. :-)

  • drifting in space

    Game of Thrones for life, y’all. My opinion is the only one that matters.

    • drifting in space

      Especially since GoT ALSO has zombies. TWD only has zombies. So…. better bang for your buck.

      • Awescillot

        Boom! Drop the mic and leave the building. Can’t argue with ‘dat.

        • drifting in space

          That’s how I roll.

  • Awescillot

    1. The reason I stopped watching TWD was the shift in what they were actually fighting against. First, you had the zombies and there was actual suspense when they encountered walkers. The season where they were at Hershel’s farm, and the season where we met the governor, I enjoyed those as well.

    But after that (I don’t know when exactly, in which season), it was more about this social and psychological point of view. And the walkers, they were just killing them as if it was nothing. And it sucked. Overdramatizing the situation, the walkers not even being a big threat. Just talking about their feelings and all. I couldn’t care less what happened to them all from that moment on.

    That has to be a choice in writing as well. Structuring your seasons in such a way.

    2. I’ll take the side of GOT. If you’re complaining about it being too complicated, stop watching it. The story simply requires you to keep up with the characters. Just because you have to do so, doesn’t mean it’s worse than TWD. Just because TWD is more simple to understand, doesn’t make it better. It just has to do with your willingness to invest in a story/show.

  • Paul Clarke

    In Carson’s defense he hasn’t watched enough GOT and it is a slow build. But that’s part of it’s value. Because anyone can die and any time it makes it way more interesting. When it slows down and nothing is happening (where another show would be boring) it actually builds a sense of dread. The less that seems like is happening, the worse shit is about to go down. It took 2-3 season to get to that point, and along the way there were some slow moments, but it was worth it.

    Walking Dead on the other hand is the show with the most infuriating characters in the world. These people are morons, full stop. Only Daryl, Michone, and maybe Glen would have survived 3 episodes. In the first season they drove round in soft top cars, with the windows down, into dead end situations surrounded by zombies. Every episode I wish Rick and his stupid kid would die, that’s what keeps me watching!

  • RafaelSilvaeSouza

    Love both shows, but there’s one thing that Game of Thrones does better than The Walking Dead: the climaxes. TWD builds, builds, and then it simply doesn’t deliver. Let’s take the Governor, for instance: we get an entire season building this tension, promising this war, and then in the final episode nothing really happens, and the Governor shoots his own people and flees? Really? And when he comes back with the tank in the following season, it still isn’t that satisfying. Heck, the way he died was so clumsy I thought he would still appear as a zombie later. Meanwhile, almost every episode of GoT has something great happening.

  • brenkilco

    If you’re only halfway through Season 2 and you already think there are too many characters and too many confusing plots, I have some advice. You need to stop watching now.

  • Gregory Mandarano

    For all you Game of Thrones lovers – I wrote an epic fantasy novel in the same vein as GoT that’s published on kindle and will soon be on paperback. I was inspired by ADWD the fifth ASOIAF book.

    For scriptshadow faithful im willing to hook anyone up with a free copy in exchange for an honest amazon review if you read it.

    You can email me or buy it (if you want) through the book’s website TheDeadStar.com

  • bex01

    I haven’t watched much of The Walking Dead so can’t really comment fairly, but the reason I marvel at the Game of Thrones writing is because of how they construct their scenes. Yes, some scenes may just be two or three characters talking in a room, but I feel like even these scenes have an arc in themselves. And the way they turn scenes – one character can start out with the power at the beginning, then by the end of the scene it sits with another character. GoT does this so well! I want to give so many examples but, you know, spoilers and all that, so I’ll leave it. But so many scenes in GoT jump to mind as being ridiculously memorable, and I’m sure many will agree

    • drifting in space


  • Gregory Mandarano


    Since no one else mentioned it, I will have the honors.


    The Grand Northern Conspiracy!


    And the Meereenese Knot!


