In the Game of Adaptation, You Win or You Die

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By Tyler Dean

Being a fan of both Game of Thrones and the A Song of Ice and Fire novels it’s based on can be a process of constant equivocation. On the one hand, the books are as close as I have to a sacred text (and the old adage that “the book is better than the movie” doesn’t particularly need more defending). On the other, the process of adaptation is incredibly difficult and no book really gives a road map for how it should translate to screen. I tend to be an apologist for the show—or at least, I want to figure out why a change was made, especially when it rankles me.

At the end of the penultimate season, it’s clear the show is making a dash for the endgame, tidying up storylines, collapsing its cast, and generally getting ready for a finale. The books have been largely left behind, both because the showrunners have ground through all the currently available plot and because the ripple effect of minor changes now places most characters on completely different tracks than their literary counterparts.

My main interest here is to look at the ways in which the process of adaptation the books has necessarily altered the story and trying to find places where those deviations both work brilliantly and fall short. Needless to say, my ideal Game of Thrones might have taken some different paths, but I’m every bit as interested in being pleasantly surprised by the showrunners’ choices as I am in being disappointed by their literary calumny.

What follows below is a look at four different issues that plague the process of going from page to screen, and some unexpected winners and losers of coping with the process. It is by no means a complete assessment of that process, but it includes some of what I consider to be the most illustrative examples, as well as some personal favorite talking points.

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Aging Child Actors
Winner: Sansa Stark / Loser: Arya Stark

The show has benefited a lot from Nina Gold’s spectacular casting abilities and nowhere is that clearer than with her child actors, most of whom have been stand-outs even among the already luminary cast. One problem with casting child actors (aside from the inability to know whether or not they will grow into talented adults) is the constant aging process that runs faster than seasons can keep up.

The timeline of Game of Thrones is fairly vague and the books they are based on cover about two-and-a-half to three years from the equivalent start of Season 1 to the end of Season 5. The fact that Sophie Turner, originally twelve when the pilot was filmed, turned eighteen on the show by the time her book equivalent was barely thirteen might have presented a problem for the showrunners. Instead, Sansa Stark has become one of the most compelling characters in the series, largely by virtue of her character being allowed to have adult responsibilities, plotlines, and triumphs.

The Sansa of the novels is painted almost identically to the Sansa of the show, but, being thirteen, there is very little chance for her to have agency in a world that largely only allows sexually mature women to have any modicum of power. Having an older Sansa both wed Ramsay Bolton and then take power as the Lady of Winterfell only makes sense for a character who is reasonably within the age of majority (and would have caused even more of a furor among show-watchers, given the already uncomfortable depiction of violent rape in that plotline). Instead, her rise from perpetual political pawn to revenge-taking, justice-minded badass has been one of the show’s great triumphs at a time when book-readers still have only gotten to see Sansa as a character being groomed for political action later.

Arya Beyond the Wall

By the same token, Arya has suffered quite a bit in that transition. Maisie Williams does an excellent job, but, in aging her up to keep pace with the actor that portrays her, Arya has lost a lot of what makes her character compelling in the novels.

Arya goes from eight to ten in the novels thus far, and George R.R. Martin walks right up to the line of irredeemability with her. Always on the run or in the custody of some of the more terrible monsters in Westeros, Arya is both burgeoning, revenge-minded sociopath, and little girl who brings child logic to her quest. The novels’ version of her infamous hit list highlights her childish sensibilities as it includes both monstrous personages (like the Mountain and Meryn Trant) and trivial ones (like her petty boss at Harrenhal). Her plotline in Season 7 put this mismatch front and center as her arguments with Sansa increasingly relied on the stunted, overly simplistic braggadocio that would have sounded sad and broken coming from a ten-year-old, and incomprehensible in the mouth of a twenty-year-old. Arya seems unbelievably naïve in the world of a show, which is a strange thing to say about an adult, orphaned assassin with Tywin Lannister for a one-time tutor.

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No Strict Point of View
Winner: The Baratheons / Loser: The Martells

Martin’s novels are told in tight third-person that rotates between set narrators. Up until the fourth book, these narrators have more-or-less an equal share of chapters dedicated to them and Martin is strict about leaving anything they wouldn’t witness off the page. This occasionally results in major events being rumored rather than on the page (example: the Battle of the Green Fork) and a very limited perspective when it comes to understanding the internal thoughts of the non-POV characters.

In the first season, the showrunners used their larger scope and ability to see things we couldn’t to great effect. Nearly all the TV critics I’ve read refer to the scene between Cersei and Robert as one of the best in the series, and it works because the writers can explore the previously opaque minds and motivations of those two characters, and lend them some pathos not seen in the novels.

Nowhere does this hit home better than with the exploration of the Baratheons. One need only look to all the “Stannis the Mannis” memes out there to see that a perennially hated character from the novels came to life on the show once we had the ability to see him on his own terms. The one true King of Westeros and his family are rather flat in the novels, coming off as inflexible (Stannis), fanatically religious (Selyse), and tragically sad (Shireen). By giving us many scenes the novels couldn’t, Stannis evolved into a complicated portrait of a tired grammar savant watching his world crumble while clinging to the doomed convictions that validated him.

Likewise, Shireen (who—seriously—is only ever described as sad and ugly in the books) briefly became the heart of the show, almost (but not quite) managing to soften her hard-edged father. Even Selyse (by far the least developed of the trio) was given a more three-dimensional treatment: pining over the corpses of her dead sons, navigating the jealousy she felt for her husband’s lover when it clashed with her faith, and, ultimately, being overwhelmed by her unthinking complicity in the needless death of her daughter.

Doran

This ability to go anywhere and see anything also destroyed House Martell in the HBO adaptation. David Benioff and D.B. Weiss severely altered the Martell plotline for the show, in large part because the novels treat it as a labyrinthine maze of misconceptions that would be difficult to play out on screen.

While we never get Arianne, the central character of the novel’s Dornish storyline on the show, we do get a little bit of her father, Doran. The High Lord of House Martell is presented (identically in the show and books) as a weak-willed, passive, disabled old man who cannot be bothered to exact any semblance of revenge on the family that murdered his brother, sister, niece and nephew. The difference between the two versions is the shocking twist that the novel version of Doran is actually a subtle schemer who has been playing at weakness for decades to fool his enemies into complacency. Nearly all of this plays out through Arianne’s closely-held point of view that prevents the reader from understanding the intricacies of Doran’s plot until it’s been set in motion.

This would read as a kind of cheat on screen. Movie and television audiences typically don’t go in for stunning reversals that play upon the position of the camera and unreliability of the narrator, and the showrunners turned away from it in favor of keeping Doran’s ambitions in line with his outward demeanor (an easy but boring choice) and transmuting Arianne’s quest for justice and recognition into Ellaria’s desire for revenge. Mostly, the Martells became a kind of punching bag for various Lannisters and, with the exception of Indira Varma’s talents (still somewhat wasted), relegated them to the dust heap of the show’s gigantic cast.

8

Characters Robbed of Purpose
Winners: Davos Seaworth and Tormund Giantsbane / Loser: Jaime Lannister

The A Song of Ice and Fire novels are masterfully plotted with a great number of moving parts and a dozen or so narrators being moved into position to witness specific events. As discussed in the above point, the show took great advantage of television’s abhorrence of non-omniscient point-of-view, and several characters whose primary purpose in the novels is to be at a certain place at a certain time found themselves with considerably less to do.

This proved to be an unexpected boon to both Liam Cunningham’s Davos Seaworth and Kristofer Hivju’s Tormund Giantsbane. Davos is a narrator in the novels and plenty interesting, but he primarily exists to give the reader a window into Stannis Baratheon’s court. Freed from the need to bear witness to the false prophet of the Lord of Light, Davos has had very little to do from a mechanical standpoint for the last two seasons, but he remains the warm, plain-spoken heart of the show, all the more useful to the showrunners because he has nothing but free time plot-wise.

By a similar token, everyone’s favorite Ginger, Tormund Giantsbane, has had very little to do since Season 4 (other than remind people that wildlings exist). Nearly every plot point involving him also involved one or two other main characters and nearly all of his presence since Season 5 has been as comic relief. That said, he is one of the most entertaining characters on the show, especially in his role as unwelcome suitor to Brienne of Tarth. The Tormund of the novels, though similarly characterized, plays a small, specific role as one of the few wildlings who refuses to join Stannis’s army south of the Wall. The showrunners combined the roles several other wildling chieftains in order to keep Hivju front and center.

Jaime

The butterfly effect of Benioff and Weiss’ slightly laxer plotting has, however, resulted in some characters whose presence feels tacked on as a result of their relative lack of plot. No one is a bigger victim of this than Jaime Lannister who, for the first three seasons of the show (and the whole of the third book) has one of the most fascinating redemption arcs of, frankly, any character on television. The fourth novel in the series gave Jaime a quieter, more introspective plot where he serves as a window onto the devastation in the Riverlands and ruminates about his agency now that he has been robbed of his sword hand. It’s compelling stuff, but that narrative also would have been extremely difficult to film since the vast majority of it either has Jaime acting as a passive cipher, or brooding silently while he reflects.

Without that narrative, Jaime has spent Seasons 4 through 7 bouncing around Westeros, losing and regaining faith in his sister and generally having his storyline reset with each new season. With this penultimate season finale, it is beginning to feel like Jaime is finally done with Cersei (thereby giving him the ability to continue his redemption story with Brienne) but it may be too late. Jaime’s arc could never advance past the point where a return to his narrative start point was more than a scene or two away and he has suffered immensely. He may have had one of the show’s most compelling narratives about wrestling with contradictory vows and attempting to pinpoint what makes a man honorable, but it is doubtful the show can land it, given those four years of equivocating that separate this latest iteration of Jaime from his last purposive moment.
Olenna

Casting Amazing Actors
Winner: Olenna Tyrell / Loser: Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish

As stated above, Nina Gold has an amazing talent for bringing venerated actors into the show. One might think that this can only be an advantage when adapting a series of beloved books, but there are problems with it when it requires a character to be unduly prominent in order to be worthy of the person playing them.

Olenna Tyrell is a memorable but minor character in Martin’s novels. She comes for the wedding, poisons Joffrey and leaves for Highgarden once her granddaughter Margaery’s marriage to Tommen is secure. The show had the great fortune of casting iconic British actor, former Bond Girl, and The Great Muppet Caper alumna Diana Rigg in the role.

The show engaged in some of its trademark travel time magic to bring Rigg back to the fore in Seasons 5, 6 and 7, oftentimes for only a few scenes. Game of Thrones was richer for her presence and deviated significantly from the books in order to put Rigg’s acid charms on display as much as possible. Her final speech has been so thoroughly memed and re-memed that it has earned a place as one of the great moments of Game of Thrones, a place that is normally reserved for moments devised by George R. R. Martin.

Few things were more satisfying to "Thrones" viewers than Littlefinger meeting his end.

Another casualty of season 7, Littlefinger was an early fan favorite and the casting of The Wire alum, Aiden Gillen, both exalted and, ultimately, defanged the character. Gillen was touted in early seasons as a bravura actor and scenes were written for him to be able to chew the scenery with malicious glee.

This also presented a crisis for the character. In the novels, though his plot arc remains essentially unchanged, Littlefinger is a presented as a character whose chief advantage is his obsequiousness. He is a friendly, glad-handing, bearer of good news who escapes notice by virtue of his avowed lack of ambition.

