Book and TV Review/Reflections: Game of Thrones

 The Price Film Makers Pay for Staying True to the Book

The HBO Series Game of Thrones is a beautiful example of television staying true to the source material from which it was based. The writer’s of this series have done something very few in their business have been able to manage; they’ve condensed a complex and widespread story into hour long segments for the viewing public without sacrificing any of the real meat of the story. Sadly instead of being praised by the majority of it’s audience for this rare gift, staying true to the first book in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Fire & Ice Series, has caused them to be derided with criticism and threats to quit watching the show.

Leave it to a lazy viewing audience to lash out at the writer’s continually for doing what true fans of the fantasy genre have been begging and pleading for every time there is an adaptation of one of our beloved books. I’m sorry but you cannot claim to be a true fan of the fantasy genre and never read anything. Even if its just a few comic books a week there has to be something to suppliment the mostly unsatisfactory offerings given us by television and movies.

‘Fans’ by the boatload, too lazy to read the books or even investigate the source material, but enjoying the series enough to get passionate about it, have been writing in and complaining in droves about ‘key’ parts of the storyline. Sadly the scenes they are complaining about the most are literally chunks of scenery taken directly off the page of the novel and put into the series. Most of these scenes mean a great deal to the fans who are actually responsible for these other ‘fairweather fans’ having the series to rant about in the first place.

Before my rant continues in the spirit of full disclosure, I have read the first four books in this series and have preordered the fifth. BUT I didn’t start reading them until I saw a trailer for the HBO Series. I was interested enough to go pick up the first book and although I have a colorful and varied opinion on the series as a whole (see rant at the end of this article) I have stayed intrigued enough to read all of them.

WARNING: If you have not watched the Series on HBO yet and don’t want the storyline ruined for you then I wouldn’t continue any further.

Now continuing on . . . I first became aware of this bewildering phenomenon after reading an episode recap on an entertainment website that I enjoy. I scrolled down into the comments section just to see what others had to say about how well the people working on this show were doing at adapting from the book. All I could see were angry posts of outrage because Ned Stark (played by Sean Bean) killed a dire wolf pup. Now this scene played out as if it had been simply copied and pasted directly from the novel into the episode script. It was supposed to happen, and has a deeper meaning within the storylines of the Stark children as they progress through the series. Yet here were all these people obviously too lazy to pick up a book on occassion or hey even a lightweight Kindle or their iPhone and READ SOMETHING. These so called ‘fans’ were fine with the beheading of a human in the first fifteen minutes of the first episode, yet they couldn’t handle the death of one animal.

Most ‘fantasy’ stories take place on primative and brutal worlds where animals are rarely treated all that kindly, any true fan of the ‘genre’ would have recognized this almost immediately. I mean yeah, I didn’t like what happened either. I teared up when I read the scene in the book, and watching it come to life almost exactly as I had imagined made my fingers twitch with the need to tear out Queen Cersei’s golden hair at the roots. But it’s not like they actually killed a real animal, holy crap. Yet that’s how these people were reacting, threatning to quit watching if there was anymore ‘animal cruelty’. Can we really not distinguish between reality and television that much people???

I imagine after the episode that introduced Tywin Lannister those people did leave the show entirely. I can’t say that I remember Tywin skinning and butchering a stag at any point while meeting with his son Tyrion in the books. But the scene did help to instill in the watcher a sense of the type of man Tywin Lannister is. This was one of those scenes that was specifically created for those who didn’t read the books and need some other way to discover aspects into the nature of the character being introduced, much the same as the whorehouse scene in episode one that introduced Tyrion. Again the comments were all outrage and condemnation as if they had actually killed an animal to make the scene. Yes . . . I’m sure all those Hollywood type people went out into the woods and brought down a real live stag to be expertly skinned and butchered by a professional actor on screen.

It might help to lessen the sting of my sarcasm there if you knew that I was physically unable to watch that scene and had to listen to it averting my eyes through most of it, and it was a long scene. Those who know me will completely understand this and will probably tease me mercilessly about it, for those who don’t know me . . . let’s just say I have a VERY weak stomach.

Now we get to the primary reason for this rant to begin with. I had originally planned for this article to simply be a nice little piece about how well done this series has been. How nice and refreshing it was to see a book adapted so well without sacrificing any of the story. Other truer fans of the series might or might not agree with me. From the few comments I’ve been able to find amidst the constant stream of outrage, they seem to feel the same way I do as far as the adaptation itself is concerned. They probably won’t agree with my opinions on the story as a whole (again there will be a rant about that below).

