Back during the first season of Game of Thrones I was faced with three choices. To read the books and potentially no longer like the TV series. To watch only the TV series and try to avoid talking or reading about it so I don’t get spoiled. Or to look up all the spoilers and just watch the TV series. I chose the first option, and while it was easily the most rewarding, getting to see the trials and tribulations of the characters in a much more in depth and personal way. I was worried that it would have another effect on me, and that it would ruin my TV viewing experience. I loved the first season, I couldn’t wait but a week before picking up the first four books. In a short time I had already finished them. And then came the second season, and all my fears of not being able to enjoy it were confirmed.
The second season came and went with much fanfare and enjoyment by the fans of the show, but not necessarily the book. I was left with an empty feeling, my excitement for the story I had fallen in love with cleaved away like so much Eddard Stark head from neck. I watched as precious minutes fizzle away as we were given one gratuitous naked whore house scene after the next. It seemed HBO cared more about keeping up their gritty, edgy visage over trying to squeeze in as much story as they could. I’m aware that these scenes served as breaks from the constant swapping of characters, and provided some exposition for those that hadn’t read the books, but I can’t help but wonder, is that really the best way to go about it? Perhaps adding small amount of time to each character scene, making them able to spit out an extra line of valuable dialog would pay off more in the end?
But still, I loved the series, I loved that it increased the popularity of GRRM, I loved that it ended up creating more merchandise for me to enjoy. I found myself getting hyped again for season 3 just for some new Game of Thrones content. More so it was the season based on the third book, easily the best in the series! I told myself not to be disappointed, I told myself not to be upset, to not expect anything better than the second season. Even so and I just couldn’t help but be disappointed consistently throughout the episode as they continually made small changes that result in a weaker overall story and fail to let the characters shine. So with that being said, here’s what should have happened:
Keep in mind I’m going by memory of both the episode and the book. If there are any minor inconsistencies, my bad. Feel free to let me know in the comments if you spot something wrong! Minor Book 3 spoilers below! Read at your own risk!
We start the episode with Sam running in the snow, finally making it to Mormont who burned the wight and asked him if he completed his mission, to release the ravens. Sam is apparently so pathetic in this version that he couldn’t even open the cage door.
- This means they skipped an incredible scene from the books called the “Fight at the Fist of the First Men”. Where the Nights Watch group got together and tried to fight off the onslaught of Wights and White Walkers, to no avail. The enemies were just too many and even firing fire arrows they couldn’t hold them off. So we missed that great fight. Which is odd, because after the cliffhanger at the end of season 2, it’s strange they’d start off season 3 so weak. Even if they had used the few seconds in the beginning to show a shaky cam flashing scenes of fighting with Wights that would have been a better start, a more exciting start, and they wouldn’t have had to spend the money or time on a large fight scene.
- Sam had the same mission in the books, to send the ravens. If there’s one thing Sam likes, it’s his ravens. While he may be a coward most of the time, the scene of him getting to the Ravens, writing one message and sending it along while freeing the rest of the ravens was an important scene to show that his character isn’t just a sad sack of crap who is incapable of unhinging a latch. Sam’s character suffers as a whole because of their failure to have him say the word “No” Instead of the word “Yes”.
- I’ve seen some claims that “It was necessary to do that so they would have a reason to go back to the wall.” Which to that I say bunk. You want to know the reason they went back to the wall in the book? Because half of them had been killed by wights and white walkers which hadn’t been seen in ages. There are white walkers about, what more reason do you need to high tail it back to the massive magical ice wall designed to keep them out?
On to Jon Snow we see him get an anything but warm welcome from Mance Rayder and Tormund Giantsbane in the wildling camp. When asked why he wants to join the Wildings, he gives some excuse that he wants to join the side actually fighting the white walkers.
- There is simply so much wrong with this whole thing that it was hard for me to watch. Tormund Giantsbane (the red beard guy that Jon kneeled to) was an incredible character in the books. He was big, jolly, laughed often and joked. He was a great character and really made you feel like you could be attached to the wildlings. That maybe they really weren’t so bad. This Tormund was instead a sour faced, mad, mean, angry, and unappealing character who I imagine most viewers wouldn’t give a second thought.
- Mance Rayder shows up and there are immediately two major, MAJOR problems with him. Hopefully they reveal them later, but because they didn’t now, we missed one of Jon’s best moments. Mance is a bard, meaning he’s one of the guys that go around singing tales, getting the girls, generally a fun cool person to be around, that most lords will invite into their halls to make their feasts and festivals more enjoyable. This Mance was nothing of the sort. He was generic, forgettable and simply unappealing. The Mance in the books made me want to root for the wildlings, this Mance makes me hope someone will stick a sword through him so we don’t have to see him anymore.
