Wednesday, June 6, 2012

An open letter to a TV show: DEAR GAME OF THRONES...

You are forewarned that this post is FULL OF SPOILERS. Don't come whining to me if you haven't read the books but decide to read what I'm about to write anyway.

Dear Game of Thrones,

What in Westeros happened to you this season?

I'm beginning to have concerns. Real, serious concerns.

I'm beginning to think that D.B. Weiss and David Benioff maybe aren't the best people to be raising you, GoT. Can I call you that, GoT? I hope so, because I'm too lazy to write out your full name every other sentence.

Benioff & Weiss, trolling on your Song of Ice & Fire meta since 2011

I suppose I should begin by explaining that I completely understand that, when adapting a book/series for film/television, things have to be changed. Whether it's because they wouldn't translate well on screen or because they're just not going to make the cut, budget-wise, eventually something's gotta give. I get that, really I do.

For instance, I'm okay with not seeing the Reeds this past season. I'm okay with not seeing Ramsay Bolton this past season. I'm okay with the changes that had to be made to the Battle of the Blackwater (i.e. no chain, only one wave of wildfire). Why am I okay with these things? Because not only do I understand that changes have to be made, but I'm actually of the mindset that leaving out these characters and situations was handled properly. Leaving them out did no detriment to the general storyline.

In fact...I will go so far as to say that I'm okay with the whole scene in the House of the Undying. Would I have liked to see something truer to what happens in the books? Absolutely. Do I think it was necessary to bring back Khal Drogo yet leave out Rhaegar? No, but I understand why you did it. I promise, I do. Just as I understand that the prophetic and historic scenes would have appeased us ASOIAF readers but would have merely confused those who only watch the show, and thus almost had to be left out.

I'll give you this, that was one cute baby. Almost disturbingly cute.
Are you catching what I'm throwing? Picking up what I'm putting down? Yes? Good.

Now, moving on.

Weiss and Benioff have dug you into a hole, GoT. I hate to say it, but they have. I'm going to hold out hope that some how, some way, Xaro Xoan Daxos gets out of that vault...because how else can he show up in Meereen, later? Oh, what's that you say, we don't need Xaro to show up in Meereen? Ohhhhkay. What about Irri? Rakharo? Oh, it's no matter, you say. You can just give whatever Rakharo and Irri were supposed to do to some other Dothraki. Or some white person, because that's the way you roll.

Okay, sorry, you didn't just see me go there. Or did you?

Continuing on that route, thank you so much for getting rid of Chataya and Alayaya and replacing them with Ros. No really, thank you. Oh, you're still catching the sarcasm? Oops.

"I get to take my clothes off AGAIN? Greeaaattttt."
The thing is, Esme Bianco is a beautiful woman, and I'm sure she's a fine actress. This is not a rant against her as a person. What it is, is a rant against her specially-created character, mainly because as of yet I don't understand why she's there. I have my theories, yes I do, but they are wild ones, theories that I'm trying to keep locked up in my own crazy head, because they don't really make much sense. Yet I have them for reasons, those reasons being that if I'm not correct, I repeat: I don't understand why Ros exists.

Or why she gets so much screen time while other characters' story lines become mere ghosts of what they are in the books. And don't tell me that you've had to pare down other characters due to time constraints, when Ros - and even other characters, like Bronn (especially in episode 9) - have so many pointless scenes that neither take place in the books nor add anything to the story in the show.

Oh hey, speaking of fake characters - especially ones that are brought in to take the place of characters who actually existed in the books - let's have a go at "Talisa", shall we?

Talisa. Because apparently Benioff & Weiss thought, "GoT has too many ladies and not enough bad ass women."
I have to be honest, I keep hoping that Weiss and Benioff have some tricks up their sleeves for you, GoT. Maybe "Talisa" isn't Talisa, but is instead Jeyne Westerling in disguise. I can't say it's necessary and I can't say I like it, but even that would be better than what we've so far been led to believe. You see, the beautiful reality of Robb "screwing up" and marrying Jeyne W. in the books is that in writing this storyline, GRRM perfectly deconstructed your typical heroic character.

