HBO’s Song of Pain and Woe

When Benioff and Weiss stated that the Game of Thrones television series would outpace R.R. Martin’s work, HBO confirmed that they are taking liberties with the books. (And most of these liberties are bad.) So, I decided to republish my previous thoughts on the cable version of A Song of Ice and Fire.

The Book or the TV Series?

After reading the series A Song of Ice and Fire, I choose a book over any television series. The HBO drama Game of Thrones is well done: the production quality is top-notch, the soundtrack is memorable, and the actors’ performances are believable. Peter Dinklage brings Tyrion Lannister to life. But it’s a shame that the HBO Tyrion Lannister’s philandering and drinking isn’t burning down George R.R. Martin’s Westeros into a Roman pile of ash.

“It’s the family name that lives on. It’s all that lives on.”

There are two Westeros: an HBO Westeros and A Song of Ice and Fire Westeros. The HBO continent’s larger events are similar, but the story is a pale spark to Martin’s story fire. HBO’s icy dead and wildlings storm southward. Feudal lords kill one another in a struggle for the Iron Throne–which looks like a pain in the posterior. A brother and sister have quite a naughty relationship going on under the sheets. But after watching every episode, I find devilish dissimilarities to be in the television series’ details.

“It is known!”

The HBO series is produced for a broader audience. Fine. I’ll accept this, but I hold a grudge against the writers who’ve altered the books’ characterization. Underestimating viewers, the writers tossed some characters into a creativity shredder. Cardboard cutouts replace these destroyed characters.  (To avoid spoilers, I won’t mention names.) In the same way Essos misfortunes must be explained to the Dothraki, these paper-thin characters were altered to fit a prototype viewer’s expectations, the same prototype expectations repeated over and over and over, and they are now cliché. Worse, plotted events are changed to accommodate the cliché. A good thing becomes banal. Tyrion would be amused by the irony.

“Your joy will turn to ashes in your mouth.”

If you’re hurling wildfire at me, I’ll now deflect the green flames with words: I recommend reading a book or watching the series, but don’t do both. Carrying a  torch of expectations, I watched HBO’s Game of Thrones and was burned by disappointment. I’m not being all that fair to the show. If only I had watched the series and had never read the books, my joy would not have turned to ashes.

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