Game of Thrones – 16

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“The Old Gods and the New”

Well, Dear Readers, you and I are finally in the same boat this season – because I had no effing idea what was going to happen most of the time.  This was the first time more things were changed that faithful to the book, and most of the episode was completely new to me.  It was exciting and well-made but I’m still a little shell-shocked.

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As a little change of pace, let me just go over the major tectonic shifts:

  • Rodrik isn’t killed by Theon on the night of the invasion. He leads an army to re-take Winterfell later and dies when he’s betrayed by Roose Bolton’s bastard.
  • Osha never has sex with Theon (that darn HBO “Sexposition” again. Is there no other way to advance the plot?)
  • Arya never almost meets Littlefinger at Harrenhal in the books.
  • Arya never has J’aqen kill Amoy Lorch
  • Talisa (Oona Chaplin, Charlie’s granddaughter) the medic from a few eps back, never appears in the books at all.  Robb’s heart is stolen by a young member of one of the minor houses of his Bannermen.
  • And the big Kahuna,the dragons never get stolen

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Of course there are other changes that were implied but are now confirmed, among them that Meera and Jojen Reed are definitely written out of the adaptation.  I knew this was coming, but it still saddens me deeply – they’re good characters in their own right, and I think they’re very important to Bran’s arc in the novels.  Their absence also likely means the entire branch of the story surrounding Howland Reed and his boggy realm is gone, and that Bran’s arc is generally going to be greatly reduced.  There was also a subtler change here, as Bran never had that exaggerated crying scene in the books.  I’m not fond of this change – the novel Bran took this whole fiasco more bravely than the TV Bran, and thought Isaac Hempstead-Wright is doing very well with the role as written, this sort of change doesn’t do Bran’s character a service.

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You’ll understand, I’m sure, that I’m of two minds about all this new stuff.  On the one hand I get something of the thrill I had in the first season when this was all new to me, and the changes individually seem fine (except for Bran’s storyline).  But on the other, these changes have the potential to move outward like waves, growing larger and larger as they travel, and I worry about how dramatically different things will be a few eps or even seasons down the line as a result of these changes now.  Some of them are pretty significant even now – that business with Danerys and the dragons can only mean a global shift in plot – and I suspect but can’t prove there’s going to be a major shift in Baelish’s plotline, based on this week’s events.

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On the merits of the episode itself, as ever, I have few complaints – it was exciting, briskly but reasonably paced and brilliantly acted.  I’m loving the scenes with Arya and Tywin at Harrenhal – these have been expanded from the books and this is a change I wholly endorse.  Tywin is an incredibly complex and fascinating man (he made Forbes “Richest Fictional Characters” list last week) and Charles Dance is nailing the role.  I find the relationship between he and Arya really interesting, almost warm in a bizarre way.  You can’t have too much Tywin, really – I’ve said it before, but he really is a magnificent bastard.

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Also handled beautifully was the scene where Joffrey and his party were attacked on their way back to the castle after seeing Myrcella off to Dorne (an event which needed a little more screen time, and one which comes as close as any to humanizing Cersei’s character).  The series hasn’t done enough to show just how bad things have gotten in King’s Landing, but they’re pretty awful – the city is basically under siege at this poing, people are starving, rumors of Cersei’s and Jaimie’s affair are rampant and Joffrey is generally a douche.  The terror of this riot was palpable, especially when the Septon was literally torn limb from limb, and of course poor Sansa’s terror was “stark”, as well.  Another of those fascinating characters I never tire of watching is Sandor Clegane, “The Hound” – he’s a complicated fellow to say the least.  And will Tyrion slapping Joffrey ever get old?  I sincerely doubt it.

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Let’s not forget that things are happening up North, too, where Quorin Halfhand is showing he can be a bit of a troll in addition to a total badass.  This was an important sequence of events for Jon, and again there were some changes here from the way things went down with Ygritte (Rose Leslie, who looks about right) but I don’t necessarily see this as substantively critical.  Jon’s importance in the story has been a little understated so far, but he’s going to be hugely important in the next run of episodes, and there are many and subtle implications about the encounter with Ygritte – both this week and in weeks to come – that are critical to understanding him as a character.  Keep a close eye on Ned Stark’s bastard.

