My latest recap is up at Slant Magazine, so I’ll just let you read it over there.
Here, however, I’ll mention something that I think many readers may not realize about recaps. Unless advance screeners are sent out, you’ve generally got within two hours to file a recap, and that drastically changes the way in which the writer consumes information about the show–and may very well impact their enjoyment of it as opposed to yours. That’s why I try to think of a recap not as a review, but as a very different task: a conversation starter. It isn’t meant to notice everything, or to tease out every nuance, but rather to talk about how the pieces of the episode connect with one another (or the title) and how the work in the broader context of what’s come from the season (and the series) to this point.
Since I have only about an hour to write the recap after watching the episode (which I will occasionally interrupt in order to properly transcribe a quote), with fact-checking of actor/character names to occur as the editor looks over the piece, watching the show shifts from a passive experience in which I allow things to wash over me–much like Tyrion’s wondrous stare up at Drogon as he sails through ruined Valyria–into an extremely active one, in which I’m constantly rewriting the summary of a scene and trying to figure out the relevance of what occurs, trusting that with so much to pull from Martin’s world (and so many characters now excised from each episode in order to better focus on the ones in the spotlight), anything depicted is relevant. Only rarely–in this case, dwelling on the scene with Brienne and Podrick–do I decide that something that actually occurs in the episode isn’t at all worth mentioning in the recap, and this generally occurs as I’m rearranging the order of scenes to fit whatever throughline I’ve picked up from this immersion. (I do this because my goal isn’t to simply summarize what happens. Anybody can do that . . . and many do, though I’d like to think those are desperate and shallow clicks.)
Once I’ve written the recap, I’m excited to delve into some of the ones other sites have posted–if we agree, that’s fine, but I’m more interested in where our thoughts diverge. It’s here, more than anywhere else, that I get a sense for how we think. After all: we both saw the same episode, had the same rushed deadline, and worked from the same writing palette and yet wound up with different results–a perfect reminder of how different minds and thoughts can still end up firing off together to create something better . . . in many cases, the deeper analysis that follows the next day from cultural critics who spend time mulling over their own thoughts and those flittering across the Interweb.
This, I’ve decided, is how I want to watch the majority of television from now on. Everything else is just background for when I’m cooking, cleaning, or doing something else. I want to, if only for a few hours, immerse myself in something that makes me think and which starts a discussion with others, which is why I’m writing about, say, Game of Thrones and not CSI: Cyber. I’ll see you all back here next week, by which point my exhausted mind may have entirely reversed this position.