Thoughts on Game of Thrones Season 2 – Book 2 and Season 2 spoilers

May 22, 2012

I was motivated to write this entry today following the news that GoT screenwriter Bryan Cogman has left Twitter. He explains that this is due to negative backlash on some of the creative decisions made by the team.  I can respect Mr. Cogman's decision and am sorry that the feedback he received was phrased in a negative and hurtful way.  As a fan of both book and TV adaptation, I would like to share my thoughts.  

One of George R.R. Martin's strengths as a writer is in his characterization.  The multiple point of view structure of the novels allows him to populate his world with characters as varied as a young tomboy, a young Queen coming to grips with her newfound power and a smart dwarf who wears his armour in his mind and for us to get to know and love them.  Each of these characters has a well thought out story arc with its own emotional beats, and following these characters on their respective journeys is one of the pleasures of reading A Song of Ice and Fire.

HBO has brought together a fantastic cast and crew to bring these characters to life, and it has been a joy to watch them.  I also appreciate that putting together an adaption of these novels within time constraints and within budget is challenging.  Also, if characterization is one of George R.R. Martin's strengths, pacing is one area in which his writing is perhaps not quite so strong.  There are moments when little is happening, but the characters are still moving along their arcs.  That doesn't necessarily make for great television.  

Clearly then, changes have to be made.  The changes I personally find easiest to deal with are those that don't throw main characters off their book emotional story arc or miss an emotional beat.  For example, what does it really matter whether Theon's sister is called Asha or Yara as long as her emotional arc stays true?  While I miss the Reeds, I can live without them as long as Osha is there to service Bran's storyline of learning about his dreams and the three-eyed crow.

Other changes are not so easy to swallow.  One major emotional beat that is missing from both Robb's and Catelyn's TV adaptation storyline is their learning of Bran's and Rickon's "deaths."  In the book this is the catalyst which spurs Catelyn to release the Kingslayer and Robb to sleep with a secondary character leading to his breaking his vow to the Freys.  Without the emotional blow of their grief, these decisions are less understandable and even out of character.  It is a major misstep in their emotional journeys. From what I have read, non book readers are also picking up on this, and struggling to understand their motivations.

The biggest change to the books, and the one I have the most difficulty accepting, is in Danaerys's storyline.  In the books the dragonnapping does not take place.  Dany's book storyline is probably the one that suffers most from weak pacing, and I imagine these changes were made to bring more action to her plot and to give her more screen time.  The reason I struggle with it, is that it negates what the character went through last season.  We watched Dany grow from a frightened, powerless young girl, to a Khaleesi to the mother of dragons, taking the power of her inheritance.  Her subsequent story arcs in the books are about her learning to wield that power, not losing it again.  This can be contrasted with the handling of Jaime Lannister's storyline.  Jaime, too, has little to do in the book.  The writers have written some beautiful scenes for him with Robb and a Lannister cousin which both serve and enhance Jaime's book emotional arc.  

In summary, no adaptation of a much loved book is going to please everyone. The creative team has done a wonderful job in bringing Westeros to life and I look forward to the concluding two episodes.

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