Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Game of Thrones 3.05 and 3.06 Book Comparison and Review

As we reach the crescendo of season three, are you staring to wonder what you might have missed? What’s really going on in the game? What are Littlefinger and Varys playing at? How much more arse can Lady Olena possibly kick? Game of Thrones continues to both amaze and horrify, with the awesome developing male-female bromance between Jamie and Brienne, and some truly awful ice climbing adventures!

Under the jump I’ll take you through some speculation based on what happens at a similar time in A Storm of Swords, and give you some analysis on what the show has changed and why.

Can I firstly just say what a stunning casting choice Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is as Jamie Lannister. This is the guy that you spend the better part of two books (and two seasons) completely loathing. But though his relationship with Brienne and his loss of his sword hand and therefore the choices he makes in the future, he becomes one of the most loved characters of the series. Nikolaj is making this transition for us perfectly on-screen. His scenes with Gwendolyn Christie’s Brienne are every bit as powerful as they should be, and in 3.05 we get to see Jamie explain just how mad the Mad King really was. Jamie chokes out the story of the Mad King’s obsession with burning people, burning everyone, and how Jamie put an end to it. He also tearfully makes us question Ned Stark, saying that Ned wasn’t really open to Jamie’s side of the story. I can’t remember if the show has given viewers the story of Rickard and Brandon Stark and their deaths, at least I don’t remember it being in as much detail as this story has been delivered. Nonetheless it is in that story and this one that we humanise Jamie. He watched Rickard roast to death in his armour while his eldest son strangled himself trying to reach a sword and rescue him. He did nothing. Only when faced with kinslaying and wiping out King’s Landing did Jamie choose differently, and for a man said to be without honour, even Brienne would have to concede that this was the most honourable of acts.

Brienne of Tarth, in a pink dress at last!

Aside from delighting that this story is coming along so well, this made me think about Ned’s family and whether the show will go to any lengths to cast them and tell their story. To tell Rhaegar’s story in fact, and the Battle at the Trident. It also made me think about Benjen Stark. I miss him.

In 3.05 we also see Robb Stark be a little badass and demonstrate some of his father’s characteristics in punishing a betraying Karstark with a beheading. I think this is too little too late. I really think the show writers and runners have done Robb Stark, and, by association, Ned’s memory, a disservice. No matter how they try to redeem him now, make him more the King in the North, it’s not working. At this point he looks like a teenager playing at King, and instead of Karstark’s beheading being the act of a King protecting his honour, it looks like the act of a teenager trying to consolidate his power as King. He looks as bad a leader as the rest, and he’s not supposed to be. And, with Karstark’s death, it’s too late.

The character assassination through book changes is threefold. Firstly, in the show, Robb’s idea to take Casterly Rock is depicted as inspired and a strong strategic moment for him. It’s anything but. Why would Robb hinge his play on getting an army from the Freys, whom he has slighted? And his plan is to go and pillage some more? The war is done Robb, you’ve lost. Thing is, in the book Robb knows this and is headed back to Winterfell to reclaim the North. He shows humility and understanding when it comes to the slight of honour he has dealt to the Freys. In the show this is non-existent. It’s like he doesn’t actually know what it means to be King. He’s arrogant. Not only is he planning things with Talissa, but he is also completely ignorant of the fact that Walder will take further offense and that this is a dangerous move. In the book, Robb was very strategic and we have seen nothing of this in the show. He makes blunder after blunder.

Secondly, his story in the book is one of honour and wisdom. His purpose is to fulfil the role that Ned Stark played in the first book. With Robb actually on his way back to Winterfell he needs to cross at the Twins as he did once before, there is no other way to get home. He doesn’t need an army, he isn’t blood thirsty for war, he is humbly returning and begging forgiveness on breaking his marriage oath, for honour, with the Freys in a desperate attempt to get home and ACTUALLY be the King in the North. He knows he has to retake and protect Winterfell and to discover the truth about his missing brothers. It’s wise, not foolhardy war heroics. Indeed, his marriage to Jeyne Westerling comes from a place of honour through a mistake made in a moment of both injury and vulnerability. It is what Ned would have done. It is not the act of the arrogant boy-child we see in season two of the show.

It will be interesting to see how Talissa is handled after the Red Wedding. We know what the outcome of Jenye Westerling story was, and they have certainly dropped brief hints in the past that Talissa isn’t who she says she is. Being in on Robb’s decision making makes her a possible betrayer. However, Jeyne was unwitting in the Westerling plot so it’s difficult to say. Regardless, I am tired of her and this poor plot writing and wish she would leave so I can stop having to watch them mess this part of the story up.

