From the Maester’s Desk – The Show Must Go On

gotplay

Recently, at the primetime Emmys red carpet, A Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin expressed his opinion that Game of Thrones could’ve continued for at least five more seasons.

“We could’ve gone 11, 12, 13 seasons” he told Variety.

Show runners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss ultimately decided for 8 seasons, albeit shortened ones in terms of the number of episodes: the first six seasons had ten episodes each, but the seventh had seven and the eighth will only have six.

Finishing with the story now makes sense. Game of Thrones is at the height of its popularity, and unlike many fantasy series, it has managed to be both a critical darling and a fan favorite. It’s better to go out on a high note and be fondly remembered than overextending your welcome and petering out as a shadow of your former self.

Personally, I’m very satisfied with how David and Dan adapted such a sprawling and complicated story. What they (and everyone involved) accomplished is nothing short of a miracle, figuratively speaking (since it was not the result of divine intervention) when you think about all the ways the show could’ve taken a wrong turn.

Allowing it to grow indefinitely would’ve been detrimental to it, no doubt (just imagine being teased with the Walkers and the Great War for ten years or more), but let’s forget for a moment the inherent risks in allowing a show to continue for too long, and imagine that there wouldn’t be a dip in quality or in interest from the audience.

How could it have continued without becoming boring or too bloated? I have some ideas about material they could’ve taken from the novels, some verbatim, others with some changes.

After a journey of predictions about the final season, this time we’re sailing to “what if” waters!


Warlocks & Dragons

The House of Dust by Marc Simonetti.

The House of Dust by Marc Simonetti.

The warlocks’ beef with Daenerys seemingly came to an abrupt end when Barristan Selmy foiled their assassination attempt at Astapor. It makes sense for them to fade away, there’s only so much time for each story thread and the Good Masters/Sons of the Harpy were set to be Dany’s enemies for the time she’d spend in Meereen.

But whenever I rewatch Season 3 I find myself thinking yet again “Oh right, the warlocks have unfinished business with Daenerys”. So they failed once and then decided to go home? Not likely, in my opinion.

To be fair, the warlocks from the novels don’t seem to pose much of a threat by themselves: Pyat Pree sent a Sorrowful Man (a hired assassin) to go after Dany instead of having his own people doing the deed. We also find out that Randyll Tarly asked a couple of warlocks to help in making Sam brave, but then scourged them after they failed. I’m going to assume he wouldn’t have done that if he feared some sort of retribution.

Then there’s Euron Greyjoy basically enslaving and mutilating a number of warlocks. One of them, captured inside the Silence and hanging from a rafter, keeps crying “Pree” (it is unclear, so far, if that warlock is Pyat Pree or related to him in any way).

The adaptation gave the warlocks a rather nice upgrade: Pyat Pree was able to multiply himself, and this wasn’t just for show or a mere illusion, that much was clear when his copies murdered the Thirteen at the same time. He was also able to teleport himself with swiftness and conjure stuff, managing to bound Daenerys with chains that appeared out of nowhere.

None of that saved him from getting roasted by the dragons, but he wasn’t the only one with that set of skills, as we saw when the warlock girl teleported to escape Barristan.

Though unnecessary (the plot progressed well enough without ever having to even mention the warlocks again), an escalation of the conflict could’ve kept Team Dany busy for at least one more season and the bigger budget would’ve allowed for more impressive magical abilities and illusions, perhaps even some Doctor Strange-like trippy imagery.

Sure enough, it could’ve been repetitive (what are they going to do? chain Dany again? kidnap someone?) and at the end of the day the dragons could’ve just burned all the warlocks to a crisp, but it remains a bit of a shame that foes that could’ve been formidable were essentially forgotten. If not on their own, they could have allied themselves with either the Good Masters or Cersei, in order to fight a common enemy.

More than the visions from the House of the Undying, I truly wanted to see the Undying themselves in all their creepy glory (especially as illustrated by Marc Simonetti). Maybe next time.