But in the show, this deconstruction can't happen as seamlessly as it did in the books. Because Robb didn't get injured in the Westerlands and end up being nursed by the minor lady Jane Westerling. Because Robb didn't think his brothers were dead, killed by a man he'd called his friend. Because he wasn't with this lady when he heard this information. Because she doesn't exist in the show.

No, instead the producers and writers had Robb do the exact opposite of what he does in the books. They had him fall in love with a foreign girl who "isn't like all the other girls", instead of, you know, what actually happens. Yes, I'm sure this won't make a difference in how his story pans out, but that doesn't mean that I have to like it and it also frustrates me in regards to what he and Jeyne Westerling - and their relationship - are supposed to symbolize.

Okay, I'll end up writing 5,000 words on that alone if I keep going, so let's move on to an even bigger problem: Catelyn Stark.

"Oh Robb. The producers/writers have given yet another one of my ideas to you. What do you have to say about that?"
Now, I'm not a mother. Maybe that's why I don't "get" Catelyn and/or why she's not a particular favorite of mine. That said, I'm also not in the "she caused Ned's death/the war/an epic Greyscale plague/Tyrion's dwarfism/whatever else people blame her for" crowd. Yes, she makes mistakes, but so does everyone else in this series. What I want to focus on are the mistakes she does not make; or rather, the fact that she is actually a very intelligent woman whose astute political insights are often ignored by the men around her - including (especially) her kingly son.

Or at least, that's the Catelyn I know in the novels. The show, well...that's another story.

The best example is probably when they made it Robb's idea to go treat with Renly Baratheon. In the books, that is very much Cat's idea. The only thing Robb does is insist that she be the one to carry it through.

And then, to add insult to injury, show!Catelyn is constantly whining about how she should/wants to go back home to her boys. Should she be back with Bran and Rickon? Sure, even book!Cat knows that. But she can't be two places at once, and book!Cat understands that Robb needs her more.

At best, they are downplaying Catelyn to make Robb appear more interesting to the viewer...perhaps because a lot of readers (not all, but plenty) have commented on how "boring" Robb was.

At worst, I really can't see these changes as anything more or less than a sexist misinterpretation of Catelyn's character arc.

But again, I could write one hell of an essay in regards to this - and Catelyn is only one example of the misogynistic take the people in charge of you have in regards to women, GoT. Hate to say it, really, but there ya go.

Now I'm going to take a quick break from talking about characters who were changed for the worse in the show, and focus on a character who was changed for the "better". "Better" is in quotes, my dear GoT, because making a morally grey character seem, well, not very morally gray at all does not make said character a better one. Capiche?

In case any book fans don't already get who I'm talking about, let's focus for a moment on Tyrion Lannister.

Note the quote in the picture above. That is something Tyrion says in the books. Can you imagine show!Tyrion saying that? No? No? Because neither can I. And why is that?

Because Tyrion on the show has basically done none of the crappy (HA! ASOS-themed pun there) things that he does in the books.

So far, at least.
I mean, when I first started reading the series I did like Tyrion. But bit by bit, one little action or line after another, that "like" was worn down to apathy. And then came A Dance with Dragons and "where do whores go?" and, well, there you have it.

I'm trying to withhold too much judgment regarding show!Tyrion, but to be honest I'm a bit concerned that that's mostly because the way he is written on the show (and the often stellar acting on the part of Peter Dinklage). Will they show his breakdown? Will they show that his relationship with Shae is more about obsession and lust than the 'love' they seem to be portraying with you, GoT? Will they? Because I'm guessing no. Which means that some other characters - and likely the opinions that people who are watching the show have of these characters - will suffer accordingly.

Since we're talking about Lannisters at the moment, I think it's a good time for me to mention change that is particularly grating to me - that being because it's to one of my favorite Song of Ice & Fire characters: Jaime Lannister.

