31 Mar 2012

Page vs Screen: Game of Thrones

Last year around this time I wrote a "Book Report" post on the first four books in the series Song of Ice and Fire by George Martin (I just noticed I never wrote the book report for book 5 Dance With Dragnos last summer, darn!), with some video clips from the soon to be aired HBO TV show embedded. It was pretty obvious I was excited about the new TV series... and it definitely lived up to any expectations I had for it! So much so that I ordered the first season on BluRay as soon as it was available, and then had a nice little Game of Thrones marathon two weeks ago! Since then I've been rushing to finish re-reading the first book so I could write this post before season 2 premières! (I read it in 2 days the first time around, but now am busier plus I no longer have the drive to keep reading into night to find out "what happens next") :p

To be more precise this post should be titled "A Game of Thrones vs Game of Thrones s1", but, same difference! I took a lot of notes while re-watching the first season, plus added elements as I continued through the book, and it hasn't been easy bringing a semblance of order to the chaos of my thoughts, so I hope things are understandable! Here goes nothing... (Warning! Spoilers for s1 of Game of Thrones)

General impressions:

Apparently George Martin was included in the creative process for the series from the very beginning, and had input throughout the development (from the casting to the costumes to the sets...), so this was bound to be a show that hewed pretty close to the source material. When once approached to turn his book into a movie he said it would be impossible, too much would be cut out for the story to remain recognisable. He said he could only envision it as a TV series. And here we are! I hope his involvement with the series won't keep him from his writing... there are still two books left to finish the series and at the speed he writes the HBO series might catch up before he's finished the next book! :p

The look and feel of the show live up to any expectations I might have had, in fact they far surpass them! Everything feels so real... and the actors have done an incredible job bringing their characters to life! The look of them (thank you hair and makeup and costumes! Such attention to detail with the clothes adapted the character's locations), the manner of speaking, of holding themselves, the glances they give, the non-verbal communication... all fabulous! As has been noted on may a website, the best of the bunch was definitely Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister, in my opinion followed closely by Emilia Clark as Daenerys Targaryen and Maisie Williams as Arya Stark. I was less convinced by the two "mothers", Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Michelle Fairly as Catelyn Stark. I don't know what it is about Michelle that doesn't convince me... but I do know that part of my problem with Lena Headey is buying her as a blond! The colouring feels off... weird thing to fixate on I know, but what can I say?

Successfully bringing the show to life was greatly helped by the choice of filming locations. I'm amazed all those different places could be found in just Northern Ireland and Malta! The impressive grasslands of the Dothraki sea; exotic, sensual Pentos; the harsh North with little vegetation which becomes less and less (and colder and snowier) as you head north towards the Wall; the Mediterranean climate of King's Landing with palm trees and bright colours; the freakyness of the Eyrie...

"When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground." Queen Cersei Lannister to Lord Eddard "Ned" Stark.


Organisation of the TV show

I thought they did a brilliant job dividing the story up into 10 chapters, and I loved the titles of each episode and the fact that they brilliantly ended at really good spots!
  • Ep 1 - Winter Is Coming as Jaime says "the things I do for love" (brilliant delivery!) and pushes Bran out the window. 
  • Ep 2 - The King's Road as Ned kills Lady and Bran wakes up. 
  • Ep 3 - Lord Snow with Arya's first "dancing lesson" with Ned looking on... and that final look (as the wooden clashing of swords turns into metal clanging) as if he is seeing a portent of ill things to come. 
  • Ep 4 - Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things: "I call upon you to seize him and deliver him to Winterfell where he will await the King's justice" as Catelyn captures Tyrion, pretty much the pivotal moment that will lead to war.
  • Ep 5 - The Wolf and the Lion: "He's my brother lord Stark, I want him back" Things are beginning to escalate, and we've been looking forward to a fight between Jaime and Ned for a while now... they don't disappoint! (a scene changed from the novel, but I for one was glad for a Jaime-Ned face-off!)
  • Ep 6 - A Golden Crown: "He was no dragon. Fire cannot kill a dragon." says Dany just after Khal Drogo grants Viserys his golden crown.
  • Ep 7 - You Win or You Die: "I did warn you not to trust me" says Littlefinger as he puts a knife to Ned's throat after he and the gold cloaks betray him in favour of the Queen.
  • Ep 8 - The Pointy End: Joffrey to Sansa "Your father has to confess and say that I am the king, or there will be no mercy for him." "He will". A bit of a let-down compared to the others... much more impressive was Barristan Selmy's storming out after he'd been "relieved" of his post in the Kingsguard to retire by the sea.
  • Ep 9 - Baelor: King Joffrey orders "Ser Ilyn. Bring me his head!" The beheading of Lord Eddard Stark on the steps of the Sept of Baelor. His last look at Baelor and realising Arya isn't there, is probably safe with Yoren (of the Night's Watch). Arya lifting her eyes to see doves taking flight in the sky. (tears rolling down my cheeks)
  • Ep 10 - Fire and Blood: Dani rises -unburnt!- from the ashes of Drogo's funeral pyre, with three newly hatched dragons on her. (I can't wait to see those dragons begin to grow in season 2!)