Compare this to the show’s Littlefinger who, a Season 1 Catelyn Stark is quick to point out, “nobody likes.” Gillen’s iconic Season 1 scene where he lays out his diabolical plot to overturn Westeros’ culture of toxic masculinity (and replace it with a different kind of toxic masculinity) while Ros and Armeca touch one another on his command was the kind of bravura moment that would be tempting to a wide variety of actors. The show doubled-down on this in season three with his oft-quoted “chaos is a ladder” speech. Both are examples of scenes written to highlight the considerable talents of an actor at the cost of a believable character.

Later seasons saw Littlefinger continuing to crow his lack of trustworthiness to anyone who would listen, raising the ever-important question: why does anyone listen to him? His final plot, to drive a wedge between the Stark sisters, mostly baffled viewers who could not fathom that a man so nakedly ambitious and false would ever get the better of either Arya or Sansa. The showrunners continually gave Gillen showcases for his moustache twirling, but it undermined the idea that anyone would take his advice seriously. Ultimately, the Littlefinger of the novels would have to be played by someone who registered as the most minor and banal of recurring characters—a tough sell for a casting director trying to fill a pivotal, if slow-moving role.

These feel like some of the most pertinent examples of how Game of Thrones managed to both bungle and elevate its source material. I think there’s a lot to be said for the complexity of the process especially given the hundreds of characters, dozens of locations, and still unplotted nature of the last two novels.

(Don’t get me started on Lady Stoneheart, though.)


Tyler Dean is a literature professor at Whittier College and Pasadena City College. He also runs the pop culture site Everything is Gothic.

119 responses

Jump to (and Always Support) the Bottom

    1. Is it so strange to say that I prefer the show above the books? I’ve read the books after season 3.
      I like the books for background. But it’s a good thing we have both, show and books are very complemantary.
      The quality of the show has become a bit less since season 5, but I still like it very much. With book 4 and 5 I really didn’t like Dorne, the Iron Islands, Essos, too much riverlands with Brienne. The show didn’t do it perfect either, but I prefer it because they did it very short (a bit too short sometimes).

      But I can understand it’s different if you have read the books first.

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    2. “LF in the books is a friendly, glad-handing, bearer of good news who escapes notice by virtue of his avowed lack of ambition.”

      Maybe that’s what GRRM wants but that’s not what he had in the books. Sansa doesn’t trust him when she meets him, he has his villain monologues, he acts like villain(the way he looks, the way he touches his beard), he is villain.

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    3. If you’re having GoT withdrawals, you should check out “The Last Kingdom” on Netflix. It’s a spectacular show GoT fans are sure to like and has also been recommended by GRRM.

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    4. Here are my random thoughts:

      1) Dorne is a mess in the books. I’m not surprised it was a mess here

      2) I actually think it adds to Jaime’s character to stick around as long as he did. In theb books, he leaves because she cheated. That’s a little shallow. I like this one better, leaving because she ripped apart his honor

      3) I do agree Littlefinger has been overblown. So has Cersei, Jorah and Oleanna. You win some, lose some

      4) I think Sansa is going to be looked back as the great choice. Making her arc go from Snow White to Cersei-in-training is great

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    5. Very good read.
      I’m not sure the Martells could’ve been saved, IMO. I see no clear goal with their plotlines (Arianne goes to meet (f)Aegon, and probably decides to help him even if he’s not the ‘real one’, because otherwise…????), and felt somewhat aggravated to trudge through Quentyn’s chapters only to see him turn into a Martell BBQ.
      I’m nonetheless curious to see how Martin plans to finish their stories.

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    6. I’m sorry, but to categorize things between winners and losers is a shalow way to write things and basically everything that is wrong in this world right now.

      Sure. Somethings work better then others, but please can we stop dividing the world in good and bad?

      Thank you.

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    7. Thank you for this article.

      A few thoughts:

      – i get how it feels show Jaime was just treading water, but I do like the moment that finally forces him to break off with Cersei. Really makes sense that she put him in a position where he would have to break his vows and he was not willing to break an oath he made. Also, incredibly poetic that that oath meant he is going to fight with the daughter and grandson of the King he killed. Also, season 5 was all about him connecting with his role as a father and Season 6 as a Lannister which felt like good character growth for him as well.
      – the solution to Dorne was really no sand snakes or just one sand snake and focus more on Elaria’s personal emotional jounrey about how she gets to such a dark place that she decides that in order to avenge her lover she must kill her lovers brother and nephew.
      – agree 100% about Sansa. I still love Arya even though she is a black and white thinking psycopath.
      – love show Stannis. Great example of the perils of both fanaticism and thinking your the hero when you are not.

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    8. Ten Bears,

      To me, the adaptation of the Hound was reasonably faithful, though he is rather younger in the books.

      Now more generally, I didn’t mind book Dorne – I thought the idea of the eldest child being able to inherit the principality irrespective of his/her gender was interesting and I liked book Ellaria for a character who had retained her compassion (unlike her show counterpart) although she had suffered. I think both the books and the show have their good and their bad points (and I’m usually quite nitpicky about book to screen adaptations). I suppose seeing something on TV is different to reading it in the books but I don’t always understand the criticisms about the show being violent or sexual. The show is thus at times but those aspects feature quite heavily in the books also. In my opinion at least book Randyll (Sam’s dad) was even worse [ spoiler ] it’s a while since I read/listened to the books but didn’t he sentence someone to lose some of their fingers because of having robbed a Sept? [ / spoiler] Book Ramsay is a lot worse than TV Ramsay (his book wedding night is far more horrible than the show albeit he marries a different character) and although I didn’t like Vargo (and am not sorry they replaced him with “Locke” on the show the way he was punished was horrible. And book Euron who some folk think is “awesome” was brutal – in a preview chapter from TWoW he has treated his ex-girlfriend really savagely. I won’t say too much because well – spoilers.

      I felt uncomfortable at times reading the books (though I will cut GRRM some slack because he was reflecting a world which although imaginary mirrored to some extent how things were in medieval times). I know Dany’s wedding night was consensual in the book but I didn’t feel comfortable about book Dany’s wedding night with her being just 13 (though of course young girls WERE married off very young in those days).

      Tyler is right (though Tyler puts it more eloquently) that some of the inner thoughts of characters are difficult to translate in adaptation. Sometimes the showrunners have done this effectively with putting inward thoughts into dialogue, for example, in the books Jon notices that Tyrion casts a very long shadow (after their conversation outside the Winterfell feast in the early part of AGoT [book]) and in the show Varys says “a small man may cast a very long shadow” (to be honest I can’t remember whether book Varys says that or not but I do remember book Jon being aware of it). I don’t know whether the problem of conveying unspoken thoughts could have been done by use of a voiceover narrator (used sparingly).

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    9. If anybody is interested in direct comparisons between Game of Thrones episodes and their source book material the YouTube Channel “Lost in Adaptation” has comparisons of season 1 episodes 1-4 with AGoT – though admittedly in the first show season there was less changing of the story than later. (Mind you I’m an endangered species – a person who enjoyed season 7 [not saying it was perfect but saying I largely enjoyed it]).

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    10. Ten Bears,

      Some people may complain that some of his scenes with Sansa in books 1&2 were cut, like him telling her the story of his burnt face (I personally don’t miss them; they were kinda creepy and his openness about certain traumatic moments of his life didn’t really make sense). But his material with Arya is unquestionably better on the show. They only travel together for a couple more chapters after the Red Wedding in the books, but that got stretched out over Season 4, which is what really elevated the character and developed him. We haven’t really seen the softer Hound we see now in the show in the books, but I think we probably will. Most of the material with the Hound since Arya left him is “past the books.”

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    11. We do have the unusual point of reference that there is an Arya chapter from Winds of Winter. (Which has been published if one looks for it.) In that Arya does seem aged up, until we see the novel it is not clear what GRRM has in mind.
      Even from the published books Arya’s ‘education’ at the house of Black and White is 180 degrees different. In the novels , because it is much more elaborated , Arya is the stellar pupil , so to speak, even she and the Waif are sort of friends. Her association with the FM is not , right now,on the page, antagonistic. They did keep , actually have kept, the strange interest that the FM have in Arya. As in the books so on the show Jaqen seems to have been ‘shadowing’ Arya, then the Kindly Man is her strict mentor, yet , a forgiving one , since Arya , page wise , commits some indiscretions that should have gotten her thrown out of FM tanning. As if Arya has a higher mission than being an assassin. So right now on the show Arya is in a mysteriously ambiguous role, kind of as in the book but in a different way. Curious to see if Braavos comes back to contact her in season 8.

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    12. I sure will be curious if someone asks, after S8, D&D what the Dorne and Martel thing was about!
      Seems they had an idea for season 5 that they scrapped before season 6. After doing 5 seasons (really after 4) seems they should of had all their ducks in a row. It embarrassing seeing an adaptation that starts a plot thread and bang! decides it’s not working and gives the Bum’s Rush to some characters. It is all unexplained at this point in time.

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    13. Boojam,

      My guess? They realized the Snakes were flopping, didn’t want to spend more money on the location or pay the actors (who work per ep) and needed to reboot to a “strong woman” character after the Sansa-Ramsay thing.

      Siddig has said he was guaranteed four eps in S6. They had to pay him off regardless, but they could save on other stuff

      Dorne sucks in the books too

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    14. I’ve been a book reader for nearly 50 years, so I can appreciate Martin’s contribution to the literary world. I love the world he created, the lore, and the overarching story he’s telling. And while we can learn a lot from POV characters, the number of POVs in these books can be annoying at times, to me. For this reason, I’m grateful for the show’s streamlined adaptation. Dany, Dorne, the Ironborn…it was a chore for me to read those chapters, but the show made them more palatable to me on subsequent readings. The same with the Riverlands. I enjoy dialogue and descriptions as much as anyone, but I need the plots to keep moving. I was relieved to see Lady Stoneheart cut from the show. I’m fine with splitting her character between Arya and Beric Dondarrion, because undead Catelyn Stark was never appealing to me. To be honest, at this point, I’m more of a fan of the adaptation.

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    15. Worfwworfington,

      I was glad when Dorne got resolved in S6E1. Sand Snakes were not good so we didn’t need to spend more time there.

      Also i was not surprised at how it ended. After s5e10 i thought damm the only way the Elaria would kill Myrcella after doran’s threat is if she was willing to make a move against Doran.

      It was also foreshadowed in s5e2 when she says to him the people are behind us and responds to his comment of as long as i rule Dorne with how long will that be.

      I think they got to the same place just much more efficiently.

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    16. Great analysis! Thanks for putting this together.

      Morgoth,

      The problem is, GRRM is not done with Dorne. The pieces have been put in place for future conflict – eg, the Martells getting a garbled account of what happened with Quentyn, thinking Dany rejected and executed Quentyn, and allying with fAegon against her, with undoubted further consequences. (If/when Viserion dies in the books, maybe it’s in this conflict – I have a hard time believing it’s in a wight-hunt scenario.) GRRM is great at those long, long arcs, so things that seem extraneous actually end up being brilliant set up.

      I remember being really impatient with Dorne until Doran’s “fire and blood” speech and then feeling that great thrill of pay off. Quentyn’s arc seems utterly pointless, but I’m assuming that there will be a similar sense of consequence at some point.