Oh Nikolaj, that is the exact same look I have right now in regards to what they've done to your character Jaime on GoT.
Let's get one thing straight, GoT. Do I think Jaime Lannister is a "good guy"? Well, duh, of course not. Like so many of the other awesome characters in this series, he is morally gray. He pushes Bran out of a window. He attacks Ned and kills Jory (JORYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY :( !!!) He incessantly mocks poor Brienne. He threatens to send Edmure Tully's unborn baby to him...via trebuchet.

All that said, he is not, as David Benioff so "eloquently" put it, "a 'monster' who loves killing".

I mean REALLY, GoT? Really? I thought the men producing you were fans of the books. This implies that they've actually read them. But in another shitty scene that they threw in this season - a scene that is decidedly not in the books - they more than show this opinion when they have Jaime brutally murder his cousin not!Cleos. Oh, I'm sorry, show!names here - they have Jaime brutally murder his cousin Alton.

You see, Jaime may be a Kingslayer (and I'm sorry but he did that for damn good reason)...but he is not a kinslayer. He does stupid things, terrible things. He doesn't think before he acts. He's not calculating, he doesn't "plot" very well, but above all he doesn't go around bashing innocent people who pose no threat to him over the head with rocks. Brutally, I might add.

The point has been brought up elsewhere that maybe this will serve to show a more "dramatic" change in Jaime as the show continues...but personally, if that is the way they are going with this, with you, GoT, I still don't like it. I still think it's unnecessary, and no, I don't think that it added anything in any way shape or form to the show. They could have written the scene more like the books - Alton attempting to help Jaime escape and getting killed in the fray. Please, please explain to me how that wouldn't have worked in this case?

Sigh. I really hate that this has already gotten so long, GoT, because yes, I have more to say (a regular occurrence, mind you). At this point I'm going to break from my rants about personal favorite characters and talk about a character I love to hate - Lord Petyr Baelish, a.k.a. "Littlefinger". The question I'd love for you to ask your writers and producers, GoT, is how they got Varys so perfect...yet keep messing up with Littlefinger?

"Pardon me, Your Grace, while I do something out of character for the tenth time this season."
To get down to brass tacks, I think Littlefinger is quite the creeper...but gah, he's just so darn clever and good at what he does! Hence the "love to hate" relationship that I have with his character. I'm going to try to keep this short and sweet, GoT, but here are a few problems that I have with show!Littlefinger:

~ Harkening back to season 1, book!Littlefinger - the clever counterpart of these two very different characters - would never have told his life history to two random whores. He keeps personal information like this close, because he is smart enough to understand that revealing it would also reveal his own weaknesses.
~ The Littlefinger I love to hate also wouldn't have threatened Cersei the way show!Littlefinger did in the season premiere this year.
~ Nor would he have told that story to Ros about the whore he sold to be tortured, but as Ros doesn't exist in the books, I suppose I could/should ignore this one.
~ And one final example: He would not have approached - and in fact didn't approach - Sansa directly about rescuing her. Ser Dontos existed in your season 2 premiere, GoT...and why was that if Littlefinger was not going to use him as a catspaw???

Also, I have to mention that I just don't know what was up with Aiden Gillen's voice this season. It sounded like he had a mouthful of marbles every time he spoke. Combine that with the fact that Littlefinger apparently has a Star Trek-esque Transporter (teleportation machine) in his pocket because how else would he have been able to get from King's Landing to Renly's camp at Storm's End to Harrenhal and then either back to Storm's End (or possibly even the Reach?) or back to King's Landing? So far as I can tell everyone else has continued to obey the Westerosi travel timelines that are laid out in the books...

And now, the Tale of Lost book!Littlefinger brings me back to other characters who are personal favorites of mine, which of course means that I'm even more passionate about the shitty changes that were made with them.

Rory McCann/Sandor has every reason to look pissed off, because whatever happened that led to this still never made it into the show anyway.
Yes, GoT, it is about that time...time for me to be a fangirl and bitch about Sandor Clegane and Sansa Stark. Their characters, their relationship, and how your writers and producers royally screwed them up.