Obviously this week there are lots of things we could be discussing that TV-only viewers shouldn’t see, so please keep the comments clear of spoilers as a service to them, thanks.

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  1. J

    Nice bulletpoints! Always good to hear what really happened without excessive spoilers. Keep em up.

    I'm actually too lazy right now to post full opinions…Good episode as usual, not their best, but awesome nonetheless for a non-reader.

  2. Maverick, I removed a bit of your comment that I think is pretty spoilerish. Here's the rest of it intact.

    Well Enzo, I will agree that there are a lot of changes in this episode that are different in the book, but quite personally I think they are doing a favor to the series as a whole.

    Season 2 has made a lot of good things (eventhough less sexposition and fujoshi would have been better), and I think most except 2 changes has been managed well to cover the plot holes of the book.
    .Osha sleeping with Theon was a great piece of work since it shows how naive/stupid Theon was (he wasn`t even able to oneshot Ser Rodrik`s head).

    BTW Littlefinger did meet with Tywin before Blackwater, but it was implied that they meet on the way to King`s Landing.

    My only two big worries about all the changes are:
    1) Davos taking control of the Armada. In the book, he questioned the invasion plans but wasn`t heard. Martin supposely took that personally, so I have hope.

    2) Arya and Jaquen. By this time in the book, Jaquen had already seen Arya fight, kill, lie, outsmart, and survive bad people; enough to earn her the next step in her arc.

    About Tywin and Arya, in the books Tywin was always a "girl`s daddy" with Cersei, spoiling her with court trips and money, and promising her to marry Handsome Prince Rhaegar. I think/hope it is the same to Arya, and I am almost sure he knows who she is.

    Finally, I loved the scene in which Arya tells Jaquen to go kill Lonch. When Arya tells him to rush it, he just makes a face like "I am soo getting overworked…and beer is going to cool down".

  3. Well, as I said, I don't think I can assess the changes until I see what impact they have in the long run. A couple of them are potentially huge.

    Personally, I think we get the point about Theon – we don't need extra scenes to pound it into our head how naive and lacking in common sense he is. Just as we know Joffrey is a douche – we don't need a bunch of added scenes showing him being that much more psychotic. If it has a fault, the HBO version seems to want to cram a sex scene in whether it belongs or nor – and tends to want to pound the already obvious into our heads. In both cases, I think a little more restraint would be welcome.

    And Dany already had a good reason, if you ask me… But this subject is probably one better not to delve into here.

  4. M

    Thank you for just cutting the spoiler parts. I actually did a first cutting (first post that I erased), but it seems I left some I didn`t notice, so I am sorry about that.

    About Dany, I will have to re-read book two then, because I didn`t remember that besides the huge spoilers to future books.

    About the sex scenes, it is HBO so it was quite expected, yet they abused in the first half of this season. Episode 5 didn`t have sex scenes which was quite a good breeze. Episode 6 was the best with them, since Osha`s scene was actually well made, and quite personally Sansa`s almost rape was for me was the hardest to see even if I am an Arya fan.

  5. FYI, the one I was worried about was the one about Jon…

  6. A

    i still don't understand the whole Cersei thing with sending her daughter away the whole riot sort of proved tyrion's point.

  7. My take on that: she's irrational when it comes to her kids. Also, she inherently distrusts anything Tyrion does. Another note is that when she said "I hope you have someone you love unreservedly, so you can see them taken away from you" he was thinking "I already did, and they were."

    Sadly, the whole Myrcella-Dorne thing was pared way, way back from the books. Some of the depth was lost.

  8. V

    A week late but I just watched this episode and I have to say that first 10 minutes was the most difficult scene to watch for me in GoT history. It was even more painful than that other beheading scene from the first season. I am going to miss those whiskers 🙁

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