The North

Winterfell (South) 6x10

I think we’re all in agreement that Ramsay was dispatched at just the right time. He was a great villain (with Iwan Rheon elevating material that could’ve been hammy in the hands of someone else) but fairly one-note and I remember reading from many fans that they were ready to move on.

So it’s doubtful (at best) that one or two more seasons with him would’ve benefited the show, but we did miss out on some of the best parts from A Dance with Dragons, and that is Wyman Manderly and the Frey Pies. We did get a nod to that moment when Arya kills Walder, but it could’ve been interesting to have a “whodunnit” subplot at Winterfell, with the Boltons/Freys unsure of which one of their “allies” is killing people in the castle.

And though Wyman Manderly does show up on screen, his role is very small-ish. I have to agree with the book readers who missed him: he’s a very charismatic character, and one that defies expectations in the sense that no one respects him because he’s fat, his own people mock him and give him nicknames, so you’d think he’s an incompetent oaf, but he’s actually a really cunning individual, loyal to House Stark.

I understand we needed some tension, to show Jon and crew facing insurmountable odds, but I don’t think having the Manderlys responding to the call instead of refusing it would’ve changed much of that. Unfortunately, as with many other characters and plot elements, there’s just no enough time for everyone.

I obviously don’t know what is George planning to do with Osha and Rickon, but whatever happens it surely won’t go the same way as in the show. Having them die works for the plot: Osha had outlived her usefulness as a character and Rickon’s death, more than just a provocation, added some stakes to the Battle of the Bastards, as opposed to having Ramsay not killing anyone important.

I gotta admit I’m not too sure how to fill the gaps here as it’s not known what they’re doing in Skagos or what’s their ultimate purpose, but since Davos is getting involved, we should find out in future books (unless it all happens “off-screen”, so to speak). There are some pretty detailed theories out there about how Skagos is an island of wargs and Osha took Rickon there to help him master his own warging skills – but even if that’s the case, the show made Bran the only warg in the Stark family.

So what could they do instead? I’m not trying to fix what isn’t broken (minor nitpicks aside, the story works just fine as it is) but if we wanted to keep Rickon and Osha alive, at least for a while longer, we could’ve had them traveling in a similar way to Arya and the Hound. Flesh them out a bit more, have them working together, with Rickon growing and learning from her, so when their demise comes, it hits harder.

Both are fairly minor characters who made an impression, so they were never going to get lots of pages in the books or more than enough screen time in the adaptation, but it was nonetheless a bit disappointing that Rickon died without any lines and Osha’s death was more of a footnote than a memorable sendoff. Shaggydog: we hardly knew ye.

It wouldn’t really advance the plot or serve as character development, but I can’t help to imagine we could’ve gotten some more scenes from the past during Bran’s training with the Three-Eyed Raven. The Tragedy at Summerhall or the execution of Rickard and Brandon Stark (a moment that was filmed, but has not appeared in any episode, and much like the original pilot, probably won’t ever see the light of day).

It would be like the “Histories and Lore” featurettes from the blu-ray sets, but in live action. And I’d agree that the problem here would be the scenes feeling a bit like padding, or even like fanservice, unless these little bits were presented in a way that felt more like seasoning for the general plot than filler.

We’ve heard a lot about Aerys, but the execution scene would hammer the point home as to why the Northerners are wary of the Targaryens. And we’re aware that the White Walkers are a threat, there’s honestly no need to give them much of a backstory (the mystery is part of their appeal for me), but elaborating a bit about their motivations, if done well, would help to make them look like more than just killing machines.

And, it would give some breathing space to scenes like the Battle of Winterfell, the Wight Hunt and even the quarrel between Sansa and Arya in Season 7. I feel like the first two could’ve used a bit more of time, so there’s an actual siege instead of a brief moment of Stannis getting steamrolled and so the Hunt doesn’t feel rushed or like Dany’s dragons arrived there in a matter of seconds. I’m fine with both Mother’s Mercy and Beyond the Wall the way they are, but there’s definitely room for improvement, especially when it comes to the spat between the Stark sisters.

