Hello folks! As you may know, I don’t get around to posting much in the way on this blog lately. These days, my time has been pretty much stretched thin with writing for Universe Today and HeroX, and what time I have left over I generally dedicate towards my personal writing. But I felt the need to hop on here today and share something which it pains me to admit.
I do not care for Game of Thrones anymore! And since I have friends who were so excited about Season 6 and raved about how Season 5 ended, I know this will lead to some arguments down the road. But I must be honest here…
When the show began, I was a non-initiate, someone who had never read the books or ever heard of George R.R. Martin. Once the first season was complete, I took it upon myself to read all five books and found myself quickly turned into a ASOIAF geek. Naturally, this lessened the experience of the show as for Season 2, 3, 4, and 5, I knew how the story would go and reacted predictably whenever they changed any details. But that was only because I liked the story so much.
But last season, the writers of GOT went so far off book and left so much stuff out that I became genuinely disinterested with the show. Still, I felt I had to see what they were going to do with Season 6, so when “The Red Woman” premiered, I was sure to tune in. And then I watched the follow-up in “Home” to see where things went from there. Needless to say, the way they handled things reminded me of why I lost interest.
Let me explain why…
When the show writer’s tackled season 5, they had material from two books to work with – A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons. And whereas they divided the third book (A Storm of Swords) into two seasons and ended up padding the second half with lots of things they made up, for Season 5 they skimmed over much of it, left a whole bunch of things out, and then reached the point where they had nothing more of Martin’s material to work with.
And it seems obvious to me why they did that now. In the course of making Season 5, they knew they would be flying without Martin’s net by Season 6. And so they began moving to eliminate all the material they didn’t want to work with and began simplifying the plot. Too bad, because so much of what they eliminated was intriguing and made the story interesting.
Also, it seems obvious that the promos they made for Season 6 – “Anybody can be killed” – have been less than honest. In reality, they’ve been killing off only certain kinds of characters, and it seems clear why. Now covering all of what they changed would take some time, so here’s the Cole Notes version of it. This is where the story left off in the books, and where they diverged from it…
Tyrion In Essos: Having killed his father, Tyrion fled King’s Landing with Jaime and Varys help, and travels to the free city of Pentos, where he is in the care of lllyrio Mopatis (the same man who had played host to Daenerys and her brother Varys for years). Tyrion is then sent to Volantis in order to meet with a party led by a man named Griff and his son, young Griff, which will be traveling east to find Daenerys. After spending time with them, Tyrion learns the startling truth.
Young Griff is in fact Aegon Targaryen, the son of Rhaegar Targaryen (and cousin to Daenerys) who was thought to have died in Robert’ Rebellion. Griff, meanwhile, is Jon Connington, the Hand of “The Mad King” Aerys II. For years, Aegon has been raised in secret, for the day that he could return to Westeros and reclaim the throne. With Daenerys having risen to become queen of Mereen and the “Mother of Dragons”, they now intend to find Daenerys’ and convince her to marry Aegon, at which time they will return to Westeros in force and claim the thrones.
Unfortunately, Tyrion is kidnapped by Ser Jorah Mormont, who intends to take him to Daenerys as a gift. But they are taken by slavers who intend to force them to fight in Mereen’s recently reopened fighting pits. During the opening fight, when Daenerys is attacked and flees on the back of Drogon, Tyrion, Mormont, and Penny (another dwarf taken as a slave) flee outside the city.
Beyond the walls of Mereen, the armies of Slaver’s Bay are gathered.Having retaken Yunkai and Astapor from the freed slavers, they are now gathered to lay siege to Mereen. Daenerys managed to broker a truce by reopening the fighting pits and marrying Hizdahr zo Loraq. However, with her gone from the city, the truce is broken. Tyrion and the others manage to join with a sellsword company Second Sons, and hope to switch sides while the camp suffers from a plague that has broken out (the Bloody Flux).
While in the wilderness, Daenerys is found by an old foe – Khal Jhaqo, the man who took command of the khalasar after Khal Drogo died.
Iron Islands: The Ironborne choose a new king after Balon Greyjoy dies in a fatal fall at Pyke. Euron, Balon’s brother, becomes the new king by promising his people victory thanks to a “dragonhorn”, an instrument which can control dragons that he managed to procure. He orders his younger brother Victarion to sail to Essos to bring Daenerys and her dragons back.
Dorne: The Sand Snakes plot to kidnap Princess Myrcella has failed thanks to the intervention of Prince Doran Martell. After freeing the ringleader – his daughter, Arianna Martell – he explains to her that he has a plot to get revenge on the Lannisters, Baratheons and Tyrells and is not the weak man they think he is. This plan involves sending his son Quentyn Martell to Mereen to marry Daenerys and bring her home to Dorne, where their kingdom will pledge support for her and take the Iron Throne for House Martell.
