Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Game of Thrones Episode 3.02 - Book Comparison

Game of Thrones certainly needs to change aspects of George R. R. Martin's epic Song of Ice and Fire to ensure that it works as a television series. This has thus far meant giving people the cliff note version. A lot of my enjoyment of the series actually comes from the details and the characterisation. The hidden gems that are back referenced and buried.

As we move into the third season of the show, based on the first part of the third book, a lover of the books quickly becomes aware that there is just WAY TOO MUCH STUFF that needs to be covered, and there are tremblings that it won't be done well. I'm most worried that changes made in the series will affect the last books in the saga, even though there are rumours that George R. R. Martin has told the show runners what the end of the story is so that they can avoid ruining anything. But also, I wonder why, despite the fact that the show is great, people do not read the books. The books are rich in detail and in other mysteries that go so far beyond what is capable in a show, and one comprising only 10 episodes a season... or in this case, a book.

Join me under the jump as I look at some of the changes made in episode 3.01 and 3.02, and how they might turn out.

Last week a friend said he was about to ask me the ultimate question... who will sit on the Iron Throne? I screwed my face up? That's not the ultimate question. There will be no Iron Throne most likely. My question is; who are the characters who are The Song of Ice and Fire. What is the ultimate end game?

There are many theories about this, but let's not get into them here. For the purposes of this discussion let's just say, I treat A Song of Ice and Fire and its characters like chess games, multiple chess games on multiple boards that interact and affect one another. Problem is, there's another game being played and it over-arches and entire things, that is the ultimate Song of Ice and Fire and I believe all the characters and their stories are crafted perfectly to fit into this puzzle.

As the show continues I can see changes that have been made have potential to unravel some of the key character development. I've spoken before about Robb's character assassination in the show; I find I can't watch his character anymore because of what they have done to him. In the book he was one of my favourites. Was he poorly cast or acted, absolutely not. The problem is that in making strategic changes in the behaviour of major characters leads to unforeseen consequences later in the show. Robb is one of those problems and I only hope it doesn't ruin the ultimate reading of the character and his role.

There are other changes afoot in season three of the show. Robb doubling back to Harrenhal is a stupid move and out of the way. Its stupidity is compounded by the fact that Robb wouldn't be looking for a fight, as he tells Roose Bolton of why he's gone back there, but they needed a reason to station the men of the Dreadfort at Harrenhal. Why? Because last season they changed Roose's role with Arya as cup bearer into Tywin's role. Tywin never stayed so long at Harrenhal and Arya certainly did not interact with him in the books. In the show, having more time with Tywin made sense, but now we are seeing the cost with less time with Roose Bolton and Ramsay Bolton and possible consequences in Robb and Theon’s motivations for acting they way that they have been acting.

The paragraph below has spoilers for all of book three parts one and two so if you don't want to read it, skip to the next paragraph.

The men of the Dreadfort have just captured Jamie Lannister; something that does not happen in the book. In the book he is captured by The Brave Companions, sell-swords and brigands lead by Vargo Hoat who is known for his cruelty. Having recently pledged his loyalty to Robb, in a bid to dissuade Roose Bolton from switching loyalty to the Lannisters, he chops off Jamie's sword hand. I have a feeling this will still happen, except perhaps that it will be Lord Karstark who will do so for revenge, resulting in Robb's fury at Karstark's disobedience and then ultimately with Robb chopping off Karstark's head and then event's will unfold as they do in the book with The Red Wedding. The dominoes are already in motion for Robb with his marriage and betrayal of the Frey’s, but this frustrates me because it makes Robb seem like a child and an unworthy Northerner - especially given his marriage but don't get me started on the problems with how they are handling that - and discredits him and the Starks almost completely. Yes, he is still punishing someone for disobedience, but it is the manner in which this comes about that will further discredit him as a King. Karstark's disobedience in the book came when he had cousins of Lannister punished, not the man himself.

At any rate, things are changing in episode two of the third season of Game of Thrones, and here are some of the changes with speculation on their possible results.

1. Margaery Tyrell has been made more overtly conniving and capable in the show than in the book. In the book I was never quite sure whether she was truly playing or whether she was trusting her Grand Mother, the Lady Olenna, to play. The show has filled in the blanks and upon her meeting with Sansa, at which Sansa reveals to the female Tyrell's that Joff is a monster, she goes to him to test this out and to get on his best side by convincing him that perhaps she is his perfect she-monster. This is genius, and while having her ambiguous works in the book, the story is richer in the series if Margaery can be seen as a true player and a woman of incredible intellect and ability. She reads Joff incredibly well and plays him perfectly, it’s harrowing to watch. Can't wait to see this one develop... and how much do you want to make a bet that that cross bow is THE cross bow.