      Of course, it would help if he didn’t leave us hanging for years before we get the payoff, but I try to be understanding about writer’s block/diminished motivation, etc.

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    17. From my perspective they did an excellent job adapting the source material. They nailed major, necessary plot points, built most of the characters true to form, timing of events was fairly spot on and even a lot of the dialogue was straight from the books. Although, there were people actually complaining about the switch from “only Cat” to “your sister.” That’s the level of nitpicking they’ve had to deal with. The issue is that once they ran out of source material it went from an adaptation to being closer to an “inspired by” program. However, it’s allowed them freedom in story telling and liberties with the characters in the manner they desire to create an entertaining product. Some people have a problem with this and blindly claim everything not straight from the books is simply poor writing. No matter how good it actually is, if it wasn’t written by George it’s garbage. We all have some names of people here that come to mind that fit that description.

      Some of George’s story is really difficult to adapt into something entertaining, not to mention unnecessary to attempt. Nearly all of those excessive Dorne chapters fall entirely into that category, regardless if (you) have enjoyed those parts of the more recent books. For example, it was a wise choice to cut a character and an entire book story arc that simply ended with that character’s death. It was unnecessary, mostly meaningless for the overall story and not an entertaining character nor arc. I believe they chose wisely with what to do and what not to most of the time while it was still a straight adaptation.

      When we look back on the seven seasons and label characters as winners and losers in the adaptation, many of them are going to have a lot of their story transpire during the ‘inspired by’ portion. In my opinion then those characters are being judged at least partially on what was expected from them beyond the source material and what the show actually did with them. I do believe there are people that let a bit of bias dictate their perspective.

      Having said all of that I do agree on points within the article. Sansa does appear to have finally become a ‘winner’ in the show’s story. It’s impossible to know what George is planning for her but judging by her released TWoW sample chapter we’ve gotten a much more entertaining storyline for her than where he seems to be taking her. In my opinion we didn’t need fancy balls and dancing in GoT. People hated Sansa for her actions in the latter part of season 6, but I believe she redeemed herself this season. Season 7 was also something akin to a redemption in my eyes for Sophie herself. They wrote her part in a way that I think was most suitable for her and she performed very well throughout. The performance itself has a lot to do with enjoyment of a character in my eyes.

      I really don’t know if I can label Littlefinger an adaptation loser. He hasn’t been a character that I particularly care for in the books from the start. Still, I felt the show’s version stayed close enough to form while there was material to draw from and where they took him since seemed fairly reasonable with the current trajectory.

      I personally think Arya suffered this season and Jaime the last couple for very similar reasons. That being, they had a goal for other main characters and they were chosen to be a part of reaching that goal, even though it meant temporarily “ruining” their own storylines and character.

      Parts of what they did with (my favorite character) Arya this season may have been my least favorite writing of the series. I think they wanted Sansa to finally overcome her Littlefinger training wheels and have him killed. They sat down and asked, “how do we make this happen?” They wanted Arya to finally make it home so instead of coming up with and continuing her own storyline, which she’s had since the series started, they shoehorned her into the Sansa/LF situation that ended up being quite out of character for her. You can’t take six seasons of individual character development in one direction and then just force her into “that.” They need to redeem themselves in writing her character for the final season.

      My opinion is that Jaime’s character has been suffering only because they’re trying to hang onto Cersei/Lena as long as possible and there’s been nobody else to participate in her storyline. In forcing that they’ve simply stunted Jaime’s development until they finally let go and had him leave her.

      Davos, Tormund, Sandor, Olenna… Yep, big winners in the show’s story. They all started quite true to the books but the show took them to an indispensable level, and in no small part because of the actors themselves.

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    18. Fierce as a Wolverine,

      When I read ADWD I found myself somewhat disinterested with the whole Dornish plot. There is obviously rich thematic stuff occurying in those stories so I don’t want to take away from it. But my overall sense was one where after ASOS I wanted to read and continue learning about the main characters from the first three books so was just generally inpatient in none Dany, Jon, Theon, Jaime, Arya, Sansa, Bran, Cersei chapters.

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    19. I was just thinking about some of the issues that people had with certain aspects of this season and I didn’t really get it, and I didn’t think that they were completely out of left field. For one the winterfell interaction with Arya and Sansa was strange to many people and I thought it was a brilliant call back to season one. They have always had a catty relationship with each other. Ned Stark even joked with Arya about not stabbing her sister with Needle when she first received it. Also Arya was mad at Sansa for lying about the altercation between Nymeria and Jofferey which ended up getting the butchers boy killed. I found their time in Winterfell to be a natural progression from the time they spent together in season 1.

      Some people even had a problem with Tyrion’s idea to capture one of the wights to bring it to Kings Landing. This is a natural progression from his time as hand of the King, Lord Commander mormont sent over the hand of the dead wight they killed at castle Black and Tyrion saw the hand and believed it. It’s only logical that he would want them to capture an entire wight to present as proof. I don’t see any other way to convince the rest of the world that those things existed.

      People ha

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    20. AHah I disagree with basically all of this… sorry to say. Not that the points aren’t “legitimate” to the extent any opinion is… But yeah I dont’ agree with almost any of the worsts and some of the bests are also offbase IMO.

      I’d even say I would even flip some of these “bests” and “worsts”. Especially Davos and Jaime! Davos did… almost nothing this season or most of last season. Where is his character mentally? What has he done that’s of interest? Been terrible at smuggling? Suddenly decided Gendry was like a son to him? Huh? The only character moment he’s had in the last 2 seasons was the shireen / melisandre confrontation and that was one scene. Otherwise he’s just kinda… there, like Varys and to a lesser extent Tyrion (though he’s got a quiet conflict going and some really great scenes still).

      Meanwhile Jaime has been wrestling with the same issues he has for a long time – can he stay loyal to his family (which until this season meant his children as well as Cersei, as so many bookwankers seem to forget) while still trying to be the honorable person he so wants to be post Brienne. So many great character building scenes last season AND this season. Also I’d love to know what people think Jaime is going to do in the books. Not die to Stoneheart I’ll bet you. No he’s eventually going to feel that his Duty is to return to King’s Landing. Remember he still was doing Lannister work even after he tore up that letter. It’s not over between him and Cersei. He just took different side roads.

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    21. Manny K,

      I’m with you.

      Tyrion’s idea cost Dany nothing until she overrode him and took the dragons. None of those people were her men except Jorah and she honestly never expected to see him again.

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    22. mau:
      “LF in the books is a friendly, glad-handing, bearer of good news who escapes notice by virtue of his avowed lack of ambition.”

      Maybe that’s what GRRM wants but that’s not what he had in the books. Sansa doesn’t trust him when she meets him, he has his villain monologues, he acts like villain(the way he looks, the way he touches his beard), he is villain.

      Seriously. He’s suuuper creepy, especially in ‘Feast, where he’s alternately treating Sansa like a daughter (“sit on uncle Petyr’s lap, give me a kiss”) and sex object (“you’re more beautiful than Cat was”)… Uck. And yeah he kidnapped and had Jeyne poole repeatedly raped and groomed for Ramsey. FAR worse than what he did to Sansa in the same role.

      Book!Cersei underestimates Littlefinger, as does Ned. But neither of them are perceptive geniuses to say the least. Reason Show!Cersei doesn’t underestimate LF is becuase she’s not as much of an idiot. Still in either medium LF knew when it was time to leave the Lannister bandwagon.

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    23. WorfWWorfington,

      WorfWWorfington:
      Manny K,

      I’m with you.

      Tyrion’s idea cost Dany nothing until she overrode him and took the dragons. None of those people were her men except Jorah and she honestly never expected to see him again.

      Yes exactly, hilariously you could technically blame the death of the dragon on hot pie. Until Arya met hot pie she was heading to Kings Landing to kill queen cersei , but then she found out that John won the battle of the bastards through him. Who knows if she would have kept up with her original mission to kill the queen, they may have not even needed to show proof to cersei…lol

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    24. House Monty,
      I wonder if by that point they knew that Eurons’ ship would be armed with scorpions so it actually would be dangerous. Otherwise I honestly do not know why Dany wasn’t flying here and there all season burning Lannister supply lines. Too expensive I guess… or too easy.

      There’s no way Dany could leave Jorah (her BFF) and Jon (her crush) to die. Tyrion should have realized that when he made the plan. He knows his queen.

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    25. QueenofThrones,

      From a meta perspective too easy. From a story perspective, in S7E3 both Tyrion and Missendei counseled against torching Euron when Dany proposed it and there argument was that her life was too valuable to take the chance that an arrow could take her down. They had no idea about Scorpions.

      This was why she was so frustrated in part in e4 because she was losing people – losing allies and all she had done up until that point was hang out on Dragonstone. So she fights and then is unwilling to lose anyone else in e6 which leads to the fateful decision.

      I agree with you. Once Jorah and Jon went no way she doesn’t go. She owes her life to Jorah no way she lets him die without a fight.

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    26. QueenofThrones: I honestly do not know why Dany wasn’t flying here and there all season burning Lannister supply lines. Too expensive I guess… or too easy

      Too easy… exactly. They wrote a way to make the sides “fair” just like everyone thought they would. Daenerys has the ability to aerial recon pretty much anywhere easily. She could see troop and ship movement from a safe height. She does none of it when realistically she would have. Knowledge of or presence of Qyburn’s Scorpion or not, she had the means to land three dragons with at least a handful of men directly in/on the Red Keep with minimal damage or loss of citizen lives. Flames shooting through hallways and corridors would clear them quickly. The story made taking the Red Keep meant destroying King’s Landing and a localized incursion doesn’t exist. I’m not complaining of course. “The Eagles could have flown them there” just ends the story quickly. We can’t expect realistic decisions at the point the show was at. 😛

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    27. mau,

      That’s meant to show us Sansa’s perceptive quality (even at a time when she’s otherwise naive). Most people in ASOIAF trust Littlefinger or consider him ambitious but amiably useful, e.g., Jaime thinks he would the perfect man to name Hand of the King at the end of AFFC. The show version basically trails ooze everywhere he goes.

      Ten Bears,

      If we’re comparing the portions of the books that track with the show, the books are much better. He has a great deal more depth and backstory, and gets them much earlier. On the show he’s barely a character until the end of Season 3.

      The one true King of Westeros and his family are rather flat in the novels, coming off as inflexible (Stannis), fanatically religious (Selyse), and tragically sad (Shireen). By giving us many scenes the novels couldn’t, Stannis evolved into a complicated portrait of a tired grammar savant watching his world crumble while clinging to the doomed convictions that validated him.

      I entirely disagree. Stannis in the novels is given more backstory from the beginning than his show counterpart ever gets; the conversation he has with Davos about Proudwing in ACOK Davos I says more about how he came to be the way he is than anything the show ever did.

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    28. Sean C.:
      mau,

      That’s meant to show us Sansa’s perceptive quality (even at a time when she’s otherwise naive).Most people in ASOIAF trust Littlefinger or consider him ambitious but amiably useful, e.g., Jaime thinks he would the perfect man to name Hand of the King at the end of AFFC.

      Which makes no sense. It makes no sense that he is even alive after AGOT. Tyrion knew what LF said to Cat and he never told Tywin anything. And Tywin even told him to kill LF if he betrays him.

      And in the show until his “house of cards” started to crumble majority of people trusted him or considered him ambitious but amiably useful.

