Welcome to the book readers’ edition of recapping Game of Thrones! As we’ve established previously, 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.
Hello everyone! Time for another week’s book readers’ edition. Also, thanks to everyone who chimed in on the thread last Thursday where we talked a bit about the way this column has been going. What makes this site different than any other on the Internet is the community, and so when we feel that something isn’t working, we try to make it as open to the readers as possible to figure it out. So to everyone who gave their thoughts and constructive criticism thank you for that, you’re what makes this site the best place on the Internet.
Alright, so let’s hit the main plot points, stir them around a bit, and see what shakes out the bottom of our memories of the pages.
First off, just give Dinklage all the awards. He’s great. His scenes are great. I still wish that these scenes had taken place before the demand for a trial by combat because I think making his actions born of strategy rather than emotion makes for a better character and a better story.
There’s probably some meta-joke about how they’re on their third actor for the Mountain, something about how it’s symbolic of the interchangeability of violence, etc. One way to read the scene with the Mountain’s massacring of prisoners is that he’s getting a sort of practice in advance of the combat, keep his skills up and such. I prefer the second way of reading it, which is just that this is what the Mountain does every morning after breakfast. Some people scrapbook, some people take a brisk jog, the Mountain slaughters a dozen dudes.
Arya and the Hound RIDING THROUGH THE FOREST. Huh, I’d completely forgotten about Rorge and Biter. Mostly because they let Rorge keep his nose and didn’t mention his name. That’s two noses that the show has left on faces that should have lost them. Disgraceful. I mean, yes, it was exactly the right decision they made with Tyrion, but Rorge? It’s a colorful image, and essentially the only defining characteristic other than “psycho murder hobo” but that’s not exactly a unique calling in Westeros. Though this is interesting then, because I wonder then who’s going to pick up the Hound’s helmet and commit all those atrocities in his name? It’s not a big deal that it’s not Rorge, but I assume that they’re going to make it a character we’ve met before, so I’m curious which it’ll be.
And Arya and the Hound are one thing that the show does really well. In the books, the few scenes we get with Arya and the Hound are just wonderful, but they’re over very quickly. The show has made the smart move of adding these additional scenes, almost like an editing job that GRRM probably would have done had he gotten to go back and rewrite Storm of Swords. To a degree, they’re definitely filler in that they don’t advance the plot directly at all (other than the Hound finally getting his infected wound), but they’re the good sort of filler.
But seriously, Brienne’s like a laser-guided plot rocket. No one has seen the Stark girls? She rides to a random inn and the first person she asks gives them the next plot hook. I have a harder time than that figuring out where I’m supposed to go next in video games even when they put flashing exclamation points over the heads of important NPCs. Oh, you’re looking for the Stark girls? One of them was just here a bit ago, have you been looking long? Nope, this is LITERALLY the first place we looked. And then her and Pod have their discussion of where to go as they ride up to a fork in the road. The subtlety on display here is just breathtaking.
And then there’s the Wall, which has just sort of been interminable. Have they mentioned yet that there are 100,000 men coming with giants? Just in case you skipped the first half of the season, let’s make sure to tell you again. Welcome the conquering hero! Who only lost half his men in a surprise attack in the middle of the night against an equal number of drunk guys! Clearly Jon went to the Zapp Brannigan school of heroic leadership. Kit Harington aims for brooding and lands on sullen constipation like he practices lines by watching the Vincent Kartheiser episodes of Angel on repeat.
And what about the Eyrie? (which I misspelled a couple weeks ago as Aerie because I’ve been playing too much Baldur’s Gate II again). For just a second there Littlefinger was actually sympathetic and kind of even a little awesome with the whole I killed him because he killed your mother. And then he has to go and break personal space rules and start kissing and it’s all creepy again. Also, with that suave coat/dress thing Littlefinger is a smooth set of sunglasses and some thumping bass away from being indistinguishable from Neo in the Matrix sequels.
Two things here. First, that was one shitty amateur snow castle right there, which doesn’t really matter other than the way it was described so exquisitely in the book. Come on guys, you can’t take away Sansa’s mad snow castle skills. It’s literally the only thing she has going for her. Second, Robin/Robert in the books was a lot creepier because he’s genuinely ill and not quite right in the head. The show he’s really just a spoiled shit. Losing that sickly side makes him a bit more one dimensional, but he’s also minor enough I don’t think it really changes much at the end of the day.
Getting back to the mastery of the subtle though, how about Lysa’s paratrooping? In the book, that just came completely out of the blue, a splash of cold water to the face. I don’t know if it was just the way they shot it, or the fact that I knew it was coming, but that shock just felt like it was missing. Once the door was open and Sansa was being threatened, there was only one way that scene was going. “Your sister” instead of “Only Cat”? Eh, I’m neutral. The second feels more natural, because it’s the way these childhood friends would have referred to her. But we’ve got Cat being called Cat within a hundred pages or so of this scene in the book, but almost a year of television, so I can see why they changed the line for clarity.
Plus, who gets blamed now for the murder? Just, oh, oops, she tripped? The thing is that in the book, laying that murder on the singer just seemed like such a tenuous claim, especially since the Lords of the Vale didn’t really want Littlefinger in charge anyway. Now if the show decided to make it so that Peter claims that Robin did it, perhaps in the midst of throwing a tantrum … that’s a far more believable story, and one they could get a lot of mileage out of.
Finally, it’s only in writing this that I connected the dots on the semantics of Lysa killing her husband with the Tears of Lys. I know I’m probably the last person watching this show or reading these books to register that connection, but I had to share it anyway because it made me unaccountably excited. Remember in the first season/book when Varys tells Eddard that Jon Arryn was killed with the Tears of Lys? And we later find that his wife did it to keep Robin/Robert from being taken away from her? Whatever poison was actually used, Varys was literally telling Eddard the truth, since it was the tears of Lys(a) that killed him. Neat.
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.