Some Thoughts on Game of Thrones – from a book reader

I’ve been meaning to post something for a while now about my thoughts on Game of Thrones and various episodes, commentaries, and more.  Nothing better than to spur me on to actually writing it than seeing the pure reactions from so many people, friends and strangers alike, after the episode that aired on 2 June 2013, Rains of Castamere.  And at the end of this post I will provide you links to numerous other resources, including a variety of re-caps on the episode, reaction videos, compilation of tweets, and more.

Ned Stark on the Iron Throne First off, let me explain a little bit of my background related to the material so you can understand where I am coming from. I am a huge nerd (I’ve said this before in many different ways through my posts) and I love exploring new things.  I’m a huge reader and prior to the wide-spread knowledge that HBO was going to be adapting George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series (ASoIaF), the books were recommended to me. But, I always seem to have an enormous list of books to read. So I didn’t get to it. But, as the season premiere date of Game of Thrones neared, I started to consider moving it to the top of my to-read pile. Life happened and I didn’t get to it, and the show started. I was hooked from the opening scenes amongst the snow.  The brutal beheading of the deserter caught me off-guard but solidified my intrigue. And then there was Sean Bean.  <3 I made the conscious decision to not start reading the first book and instead to just watch the show. I was shocked when Ned Stark was beheaded by King Joffrey.  Though it was two years ago, I still remember sitting in stunned silence for quite awhile and then feeling the tears slip down my cheek and then minutes later taking a gasping breath.  At that moment, I knew there was no way I could sit back and wait for the show to unfold. Immediately after the season 1 finale I began to read Game of Thrones. And from there continued on to devour the rest of the books.  I read the thousands of pages so quickly, I had to anxiously await the release of Dance with Dragons and found myself incredibly grateful I had not been waiting six years like many of the fans of ASoIaF.  So, for seasons 2 and 3, I knew what was coming…

And that brings me to last night. The vast majority of the people I know personally who enjoy the Game of Thrones television series on HBO have never read any of the books.  This includes my sister and her husband (my brother-in-law).  Last year, I made a point to watch episode 9, Blackwater, with them because I knew it would be an amazing spectacle and I wanted to witness their reactions firsthand and be able to immediately talk about it with them.  This year, I knew I wanted to watch the Red Wedding with them.  When the episodes descriptions and aired dates were leaked, I knew when it would happen and we planned our date.  I had spilled some things before I knew they were loving and continuing to watch the show – but nothing I had told them was too spoilery. I was very careful about that.  And so, as we watched the episode together and I became emotional as Arya stared across the land and water towards the Twins while the Hound tells her that her family isn’t going anywhere, my sister knew something was coming. She also had the foresight to not watch my reactions anymore, lest I get upset before something actually unfolded.

I was so grateful to my sister and brother-in-law for letting me watch it with them. I had someone to cry with.  My sister was shocked, angry, upset, horrified, and more. She, like many people, thought the death of Talisa would be where it ended. Robb Stark was her favorite character and she was devastated. The next morning she told me she was haunted by the episode all night and couldn’t stop thinking about it.  And we had a chance to talk about what she saw coming and what she didn’t, about the foreshadowing that passed over her head as a non-reader and about the overall design of the way things unfolded in the episode (including those silent credits).

Picture of Robb and Catelyn Stark This episode was just another example in a long line of why I think David Benioff and DB Weiss have done an incredible job translating an immensely complicated series with a huge ensemble cast into something that works for mainstream audiences.  The show manages to surprise, anger, horrify, shock, and delight both viewers who have read the books and viewers who have not.  It’s an incredibly complex accomplishment, appealing to both types of viewers. As someone who has read the books I am still amazed every week by the beautiful depiction of the story on the screen. I know what is coming and am still shocked into exclamations (who am I kidding I yell at my television) and tears (I have bawled uncontrollably on at least three occasions).   The writers have included lines (“The Lannisters send their regards.”) and imagery and music that foreshadows and or gives a little extra to those who have read the books.  But for the most part, those nods to the readers do not do anything to distract and/or detract from the story for the non-reader experience. If nothing else, they are an excuse for non-readers to go back and watch the show in a new light once they’ve seen it (and/or decided to go back and read the books).

