As a fan of the books, one of the constant worries of watching Game of Thrones is wondering what scenes the writers will have to cut out in order to meet the timing and narrative needs of series television. George R.R. Martin's sprawling novels are simply too big, too dense to perfectly transfer into a TV show. So, we wonder, which favorite characters will be omitted? What beloved scenes or particular narrative arcs will be tossed out or condensed for expedience's sake? So far a few of those cuts have rankled a bit, but amidst all that fretting, it's easy to forget the positive effects of the page to screen translation. The television show has also added some wonderful things to this knotty tale.
Last season we got some, ahem, interesting scenes between Renly and Loras that are only ever barely hinted at in the books. So, ten points to the TV show for that. And of course there's also been the expansion of Robb's presence, who is never a point-of-view character in the books but is so integral to the larger story. And, perhaps most satisfyingly of all, we got to spend some grand time with Tywin Lannister, also never a POV character in the novels but, like Robb, of major significance to the plot. The conventions of television insist that we get to know these people up-close and in-person if they are to truly matter to the story, and so here they are on the show, played richly by good actors and given the shading they are oftentimes lacking in the books.
So too for this season. The writers are wisely letting us get to know certain characters, and showing us certain scenes only mentioned in the books, so the viewer can get a full grasp of the dramatic stakes. I've so far loved everything with Margaery Tyrell, an important but largely background character in the books who has been beautifully fleshed-out by Natalie Dormer. The culmination of the Tyrell storyline has not yet been reached in the novels, but we at least know one major affect that they have on the larger story, so it's good to see that the family is being prominently featured on screen. Last night's tricky little scene between Joffrey and Margaery was delightful, showing us Margaery's political acumen and giving us yet another reason to loathe young Joffrey and his unsettling proclivities. While his sadistic side was perhaps a bit overstated in the first season, this scene was pitched just right, the tone perfectly menacing without being over-the-top.
I also enjoyed Lady Catelyn's rueful monologue to Robb's wife Talisa; it didn't necessarily do anything for plot mechanics, but it was a nice juicy bit of dramatic storytelling nonetheless. The show's writers know that they have to condense hundreds and hundreds of pages of exposition, both narrative and emotional, into ten hours of television every year, and scenes like Cateyln's last night do a nicely compact job of doing that, while also giving an actress like Michelle Fairley a chance to shine. Of course I likely won't be happy with every addition (or omission), but on the whole the show consistently feels in remarkably capable and confident hands. It stands sturdily as its own entity, while both satisfying and surprising the series' loyal readers. Well, this reader, at least.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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