We’ve just passed the halfway point of the first season of the Game of Thrones TV series. A perfect point in the show to stop and look at what we’ve got so far. I wanted to do this last week, after episode 5 and do it at the exact halfway point, but decided to wait until having seen the 6th episode. Having seen it just now, I’m happy to have waited this extra bit. People who have read the book might know why already. But I won’t dive into that right away.
Oh yeah, if you haven’t seen the series up to episode 6, don’t read this post. Spoilers are flying around at a rapid pace. In fact, it might be best if you only read this if you’ve read the books as well, as I’ll be comparing the show to the books quite a lot. I’ve tried to avoid spoilers from the second and third book, but a few of them might have found their way in anyway.
First of, I just want to take a moment to just go “wow” for a second. This show is everything I was hoping it would be and then some. I couldn’t ask for a better TV version of A Song of Ice and Fire’s first book.
Characters are cast and portrayed near perfectly. This being a story very strongly driven by its cast of characters, this is the point that either makes or breaks the whole show. Most people already felt we were safe in that regard when we first started seeing the casting list.
You could argue that the homely Eddard Stark being played by Sean Bean and the ugly, misformed Tyrion Lannister by Peter Dinkladge are not accurate representations of the characters, but most agree that they do a great job of portraying the characters correctly. If anything, they’re perfectly cast.
The same goes for Theon Greyjoy played by (look up who plays him), who is a lot uglier in TV form than the books ever made him out to be.
Everyone else? Absolutely no problems there. Especially Robert Baratheon, who is just as I imagined him when I was reading the book.
The locations look just like (I feel) they should. You can see a lot of effort, attention and love went into creating the castles, towns and Dothraki camps. It makes Westeros feel alive. And as gimmicky as the intro is, with the clockwork castles and cities popping up from the world map, it is an amazing sight to behold, while at the same time giving viewers a good idea of where everything is situated. Two birds with one stone.
Speaking of the intro, it’s almost impossible not to mention the soundtrack at this point. It is amazing. Especially the theme that plays during the intro sequence. I’m usually one to skip intro themes, but I’m finding it impossible to even try it with music as good as this. And that’s not the only good song in the series. I want the soundtrack’s babies. Right now.
In terms of story and background, it helps if you’ve read the books, but Game of Thrones is certainly not impossible to follow without. Pacing is good, very good even. You could almost argue that the pacing is a lot better than the books, but the books tell the tale in a different way.
One of the most notable differences is that the point of view styled narrative has been dropped. The books would have each chapter play out from the point of view of one character. So you’d get a chapter from Jon’s point of view from The Wall, followed by a chapter of Bran’s point of view in Winterfell. It’s an effective way to keep information hidden from the reader, while at the same time showing us what is happening in the entire country, what with how everyone spreads out over the world.
The TV show doesn’t follow this format. In one sense it’s disappointing, in another it does provide for a faster pace and gives the viewers some more insight on certain events. In the books, only a select few people got the point of view chapters, new characters usually didn’t get any until the next book. Most of the time they’d only get one after another died, or at least, is presumed dead.
That isn’t the only thing that changed either. There’s a lot of minor changes in things that happened. Lines of dialogue have been altered, some fights changed in how they went. Most of it however, didn’t have too much impact on the story overall. Although there are a few jarring changes.
For instance the lack of direwolves. We barely get to see them in the show, which feel off most of the time. Why even introduce them if we rarely get to see them?
So far the direwolves only had any real effect in three scenes early on.
Summer killing the assassin who came to kill Bran. Nymeria attacking Joffrey. Lady getting killed.
Not only that, but Bran’s dreams have been heavily altered as well. He doesn’t have the dreams in which he falls anymore. Instead, he’s walking around Winterfell, following a three-eyed raven.
If you’ve read A Clash of Kings, you’ll know the connection between the three-eyed raven dreams and the direwolves. Yes, the raven is still there. But there was a meaning to the falling part of the dream. Its exclusion makes me afraid that this means that part of the plot is put aside.
As minor as it sounds to people less familiar with the books, it does feel awkward to those who have read them. A few people brought up that this is just like the whole thing with the Hobbits and the Ents all over again. I have to agree. I’m not too happy with these changes, but with how well everything else in the series is handled, I’m more than willing to overlook it. Just like the changes to Jackson made to the Ents.
Okay, to be fair, Jon’s direwolf still has a big role. But there have been moments that I was actively searching the screen for signs of Summer and Grey Wind. To no avail. The wolves seem to be downplayed quite a lot.
Another minor problem I have with the TV version is the changes they made to Petyr Baelish, also known as Littlefinger. His words and manner seem a lot more open and blunt compared to the books. And although there still is an air of mystery and threats to the man as he is portrayed in the series, it’s nowhere near as strong as it was in the books. I have to be honest in saying I’m not too fond of him as he is right now. Hopefully that’ll get changed soon enough.
One character I’ve found myself to liking more in his TV incarnation is Jaime Lannister. Granted, it might just be because he didn’t draw anywhere near as much attention towards himself in the book. The TV version seems to love to give him more time, and I cannot find any reason to object to this. It’s not that he changed a single thing to make me like him more. He’s still the same as he originally was, war hungry and selfish, we just get to see a more of him.
Although it could help that I’ve started reading the third book recently. If you’ve read it, you’ll know why that matters.
Watching Cersei and Robert sharing a table and openly discussing how much they actually hate each other felt quite awkward. I’m fairly sure this wasn’t in the books, and it seems to downplay the importance of Robert finding out the children aren’t his. Although in terms of how children born of incest are perceived and who the rightful heir would be it’s still of importance. Still, I remember Cersei being afraid of Robert finding out because she feared him. And mentions of her faking the marriage on her part and still having sex with him in order to please him, making sure she would never carry a child of his. After that scene in episode 5, it seems a lot less likely that any of this happened. Then again, this is Cersei Lannister. Her word not meaning anything isn’t too strange an idea.
Arya being mistaken for a boy seems a lot less plausible on TV than it did in the books. I’m wondering how this will play out later when it starts happening more often.
Speaking of Arya, Syrio Forell (what a guy)! I don’t remember the version of him in the books to be anywhere near as comedic as he appears in the TV show. In fact, the books put him down as a much older, balder man than the one we have gotten ourselves now. To be honest, I quite like this version. In fact, I prefer this one.
Even with all these changes and the problems mentioned, this is still an amazing TV series. There are so many ways this series could’ve gone wrong, and so few in which it could have been worse.