You see, poor Sandor has been getting the shaft since last season. Which sucks, because Rory McCann seems to be pretty darn awesome. I mean, let's face it, GoT - your producers knew that people were pissed off that Sansa didn't hear Sandor's scar story from him, but rather from Littlefinger. It was mentioned in an interview that they knew people were upset. Yet here they go at the end of season 2, giving another one of Sandor's lines - "They're all liars here, and every one better than you" - to Littlefinger! I mean, I can understand toning down Sandor's general "big meanie" character for TV, but this is just giving him the shaft. 

And though Sansa isn't having her lines given to other characters, they are certainly minimizing her story line - and you can't tell me it's due to time constraints when instead we get non-book scenes like that awful one where Joffrey tortures Ros and the other whore. That, and Sansa has apparently become the go-to character whenever your writers need someone to be beaten or almost raped. She gets beaten enough in the books, thankyouverymuch, and I really don't think they needed to get rid of Lollys and then re-write her rape scene to an almost-rape scene and then transfer said scene to Sansa.

Now, as for Sansa and Sandor together...I'll admit it, GoT, I'm quite taken with this "pairing".
But the thing is...why shouldn't I be? Sandor is basically featured in every. single. one. of Sansa's POV chapters - especially in Clash of Kings, which is the book this season was supposedly based on. Let's do a quick count:

Sansa I - Sandor covers for Sansa when she lies to Joffrey about killing on his name-day. Well, you get a big ol' CHECK for this one, GoT, though I didn't care for Sandor participating in Joff's tourney when in the books he outright refuses to do so, calling it a "tournament of gnats".

Sandor would like to discuss why he is participating in this sorry excuse for a tournament.
Sansa II - Sansa runs into Sandor (quite literally) on the Serpentine after meeting Ser Dontos in the godswood. Well, as the latter doesn't happen, neither can the former, I suppose. ::rolls eyes::

Sansa III - Sandor fetches Sansa from her rooms as Joffrey has asked for her; Joffrey orders her beaten and her dress torn off and Sandor tosses Sansa his cloak. I guess I'll give ya half a check on this one, because we don't get Sandor fetching Sansa, but we do get him placing his cloak over her shoulders.

Okay, I'll give ya this one, GoT. This is what should have happened in the books ;)
Tyrion IX - Sandor saves Sansa during the riot. I have complaints about how this scene was handled in regards to Sansa, but when it came to the Sansa AND Sandor aspects of it...for once, GoT...I was pleased. Shocking, I know.
Sansa IV - Sansa goes to the rooftop to look out over the city and think about the impending battle. She almost falls and Sandor catches her. None of this happens at all, though you do have Sandor randomly showing up in Sansa's room right after she realizes she's gotten her period for the first time. I'm still not sure what that was all about. Is he supposed to be the one who told Cersei? Because I can't picture book!Sandor doing that. Plus he just looked like a creeper. He's angry and drunk and mean in the books, but he never really acts like a creeper. That's Littlefinger's forte.

"Whatchu lookin' at, Shae? Gonna hold a knife to my throat and tell me not to spill the beans, too?"
Sansa V - Sansa prays for Sandor in the sept before joining Cersei in the Queen's Ballroom. We don't get this, though Sandor is present when Sansa is forced to kiss Joffrey's sword and at this point in the season I've become resigned to taking what I can get.

Sansa VII - The bedroom scene. The offer to protect. The Un-Kiss. The knife. The song. The tears. The cupping of the cheek. The cloak left behind. Well, Sandor did show up in Sansa's bedroom, and at one point I suppose he sort of leaned toward her and maybe in the future she'll misremember him kissing her from that, but the rest of it wasn't there. And though Sandor appeared to be drinking wine, though he did offer to take Sansa with him, the reasons as to why she didn't go are far less clear in this very much toned-down version of what happened in the book. I know a lot of people outright hated it; for me, it didn't feel so very wrong because it fit with what they've been doing with these characters all season. But that doesn't mean that I liked it...I only didn't hate it because I expected far worse/less. And in case you were wondering, GoT...that's not a good thing.
(Oh, and I don't at all understand why he didn't leave his cloak. Unless she still has the cloak from the throne room scene tucked away somewhere, this really could have and should have happened. Sigh.)

