Next Generation Fantasy TV is here. Why So Gloomy?

If the meaning of life were to be deduced from any work produced in 2022, it would be a Negroni Sbagliato. Or rather, an image of actors Emma D’Arcy and Olivia Cooke in a now-famous promotional video for HBOs. dragon houseThey discuss their favorite cocktails. D’Arcy approves of the Negroni Sbagliato, which is like a negroni but mutters “with prosecco in it,” in the mocking tone of someone describing a sex dream. Cooke’s eyes widen. “Ooh, great,” he exploded, looking genuinely dazed.

Thanks to social media, tens of millions of people watched this post. Many have reinvigorated it by harassing them with friends or bartenders to mix up a bitter spritz. The appeal of the video is both inexplicable and obvious. In the asymmetrical interaction of these two people – in the syncopation of syllables and pauses, in the counterpoints of posture and facial movements – lies an original story that cannot be put into words. Yet something familiar is conveyed: the magic and joy of human connection.

The clip of D’Arcy and Cooke’s cocktail talk feels as culturally influential as any scene in the movie. dragon housepart of $15 million game of Thrones This is the prequel starring the actors. The show was a hit by the numbers: 9.3 million viewers watched the Season 1 finale. But his predecessor thrones, reshaped a generation of TV viewers, inventing now common phrases while instilling a new taste for fantasy. (Do people realize they’re quoting Cersei Lannister? when are they “Do you choose violence”?) On the contrary, DragonHis greatest contribution to pop culture so far may have been the accidental popularization of Campari and bubbles.

This result reflects a strange 2022 trend: the expensively made and resolutely sullen fantasy TV. Immediately after DragonAugust premiere, Amazon launched Rings of PowerA preview of JRR Tolkien This Lord of the Rings fairy tale and the most expensive television series of all time. Disney multiple times throughout the year Star wars shows—the most stylish and best of all are spy thrillers Andor. Viewers were often confused by the explosive, CGI-laden action and slow, episodic storytelling. But the difference between spectacle and spark, seriousness and serious fun has never been more glaring.

To be clear, these series differed in many ways, including quality (Andor I was stuffed; Dragon I endured; Strength I forced myself to finish). Yet they all had a strikingly somber mood. Dialogue developed with ominous clichés or urgent whispers. The jokes were weak or absent. The characters tended to fit the archetype of the woeful hero, minimizing awkward balls, mischief, or cute sidekicks. Perhaps you could argue that this is what adult entertainment with lots of fantasies should be like: serious, like a Christopher Nolan movie. But TV has a unique ability to nurture viewers’ long-term investments; this is often by cultivating their love and, moreover, their admiration for the characters of a series. Fantasy should only increase this privilege.

Check out its great predecessor for this generation of shows: game of Thrones. The cinematic ambition, suspense-charged plot, and savagery of this series clearly continue to live on. But why did the audience really faint? thrones? The most important reasons were the sarcastic characters (Tyrion, Cersei, Jaime, Arya, Bronn, Brienne) and their ways of connecting. The jokes and shadowy looks that these nobles and rogues exchanged were not just comic relief. On the contrary, they created risks that strengthened the fantasy elements of the series. Aspect thrones As it progressed, every battle, magic ritual, and hideous torture scene had the potential to remake the series’ underlying soap opera-slash-sitcom.

Proponent of the significantly less cute dragon house He could argue that the show had to make compromises to meet its unique challenge: telling a story that has evolved over 19 years with huge time jumps between episodes. But as my colleague Shirley Li has argued, Dragon however, he could have done much more to make his most important relationship (between D’Arcy and Cooke’s characters) feel alive. Overall, the series seemed uninteresting in memorable dialogues or cute characters. The figure most similar to an anti-hero Jaime or Tyrion was the bad boy Prince Daemon, but he only communicates with cliché vulgarity and grimaces. In an impressive scene from the first episode Dragonaudiences caught the end of a crucial sentence King Viserys had said: “So I said to him, ‘Well, I believe he might be looking in the wrong direction. It’s turned into a brutal statement about the war. Subtext of the scene: It’s a tasteless world.

There were flashes of joy inside Rings of Power, but it was created with soft focus simplicity that otherwise makes the show a difficult task to watch. Whether you zoom in on the jovial nomadic Harfoot folk or the dull noble elves, the show’s attempts to build a web of personalities often meant putting a character of the same kind in a different costume: someone obsessed with doing the right thing. The biggest exception is the dwarf lord IV. It was Durin (played by Owain Arthur). Extremely grumpy yet affectionate, torn between suspicion and loyalty to his best friend (one of those milk-toast elves), he’s the kind of complex character who loses his temper.thrones TV fantasy must provide in bulk.

Andor ended with a few such characters, which helps explain why it was lauded as one of the best shows of the year. Yet all the praise it deserves Star wars The spin-off’s 12-episode run shouldn’t underestimate the fact that the first episode of the series has one big problem: intimacy. Creator Tony Gilroy was right to spend three episodes building up the mood of anxiety on the working-class planet of Ferrix, whose people are oppressed by tyranny. But was everyone at Ferrix only supposed to speak in those urgent whispers I mentioned earlier? Even the cute robot B2EMO is too stressful for the audience to connect with.

After all, Andor turned into a satisfying symphony of emotions and characters. And ironically for a show about rebellion, this was largely because of the bad guys. In the fourth episode of the show, Gilroy brings the audience to a high-level meeting of Imperial security guards, where Major Partagaz (played by Anton Lesser) punishes them with passive-aggressive politeness. The flurry of grimaces, twitching eyebrows, and cryptic insults flying around the conference room are like a subtle fireworks display. From then on, bitter brew Andor It is lighter and more delicious, as if sprinkled with prosecco.

Why was this kind of gassiness so rare in the final year of Fantastic TV? Perhaps this is because the human element is difficult to handle—in some ways more difficult than using a team of effects artists to portray a dragon or commissioning a composer to write a hard, stringy score. The current era of franchise-oriented TV demands the industrialization of the show, but all the money in the galaxy can’t guarantee crackling dialogue and convincing acting. Oddly enough, without some silliness, these supposedly mature fantasies undermine the credibility they’re after. A world where everyone is frowning feels fake.

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