Stretch Those Storylines! Book Readers' "Game of Thrones" - "Breaker of Chains"
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.
Now that our obligatory cut n’ paste is out of the way, let’s get into it.
Eh, twirl the mustache a little more Littlefinger. What was with the crushing the necklace and pontificating? The book left the whole affair far more mysterious, and forced you to read between the lines. And having him confess to everything took the wind out of the sheer creepiness that the book conveyed, in which Baelish basically lays claim to Sansas as his own now, with the clear attitude that she should be grateful. And I certainly don’t remember him having an Irish accent in the books, or last season.
On to King’s Landing! Where Tommen is getting quite a lesson on rule from Tywin. I don’t like that they’ve made Tommen this much older. I get doing it a little bit, maybe up to twelve or so, but this kid sure seems like he’s in his late teens. That breaks the idea that Tommen really is just a kid. There’s this palpable feeling of total disaster in the books, of there no longer being a real king at all. This kid isn’t exactly grown-up but he’s also not going to be demanding his toys on the throne.
And here’s where Jaime coming back early really messes up the story in the show. And the show is starting to have to eat its history of portraying Jaime as a bad, but not that bad, sort of guy. Despite tossing Bran from the tower, he’s always been given this roguish charming quality in the show, that was absent from the books until he became a point of view character. Even the events on screen that come from the books such as the execution of Ned’s men, are far more malicious in the books with no redeeming qualities hinted at. For instance, in the latter, in the books it’s a goddamned war crime, a simple execution of helpless men. In the show, there’s at least a token sword fight, and he even punches out one of his own men for stabbing Ned.
So the show has dug its own grave. They’ve made him so nice for so long that then they go and add a rape scene that feels completely out of character. And yet they shot it (in my opinion at least) so ambiguously and oddly that it lacked the narrative shock of an act of gross violence.
To me it just felt badly shot and was so rushed that by the time I registered what was happening differently from the book, they were already cutting away, and my reaction was more a WTF directed at the showrunners than an actual reaction to what was happening to the characters. In short, they screwed it up so badly in the execution that it broke the fourth wall entirely. And judging from quotes from writers, directors, an producers, at this point no one can even agree on what the hell they were trying to do with the scene at all, which is just not a good sign.
Arya and the Hound, riding through the forest! (Note: I’m singing this to the tune of that song from Disney’s Robin Hood. Aaaaaaaaaand we’re fully into stretching these two out as long as possible apparently. I’m sort of okay with this, because I think the two are one of the best odd-couples on television. But I also see that the show can really parlay this into explaining the transformation of the Hound into a man who seeks redemption as caused by Arya’s influence, whereas in the books it’s something that happens more or less entirely offscreen.
Ugh Sam and Gilly. It’s like they took the statement “Bran’s scenes are the most pointless and boring in the series”, took it as a challenge, and gave us ten minutes of Sam and Gilly. I’m glad that they gave Gilly a bit of a personality, she always seemed just a cardboard cut-out in the books, but then she’s also part of that tertiary set of characters that I just don’t have much need for. You’ve got the primaries, who you care about (the Jons, Tyrions, etc.), and then there are the secondaries who only matter in so far as they intersect with the first (the Sams, the Bronns, etc.). The tertiaries are the ones who only come in attached the secondaries, and once entire scenes are getting dedicated to them, well, one thing leads to another and that’s how you end up with six years between books that are increasingly devoted to characters you can’t remember.
Christ, Stannis, at least when Joffrey threw tantrums he did it colorfully. Book!Stannis is written as a difficult and unforgiving man, but he’s rarely written as such an inveterate ass. “Where’s my army!” Well, I don’t know, you got the last one killed. “Sellswords! Are you mad?” Seriously bro, no one is going to fight for you unless you paid them, and I’d give that maybe a week, tops, before they murder you in your sleep. The Davos and the bank angle is an interesting approach to take though. It gives him something to do at the very least.
Woo! Brothel scene! It’s amazing how anyone who actually makes it into the credits and is in the midst of group sex in a brothel will stay fully clothed. GRRM likes to point out how he took away the idea of the protagonist ID card getting you a pass from dying, but it certainly still gets you a pass from showing yer naughty bits on screen. Either that or royalty do orgies differently than the rest of us.
But whoa, whoa, whoa. Survivors at Craster’s Keep? Talk of going to get them? You can almost hear this storyline stretching at the seams so that they can give Stannis enough time to sail all the way up there and save the day.
Ooh Stargate pyramids! Oh Dany. I like you so much more than in the books. Of course they’re going to stretch this out as far as possible too, since Meereen is where this storyline goes to wither away agonizingly for the next two books.
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.