2. Catelyn Stark tells a story. She tells a story of wishing that that Jon Snow was dead and him coming down with the Pox. She then tells of how she sat with him praying to all Seven Gods that he would survive. That she would be a mother to him and that she would have Ned give him the Stark name... and then she failed to keep her promise and now her whole family has been suffering. This never happened in the book and now I am desperate to find out who's idea that was, because if it is canon, if it is George R. R. Martin and what he always intended to have her say, or for that story to emerge in some way, then that is brilliant. That is perfect. That they are being punished by one or more of the many Gods, the Seven, the Old Gods, the Red God, whomever and in whatever incarnation because I don’t believe they are necessarily ‘real’ Gods, because of her broken promise. In the book we know how important those Gods and Jon are so this adds a lot of richness to the story. I struggle with it because it's not in the books so I wonder how it factors into all the other play. We know that GRRM has spoken with the show runners about The Butterfly Effect in potential changes they make causing disruptions later on. Theory is, they are limiting this because he has told them the end of the story (OMG WHAT!!??) and so the changes that they make are consistent with whatever he ends up writing. Having said that, it stands to reason that perhaps some of the additions have been put in at GRRM request and are foreshadowing things to come.

3. Theon's torture is not in the books in the way we see it in the show. In fact, we don't see Theon for about 3 books (counting book 3 as 2 books), he comes back completely broken and also one of my favourite characters. This might not be feasible in a show, but I am worried about watching him be broken, given how magnificent it was to come in after the fact in the book and completely sympathise. I also don't think that it is beneficial to him as a character to see him say why he invaded Winterfell, because his motivations in the show are different to those in the book. It was the Bastard of Bolton who came up with the slaughter and with the murder of the two farmer boys to disguise as Bran and Rickon, not Theon. I hope this doesn't ruin his character or Ramsay's for that matter. Ramsay showed up at the end of Theon's scene saying that he was getting him out and pretending to be sent by Theon’s sister. Make no mistake, this will not end well for Theon. I am undecided however, how it will go in terms of ultimate storytelling.

Needless to say, there have been some well introduced new characters in Jojen and Meera Reed, in Lady Olenna who was in one word; PERFECT. The twists and turns in the book are so good that it's very difficult to watch without that filter on high. When I turn it down, I am impressed with the story and how the show moves and tells the tale, but it doesn't stop me worrying about these characters and the ultimate plan, because if that changes, it's going to be very difficult to swallow.


  1. I love the books way way more than the show (which I also enjoy), but I had to just give them up and enjoy the show as it's own thing by the end of last season. Particularly this season when as I read that the producers are claiming that who lives and who dies in the book will not dictate who lives and who dies in the story (aka they're pulling a Walking Dead).

    Having said that, I enjoy the comparisons you've made here! Keep it up! :)

    1. Yeah, I'm trying really hard to keep them separate and if I was sure that they weren't working with GRRM and therefore nothing in the show was canon then I think I could deal. At the moment they seem to be walking this grey line where some of it is relevant to the books and some, like you've said, is completely ignoring them. I'm just terrified that they won't tread the line well. And who lives and dies in the books will not dictate who lives and dies in the show particularly worries me.

      If it's its own beast then fair enough, I wish they'd stop saying that they are trying their best to not screw up elements of the book or influence them. Because at the moment, GRRM can be influenced. Even though he's said that he won't be, he's already said that Natalia Tena's performance as Osha in the show has influenced him to write more of her in the book.

      At any rate, I am glad you enjoy the comparisons and I am glad I have another book friend to quake in terror with and speculate with.

  2. I think that this is like science vs. religion. Religion tells us, "We have all the answers already. It's right here in this book. That's it. Done. Set in stone." Science tends to explore and experiment more, even though it sometimes gets it wrong. I'd personally rather live in the world of possibilities, than the world that's preordained.

    As for influence, all artists are influenced by the world/people around them. If George wasn't involved in the TV series he'd be influenced by the mailman and the cat. At least he is surrounded by smart and talented people. And I can't imagine anyone making him do anything that he doesn't want to do!

    1. I don't see it quite the same way. The books are a world of possibility and in many ways they actually discuss the religion vs. science debate in how they address the supernatural. It's all there. I would suggest that the book is 'science' in the same way you describe it here, we're just looking at two different schools of thought.

      In the relationship between the show and the book creative choices are being made in something that is a separate piece of art and these are having bearing on the outcome, not influencing the outcome. Let's say George was influenced by the cat or the mailman, this would potentially be inadvertently, allowing him to see something in the future of his story more clearly. This is possible with the show runners of a show no doubt, the difference is, that they make their own creative choices independently of George. What works for the screen might not work for the book. That is what I am afraid of. So far, I think there is a lot that they are getting right, there is are also things that could be significantly altered.

      Let me use The Hunger Games. The style of writing in that trilogy significantly changed when the writer saw that they were making films. The final book has a weaker narrative structure and far more sequences that are written as if the story is being made for film. The nuances that are normally seen in the book are almost completely gone.

      My point is that they are two separate entities and they can decide that 'it doesn't matter who dies in the book we will do as we wish' if they want to, so long as one is confident that this won't end up determining what GRRM does in the books plot line. The show shouldn't hem the book in just as the book doesn't necessarily hem the show in. It's established more than enough of a following to know that it doesn't have to run on the steam of the books followers. It has a fan base in its own right.