- The second thing they didn’t mention is that Mance has been down past the wall. In fact Wildlings make regular trips over the wall and into the North. How bad was it? In the books at a feast in the first book in Winterfell, Mance was actually the bard present for it. So he saw Eddard, the kids, and he even saw Jon. Why is that important? Because when Mance asks Jon why he wants to join them and not be a part of the watch. Jon had actually realized that Mance was at Winterfell, and asks in response to why he wants to join the wildings “And did you see where I was seated Mance? Did you see where they put the bastard?” Mance then accepts Jon as member of the Wildlings. It was a super powerful scene. It showed us Jon Snow. The real Jon snow. Because, yes, while it was a lie, it also had a lot of truth in it. Truth that Jon hadn’t really even considered. It gave him more depth as a character. And he’s weaker now because of it.
Then we get Daenerys, we start on the boat and then meet up with the man selling her the eunuch mercenaries. This was actually a pretty decent scene because it followed the book. The man really was saying all those nasty things. But the one thing they never mentioned. That I’m sure will come up is that Daenerys also speaks that language and understood everything he was saying.
- That was great. They did a good job on it. Then they ruined it all by screwing up one of my favorite scenes in the series. That little girl rolled the ball over to her and that crazy scorpion came out. In the book it was a simply a man gifting her the toy because she was the “mother of dragons” (if I remember correctly). As she opened it the man whispered “I’m so sorry”. The “Sorrowful Man” One of the best assassins you can hire, one that always apologizes before killing, a super cool character! Instead we get that stupid hissing kid! What a waste!
- Barristan the bold did show up to save her from the scorpion. However he didn’t reveal himself at that point, he pretended to be Arstan Whitebeard and he had a wonderful companion known as Strong Belwas who was a massive, scarred super great fighter who has a lot of personality, is a blast to read about and on a few occasions saves Daenerys and even her army. While I can understand why hiding the actor who played Barristan might be difficult and they wanted to reveal him right away, omitting Strong Belwas was definitely a problem for the story later on and makes the team weaker as a whole.
- That being said. I have heard some theories that might make this a little more enjoyable. I enjoy Barristan Selmy, as a character and even his actor has done an excellent job with him. While we might lose Strong Belwas completely, and as much as it would suck to lose a cool character like him, others have theorized that Barristan would simply take over Belwas’s roles in addition to his own. And seeing arguably one of the greatest Kingsguard (now Queensguard) do some fighting on screen, might be a pretty cool exchange. I’ll certainly have to withhold judgement on that one.
There was the Sansa scene, it was utterly forgettable and I don’t recall if it had anything to do with the books or if she was just in there so fans wouldn’t forget about her. I forgot about her. Though it’s important to note, it’s not the actresses fault, it’s simply her character. Sending me spiraling between rage and boredom is certainly what her character is best at. But in the books her chapters were my signal that I could finally go to sleep after staying up far too late reading.
The Tyrion, Tywin scene was one of the few from the book and was incredible. It sets up what Tyrion does later and gave further depth to his character. Dinklage’s awesome work as Tyrion has endeared him to Game of Thrones fans everywhere. Not only does he consistently perform at high level, but he truly brings Tyrion to life.
The scene where Davos was rescued was great. There was a lot of suspense when they asked who he fought for. That was from the book, and while it was certainly more suspenseful there, they did a good job of it here.
- However Davos when talking to his friend in the ship made it known that he was going to try to kill Melisandre, because he believes she’s evil. Instead we get him blurting out that he’d kill her in the throne room on Dragonstone like some sort of idiot. That was a bad choice, but they really did lock him up. There’s a lot of tension coming when you worry whether or not Stannis and his Red Witch will burn this genuinely concerned knight.
We got to see Margaery acting like the princess that made her so insanely popular back in Highgarden while we saw a big change in Joffrey’s character, cowering in his cart. The exchange she had with later on Cersei was pretty fun. I don’t recall if that was in the books. I don’t believe it was. The Robb Scene was dumb and forgettable. But it shows they made progress and captured Harrenhall, the cursed keep that the Mountain that Rides was in charge of defending. Scene’s with Robb aren’t necessarily the actors or writers fault either, there just isn’t much to work with. Mostly just his conflict with his mother, until the end of season 3, when he finally gets to enjoy the limelight.
All in all it looks like they’re setting themselves up for failure down the road, or at least, shooting themselves in the feet by not using a few lines of dialog from the book that really change everything about how you view the characters. It’s no surprise to me that while they got a good showing, the Walking Dead finale still beat them handily. Maybe if they’d follow the writer who has a massive fan base and has written some of the most memorable fantasy since Tolkien, instead of instead of making small changes to fit some unknown reason, we’d end up with an even more enjoyable and popular series. I hope that season 3 smooths out and we begin to see more of the characters acting like the people we love, instead ending up with more generic characters and a less enjoyable story all around.