Written by Jon S. a.k.a. Outlander. A friend and contributor and a cool geek soul brother.
Game of Thrones – Season 2: Cut off its manhood and feed it to the goats!
We have come to the end of another season of that high grade heroin specifically made for the Dungeons and Dragons set: Game of Thrones. And as it closes, I cannot help but to feel like a junky just cheated by his dealer.
I admit, I came to this franchise a little late to the game; I marathon’d the first season prior to the season 2 premier, and fell in love with it like Tyrion loved Tysha. I also began to read the books and found that the first season was very much aligned with the book 1 in the A Song of Fire and Ice series. However, as I read the book 2 (A Clash of Kings) along with the second season of the show, I felt like sad panda about some of the things that were left out.
From here on out, spoilers for both show and books ahoy!
I can admit that the general plot points in book 2 (and some of 3) do occur in the series; from Nights Watch staying at Crasters and to Theons “invasion” of Winterfell, to Renly being killed and the battle of Kings Landing. I will also confess that some of the tweaks and creative liberties the show runners took have enhanced the story and characters. However, a lot of the subtle tweaks and omissions that took place made three of the storylines nowhere near as interesting or enjoyable as the books. With that in mind, let us head on down this Kingsroad and figure out where the wagon worked and where it derailed…
Hot Like Wildfire
As I said, the major plot points do make their way into the episodes and are, for the most part, handled the same way as in the book or changed somewhat. In comparison to the book, a few of the changes either made the plot point work decently or even better than the source material.
One example where the series is better than the book is involving our favorite bastard from Winterfell, Jon Snow, when the Nights Watch camps at Crasters. In the book, outside of the minor incident where Sam sends the pregnant girl to Jon for help, it’s pretty uneventful. The series handles the situation differently; more along the lines of Jon overstepping his bounds (including spying on Craster leaving the male baby for the White Walker to take), which gets the Nights Watchmen kicked out. This enhanced the storyline by showing how dire the situation is for those in the great ranging. These men have lost their only ally as they search for Mance Rayder, while avoiding White Walkers.
Another unexpected (and, may I say AWESOME!) change was the opening volley on Blackwater Bay, between Kings Landing and Stannis Baratheons fleet. In the book, the battle was more calculating, following Davos trying to put 2 and 2 together as to how this battle will pan out. It ultimately leads to the wildfire being thrown onto the Baratheons ships, while a chain Tyrion had made was pull taught; trapping the first wave of ships. In the series, we see a lone ship filled with wildfire ignited and exploded in the middle of Stannis’s fleet. Though this part of the book was cool, the series version was WAY better.
A third scene worth mentioning, which was not in the book, was the prostitute beating scene involving Joffery. This shed some light on how really twisted this kid is. In the book, it is described in passing how he constantly played with his crossbow, shooting commoners who spoke out against him. However, seeing this scene, in all its sadistic awkwardness, really shows Joffs character in spades.
Still, the small things that were omitted from the books matter.
Where are my frogeaters?
In the series, Bran slowly becomes aware of what he sees in his dreams; both of him being a direwolf and seeing the three-eyed crow in the first season. Like magic, he all of a sudden comes to the realization that may be a warg (ie. someone who can inhabit the body of an animal), AND can see the future (ie. Theons invasion of Winterfell). In the books, the children of the Reeds (bannermen to the Starks) were the ones who explain Brans dreams to him, and that he had the ability to inhabit his direwolf, Summer. It was Jojen (the youngest) who had foreseen the invasion by Theon and became counsel to the young prince. The eldest, Meera, also becomes a good friend and protector of the paraplegic Stark boy. These two characters offered a dynamic that was seriously lacking in Brans storyline during season 2. These characters made it less bleak for Bran during his day-to-day goings as the heir of the King of the North.
Despite the lack of these two this season, there is hope; Entertainment Weekly recently released a list of prospective characters that may be in season 3, with these two appearing. However, I will believe it when I see it.
Oh, Dany, how you were wronged!
Daenerys’ entire storyline was awful this season, even if you didn’t read the books. She went from a confident leader of her new Khaal, to a spoiled child queen who expected everyone to do everything for her because of her lineage and her dragons. In the books, she guides her people to a dead city where they recuperate from their travel in the Red Waste, and then with Xaro Xhoan Daxos to Qarth. She becomes a leader to her people while taking Jorah Mormont’s guidance with wisdom and poise. And although she becomes desperate in getting the ships or gold she needs to sail to Westeros, she never loses hope in the book: Even after Council of 13 and the two guilds shun her (and may have even attempted to kill her) after the incident at the House of the Undying. The series totally manhandled her character (as well as Jorah) this season.
The bastards crap storyline
As I said, Jons storyline began better than the book, with the issues he had at Crasters house. That being said, from there his storyline is handled poorly, with very little logic… even if you didn’t read the books. In the books, Jon never gets separated from Qhorin’s group, and they eventually come across a scouting party from Mance Rayders large Wilding host. Jon also becomes into his warg abilities, seeing Ghost injured by Wilding warg eagles through his eyes. Eventually, only Jon (with Ghost) and Qhorin remain; with Halfhand giving him his last order to surrender and spy, doing anything that is required of him. You felt the urgency of the groups situation while trying to escape the Wilding party. It was also emotional to read Jon’s crisis of conscious the moment he was forced to betray his comrade, even if it was a command. How they handle this in the series was a little ham-fisted, and made no sense (how DO you lose the people in your party that easily?). It is disappointing to see what they did with the end of this storyline.
Overall, this season was decent, but does not live up to how closely the first season followed the book. Sure, there are other issues I had (like the changing of Jeyne Westerling, who was a bannerman of the Lanisters, to Talisa), but that is nitpicking at this point. I feel that the showrunners panicked when they learned that the show was renewed, and had to deal with a hurried adaptation of the source material while keeping it under a certain budget and in a 10 hour time frame. This was a season that should have been expanded to 13 episodes and adapted better, so people who have not read the books would enjoy everything the second book had to offer.
The seven know how they will fair in adapting the third book, with all that occurs (I am not even THAT far into it and already a lot has happened)… I just hope they better adapt the source material this time around.