Main differences between book and show:

First and foremost: the AGES!!! The characters all seem to be a bit older in the series... Dani doesn't look to be 14 (I don't think they ever state her age on-screen), neither do Robb and Jon (more 16-18, they're supposed to be 16 on the show since Catelyn tells Ned "17 years ago you rode out with Robert and a year later came back with another woman's son"), even when they've just shaved and look a bit younger. And Sansa 12? I don't think so! She even looks older than her stated age of 13 (on the show). Bran (8 in the book) says he's 10 on the series, so how old is Arya supposed to be (10 in the book)? And they've made Rickon 6 instead of 3! Joffrey does look closer to 14, although he should be younger since he's supposed to be younger than Robb (as Ned got married before Robert). Also, although younger he's supposed to be taller than Robb! And it's a good thing the book clearly states Ned looks older than his 35 years, 'cause there's no way you could convince me Sean Bean is 35! :p

Other changes:
  • The wrong ranger escaped the white walkers! Young guy instead of old guy...
  • Big difference: confrontation between Ned and Jaime after Ned comes out of the brothel. In the book they don't fight! Jaime leaves his men to kill Ned's men and let Ned live (so as not to risk Tyrion's life), and Ned injures his leg (broken when his horse falls on top of him) trying to defend Jory Cassel. I think the face-off between Jaime and Ned in the series is more satisfying.
  • In the book I don't see any implication of Renly being involved with Ser Loras, nor when he comes to offer his help to Ned (at the king's death) to "take hold of the prince" does he offer himself as a better candidate for king (which he does in the series).
  • Drogo was injured in the battle against the sheep people, not by one of his men in a fight over Dany.

Amazing details from the show:

  • The brilliant credit sequence! As the story takes us to new locations these get added into the credits, as a growing map of this world. Apparently it came from the idea of grounding the series geographically for the audience, to help the viewers understand where the characters were in relation to each other. Can't wait to watch it grow even more in season 2. Even the Simpsons' loved it! ;o)

  • The White Walkers' intense blue eyes are wonderfully creepy!
  • The Dothraki language was created for the show (apparently there's a "language creation society"!) to make things more believable. Jason Momoa barely says a couple of words in the "common tongue" (English for us), even his long inspiring speech at Vaes Dothrak is in Dothraki!

The characters:

It's definitely a story defined by its characters. They're all so well developed, with their strengths and weakness and quirks. It's all about the shades of grey. Heroes have dark elements, villains aren't villains to themselves, they have their own sense of honour and what is right. And in many of them we see immense growth throughout the season (the most impressive is Dany who goes from a frightened girl to an angry Khaleesi and becoming "the dragon"). Here are some key moments which to me define them:

Vyserys Targaryen: His best moment is when, stealing the dragon eggs, he tells Mormont "No one has ever given me that"  (the love and respect and admiration the Dothraki give Dany). You can tell he's hurting, has had this huge responsibility/weight (being the "last dragon") on his shoulders which has defined him since he was five years old.

Lord Varys: "Who do you serve Lord Varys?" "The realm my lord, someone must."
"My role is to be sly, obsequious and without scruples. I am a good actor my lord." These two scenes perfectly illustrate the fact that there is so much more to him than meets the eye!

Lord Eddard Stark: "You think my life is some precious thing to me? I would trade my honour for a few more years of what? (...) I grew up with soldiers. I learnt how to die a long time ago." Honour above all. Except his family. (he gives a false confession to save Sansa).

Robb Stark: "If we do it your way Kingslayer, you'd win. We're not doing it your way". As a response to Jaime's offering to end the incipient war by single combat (after Jaime has been captured). He's much more pragmatic than his father, more interested in getting the result he wants instead of honour.

Cersei Lannister: "Do you care about your children?" she asks Ned. This is her defining trait (along with her ambition), she will do anything for her children.

Jaime Lannister: "The things I do for love" as he shoves Bran out a window... all to protect Cersei. He goes to war with the Starks for his brother Tyrion. Also "It felt like justice" describing how he felt when he killed the mad King Aerys, the king he was sworn to protect.