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    29. mau:
      Which makes no sense. It makes no sense that he is even alive after AGOT. Tyrion knew what LF said to Cat and he never told Tywin anything. And Tywin even told him to kill LF if he betrays him.

      The specifics of how Tyrion handles Littlefinger is one of the weaker elements of the plot of ACOK/ASOS (and, correspondingly, the show), but Tyrion himself never trusts Littlefinger, so that’s not the same as how most people react to him.

      And in the show until his “house of cards” started to crumble majority of people trusted him or considered him ambitious but amiably useful.

      No, they didn’t. Everybody in the show talks about nothing but how awful and untrustworthy he is, and he’s the opposite of “amiable” in demeanour; he acts like Snidely Whiplash.

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    30. “One need only look to all the “Stannis the Mannis” memes out there to see that a perennially hated character from the novels came to life on the show once we had the ability to see him on his own terms. ”

      Stannis is a perennially hated character from the novels? Divisive maybe but he’s loved by a lot of people. The show runners hated him

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    31. Sean C.: The specifics of how Tyrion handles Littlefinger is one of the weaker elements of the plot of ACOK/ASOS (and, correspondingly, the show), but Tyrion himself never trusts Littlefinger, so that’s not the same as how most people react to him.

      Which means nothing if he for no reason refuses to act and say what happened.

      No, they didn’t.Everybody in the show talks about nothing but how awful and untrustworthy he is, and he’s the opposite of “amiable” in demeanour; he acts like Snidely Whiplash.

      That not true. Cat trusted him. Ned. Cersei. Tywin. Lysa. Olenna and so on.

      And when I say trusted I mean what you said, they “trusted him or considered him ambitious but useful”.

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    32. mau:
      Which means nothing if he for no reason refuses to act and say what happened.

      As I said, I think it’s some of GRRM’s ropier plotting, but that’s not an example of somebody in the book trusting Littlefinger; Tyrion doesn’t trust him in either book or show, and in both media he doesn’t act against him.

      That not true. Cat trusted him. Ned. Cersei. Tywin. Lysa. Olenna and so on.

      And when I say trusted I mean what you said, they “trusted him or considered him ambitious but useful”.

      Lysa and Catelyn did, based on prior association. Everybody else talks about how awful he is and then trusts him anyway for whatever reason (particularly odd in the case of Olenna, who spends Season 3 trying to thwart Littlefinger, and then allies with him offscreen without explanation). It’s a matter of the general vibe the show cultivates around him.

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    33. Sean C.: .It’s a matter of the general vibe the show cultivates around him.

      If we speak about the general vibe around him I never heard of any reader who didn’t find him creepy and didn’t see that he is a villain. You always had a feeling that he is plotting something in the books. I mean he is literally mustache twirling villain in the books. That and his evil sparkle in the eye are the most striking descriptions of him.

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    34. Not a fan of the ‘who’s gonna die’ game, really tired of it.
      Now George has said there are more dead characters on the show than the books, as readers know that is indeed the case.
      It does feel odd that over recent seasons we have gotten a few confirmed (by GRRM) surprise demises.
      However the show has had a few major characters die and those have not been confirmed spoilers.
      My guess is there are some , if not more, characters , on the page who are needed in the Great War , so I am surprised they are gone in the visual narrative.
      Even considering the crowing of the screen drama.
      Just saying.

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    35. mau:
      If we speak about the general vibe around him I never heard of any reader who didn’t find him creepy and didn’t see that he is a villain.

      That’s not what I mean. We know he’s a villain because of what he does in Ned, Tyrion, and Sansa’s POVs, and how those characters see him. It’s about how other people treat him, mostly. Littlefinger in the books has enemies in the Vale, for instance, but he skillfully cultivates allies too, and he doesn’t gratuitously offend people. It’s supposed to be plausible that Littlefinger could walk into a room and come away with everybody on his side, or at least reconciled to what he wants.

      Though it also affects his interactions with Sansa quite a lot; in the books, the ways he makes her overlook his faults and rely on him make sense (because, among other things, she actually is reliant on him), whereas in the show she does nothing but talk shit about him and has no reason to keep him around, but does anyway.

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    36. A good read. One big thing I would like to add is the lore and motivations concerning mystical elements like White Walkers, Lord of Light etc.

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    37. Sean C.,

      I can see why she keeps him around. He did save them. If not for the Knights of the Vale the starks are done. It’s not easy to get rid of someone the minute something like that happens. Also, she is not in a position to keep the Knights of the Vale without Littlefinger until she learns that Littlefinger instigated the death of Jon Aryn which she only gets from Bran when she goes to him.

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    38. Really love this analyses, looking forward to reading more.

      Did have a question re Arya:

      Her plotline in Season 7 put this mismatch front and center as her arguments with Sansa increasingly relied on the stunted, overly simplistic braggadocio that would have sounded sad and broken coming from a ten-year-old, and incomprehensible in the mouth of a twenty-year-old. Arya seems unbelievably naïve in the world of a show, which is a strange thing to say about an adult, orphaned assassin with Tywin Lannister for a one-time tutor.

      She’s not 20 in the show and to me anyway passes for someone younger than Arya. So i guess i don’t see what the problem is.

      Ten Bears,

      How was the book-to-TV adaptation of Sandor Clegane?

      Similar actually, from what I am remembering anyway. Certainly is a great foil for Arya. I don’t think he runs into the BoB after the initial contact at the inn, but its been a while since I read the last books so could be wrong

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    39. Chilli:
      Is it so strange to say that I prefer the show above the books? I’ve read the books after season 3.
      I like the books for background. But it’s a good thing we have both, show and books are very complemantary.
      The quality of the show has become a bit less since season 5, but I still like it very much. With book 4 and 5 I really didn’t like Dorne, the Iron Islands, Essos, too much riverlands with Brienne. The show didn’t do it perfect either, but I prefer it because they did it very short (a bit too short sometimes).

      But I can understand it’s different if you have read the books first.

      I’m the same. I read the books in the off season between season 2 and 3, I also prefer the show, mainly due to the fact that all the castles and characters are readily available for my mind to use instead of having to imagine what they look like, I have a rather dry imagination and I could never have put a picture to places like the eyrie or the wall or dragonstone. In my experience I think that book readers who started after the show started usually are able to enjoy the best of both worlds more than say, book readers who started before the show seem to prefer the books to the show, probably because they had already created images of how things should look and sound and the fact that the books were original

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    40. Sean C.,

      mau,

      I actually do think Littlefinger is a bit different in the show than in the books. Yes, he looks and talks like a villain in the books (“Distrusting me was the smartest thing you did yadda yadda”) but he was also friendly, funny, and charming. The show version is less charming, less likable. It does seem more likely, from a plot perspective, that book-LF would be such a skilled diplomat (forging the Tyrell-Lannister alliance, for instance). That’s not my biggest issue though. An unlikable intermediary between noble families is not hard to swallow. I just enjoy reading LF in the books more than watching him on the show because I prefer the more outwardly charming version of the character. Personally, he’s one of the very few non-POV characters I prefer in the books than in the show. (Many others, though, loved the version of LF in the show and found him fascinating to watch, so whatever).

      However, I’m not sure if the way the lords of Westeros react to him is so dramatically different in either. Even in the books, the lords know he is ambitious, but they also think he is useful, as mau said. I think that’s pretty much how the Lannisters and Tyrells treat him in the show; as a useful ally, whose ambition, if anything, makes him more dependent on their good graces, rather than a co-equal in the game of thrones. And their miscalculations in the books and the show are the same: they underestimate his abilities and ruthlessness, likely because of his relatively low birth. So even though I prefer book-Littlefinger to show-Littlefinger, I don’t think that the change in character makes the plot around him significantly less feasible.

      Obviously his interactions with the lords of the Vale are more nuanced in the books, since many of these characters were cut out of the show (for good reason). But even though Littlefinger’s power in the Vale is different than in the books, I don’t think it is unrealistic or unbelievable. He basically uses his considerable influence over Robin Arryn to more directly control the resources and figures in the Vale. You can find examples of this kind of power-play throughout history: advisers of humble origins in pretty open and direct competition with the noble aristocracy, who get their way when the lord or king they serve puts more trust and faith in them. When said lord or king is rather young (see Edward VI), an adviser can use bribes and gifts to have almost absolute authority, and rule with an iron fist. It might be different than in the books, you may even think it is less interesting, but it’s not unbelievable that LF would make enemies among the Vale nobility on his way to becoming its Lord Protector.

      As for Sansa’s decision to keep LF around, I don’t think it is really that complicated. He’s the de-facto ruler of a kingdom allied with the North, and he is a smart and resourceful advisor when their interests are aligned (which, in her mind, they mostly are). The idea that it would have been “smart” for Sansa to kill Littlefinger as soon as she could, and therefore makes no sense why she kept him alive, puzzles me. How smart would it be to kill someone right after they help you win a critical battle? What message does that send to potential allies? What if you need that person’s help again in the future? It’s not until Sansa realizes that LF is actively betraying her and basically ensured her father’s downfall that killing him becomes the justifiable and prudent thing to do. Again, just because it doesn’t mirror the circumstances in the book, doesn’t mean the motivations/calculations don’t make sense.

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    41. Interesting article about how different challenges and advantages in the adaptation make different “winners” and “losers” of the characters that are adapted, though not sure I agree with all of the designations.

      The aging-up definitely helps Sansa out. Not sure it hurts Arya too much – I know the actress herself is around 20, but in the show she is conceivably a teenager, and the black-and-white mentality she has in the show does not seem completely at odds with her age (although perhaps an even younger Arya would have made her actions this season more believable).

      I would add Jon and Dany to the list of characters who have benefitted from the aging up of the characters. In the books, it was hard to imagine to young teenagers understanding and leading the way they do in the later books. The election of Jon as Lord Commander, in particular, benefits from Jon being a young man rather than a young teenager. And some of Dany’s internal dialogue about Daario was just gross to read through if I imagine her as fourteen. I just chose to imagine them as their show-counterparts instead (I read book 5 after I started watching the show) and it became more feasible/readable for me.

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    42. Sean C.,

      It seems like your central criticism of the way LF is treated in both books and show is that, if people don’t trust him, why do they ally with him? I guess I don’t see those two instincts as mutually exclusive. I mean, if you look at history, or you look at modern-day politics (international or domestic, no matter what country), “players” make alliances with people who they don’t completely trust because they need the alliance to achieve something. If they only made alliances with people loyal to them, then they wouldn’t get anything they want accomplished done! They form these alliances, and trust everyone will perform their ends of the bargain, not because they shook on it, but because they believe it will ultimately benefit both parties if their shared goal is accomplished. Olenna, for example, knows that Littlefinger benefits from their arrangement, so she trusts that he will perform his end of the bargain – not because he’s loyal to her, but because she has given him incentive to help her. She also knows that Littlefinger – a lord with the key to the North in his pocket – will grow in power and may possibly use that power against her and her family in the future. But that risk is worth taking in order to kill Joffrey and marry Margery to Tommen. The alternative, letting the Lannisters keep Sansa and marrying her granddaughter to a monster, is less acceptable to her.

      Every person who forms an alliance with Littlefinger, or asks him to do something, or gives him something he wants – makes the same calculation. It’s not about whether he is loyal or trustworthy, it is about whether they believe it is in his interest to help them, and whether the benefit of an alliance with him outweighs the risk of his betraying them somehow.

