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

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This review made me so very glad I have not read the books. I, apparently, watched a completely different episode than this person did and I thought it was one of the best episodes of the season thus far. Did more to elucidate the motivations behind each character's actions than any I can remember.

Modwild

This column is not meant as a crucifixion of the writers of the series, more as observations of the difficulties and challenges the writers are faced with in bringing such a huge undertaking to the screen. Admittedly, there are times when I am overwhelmed. Parts of the book that were stand out for me were not necessarily the same for the screenwriters. That requires re-reading and comparison. While this particular episode felt as if much was changed, there have been other episodes where I have noted how much the screenwriters brought directly from Martin's masterful works. Harrenhal's Ghost threw me around and I had a difficult time finding my center between the books and the show. This is NOT a regular review of the series, but meant to be read by those who have also read the series and want to discuss the similarities and differences. Please read the full review here: http://www.tvfanatic.com/2012/...

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While it is difficult not to get distracted when something memorable from the book gets changed or lost, for the most part, I haven't felt that the overall story arc has been ruined. These is however one change that came through the past two weeks that really stung: Having the shadow birth scene come before the Renly stabbing REALLY takes the surprise element away from the book. I remember reading that scene several times to try to piece together what was happening. Martin did such a great job setting up how obvious it seemed that Renly was going to defeat Stannis that his instant supernatural death by some unknown thing was incredibly shocking. Granted we get the birth scene later in the book under Storm's End (which apparently will be skipped altogether), and I thought they did pretty well with it last week, but I wish the TV audience could have gotten the same jolt that the book provided inside Renly's tent!

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Also, the show is a television series. The logistics of playing the long game with the Tickler's death is an understandable narrative casualty. Our time with the Mountain's posse of pebbles was necessarily abbreviated anyhow. It's not wrong to have hoped for the proper Tickler treatment, but unreasonable to crucify the writers over that particular decision. It makes perfect sense for the show's Arya, who's probably more scarred by the marathon of rat-themed chest-bursting inflicted on her fellow captives than anything else she's seen on the path to Harrenhal, to single him out for elimination. Seriously, how do you expect a non-reader audience to keep up with every relatively minor freak Arya comes to hate in the book adapted to film? It would be overwhelming. I hope more of you will come to enjoy the show with fewer reservations, changes and all. I'm happier for it, and you can be too. There are no heinous crimes against the source material on record, and most changes are still believable within the context of the show.

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I'm with Bean on this episode. I went crazy over the first three books (ultimately indifferent to the latest two), but I'm glad I have enough distance from them all to enjoy the show on its own terms. I had lots of trouble accepting the first season for what it was, but the little conniption critic/book purist in my head seems to have piped down a great deal. I honestly believe each episode of the second season gets progressively better, though I do think Renly's death was a mite rushed. Still, there was an incredible flow to this episode overall, and many memorable moments. The scope of the world is conveyed very well in its scene shifts. This episode felt larger than the rest for it, which was a wonderful feeling.

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Although it is never clearly stated in the books that Margaery is a player in the game, it IS fairly obvious that House Tyrell is. By allying with Renly, then Lannister it is quite obvious. So they have taken the general thrust of House Tyrell and embodied it in Margaery and Loras, which is a good way to go about it. It also gives Marg, Loras and Littlefinger something to do on screen. Margaerys motivations were never clearly stated in the books, but certainly marrying 3 kings in succession certainly seems to indicate that she has a desire to be queen.

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I'll reserve my judgement on the show for killing the tickler the way they did. I have a feeling the scene where Arya kills him will still happen, but with a different victim. Considering how fast they need to move the plot along on the show, I wouldn't be surprised if it's the Hound she winds up killing instead.

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I really do hope they end up splitting the 3rd book into two seasons. Them rushing all these things together makes it really hard to get involved with everything that is going on. Just as you're about to care for these new characters you're swept off into something that doesn't fully make sense. They need more time to go into the depth the story deserves. Also, I don't think the novel approach is bashing the television series at all. The point of it is to show the differences. I enjoy both, the show and the books, for their own reasons. But the stories are very complicated and they need more time to develop with the audience for them to truly care about these characters.

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@Hobson. Agreed! Arya and the Tickler was a pivotal scene in the books, and now they've killed any chance of it happening for a random death. Would it have been so hard to introduce Weese and Chiswyck! Arya could have asked for Weese's death this time, and then next episode hear Chiswyck's gang-rape story and ask for his death. And then the Weasel Soup. :D Really wasted potential here by killing The Tickler. A great scene that now we'll never see the televised version of, and I feel that Maisie Williams would have really pulled it off. LotN

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I was quite disappointed with the way they handled Renly's death scene. It was an epic, shocking moment in the book and here... it felt rushed & anticlimactic - I was really underwhelmed tbh. I felt the same with Maester Cressen's death - it was a really intense and creepy opening in the novel. The Battle at the end of Episode 3 was hardly a battle in the show, while in the book it was a really staged, epic and intense sequence. Is it because of budget reasons that they can't give more emphasis to these major scenes? Because they are really important for the pacing of the storyline. I hate to say this, but the book really is better.