 

Lannisters send their regardsAs a very specific example, the music the band plays in Walder Frey’s hall after the doors have been shut clearly disturbs Catelyn.  Readers know immediately that the song has to be The Rains of Castamere. Some non-readers may pick up on it because of the wonderful way the song was explained by Cersie to Margery in episode 28, Second Sons.  But if you didn’t pick up on it exactly, you knew enough to know something wasn’t right and something big was about to happen. That is fantastic writing and directing.

Other comments on the episode:  The silence at the end of the credits! Oh my goodness. That was a brilliant decision.  It brought home the devastating acts that had just taken place and magnified the shock of it all. And when you look at the episode as whole, with that ending combined with some truly humorous moments earlier in the episode – the heart-wrenching story telling that George RR Martin is known for is exemplified.  Also, I know several viewers who have commented/complained that Bran’s story arc seemed out of place and/or stagnant.  This episode provided a brilliant pay off for that story line.  And Rickon actually had some lines!

So what did you think? How did you react? Or you a reader or non-reader?  Want to see what others had to say or discuss it in more detail? And be warned, some reactions contain a lot of swearing (and I’ll talk more about that later).

Via Kotaku: If you watched tonight’s Game of Thrones, and had previously read the books so knew what was coming, take pleasure in scrolling through this Twitter feed (aka RedWeddingTears) collecting the reactions of those who did not know what was coming. Needless to say, serious spoilers ahead.

And Io9 compiled some of the best tweets here: http://io9.com/the-100-best-tweets-about-last-nights-game-of-thrones-511003444

And The Mary Sue compiled some other great internet reactions/memes: http://www.themarysue.com/game-of-thrones-red-wedding-reactions/#0

Via Tor.com’s Recap: So that happened. Some post-Red Wedding news from around the blogosphere:

  • Seriously. @RedWeddingTears has got you covered for anguished Game of Thrones fan tweets.
  • EW.com has a great interview with the producers.
  • Richard Madden cried probably more than you did when you watched his time on the show come to a brutal end.
  • Michelle Fairley talks about her experience filming the Red Wedding, Sean Bean, and Peter Dinklage’s strange accent.
  • Some guy from Coldplay was in the Frey house band in last night’s episode, further proving that Coldplay sucks.

Via WinterIsComing.net by Ours is the Fury: The Recap round-up: “The Rains of Castamere”

Book Readers
Sean T. Collins – Rolling Stone
Myles McNutt – Cultural Learnings
James Hibberd – Entertainment Weekly
Alyssa Rosenberg – ThinkProgress
Scott Meslow – The Week
Todd VanDerWerff – A.V. Club
Sarah Hughes – The Guardian
James Poniewozik – Time
Charlie Jane Anders – io9
Elio Garcia – Westeros.org
Sandrine Sahakians & Axechucker- TVEquals

New Viewers
Alan Sepinwall – HitFix
Andy Greenwald – Grantland
David Sims – A.V. Club
Brian Juergens – The Backlot
Jordan Yerman – Vancouver Observer

And then you have the thoughts and recaps from WinterisCOming.net by a book reader and a non-reader.

And perhaps most entertaining, a collection of video reactions compiled by WiCNet.

Mesulli

Meghan is an environmental scientist by trade but an artist at heart. She loves all things geeky/nerdy and is frequently found with less geeky friends rolling their eyes at her. She often spouts all kinds of pop culture trivia and nonsense stemming from her avid love of movies, music, art, and books. If not curled up with a book (she reads at least one a week) or comic, she can be found painting with something on a screen to distract her. She wishes she was as cool as Veronica Mars or as Kate Daniels. Besides blogging about comics here you can also find her exploring around twitter, instagram, tumblr, pinterest, goodreads, and trying to keep up appearances on her own blog.

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