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    43. 1 – Sansa is my favorite game of thrones “Ginger” not Tormund Giantsbane

      2 – I wish D&D would have used Olenna Tyrell’s threat to Littlefinger in season 5 that if anything happens to her Littlefinger will pay the price.

      Cercei’s/High Sparrow story in season 5 is really good and boring in season 6 until episode 10

      Arya’s Faceless Man story in season 5 is really good and boring all of season 6

      Dorne is the only story in season 5 that is weak.

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    44. Clob: Parts of what they did with (my favorite character) Arya this season may have been my least favorite writing of the series. I think they wanted Sansa to finally overcome her Littlefinger training wheels and have him killed. They sat down and asked, “how do we make this happen?” They wanted Arya to finally make it home so instead of coming up with and continuing her own storyline, which she’s had since the series started, they shoehorned her into the Sansa/LF situation that ended up being quite out of character for her. You can’t take six seasons of individual character development in one direction and then just force her into “that.” They need to redeem themselves in writing her character for the final season.

      This is so, so true, and explains my main frustration with Season 7.

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    45. Bufferzone,

      I do wonder though if the whole Arya thing was driven more by a realization of character than a betrayal of it.

      Arya becomes a serial killer full stop. The look on her face when she killed Trant and Frey at the end of Seasons 5 and 6 screamed psycho. I wonder if part of the story was look you don’t get to cheer on this girl become a psychopath and then get her come home and get along with her siblings as if nothing happened. Her sister is going to be freaked out at what her sibling has become – as I think many of us would if we discovered our siblings became murders – and she is going to react off and violent back in an environment that is very distinct and different to what she has been dealing with for 2-4 years.

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    46. Hodor Targaryen:
      It seems like your central criticism of the way LF is treated in both books and show is that, if people don’t trust him, why do they ally with him?

      That people ally themselves with people they don’t necessarily trust isn’t unusual, but, among other things, a person of Littlefinger’s standing cannot afford such a reputation in the same way that a powerful nobleman could, because his relative lack of social position necessitates being considering innocuous while he gathers power.

      Moreover, on the show from 408 onward Littlefinger is only in the game because of Sansa, who could get rid of him at any time if she wanted to — something that the show wants you to forget about much of the time, incidentally. So a lot of plot weight has to rest on why she doesn’t, and the show’s sporadic explanations never hold much weight, especially post-Season 5. Season 7 is perhaps the worst in this regard, where the show offers a realpolitik justification for keeping him around in 701 that it ignores entirely in 707. The show doesn’t sell me at all that Sansa would feel psychologically beholden to this guy, with whom she doesn’t actually spend much time, achieves nothing in particular, and who is made directly responsible for any number of horrid things happening to her well before she learns about his full suite of misdeeds. Him being warm and funny like he is in the books wouldn’t cover all of the issues the show’s plot changes introduce, but it would help.

      Moreover, the show consistently wants to portray Sansa as a highly skilled player in the later seasons, but then ignores all the things she could do to remove Littlefinger from the equation while keeping all the benefits he notionally brings, simply because the writers want to keep the character around. The idea that Sansa only realizes in 707 that this guy is toxic and trying to do her harm is preposterous when viewed within the arc she’s supposed to be on and the circumstances she’s been in the last several seasons.

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    47. They had to park Arya in Winterfell so that her story in S8 could pick up with the characters who are heading there.

      Unfortunately, that’s how they looked at it. As parking a character in a storyline.

      And that’s why it became such a disservice. Arya’s homecoming became about every other character but Arya.

      Honestly, even as a massive Arya/Maisie fan, I would have preferred them keep her in the Riverlands a little longer then miss a couple of episodes and have her arrive in Winterfell in the final episode rather than the tripe we got.

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    48. Flora Linden,

      Good video. Thanks for sharing. A child soldier is a great analogy.

      If GRRM is really going for the LOTR bittersweat ending, i could easily see Arya being one character who takes on the Frodo role (although Brad and maybe even Jon could fall in this category as well) of being so damaged by what they have lived through that they cannot go back to the life they knew.

      The scene were she talks about discovering what is west of westeros in s6e8 could likely be foreshadowing for her end.

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    49. Sean C.,

      You’rYou’re right that she could kill him whenever she wants. She could have told Royce about Lysa whenever. But I don’t think it takes a lot of imagination to see why she wouldn’t. He’s taught her a lot and can possibly give her good advice. He wants her to move up the ladder of power, and so does she. And from a practical standpoint, killing allies needlessly after they help you sends a bad signal to other, potential allies.

      I mean, I think most viewers get why Sansa would be hesitant to kill anyone, let alone a sometimes ally who has helped her before and may help her again. I mean honestly, killing him in Molestown in S5 would have been odd, and killing him after he helped win the BoB would seem odder. But most understood that her mindset would change if she learned the role he played in Ned’ s death. Which is what happened.

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    50. House Monty:
      Bufferzone,

      I do wonder though if the whole Arya thing was driven more by a realization of character than a betrayal of it.

      Arya becomes a serial killer full stop. The look on her face when she killed Trant and Frey at the end of Seasons 5 and 6 screamed psycho. I wonder if part of the story was look you don’t get to cheer on this girl become a psychopath and then get her come home and get along with her siblings as if nothing happened. Her sister is going to be freaked out at what her sibling has become – as I think many of us would if we discovered our siblings became murders – and she is going to react off and violent back in an environment that is very distinct and different to what she has been dealing with for 2-4 years.

      Angry, dissociated, difficult Arya in Winterfell I could buy. But the show turned her into stupid, unobservant Arya for the sake of giving her something to do while parked up at Winterfell (as per AryaArya’s comment above), and that’s what felt completely out of character – and a disservice to her character development in previous seasons, and in the books – to me.

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    51. Hodor Targaryen,

      Killing Littlefinger right after BoB would be weird. Normal human behavior is not to kill someone right after they save your life.

      i get why sansa acted the way she did with LF, i still don’t understand why she didn’t tell jon about the Knights of the Vale. Thats a mystery i want solved.

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    52. Instead, her rise from perpetual political pawn to revenge-taking, justice-minded badass has been one of the show’s great triumphs at a time when book-readers still have only gotten to see Sansa as a character being groomed for political action later.

      HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

      Like what?! Are we watching the same show guys? When did we see a justice minded bad-ass? Jon sets her straight on her notions of justice in the very first episode of this season.

      Her revenge taking would have been more satisfactory if she had actually done something worthwhile to win the Battle of the Bastards. Instead LF rallied the Vale troops North because of his creepy obsession with Sansa and all she did was write a letter to him accepting the help she haughtily refused earlier – and then refused to tell her brother and their allies anything about this large army that could help them because she wanted the credit and glory of the victory.

      And before that she bombed on the diplomatic circuit, Davos had to teach her basic politics and the North thinks her so useless that they overlooked Ned’s trueborn heir and made the bastard king.

      And then she got fooled by LF the whole of this season and nearly had her sister executed and needed Bran’s magical input to finally be rid of LF. There was no outwitting or game playing by Sansa anywhere.

      She’s honestly one of the worst written characters on the show and dumping her in the North to make her relevant has not done the character any favors other than continue to make her look like an useless idiot – and people think that this character is the show’s great triumph? Man! Talk about subjective opinions!

      I mean Sansa tells Jon that only a fool would trust LF and then proceeds to trust him – this is good writing? Just because Sansa makes some snarky remarks that are supposed to be witty, people think she is bad-ass? The showrunners definitely seem to know the audience they are writing for.

      Agree on Arya and Bran. These are important characters in the books – more important than Sansa. But since the showrunners don’t like to do anything fantasy related unless they are WWs and dragons, these characters have been relegated to props for Sansa’s LF drama. Arya’s homecoming to WF should have been dealt with separately and Bran is more than an exposition device.

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    53. Clob,

      > “The Eagles could have flown them there” just ends the story quickly.

      I’ve commented this elsewhere, but Frodo did not mentally manage to throw the ring in the fire, in the end he claimed the ring for himself. Therefore the eagles would not have helped (unless Gollem took an unexpected hitch and payed back Bilbo’s mercy). Furthermore, Sauron would have spotted the eagles right away in the air and destroyed them.

      Actually, while we’re comparing with Tolkien, I like GRRM’s more grey description of his world (especially of his heroes) but as far as the WW and undead are concerned, Tolkien at least gave us some Orc chatter, where they don’t appear as mindless villains.

      About Daenerys burning the supply lines, yes, that’s a valid point. But I think Rhaegal and Viserion wouldn’t accept anyone on their back, and probably they are supposed to be less controllable than Drogon. I also think that Dany burning the wagons in 7.4 was more because of filming logistics (burning people is more dangerous) than her wanting to get rid of the Tyrell food.

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    54. Sean C.:

      Moreover, on the show from 408 onward Littlefinger is only in the game because of Sansa, who could get rid of him at any time if she wanted to — something that the show wants you to forget about much of the time, incidentally. So a lot of plot weight has to rest on why she doesn’t, and the show’s sporadic explanations never hold much weight, especially post-Season 5. Season 7 is perhaps the worst in this regard, where the show offers a realpolitik justification for keeping him around in 701 that it ignores entirely in 707.

      I think that there is some aspects of the books that they tried to keep in here. Book Sansa likes that LF flatters her and praises her intelligence – he’s the only character to do so. Characters like the Hound and Cersei call her stupid. Sansa is flattered by LF’s praise and attention.

      And we see some of that in the show this season. She spends the entire season being angry at Jon because he does not listen to her, take her advice or consult her. This is a continuation from last season where again she was scolding Jon for not asking her advice instead of talking to Davos and Tormund. She really thinks that she knows better than Jon and should be queen and LF is feeding into that notion. LF keeps praising her and telling her how she should be queen. LF was giving her hints on how she could be queen. LF was advising her.

      So Sansa knew what LF had done and could have got rid of him anytime. But LF was an useful ally for her. He was HER ally and her’s alone – not Jon’s or Arya’s or Bran’s. While Jon did not listen to her and Brienne tried to advice her and Arya threatened her, LF alone was in her corner praising her and flattering her ego. That’s why she kept him around.

      When LF suggested kinslaying, I think that’s when Sansa realized what her selfish ambitions almost made her do and why trusting in LF was wrong. There would have been no going back from having Arya executed.

      So if we stop seeing Sansa as this good-natured, wise, compassionate person then her keeping LF around actually makes sense. Sansa tries to use realpolitik to justify to herself for why she is keeping him around – that’s why Brienne looks constantly puzzled at his presence and tries to question Sansa on this. Sansa could have got rid of him anytime she wanted to. She just did not want to.

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    55. I had written this great short essay that got eaten by the computer. So I’ll get to the heart of it: great stories can and will always be told in a variety of ways. Nuff said.

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    56. mau:
      SerNoName,

      She neverwanted her sister to be executed, she went to Bran to use his powers against LF. Bran did’t stop her in anything, she was the one who told him where to look.

