Game of Thrones: Moving Past the Books
Why Game of Thrones is Better Than Ever
Spoilers for Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire…
Game of Thrones is nearing the end of its sixth season on a fresh wave of optimism and goodwill. Rewind a few months though and you’ll notice that there was a lot of anxiety and anticipation going into this current season. This was because the show was overtaking the novels by George R.R Martin and moving into somewhat uncharted territory. Yes, show runners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss have been told the ending by Martin and have some idea of the development of the main characters but there is no more source material to use as a guide and how they arrive at the show’s finale is entirely up to them. Going into this season, David Benioff told Entertainment Weekly:
“People are talking about whether the books are going to be spoiled – and it’s really not true. So much of what we’re doing diverges from the books at this point…
“People are going to be very surprised when they read the books after the show. They’re quite divergent in so many respects for the remainder of the show.”
Benioff and Weiss were trying to allay fears that the show was going to ‘spoil’ the books and implied in this interview that their take on Game of Thrones from that point onwards was their interpretation and would differ significantly from the books. As someone who started watching the show before reading the books I still felt a little worried going into season six after reading the books. George R.R. Martin weaves a fantastic story of politics, intrigue and war in A Song of Ice and Fire. He also plays with the readers expectations with sudden deaths of characters who, until that point, you had been interested and invested in and that you may even have assumed were the ‘good guys’. This creates moments, events and talking points that nobody wants ‘spoiled’ for them.
I was as concerned as any fan of Game of Thrones about the show no longer having a road map to guide the show runners but I am pleased to say I was wrong to think that.
Season six of Game of Thrones is proving to be one of its very best. After an initial first episode of maneuvering the show has moved at a pace that is less deliberate and meandering and more gratifying. A Song of Ice and Fire uses its characters like chess pieces to set up various encounters and presumably to eventually pave the way for some sort of finale. This slow pace does not necessarily suit a TV show although the multitude of characters and their points of view do. This wasn’t a problem in earlier seasons because this was an entryway into the world of Westeros for many people but as the show progressed and particularly in season 5, which adapted A Dance with Dragons, there was a danger that like Lost, people would become weary of a lack of answers or tangible progression of the overarching story.
Benioff and Weiss have decided to give the audience those answers and whether they really match up with the novels by Martin still remains to be seen. In one season we’ve discovered the fate of Jon Snow, been told the origins of Hodor and the White Walkers, seen Arya make a decision to return to Westoros and watched as Jon and Sansa retake Winterfell.
With only a couple more seasons left of the show you can’t help but feel the tide is turning for the Starks in particular, with Jon and Sansa’s success at Winterfell, Arya’s training and decision to go home and Bran’s newfound powers. In some ways the books have been holding Game of Thrones back and it no longer needs to concern itself with the pitfalls of adapting material and instead can take some creative license for the sake of the show.
There are still issues I have with some characters whose arcs seem to have come to a standstill but overall I’m happy with season six as a fresh start for the show. Knowingly or not, the show is going to spoil some of the aspects of the books (Hodor’s heartbreaking origin feels ripped straight from the page) but the end result is that we are going to get two meticulously crafted, acted and written versions of events in Westeros and that may be the best possible outcome.
What do you think of Game of Thrones moving past the books? Let me know by commenting below.