However, this plan went a bit awry when Daenerys fled Mereen, and Quentyn is burned alive when he and his men try to take matters into their own hands and free her dragons. At the same time, the Ironborn are traveling to Mereen in the hopes of striking an alliance with Daenerys and bringing her and her dragons back to Westeros, also with the hope of conquering the Iron Throne for themselves.
In the Riverlands: Brienne of Tarth still searches for Sansa and Arya with the help of Podrick Payne. Along the way, she runs into the Brothers Without Banners, who arrest her and take her before their master – Lady Stoneheart. Brienne learns, to her surprise and horror, that Stoneheart is actually Lady Caitelyn Stark.
After being murdered at the Red Wedding, her body was thrown into the river and washed up on shore. The Brothers found her, and Lord Berric Dondarion (having been resurrected many times by Thoros of Myr) breathes his last life to her. A cold, viscous shadow of her former self, she orders Brienne killed on suspicion that is she working for the Lannisters, but Brienne is released after agreeing to kill Ser Jaime.
She finds Ser Jaime in the Riverlands, where is he busy negotiating an end to the sieges that are still taking place there. When they meet, she tells him that she has found Sansa Stark, but only Jaime can accompany her. The reason, she claims, is that Sandor Clegane (The Hound) is alive and with her, and that he will attack if he Brienne comes alone. In short, we are led to believe she is leading him into a trap.
In The North: Jon Snow allows the Wildlings to pass through the Wall after their defeat at the hands of Stannis. While it is believed that Mance Rayder was burned alive, along with the other Wildlings that would not bend the knee to Stannis’, Jon learns that he’s actually alive. With Melisandre’s help, who cast a spell of illusion on him, he switched places with Rattleshirt and has been carrying on in disguise. Jon asks him to travel south and rescue his sister Arya, who he was told was married to Ramsay Bolton (not knowing that he married Jeyne Poole, who is being forced to impersonate Arya).
Melisandre also warns Jon that she has seen him in her visions, where he is surrounded by daggers in the dark. As he prepares to ride south to fight the Boltons, the vision comes true when Jon is attacked and stabbed severely by Bowen Marsh and other members of the Night’s Watch. The book ends with us not knowing if he survives or not.
Just south of them, Stannis has taken Deepwood Motte and captured Asha Greyjoy (Theon’s sister). However, he is unable to march on Winterfell since the winter snows have made movement impossible and hunger begins to set in. However, the Boltons are doing just as bad at Winterfell, where the Boltons and their allies begin turning on each other. In the confusion, Theon rescues Jeyne Pool (who was posing as Arya) and they escape the castle together. They flee into the wilderness, eventually being picked up by Stannis men and brought back to camp. Theon reunites with his sister for the first time since his capture.
Oldtown: Samwell Tarley, Gilly, and Maester Aemon travel from Castle Black to Oldtown via Bravos. It is there that Sam is to become a Maester, seek out the old prophecies, and learn all he can about the coming of the White Walkers and the prophecy of Azor Ahai reborn. Aemon reveals to him that he once thought that this might be Varys, but now believes it to be Daenerys. Aemon dies before they can reach Oldtown, but when Samwell arrives, he speaks to the masters at the Citadel of what Aemon told him. When they hear this, Archmaester Marwyn leaves to go to Mereen with the intention of becoming Daenerys’ maester.
At King’s Landing: Cersei confesses to having sex with her cousin, Lancel Lannister, and performs the penace walk back to the Red Keep. There, she meets Ser Robert Strong (a resurrected Gregor Clegane) who will she is relieved to know will be fighting for her if she asks for a trial by combat. With Ser Jaime out of the city and her father dead, the task of running things has fallen to her uncle, Kevan Lannister.In addition to trying to clean up the messes Cersei and Joffrey has made, he must also deal with the fact that Aegon Targaryen’s forces appear to be landing in the east and raising a banner of war.
Shortly after Cersei arrives home and they dine together, Ser Kevan is murdered in his quarters by Varys (who has also killed Grand Maester Pycelle). Varys explains to Kevan before he dies that he is part of the conspiracy to bring Aegon Targaryen home and to see him made king.
So that’s the story up until Season 6 (or the end of A Dance of Dragons) in a nutshell. As you can plainly see, so much of the plot had to do with Daenerys at this point, who has been revealed to be intrinsic to the whole prophecy of the coming of winter, the coming of the Others, and the war that will decide the fate of Westeros and the world. Basically, the War of Five Kings is over, and all roads lead back to Westeros by way of Mereen.
Where They’ve Change Things:
In the series, things changed drastically by Season 5. Basically, they were using material at that point from both A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons, but seemed to be skimming through much of it, leaving a lot of other stuff out, and taking various story threads and tying them together.
For example, rather than showing the full intrigue that was happening in Dorne – which included Arianna Martell’s daughter and the Sand Snakes kidnapping Myrcella and positioning her to become Queen on the Iron Throne, thus making her betrothed (Trystane Martell) king – they instead made a story about Oberyn’s paramour (Ellaria Sand) and the Sand Snakes trying to kill her. Instead of Prince Doran thwarting this and telling Arianna of his plans, we get a big mash-up with Jaime and Bronn trying to save her and the whole thing ending in failure.
