Monday, May 11, 2015

Kill the Boy

This week gave us another episode in which Game of Thrones generally managed George R.R. Martin's story better than he himself did in the books.

Dany's plot, the quagmire of A Dance With Dragons, improved by the show making her much more of an agent in her own story. In the books, the character of Hizdahr continues to nag Dany with both the request to reopen the fighting pits and a marriage proposal. He seemingly wears her down until she finally believes she has no other option to turn to. But in the show, both decisions come from her; indeed, the idea of a marriage is her idea entirely in the show. The entire audience might still be screaming "NO!" at her, but at least this way she feels more in charge, like the queen she is.

As an added bonus, the show also gave us the awesome visual of dragons dining. A character and subplot from the book, Quentyn Martell and his story, has been excised, which generally seems like no great loss -- save for the fiery climax of that thread in the book. The show writers lifted that one great moment and found a way to still present it to us in some form.

Another way of covering up for a cut character came in the final sequence of the episode, where Jorah and Tyrion were attacked by the Stone Men. It played out almost exactly as it does in the books, save with Jorah Mormont in the role served in the books by a different character. The visuals of the ruins, not to mention the staging of the attack and the work both in the boat and underwater -- it was all presented with particularly impressive production values. (Not that the show often skimps on those.) And now we see the reason why the series has been talking so much of greyscale for the last several episodes: Jorah's shot at redemption now has a ticking clock of disease on it.

Up at the Wall, there were a number of interesting developments. First, there was a lot of talk around Sam about the vast library at Oldtown, a hint that perhaps a storyline that appeared to have been cut from the show might actually just be a bit delayed instead. Second, there was the departure of Melisandre along with Stannis' army. That leaves no apparent way for the show to deliver a bunch of implication Martin scattered throughout the last half of A Dance With Dragons, nor for the show to continue the story in the next book/season in the way many readers (myself included) expect. I'm quite curious to see how that all develops.

A big improvement in the story at the Wall was a simple matter of changing perspective. In both the show and the book, Jon concludes that he must make peace with the Wildlings. In the books, we really only get chapters in Jon's own head about this storyline. As a character, he's so focused on what needs to be done -- and so generally blind to how other people are having a hard time accepting it -- that it doesn't seem like the Big Deal it really is. By being out of Jon's head on the show, viewers are better able to see how the other characters are taking the news. And the addition of the young boy, who saw his family and village slaughtered by Wildlings just two seasons ago, is particularly useful in driving the point home.

Then there was the story at Winterfell, full of uncomfortable moments. There were several scenes to build up Ramsay's character. He was given a love interest, which delicately rounded him out without softening his creepiness in the slightest way. And later, when his father told him the story of his mother, we not only felt little sympathy for Ramsay, we saw that Roose is as bad or worse a person.

The scene where Sansa was engaged in talk of memories was set perfectly, at the base of the broken tower that in fact carries no good memories at all. It's the spot where Bran fell, almost to his death. And the dinner scene was a nightmare, another one of Ramsay's twisted games. Sansa gets her doctorate in concealing her emotions as she listens to Theon apologize for killing two Starks -- a dastardly deed for which he is actually innocent, while Roose Bolton is actually guilty. (The Red Wedding never stops hurting, people.)

I never thought I'd say this, but I missed the Dorne storyline this week. Why bother adapting such a tedious chunk of the book for the series if it's only going to appear in two out of five episodes? I suppose we'll see what they have in mind soon enough, as we're halfway through the season now already! I give this episode an A-. The show continues to make lemonade from the relative lemons the books gave them.

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