Ian Thomas Malone

A Connecticut Yogi in King Joffrey's Court

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Monday

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June 2015

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Game of Thrones Season 5 Recap: Episode 8

Written by , Posted in Blog, Game of Thrones, Pop Culture

This recap features analysis from a devoted book fan. Spoilers will largely be kept to comparisons between the show and the books within the episodes themselves, but if you hate spoilers you should probably not read these articles. I encourage you to subscribe so you never miss a recap. Thank you for reading. 

The question I get asked more than an other by casual Game of Thrones fans is “who do you think will win the game of thrones,” a question undoubtedly aided by the show’s title as well as just about every mainstream media feature focused on the series. It’s not a question I tend to answer, not because I don’t know (though I don’t), but because that question is of secondary importance. What really matters is the song of ice and fire.

As soon as the white walkers made their entrance, I knew that they would lead off the recap. It was a fairly intriguing battle sequence, though one with some weird inconsistencies. The white walkers infested the wildings at a fairly rapid pace, perhaps too rapid, and I’m not really sure how that wall stopped them when they appeared to be capable of some sort of flight. Then there was the emphasis on dragonglass when arrows and swords seemed to work just fine. I don’t mind that the ice zombies couldn’t swim, but it seemed odd that people could jump in and out of that water, which must be close 0 Kelvin, without instantly dying (even the giant).

So while I thought the zombies resembled The Walking Dead perhaps a little too much, I liked that well enough. This season hasn’t had a ton of action, especially not from the Night’s Watch. There’s just one problem though, one that I posed on twitter right after the episode.

How are we supposed to care about anything else now that the white walkers are here?

I’ve been comparing the ice zombies to the smoke monster from Lost all morning. Like the smoke monster, the ice zombies have been around since the beginning of the show. They make sporadic appearances and we’re always aware of them, but they never played a predominant role in the show’s narrative. The smoke monster’s entrance into the main narrative as John Locke signaled the beginning of the end of the show. Where does the ice zombies introduction leave us? Perhaps I wasn’t wrong when I said that last week “felt like the premiere for the rest of the series.”

Tyrion meeting Daenerys is an event that some book fans have been anticipating for well over a decade (the true seeds for this were planted after A Storm of Swords, though I guess you could say longer for certain people). Considering how separated all of the many characters are for most of the series, this was huge and yet it trumped by Jon Snow of all people.

There was a fair amount of needless exposition in this episode. The Samwell scene was unnecessary. Dany talking to Tyrion about their fathers was fun, but it raised plenty of questions. Dany probably should have killed Tyrion, a man who killed his father whose brother killed her father, both in direct violation of Westerosi ethics (kinslaying and oathbreaking are just about the two biggest faux-pas). We know why she didn’t but the show didn’t do a great job of convincing us on its own.

Let’s jump back to the beginning (I actually intended for this recap to be linear, but the ice zombies screwed that up) where Tyrion introduces himself to Dany. This is easily the most authentic Tyrion scene since his speech at his trial last year (which was easily his weakest season). He approached the Jorah issue quite well and much more diplomatic than you’d expect from the show.

There was one problem with Tyrion’s speech to Dany about the difficulties she’ll face in rallying the great Houses to her side that bugged me. He said House Tyrell alone wouldn’t be enough. False. House Tyrell has pretty much more troops than everyone else combined. Maybe this it nitpicky, but I don’t understand why the show won’t take them seriously.

Time for the weekly “why does Jorah have greyscale” question. I still don’t know. Here’s a big difference between the way the show and books handle supporting characters. In the books, Jorah exists solely for purposes related to Dany (and much later, Tyrion), whether it’s plot progression or creepy filler. We aren’t expected to invest in Jorah himself apart from the POV characters. Iain Glen is talented and he’s been around since the beginning, so we get Jorah scenes without any of the major players. That’s not a problem, though his greyscale is stupid and I hate it.

Let’s briefly talk about Arya, whose plot is basically irrelevant since it doesn’t involve dragons or ice zombies. This is fairly close to the books, though we’re getting very close to the point where we’re all caught up with her. She’s learning to be a Faceless Man (woman?) and that’s something that will be more fun when we know where it’s going long term.

Sansa, Sansa, Sansa. I actually liked her scenes a lot, even though it seems odd that Reek would tell her that Bran and Rickon are alive. Since she can’t go to Dagobah to be with Bran and she can’t go to Skagos to rescue Rickon from the cannibals, what good is this information? The only thing I can think of is that it makes one of them Lord of Wnterfell and not Ramsey. Which could come in handy if Reek does help Sansa escape to Stannis’ camp.

As for the Battle of Ice, it’s not shaping up to be terribly epic. Ramsey will take his men and probably cause problems with the Mannis. I’m not entirely sure we’ll see resolution with this plotline before the end of the season, which is okay since I had serious doubts as to whether or not Stannis would survive at the beginning of the season. I still have doubts, but they’re not as bad.