    Two essential reads for anyone who has read all the books or doesnt care about spoilers. The reality is that grrm is an absolute genius at foreshadowing and has woven laywers over layers to hide the true plot of whats going on. There are hidden conspiracies with all the clue’s in plain sight. It just takes a bit of skill to untangle it. And I’m not talkimg about R + L = J

  • Midnight Luck

    Also, I forgot to add it to my other lis of best shows, but with the long break since the first season I spaced it. My other favorite that is on NOW is:

    Masters of Sex

    another well written, intriguing, great show. Has shades of Mad Men as it looks at and plays with the disparities between men and women during the time period. Along with, of course, the enormous feelings around sex, and the utter fear of sexuality, especially female sexuality. (and the fear of homosexuality, and the body, and pleasure, and orgasms, and well, just about anything good that might be pleasurable)

    top notch I believe.

    • Magga

      It was very good in the first season, but the second is a huge leap forward. Brilliant TV

      • Midnight Luck

        I just started 2nd season, it seems good, but you feel it upped the ante even more and is even better than the 1st?

        It does seem good, just wondered what you felt made it even better.

  • http://twitter.com/RobertCornero Robert Cornero

    I couldn’t watch The Walking Dead after Darabont left. So much lost potential. So many bewildering decisions. So many lost opportunities after season one, especially if you’re familiar with the comics. They really took the “safe” route on some of their choices.

    YMS did a great series on it, especially when he starts talking about the stupidity of the characters in the episode with the zombie in the well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DDbi7P93Np8

    With that in mind, the Walking Dead game by Telltale is pretty fantastic, and even better than that is The Wolf Among Us. Seriously great storytelling there.

  • Panos Tsapanidis

    Well, for starters, I’ve seen one and a half season of the Walking Dead and all seasons of GoT.

    The reason I stopped watching TWD was the constant NAGGING. Everyone was bitching (with Rick’s wife being the champion). It got sooo freaking annoying that I checked out.

    I think if Carson would want to make a comparison between the two shows then he would have to either see all seasons of both shows or one of each.

    The way I compare these totally different shows is by asking my self ‘if I could only see one of the two shows, which one would that be?’ And the answer is GoT. It’s different from the GSU-natured shows that has been coming out for years.

    In terms of writing, the plot twists of the 3rd and 4th GoT seasons are mind-blowing and the characters are lightyears ahead of those I met in the first 1 and half TWD seasons.

    • drifting in space

      The latest season of GoT was just…. mmmmm. Fantastic.

  • Panos Tsapanidis

    So, Carson, after watching the 4th season of GoT, should we be waiting for an article about how misled you were?

  • Magga

    I feel like it’s my pop cultural responsibility to watch all of Game of Thrones so I don’t get left out of conversations and such, but man, it’s tough. I’m streaming it on HBOnordic and when I was about to watch episode five it took me thirty minutes to realize I was watching the fifth episode of season 4. I didn’t even react to all new people being on the screen or someone trying to get someone I ever heard of out of prison, because everything I had seen so far mattered so little to me. On the other hand, TWD is all about zombies, so my vote goes to GOT.

  • ChadStuart

    I don’t get it. I guess the bar for “good writing” has been lowered a bit. I’m not going to argue that both of these shows aren’t suspenseful, but the ability to create a tense situation is not good writing, in my opinion.

    What is good writing? Well, writing that challenges you. Writing that makes you rethink your worldview.

    For instance, “American Beauty” is extremely well written because it makes you ask questions about your own life, about the pursuit of material wealth at the expense of personal connections. It’s well written because it juxtaposes Lester’s personal awakening with that of his wife’s emotional deadness. It juxtaposes Jamie’s desires (a superficial boob job) with that of her new boyfriend who looks for beauty between the cracks of life.

    “Unforgiven” is well written because it challenges our ideas of good and evil. Little Bill is the law, but is clearly corrupt. Will (love how they have the same name, but go by the different iterations), is an outlaw as he’s assassinated hundreds of men, but he’s an honest and just character. It challenges you to rethink your ideas of justice, especially in a genre – the western – that is historically so white hat black hat, that it spawned the idiom white hat black hat.

    I think we as amateur writers can get so bogged down in the mechanics of writing, the structure of storytelling, that we forget to infuse our work with souls. Carson mentioned a few weeks back that producers were looking for stories with more substance. This is what he meant. He wants more than a well structured story with clever, suspenseful scenes. That’s not great writing. That’s competent writing. Great writing makes the reader/audience look back into themselves and ask some uncomfortable questions.