      To quote from an article on this site from an interview with Isaac:

      We actually did a scene that clearly got cut, a short scene with Sansa where she knocks on Bran’s door and says, ‘I need your help,’ or something along those lines,” Hempstead Wright said. “So basically, as far as I know, the story was that it suddenly occurred to Sansa that she had a huge CCTV department at her discretion and it might be a good idea to check with him first before she guts her own sister. So she goes to Bran, and Bran tells her everything she needs to know, and she’s like, Oh, s—.

      http://watchersonthewall.com/isaac-hempstead-wright-scene-cut-finale-night-king-theory/

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    57. I am amongst those who do not think Sansa has had such a great character arc in the past seasons. I do not really understand the love for her character at this point. I think it is mostly empathy for the way we saw her get treated for so long that makes some of us root for her so much. She is not that fascinating otherwise.

      Yet, ironically, the characters I always preferred (Tyrion, Littlefinger, and Arya) have been disappointing for the past two seasons. Indeed, Tyrion and Littlefinger have gotten dumber by the season, making stupid decisions that they would have never made in the early seasons. More over, both actors have had less to work with, Tyrion, who used to be front and center, is now playing a low key role at the side of Dany, and Littlefinger was limited to a stupid plotline in Winterfell until he got killed off for the sake of closure. Meanwhile, Arya, whom I always found very interesting thanks to her conflicted personality, between growing sociopath and sweet kid, has become more and more of a one key character. In this season particularly, her character was unlikeable and stupid. I really hope they improve on Arya and Tyrion in the final season, because I’ve begun caring more about other characters that are actually kind of secondary. It is sad.

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    58. SerNoName: To cut from an article on this site from an interview with Isaac:

      http://watchersonthewall.com/isaac-hempstead-wright-scene-cut-finale-night-king-theory/

      mau:
      SerNoName,

      That doesn’t contradict what I said. She was going to ask him for help againstLF. It was short scene in the leaks. She decided to move against him before she went to Bran.

      Maybe read why Isaac is saying?

      and it might be a good idea to check with him first before she guts her own sister. So she goes to Bran, and Bran tells her everything she needs to know, and she’s like, Oh, s-

      So according to the show, Sansa starts catching on to what LF was doing and then goes to Bran to confirm her suspicions. And after Bran tells her, she’s like ‘Oh shit, nearly had my sister executed because I got manipulated by him’

      So yes, it contradicts what you said in your earlier post. Sansa did want to get Arya executed before she realized that LF was playing her. She went to Bran, he gives her some facts on what LF was doing and had done and she realized her mistake.

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    59. SerNoName,

      That’s not true. She already knew what LF was doing in her scene with him in E7(I play little games) and she goes to Bran after that.

      And the scene that was cut had only one line, “I need your help”.

      I don’t care what Isaac was saying, I read the leaks, I read leaked outlines written by D&D(if this episode gets nominated for Emmy, we will even read the full script), what he said makes no sense, even if we ignore leaks, because it’s clear in Sansa’s scene with LF that he understands what he is doing (and she later confirmes that) and she goes to Bran after that.

      So no, she never wanted Arya to be executed.

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    60. SerNoName,

      I agree with all of that. I didn’t see Sansa come off as a justice-seeking badass. That’s Arya.*
      However, S7e7 was (finally) a great episode for Sansa/Sophie. “Do you deny it!” I thought her “cross-examination” of DouchebagFinger was great, though I felt the real LF could have put up a better defense.

      * “If people ask you what happened here, tell them: The North remembers. Tell them: Winter came for House Frey.”

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    61. mau,

      You wrote:

      “…..because it’s clear in Sansa’s scene with LF that he understands what he is doing (and she later confirmes that) and she goes to Bran after that.”

      Can you clarify what you meant by this? I’m not being sarcastic. Maybe I’m mixed up on the pronouns.

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    62. Ten Bears,

      You are right. It was wrong pronoun.

      “because it’s clear in Sansa’s scene with LF that she understands what he is doing (and she later confirmes that) and she goes to Bran after that.

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    63. Bufferzone,

      Amen!
      Arya acted wholly out of character in threatening Sansa with a dagger and musing about peeling off Sansa’s face.

      As for the concern in the post you rrspondrd to that–

      “I wonder if part of the story was look you don’t get to cheer on this girl become a psychopath and then get her come home and get along with her siblings as if nothing happened.”

      By the end of S7e7, when the sisters are on the battlements, this is exactly what happened: Sansa knows her little sister is a lethal assassin, and gets along with her as if nothing has happened, ie, you’re the strongest person I know, but don’t get used to compliments: “You’re still very strange and annoying.”

      (Don’t get me wrong. I loved that last scene between them.)

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    64. Princessmara,

      Princessmara,

      I love the Last Kingdom. Take it slowly, there are only two seasons and you might find yourself in another viewing hole only this time it’s not even known if anoher season will be commissioned. I’m going to give Black Sails a good crack.

        Quote  Reply

    65. mau:
      SerNoName,

      That’s not true. She already knew what LF was doing in her scene with him in E7(I play little games) and she goes to Bran after that.

      And the scene that was cut had only one line, “I need your help”.

      I don’t care what Isaac was saying, I read the leaks, I read leaked outlines written by D&D(if this episode gets nominated for Emmy, we will even read the full script), what he saidmakes no sense, even if we ignore leaks, because it’s clear in Sansa’s scene with LF that he understands what he is doing (and she later confirmes that) and she goes to Bran after that.

      So no, she never wanted Arya to be executed.

      So if you had read the interviews, leaks and the script then you would have read that Sansa had clocked onto the fact that Brienne was now pledged to Arya as well, that Brienne had developed an affection for Arya, that Sansa sends away Brienne because she thinks Brienne would step in to protect Arya and that Sansa thinks that Arya is a serious threat to her.

      And of course, it’s your prerogative to not care about what an actor who had the scripts, who shot the scene and interacted with the showrunners and director says about the scene he shot and go with your own made up version of what happened. I chose to not do so.

      Since the whole WF plot was a badly written mess, I chose to take into account all the scripts and actor interviews to piece together what they were trying to say and it says that in episode 7 Sansa wanted to become queen because Jon gave away the North without asking her opinion, Arya was in the way and a threat to her safety and she was thinking of getting rid of her – when LF’s little game awoke her suspicions, she went to Bran to get them checked out, got them confirmed, informed her sister and called everyone to the hall to have LF executed.

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    66. SerNoName: that Sansa sends away Brienne because she thinks Brienne would step in to protect Arya and that Sansa thinks that Arya is a serious threat to her.

      That’s not true. In the outlines it was said that she sends Brienne aways becase she realizes that LF is manipulating her to do so, so she does that to make him think he succeeded.

      And of course,it’s your prerogative to not care about what an actor who had the scripts, who shot the scene and interacted with the showrunners and director says about the scene he shot and go with your own made up version of what happened. I chose to not do so.

      The actor who said “so basically, as far as I know”. So he isn’t sure. It doesn’t matter what anyone said, it doesn’t matter what was written in the leaks, you can only watch the show and it’s clear that Sansa understands what LF was doing before she goes to Bran. He gave her details about Ned and Jon Arryn that she didn’t know, but it was clear to her that LF was trying to turn her against Arya before she spoke with Bran.

      She didn’t want to kill Arya at any point. There is nothing that suggests that. That’s nonsense from Sansa’s haters and Jon and Arya’s fanboys.

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    67. AryaArya:
      They had to park Arya in Winterfell so that her story in S8 could pick up with the characters who are heading there.

      Unfortunately, that’s how they looked at it. As parking a character in a storyline.

      And that’s why it became such a disservice. Arya’s homecoming became about every other character but Arya.

      Honestly, even as a massive Arya/Maisie fan, I would have preferred them keep her in the Riverlands a little longer then miss a couple of episodes and have her arrive in Winterfell in the final episode rather than the tripe we got.

      I would’ve preferred that Arya sneak into Jon’s Snow Patrol in disguise, and then reveal her identity before taking out a sh*tload of wights and WWs with her VS dagger and Needle. The WF plot did require Arya to be gullible and unobservant, not to mention having the Stark sisters adopt a Sand Snakes’ concept of revenge: “Avenge my family by planning to kill my family.”

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    68. SerNoName,

      That interpretation makes the most sense to me.

      It fits with what we saw on screen and also explains why Arya would want to gut her as well. Her desire to be Queen and knock Jon aside is what Arya was reacting so negatively towards.

      Could you imagine had Sansa killed Arya and declared herself Queen right before Daenerys and Jon show up with two Dragons, 100k Dothraki and 10k Unsullied to fight for the North? Sansa would have entered Cersei levels of unredemable characters. Crazy to think how close she was to making a choice that would have irrevocably defined her as one of the worst.

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    69. If people still think Sansa is meant to be stupid or unimportant simply aren’t paying attention. GRRM and D&D wouldn’t waste fuck tons of time on her if her only purpose was to never learn, remain naive and die with nothing but misery in her story. That’s shit. That’s awful storytelling with no payoff or purpose.

      People are so eager for Sansa to be crap they are willing to destroy a large part of the story for it to be so. Sansa is just as important in the books as Arya, she’s one of the main 6 from book 1 and has taken alot of outline Arya’s personality back when it was just 5 mains from book 1 in the early 90s.

      More often than not, these Sansa haters tend to be Arya fans who love to say how much stronger Arya is than her sister when that’s so horribly wrong. They take everything at face value and misread Arya’s story to the point they think the revenge kills are actually meant to be badass and cool despite D&D saying how dark and worrisome her road is right now or how GRRM has constantly painted revenge as petty and horrible. They also forget the fact that Sansa is often said to be one of the strongest characters in the whole saga in both mediums lol.

      Also to those saying how D&D are making Sansa more important than she is and Arya less, just remember they have the ending and both GRRM and D&D have told us they are going for the same thing. They know more then we do. They know just how important everyone is. People are going to be disappointed when Sansa isn’t dead in some ditch after betraying her family and Arya “gloriously” killing people world wide.

      PS I love both sisters and both are strong for their own reasons and both have their own weaknesses. Sansa being one of my favourites can be so exhausting in this fandom, I swear lol.

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    70. mau,

      The problem with those outlines is that it’s not necessarily what we got on screen.

      Did you see any clue in the final product that suggests we should think she was on to Littlefinger already when she sends Brienne away?

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    71. Bearded Onion,

      In fairness to those who question Sansa, there have been definite clues the last two seasons that she has developed a mavhievellian realpolitick way of approaching the world and has a personal ambition that may not necessarily align with her other siblings. The question I struggle with is just understanding how far that goes.

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    72. The literature professor who wrote this article stated in part:

      ***
      “My main interest here is to look at the ways in which the process of adaptation the books has necessarily altered the story and trying to find places where those deviations both work brilliantly and fall short. Needless to say, my ideal Game of Thrones might have taken some different paths, but I’m every bit as interested in being pleasantly surprised by the showrunners’ choices as I am in being disappointed by their literary calumny.”
      *****

      What does “literary calumny” mean? I thought “calumny” means defamation.

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    73. House Monty:
      Bearded Onion,

      In fairness to those who question Sansa, there have been definite clues the last two seasons that she has developed a mavhievellian realpolitick way of approaching the world and has a personal ambition that may not necessarily align with her other siblings. The question I struggle with is just understanding how far that goes.

      She has a dark side, much like Arya. Both have a choice of going down their dark paths or picking their family.

      As of the present, both girls have picked their family over their own personal desires and I hope it stays that way. Everyone has dark thoughts.

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    74. Bearded Onion,

      Yes.

      Also, did anyone pick up the costume shift with sansa and how she ends up with a much simpler not as fancy hooded costume at the end? I am sure that has some symbolic meaning.