"Wait. I just offered to take you home. To Winterfell. And you're not going to go with me? Are they outright trying to make you look stupid?"
It also bugs me, GoT, that in a recent interview Weiss claims that Bronn and Sandor are "very very similar" beneath the surface. Don't get me wrong - I like Bronn. He's not a good guy. In fact I think he's on the very very dark gray end of the morally gray scale. Is Sandor a "good guy"? Mehhh...that can be argued but due to his past actions let's just say "not really" and get on with it. Bronn cares for no one, whereas Sandor obviously cares for Sansa. Bronn is a sellsword who fights with/for whomever will pay him; Sandor is from a family of Lannister men and therefore is a Lannister man, until he gets fed up with them and goes off on his own of course.

So what do they have in common? Neither one is a knight? They're both good fighters? Um, okay, I guarantee there are hundreds if not thousands of people like that in Westeros, including but not limited to most of the men who fight for Robb (there are few knights in the North) and not a few sellswords, I'm sure. Funny, though, GoT - if you watch that video I linked to above, Weiss never actually mentions anything that they have in common. At all. He completely contradicts his comment about them being "very very similar", for the entire 59 seconds that this particular commentary lasts. Do I really have to say yet again that the men who created you do not understand George R.R. Martin's characters?

Phew. This letter has gotten way to long for its own good. Or my own good. Or your own good. So I suppose it's time to wrap it up. I guess for now I'll have to abstain from my thoughts on the ridiculous amount of "sexposition" and the recently proven mentioned "boobie quota" that they've inflicted upon you, GoT.

But I will finish with this - I understand that Martin has next to no control over what happens with you, GoT, or with how you play out. He gets to write one episode a season, but other than giving them information that they may need in order to write actor contracts or that they may need to know so that they don't, you know, kill of a character that plays a big part later in the series your producers can basically do whatever they want. In fact I've heard tell that Martin has already noted problems with some of the changes that have been made.

The funny thing is, have turned into a badly written semi-AU fan fiction. There, I said it, that's what you've become. And why is that so amusing to me, you ask? Well, it's amusing to me because the man who created your world and the people who populate it, Mr. George R. R. Martin himself, is very much against fan fiction. Now, I don't want to get into a debate about whether fan fiction is or is not a proper medium in which people should dabble because...well, I just don't care either way. I can see both sides of the issue, but I think that so long as people aren't making money off their fan fiction, we should live and let live.

It appears that Martin isn't as vehemently opposed to fan fiction as, say, Anne Rice is - he doesn't stomp around asking websites like to immediately delete any Song of Ice & Fire fan fiction that is posted there - but per the link above, Martin has made it very clear that "no one gets to abuse the people of Westeros" but him.

Unless, of course, you pay him gobs of money to turn his stories into a TV show.

Then you can abuse the people of Westeros all you want.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Well, GoT, it's been fun, but I've been writing this "letter" for two days now and it's time for me to move on to bigger and better things. I'll close with this - will I quit watching you? No, but at this point it's likely that I'll do so just to point and laugh every time your writers/producers screw something else up. Which is probably inevitable. I feel bad taking this out on you, GoT, because you are after all only a TV show, and you have no control over those who control you. It's a sad, sad position in which to be, I'm sure. And let's face it, as TV shows go you're still pretty good. So don't get too down on yourself. I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who care far less about these changes than I do.

~ Tara
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  1. I absolutely agree with everything you've written here. Except that I would add how irritated I've been by the changes in Jon's story. The show has made Jon an incompetent fool - don't even get me started on him following Craster and being knocked out.

    But yeah, this is an excellent read.

    1. My thoughts exactly!

  2. @Indy - Thanks! Glad to know that I'm not the only one who feels this way and that you enjoyed reading this blog...even though it was very very long! haha (which is the reason I left out some things - including but not limited to Jon Snow. I could have done a weekly serial for at least a month, with every one being this long, if I included every change that pissed me off haha)