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Game of Thrones: The Ghost of Harrenhal - A Novel Approach

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It was difficult to break down the Game of Thrones story this week. So much varied from the books.

The foundation remained the same, but due to the vast number of characters, many were reduced from three to one, or so it appeared, and the same went for the situations in which characters found themselves.

As always, I break down the TV show versus the novel below, while Matt Richenthal focuses solely on the former in his Game of Thrones review.

GoT Novel Approach

Arya was outed as a girl and working in Tywin's kitchens, but not in such close proximity to the man himself, and not with so many knowing her secret. Frankly, it never seemed that anyone cared once she was there at Harrenhal.

When Tywin asked her where she was from and what she knew of Robb Stark, I had to remind myself that the Lannisters had kept the secret of her disappearance close to the vest so as not to lose leverage regarding Jaime. Can you imagine if it wasn't a well guarded secret? Tywin would have had to be suspicious of Arya, wouldn't he?

We have yet to see the arrival of Meera and Jojen in Bran's world. I'm wondering if Osha is going to encompass all three roles. Bran's part has been fleshed out the least of all of the Stark children, and the direwolves have been just behind him, so perhaps they're just going to put as little effort into his experiences as possible.

They may say that Jon can turn into a direwolf, but we know it's Bran who made the most of that situation with the help of Meera and Jojen. Osha seems a bit thick skulled to offer much assistance, but she does have the knowledge of the three eyed crow. Perhaps I'm just rushing things.

I have no memory of Margarey having eyes to be the one true queen. While she willingly played the part of pawn in the game of thrones, she didn't seem power hungry or overly engaged in the ride to the top. The scene after Renly's death surprised me, not only because Littlefinger was there, but because of her attitude.

Natalie Dormer acted far more like Anne Boleyn than she did Margaery Tyrell. That may just be my own inability to separate her from the previous role she played so well, or it could be due to the new material being given to the character not found in the Song of Ice and Fire books.

Finally, Catelyn had no hesitation in the books pointing out that the shadow who killed Renly looked like Stannis. As a team of Renly's soldiers came after Brienne, she shouted that it was a shadow of Stannis that killed him and thought herself nuts for the saying of it.

I don't know why it was chosen for her not to agree with Brienne, when in fact it was that strange experience that brought them very close. 

All in all, this was my least favorite episode of the season so far. There was too much packed into the episode. Catelyn, Dany, Theon, Jon, Bran, Tyrion, Arya, Stannis and Margaery all had scenes and that's just what comes to me off the top of my head. There wasn't enough meat in any but Arya's plot to sink your teeth into and I think the show is at its best when it has a more narrow focus in each episode.

Realizing we are halfway through the season and that might get difficult, they are combining characters and story and I want all of that to fit together in a way to gives the viewer the best experience possible in connection to the novels.

Review

Editor Rating: 3.0 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.7 / 5.0 (99 Votes)

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

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I know the scene is vital for the books, but GOT the TV show has repeatedly gone light involving scenes with children as opposed to the book. You think they would shy away from Arya repeatedly impaling a man and enjoying it?

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I agree with what Sean said in that the Tickler's death scene will likely still happen to some other character. They had him asking the questions on the show but not doing the burning. I could see them saving that stabbing and shouting the questions for The Mountain or someone like that, in a David and Goliath type scene. Having said that, I haven't read the books so I have no idea what happens with Gregor down the line. For some reason I had just known about that Arya-Tickler part.

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Not having Jojen and Meera is the only thing I am worried about. Pretty much every other point where the series has departed from the book (despite maybe the lack of having a later Arya redemption with the Tickler) I've been completely ok with, and in general I've been pleased with how well they've stuck to the books. But seriously not having Meera and Jojen would be way too big of a depart from the books.

