Monday, May 9, 2011

Thoughts on HBO's Game of Thrones

My last post seemed redundant the moment I carried over a bunch of old posts from the previous blog. Then, April showered! Maladies, computer problems, and a busy enough social schedule.

But I felt a lack of continuity in my blog here, because - as SOOOO many others - I had been contributing (in my ever so small way) to the growing hype of HBO's A Game of Thrones.

Truly, I can't even talk about my own WIP without mentioning the great desire that I have for HBO to knock this out of the park, ala the next Sopranos or Rome - as GoT purports to be a little of both, in the more fantastical setting of Westeros. I've read the entire series a number of times (four, at least), but I do believe I can discuss this without revealing any spoilers.

I am loathe to "review" the series. As much as I enjoy critical analysis, and apply the same measure to my own works - I'm afraid that an overly critical analysis would overshadow my general joy and happiness towards the project. In short, take what I write herein not as judgemental, but as observation with the intent to highlight the strength of the source material. Ultimately, I am still excited - and very much enjoying - HBO's project.

So, as far as Thrones - READ THE BOOKS. No medium is going to capture the depth and subtlety of Martin's writings. It is too hard to get emotionally invested into the characters when the subtext is limited to what you can insinuate from a 45 second conversation.

I was disappointed a little in the pilot, in that we do not get to hear the children speak, that Jon Snow appears to be so youthful and angsted (and that Catelyn Stark is such a bitch to him), that we don't even know who Theon Greyjoy is until 4 episodes in, and the most tragic deviation of all - Khal Drogo and Daenerys Targaryen.

I think the viewer is losing out on the value of Dany's ascension into a Khaleesi, a Queen, by the deviations in the story. Drogo is gentle with her and smitten. And Dany commands Viserys to walk, not Rakharo. Little things. These are the subtleties that make her decisions at the end of the book that much more powerful - and credible.

And well, you should know that I like my canines - apparently, we could not find an albino pointy earred dog to behave. The relationship with Tarly and Snow, in the book, gains depth and understanding when Samwell is NOT scared of Ghost, and Ghost accepts the fat boy as a friend.

But! Truly, I pick and nag out of love, not because I'm a critical bastard, some angry, sad man who himself is not published because his big fat WIP requires tremendous editing. Overall, the series IS telling the story in a different medium, and as noted elsewhere, it is much like a love letter to A Song of Ice and Fire, as much as a portrayal.

Those nuances noted, casting for Thrones is spectacular. (And it seems impossible to find a casting ensemble picture without infecting your computer with a virus!) I was already quite in lust with Daenerys (played by Emilia Clarke), and from page to screen, I have fallen all over again.

I was never particularly pleased with Cersei on the pages, but Lena Headey brings out the sexual power of Lady Lannister, which somehow makes it easier to accept that she's a bitch. Jaime Lannister? As noted elsewhere, the depth they have given him is commendable. He's charming and clever and cruel. That this is made clear from the beginning is quite the exceptional highlight of an allowable, if not encouraged, deviation.

I knew from the beginning that Mark Addy would pull off Robert Baratheon, and he continues to do so. Peter Dinklage, as Tyrion - brilliant as possible, as everyone on the internet had well predicted. Old Nan? Awesome, perfect and a pleasant surprise. Viserys? Creepy and spastic - bingo! Bran? Stubborn and youthful, with a convincing range of emotion for such a young actor. Nicely done.

Perhaps we haven't seen just enough menace from the Hound, and perhaps Littlefinger is a bit stiffer than I recall him being in the books. Robb Stark is appearing flaky, but I think that's due to lack of screen time; he's just not making sense. And while I am pleased that Sean Bean is playing Ned Stark - the television portrayal has the Stark patriarch as a tad brutish, whereas in the books, my impression was that he was a stoically somber man.

On the other hand? Ser Jorah Mormont, by Iain Glen - fantastic! I'm more convinced by him on screen than I was in the books. Maisie Williams, as Arya Stark - the absolute screen stealer.

The water dancing scene at the end of episode three? It was so good, it made me cry, I kid you not. Arya becomes an increasingly notable POV as the story progresses, and so far young Miss Williams is quite possibly the best casting on the show.

Some deviations are necessary, no doubt. As HBO has given a greenlight to Season Two, the producers are really going to have to consider how to carry the story forward with working animals versus CGI. Especially Ghost, damn it - the bastard boy is defined in his books by his freakishly silent wolf.

I wonder how they will reconcile the motivations of the characters, and their actions (Joffrey doesn't like Sansa, what?!), as the story gets even more complex.

All in all, my own selfish motivations aside, I am beyond pleased at the reports that ratings are solid and/or increasing.

For the best commentary on Thrones, I refer you to Winter is Coming or even Adam at The Wertzone. I won't be trying to keep up with those blogs in terms of news and updates.

As an aside, and a post for another time, it is well worth considering what the success of Game of Thrones means for the fantasy genre. If HBO can capture Martin's characterizations and complexity in a world of winters, wargs and wildlings - will it give credibility to a literary genre that is oft neglected or considered immature? Can sex, incest, political intrigue and the cruel nature of war make adult viewers consider that not all fantasy fiction is wands and long-bearded wizards and moreso - understand and appreciate that good and evil is not always black and white, but rather, deep shades of grey? By the Muses, I truly hope so.

However, another discussion that caught my eye and perhaps will catch yours, was a question brought up by the Speculative Scotsman. Martin is notoriously NOT prolific as a writer, and will the series become his deal with the devil, disallowing him time to write what HE wants to write, becoming slave to his success?

Oh, to have such troubles! ;-)

Until the next.


  1. I am so caught up in this show!! Reading the book now and am disappointed in the televised retelling in some areas... mainly the story of Dany and Drogo... But, I guess that is the way it goes when novels are made into movies or series... I am at least glad they are beginning to showthe softness of the coupling now... :) Being a girly girl and the fact that they are both beautiful people.. their's tends to be my favorite storyline...

  2. There was another big deviation this past weekend - Petyr tells the story of Gregor/Sandor - in the book, it's the Hound who tells Sansa the story of how he got those burn scars.

    In the books, Dany, Jon Snow, Tyrion and Arya are the most dramatic story arcs that (I believe) people will be most looking to catch up on when ADWD comes out this summer.

    All I really want to say is this - if you think this storytelling is good - just wait until the events in season two. POW!

    Thanks for the comment, Songbird. :-)


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