    • walker

      “I guess the bar for ‘good writing’ has been lowered a bit.” Brilliant use of comic understatement.

    • Midnight Luck

      I completely agree. Well said.

    • mulesandmud

      If you admire UNFORGIVEN (as we all should), I think Game of Thrones has a lot to offer you. One of its major thematic goals is to constantly complicate the idea of right and wrong, not just in the cause and effect of its plot, but in the intentions of its characters.

      It’s a complex moral landscape, one that really understands what a scene should be: a dramatic moment in which conflict reveals new character dimensions. The tension of the show rarely comes from manufactured external danger (nearly always the case in The Walking Dead, as in most action movies, and admittedly satisfying at times), but rather from the spiderweb of intersecting relationships, and the inevitable-but-unexpected actions and reactions they cause.

      Also, if we can talk Unforgiven for a second, I wouldn’t call Little Bill corrupt. He’s a principled man, trying to be civil (“I was building a house…”), but ultimately his job demands stark brutality that makes him more like the outlaws he fights than the people he’s protecting.

  • Pooh Bear

    TWD was so inconsistent after season 1. They spent so much time looking for Sophia and it got dull. I love zombies but the writers on this show are lazy imo. They pretty much stole the Road Warriors scene when Humongas was at the gates, the Governor at the gates. I watch the show and love it, but I grown at the played out tropes sometimes. In its defense, the show has picked up in later seasons.

    Game of Thrones is complex, creative, new and unpredictable. As one critic described it, it’s the Middle Earth Sopranos.

    Anyway, Breaking Bad trumps all. I win.

  • Poe_Serling

    Someone needs to post a script that features Porrrrt-land for this week’s AF slot.

    • Bluedust

      I have a script with the Dance of the Raspberries in it. You guessed it, it’s a horror.

  • mulesandmud

    The yes-it-is/no-it-isn’t aspect of this conversation is just comment bait, but there are definitely interesting comparisons to draw between TWD and GOT.

    Both are based on long-running, as-yet-unfinished printed works, and were developed for TV with close collaboration from the original creators. However, whereas Game of Thrones remains fairly devoted to the blueprint of the novels, The Walking Dead has taken on more of a remix approach, cherry-picking major characters, key plot points, and iconic elements and reorganizing them into new storylines that occasionally intersect the comic book story without quite matching or trying to match.

    Both series are actually ensemble melodramas (not a dirty word) wrapped in supernatural genre clothes (zombies and high fantasy, respectively). Both claim to offer a more grounded, gritty, or realistic approach to their genres than what has come prior. Both keep the audience guessing with abrupt pendulum swings from long monologues to sudden violence.

    I’ve been reading The Walking Dead since its early days as a comic book, and have watched Kirkman’s writing develop from derivative to masterful; I think this gives me a fundamental bias against the show. The series began as a functional adaptation, then devolved into garbage by the end of season one (the CDC is the worst of several plotlines that suggested AMC and friends simply didn’t understand the strength of the material). Season two at least found a steady rhythm and a few good plot turns, though the characters treaded water the whole time. I checked out early in Season three, which also seemed perfectly functional, but hardly ever gave me the kind of knotty dread that everyone raves about.

    I’ve never cracked any of the Game of Thrones books, but gave the first episode a shot and was instantly bored, mostly by the quasi-medieval setting. I stayed away for a few years as my friends endorsed it (mostly for the nudity?), then bit by bit caught a glimpse of a scene here, an episode there, and gradually realized that everything I saw was brilliantly executed. I’m all caught up now, and eagerly await the fifth season. The characters and ideas continue to evolve, and the dialogue and scene construction are second to none. Here is a show that will teach the meaning and value of subtext.

    I think I gave up on The Walking Dead because I had lost faith completely that the show knew where it was going, even though I probably know from reading the books. Ironically, I have absolutely no idea where Game of Thrones is going, but that doesn’t bother me at all; I feel a storyteller guiding me somewhere, even if it may take a decade.

  • All Crap

    Either show is crap. What a worthless exercise steeped in the sauce of Carson’s ego. Who gives a shit? Like really.

    • carsonreeves1

      Either show or both shows?

