First, let me start off by saying that I am a fan of both the books and the HBO Series.
The books are second to none when it comes to political intrigue and “WTF moments” in a fantasy setting. And being the nerd that I am, I love a fantasy setting. Granted, each book could be two to three hundred pages shorter if Martin didn’t find it necessary to go into the minutia of what every single character is wearing or eating. I honestly could not possibly care less about every single item of clothing or what is on the buffet table and I don’t think it adds to the story in the slightest. I am pretty sure that you could shave off a year or more of the wait between books if George would just relax a bit on his descriptive diarrhea.
And the TV series is, in my opinion, one of the most perfectly cast adaptations that I have ever seen. Almost every single character is exactly how I pictured in my head while reading. Every set and scene is brilliantly shot and depicted. And just about every actor is delivering their roles flawlessly (the only characters I really have any issues with are Craster and The Hound, but I just think that is because his role has been poorly written and directed and is not the fault of the actor…so far.)
That being said, With last week’s episode, “A Man Without Honor”, we have reached the halfway point of Season 2 and I have to admit that I am disappointed in this season so far. I think that my frustration with this show is entirely based on having read the books before watching. I know that the credits say that the show is “based on” the books but did they have to go with “so loosely based on the books to almost be unrecognizable”? The Dragons get stolen? Really?
I realize that the writers have to cut and/or condense scenes and I have no problem with that, when it fits. For example, the capture of Arya, Gendry and Hotpie by the Lannisters actually works. They pretty much nailed all the key points of 3 “Arya” chapters into one scene. It does leave a bit of the “Arya is a badass” out of the story. But really, does anyone watching the show not think she is freakin’ awesome? So leaving out that bit of the story does nothing to hurt the series.
My problem lies in all the scenes and stories that they are adding to the show or just flat-out changing. This last episode alone had maybe two scenes that were actually in the books. And the whole second season has been like this. I already mentioned the part about the dragons but there are so many others:
- Jon Snow and Ygritte – I can’t help but wonder if this was changed so that Jon will remain heroic and not have to “turncoat” like he does in the book.
- Stannis and Melisandre – Pretty much the entire character of Stannis and the “relationship” with Melisandre. There is no way Mr. Holier-than-thou Baratheon is bangin’ that red bitch (even though she is pretty damned hot).
- Yarra – The name change of Asha, to Yarra, cause we are just too stupid to tell the difference between Osha and Asha.
- Jojen and Meera – I love these two characters and not having them there to educate Bran irks me. Using Osha to embody both of these characters really left a bad taste in my mouth.
- Talisa Maegyr – Is this supposed to be Jeyne Westerling? They are setting up this character like it is but if so why did they change the name? I can almost understand the Asha/Yarra change but this one makes no sense. And if she is supposed to be the character of Jeyne then even establishing her on the show doesn’t make sense to me. When she shows up in the books it is a surprise to both Catelyn and the reader and has such far-reaching implications that changing her entrance into the series doesn’t make much sense. I think they should have played up on the betrothal of Robb to one of the Frey girls this season instead. Then, when Jeyne/Talisa shows up out of the blue it would be a surprise to the viewer like it was to the reader.
- Qarth – Pretty much every scene dealing with Dany in Qarth is fabrication by the screenwriters. The way things are going in Qarth I am wondering if significant portions of Dany’s story will go untold. Will they leave out the characters of Arstan Whitebeard and Strong Belwas? Will the trip to Astapor and acquisition of The Unsullied not be on the show? It has to be though, doesn’t it? I mean, Astapor is where “Beggar Queen” Dany becomes “Oh No you, didn’t!” Dany.
- Harrenhal – Like Qarth, almost every scene so far hasn’t been anywhere near the story in the book. Jaqen H’ghar’s part was rushed and felt nowhere near the badssitude that it did when I was glued to the pages. (Oh and by the way, the recasting of The Mountain is distracting. The actor from Season 1 was perfect. This new Gregor does not have that same menacing feel to his look. Just looks like some tall and skinny dude in armor.) Where is Vargo Hoat and The Bloody Mummers? Gonna be a few pretty important scenes with those guys down the line a bit, just ask The Kingslayer. While all the scenes with Arya and Tywin are great it bothers me that they just didn’t happen like that on the written page. And speaking of Arya…her mantra (Joffrey, The Hound, Gregor, Amory, The Tickler, Polliver, Chiswyck, Weese, Ilyn, Meryn Traunt, Cersei, Dunsen and Raff the Sweetling) should be prominently featured at least once or more per episode and yet I have only heard it once. It is part of what made her my favorite character and hearing those names slowly, one by one, being removed from that list is a highlight of the books for me.
The series is still really good but I sometimes wish that I had not read the books and that I was just watching this show with fresh eyes. But then I see the confused look on Deb’s face every Sunday night before I hit pause so that I can explain all the narative lost on those that watch without the knowledge gained from reading the books. I really hope people who watch the show have someone sitting there with them to fill in all those blanks.