13.5.13

Game of Fwones: The Bear and the Maiden Fair

While I loved the first two seasons of Game of Thrones, I definitely did not consider it The Best Show on Television, an arbitrary award that has, over the last decade, belonged to The Sopranos, Arrested Development, The Wire, and Breaking Bad, respectively. In fact, after last season, GoT would've ranked fourth behind Breaking Bad, Louie, and Mad Men. There were a number of factors behind this, from the fact I already knew the storyline to the way the show has a tendency to wedge nudity and sex in where it's not quite necessary.

Right now, though, Game of Thrones is the best show on television, hands down, and it's all due to a jaw-dropping third season that has surpassed all expectations. (WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD. I won't be giving away anything from the books, though.)
The first thing that has been absolutely astonishing about the television series is how it plays off the story told in the books. From the first season, the show has played with the adaptation a bit. For the most part, this involves introducing characters at different times, like Jojen and Meera Reed joining Bran's party later than they did in the books. Occasionally, it means adding characters altogether, like Ros, the prostitute we meet at Winterfell and who later works in Littlefinger's brothel.

Almost all of these decisions have made total sense to me. The book narrative is limited to the point of views of a few major characters like Jaime Lannister, the Starks, and...well, the list is kind of long. Anyway, we know other events are happening within the books, but we don't see them. We may only see their consequences.

So what the HBO series does is follow those threads we don't read. For instance, Lady Olenna Redwyne, the shrewd, kind matriarch of the Tyrell family, and one of the most intriguing characters in the show (I would liken her to Downton Abbey's Dowager Countess played by Maggie Smith, but way more badass), is a minor character in the books. We know she, along with her granddaughter Margaery, is working her machinations behind the scenes, but we don't really see what's happening. Some of this season's most satisfying scenes have simply showed her interacting with sharp minds like Varys and Tywin Lannister.

Here's the thing about the books: they tell an amazing story -- maybe one of the most amazing stories ever told -- but the way George R.R. Martin delivers that story is mixed. There would be major plot developments in the book that simply would not set in. A few pages after an important event, I would be like, "Oh, man, Jaime Lannister just lost a hand!" In the show, it's immediate and visceral and then the show immediately cuts to the awesome credits.

This is all to say the show is better than the book. It portrays nearly everything, and I mean everything, better. I'm not trying to slag off George R.R. Martin, who imagined up the entire Song of Ice and Fire universe, and every earth-shattering plot twist within, but the showrunners have made the settings, the plot twists, and the characters themselves more interesting and realistic. Female characters, especially. And they have turned that story into the only hour on television I am loathe to pause.

Not that there aren't missteps. My biggest complaint about this season has been the screen time allotted to Theon Greyjoy's storyline. Theon's story may matter more in the overarching plot than I've been lead to believe, but over five minutes of "The Bear and the Maiden Fair"'s 58 minute run time was devoted to his story, only it was basically just a chance to show a menage a trois. From the books, we know Theon is being slowly, horribly tortured, but it seems that reality is set for the viewer already.

"Meesa no believe Sansa marry tiny man!"
While the season isn't over yet, there are still three episodes and a whole bunch of MAJOR plot points to hit. Barring some unforeseen catastrophe where Benioff and Weiss decide to add a Jar Jar Binks-like character, this season will end and people will be ranking it among the best seasons ever cast on the small screen.

If you have questions, comments, or theories on the show, feel free to post them in the comments. Or maybe no one's watching, in which case, why not?

2 comments:

  1. Since I was considering calling it quits after last season, I'd have to agree with you about season 3. It helps that there has been less of Joffrey this season, too. I also agree about the torture scenes. It ran around in circles so we could watch more circles. Please tell me there's a point to this.

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    1. Well, there's a point to Theon's storyline, and maybe there's more of a point than I know, since only 5 of the books in the series have been released. But yeah, it's too much. I hope we don't go back to him for a while.

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