Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Game of Thrones Character Shots: A Book Reader Perspective

I’m a big fan of A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin, the book series that has spawned the wonderful television series, Game of Thrones. I’m invested in the books to a significant degree and I want the show to be successful while remaining true to the spirit and story of the books. Now, a television series is a very different beast to a fantasy book series, there are too many characters and plots for Game of Thrones to do full justice to the book series (I recommend that you read the books, they are incredible), but so far, the television series has included most of the major plotlines in all their glory.

To be clear, I am afraid. I am afraid that the choices made in the television series will influence the development of the outcomes and characters in the book. I’ve heard George R. R. Martin comment on some of his choices vs. the show runner choices and I am terrified. I want to shake him. Yes! The television show and the book series are different beasts, remember that George. Because already I can see the non-inclusion of some characters, the hybridising of others, the change in plot arcs detracting from the intricate maze in the books. I’m worried that because someone hasn’t showed up in the show they can’t be part of the major arc they occupy in the book, or that someone who has stayed too long or been too well developed has been so at the expense of other really important characters. Don’t screw me George R. R. Martin!

Recently, the lovely Suzanne put a Game of Thrones Character Shot post on the site. You can view it at: . In it she looks at new shots of various old and new characters reacting as a connoisseur of the show alone. Here’s my take on the character castings and plots from a book perspective, but beware, here be spoilers. I will keep them vague, and certainly to seasons 1&2 of the show as well as to vague portions of the book. As most book enthusiasts agree, the two parts of book 3 are the best and are crucial to the game. The show runners of Game of Thrones seem to agree. Let’s see how they go.

Okay, please read and make reference to Suzanne’s awesome post for character pictures and show history and speculation. Here I am going to be talking specifics in terms of plot and character casting and development.

1. Lady Olenna Tyrell – The Queen of Thorns

When I saw the lovely lady they cast I wasn’t convinced she could be the woman whose scorn and dry wit made me laugh out loud, who was a key player and the Queen of Thorns. The image of Diana Rigg in full costume has made me excited. As excited as the character made me when I felt the need to read pages of her dialogue aloud and compare her with various other prickly but brilliant older ladies. I can’t wait to see her in action.

2. Brynden Tully

Have to be honest, this isn’t quite the look that I was expecting for Brynden Tully, but if Clive Russell as Brynden has a strong chemistry Catelyn Stark then all will be well.

3. Mance Rayder

I’m not sure about this one. Not sure at all. Mance in the book was of Ned’s time and was surely weathered against the conditions of life beyond the wall, but he was also desirable and inspiring as a leader. This image doesn’t capture that, it doesn’t capture the look of a fearless rogue, and certainly not the look of a man who goes on to do what Mance goes on to do. I don’t buy the upcoming illusions the same way I don’t buy them with Beric Dondarrion, but more on that later. The point is, Mance is a charmer and a tough man, and this doesn’t ping for me.

4. Melisandre

Oh the red lady, how I love you in the book (or love to hate you), and the show has gotten the look right, and to some extent the performance, but not the delivery. I am more and more confused every time I see her exchange with other characters. Particularly the events of last season seemed contrived and unreal to me with regards to her character developments, the book Melisandre is far more terrifying and shrouded in both mystery as well as the passion of a zealot. There is a lot that the show is missing in terms of mystery and the plot of the rebirth of R’hllor is definitely one of them. I wonder how they will address this as time goes on, especially with regards to the choices and games that Melisandre is playing.

5. Sansa Stark

Might be strange to say this but in the books I found myself increasingly looking forward to Sansa’s chapters. She is, for me, the character that grows the most on her journey throughout the books and is the subject of a lot of interesting things in the third book. The thing about Sansa is that like Tyrion, a lot of her magnificence as a character happens in her mind. Thus far, Sophie Turner has done an incredible job of capturing so many conflicting emotions in simple looks and gestures. It really is commendable given that so much of what Sansa learns doesn’t happen ‘on screen’. I am really looking forward to seeing her grow and develop as a character but also as an actress.

6. Thoros of Myr

Nothing much to say here except, this was not what I was expecting, but when I saw him it made me smile. I think he’ll be a great Thoros and I can certainly imagine him both as a priest like Melisandre and also a fire sword wheedling tournament entrant.