  • dawriter67

    I cannot comment on Game of Thrones as I do not subscribe to HBO but I’m a huge geek fan of the Walking Dead. I was unsure about watching it but after hearing the buzz on it, I started watching the first two seasons or so on netflick and TMC to catch up – I watched 14 hours straight while all alone in my house as the wife and kids went on vacation.

    Um…don’t do that again.

    My favorite episode of Walking Dead is The Grove – it was absolutely gut wrenching. I equate it to ER – “Love’s Labor Lost” when Anthony Edwards character breaks down on the L after trying to save a mother but failing to do so but did save the baby.

    Oh man..fucking great writing.

  • JWF

    Game of Thrones isn’t confusing if you actually pay attention…

    • drifting in space


    • carsonreeves1

      I not only pay attention, I’ll rewind and rewatch all the key scenes and still be confused. I may be the exception though?

      • drifting in space

        It may help to read the first book. It really helps if you are getting lost in the characters. After that, the remaining seasons are much easier to follow.

        I agree, the first season is daunting. It gets (WAY WAY WAY WAY) better.

      • mulesandmud

        Can you give an example of something that confused you, Carson? Please be specific (those who want to avoid spoilers can skip this thread).

        I find that the show often intentionally pushes the limits of what we understand and which names we recognize as part of a very particular world-building tactic: it makes us aware that there are relevant pieces moving off screen, but doesn’t take the time to outline many of those pieces too clearly, so that we feel the largeness of Westeros and the complexity of its politics.

  • Jake Gott

    I liked the first two seasons of The Walking Dead more than the first two seasons of Game of Thrones because I don’t think Game of Thrones really figured out the “sweet spot” for layering the plots of all these characters until midway through season 3. Once they found the right amount of how much to focus on one character/their plot per episode then everything started coming together. The first 3 season premieres are pretty complicated and they don’t do the best job of doling out the info. Season 4 of GOT is pretty solid all the way through and I think it’s because they’re focusing on less characters than before (but maybe that’s easy to do when you’ve spent three seasons killing off characters)

    Season 3 is when The Walking Dead lost me. I didn’t care for The Governor. He was the start of me not liking the show anymore. Season 4 started out interesting but midway through that I gave up. I didn’t even see them reach Terminus. It wasn’t worth the investment anymore.

    There’s only so many ways to show these characters running from zombies and fighting amongst themselves and I think they started focusing way too much on character development and forgot to give them an exciting new thing to deal with while they’re developing.

    So for me I guess GOT gets the win but since it took a while to find itself, and since Walking Dead took a while to lose me, it’s not a huge win.

    Breaking Bad still beats them all. :)

  • Scott Strybos

    Has anyone read the script for St. Vincent? I think the script has been around for a while, may have been on the Black List 2011. I want to know if it is any good because the trailer looks like a lot of fun.

    • ElectricDreamer

      I’ve read the script and enjoyed it. Still have the PDF around here somewhere.

  • Andy Meyers

    As with most posting, I think Game of Thrones is written better than The Walking Dead and I think the very things that creates great SCENES is the thing that exposes weaknesses in the writing as a whole. I’ll explain.

    The Walking Dead often creates fantastic situations, but it will sometimes undermine character and logic to get to those situations. As a result, the show as a whole sometimes feels forced, even though a specific situation may be very dramatic.

    Let’s take the example that Carson used, where Rick sends his son and Michonne to get food while he takes a nap. That scene comes shortly after several episodes where Rick demands that they HAVE to stay together. While Rick’s reversal creates a very dramatic scene, it requires Rick to be a different character than he was just a few episodes ago. That creates a certain sense that the show is arbitrary, since these characters might just willy-nilly take an unmotivated stand. That stand may cause an incredibly dramatic situation, but because it comes from a character reversal, it seems forced. That’s why the show repeatedly keeps people coming back (to find out how the situation ends) even as it leaves many viewers unsatisfied (because the show seems arbitrary).

    Game of Thrones is much better at the gradual change of character and building to a surprising turn of events. The conflicts feel more organic because they often come from characters irreconcilable differences. And while every episode doesn’t have the same clarity of goal, it does maintain interest while keeping momentum for the gigantic dramatic moments.