Those who have obviously not read the books and had NO idea what to expect when they tuned in last Sunday to watch the second to last episode of this season flew into an absolute hissy fit online about the death of Ned Stark (Sean Bean) at the end of the hour. They perceived Ned to be the ‘main’ character of the series. If they had been paying attention they would have seen, that there is no ‘main’ character in the series. There is a very large cast and if the series remains as true to the books as it has been already each one of them will be highlighted as the story progresses. It is the story itself that is the main character in this series just as it is in the books.

If Bean’s Stark was perceived as the main character during the season it is because the story and many of its characters are affected by Ned’s actions in the first book. Even more characters will be effected in future seasons because of his death. He died in the book people!!! This is not a character you could save and remain in any way, shape or form, true to the books upon which the series is based. Ned Stark’s death effects everything that comes after it in the Seven Kingdoms, and it would have been a selling out of EPIC proportions to keep him alive.

I have news for anyone who hasn’t read the books and plans to continue with the series. If you don’t like getting invested in characters and then watching them die, then Game of Thrones is NOT the story for you. As you will see if you continue to read past my next large warning sign I am not entirely a fan of these books, for obscure and probably very girly reasons you won’t understand. But that doesn’t change the fact that this series has been executed perfectly for those fans who did read the books and made it possible for this show to exist in the first place. It is refreshing to see and gives me hope for further attempts in the furture. Unfortunately in a typically American way, those lazy fans who can’t be bothered to ever enjoy anything different or original demand that the creator’s completely alter the entire story from the first book to the last just to satisfy them, and those true fans who read the books and made the series popular to begin with, be damned.

WARNING!!!! If you are watching the series or currently reading the books and you don’t want to know what’s going to happen in season/book 2 through 4 then I wouldn’t read past this point. Its not that I’m going to give out tons of detail but I will be giving some stuff away.

Before I go off on my next little rant I have to be clear about a few things. The four novels in the ‘A Song of Fire & Ice’ series are superbly written. George R.R. Martin’s vision and creativity in breathing this epic and expansive story to life are beyond compare and I, as an aspiring writer myself, know that I will probably never reach his level of talent. What I have to say about the story in not really meant to be criticism of the writing skills and creativity of the writer himself.

Now the fifth book in the series hasn’t come out yet, I don’t know what is going to happen or how Mr. Martin plans to bring his epic story to a close. From what I understand the fifth book is not the final one anyway, there are at least three more I believe. (My facts may be a little off there) I may find myself pleasantly surprised and happy in the end. But no matter how exasperated and frustrated I’ve been reading this series I keep coming back for more. I remember reading the final chapter in A Feast for Crows (book 4) and sliding my iPhone away (yes I was reading it at work on iBook) with such a disgusted expression on my face that one of my co-workers asked me what was wrong. Still the next day I was preordering the fifth book, I have to know what happens to this world and the people in it.

Maybe its just me, I don’t know, but the whole point in reading or watching fiction is partially to escape the real world for a little while and immerse myself in a little bit of pure fantasy. Now its not that I expect everything to be all honey and spice and everything nice and Disney sanitary. I know that to make a story have impact and extract emotion sometimes good characters have to die and bad things have to happen, otherwise what’s the point. But come on!!!!!!

While reading book one I will admit that I was surprised and taken aback by Ned Stark’s death just like some of the watcher’s of season one of the series. But I understood the reasons for it and was perfectly willing to accept it and see where the consequences would lead the story. I could get past it and move on as a curious reader, believing that in the end karma and justice would prevail and at some point no matter how hopeless it might seem, the good guys would win in the end. Perhaps it still will but it’s becoming harder and harder to see.

I understand that this is a brutal world filled with people who are behaving realistically within that world, I do. But does every single character with ANY redeeming qualities about them have to die!! I mean seriously, every time you finally start seeing the story through the eyes of a character that you think, ‘okay, this is someone that although flawed like all the others, has at least a few redeeming qualities I can get behind’, they die.

Martin has been masterful in taking a few of the characters you might have once thought irrideemable and making them more human and sympathic as in the case of Jaime Lannister. There is, however, no amount of sympathy that can be instilled in my heart for his twin Cersei and seeing certain parts of the story through her eyes has cemented that in stone rather than changed my opinion. More than likely Martin intended this and if so then he has done a wonderful job because if he FINALLY ever does kill off that bitch I’m going to dance a happy little jig.

I will admit that in the real world, how this story unfolds is probably how it would really happen and I’m sure many praise Martin for the masterful way that he has accomplished this. But that’s kind of the reason for my unhappiness with the story. I know in the real world its the unscrupulous, the cruel and the brutal who get ahead. When I am reading, it is to immerse myself in a place where no matter how evil or cruel some of the character’s are I know in the end they will get what they deserve and the more heroic types will prevail. In Martin’s series he’s not leaving anyone with any redeemable qualities left alive to win in the end.