Danerys Targaryen: "I am Daenerys Stormborn, of House Targaryen, of the blood of old Valyria. I am the dragon's daughter and I swear to you that those that would harm you will die screaming." as she lights Drogo's funeral pyre. Right before she walks into it.

Arya Stark: "That's not me" after Ned tells her he will find her a lord with a holding and her children will be knights and lords (as a woman she can't)

Arya and her "dancing master"... I wish we could have seen more of Syrio!

Sansa Stark: "It's the only thing I ever wanted" referring to marrying Prince Joffrey, being his Queen some day and having his babies. He's her "Prince Charming". She has A LOT of growing up to do, and sadly has already started in a most brutal fashion...

Bran Stark: "I don't want to be broken. I want to be a knight." The dreamer. The thinker. I had trouble finding a quote and I realised it's because he actually says more with his eyes and body language than he does with words...

Tyrion Lannister: So many wonderful quotes to choose from, Tyrion gets the best lines! But I think these two (both said to Jon Snow)pretty much sum him up: "My mind is my weapon. My brother has his sword, King Robert has his warhammer, and I have my mind . . . and a mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge"  and    "Let me give you some counsel, bastard. Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be a weakness. Armor yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you."

Jon Snow and the Night's Watch:
 "Night gathers and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no land, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the fire that burns against the cold, the light that brings the dawn, the horn that wakes the sleepers, the shield that guards the realm of men. I pledge my life and honour to the Night's Watch, for this night and all the nights to come."

These words, that oath is for life. Deserters are executed. Your home, family is gone, but you gain new "black" brothers. Brothers who come from all walks of life, all varied elements of society (used to be very respectable for 2nd-3rd sons of noble families, but now mostly criminals given a choice to avoid losing some body part for their crime, or serving on the Wall), now all equal. It's a merit-based society, so you rise in the ranks based on merit, not birth of money. Loyalty is to the realm as a whole, not a particular family. This makes it hard if your family is in danger... Something Jon has trouble coming to terms with.

Finally, just a bit about my favourite extra on the BluRay (dunno if it's on the DVDs as well): the Complete Guide To Westeros! An interactive "encyclopaedia" with the History and Geography of Westeros, the members of the different noble families and their retainers. It's fascinating, and it illustrates how history can vary depend on who is telling it as some events are "told" by different people, with their own viewpoints. For example on the history of the Night's Watch, Lord Commander Mormont gives importance to its vital role in protecting the kingdom, the honour in being part of the watch, Maester Luwin (House Stark) explains the historical purpose of the Watch and the Wall and explains the problems resulting from the current dwindling ressources, while Tywin Lannister presents the typical southern viewpoint: it's a practical place to send rapists, murderers and thieves, but don't bother him with mumbo-jumbo and stories to scare children in the night. Even more interesting when recounting key moments from Robert's rebellion, contrasting the "heroic" Baratheon version with the "outraged" Targaryen version as told by Viserys.

Season Two brings the events of "A Clash of Kings" to the screen, and I can't wait!!! I won't write anything about it 'till it's done, but I'll probably work on a post throughout the season. I'm thinking of maybe reading the corresponding chapters of an episode before that episode airs. Kind of trying to guess how they'll break the book into 10 chapters for the series...

Links to others:

  • The TV Addict just re-watched Season 1 and put up some short, fun recaps!

Have you seen Game of Thrones? Are you looking forward to season 2 as much as I am? :o)


  1. Great recap. Really enjoyed this article and roaming about your blog. I love all the different things you write about.

    And, keep trying to get to Antarctica. It's the most magical place on earth.

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed your visit!

      I actually have been to Antarctica, and would do almost anything to go back!!!

  2. Great quotes to sum up each character! Tyrion's is the best, as ever, but I agree, the delivery of Jaime Lannister's 'the things I do for love' is fantastic!

    1. The actors bringing the characters to life is what really sold the series to me! Such great lines on the page, but imagine a terrible delivery? *shudder*

      Am looking forward to the new batch of characters and seeing how well they're brought to life! :o)

  3. Anonymous27/4/12 05:02

    I think you did a great job writing you thoughts out. If would ask you to check out my Game of Thrones page as leave a comment. My new blogs (just got a blogger account) are not nearly as long..so they should be quick reads.

    1. Thanks for the visit! You've got some interesting ideas on your blog! :o)

  4. What a concise recap!!! I just finished season one on DVD and I am eagerly awaiting season two's release on DVD as well :)

    1. Glad you enjoyed it! I'm looking forward to season 2 on dvd as well, so I can rewatch it and reread the book and write another post like this one! ;o)


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