Game of Thrones Slaughters Ice and Fire

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Some quick comments on a TV show I love and a nonsensical debate we all started.

Submitted: March 19, 2018

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Submitted: March 19, 2018



In the early 1990’s, author George R.R. Martin started a book series called A Song of Ice and Fire which began with the novel, Game of Thrones. Some will say to us nerds why do we always have to choose between love and hate, or two properties. I am not so alarmed, but because those who are more than welcome to hate the show only tout the books, I will now prefer the TV production over those prosaic slogs for three reasons: clearer connective tissue, focused storytelling, and characters that come from goal instead of archetype. Oh, and we can have fun talking nudity and political politeness along the way.

First, the connective tissue of the series relays the struggle of three families—Targaryens, Starks, and Lannisters. Members of each party are fighting to sit or help someone else sit on the throne—the Iron Throne. That is the only thing we need to know, and the show eliminates all superfluous plotlines not aiding that vision. And it should be understood spoilers are coming.

To continue, in book four, A Feast for Crows, we spend way too many pages in Dorne with characters called the Sand Snakes and their quest to avenge their father, Oberyn Tyrell. The Oberyn story in the previous book already amounted to a lot of nothing because he fought to save Tyrion Lannister and prove the patriarch of house Lannister, Tywin, ordered the death of his daughter; he did neither and Tyrion was saved anyway. In short, a Tyrell of Dorne story had no weight on one of the three main families. We could have cut it all out.

Back to Dorn in the next book, the Sand Snakes try to avenge a father and their only connection to the three families—Targaryen, Stark, and Lannister—is through the Lannister daughter Myrcella. Otherwise, they conspire to put someone from Dorne on the Iron Throne. Myrcella’s death is the only part that makes their storyline part of the plot and it pays off in the show, but the Sand Snakes wanting to get the Throne is useless to the through line of books. The show jumps their allegiance ahead a few chapters to the Targaryens. The same holds true for the Iron Islands.

Also in A Feast for Crows Theon Greyjoy, who was given to the Starks, is tortured by Ramsay of house Bolton as his family debates finding armies to take the Iron Throne. While I agree that the show also fell prey to too much time with Ramsay Bolton when his pay-off to house Stark is minimal, the amount of time spent debating rebellions of the Iron Islands bores me. I will thank seasons six and seven of TV for jumping this story ahead to their split allegiances to Daenerys Targaryen (Theon and his sister) and Cersei Lannister (Theon’s uncle). In fact, season six of the show gave us focused, epic stories and book four was a waste of shelf space.

Second, aside from the clear story of the three houses, the show focuses the stories of the characters from those three houses. An example for Daenerys Targaryen comes when she decides in season four to stay in the city of Meereen and learn to rule people. In book three, which was so long it required two seasons, that was not her main reason for staying; in that novel, A Storm of Swords, there is more emphasis on the fact that Yunkai is going to send people against her when she has already had contact with them. It is a difference of emphasis and forward movement. Also, she is considerably older in the show than the books which makes command believable.

In focused stories, Cersei Lannister benefits more than others. In A Feast for Crows, she has sexual forays with every other man and woman she can, but without much consequence in the book other than adding sex. In that way, it does share one of the problems I sometimes have with the show. Not only do the sexual forays go nowhere, there is not enough time spent with Jamie for us to know why they still love each other. The show fixes that problem.

Before I address the third reason I prefer the show, I should note a problem I have with the TV show. Every other episode for the first four seasons, and sometimes every episode, has female nudity. After that, they do that every few episodes. If they would add full male nudity, it would at least be fair. It is often a contrivance to bring in men to a show that has great creative decisions; the show runners do not need to add it. As to the allegation of rape being told from male perspectives--that is only said because it is written by men; when Daenerys and Sansa are raped, we focus on their faces and yes they do—I dare you to play back season five for yourself.

And third, goal oriented acting versus characters that are described in the books by their physical traits. In the first book, Jon Snow, really a Targaryen, describes Tyrion Lannister in this manner:

He was a dwarf, half his brother’s height, struggling to keep pace on stunted legs. His head was too large for his body, with a brute’s squashed-in face beneath a swollen shelf of brow. One green eye and one black one peered out from under a lank fall of hair so blond it seemed white. Jon watched him with fascination.

Aside from obviously being a Targaryen, the statement turns him into a beast, and not a man. I would loathe looking at him too. If that society was really as shallow as George RR Martin describes, then no woman ever brag about screwing him, but they do all the time. The little brute Imp holds that shoulder chip for good reason and we should understand why he murders Shae in book three in a more rapey vision than the show. In short, his character development works outside in, from the way he looks to the world and how that turns him into a sex fiend, but he is so much more on the show. The goal of keeping his family together comes before his descriptions, and even those are mocked given how beautiful he is in comparison to people’s prejudices.

Cersei works outside (being a mother) in also, because she must not be allowed to have a good reason for craving the Throne in the books. Where Daenerys has to seek vengeance for all the wrongs—and they were so wrong—Cersei is left being the bitch mother who should just support her family. In the show, her inner goal of keeping her family in King’s Landing has her taking the power of a puppeteer, and that is a stronger choice than bitch mom who screwed a society over because she only loved her kids. How very evangelical of Mr. Martin to make her that caricature in the books.

Aside from an over-reliance on nudity in the TV show, Game of Thrones beats the books into the dust like the Mountain and Oberyn Tyrell. The claims of rape are ridiculous considering that the book has the rape of children without pity and the show gives us the faces of hurt women. The TV show has simpler connective tissue, making the whole series a saga of three families. The stories of those families eliminate characters and plots not serving the tale. And, the characters in scripts work from goal and not physical description.

“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground,”

--Cersei Lannister.

© Copyright 2019 Alex Sullivan. All rights reserved.

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