Book vs. TV/Movie: Game of Thrones

After last night’s season finale, I’m pretty much done with the Game of Thrones HBO series.

*** Warning! this post is full of spoilers for season 5 of Game of Thrones… ***

Originally, the thing that I loved about GoT the HBO series was how the two dudes writing and directing the show were able to streamline GRRM’s detail-bloated novels.

Granted, I’ve only read the first four books, so far. I’m waiting until the release date for book six is announced before I read book five because I hate long gaps between books in a series — especially when memory of details is important.

But, through the end of last season, I noted with approval the small changes they chose to make in order to streamline the plot, mostly by omitting some minor characters here and there. No big deal. I became convinced that maybe I would just need to watch the HBO series and not have to bother plowing through three more epic fantasy novels of door-stopper girth.

*** Spoilers are coming! You’ve been warned… ***

Then came the pre-season five rumors… There were going to be major deviations from the books. Major, beloved characters might/would die, etc. Immediately everyone feared for Tyrion’s life.

Then the season kicked off and things were going relatively well — until the first major deviation from the books was revealed. There would be no “fake Arya” wife for Ramsey. No, he would marry “real Sansa.” Hmm… Still, this felt like the other, small changes. I thought this could be okay. This could seriously streamline things. Potentially a good move. Judgement withheld.

And then there was the wedding… and the reaction to the post-wedding scene ignited much uproar on the Interwebs. Not Sansa! they said. You’ve taken your rapey-bit trope a little too far this time, they said… I wasn’t pleased with how that episode played out, but also, I wasn’t surprised. It was my lack of surprise, my sort of shrugging and saying, yeah, I guess we should have seen that coming, that was my first hint that this season might have jumped the shark.

Then, the week after that there was that weird “most beautiful girl in the world” prison strip tease thing with Bronn and the Sand Snakes… Basically an excuse for some more female full-frontal nudity. Again, not in the book (at least that I remember…). But that’s not all, we get another not-in-the-book scene where Sam and Gilly get it on. Because we just couldn’t leave “Sam the Slayer” a virgin, now could we?

Then, the following week we got an extended final scene (seriously felt like half the episode) of Jon and the Wildlings battling the Whitewalkers. Also invented — also not from the books. The show writers took a chance to let their imaginations run away with them, again. Okay, whatever. I’m not watching for the battle scenes, but meh, fine. Except… the writers go and introduce a badass female Wildling. And just when I think we’re going to have a new character to love, she sends her kids off on a boat telling them she’ll be along on the next one, and we know she’s going to die. But HOW she dies is what made me want to throw my laptop across the room (yes, I don’t have a TV). As I said on Twitter the next day:

That one nearly did me in. But the following week redeemed itself with dragons. Because, dragons!

And then, last night, the finale… Okay fine. Finally we have our death of a main (and beloved) character that was hinted at in the pre-season rumors. And there were some more deaths. Because, Many Faced God and Valar Morghulis and all that. For what it’s worth, I’m in the “he’s not dead yet” camp. Because fan theory. (This is something I also guessed at from reading the books). And Melisandre’s timing was WAY too coincidental otherwise.

But that death didn’t really bug me much (probably because I don’t believe it). What bugged me were 1) Theon’s completely unbelievable pivot into “hero” from “whipping boy” and 2) the extended scene of Cersi’s trek through the streets of King’s Landing in her “birthday suit.” Hello, more female full-frontal. Granted, it was EXTREMELY well acted. She nailed that scene. It was just weirdly long and extremely uncomfortable to watch. And without a solid and/or satisfying resolution. At first she appeared truly shamed. Truly repentant. Then, what? Zombie Mountain to the rescue, carrying her off into the sunset to avenge her against her enemies? Moving character development. Then, psyche! Just kidding!

What is up with this season? It seems that any time the writers are left to their own devices and allowed to make stuff up that’s not in the books, they immediately go to some misogynistic trope-like crap. They spin the wheel and see if it lands on 1) meaningless death, 2) naked ladies, 3) rapey bits, or 4) damsel in distress! Or some random combo of all of the above.

Game of Thrones has some great characters (male and female). Even though GRRM takes a lot of crap for making his fantasy world a pretty awful place for the ladies, one of the cool things is that they are still out there, running things, despite the environment. The women in his books are some of the smartest, most strategic, and resilient characters in the books. But the TV show seems intent on undermining their power, and missing much of that nuance. Which is really disappointing.

I’ll keep watching. But I’m going back to reading the books. Because I no longer trust these TV show writers to handle the narrative and be true to the story.