Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Game of Thrones Season 3 Finale Book Comparison and Review

After last week’s worldwide shared heart attack this week’s Game of Thrones episode Mhysa was a wonderfully structured wind down to the season that strung all of the hanging plot points together beautifully.

The episode checked in with most of the major characters and reset the board for next season. No wonder it lasted over an hour!

Under the cut I’ll give you some final book comparisons for the season and then speculate on what they might include early next season.

Okay, I’ll try to get to all of your favourite characters but please bear with me; there are a lot and a lot of significant changes happened in this episode with potential future ramifications and alternative understandings.

The major difference between Game of Thrones and A Storm of Swords this season has been timing. Many stories are speeding up faster than in the book series or lagging behind. This is resulting in characters being present at events they weren’t originally supposed to be there for and will impact their characterisation in the future. Taking short cuts also makes it difficult for viewers to discern distance in Westeros and results in some characters making journey’s that don’t really make sense e.g. Robb Stark going to Casterly Rock via the Twins and Mellisandre visiting the Brotherhood Without Banners from Dragonstone and taking a detour to King’s Landing in a short space of time.

Following the slaughter last week, we see the chaos and bloodshed wrapping up as The Hound and Arya try to leave the Twins. Arya wakes to a chant of “Here comes the King in the North” and see’s a beheaded Robb with Grey Wind’s head crudely sewn on. It’s a harrowing scene both for the viewer and for Arya and certainly triggers something in her character. In the book, we only find out that Robb was mocked in this way through some vague stories; to see it so grotesquely portrayed is heart breaking. In the book Arya had never seen Robb or her Mother or a lot of the destruction at the Red Wedding. The Hound knocked her out and carried her away. She had also killed her first man in order to escape Harrenhal with Hot Pie and Gendry. Changing this in the show has changed Arya’s character massively. We have seen her descend into anger and frustration very clearly; saying that she worships death. In the book this is not as overt. Seeing her murder a man in cold blood who is talking about the Red Wedding and her brother indicates that Arya is on a very dark path; where she is going in the book series is about a respect for death, not a desire to kill. It will need to be handled delicately but for the most part has been interesting to watch unfold.

We also see Roose Bolton and Walder Frey discussing their future plans. Walder is bitter and believes that this is the victory that he deserves while Roose is far more aware of what the Frey’s have actually done to themselves. Before this scene we see Bran explain that the Cook of the Night Fort wasn’t turned into a rat and forced to eat his own young for eternity because he fed a lord a pie made of his son. He was changed because he killed a guest under his roof, a right that the God’s cannot forgive. I thought that last week’s episode didn’t adequately explain the guest right (the eating of salt and bread under the roof of the household together to be protected) but this story seemed to make that clear as well as the screen transition to Walder. This is important because in the book series Cateyln makes a big deal out of eating the bread and salt and the guest right has been mentioned many times. Breaking it results in a lot of death and mistrust of the Frey’s which presumably is why Tywin allowed this to occur; so that the Frey’s could take all the blame and therefore all of the dishonour and the repercussions.

When Roose, the new Warden of the North, tells Walder that he will return to the Dreadfort and wait for someone else to rebuild Winterfell, he talks about his son Ramsay being sent with terms to the Ironborn to turn on Theon and open the gates, which lead to the sacking of Winterfell. I hope it was clear in the scene change that the man torturing Theon is Ramsay Snow; Roose Bolton’s bastard son. I don’t think this reveal really packed the punch that it deserved or that it was trying to ramp towards. It’s a shame because Ramsay is a very big deal and also because Roose’s distain for him is not remotely evident. Roose doesn’t seem to be quite as clever as he actually is.

Ramsay and Theon’s scene together once again makes the stomach turn. Theon has been made a eunuch and Ramsay is delighting in eating a sausage that he allows you to believe for a beat is actually Theon’s manhood. Even though this is clarified as untrue it’s still a gut wrenching scene that leads to a broken Theon begging for death. Ramsay wants him alive and then decides to call Theon Reek. Although I am finding Ramsay and Theon’s scene’s to be played incredibly well with all of the suffering that I believe Theon experienced I still think that there is a lot of focus on the pain in this show and none on the nuance of George R. R. Martin’s story. Reek is one of my favourite character developments, not because I like that Theon was tortured or want to watch that happen at all, but because of the vulnerability that it imposes on the character and the lens through which he tells the rest of his story. That Reek is being introduced in this manner and so soon worries me as book readers didn’t even know Theon was alive until A Dance With Dragons. It also tells us a lot about Ramsay and merely reducing his naming of Theon to Reek because he stinks does not give us that backstory.