Finally on Robb, the story in the show makes little to no logical sense, which leads me to believe the world map is different in the show. Book readers will note that it is clear that Robb needs to go through the Twins in order to get back to Winterfell; he has no choice. I do not think this is clear to the viewers of the show, despite the map title sequence. Similarly, given Casterly Rock’s location, it makes little sense for Robb to journey all the way to the Twins from the Riverlands and then double-back and across to Casterly Rock and the Westerlands (where in theory he has already been). This would take significant time and, given the sacking of Winterfell, it seems strange that Robb has barely considered turning home. Instead he is heading even further into enemy territory with a weakened army and winter coming. You’d think he’d remember about winter. Mark says Harrenhal has changed location as well, which makes sense as to why I was so confused at Robb going to Harrenhal at the beginning of this season. Internal inconsistency shits me.

Moving on to Littlefinger and Varys, I have to say that, though I like that they are showing who the little birds are that these two are getting their information from, I am concerned that they are unravelling their genius. It adds a lot of value to the show to have their schemes a little clearer and easier to follow. It also gives them more screen time in a book where they are puppet masters and rarely seen. However, it does beg a few questions and lead to some out of character behaviour, particularly with Littlefinger. Sir Dontos was introduced in the show but is not used as he was in the book, to communicate Littlefinger’s plans to Sansa Stark. Littlefinger instead is seen meeting with Sansa, something that Littlefinger in the book would never be stupid enough to do. Furthermore, Littlefinger being behind the Dontos plot was a bit of a twist and indicated his brilliance, it seems unlikely that Sansa would turn Littlefinger down in the way she could turn down a drunk and seemingly unreliable knight when faced with escape or marriage to a Tyrell.

Speaking of, I realised that changing Sansa’s suitor to Loras has repercussions for later in the series. Being heir to Highgarden instead of part of the Kingsguard means that when Loras is wounded at Dragonstone, Highgarden is vulnerable. It bothers me because that would make Margaery the heir to Highgarden, and therefore her eventual marriage to the Lannisters will mean the Lannisters have their claws in Highgarden. In the book, the heir of Highgarden, Willas Tyrell, is safely out of harm’s way, never leaving his home or participating in the war. Similarly, Willas is the reason for Highgarden and Dorne having such hostile relations, which is important for later in the series as well. You pull one thread and things can unravel.

Loras has always dreamed of his wedding... I don't think Sansa gets why...

Back to Littlefinger for a second, why would Ros rat him out to Varys? I had wondered if Ros, being a combination of characters from the books, would come through as playing Shae’s ultimate role in the show. 3.06’s turn of events answered that question. Varys couldn’t protect Ros. Littlefinger found out and gave her to Joffery to murder. In the Game of Thrones, you win or you die.

Poor Ros... so much ahead of you. You have been voted off the Island by Joffery.

Beric Dondarrion and Thoros are making me really happy at the moment. Add that to Arya Stark and you have the beginnings of one of the most interesting sub plots indicated in the books. In the show however, little Maisie Williams rocked, not only screaming at the Hound to burn in hell, but also in explaining emotionally just how much she wants her father back. It’s hard to see her as the child she is, especially knowing where she is going, and I love those softer moments. However, the Cleganes are suffering from the complex story line. Let me clarify: there are two brothers. Sandor the Hound and Ser Gregor the Mountain That Rides. They are both killers, the Hound is just the more honest and likable. Beric was killed by Gregor once before, and now by Sandor. The show makes that clear, but it is difficult to conceptualise given how little we see of the Mountain and how unrecognisable he is – especially since the actor playing him changed between seasons one and two. I think the actor playing the Hound is fantastic, and I don’t think either has truly been given the time owed for how important they are to the story.

In 3.06 we see a potentially huge deviation from the book, with Mellisandre meeting The Brotherhood Without Banners and taking Gendry, the bastard son of Robert Baratheon. Although this makes sense in the context of the show, it worries me that this will result in a significant change in Arya and/or Gendry’s story. Not only has Arya now seen a different side of the Red God in a priestess taking away her friend against his will, but Mellisandre has dealt her a prophecy about the lives she will take. This prophecy seems to indicate that Arya will mostly travel the same road as in the books, but her exposure to the Cult of Rh’llor may modify her motivations, and, as we saw with her brother Robb, small changes to motivations can result in big changes to how we perceive a character.

