McBlog: Game of Thrones – The North Remembers

 

On April Fools Day the Game of Thrones season premiere aired on HBO and it was glorious. I’ve been anxiously awaiting the return of this series. For the most part I’m enjoying the show as a separate entity or rather an addition to the story of the novels. Since George R. R. Martin is involved with the production of this series, it is a delight to see what new scenes have been added to the TV show that were not in the books. As this series continues to unfold, there will be be many changes from the source material due to length issues. Certain stories will be abridged, some minor characters omitted, and there will be occasional changes that cater to the TV show format. I will attempt to go over the differences that exist between the novels and the show as I remember them. I will make sure not to spoil any future events, but I will make comparisons to how certain scenes were handled in the books.

 

CAUTION SPOILERS BELOW:

 

Joffrey’s Name Day

The opening scene with Joffrey holding a competition in honor of his birthday is actually slightly different from the book. The difference being that it was a jousting tournament and has been changed into a melee. Also there was more exposure to Joffrey’s younger brother Tommen. In the novels there are 2 types of POV characters: Those who Act and Those who Observe. Sansa is clearly one of the characters who observes events transpiring around her. She hesitates to even speak unless otherwise necessary in fear provoking rage from Joffrey. From her internal dialog we are given thoughts and comparisons between Joffrey and Tommen. Joffrey is a spoiled rotten self entitled teenager and Tommen is a more innocent and sweet boy. Tommen actually jousts against a dummy in the book and then Tyrion enters with his wild men. As far as the reasons for the changes, I can speculate on that:

  • It costs less to leave the horses out – They don’t have to pay for a veterinarian to be on standby, no jousting stunt doubles, no large jousting set, etc
  • We’ve seen a joust in season 1 – They may have simply changed it in favor of variety
  • Not enough screen time to start developing Tommen – I can understand that the focus needs to be moved from the minor characters in lieu of major ones due to time constraints

Overall the scene and dialog was left mostly intact and Jack Gleeson continues to play the role of Joffrey to a T. There is an added scene with Joffrey that was not in the novel, when he is having the Throne room remodeled he gets into an argument with Cersei. She’s trying to keep her son in check and ends up slapping him in front of a dozen servants. Joffrey responds with a warning that he can have her put to death for such actions. It shows us how much authority Joffrey actually has and how Cersei has to approach matters with her son delicately because he will not meekly obey her every command.

This is the type of scene I love seeing in the HBO adaption. Although it was never mentioned to happen in the books specifically, I can definitely see this event transpiring. That’s the beauty of the TV series is that it can be used to flesh out characters who were not POV characters in the books.

 

The Men of the Night’s Watch

Not so much has changed, but they have progressed Jon’s chapter forward a bit. I want to say that 2 book chapters were skipped / omitted from the Night’s Watch perspective. Strictly speaking, much of these 2 chapters were exposition and information chapters. There are scenes of Samwell rummaging through the old Castle Black archives for information on Wildling camps, The Others, and Night’s Watch (NW) winter supply lists. It really helps to flesh out how long and detailed the history of the NW is. Afterwards Jon wanders Castle Black talking to Donal Noye. Donal Noye is a minor character who has unfortunately not been present in the TV adaption. He is the hardened one armed blacksmith of the NW. He used to be the smith of the Baratheons but was injured in a siege of Storm’s End. He took the black after his injury and has since been the armorer of Castle Black. Him being a Baratheon man, he knew Robert, Stannis, and Renly well. He makes a comment about the brothers that is pretty insightful and unfortunately has not been included in the show:

“Robert was the true steel. Stannis is pure iron, black and hard and strong, yes, but brittle, the way iron gets. He’ll break before he bends. And Renly, that one, he’s copper, bright and shiny, pretty to look at but not worth all that much at the end of the day.”

There is a point where Mormont mentions that they had searched 6 villages on their way to Craster’s Keep and that they were all deserted. In the book there was a whole chapter dedicated to the exploration of said villages, specifically Whitetree. That chapter helped to portray the mysteriousness of the Haunted Forest and establish the imagery of the terrain. In a way it is sad to see that chapter omitted, but I understand why it was cut. A Clash of Kings is a long book and the show runners will have a tough time fitting everything important in 10 episodes. For the sake of pacing and screen time, it was necessary for this chapter to be cut.