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    75. mau,

      Do you have a link to those outlines or know how to find?

      Went back and saw the scenes and the first time her costume changed to the more simple hood versus elaborate furs was in s7e7 with her one on one with LF.

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    76. Bronnferking:
      Princessmara,

      Princessmara,

      I love the Last Kingdom. Take it slowly, there are only two seasons and you might find yourself in another viewing hole only this time it’s not even known if anoher season will be commissioned. I’m going to give Black Sails a good crack.

      If it does not get commissioned for a third season, then it’s clear the bbc have no idea how to handle a quality show, I have had this fear ever since season 2 ended without any news of a third season, such a shame

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    77. Dan: If it does not get commissioned for a third season, then it’s clear the bbc have no idea how to handle a quality show, I have had this fear ever since season 2 ended without any news of a third season, such a shame

      One thing you’ll learn about British TV, is that everything shit will live on for 1000 years while the great stuff we make, like Utopia, will die a horrible death for no good reason.

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    78. Ten Bears:
      The literature professor who wrote this article stated in part:

      ***
      “My main interest here is to look at the ways in which the process of adaptation the books has necessarily altered the story and trying to find places where those deviations both work brilliantly and fall short. Needless to say, my ideal Game of Thrones might have taken some different paths, but I’m every bit as interested in being pleasantly surprised by the showrunners’ choices as I am in being disappointed by their literary calumny.” *****

      What does “literary calumny” mean? I thought “calumny” means defamation.

      Yep, you’re correct. Its a word I’ve never heard of either. I googled it and as well meaning ‘defamation’ it can also be used to mean ‘slander’?

      No idea why the author wrote “literary calumny”? Perhaps he’s one of these so called ‘book purists’ and didn’t approve of how D&D had changed some of the things from the novels in the show that were not ‘book canon’?

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    79. Black Raven,

      What does he mean that Jaime “ruminates about his agency now that he has been robbed of his sword hand”, and Sansa, “being thirteen, there is very little chance for her to have agency.”

      What’s with this word “agency.” Agency means to be acting on behalf of someone else. When did it come to mean (I guess?) self-determination? And how does someone “ruminate” about it?

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    80. Tyler,
      Having studied screenwriting and even dabbled in it, I think you did a fabulous job with your analysis with one exception: Arya and Sansa. They are equally winners, per se, but this season in writing them D&D are not. Simply put, by playing their cards too closely to the chest in order to protect the trial “surprise”, they seemingly sacrificed narrative and character coherence. Thus, they did their two heroines (and viewers) a disservice. So you are right that their adaptation failed. (Though can we even say that anything beyond the books is, strictly speaking, adaptation?)

      What you wrote that I disagree with is this:
      The novels’ version of her infamous hit list highlights her childish sensibilities as it includes both monstrous personages (like the Mountain and Meryn Trant) and trivial ones (like her petty boss at Harrenhal). Her plotline in Season 7 put this mismatch front and center as her arguments with Sansa increasingly relied on in the world of a show, which is a strange thing to say about an adult, orphaned assassin with Tywin Lannister for a one-time tutor.

      Arya is still two years younger than Sansa, so she’s only 15-16, but has matured a great deal. In the show, she seems to have refined her List by deleting the more trivial names, a sign of maturity. Only Cersei and the Mountain are definitely left, and half of Westeros wants them dead. Also, between her poetically finishing off House Frey and arriving at Winterfell, Season 7 presented a calmer, wiser, cautious but flexible teenager who can warily relax her guard and enjoy a joke and dinner with a group of enemy soldiers. This girl can also get so excited at learning her brother’s alive that she drops her long-planned vengeance goal and heads home to family instead. On the way, she meets her beloved pet, whose life she had saved. But when Nymeria chooses to care for her pack rather than be a pet, Arya sadly understands. Arya’s current sensibilities are far from childish. Everything she did and said at Winterfell showed consistent growth based on her character, experiences, and education from S1E1 through the training in Braavos.

      You focus on:
      “…the the stunted, overly simplistic braggadocio that would have sounded sad and broken coming from a ten-year-old, and incomprehensible in the mouth of a twenty-year-old. Arya seems unbelievably naïve in the world of a show, which is a strange thing to say about an adult, orphaned assassin with Tywin Lannister for a one-time tutor.”

      What braggadocio? She no Miles Gloriosus, despite having some impressive accomplishments to brag about. She simply told Sansa she had a kill List. She didn’t even explain it was mostly against enemies of House Stark, like Joffrey, who Sansa herself wished she had killed. Arya didn’t take credit for taking down Lannister soldiers, or Meryn Trant, or House Frey. She skipped her many escapes, outwitting Tywin, circumventing an assassin cult, and her friendship with the Hound. It was Bran who mentioned Cersei. (Ironically, Sansa would have been interested in most of that.) What Arya did do was simply but wisely say, “But our stories aren’t over.” Arya is not naive; she is somewhat jaded, as you’d expect from an 16YO who spent years on the run from horror upon horror. But she did initiate the second hug, despite knowing that her status-obsessed sister, unlike probably every other Northern lord, would insist on being called ‘My Lady’ by a sibling. She bragged about nothing except for teasing Brienne that she wouldn’t hurt her.

      As to their arguments, there are abundant clues, some blatant, most subtle, that Arya resorted to Faceless Man techniques to flush out Littlefinger. She had arrived with hope in her heart but had to talk her way into what turned out to be a dysfunctional home ruled by an irresolute sister in the thrall of a monster from whom she hadn’t the will to extricate herself. Arya had seen LF scheming and sharing his famous Chaos philosophy with Tywin. So she could guess that such malign influence on Sansa might endanger her, Jon, and Winterfell. Arya’s natural allies, Jon and Bran, were gone to Dragonstone and Cloud Cuckoo Land, respectively. Naturally, like Nymeria, she took it upon herself to protect her Pack.

      The Arya you’re criticizing is not the one we’ve actually seen in S7, who has had some tender and humane moments, but a persona she created for her ruse. She had successfully employed ruses against the Waif, Trant and the Freys (twice), so they became a valuable part of her FM toolkit. And by now, she’s a veteran actress. After the sparring, Arya’s opening gambit was to give LF such a death glare (with H0B&W music on the soundtrack!) that he knew it was either him or her. Then they went after each other via Sansa. In the first argument where she left the door open (to be overheard), via FM lie-detection she learned that Sansa was loyal to Jon and not a good liar. We actually saw a moment of her spying on LF (who spied on her), a surveillance she probably did more thoroughly. She learned he had spies and was sweet-talking recalcitrant lords. When LF supplied ammunition (the letter), out-of-doors she began acting eerie and menacing so Sansa would run to LF for advice. In his eagerness to get rid of Arya, eventually he’d overplay his hand and Sansa would catch on. The Arya-Sansa issues were real, but Arya intentionally came on creepily strong and intimidating. In the third argument, at the height of Arya’s feigned menace, she silently handed Sansa the dagger to show the ball was now in Sansa’s court. According to Isaac’s interview about the deleted scene where Sansa came to Bran, she actually was thinking about killing Arya! So when he told her about Littlefinger’s crimes, she “…was like, “Oh, s___!” Finally, Sansa realised LF had to go. Apparently the three planned the trial together. On the battlements afterwards, Arya was herself again. The the first words between them were Arya’s gentle, “Are you all right?” And Sansa later said, “You are the strongest person I know”, which is a sterling compliment considering who she knows. No doubt Arya earned it for more than her half-second slash of LF’s throat. And by the way, if there’s any doubt that Arya was capable of pulling off such a plan, early in Episode 7 we’re reminded of her abilities by Sandor and Brienne, who agree, “The only person who needs protecting is the one who gets in her way.” Littlefinger got in her way and posed a danger to her family. Of course Arya acted…by acting.

      D&D are good writers, so why did they think the audience would ‘get it’ despite leaving us hardly any overt information to go on? They over-relied on story and cultural contexts that they thought the viewers would consider.

      1) They assumed the audience retained what it had learned about Arya over six seasons. We’ve repeatedly seen that she’s curious, smart, a quick learner with a good memory, perceptive about people, sociable, innovative, and ever-tenacious. She is brave and very loyal to family and friends, and has Ned’s strong sense of justice. She also has his warrior ethos—disciplined but pro-active, self-reliant, modest, and non-power-seeking. Her flaws include impulsiveness, disdain for protocol, blurting out her thoughts, tactlessness, overconfidence, and a Manichaean outlook—good v evil, black v white. Realising “A Girl has more courage than sense”, Jaqen later invited her to the HoB&W to help her complete her List. And there, they beat most of those flaws out of her. So…knowing all this, viewers is shocked by her sudden bizarre, uncharacteristic behaviour,. Rather than whinge about it, they should instead wonder “What is she up to this time?” and would realise she is actively doing something to ‘out’ Littlefinger.
      2) D&D assume the audience must be familiar with the plethora of pop-culture tales about a family member returning home after a long absence and finding an uncomfortable situation which he/she must somehow solve, Countless films, books and plays, whether comedy or drama, have this premise. That is the situation Arya, and to a lesser extent Bran, faced. Judging by how Bran greeted Sansa, he probably already knew that Sansa and LF were co-dependent. Arya was dismayed to hear Bran say LF was there and must have seen through Sansa’s weak explanation. This kind of set-up plus knowing Arya’s abilities should have cued viewers that she would take action. And her post-sparring glare at Littlefinger as her opening shot confirmed it.
      3) There are literary precedents for her ploy. D&D indirectly told us non-casual viewers who bothered watching “Inside the Episode” for Episode 4 about one. In it they mentioned that Arya’s return to Winterfell was based on Odysseus’s return home. Dave wrote the 2004 scenario for “Troy”, in which Odysseus is a main character (terrifically played by Sean Bean!). So it’s likely he (and presumably George) knows his Homer. Arya is widely believed to be following a (dark) Hero’s Journey, and as a hero she often parallels Odysseus (who thought up the Trojan Horse, probably the greatest ruse in history). Both are warriors who have long journeys, are sly, pretend to be what they’re not, outwit their enemies, survive descents into Hades (the HoB&W’s subterranean depths), and kill enemies at a gathering. Longing to return home, when they finally get to their countries they are both first greeted by their faithful canines (fortunately Nymeria doesn’t die from joy). Long thought dead and unrecognised, they finally gain access to their homes. Odysseus finds the suitors for his wife demanding she finally choose one, who would become king. Arya finds the odious and devious Littlefinger trailing her sister everywhere (and wanting to be chosen by her in part so he’ll be king). Through their clever ruses, they each slay the enemy. Odysseus is helped by his son and some servants, Arya by her sister and brother. Admittedly, these days few people read Homer, but the general outlines of the Odyssey are familiar to many. In any case, the tricksy Odysseus offers an archetype for Arya’s perplexing behaviour.

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    81. Ten Bears,

      Without checking it out on Google, I think ‘ruminate’ in that context means to chew something over as in your mind – i.e. To have a good think about something. As to why he uses ‘agency’ – I’ve no idea.

      It would have made more sense if it read – “Jaime needs to reconsider the situation he’s now in after being robbed of his sword hand” ?

      Its certainly ‘flowery language’ the author Tyler Dean uses, but if he’s a professor of literature I’m not surprised 😉

      Would be interesting to see a discussion between him and Wimsey. Some of the words and expressions he uses I have to Google to find out what they mean!