    Ironically, I think much of the difference comes from the fact that The Walking Dead is clear and has fewer characters. If we know what each person is doing and why in season 1, then it’s harder for events in Season 3 to remain consistent with those clearly defined events and characters. It means that the show needs characters to be inconsistent in order to create new dynamics. In GOT, we can add a character to stir up the pot. Or, if character motivation is only implied early on, it’s easier to reveal different motives in later seasons.

    So, the very things that make The Walking Dead compelling and captivating in small pieces are the same things that make it less well-written as a whole. The writing in GOT does a better job at preserving the long-term story while keeping individual episodes watchable.

  • pmlove

    On GoT and exposition – GRRM actually uses this to his advantage with the unreliable narrator. It isn’t exposition if you can’t trust it.

    • Midnight Luck

      a comprehensive description and explanation of an idea or theory.
      “the exposition and defense of his ethics”

      — it is still exposition. Exposition is exposition is exposition, in my book. going on with on the nose V.O., or discussion between characters with absolutely no purpose aside from spilling information to the viewer, is exposition. It makes no difference whether it is real, manipulative, or false. It is still an information dump that would be better delivered through a visual or action oriented way. Something we can pick up on subtly as opposed to blatantly told via obvious verbiage.
      Now, I do understand that by making the exposition untrustworthy it can add another layer of interest and mystery or surprise.
      But it still is exposition, and is still a poorer form of storytelling to me.

      • pmlove

        Exposition in the story sense is more about the writer trying to convey something to the viewer. GoT plays with this though because, although a lot of the time it is that, it keeps you guessing as sometimes it’s just a character trying to convey something to another character.

        I suppose it’s a neat trick – someone said it on here a while ago, have your characters lie – as it keeps you interested far more than you would be if you were aware it was just the expo-dump expo-fest 2014. Once you know they might be lying, you’re on your toes trying to understand whether it’s real or not.

        In this case, I’d argue it’s not a poorer form of storytelling. At one point (who am I kidding, many points and perhaps beyond where the TV show is) we’re informed that character X died in this battle, or was killed by this person and it affects the character we’re watching. Do they now do action A or B as a result? Is the exposition real, or fake? Do I believe it? How will it impact? In this situation, simply showing me what did happen is far less interesting.

        • Midnight Luck

          Yes, I understand what you are saying. I get what Game is doing with the exposition. I am just saying that, even if they are doing fun inventive things and playing with people’s expectations and understanding of the exposition, it is still exposition.
          I applaud them for doing something interesting and different with it, but having verbal exposition is still not as good as having it setup in other ways. visual and sensory. Yes they can do things by playing with the language and expectations that might not be possible as quickly or in the same way visually. But they might be more possible visually. all depends on how it is approached.

          I don’t know that being informed that someone died in a battle carries any interest itself. Even hearing someone else killed someone doesn’t give the viewer any feeling of intrigue or doom, or wonder. It is just information. Then when you visually see that character, or something happens to give you the idea there is a possibility they are alive, that visual info excites, worries, stresses, or whatever other feeling, but it creates the base feelings inside of you. It gives the scene purpose. It adds drama and even Irony. Which you could do with dialogue or pure words, but they will never have the same impact as the visual. They can add to the visual, they can make the scene more powerful, but just telling the viewer what happened carries very little weight by itself. In the end, it is just information. It is just Exposition: A shortcut to tell the audience what the writer feels they need to know.

          • Kirk Diggler

            “Which you could do with dialogue or pure words, but they will never have the same impact as the visual. They can add to the visual, they can make the scene more powerful, but just telling the viewer what happened carries very little weight by itself.”

            This simply isn’t always true. There is a fair amount of exposition in this scene between Little Finger and Lord Varys. “Showing” it instead of telling it would in no way be better than hearing these two verbally joust.

  • AJMockler

    Even after 1.5 seasons, GoT was massively superior to TWD. But just to make sure you eventually get it right, Carson, please come back to this “debate” when you have watched all 4 series of GoT. Until then, this really is pointless.

  • Film_Shark

    Actually binge-watched the last season of ‘Game of Thrones.’ It’s brilliant. It has to be such a fun show to write for since there are so many directions to take the plot. Having seven kingdoms to play around with must keep the story ideas fresh.