In short, Ramsay was a very cruel child. His father Roose sent him a servant man named Reek and it is unclear whether the man was manipulated and cruelly treated by Ramsay or whether Ramsay learned a lot of his cruelty from Reek. Regardless, the two were inseparable and Reek and Ramsay’s characters intertwined. Reek always smelled appalling having been born with some disorder that caused him to stink no matter what he did; hence the nickname. Ramsay actually called himself Reek in the book series when he visits Theon at Winterfell and convinces him to allow him to kill the little boys at the mill and pretend they are Bran and Rickon. In the book series therefore, Theon and Ramsay have history. Reek participated in a lot of Ramsay’s foulest crimes and paid for it eventually with his life when blamed. That Ramsay has chosen Theon to make his Reek again is a big deal.

We see Yara (Asha) Greyjoy and her father Balon receive Ramsay’s note and Theon’s penis (which is grotesque and was not received in the book; it was a piece of Theon’s flayed pinky) and we immediately see Balon disown Theon yet again and Yara surprisingly taking up arms and a ship to rescue her brother. I guess that this is the show writers way of endearing us more to Yara given her absence this season and her previous treatment of Theon. It’s jarring and it will be interesting how this all fits together with the overarching story. For a start, by this stage in the book series, Balon is dead. He is the first to suffer the alleged affects of the leeches. I imagine they wanted to keep him around to ramp the death count next season. Additionally, this means that it’s going to be tricky for Yara to be present for the Kingsmoot to decide who the next ruler of the Ironborn should be. She is integral to introducing other Ironborn characters as she will be the only one that we know on the Iron Isle. In the book series, Yara goes to Winterfell to try to find her brother and returns upon the news of her father’s death. She doesn’t actually know where Theon is being held. That she knows in the show means she would go to the Dreadfort and this could change her story.

North of the Wall we see Bran and his companions meet Sam and Gilly who show them a passage under the Wall so that Bran can travel further North. This scene particularly irritated me because Cold Hands has not been present this entire season and I thought surely he would show up in the final episode. Thus, Sam and Gilly never meet Cold Hands as they have in the book. I presume that he will be introduced next year only to Bran, Hodor, Meera and Jojen. Sam also gave all of his dragon glass to the companions... I didn’t even realise he still had it! Where was it this whole time? Was he just carrying it around when he didn’t know what it was for? Is he taking some to Castle Black? How much does he have? Oh show. You are bewildering sometimes.

Sam and Gilly return to Castle Black in time to send out raven’s to the seven kingdoms about the White Walkers and to be present when Jon returns from his escapade with the Wildlings.

The timing of Sam’s story and the siege of Castle Black is a bit off; the journey’s north of the Wall very difficult to get a handle on in terms of time that has lapsed and distance. Furthermore, our good friend Jon Snow seems to have made it back to Castle Black pretty darn quickly and implausibly given all the arrows in him. The scene between Jon and Ygritte was simultaneously necessary and horrible. Rose Leslie is not the problem with Ygritte in the show, she was wonderful in that scene; all of the emotions rippling across her face we magnificent. Kit Harrington was terrible though and Jon’s outright profession of love was not only cheesy and unnecessary but poorly executed in the moment. My friend Ricky commented that they must have heard me complaining last week at Ygritte’s soft and out of character approach to Jon’s betrayal because she looses three arrows into him compared to the one that she manages to get off in the book while he’s trying to escape. This somewhat redeems Ygritte’s character and will certainly affect Jon in the long run, but at what cost? Not putting the scene in as written in the book while he’s escaping results in the viewer trying to suspend disbelief and accept that Ygritte caught up with Jon on foot and by herself over rolling terrain, while he had a horse and a head start. She’s a Wildling, not superhuman.