7. Beric Dondarrion

Sigh. I have to say I am disappointed about the casting of this one. Really disappointed. Beric holds a certain place in my heart where mystery and chivalry live. He is supposed to be honest, brave, and handsome and to represent in some ways, hope. This casting doesn’t reflect the young and idealistic ideas that the character embodies, nor the beauty gone corrupt that his story entails. It is the hardships associated with re-birth that take their toll on him and teach an important lesson about religion and war. I’m really not convinced. I guess time will tell.

8. Margaery Tyrell

Oh man, what a casting choice. What a casting choice indeed. Margaery is nothing really like her book counterpart, or rather, she is what she is accused or implied to be in the book. Therefore, in many ways, like other characters that were left to interpretation, she has been fastened down to a character type and I don’t love that. But having said that, Natalie Dormer is an inspired and terrifying choice and is certainly adding to the danger and intrigue of Margaery which I am liking. She’s not who she is in the book, but for now I am okay with that in the show. I do wish they would stop taking things that were left to interpretation and sensationalizing them though. I’ll never forgive them for train wrecking Renly & Loras. I can’t bear watching it. They ruined everything.

9. Stannis Baratheon

Look, to be honest, I’m not blown away by the whole Stannis plot line in the show, including Davos and Melisandre. It isn’t coming across for me as it has in the book, the levels that these characters will go to, the completely crazy nature of these three. Melisandre is straight forward crazy in her devotion to the Red God so far as creating demon monsters and killing people. Davos is crazy in his devotion to Stannis. But Stannis… Stannis is WHOLE BUCKETS OF ABSOLUTELY MENTAL, and that is not how he is being portrayed in the show. It’s all a bit lackluster for me which is a shame considering I know where he is going.

10. Jamie Lannister

Oh Jamie, Oh Jamie Lannister. And not in the way a lot of girls might proclaim. I don’t care for his looks or his snark; I care for his destruction and his salvation. Jamie went from being a character I didn’t much care about to one of my favourites very quickly in book 3. In the second book, we don’t see him for the entire time, there is brief if any mention of him, and it’s sad but fair that they included more in the show. This is Jamie’s season though, his time to shine and win over everyone. Because the things that happen to Jamie will melt your face.

11. Catelyn Stark

Catelyn is at a bit of a stale mate in this book and I imagine will be a little of a back seat player in the first half of this book in the show… but wait for the following season. That’s when the payoff will come.

12. Cersei Lannister

There’s nothing really to say about Cersei Lannister. I am glad that she is coming off as she did for me in the first few books, but knowing where she’s going and knowing how much I hate her don’t really bode well for me caring about her screen time. It’ll be interesting how they show her undoing and her back story as the season’s progress; I think it’s the only way they can do it for me. Plus, Lena Heady is INCREDIBLE so if anything can make me tolerate Cersei’s presence, it’s her. Also, her interaction with Tyrion is all gold. All of it.

13. Brienne of Tarth

Brienne comes so far in the story to come, especially her journey through book 3 with Jamie Lannister. Their friendship and growth was one of the best stories within the series and if that can be translated to the screen then I think it will be one of the most rewarding friendships the show has to offer. So far Brienne has been played so close to character and looks so much like the character in the book that I have confidence that the show runners and actress are on track with her. Her relationship with Catelyn Stark was also perfectly executed with the subtle differences in the strengths and vulnerabilities of both women. I really wish they had more time together.

14. Tyrion Lannister

I cannot explain how fantastic Tyrion is in both the show and the book, how perfect Peter Dinklage is at portraying him and where he has to go in season 3. There is a lot of build up in the first part of this book for a really shocking payoff with some great twists along the way. The one thing I am lamenting is that they seem to have pared back on the damage to his face. I really wish they hadn’t skimped on that front. His scar really messes with him in the stories to come and very nearly killed him. Looks a bit like a tiny, well healing scratch at the moment. Oh, the betrayals you have in store friend.

16. Tywin Lannister

Something the show has given book lovers is a lot more time with Tywin Lannister and a fantastic actor that you can believe is every single part Tywin Lannister, so it doesn’t have to be George R. R. Martin’s words, because you still believe it. Of note was last season’s prolonged affair with Harrenhal and Tywin interacting with Arya. This never happened in the book. Tywin’s role was actually played by the Lord of the Dread fort, Roose Bolton. The Bolton’s are so important to the nuances of what’s to come that without this interaction I am terrified that their intricacies will never be explored. I have to try to have faith. Especially since I know potentially whom they have cast as Ramsay Bolton. He is going it be INCREDIBLE.

