Welcome to the book readers’ edition of recapping Game of Thrones! As we established last week, if you haven’t read all of the books (yes, all the way through A Dance of Dragons, it’s been just shy of three years on that count, so it’s fully in play) kindly either depart gracefully or accept that there will be spoilers in what follows.
This episode felt egregiously pointless, especially in some of the departures from the books. Did we learn anything from this that we didn’t already know? Did the characters? Sometimes you can get away with episodes that don’t advance characters or plot if it gives a chance to go introspective, or just to show something really nifty on screen. This had none of those. Just sort of interminable sequences of the same sorts of conversations that we’ve already seen a dozen times. It’s weird, it’s almost like they’ve got to fill up a certain amount of space, only have one big thing that’s going to happen at the climax, and are just treading water until they get there, even if that means
hundreds of pages hours of television in which nothing happens.
Huh. Maybe they’re not departing so much from the books after all.
Meereen. I dug that they really made it more about the slaves taking their city, but I kind of missed the whole sewers thing. Sure Grey Worm splashed through some underground waters, but that’s a lot different than the whole: take only men without families because I don’t expect any of you to actually come back from pulling a reverse Shawshank, and I’m cool with that you lying asshole. In my head, Jorah totally punched his way out the other side through a Rita Hayworth poster.
But man, are all those slaves going to be disappointed when Dany ends up being the shittiest ruler this side of … oh, well, every other ruler that’s ever been featured on the show.
I get that they ditch Payne because of the actor’s health, and that it gives them an excuse to put the wonderful Bronn more on screen, but come on, the entire reason it was Payne was because he wouldn’t talk. Bronn is a mercenary. You don’t trust mercenaries with secrets, which was the entire goddamned point of the secret training.
But excuse me while I get pissed all to hell about the Tyrion and Jaime conversation. No, just fucking no. There are two problems with this: first, it annihilates the future scene they have while helping Tyrion escape, in which they completely burn bridges with each other and Tyrion says damned straight I killed the little shit. Second, we’re still waiting in the books for those two to meet again, and if the showrunners have indeed got all the loose ends from GRRM, that implies that GRRM has no intention of actually having any payoff on that falling out between the brothers. So despite the fact that the show is behind the books, it is in its diversions from the story actually telling us what happens in later books, which vaguely irritates me. Or the showrunners are just tossing the book script to the winds because they’ve decided they know better, which is more in line with the mounting small and large changes to the story that have kicked into high gear this season.
Ugh, Littlefinger. In the books, he’s the sneaky behind the scenes one. In the show, he’s rapidly just becoming the annoying guy who won’t shut up about how he thinks he’s all that. And he doth ain’t. Do you think next time they can have a third scene explaining the necklace? Because I think there are still some people in comas who haven’t figured it out. One of the things the books do right is realizing that these things are more effective when left hanging. Not because of the air of mystery, but because the complex machinations that you only understand part of at any given time are precisely what makes the game of thrones so fantastic and deadly. And because it imparts a suspicion that the game itself doesn’t matter at all, that all the little manipulators running around are just rats on a sinking ship. “My new friends…” lingering voiceover as the Tyrel ladies hit the gardens. What, was a neon flashing arrow above her head too much for the special effects team?
Hey lady, know what’s more tedious than a trial and those gardens? Us watching you bitch about them. It’s only a hundred pages from Joffrey’s death to the trial. And I think we’re going to get about four minutes of show from each page. We could read it aloud faster than that.
“I know he didn’t do it.” So subtle. And now I’ll play with your necklace. DID YOU KNOW A NECKLACE WAS INVOLVED IN THE MURDER? Jesus fucking Christ, I was kidding about there being a third necklace scene. Of course then we get the lovely bit about “hey just sneak in and screw his brains out, worked for me.” Which gets really strange with the fact that Tommen is like eight in the books at this point and leads to another problem with the plot changes. It’s fantastic in the books how Margaery is forced into trying to make this kid who’s still in the “girls are gross” stage into having affection for her.
By aging Tommen up to early adolescence, it turns the entire affair into a deeply awkward thing that I don’t even remotely trust the showrunners not to make hash of. Should there be a pool on which episode it’ll be when she gives him a traumatizing handie, followed by all the writers and producers declaring that they have no idea what the big deal was the next day?
I mean, yeah, Westeros isn’t even going to have a word for “statutory” given that you have to realize consent is like a thing in the first place before you tack the nuance of “age of” onto the front of it. But still.
And I just about lost it at the screen when ol’Baldy told ol’Dickhead that Jon was well-liked and might win an election when it comes up. Because what better way to set up the big surprise moment at the end of the book, then to announce it’s happening a half season in advance? I mean, if the first season had been this amateurish in basic storytelling, it never would have gotten a second. It’s like as Weiss and Benioff have gotten more confident they’re revealing that they didn’t learn anything even by osmosis from being forced for three seasons to tell someone else’s story.
Case in point. Craster’s Keep. These guys don’t matter. Why are we here? What story purpose do they serve? And having them have captured Ghost? This bunch of idiots managed to capture a Dire Wolf and put it in a cage? That’s just … terrible. I don’t buy it, I don’t like it, it’s adding nonsensical plot just for the sake of filling up time on screen. Of course that does give Bran and company something to do, but that’s my general fear for where this show is heading. They don’t have enough plot left in the books, so they’re just starting to make it up wholesale. The problem is that they’re doing a hack job of adding plot that makes no sense in order to pile up the screen time.
Steven Lloyd Wilson is a hopeless romantic and the last scion of Norse warriors and the forbidden elder gods. His novel, ramblings, and assorted fictions coalesce at www.burningviolin.com. You can email him here and order his novel here.