In response to Castle Black’s request for help at the Wall we see Stannis and Mellisandre decide to go north where the fire says the real battle is. It is unclear in the show that Mellisandre fears that the Others are the opposite of the Red God and therefore must be defeated. I imagine they are speeding up this element of the story as well, hopefully to better display how long it would actually take to get to the Wall from Dragonstone. Stannis is improving so much this season which is great because his season two development and performance left me asking a lot of questions as to his casting and understanding of the character.

As a result of great bastard swap (putting Gendry in the dungeon of Dragonstone instead of introducing Edric Storm) we get a delightful scene between Gendry and Davos about their past. It’s long overdue for Davos as I am sure that many people didn’t quite understand his story and understand it a little more now. Davos defies Stannis and Mellisandre and helps Gendry to escape; putting a young man who doesn’t know how to swim and has never been in a boat out to sea and hoping he manages to get to King’s Landing. Not only do we have to believe that Gendry is going to make it, it still puts him in a place he doesn’t need to be. Gendry should be with the Brotherhood Without Banners but perhaps he’s about to replace another character and head to the Eyrie.

We see another character return to King’s Landing much too early when Jamie Lannister and Brienne of Tarth enter the gates and no one recognises the once proud knight and warrior. Although we don’t get a lot of Jamie, his presence is significant because there is another major event that is yet to happen that he is not supposed to be there for. Whether this will have a big impact on his character development remains to be seen but I am struggling to believe that it wouldn’t and I don’t see him or Brienne being sent off before it happens.

Generally speaking, the show gives us lots and lots of extra Lannister scenes and this makes sense because Lena Headey, Peter Dinklage and Charles Dance are superb actors and have made these characters so incredibly interesting that we can’t get enough of them. Additional scenes that we had in last night’s episode include a conversation that all three of them participate in at Small Council with Joffrey. During this conversation it is very clear that none of these Lannisters approve of what Joffrey is doing and how he is leading. Tywin sends the King off to bed without supper and it’s a powerful move. Tywin then has a long conversation with Tyrion where he explains what he does in order to preserve and advance his family and why it’s important. He tells Tyrion that it is only his name that meant that Tywin didn’t drown him in the sea. It’s a heart breaking scene and while it didn’t happen in the book it is imaginable that it could happen. I really believe that Tywin’s behaviour and actions mean that he knows about and is potentially in on something that is going to happen in the show very soon.

Tyrion has lots of new exchanges with other characters in the episode. With Sansa they bond and plot the downfall of those who mock them. It’s adorable and speaks to Tyrion’s character and the fact that Sansa could have done much worse than being married to Tyrion who will put himself in harms way to protect her now. It also leads to an interesting conversation between Varys and Shae in which Varys tells Shae that she needs to leave while she still can and start her own life, if not for her sake then for Tyrion’s because Varys truly believes that Tyrion is the kind of man who can save Westeros. Though this exchange never explicitly happened in the book it contributes a lot of character development to both Varys and his motivations and Shae and her personhood. She of course turns Varys down and believes that this message is coming from Tyrion which I doubt, but also importantly she says that she loves Sansa and would die to protect her and this is a welcome deviation from Shae’s character in the book. It’ll be interesting to see where she goes and whether she will deviate further.

Tyrion’s final additional scene with Cersei is a treat. Those characters in the books rarely sat together and divulged emotional information or shared wine, and it’s clear that they don’t really like each other but that they also only really have each other. It’s an unusual but nice deviation and results in us finding out how unhappy Cersei is and how important her children are; even Joffrey. Cersei in some strange way sympathises with Sansa and always has, even though she accepts her role in using Sansa as a pawn. Cersei’s mothering side is incredibly important and this scene showcased it beautifully.

It’s very interesting that so many of the episode titles of the Game of Thrones seasons focus on elements of Daenerys’ story. Mhysa is the word that the slaves of Yunkai in this episode welcome her with; meaning Mother. But like many other episodes the name has many meanings and we had a lot of mothering stories in this episode from Cersei’s love of Joffrey through to Yara’s desire to rescue her brother. We don’t get a lot of Dany in this episode but we see her on her upward journey as we close out the season, having liberated slaves in two cities and with many warriors at her back and the love of the people, she is well positioned to start being a Queen in her own right.

Notably missing from the recap episode were the Tyrell’s and Littlefinger. I have a theory about what might happen with Loras and Cersei’s proposed wedding but not seeing the Tyrell’s or Littlefinger in this episode was significant.