17. Arya Stark

Has Arya disappointed thus far? No. Will she? No. Her and Gendry are setting off to be bros. Maisie Williams is just so terrific at playing her as well that there is nothing to fear in the Arya department, except maybe what Arya has in store.

18. Daenerys Targaryen

Dany spends a lot of the second book milling about and being boring, now’s the time for her to become a Queen and a Mother of Dragons. No more fancy clothes and jewels and words, now is the time for action and when it gets brought, I have a feeling it will be every bit as epic as it was in the book.

19. Talisa Maegyr

I cannot get on board with this change. I cannot, and it’s irritating me so much that it’s actually making me want to not watch the show to be honest. Here’s the thing. Robb Stark, in the book, is one of my favourite characters. Robb Stark in season 2 of the show lost me completely. It’s not the casting, it’s not the plot development up to this point, it’s the introduction of Talisa and what she represents and what he has done with her.

The point of his marriage to Jeyne Westerling in the book is threefold. The first point is that he married her for honor, not love. He is his father’s son and always has been. He is the remnant of Ned. And in seeing that honor through he created a very difficult situation with the Freys, but he did it for loyalty and honor, not because he behaved like a child to his mother and then rebelled and married ‘for love’. And the more I think about it the angrier I get. Because on the face of it, Talisa is a strong woman with a strong will. But the show has a lot of those women, and they aren’t only there to create problems that they knew they were going to create but did so ‘for love’. As Robb saw it, he had no choice. He didn’t want to anger the Freys or ruin alliances, but he felt he couldn’t be respected as a King.

The second point is that the Westerlings are… and here is a spoiler alert so maybe skip to the next point if you don’t want to know… the Westerlings are betrayers. That’s all I will say. How on Earth are we set up to believe this wonderful, smart woman, has set the plot so long and so intricate in wooing Robb… we are obviously not. The plot will probably change, but that is frustrating, because the Westerlings lead elsewhere.

The third point, Robb was married with the blessing of the 7 Gods of the new religion. Those are not the old Gods of the North and this is something that Robb, Ned’s son, the King in the North, would never ever do. Unless he wanted to lose the respect of his own men and ruin his claim to the throne. Robb of the book just wouldn’t do it. And I would venture that Robb the character just wouldn’t do it.

20. Jojen Reed

I never thought I would say this but I am so glad they decided to put the Reed’s in and I am so happy with their casting. This guy looks every bit Jojen. I am just wondering how they are going to explain the Reeds’ involvement and link to the story given that they were supposed to be part of the whole Theon incident and it’s Jojen who helped Bran interpret the dreams about the sea coming over the walls of Winterfell. Bran’s dreams are so much more than wolf dreams and Jojen is there to show him about greenseeing.

21. Meera Reed

Again, Meera is perfectly cast and in the book has only gotten more awesome. I am hoping that they will explain the significance of Howland Reed and the connections to Ned and John Snow’s parentage. Which, how does no one in the show including its viewers even know that’s a thing? I can’t see it at all when I am watching and it’s such an intriguing part of the book. At any rate, I hope this is the start, though I hear that they are taking a different route.

22. Bran Stark

Bran. Bran Bran Bran. I am bored of you in the books and I am bored of you in the show, but I have a feeling that all the twisted weird stuff in your story is amounting to something.

23. Ygritte

Perfect casting again and I cannot wait to see her and Jon kick butt. This is one of the few characters I like better in the show than in the book and I hope they don’t make her as annoying as they can make her. There’s a lot going down over the next couple of seasons.

24. Jon Snow

Whinger of the piece, Jon Snow. Will he ever stop WHINGING? Who knows? All I can say is that there are things changing. Storm’s coming and Kit Harrington definitely looks like he’s grown into the character and might be able to rough him up and quit the whinging complex.


  1. Oh god, this makes me so mad for S3. GAAAH. And I AM reading the books, but I'm doing it very slowly to make them last. The current audiobook has given Tyrion a highly amusing singsong welsh accent.

  2. Mad for as in excited???

    You are audio-booking! I love it!

    1. thassright! yeah, I'm on disk 12 (of 30!) in Clash of Kings. Roy Dotrice has the world record for voices for this recording, over 300 unique ones. It's completely awesome