A Tale of Two Aegons

griff

Griff and Aegon, by Steamey

For someone adapting a story to a visual medium, deciding which characters will get cut is likely not an easy task. In the case of A Song and Ice and Fire, dozens of characters have been axed from the narrative, including one that came as a curve ball: Aegon or “Young Griff”. Turns out the son of Rhaegar and Elia was rescued by Varys, swapping him for another baby who was then killed by Gregor Clegane during the Sack of King’s Landing.

Though there’s no confirmation yet, it looks like Aegon is a fake Targaryen, the so-called “Mummer’s Dragon”. Whether or not he’s someone (like a Blackfire, a Brightflame or even Illyrio’s son) or no one (just a random boy chosen to play a part in Varys and Illyrio’s scheme), remains unclear and I wonder if we’ll even find out in Winds or if we’ll have to wait for A Dream of Spring.

I can see why he was cut from the adaptation, as his inclusion would just have made the story really convoluted and we would have two Aegons.

If anything, he could’ve been included as an antagonist of sorts, to both Daenerys and Cersei, or just the former. Drop the Shy Maid and Jon Connington and age him up a bit more, make him the leader of the Golden Company.

It would be a radical change, but an effective way of streamlining his way into the show, without having to add too many extra characters and several days of boat travel. Now you’d have the (alleged) son of Rhaegar and Elia, with an army of his own and ready to roll.

This would even allow the war to last a bit longer, since all of Dany’s allies (the Sand Snakes, the Greyjoys and the Tyrells) were quickly obliterated after a Season 6 finale that seemed to imply she had the upper hand. Plus, it’d add a set of interesting complications for Dany: How would she react after finding out there’s another Targaryen, after thinking for so long she was the only one? Would she be willing to destroy her nephew in order to win the Iron Throne?

Dorne

Behold: Dorne!

Following the poor reception to how the show handled Dorne during its fifth season, it was not surprising to see damage control kicking in when Season 6 arrived and both Doran and Trystane are murdered from the get-go. I was sad to see them go, because Dorne could’ve had a lot of potential, but I can’t blame the writers for not wanting to risk it.

The way the events unfolded, however, left the region effectively leaderless and hanging. I doubt we’ll see some resolution to that in the final season, leaving us to wonder who’ll become the new ruler of Dorne.

The obvious choice here would be to follow the “Queenmaker” subplot, including Arianne Martell and her attempt to crown Myrcella as Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. With some adjustments (I mean, let’s ditch Darkstar please) it could be a really intriguing story to follow. And it would also give Areo Hotah an excuse to use his weapon. Truly, it made me sad that DeObia Oparei didn’t get a chance to shine. The actor seemed genuinely excited to be on the show and I wish he could’ve been in at least one fight scene.

Nonetheless, with Arianne in the mix you no longer have the problem of who’s going to rule Dorne now that all the leader figures have been killed. And there’d be a chance to keep exploring a different region that didn’t get enough screen time: we only got to see the Water Gardens (those scenes were shot in the beautiful Alcázar of Seville). There are many amazing places in Spain that could’ve been used as locations, I can picture the Alhambra as Sunspear, and boy, it would’ve been a sight to behold.

Also, much like Darkstar, Quentyn can remain in the cutting room floor. We already had Trystane to play the prince of Dorne part (and he was gone too soon, like the rest of them).

Penny

Pretty Pig, Crunch,Penny,Imp and Big bear by Kay Huang.

Pretty Pig, Crunch,Penny,Imp and Big bear by Kay Huang.

Now, I know, Penny’s hardly among fan favorite characters and I can’t say I missed her myself.

But her addition could’ve worked, why not? But just as Tyrion changed in the process of adapting him to the screen, Penny wouldn’t be the same as in the books, either.