Let’s talk a little about that below with some significant spoilers for the rest of A Storm of Swords.

This episode shocked me in the sense that I was certain this would be the Purple Wedding. I think that it was probably wise to leave it at the Red Wedding though. By this stage in the first part of the book Robb Stark is only arriving at Riverrun and seeing Hoster Tully’s body sent out on the river and burned. The Red Wedding should have happened in the next season of the show but I think the show runners were looking for some real punch to see the season out and the Red Wedding was an obvious choice.

The Purple Wedding is the wedding of Margaery Tyrell and Joffrey Baratheon. The changes made in this season of Game of Thrones are significant to this event for many reasons. Firstly, at this stage Prince Oberyn of Dorne has arrived and been greeted by Tyrion Lannister. This can still happen in the early stages of the next season and I believe it will probably occur in the first episode with a view to introducing many new characters in the manner that the show is accustomed. The Martell’s are very important to the future of the game; however their distain for the Tyrell’s has been lost as the true heir in the books Willas has never been crippled by a Martell in the show. Naturally, Oberyn’s presence causes a lot of disquiet; especially for Tywin Lannister who is in part responsible for the death of Elia Martell who was married to Prince Rhaegar Targaryen. Oberyn’s arrival sets many other moves in place.

Secondly, the Purple Wedding sees the death of Joffrey Baratheon through poisoning and is not only significant to the realm but to many characters attending the wedding feast. It is significant to Cersei who goes completely mad after the death of her child. In the book series, her brother Jamie who is Joffrey’s true father is not present at the feast and comments that he should probably feel more and doesn’t. As time passes he actually feels that Joffrey got exactly what he deserved. The show has put Jamie in place to attend the feast and perhaps shape his character development as a result. This wouldn’t make sense in terms of his future journey however, because it would make him more likely to stay in King’s Landing and care for Tommen and eventually Mycella if she was returned.

Jamie’s presence also means that Brienne of Tarth will likely be present. As Loras Tyrell believes her to be responsible for Renly Baratheon’s death this will likely lead to a confrontation as it did in the book, though I wonder if this will actually result in Loras’ untimely death and therefore result in Cersei not needing to marry him. This would have been in Cersei’s best interest because not only does she not want to marry Loras but he is the heir to Highgarden in the show; with Joffrey married to Margaery their kids would become the heir’s to Highgarden. It’s a good strategic move if the Tyrell’s hadn’t planned a counter move.

It becomes clear that Olenna Tyrell and presumably Margaery Tyrell to some degree are behind Joffrey’s murder along with Littlefinger who has decided to use the opportunity and his presumed absence to whisk Sansa Stark away to the Eyrie. This way the Tyrell’s lose an heir in Loras which is problematic and does not illustrate their genius at keeping their heir in Highgarden the whole time. It does however, set the board for them to wed Margaery to Tommen Baratheon and therefore have more control over the kind of King Tommen becomes as Joffrey was already a monster.

As Littlefinger takes Sansa away and Tyrion has been known to challenge King Joffrey openly, it is he who comes under suspicion for Joffrey’s death and is taken away and deemed guilty. Sansa is convicted of being in cahoots with Tyrion but as she is out of harms way this hardly matters. Oberyn Martell sees this as an opportunity to get revenge for his sister against The Mountain so it is important that Oberyn and Tyrion connect very quickly in season four because if the Purple Wedding happens within the first few episodes there will not be a lot of time for bonding.

Also culpable in the Purple Wedding, in my opinion, is Tywin Lannister. I believe that many of his comments in the book series as well as his ability to sniff plots out well in advance of them occurring, lead to a reading whereby Tywin knew about the plot against Joffrey the whole time and simply allowed it to occur. If anyone but him takes the blame then he gets to be the Hand of the King for Tommen who is far easier to control than Joffrey. Certainly the show seems to indicate this reading with Tywin making his distain for Joffrey clear on many occasions and in this recent episode telling Tyrion that a crown does not give you power. He’s gotten rid of one King, why not another?

So we close out another season of Game of Thrones; we can now relax until next year!


  1. when Jon first looked over and saw Ygritte, it was so implausible that I thought it was a hallucination he was having...until the arrows started flying, at least...