After successfully plowing through pages and pages of creative storytelling and political intrigues of places described so romantically that it left me happily confused as to where I wanted to go first, I thought I was done with it. Then started the hype about the beginning of the last season, Season 8. That got me even more excited. I mean it’s a dream come true to see on screen what I have been reading about, to be able to see in flesh and blood all those who I seem to be knowing pretty intimately (through the books, mind you), to be able to visit the places which I have seen in my mind. So though not much of a TV person, I decided to watch the series. And then it all started!
For those who haven’t read the book and just watched the series, it’s a visual delight. The distinction between the different kingdoms, their people, dresses, food, customs and traditions are all beautifully highlighted. The poor remain the poor – wretched, exploited lot everywhere but the difference has been maintained so much so that when the scene changes, one can immediately associate with the place it’s depicting.
The landscapes give body to the kingdoms. The North is depicted by high mountains, endless white carpets of snow, craggy hillsides, chilling winds and of course the sense of being powerless when winter comes. The dresses were leather or suede; the jackets long and fur lined. You could feel the cold when you see the people talking – wisps of frozen breathes escaping from the chapped lips. The woods were dark, quiet and hauntingly mysterious.
Cross the Narrow Seas and reach Pentos or Braavos or any of the kingdoms there and the dust and heat get to you. The exploitative practices, the accepted tyrannical customs, the slaves and their abusive masters – it all fits into the picture. The rich masters are garbed in silks and linens of bright colours. Oh, they love their colours; the brighter the better (though this aspect was not brought out so well in the series). Daario Nahaaris was a strutting peacock with coloured hair and what not, not a boring dark haired dude.
Reach Dorne and one immediately gets a glimpse the kind of people who inhabit those lands. The temperate climes, the abundance of nature’s munificence, the indulgences and even the moral standards. The wealth of the kingdom infuses the characters with certain cockishness, which comes with the confidence of the coins clinking in the purse.
The Iron Islands are gloomy, bleak, rain-swept and barren. The sea is an integral part of them. The men, and women, are more comfortable on their ships, sailing away in any sea-state than on the land. Their ships are intimidating with their strength, size and designs. The Iron Islands were always depicted in shades of grey, almost always looking like they were in the middle of a storm. The men, though strong, were not land warriors but sailors. They could handle the ships better through the storms than handle a sword or hammer or bow and arrow.
The Dothraki have to be mentioned. Fashioned after the Red Indians, they are the horse-bound warriors – very clan-oriented, loyal, fierce and fearless. They had their own set of customs and traditions and beliefs. And the horse depicted the status of its owner.
Another thing about the series is the number of languages and dialects they developed. Meereenese, Asthaporese, Yunkai, and of course Valerian and the common tongue in Westeros. Daenerys would address her Dothraki warlords in Dothraki, instantly forging a strong bonds of loyalty. Of all the characters, Daenerys was the one who could speak several languages and used them to her advantage.
What was most unacceptable in the complete TV series is the skin show. I agree the books were full of it too, but the TV series outdid it. At a drop of a hat the characters would drop their clothes. Some of the scenes from Petyr Baelish’s brothels were not needed even for the TV series. Not being prudish or anything when I say these excesses may have helped the channel get the required TRPs but I feel, instead, with some crisp editing the story could have been moved faster and further rather than rushing through some portions.
For those of you who have read the books, well what can I say but that the wait for the other books to release has come to naught. I feel gross injustice has been done to us readers. Firstly, by making this series and ending it (in most unacceptable ways!), we have been deprived of the pleasure of savouring the words as they would have unravelled the story word by word, page by page. Then of course there’s the story itself. It is the most un-befitting, unacceptable and absolutely rushed ending. I, for one, don’t like it at all. And last but not the least is the number of changes in the storyline in the TV series. I understand the need for some creative flexibilities but some of the changes were too out of line. I felt cheated, honestly, and I’m sure a lot of you feel the same.
The list of changes is rather long.
1. In the books, Catelyn Stark was killed by the Freys at the Red Wedding but resurfaces as the Lady Stoneheart later and joins the Brotherhood where she has an important part to play. But in the TV series, she’s out of the story once she gets killed.
2. Ser Barristan Selmy fights for Daenerys all along. At Meereen, when the Sons of Harpy were wreaking chaos, he was at the helm of things. He takes control of the situation when Daenerys flies off with her dragon and holds fort awaiting her return. He doesn’t die fighting in some by-lanes of Meereen.
3. Asha/Yana Greyjoy – why her name has been changed I don’t know. I also don’t know why she had to be shown as bisexual – it had nothing to do with the story, in the books or in the TV series. It would have saved so much of senseless screen time.
