Game of Thrones – 44

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“Sons of the Harpy”

Welp – definitely gonna need to break out the spoiler tags this week.

I’m running behind this week, for reasons you know, so this piece is going to be a short one.  But a couple of major points I want to make: first, this was my least favorite episode of the season by a good margin.  And second, it was still probably the most important.

As for the first point, it goes well beyond the simple fact that this episode wasn’t as entertaining as the first three – it really had none of the spectacular dialogues those episode did.  A larger issue is that it seemed full of the sort of embellishments that the TV adaptation can be too fond, changes designed to add to the story but which merely weaken it.

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A good example is the “heartwarming” scene between Stannis and Shireen – one which Martin (wisely) never felt the need to insert in ASoIaF.  There, Stannis simply wasn’t the sort of man who could show affection openly in such a way.  He does have affection for his daughter, and a sense of shame over the way she’s been treated – but he’s forced to show it in subtle and indirect ways.  That’s much more tragic and much more profound, and makes Stannis a much murkier and more difficult character.  I’ve never felt that GoT got Stannis right and this only reinforces that – though ironically, it comes just as I was beginning to hope the character had turned the corner.

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A much more obvious change is the death of Ser Barristan Selmy (and Obama Grey Worm), which had been rumored in the press all season (thanks to a comment by Ian McElhinney that he’d been disappointed by his role this season).  If you want to kill off a character, fine – that’s Benioff & Weiss’ prerogative.  But it really feels now as if there was no real point to Barristan’s arc in the TV version at all.  What indispensable purpose has he served – to out Jorah, perhaps?  That hardly seems worth all the trouble to me.

But one can’t discuss Barristan’s death without touching on the real import of this episode, which is the seeming confirmation of one of the most popular fan theories among book readers.  I’m just going to put this entire discussion in spoiler tags (and advise non book-readers to be careful in perusing the the comments), though GoT has hinted at some of it.

In other news, the catfight between the two queens continues apace – and I do mean apace, as it’s way more rushed than in ASoIaF.  There’s a major change from the books here that really weakens he High Sparrow’s character. The Sand Snakes finally and belatedly enter the picture, and Elleria makes it clear that not only has she no qualms of starting a war over revenge, she welcomes it.  Jaime and Bronn continue to try and be GoTs latest buddy comedy.  And Jorah and Tyrion have a conversation – though knowing these two, it’s easy to guess who does most of the talking.

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  1. Z

    This was the first episode in the series entire run that felt odd to me, as a non-book reader.

    Not so much the Stannis stuff (the average GoT viewer won't warm to Stannis if they're too subtle about it) but rather the extremity of everything else. I suspect they're going to go for entertainment value over storytelling from here on in.

  2. D

    I am a fan of the now nearly-proven theory about Jon Snow, but if it implies his plot will become even more central to the overall story, I'm a bit weary. Kit Harrington has gotten better, but I'm still not huge on him as an actor for some reason, and GoT has had pretty boring Jon Snow scenes, other than the occasional bloodbath episode like the assault on the wall or the battle with the ex-watchmen.

  3. S

    I actually love it when they cut things from the books and stitch the rest together (usually not too hard what with the often pointless characters G.R.R Martin likes to add), but I realised that I don't really like when they add completely new material as it's often poor, and sometimes for very unfunny comedic purposes. There are some stuff they do really well, but when they take liberties in adding conversations that never happened, some turn out terrible.

    Like the whole "let's motivate why the sand snakes would want war" scene. Cringe. Awful dialogue.

  4. Strictly in the interest of exposition, really. They never gave the Sand Snakes the backstory they had in the books (I think a real case can be made they're one of those "pointless" diversions of Martin's that never pays off, but still) so they had to explain to the audience who they were and why without taking proper time to do so.

    I chalk the Stannis speech to Shireen up as much the same sort of added material that subtracts from the story, though it was certainly better executed than the Sand Snakes stuff.

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