‘Game of Thrones’ – The Show vs. The Books

With Act 1 of ‘Game of Thrones’ well and truly over, the direction of the show looks like it is veering off the plot of the novels. So amid some of the worries and discussion concerning the Show vs. The Books, I thought I would throw my two silver stags in.

As adaptations go, “A Song of Ice and Fire” is perhaps the most audacious, convoluted and challenging venture ever attempted on the small screen. Even “The Lord of the Rings” could not match the scope and sheer magnitude of George R. R. Martin’s Epic Fantasy. The writers of “The Lord of the Rings” film trilogy had to contend with the huge plot holes Tolkien had left, trimming the story but impressively retaining the essence of the books. Don’t get me wrong, LOTR has a very compelling setting but to me characters do not come close to the charms of the world of Middle Earth that Tolkien lovingly established.

“Game of Thrones” is in a similar situation, juggling an enormous cast, setting and mammoth story – things are bound to be altered, compacted and trimmed right? The rethinking and omission of things like the trademark switcheroos and the taking on of different identities. These may work within the medium of a novel, but for visual media these become quickly cheesy, becoming repetitive and confusing to an audience. Thankfully however the brutality, grittiness and general ethos of the story remains. Speaking of switcheroos, I sincerely hope they scrap the whole Arya Stark/Jeyne Poole plot!

In ASOIAF, character development is of immense importance as the show strongly follows their book counterparts. Though some maybe somewhat sickening like the whole Theon/Reek transformation, the morally ambiguous Lannisters shine through – especially Jaime and Tyrion. (Ignoring THAT scene which totally ruined the former’s character in my opinion.)

Jaime is my favourite character. After his humbling experience of the loss of the sword hand that earned him his title as ‘Kingslayer’, the character does a total 360 degree turn and does not baulk at opposing his corrupt sister and powerful, scheming father. I should hate Jaime – he crippled Bran, killed Ned’s men in Kings Landing, is involved in an incestuous relationship with his twin sister, not to mention that he killed the last Targaryen monarch – but despite all this his POV in “A Storm of Swords” is perhaps the most powerful example of character development I have ever encountered in fiction. The same is true of the show, carefully structuring his character arc that is both amusing, touching and thought provoking – especially in light of what we already knew about Jaime.

Perhaps the most intriguing and enigmatic force that is very nicely handled in both show and books is The Others (White Walkers), that reside in the icy north Beyond the Wall. Though we have a very cool glimpse of The Others’ hierarchy in Season 4’s “Oathkeeper”, their motivations are still unknown in both book and show. The novels are well known for their morally ambiguous characters and their, dare I say, ‘grey’ areas. Clear distinction between protagonist and antagonist are avoided; each character falls on various places on a spectrum. Despite knowing almost nothing about them, The Others and their wights are considered by many in Westeros (and beyond) to be evil. It is interesting to note that advocates of the opposing element Fire (followers of R’hllor), particularly Melisandre, are presented in a similar fashion as a sinister faith with undeniable power. It must be said that the apparent motivations of R’hllor are clear – to keep darkness at bay and prevail against The Others in the prophesied ‘War for the Dawn’. It is also interesting to note that both ‘faiths’ strangely have the same ability: necromancy. Personally I feel a tight-lipped approach to the true antagonists will only go so far as the story is dramatised, hence the glimpse mentioned above. Let’s hope The Others become far more featured next season, especially as this point in the story happenings Beyond the Wall lull a great deal – Bran, I’m counting on you buddy!

Back on point though, as a fan of the books I cannot resist trying to line up future plots to their current standings in the show. ‘Game of Thrones’ however is increasingly deviating – this should make it more exciting for fans right?

For the most part, wrong. A dusting of uptight, arrogant fans don’t seem to like the major changes from the book, insisting it doesn’t correlate with their superior knowledge of events to come – though most begin their diatribes with “I know it’s different from the books but…”. Personally I love the changes and additions, there’s a beauty in not knowing which of my favourite characters are in danger of snuffing it, even despite their safe and alive counterpart in the books. It keeps everyone on a even plane. Who didn’t think: “Oh no! Pyp!” or “Oh no! Not Grenn!”?

But who also thought, “Holy shit, LOOK at that scythe!”  I have never been so impressed with a piece of weaponry in my life and that wasn’t even IN the books…

A decent TV show should always keep their audiences on their toes, and ‘Game of Thrones’ is doing just that for both ASOIAF fans and those not familiar with the books.