Mellisandre is pissed that drunkard Thoros seems to have madder skills than her!

In 3.05 we saw the seemingly insignificant introduction of Stannis Baratheon’s daughter, Shireen. I have to say, this inclusion was a pleasant surprise. I had thought that the show would not include either Shireen or her mother Selyse. Selyse’s introduction succeeded in portraying her as completely insane (pickled foetuses will do that) in general, but haven’t quite established her as a radical devotee of the Red God. Her conversation with Stannis was an excellent moment, however I don’t recall Selyse being ashamed of Shireen and encouraging Stannis to forget her in the novels. We also see that Shireen is deformed, but we get no explanation yet of the Grey Scale. The most interesting part for me is the apparent combination Shireen and Patchface. In the novels, Patchface has a very interesting back story and is seen by some to have prophetic tendencies and a lot more going on than meets the eye. I find the idea that perhaps Shireen and Patchface are one and the same – even in the books – fascinating. I’ll have to do some research.

As for Jon Snow and Ygritte, what an absolute mess the show has made of their relationship. In 3.05 we get the ice cave scene which reads as a very nervous Kit Harrington trying desperately not to cry while Rose Leslie tries to touch him as little as humanly possible. The words come out as if read off a page. It’s awkward, and not in a ‘this is Jon Snow’s first time’ kind of way, but in a “poorly acted and scripted” way. They could have fixed this with some mention that Jon was really nervous, but then go on at length about what an excellent lover he is. Who cares? The point of this story with Ygritte is for Jon to come of age, to do what he is destined to do. Ygritte is not only supposed to help him transform into a man, but to help him understand loss and responsibility. So far, Jon is still a wet blanket. Even the show runners hedging their bets: Ygritte says that she knows that when Jon entered Mance’s tent he didn’t stop being a Crow. That can be interpreted as her saying “take me with you when you go back” or “don’t you dare turn coat again now we are together”. I don’t think the writers know where they are going to take her character or this relationship yet. I should note however, that Rose Leslie is doing an excellent job of portraying Ygritte and making her really fantastic. It’s a pity that not even she could save that horrible, unfeasible, we-died-a-thousand-times, ice climbing scene that made the whole thing barely watchable. The show runners are getting sloppy.


I’m also getting the feeling that not explaining who Ramsay is isn’t working. Sure, he’s still torturing Theon and both Alfie Allen and Iwan Rheon are giving amazing performances, but it’s very difficult to engage with the story when you are constantly trying to work it out. I imagine they are waiting for the surprise betrayal before they show us who he is, but it’s confusing and it’s getting old.

This is so distressing to watch.

On a final note. Littlefinger’s ladder speech from the season 3 promo was included in 3.06, and it was even more breath-taking in context. Entwined with images of Sansa weeping as she sees her chance for escape float away (was Littlefinger even on the boat? I don’t think he was) and Joffery walking away from the dead and strung up Ros, crossbow arrows riddling her body, it was a stunning and moving piece and deserved to be the actual end of the episode. It was much more fitting than Ygritte and Jon’s passionless kiss on top of the wall.

All in all, these two episodes were not as strong as 3 and 4, but the huge moves are coming, so stay tuned.


  1. I can't remember if I discussed this with you or luke. Are they kinda merging the Red God and Many Faced God in the show?

    1. This is something I have been wondering. Ricky and I were discussing the other night whether the Many Faced God was closer to the 7 Gods or closer to the Other (the counter point of the Red God). I would suggest that they are indicating that it is the Other that the Many Faced represents, but it's REALLY difficult to follow. I doubt many people are picking up on it. They might be hedging their bets.

      Need more discussion!!!

    2. Okay, I researched. The Many Faced God is based on the theory that all the God's of death that people worship are in fact the same God, just a different face. Therefore, the Faceless Men deal in death or 'The Gift' as they call it. This is why the Stranger of the Seven is referenced with them. There are theories, that if the Red God is the Lord of Light and his adversary the 'Other' is the 'Lord of Darkness' then darkness could mean death (this flows with the dead rising as well). Therefore, it could be that the Many Faced God is actually the Other and the opposite of the Red God, showing why they are closely connected and why Melisandre looks into Arya's eyes and sees the deaths she will be responsible for and also sees her as a threat and an evil. Melisandre is also wary of Patchface, Shireen's fool, and what happened to him and his sometimes prophetic riddles. She describes him as evil. He often refers to darkness or dark shadows in his songs and how they are coming to stay. Again, it is possible that because he was touched by death that he is a prophet of the Other!