Game of Thrones Season 2 Premiere: A Novel Approach

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NOTE: TV Fanatic will be taking two approaches to Game of Thrones this season. In one, Matt Richenthal will be reviewing from the point of view of someone who has never read the source material. You can his take on "The North Remembers" now.

I, meanwhile, will be analyzing how the HBO version of this saga compares to George R. R. Martin's masterpiece. What liberties is the show taking? What similarities are most striking? Let's delve into the character comparisons and contrasts below, shall we?

GoT Novel Approach

One Prologue Left a Lot to the Viewer's Imagination: Melisandre's introduction was much more menacing in Clash of the Kings than we were lead to believe. She believed in the one true God of Light, which was looked upon as a type of sorcery, and she treated it that way. She had Stannis' ear and together with his wife, Lady Selyse, convinced him to move the man who raised him, Maester Cressen, aside. Thinking it was all Melisandre, the old man killed himself in an attempt to kill her and save him from her magic. Cressen was already well dead before the Sword of Fire ceremony, but having it happen before his death said a lot more about Melisandre and his fear of her than going through the entire back story.

Still, if you notice, there was no involvement with Stannis' wife at all, and the motivation behind Cressen's attempt was a bit vague. It almost came across as jealousy, and not a fierce loyalty to Stannis, that instigated his actions against Melisandre. Perhaps through Davos we will learn later what caused Cressen to behave as he did.

The Wit and Wisdom of the Lannisters: Tyrion's arrival at the small counsel session was far less exciting between brother and sister than the amusing exchange in "The North Remembers." Tyrion, while written to be clever and witty, has been drawn even more so for the screen. Cersei ordering everyone out of the room made for a far more dramatic reunion than occurred in the book, where the entire counsel had their words with our little friend.

One scene that was practically word for word from the book was that of Joffrey's desire to drown the Ser Dantos the Red in wine until Sansa told him to stop. She still had some Stark fight left in her to talk back to the King, and his reaction was more unpleasant in the book. If it's possible, they're treating her more kindly as a result of her stupidity in season one.

If it wasn't obvious of his budding protectiveness of her, Clegane agreed with Sansa that Joffrey not kill on his name day, as their relationship continued to deepen. The Hound found a soft spot for Sansa, perhaps the only person left to have one in Kings Landing.

Evil Queen

The Girl Queen: Danaerys had a very small role to play, and it was questionable. Why were they walking across the Red Waste? On the small screen, appeared Ser Jorah had advised her; when in the book she chose to follow the Red Comet, having seen it the night she burned Khal Drogo and her dragons awakened, believing it the herald of her coming. They were far worse off than they appeared on screen, but Dany refused to show any weakness. She was also, at that point, still completely bald. I would have loved to see the wig her handmaids made for her from the head of a white lion.

The ages were accommodated for the series, but in the books, Dany was a mere 14 years old as she was leading the Dothraki across the Red Waste, so to take on such an inconceivable task is really mind blowing when picturing a young teen. While the symbolism of losing her white horse from Drogo was a nice touch, it wasn't something George R R Martin put upon Dany when she was already so down, so her people and her dragons (who did take to seared horse meat quite readily) did not feast on him that night until the screenwriters made it so.

How It Comes Together From The Format of The Book: What I find so interesting in the adaptation of the novel to the screenplay is where the latter chooses to cut. When you see it played out, it makes perfect sense, but there is so much character essence and understanding of the worlds in which they travel that is missing. Part of what makes the telling of the tale difficult is that each book is told through the view of several particular characters.

In this installment, we hear from Arya, Sansa, Tyron, Bran, Jon, Catelyn, Davos, Theon and Daenerys and the chapters are named as such. Everything else is learned from their understanding of the situations while they live them out. Still set in the third person, each chapter is distinctively theirs. The prologue was told through the perception of Maester Cressen and set the tone for what was to come.

Because of the limits set within the books, the screenwriters have to choose how to make the most out of every line written. For just 10 hours this season, I don't envy them, and yet it's fascinating watching it unfold. Dany's first chapter in the book is told only partially in the first hour. Jon's first two chapters are skipped completely and they delve right into the middle of his journey. They held Arya, with whom the book opens, to the very end to capitalize on Gendry's escape from King's Landing as Robert's other bastards are being slain.

I hope you come back next week for A Novel Approach to read (King's) hand-in-hand with Matt's review of the series. What might you like to know about for the remainder of the season? Let me know in the comments and enjoy season two of Game of Thrones!


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Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter and on Google+.


the depth of the books as written can never be truely captured on film, however, this series in my opinion is as closely adapted as i have ever seen. although some of the plots subtlies are generalized it would be difficult to imagine a story that is "tic for tic" a novel... look at how poorly adapted most of steven kings' novels are... i love the books and the series and my one prayer is that the series will last till the telling of the entire fire and ice saga


Nice analysis. Looking forward to next week.


@Tamara I take it is wasn't as much about royal right than just the possibility of someone "wanting" to claim it as their own. A bastard, even one that could be hard to prove, could make a far better king for Jeoffrey's enemies. That little twerp has made a lot of enemies in his short reign of terror, and it would't be hard to pull the aggravated lords under the banner of a real Baratheon, even one to be just used as a puppet to claim the throne. With Jeoffrey's clam to the throne put in question, even as an excuse, having the offspring of the late Baratheon King would be a great hand for someone wanting to amass some power of their own.


"in regards to the books, does anyone know when the 6th will be coming out??" Martin said it would take 2-3 years to write the next book. Book five was released last summer, so probably next year or the year after. There's an interview somewhere where he says he already has a lot of pages done! Anyway, doing the reviews like this is an awesome idea!


So happy to see two opinions. One from a non bookie's prespective and one from someone who has read and enjoyed the books as I have.


in regards to the books, does anyone know when the 6th will be coming out?? I started reading the books after the first season as well and I Love the HBO series & the books!!...HBO is doing a good job!! Go Tyrion!!! :o) Peter Dinklage is a great actor!!


They killed the bastards presumably because they look like Robert and that would make Stannis' incest report more credible. Wasn't very clearly explained.


Can someone explain to me why they kill all of Robert bastards at the end. I mean really did any of them have a real claim to the iron thorn?


From what I understand, it is cost that is keeping HBO from making more than 10 hours a season. Each episode is extremely expensive so from what I have read and seen in interviews, there will always only be 10 episodes per season.


Each episode should be at least 90 mins long its too short and barely gives us a chance to settle with the characters and their very interesting development. It plays out but doesnt pan out to its potential. The chance to create a sprawling epic is being lost to the editing room. The over zealous edits pander to the knowing readers of the book and im sure this leaves tv only viewers slightly cold instead of warming up to character and set detail. More poise for contemplation in the stellar direction would only be a much desired plus in this series, HBO should give the creators a little more scope and lee-way with the time restrictions. Other than that its definitely Top 5 series ever, HBO and the shows creators should be rapturously applauded for their vision, great sets, actors and a top notch story but its missing out on a chance to be the greatest tv show ever.