Ellaria and the Sand Snakes respond by killing Doran, Myrcella and Trystane all in one shot. Not only did none of this happened in the story, but killing off ALL these people means that their attempts to get Daenerys on their side and come back to Westeros are not going to happen. It eliminates the Dorne thread from the story altogether, and also means Cersei is mourning two dead kids instead of one as she prepares for her trial.
Speaking of murdering people off, they also killed off Stannis in a way that was very sudden. Not only did he not burn his daughter at the stake in the story, his daughter and his wife weren’t even with him as he marched to lay siege to Winterfell, which only made sense. You don’t bring family with you on a war march! Another person he left behind was Melisandre, so none of these people abandoned him or committed suicide on him. He also didn’t then march on Winterfell only to get his butt handed to him by Ramsay and then killed by Brienne. The way this all happened in one episode showed that they were eager to kill off his thread.
Speaking of Brienne, she was supposed to be in the Riverlands. But since they decided, for whatever reason, not to touch the Lady Stoneheart part of the story, this meant the writers had to give her something to do. In the same vein, Sansa had little to do, so they changed it up and made it her who was married to Ramsay Bolton and who got rescued by Theon.
At the same time, Ramsay Bolton spent the second episode of this season hatching a plot to kill his father, his stepmother, and his new brother is some big power play. With Roose gone, this means that Ramsay will now likely try to kill Jon Snow again (something they never bothered with in the books). With no epic battle looming between Stannis and he, there’s not much left for him to except get killed off himself, thus eliminating that thread as well.
Meanwhile, Theon’s father has been killed off and the island has fallen into political divide. Sure, this is close to what happened in Crows, but they’ve done it here makes it seem like this is just another minor thread they intend to tie off.
Getting to Mereen, the show skipped over the siege on the city. While just about everything else has happened according to the books (except that Tyrion and Mormont have not found their way into her court yet), this removes a major aspect of the story which was Martin was gearing up for book 6 – The Winds of Winter. So now, all Daenerys can do now is escape the Khal, return to Mereen and resume being queen(unless they choose to throw the sage in later).
But worst of all was the way they handled Jon Snow’s death/resurrection. After showing him to be dead in “The Red Woman”, it was quite obvious what was going to happen. A disheveled and broken Melisandre would be called upon to resurrect him, she would, and he would resume command of the Night’s Watch. It just felt so… predictable!
Ah, and of course, the entire thread involving Aegon Targaryen was completely left out. That means that in Westeros, there isn’t currently a war looming as Jon Connington lands forces loyal to Aegon, Kevan Lannister isn’t murdered, and we are not treated to the knowledge that Varys was conspiring with them all along. Instead, Varys is in Mereen conspiring to bring Daenerys home, but can’t do that until she comes back.
Why This Is Wrong (IMHO):
Basically, I didn’t like any of this because it eliminated so much of the plot. Sure, Martin can be (and is) criticized for writing stories that are too convoluted and too detailed. And in all fairness, I really began to feel by book four that things were going nowhere and I was determined to quit. But then, the ending of A Feast for Crows brought everything together quite succinctly and let us know exactly why what seemed like diversions and a drawn out tale was important.
And after the fifth book, A Dance of Dragons, things were really coming together and there was a sense of synthesis to the long tale that had been delivered thus far. By eliminating four separate threads from the story, the series writers are depriving the universe of a lot of its best material and altering the story inexorably.
For instance, the Iron Islanders are all but gone from the plot. The Dornish plans for revenge are all but gone too. Stannis’ plot to secure the crown for himself is gone, and in all likelihood, so will the war to secure the North. Aegon Targaryen and his hopes to secure the throne were never included. And Lady Stoneheart and House Stark’s hopes for revenge have also been excluded.
And in this, it seems pretty clear what the writers are doing. By closing down these other threads, they are now left with the Big Three – King’s Landing, The North, and the East. In all fairness, this was how the show started and it seemed like a classic narrative structure. And since then, Martin expanded the story greatly and took things in many different directions, to the point that a lot of people felt exhausted by books 4 and 5. And with him out of the picture, it looks like the show writers want to bring things back to a good old fashioned three-pointed story.
But doing so means that the ending will be a simplified, watered-down, and less detailed. It also means that – unless Martin gave them some indication of how the story is to end – it won’t be in keeping with the creator’s vision. Sure, at this point, they’re writing it out how they see fit and its not like they have much of a choice. But from now on, the story will be so different that it really doesn’t even make sense to call it Game of Thrones.
But of course, I just know I’m going to tune in next and watch episode three. I mean, who knows? Maybe they do have the deets on how things are supposed to proceed from here and are just giving us the scaled-down version. Only one way to find out! 🙂