A change of personality would help a great deal: not as innocent and not as naive. Her role in the books is, after all, to serve as a moral compass to an embittered, cruel, manipulative and even vile Tyrion, a far cry from the character Peter Dinklage has portrayed during the show’s entire run.

Since there’s really not a need for Tyrion to rediscover his sense of empathy (considering he didn’t lose it to begin with), Penny would be more of a check on his privilege. Sure, he’s a dwarf, and sure, he’s not loved by most people around him, but he enjoyed a rather comfortable life, as opposed to other dwarves like Penny and her brother.

Through the series we have seen Tyrion caring for his friends and allies, and some members of his family as well (Tommen, Myrcella and Jaime), but his relationship with Penny would be one of a different kind. We don’t get to see often the point of view of lowborn characters, those who suffer the most damaging consequences of the game of thrones.

Feeling guilty for being indirectly responsible for Oppo’s death (who was killed by some “drunken fools” who were expecting to get a reward from Cersei), he’d take Penny under his wing. And the two of them, together with Jorah, could navigate their way out of slavery (keep Yezzan the way he was portrayed by Enzo Cilenti, no “Yellow Whale” and no “freak collection”) and into Dany’s camp.

Even with a different attitude, I wouldn’t expect Penny to be battle-hardened or anything. All the opposite, which would complicate things as the war gets worse. I imagine that in the novels George is setting her up to become collateral damage as a result of Tyrion’s choices. The show version of Tyrion would do his best to protect her, I have no doubt, so it could’ve been interesting to see if such efforts would’ve backfired the way it happened with Shae.

Barristan and the Siege of Meereen

Barristan

Killing Barristan Selmy the way it happened in the show was a bold move from the writers. As with many things that diverge from the source material (in which Barristan is still alive, so far), not everyone liked it, but I thought it was handled really well. He was an old man, no matter how skilled, and couldn’t have been expected to pull some superhuman feat after getting ambushed and outnumbered by the Sons of the Harpy. Nonetheless, he went down swinging and took many enemies with him, before succumbing to his wounds.

Much like the Battle of Winterfell, the book version of the Siege of Meereen will have a bigger scale than its show counterpart. And in the absence of Dany, it is Barristan who is leading the charge, riding on Dany’s Silver.

It’s an armed conflict tailor-made for “Episode 9” material, with thousands of armed combatants, trebuchets, dragons and war elephants. There’s not a lack of spectacle for sure, and while there are no major characters actively participating in the battle, the show could’ve had Dany and Tyrion. They’re both present during the show’s portrayal of the siege after all (and though it was brief, since the Battle of the Bastards took the lion’s share of the time and budget, director Miguel Sapochnik really delivered).

I think there’s a good chance Ser Barristan may die during the siege in the novels. Unless George has something else in store for him, it would mirror what happened in the show somewhat closely, with the old knight dying in Essos and not getting to return to Westeros with Dany and the rest.

Greyjoy Action!

Fleet Greyjoy Sea Battle 7x02 (6)

Season 6 gave us a more grounded Euron Greyjoy than the book version of the character. Less pirate-y and more suave. And though he needs no sidekick (he’s way too happy stealing the scenes he’s in), in a hypothetical longer version of the show, this is where Victarion could’ve showed up. Only that instead of making him a dullard and a brute (in the words of the author himself)  who punched his wife to death, he could’ve been a more sympathetic presence, a counterweight of sorts to Euron (which also makes sense if we have in mind that Victarion hates Euron with a passion).

Now that Jaime has left Cersei’s side, there’s now a lack of characters to root for in King’s Landing, with perhaps the sole exception of Bronn (I’m not saying there aren’t people who’d like Cersei to win against the Dragon Queen and the White Wolf, but I think it’s safe to assume they’re in the minority), so a more likable version of Victarion could’ve helped to fill that space.