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@Jacob This has become my default recommendation to my friends. If you like to read, you better read the book. But if you want to get into the show, watch it first and read it later so the show can hit you in full force. I'm glad I have non-reader friends to remind me how fantastic it is to watch the show without knowing what's going to happen, just like the rest of us were waiting for non-reader reactions to a particular climactic event last season. The second season has such FLOW! Each episode just gets better at what the show's trying to accomplish in its own right. It's really encouraging to see this revamped cinematography isn't exclusive to Alan Taylor-directed episodes to boot. And we're only at the midpoint. What an exciting time! :)

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@Carissa My comment wasn't meant to target your position in particular. It's a critique of the slight negativity that seems inherent to the book reader perspective that I sense in reader-viewer comments throughout the web. While I believe it's a real service to non-readers to have book-neutral reviews and recaps to affirm their fandom, I think there is a native bias to book-based reviews that does injustice to both viewers and the show. This is a general trend I've caught onto, nothing personal towards anyone. I just find that my own knowledge of the books was a real hindrance to fully enjoying the show's first season. I saw most of it as shrewd exposition rather than storytelling. A great cure for this is watching the show with people not familiar with the books. I thankfully occupy the gap between book devotee and newcomer to the show bu curbing my expectations. It doesn't make me a better fan or anything, just more content with the show.

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Interesting column, and I appreciate your analyses @ CARISSA PAVLICA, I think you may be wrong on the Margaery front. The issue in the books is that she is never a character who gets a chapter from her own point of view, so we see her from glimpses of others. But even there, she is clearly a Game of Thrones player! She battles Cersei for the hearts and minds of King's Landing. She is very poorly fleshed out in Clash of Kings -- it's more plot driven, "Oh look Renly got himself a beard from one the wealthiest family", but the TV show is making her own motivations more clear (while giving Littlefinger, a renowned TV actor, more to do in this season than he had in the book), so I think it's all good. My feeling is that they've ramped the stakes here, so that when we find out the match that is made for the ambitious Margaery we will get a REALLLLY bad feeling in our stomachs!

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I think it's very important to remember the fact that this is after all an adaptation. Also, while reading the book gives you a lot of insight to the POV character themselves, we know almost nothing about what goes on in the minds of the characters who are not. the best example in this case is Margaery, we read about her often enough, but so far none of the POV characters are remotely close enough to her to even hint her intentions. my opinion is that instead of looking for how it differs from the book, i find it more interesting to look at what the show ADDS to the story; because everything we see is a conscious decision made by someone and it is probably (hopefully) not arbitrary.

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One of the biggest challenges with putting a series like this on film is that so much of what goes on in the books takes places in characters' minds/thoughts. The 'sexposition' and other 'new' scenes are serving (to various degrees of success) to impart that information to the viewing audience--many of whom have not read the books and need to have the background or motives laid out for them. Littlefinger's scenes are probably the biggest evidence of this.

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Hmm..got cut off LOL ..if I understand what I've read, in various interviews with HBO people, the writers, GRRM, etc.

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I have faith that between D&D and GRRM, we are seeing (and will continue to see) what is important for the long game. If that means elimination of gazillions of characters (who really turn out to not have much of an impact on the story moving forward, as much as they exist to drive particular plot points home with the readers), then I have to believe that GRRM didn't indicate to D&D that they were important enough to the story, as a whole. By rolling multiple characters into one, i.e. Bran/Jojen, they save money on the production, while losing nothing to the global story. Will we NEED Meera? Not necessarily--not if the writers have found another way or another person to deal with Bran's future storyline. However they handle it, I'm pretty sure we'll get to the same endpoint. Also, rather than imagining each season as one book--imagine the story, spread out over multiple seasons. That's what's going to happen, in seasons three and four, at the least, if I understand what HBO people are saying, in various interviews. I like threads like this, that allow for comparison between books and series. It's not fair when, in other threads, people who have read the books (yes, I've read them, more than once), go on about the comparisons and contrasts--it makes head-spinning a regular occurrence for people who haven't read the books and, it's very off-putting to some of them, as well.