This post contains A LOT of spoilers for those who have not read the book… or watched the show… or listened to a podcast… or went on the internet… or opened a magazine… or merely breathed entertainment over the last three years.
I had serious misgivings around watching season four of Game of Thrones. (I even wrote about it last year in this post.) See, for me it all came down to the Red Wedding. When I read the book, I was furious. Robb Stark was always my favorite character in the book. Part of it is because we only saw him through other characters and he would have these moments of weakness, showing the boy behind the sword.
Then the Red Wedding happened and it didn’t matter what I thought.
Jump forward a few years and we get the Red Wedding on the show, a show where they always like to take the brutality of George R.R. Martin and times it by ten. How did they do it on the show? Why kill a pregnant woman first… by stabbing her in her belly.
Anyway, I was offered free HBO for three months and decided to jump in. Honestly, the main driving force for me in watching this season (or merely starting it) is I wanted to see King Joffrey get axed.
Supposedly, the actor who plays Joffrey is really nice and is actually retiring from acting to work in nonprofits. Anyway, I still wanted to see the character die, it wasn’t personal at him. If anything he should be rewarded for making me hate him so much.
The thing that was the most shocking about this season for me—more than the deaths and abundant nudity and other stuff I will get into below— was the fact the writing was soooo much better.
We are all only human and that goes for George R.R. Martin as well. Sometimes he really knocks it out of the park (the first and second book) and other times he… flaps about like a fish struggling on land to get back to sea (the fourth and fifth book).
I first liked the show because… they cut out a lot out from the massive books that really didn’t feel necessary. (Usually when I read The Song of Ice and Fire, I wonder where his editor is. You can say no editors!) Because of the time constraints of HBO they had to snip away and it was glorious. No more discussions about dinners or incredibly minor characters that get snuffed twenty pages later. It was now all about plot and character.
Yet… this season (season 4), they did something really unique (and awesome) by fixing things I thought problematic in the third book.
Of course Jon Snow would see Ygritte at the battle on the wall and hold her as she died! Yes, in a battle, the chance of seeing someone you know on the opposite side is slim (unless you are in the Civil War and your brother fights for the opposing side; they always seem to bump into each other), but this is a world of high drama. They need to see each other!
AND, of course, Brienne and the Hound would fight over Arya! In the book she merely fights someone wearing The Hound’s hat (or something, I’m not an expert). And he fights some random person from a few thousand pages earlier. Another correction made. Yes, again, the chance they would have bumped into each other is slim, but this is fantasy and it works. Plain and simple.
Suicide around the death of Lysa Arryn? Great change! Makes a lot more sense.
It is almost as if these TV writers have become the editor that Martin never had.
Moving Us Forward
Who knows when we will get another Martin book. He has got to be feeling the pressure. I used to think Rowling had the stress when the world was waiting on her Potter books, but Martin I think has it worse. Because if he doesn’t get his books out before the show passes him, his later books become obsolete. A trivial matter. Why read the book when you have already seen the show? They will become something for the curious, the die-hard fans. The rest of us would have moved on, honestly. He will definitely feel it in his pocketbook.
So for the sake of his baby, his creation, he has got to get his books out… soon. It could ruin his entire series and his new publishing empire if he doesn’t. That is not just me being dramatic, that is just me talking as someone who is fan. And, yes, while I am a super reader (reading three books at a time on average), I just can’t see myself sitting down to read 1200 pages of something I already watched on TV.
Sorry, Mr. Martin. I can’t see it.
The fact is, while I feel for Martin, we have to wait years and years for these books. The man is allowed a life and he is allowed to do other things (I’m not one of those fans stalking his blog and shouting for him to get on with it). But I want to know how this series ends, I want to see if the ending he is building to is actually possible and will be fulfilling.
On the show we have already been introduced to the big bad of the series, something that hasn’t happened in the books. We have seen the leader of the White Walkers. Those brief minutes in season 4 cleared up a lot of the frustration around the books for me. Yes, Martin was never writing a typical fantasy tale, but fantasy usually works best when you have a Mount Doom, a Sauron to take on. Fantasy and Sci-Fi are operatic epics on a grand stage. You need to feel that life-fearing doom if you are going to emotionally commit to feeling the need for success.
Okay, that was a little bit of a rant.
Whatever the case, the writers have started to move forward in some regards from Martin in the book, and that will happen more in season five if another book doesn’t come out before then (which I think is highly doubtful, unless they announce a Christmas release soon). This potential leap will be one of the reasons I will tune in next year.
The “R” word
I don’t want anyone to think this season of the show was perfect.
One major issue I had was around the amount of rape in this season. Rape that seemed to be quickly dismissed by the characters (and everyone behind the scenes) after they happened. Actions, like Jaime and Cersei in the Sept, should have repercussions for both of them and for us as viewers.
The odd thing overall regarding the abundance of rape this season is that it is really not in the book. Yes, Jaime and his sister get it on in the sept near the body of their dead son (that is a weird sentence to write and read) but it is very consenting. Actually, if I remember correctly Cersei was totally into it.
Then we have the rape of the wives/sisters/mothers/daughters in Craster’s Keep (an additional scene that was not in the book).
So here is the question- who was it in the production office that thought this would be a good addition, and where was everyone else that should have questioned it?
Before anyone says I am being too judgmental, consider the last episode. In the books, Tyrion kills his dad because he learned what his dad did to his first wife (the only person who ever really loved him). For those that don’t remember- in the book Tyrion was married to a commoner. His dad told Tyrion that his wife was actually a prostitute. He forced Tyrion to watch his wife be raped by his men, and then Tyrion had to sleep with her too. And pay her.
Then… Tyrion learned his wife wasn’t a prostitute! His dad just didn’t want him married to a peasant. So Tyrion wanted revenge for his wife, the only woman he loved. That is why he killed his evil dad. Well, the writers took that important point out from the end, dismissing once again the impact of rape.
Someone really needs to sit down with the writers… or maybe some victims could come in and explain what it does to a person?
The show still has years ahead of it. They can turn this around, and it doesn’t diminish the rest of the season, but it is something that does concern me and should concern other viewers.
So now… we wait.
The dragons wait, the kingdoms wait, the Starks wait and their wolves wait.
We wait for George R.R. Martin to finish his books, we wait for the next season of the show to come on TV and we all wait for that moment when a hero steps forward and takes charge. Someone to cheer for.
Season 5 should be interesting too since I really feel like little happened in the last two books. I still have no idea why we spend so much time away from Westeros (the only land actually under threat from winter let me remind you), and those books were all about wandering… or just standing still and dealing with politics.
Oh, I complain and complain and complain… But Martin has me. HBO has me. I’ll be watching, and covering my eyes during the scary parts. And sometime there might even be screaming. Both the characters and me.
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