A lot of fans wanted Ray Stevenson to play Victarion, and I was inclined to agree, he would’ve been perfect for the role: he’s got the looks and the acting chops. Imagine Titus Pullo in Greyjoy armor, chopping heads off with an axe. Sadly, that ship has sailed, but in a world where GRRM got his 13 seasons wish granted, perhaps it could’ve happened?

The naval battle we got in the second episode of Season 7 (“Stormborn”) was nothing short of spectacular, and maybe I’m getting a bit greedy here, but it would’ve been cool to get some more scenes of combat at sea and watch some more of the Greyjoys in their element. We have heard about all their reaving and raiding, but haven’t been able to actually see it.

A bit more of the Brotherhood

beric-dondarron-1024

We know that the Brotherhood Without Banners, the Merry Men-like group, was committed to fight the Lannister rule and all who preyed on the common people. And in return, the people would give them food, information and other resources. But we never saw them interacting with any townsfolk. And other than Beric and Thoros joining forces with Jon during the Wight Hunt, and hearing the stories of the many times the Lightning Lord has been killed, we didn’t get to see them in action.

In the third book, Arya and Gendry are witnesses to a skirmish between the Brotherhood and the Brave Companions. The sellswords were inside a septry that had been previously looted, and were flushed out when the Brotherhood set the building ablaze. Then a fight ensued, which the Companions lost.

The closest the show got to that moment was in the seventh episode of Season 6 (“The Broken Man”) and the following one (“No One”), when Lem Lemoncloak and other Brotherhood men who went rogue kill Brother Ray and sack the unfinished sept, which prompts Sandor Clegane to seek revenge against the murderers.

Another moment from A Storm of Swords I really wanted to see in the show was the appearance of the Ghost of High Heart, a mysterious old woman with pale skin and red eyes who has prophetic dreams. When she meets Arya, the Ghost is shaken, saying Arya reeks of death and grief.

You are cruel to come to my hill, cruel. I gorged on grief at Summerhall, I need none of yours. Begone from here, dark heart. Begone!

Melisandre fulfilled that role in a way, when she talks about the darkness she sees in Arya, and all the “eyes she’ll shut forever”.

And so, while I’m quite happy with the way the show handled the Brotherhood, I wouldn’t have complained about spending a bit more of time with them. Especially Thoros- which makes me realize we didn’t get to see him joining Beric in battle with a flaming sword of his own, all thanks to that snow bear. So thanks a bunch, bear.

Lady Stoneheart

Stoneheart by weremoon.

Stoneheart by weremoon.

To be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of the resurrected version of Catelyn Stark. The first time I read the epilogue, I was thrilled. But after a while of mulling about it, the idea went sour for me.

I’ve talked about this in past articles, but I feel like having Catelyn back, even as an undead who’s hellbent on revenge, undermines the impact of her death in the Red Wedding and effectively turns her into a villain the moment she orders Brienne and Pod to hang. Keeping Beric and his flaming sword instead was one of the best decisions made by the writing team so far.

But that’s just my opinion. I know many people wanted to see her, George included, so including her in the list is a no-brainer.

But you know, take some liberties. Instead of sacrificing Beric, have Thoros revive her. And though in the novels she has difficulty speaking (due to the wound in her neck being too deep), that wouldn’t work well in an audiovisual medium (I suppose that’s part of the reason Vargo Hoat was replaced with Locke). So, allowing us to understand what she’s saying would be helpful.

I have a feeling that she won’t survive the meeting with Jaime, because I don’t think the Kingslayer will hang. And surely Brienne won’t die either. So where’s the Stoneheart subplot going is anyone’s guess.

Some theorize she could give the kiss of life to Jon, putting aside the hatred she felt for him in life, but the presence of Melisandre at Castle Black (and how she’s the one who does revive Jon in the show) undercuts that idea. Others think Arya could be the one who gives Stoneheart the gift of Mercy, and I can see that happening. As the name implies, not all death is punishment: sometimes it can be the compassionate thing to do.