Even character’s that he has spent hundred’s of pages building up just suddenly come to an abrupt end leaving you wondering why he bothered in the first place, like Sandor Clegane aka The Hound and his strange attraction towards Sansa Stark. Martin spent pages of text slowly and subtly weaving this strange tale of unusual and humanizing emotion between the Hound and the eldest Stark girl. Clegane leaves Red Keep abandoning the Lannisters, abruptly, stealing that final song from a terrified Sansa and you’re thinking okay, we’ll be seeing him again, and you do. He ends up strangely enough with Sansa’s sister Arya for a short brutal little adventure that ends in his death.

Perhaps there will be greater meaning to it in the end. Revealing that Clegane was obviously in love with Sansa humanized him before his death, but it didn’t change the fact that he was a cruel and brutal bastard. It just left me wondering why Martin bothered to write those extra pages revealing Clegane’s only human emotion, it didn’t change at all my reaction to his death other than to leave me confused. Why . . . why did I need to read about all those strange little exchanges between Sansa and the Hound, they lead absolutely nowhere in the end??

I don’t know where Martin is planning to take this story, or who will finally sit the Iron Throne when it is done. But the scenerios that will leave me with any kind of satisfaction have been narrowing dangerously the more I read. Every character in these books has their flaws, none of them are perfect. But throughout the series the only people you can be sure are probably going to end up dead are the ones that have any kind of redeemable qualities to begin with. In many of these cases it leaves you wondering why you were so fully introduced to the character to begin with because unlike Ned Stark’s death, there’s doesn’t have the impact on the story that his did.

It is becoming more and more difficult to find myself in any way rooting or hoping for any character because I know the minute I do, they are going to end up dead. From a dramatic impact standpoint I understand the reason for this and the seasoning it adds to the story. The first few times, although bewildered and a little put off . . . I got it. I was even able to applaud Martin’s bravery as a writer, ending the carefully crafted characters existence. But it just keeps going on and on, getting to the point where its just abusive to the reader’s emotions.

Perhaps this is all part of something brilliant that will, in the end, make me swoon with delight when it comes. I hope so, I’ve invested a lot of reading time into these books, but at this point Martin has very few options left that will leave me satisfied. I need an ending where I feel like I can leave this world that has been so vividly created in my memory and know that it and it’s people are in the hands of someone who will be just and fair at the very least. Perhaps I’m the only one that feels that way. Its a good possibility, I am kind of a softy at heart (shhh, don’t tell anybody). But what’s the point in loosing yourself in a fantasy world for hours on end if its just going to turn out like reality anyway. If I wanted reality I wouldn’t bother to pick up a book, I can watch selfish, uncaring people getting ahead over those better deserving all day long in the real world without waisting my few hours of free time.

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5 Responses to Book and TV Review/Reflections: Game of Thrones

  1. Kimmi says:

    Because it’s addicting? and drawn really well?
    Because the point of being a hero is not to win, but to go down fighting and die to protect something?

    Today, I feel fatalistic. I don’t want a happy end. (someone save us from nice boat or the bloodflower, however!) I want people to die good deaths.

    And, I would like to maintain, Martin WILL NOT kill everyone. I may be meh towards Dany, but she’s clearly staying around. Tyrion too, I believe — the author’s pet WILL NOT die. he’s too much of the heart of the series, the laughter in the teeth of the cruel wind.

    The last book was originally titled “A Time for Wolves”… Things will turn out right — Martin may like to troll his fans, but he also loves a good yarn…

  2. severian says:

    The Hound is not dead.Reread the Brienne chapters in a A Feast for Crows and you will see a hint that the Hound is very much still alive.

    • Kildy says:

      I thought that at first but after Brienne is captured you learn several things that made me think that the Hound being alive was just a ruse. It’s definitely not him wearing his helmet and the man wearing it says he found it on top of a grave. I vaguely remember someone saying they found a buried him as well. Anyway, by the end of Feast for Crows I was sure he was dead all over again, I’ll definitely look back through it, it is altogether possible I missed something especially since I was reading between calls at work.

  3. severian says:

    Yeh,it’s very easy to miss.It’s in the Brienne chapter set on the Quiet Isle,pay attention to the very large Acolyte with the limp as Brienne walks up the hill with her companions.The Elder Brother talks to Brienne about finding the Hound and burying him,the gist of what he is saying is that the man who used to be the Hound is dead.

  4. Kildy says:

    awesome thanks!! I will definitely go back and read that again.

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