4. Mance Ryder – in the book, he is captured and ordered to be executed by Stannis but is allowed to escape under the guise of being Rattleshirt, another wildling, while the real Rattleshirt is burnt at the the stake. He is also tasked by Jon Snow to located the lone girl in the woods, expecting her to be Arya Stark on her way to Castle Black. But in the TV series, he is burnt at the stake by the orders of Stannis (though Jon Snow saves him the torture by putting an arrow through his heart).
5. Pyp and Grenn – in the books, they are alive till the last page and don’t die fighting. They are part of the trustworthy group of Night’s Watch, along with Eddard Tollet, who remain loyal to Jon till the end.
6. Jojen Reed helps Bran reach the three-eyed crow, with the help of his sister Meera. Towards the end of the book 5, he’s depressed and morose but very much alive. In the TV series, he gets seriously wounded when the White Walkers attack their party just as they reach the cave and then Meera mercy-kills him and burns his body so he doesn’t become another White Walker.
7. Hizdahr Zo Loraq was one of the masterminds behind the Sons of Harpy. Daenerys marries him under political compulsions. He tries to kill her by feeding her poisoned locusts at the fighting pits. In the series Loraq is mild mannered and instead gets killed himself in the attack by the Sons of Harpy at the fighting pits.
8. Missandei – she supposed to be a girl of ten or twelve years. Intelligent, knows many languages, loyal to Daenerys. Her relationship with Grey Worm was one of the biggest contortions of the story line. Her death and effect on Grey Worm becomes hard to accept.
9. Sansa Stark never, ever meets any of the Boltons in the books. At the last mention of her, she was safe in the Vales along with Robin Arryn. But in the series she’s married off to Ramsay Bolton. In fact it’s Jayne Poole (Sansa’s dear friend from Winterfell) who gets married to Ramsay Bolton and he believes she’s Arya Stark. Ramsay is every bit as evil and more as shown in the series and Jayne suffers what has been shown as Sansa’s lot.
10. Tommen Baratheon is just a boy of 10 or 12 years, not a grown up boy. And his marriage to Margery is never consummated.
11. Bronn becomes the Lord of High Garden because all the Tyrells have been killed at the great fire at the Sept of Baelor, or so it is depicted in the series. But in the book, the House is survived by the older two children of Mace Tyrell , Willas and Garlan. Plans were afoot to marry Sansa to Willas when to offset the plans, the Lannisters married her off to Tyrion Lannister. So how can Bronn be the Lord of High Garden?
12. Loras Tyrell is shown as handsome and depraved young man with decent skills on the field. His homosexuality is given more prominence. But in the story, he belongs to the Kings Guard and is a proven soldier with admirable skills. He likes Sansa but knows he cannot marry her (though she doesn’t know this and hopes to marry him).
13. When Robb Stark decided to march South, he makes Jon Snow a Stark thus legitimising his claim to the throne and ensuring that the North has a King. In the series, they have ignored this bit. Jon continues as Lord Snow.
14. Jamie never practices his sword fights with Bronn but with Ilyn Payne. This was suggested by Tyrion to ensure the secrecy as Ilyn Payne is a mute.
15. Jamie and Bronn certainly do not go to Dorne to rescue Mrycella. Instead it’s Arienna Martell who kidnaps and whisks her away so Myrcella can be declared as the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms.
16. The character of Arienna Martell is not shown at all in the series. Instead her character has been hashed up and given in bits to all the females from the Dornish family.
17. Jon Snow gets Samwell Tarly to escape along with Gilly, the baby and Maester Aemon to Oldtown. And Samwell stays as far away from home as possible. Instead in the series, he is shown to enjoy the hospitality of the family home along with Gilly and the baby. and Maester Aemon dies at Castle Black.
18. All along the baby is shown to be Gilly’s but in fact it is Mance Ryder’s child. Jon switches Gilly’s baby with Mance’s to protect it from Melisandre.
19. Shae never serves as hand maid to Sansa though she is employed briefly for Lady Lollys.
20. Aegon Targaryen’s character in the book is revealed slowly and with great relish. It develops slowly so we understand his importance and place in the larger picture. But in the TV series it’s all hashed up and Jon Snow becomes THE Aegon Targaryen. And that also to no use since he neither gets acknowledged as being a Targaryen nor does he get the throne. One of the biggest mess ups here!
The list is endless and there are still too many differences left which I haven’t enumerated. Doesn’t matter now, does it? What is Dead May Never Rise!