How ‘Game of Thrones’ Got Its Animals All Wrong

Cats have been a secret weapon in some of 2019’s most popular movies, but HBO is straying away from this trend

captain marvel mobile hero imaeg
Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures

Over the past few seasons of its record-breaking run, Game of Thrones has stuck to a more linear narrative path than it had during its earliest seasons. Part of that was out of necessity because the George R.R. Martin source material had completely dried up and because the show is so expensive to make that if you can tell the grandiose, sweeping A Song of Ice and Fire in fewer episodes, well, you sort of have to. 

The modern way of making Game of Thrones has made for a more digestible, less strange show, supporting only the most story-relevant plotlines as we journey to the show’s climax. It’s fine. Maybe it’s even for the best. But there’s one decision in particular that the showrunners absolutely bungled in the lead-up to Season 8.

The murder of Ser Pounce.

I’m not going to front like Ser Pounce is a pillar of The Song of Ice and Fire or that his absence from the show is something that categorically downgrades its storytelling potency. In general, the show has been brutal to animals, while wasting its entire CGI budget on kind-of-boring dragons. One scene from the books I feel particularly deprived of is Grey Wind going H.A.M. on the Frey army in the aftermath of the Red Wedding. But deliberately killing off a cat in 2019 is an enormous missed opportunity, because cats are absolutely carrying films right now.

Take, for instance, Captain Marvel’s breakout star, the orange tabby Goose. Goose encapsulates everything that people enjoy about Marvel movies, where household-name actors harness superpowers, snapping off irreverent banter left and right while getting down to business. Goose is a wildly effective recurring visual gag, a warm presence for grounding scenes and a character where there’s more than meets the eye. Although Captain Marvel is a relatively smaller story snowballing into a much bigger one, Goose is there to connect scenes, a talented midfielder stringing the lines together.

Last weekend, Pet Sematary opened, a vehicle for five separate cats that play the zombified King character Church. One cat in particular—Leo, who has a great IG—seems to have nailed the role, not even requiring the usual animal actor double, according to on-site trainer Melissa Millett. Animal coordinator Kirk Jarrett remarked that Leo is “a very laid-back cat. He likes to sit and stare.” If that doesn’t describe a natural-born actor, I don’t know what does. If Pet Sematary is successful and remains in the cultural imagination well past its exit from theaters, it’s going to be because of the cat, an idea that the studio seems to be embracing

While this season of Game of Thrones is sure to be a crowd-pleaser—it’s more or less backward engineered to be that way at this point—it’ll certainly feel out of step with the energy of the times. Weiss and Benioff’s flip dismissal of Ser Pounce is the perfect metaphor for how the series became a little more straightforward and thus lost a little bit of its mystique. While I’m by no means #teamladystoneheart and have largely enjoyed the show more than I enjoyed the books, it’s not hard to think Ser Pounce was an unnecessary casualty. Thrones isn’t the same.

But I have a solution: spinoff.

Did you like this article?
Thumbs Up
Thumbs Down