Brienne? Where are you? She probably found Lady Stoneheart or she and Podrick went back to eat at Hot Pie’s restaurant, probably with Gendry.

The Cersei stuff is problematic. As I said last week, the charges against her are far more severe than the books. She’s being accused of regicide and yet the stakes don’t seem to reflect that. Well, Sansa is also wanted for regicide and the crown seems to be okay with letting her fool around in Winterfell so maybe killing the king isn’t such a big deal.

No Dorne. I’m perfectly fine with that, though we haven’t gotten to see enough of Doran Martell. Don’t people know that Dr. Bashir needs more screen time?

This was easily the best episode of the season, though it does feel like the beginning of the end. I don’t really see them being able to carry on for more than two seasons now that the ice zombies have officially entered the fray. I guess we will see!

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Thursday

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May 2014

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The Troubles of Book to Screen in Game Of Thrones

Written by , Posted in Blog, Game of Thrones

As a bibliophile and a TV/film fanatic, I’ve always tried to curtail my expectations for adaptation of books I enjoy. It’s always been my belief that a good adaptation tries to capture the essence of a book rather than mimic it. Blade Runner is a good example of this. The film bears little resemblance to Philip K. Dick’s novella, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? but is excellent in its own right.

When it comes to George R. R. Martin’s epic Song of Ice and Fire, ten hours is simply not enough time to cover everything. More importantly, it would be foolish to even try even if more time was allotted. The show does cover most of the main points with min
or deviations, but that will likely change and the show progresses, even without taking into consideration that the final two books haven’t even been written yet.

There are many differences between TV and books, but the most important with regards to Game of Thrones is pacing. For a series that has hundreds of characters that covers thousands of pages, there’s a lot of downtime in A Song of Ice and Fire. We see this particularly with Daenerys Targaryen, who is given relatively little to do compared to the rest of the series’ major characters. The TV cannot have a character who sits around all season and thus deviation is required. We saw this in season two with the captured dragon plot in Quarth. People can criticize it for not being in the books, but without it we’d be left with a character who mostly roamed around with nothing to do all season.

The pacing also becomes increasingly more confusing with the fourth and fifth books, which take place over roughly the same amount of time and introduce several new POV characters. While the books can get away with this, keeping in mind that neither book received the kind of critical acclaim that the first three received, a TV show can’t. Television doesn’t just one day decide that the lead isn’t the lead anymore.

This requires the show to move certain plotlines along faster than the books do. Theon Grejoy is elevated to POV character in A Clash of Kings, only to disappear for the next two books before becoming important again inA Dance With Dragons. Game of Thrones can’t get away with this. If the producers tried to tell Alfie Allen that his character would be gone for two years, he would go find other work. Further more, people would naturally lose interest.

That’s part of what makes Game of Thrones such a groundbreaking show. Both the books and the show clearly have the Starks as the main protagonists when the story begins. The Starks are responsible for six of the eight POV characters (not counting the prologue) of A Game of Thrones, yet only three of the fourteen in A Dance With Dragons. The books show an increased effort to explore their depth and from the looks of season four, the show does as well.

As the depth expands, so will the deviation. For characters like Theon, Brienne, and Daenerys, we’re starting to get close to where they are in the series as a whole rather than just where they left off in A Storm of Swords.That’s going to anger some fan purists, who want a strict adaptation of the series. But it shouldn’t, especially since the show is going to catch up with the books sooner rather than later.

Game of Thrones should make plot decisions that work for the show and not strictly because that’s the way things happened in the book. Performances from actors like Charles Dance, Diana Rigg, and Richard Madden elevated their character’s significance and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Robb Stark may not have been a POV character, but it’s hard to argue that he isn’t a more interesting character to watch than his brother Bran.

The big advantage of having POV characters is that the reader is given access to the inner thoughts of a wide spread of characters. We get to see what the Starks and the Lannisters are thinking. In TV, we only get to see what they do. That’s not to say that the POV system isn’t without flaws either. Characters like Sansa are often passive characters in specific scenes between non-POV characters. We have to view these scenes through a biased source. The show doesn’t have those limitations.

The biggest problems with deviations occur when they don’t work. Talisa Stark wasn’t a figure of controversy, but Jamie’s rape of Cersei was a whole different story. While, “it didn’t happen in the book,” is far from the only point of objection to the latter scene, things like that are when the differences between book and show are fully exposed.

While personally, I’ll almost always prefer the book to the screen adaptation, I don’t make a comparison between the two a deciding factor. Book purists should avoid the show entirely, because anger at something for not limiting itself strictly to the confines of what came before it isn’t really fair. Books, movies, and television are all very different mediums that don’t flawlessly translate into one another and that’s okay.

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