Quibbles:

Craster’s appearance is not how I imagined him. He seems too well groomed and too well fed. I would have preferred that he look more vile, but we’ll see how it plays out.

 

The King of the North!

This is possibly one of the most exciting parts of the TV adaption for me.  In the books, all plot points surrounding Robb are seen from the eyes of Catelyn Stark. This is a specific area where the show writers should have a good bit of room to write new scenes. Robb didn’t do everything in the presence of his mother, so this should be a very interesting plot for readers. As far as I remember, the scene where Robb speaks to Jaime in his cage was an added scene. I like this scene for several reasons:

  • It shows us that Robb is becoming confident in his acumen for war
  • Jaime’s witty retorts – I always loved that Jaime can be in hopeless situations and still manage to make stinging remarks to his enemies
  • Grey Wind’s loyalty and obedience to Robb

I love the dialog concerning Robb’s banner men that went something like this.

Jaime: “You don’t trust your banner men to guard me?”
Robb: “Oh I trust my banner men with my life, just not with yours.”

As far as the Dire Wolf CGI is concerned, I think it looks alright. I know the budget of a TV series only allows for a certain level of quality, but that being said it looks better than the crappy wolves in the Twilight movies. I have no quibbles with the creature CGI thus far, that includes Dany’s dragons.

Quibbles:

Perhaps the only quibble I have with Robb’s story so far and probably the biggest nitpick I have with this season so far is that Riverrun and the Tullys are so far absent from the story. By this time in the novels, Robb and his men were not camping in the wilderness, they were taking up position in Riverrun. One of my favorite minor characters: Brynden Tully “The Blackfish” should have made an entry into the story when Catelyn took Tyrion to the Vale. I’m hoping they are simply saving him for later, rather than omitting him from the story all-together. Again, I understand that the TV show already has a huge amount of characters to develop and the writers have to be carefully choose who they have time for.

 

The Mother of Dragons

Daenerys’ plot this episode was brief and well done. Honestly she doesn’t have too much going on during A Clash of Kings, so it will be interesting to see what the writers have in store for her this season. Based on the trailers, I can assume the writers do not plan to follow the novel very closely with Dany’s story. If I recall correctly she only had about 4 chapters in ACoK. I find it interesting that they killed off her horse. If I recall correctly her horse is still alive and well in the novels. I get the impression that HBO might be trying to thin out the amount of horses used in their productions due to costs and the recent controversy of 3 horses dying on set of Luck. This is all just my speculation though.

 

Cersei Lannister VS Little Finger

This is perhaps the most talked about scene from the season premiere. Cersei and Baelish take a walk and make veiled insults at each other regarding “power”. Baelish alludes to knowledge being power countered by Cersei showcasing the command she has over the soldiers employed by her family. This was a completely new scene that was not in the books. While I do not find it completely outlandish, I do think it is uncharacteristic of Little Finger to somewhat show his hand to Cersei. It does successfully set up the type of dynamic these characters have as it concerns “power”. Cersei uses the resources and wealth of her family as power. Baelish uses knowledge and words as his weapons. As they are both players in the “Game of Thrones”, it is important that the tense relationship between Baelish and the other players be established.

 

Bran the Lord of Winterfell and his Wolf Dreams

Bran’s plot is probably very low on most viewers radars at this point; the crippled ten year old lord who watches the house while everyone else goes to war. My advice would be not to count him out yet. Isaac Hempstead Wright is doing a great job portraying Bran Stark and his chemistry with Donald Sumpter (Maester Luwin) is shaping up quite nicely. Not to mention Natalia Tena’s portrayal of Osha, who did such a commendable job that George R. R. Martin was thrilled with how well she depicted the character.

Bran’s wolf dream was well done and not too over exaggerated. I know the God’s wood set was in season 1, but it is so accurate, it looks exactly how I pictured it. No quibbles with Bran’s plot thus far.