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    82. Black Raven,

      But he uses them ostentatiously. 😎 (“Hey! Look at me!”) Why go out of your way to use big words – incorrectly – when simple words will do just fine?

      Frankly, I am always suspicious of a self-professed expert who criticizes the work of (Benioff + Weiss), when he or she has never adapted anything into anything.

      “Literary calumny”… What’s he talking about?

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    83. Stark Raven’ Rad,

      The writing on this show is not that subtle.

      Moreover, terrorizing Sansa is not a remotely intelligent way to go about confronting Littlefinger. Indeed, Littlefinger baits Arya into going after Sansa because Sansa’s shutting him out and he feels that the only way to get back in her good graces is if she feels she has nobody else to talk to about her problems. If Arya’s primary concern in interacting with Sansa was Littlefinger, he would actually come up in their conversations, but she never once asks anything about him.

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    84. Excellent article!

      Silent Sister:
      I’ve been a book reader for nearly 50 years, so I can appreciate Martin’s contribution to the literary world. I love the world he created, the lore, and the overarching story he’s telling. And while we can learn a lot from POV characters, the number of POVs in these books can be annoying at times, to me. For this reason, I’m grateful for the show’s streamlined adaptation.Dany, Dorne, the Ironborn…it was a chore for me to read those chapters, but the show made them more palatable to me on subsequent readings.The same with the Riverlands.I enjoy dialogue and descriptions as much as anyone, but I need the plots to keep moving. I was relieved to see Lady Stoneheart cut from the show.I’m fine with splitting her character between Arya and Beric Dondarrion, because undead Catelyn Stark was never appealing to me. To be honest, at this point, I’m more of a fan of the adaptation.

      I think I enjoy/dislike parts the books and tv show in equal measure although for different reasons. That said, I’m a Fan of both and the things that I dislike are vastly overshadowed by the things I enjoy.

      I intensely dislike the Ironborn plots in the books and am glad they are being compressed. I like parts of the book Dorne plots and dislike the adaptation.

      I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who is glad that Lady Stoneheart was cut from the TV series. Basically she’s a partially decayed zombie with no ability to see reason or show mercy – very one note and frankly boring, and if GRRM’s point is to show the pitfalls of revenge-seeking I think it fails.

      Book Ellaria states the point better, but then the TV version is the opposite of her book counterpart. Ironically, as much as I dislike the TV Dorne storyline, the consequences that TV Ellaria faced for her revenge were well done and make the author’s point well.

      So far, Arya has not faced much of a consequence for her homicidal rampage. Even when she was stabbed by the waif for going rogue, she survived and lived to murder again. I enjoyed her taking revenge on the Frey men who wronged her family, but if the TV show is to be true to GRRM’s perspective, Arya will have to pay a price for her revenge. I suppose I should be grateful that at least she has a mind and can change it, unlike Lady Stoneheart.

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    85. House Monty,

      I agree with this. I always think that people lamenting season 7 Arya are not taking her journey seriously. The story was not the best written, but it wasn’t a destruction of character.

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    86. Angry Ros Fan,

      What “homicidal rampage” do you ascribe to Arya? She has dispensed justice. Out of her 64 kills, all have been justified under the (fictional) system portrayed on the show, with one possible exception*, and she has consciously refrained from killing innocents (even forcibly demanding of Sandor “please! please don’t kill him [the pork merchant]”).

      Rorge threatened to rape her with a stick, and attacked the Hound with the biting accomplice – but arguably that didn’t warrant the death penalty. But let’s give her a pass on Rorge, because he really was a vicious creep and deserved an injection from Needle. 💉

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    87. Thanks, friends. That took much of Sunday to write (esp checking the Odyssey parallels), whilst the poor Spouse went hungry!

      Sean C.,

      Too right that the writing isn’t always subtle. And that Arya ‘terrorising’ (I prefer ‘intimidating’) Sansa was a bit strong. But Arya knew what Littlefinger was (as did Sansa, but she was unwilling to rubbish his sorry arse). Arya knew he had plotted against Robb with Tywin and espoused creating Chaos to generate opportunity. And there he was in her beloved home, lapping up breadcrumbs from her sister and probably creating chaos. He’d already tried by giving Bran the priceless dagger for some ulterior motive. Clearly, giving LF the evil eye showed him and us that was taking him on. So, per good FM procedure, in the first argument she determined Sansa’s loyalty and her poor lying ability. Then she did surveillance on LF. LF had to be killed legally, but Arya trying to persuade Sansa to do that would only backfire. Arya’s sole recourse was to make LF show his true, knavish colours to Sansa. So Arya resorted to the ruse of acting sufficiently menacing for Sansa to seek LF’s advice because eventually he would advise her to kill Arya. This step was so drastic that Sansa was inevitably alienated. You mentioned that LF baited Arya, and you could be right. But I think that Arya declaring war between them first (in Episode 4) means that she took the initiative. It was a war to the death, but it took the united Pack to bring about its completion.

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    88. Bufferzone: Angry, dissociated, difficult Arya in Winterfell I could buy. But the show turned her into stupid, unobservant Arya for the sake of giving her something to do while parked up at Winterfell (as per AryaArya’s comment above), and that’s what felt completely out of character – and a disservice to her character development in previous seasons, and in the books – to me.

      yes, agreed, the execution of the sansa/LF/arya plotline was pretty hamfisted
      but to be honest i find they dropped the ball on arya’s storyline since season 6. her stay at the house of black and white should not have been so dull and sometimes nonsensical (that 5.08 pursuit was one hot mess)

      in terms of adaptation, i like a lot of things the showrunners changed from the books, most have been already talked about (veering away from the “pedophile” nature of the books, and providing some characters with a bit more depth – cersei, jaime)

      but it seems to me the showrunners passed on some meaty overarching themes concerning the characters and the world of westeros as a whole that could have been touched on with some well placed dialogue or just a few scenes, like:
      – how daenerys was pretty much destroying her targaryen legacy while in essos while simultaneously using the fear that came with the targaryen name as the shadow of valyria and how it enslaved so many cities still stayed as a memory in essos
      – how the common folks aspect of the books and their suffering is set aside
      – how the books kind of kept me guessing with margeary and the tyrells, never knowing if she was a shrewd player or a pawn to the queen of thorns
      – how Varys was way more fucked up and even though served the common folk, was way more ruthless and cynical than the version we have on the show.
      – how sansa still being (and maybe staying) a virgin is a great twist on women and the patriarchy of westeros, since she is safeguarding and might be using the only value westeros thinks she has (if sansa escapes rape and stays a virgin after the end of the books, this will be not only a miracle but a great FU to all the creeps that circled that poor girl)
      – how ironically Dorne is considered as savages by Westeros when their system is the most advanced/modern with rights for women and the common folk (blame Preston Jacobs dornish plot video) – Dorne sneakily winning the entire Game of Thrones just to relinquish it to set up a new ruling system could have been a pretty interesting ending to the series
      – the history behind the faceless men, their ties to the iron bank, and their history with the slave trade/valyria could have served as another great backdrop for Daenerys and Arya’s journey
      – how bran’s story shows that the northern gods are equally as cruel as the lord of light (bran losing part of himself as he treks further north, the hint of cannibalism throughout his journey, the messed up way he uses hodor
      – the whole northern conspiracy and vengeance is way more interesting to me than just Arya going full Taken on the Freys (it should have never been this easy to get rid of an entire house – it almost makes Tywin’s red wedding machination unnecessary). how the red wedding completely unleashed the savage dark side of the north and turned them into cold and vengeful players of the game (between the manderly pies and the people dying in the siege in the north)
      – how the lady stoneheart storyline (which could have been Arya this season but alas not to be done) with the riverlands and the north would have provided vengeance on both lannister, frey, bolton armies because the north remembers;

      i feel that in the adaptation, D&D brought great changes to some characters while sacrificing some interesting worldbuilding tidbits that would have provided the show with more depth and political relevance

      and HBO really should have pushed back on D&D and asked for at least two full final seasons. so much stuff would have better worked with 20 final episodes instead of 13 rushed ones. dont mind me, i’m still bitter with s7

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    89. Again, sharks and T. rexes! Books and screen are fundamentally different media. Great novels are awful scripts and great scripts are awful novels. But that is where the shark & T. rex analogy comes into use. What a shark and a T. rex are is a gestalt feature of the combination of their features: apex predators. That is the analog of a story given the combination of literary/cinematic features. The job of a Benioff, Weiss, Jackson or Kloves is to: 1) recognize what a original literary “shark” is as an ecological entity (NOT as a comparative biological list of traits); 2) recognize what shark features are important for the ecological story vs. which are necessitated by the literary ocean; and, 3) work out the cinematic terrestrial replacements for the literary fins, gills, etc. If you do it right, then you get a T. rex: many different features (legs, lungs, etc.), even some features that might seem gratuitous but really are part of the new medium (feathers!), and some of the same features (frackin’ big teeth, good vision, great smell).

      If you don’t do this, then you get something like the first two Harry Potter movies: a shark thrown onto the land, which promptly starts to stink. (In Steve Kloves defense, that was largely the fault of Chris Columbus, who heavily rewrote the script to match the books.)

      I would argue that B&W pulled off what Peter Jackson did and what Kloves managed to do after the first two Harry Potter films: cinematize the story. Book 1 told a story about conflicted values; so did Series 1; Book 2 told a story about conflicted loyalties; so did Series 3. Book 3 told a story about love-hate relationships; so did Series 3 & 4. Books 4&5 told a story about inner child vs. aspirant adult; so did Series 5. We have not yet (and might not ever) read Book 6: but I will be shocked if it is not a story about conflicted politics.

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    90. keenan: i feel that in the adaptation, D&D brought great changes to some characters while sacrificing some interesting worldbuilding tidbits that would have provided the show with more depth and political relevance

      The world-building would have watered down the story substantially, just as it did in the books. And the show has plenty of depth and more than enough political relevance for it to work. (Indeed, some would argue that it’s not subtle enough: but usually that’s because real-world events that could not be foreseen when M,B&W were writing these things happened to coincide with similar events on the show!)

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    91. Interesting article and not the one I thought I would read when I saw the header. I would agree with a lot of what you wrote but I’d also call out some of the improvements the show made over the books:
      – Rob was a secondary character in the books, never a POV, the show used the medium to really put him front and centre which made the Red Wedding even more impactful than in the books.
      – I also feel Hardholme was so much better in the show than in the books, if I recall it’s kind of only touched upon in the prologue on Dance but the show sending Jon there gave us a POV and so much added drama.
      – Of course the books can give us lots of extra details too which the show simply cannot in sixty minute episodes.

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    92. Boojam:
      Not a fan of the ‘who’s gonna die’ game, really tired of it.
      Now George has said there are more dead characters on the show than the books, as readers know that is indeed the case.
      It does feel odd that over recent seasons we have gotten a few confirmed (by GRRM) surprise demises.
      However the show has had a few major characters die and those have not been confirmed spoilers.
      My guess is there are some , if not more, characters , on the page who are needed in the Great War , so I am surprised they are gone in the visual narrative.
      Even considering the crowing of the screen drama.
      Just saying.

      Would like to understand your definition of major characters? The only POV characters I can think of now dead in the show but still alive at the end of ADWD are Barristan and Areo, unless I have missed anyone?

      I genuinely do not see either of those being alive by end of Winds or involved in the Great War.

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