 

The New Kids on the Block: Stan the Man, Davos, and the Red Priestess

New to the cast this episode are:

Carice van Houten as Melisandre

 

Liam Cunningham as Ser Davos Seaworth

 

Stephen Dillane as Stannis Baratheon

 

From the trailers I was a little worried that Dillane might not capture the stern sense of justice that Stannis Baratheon has. These worries have been alleviated, I think Dillane does a superb job playing Stannis. I really enjoyed the scene where he is dictating his letter of claim. “Ser Jaime Lannister the King Slayer, he’s still a knight.” Meanwhile Carice van Houten and Liam Cunningham play their respective roles excellently. Melisandre comes off as very mysterious and menacing yet graceful. I love that her necklace was growing red during the death of Maester Cressen. Davos seems like a swell guy, a man’s man. I am happy to see his retort was left in tact “And how many ships does the Lord of Light command?”. It was a great joy to see the addition of Dragonstone to the opening world map. The set looks amazing, and the famed Westeros shaped table looks well crafted.

Changes:

  • The Maester Cressen prologue and the first chapter of Davos were intertwined – Namely the idols of the seven being burned PRIOR to Maester Cressen’s death.
  • Minor characters have been omitted from introduction so far – Shireen Baratheon (Stannis’ Daughter) and Patch Face (The court fool / singer)
    They are very minor characters and I am not surprised they were omitted. Perhaps Shireen will be introduced when necessary but Patch Face could probably be omitted all-together.
  • Selyse Baratheon (Stannis’ Wife) is briefly seen and does not have anything to say – At least I think that woman following Stannis around is Selyse…
    She has a lot more to say in the book by this point, but I don’t think her presence is completely necessary until later.
  • The Maester Cressen prologue is shortened and we don’t learn the amount of details we did in the book
    In the book Cressen was like a father to Stannis, this small touch seems to be completely missing in the adaption. A regrettable loss, but necessary for time purposes.

Overall I loved the Dragonstone introduction and can’t wait to see more.

Everyone’s Favorite IMP

Tyrion is still awesome, Peter Dinklage still steals the show. Yes it is fitting that Tyrion is a Lannister and everything that comes out of his mouth is pure gold. I have nothing negative to say about Tyrion’s story, but the way things are developing with Shae might be questionable. He’s now hiding Shae in his bedroom within the Tower of the Hand; he hid her in a manse outside the Red Keep in the books. This should simply make things less intricate than they were in ACoK. With an already large variety of sets being used this season the producers probably wanted to cut costs and simplify things.

 

Ros ain’t the bottom bitch no more

Ros is the red haired harlot who has made herself a home amongst Littlefinger’s brothel. She has ascended the ranks and seems to be an assistant manager at this point. Ros is a character that does not exist in the books. She was created by the writers of the HBO series. It is my opinion that she was created for two sole reasons:

  1. She is there to provide insight and exposition for some of the minor characters. Examples: Theon Greyjoy, Grand Maester Pycell, and mainly Peter Baelish.
  2. To meet the nudity quota of an HBO production.

It bothers me that some minor characters have to be cut, while Ros can occasionally eat up a good bit of screen time. If there turns out to be a great payoff with Baelish or another character, then I will be happy, but until then I find her scenes to be the least interesting. Ros was present for the infanticide of Robert’s baby girl, which was simply mentioned in the books. I was surprised that the “bastard hunt” was the cliff hanger for the episode. It setup the growing danger for Arya’s plot.

 

Overall Impression

I highly enjoyed the season premiere of Game of Thrones. All of the characters are being moved and put into place for the events that will unfold over the course of the season. I will say that the cast is getting so large that the screen time is feeling thin. We hardly got a glimpse of Arya this episode and other major characters only got a scene worth of screen time. I’m thinking the next few episodes will feel this way because the writers are trying to establish all of the new characters. Looking back on the first season we saw a similar setup, the first half of the season was used to establish the players and put them into position for the intense second half. It is my guess that HBO will handle this season very similarly.

I’ll chime in next week with my thoughts on the second episode: The Night Lands.

Animated Gifs came from: winteriscoming.net

 

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