It’d be a bittersweet moment, but also an opportunity for Arya to say goodbye to her mother and laying her to rest in a proper way. Probably bring her body back to Winterfell. Because, as we heard from Sansa, in the show version of the story Catelyn’s body was simply dumped in a river and that was the end of it, whereas Ned’s bones did reach the castle (unlike the novels, since the Silent Sisters haven’t been able to reach Winterfell).


The novels have so much content, we could be discussing about all the possibilities for years even after the show reaches the finish line. And that’s not taking into account that we still have two more novels to look forward to.

Like all screen adaptations, a lot had to change and a lot more had to be cut. And I feel like, much like with The Lord of the Rings trilogy, we got the best possible version.

Maybe some years in the future (after the book series is hopefully completed), someone else will attempt to adapt the story again, though it’s difficult to imagine a new cast playing the characters or the locations having a different look than the one we’re used to now.

For the time being, though, we still have one more season to go, and then a prequel to look forward to. If The Long Night is successful, we may see more Ice and Fire content heading to our TVs. Aegon’s Conquest? The Dance of Dragons? Something entirely new and unexpected? There are places in Essos that are ripe for exploration, like the Shadow Lands. Time will tell.

One thing is certain: Thrones isn’t going away any time soon!

28 responses

Jump to (and Always Support) the Bottom

    1. Eight more seasons of Arya & Sandor traveling through the Riverlands, trading insults and killing bad guys. That, I’d watch.

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    2. I love the chapters about the ‘Ghost of Winterfell,’ partly because, aside from the mystery and growing paranoia among the fractious Bolton alliance, they give us so much more insight into Theon’s struggle to recover his identity. They are also a very vivid description of what it’s like to be snowbound. The latter aspect may be essentially unfilmable, like Stannis’ army’s epic, doomed attempt to invade the North through chest-deep snow (learning the same lesson that Napoleon and Hitler learned about never invading Russia in wintertime). For real-life Northerners like me, scenes of warriors striding or riding casually through half an inch of fake snow just can’t capture the challenge of winter travel. So I get it why they cut that part out, but I miss it. And I miss Wyman Manderly, who’s so adept at putting his foes off-guard by playing the fool even while he’s plotting their overthrow.

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    3. Ten Bears:
      Eight more seasons of Arya & Sandor traveling through the Riverlands, trading insults and killing bad guys.That, I’d watch.

      I’m in. Also, here’s one: Late Night in Westeros with Olenna Tyrell

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    4. Meanwhile… I thought Beric’s expanded role in S7 was one of the most pleasant surprises. I particularly enjoyed his theological discussions with Sandor and the understated friendship they developed.

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    5. With the shows it’s good that we have a perspective, we know it’s gonna end someday. We have a beginning, a middle and a final act. In the show we can really see the structure. In the books, we have a beginning, but the middle keeps on going on without seeing an end somewhere down the road.

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    6. I enjoy thinking about ways they could have extended the show and reading other thoughts and ideas. It would have been great if it could have gone on for years and years, but I have to agree that they cleaned it up and paced it out to a finish that might be as close to ideal as one can hope for. “Too much of a good thing…” or “they’re just milking it now,” aren’t lines one wants to hear about a show. The idea of “leave them wanting more” is exactly what HBO wants now. It’s up to them to deliver continued excellence in that world.

      For what I personally think would be the most enjoyable show I don’t believe expanding A LOT with sub-characters and side stories would have been a good route. There are many that didn’t enjoy the sidelining of main characters even in the books. There are many viewers that are upset when there’s little to none of one main or another in even a single episode. It wouldn’t have been good to go too broad with people and things that won’t really amount to much that would have forced a slowing of main character progression. It can work in books but gets boring fast in the visual medium, and sometimes maddening. There are sooo many examples of that with other shows. Get out when the gettin’s good

      I think what I would have enjoyed the most is if they had expanded just a bit here and there on the main cast stories only. Just enough so that it maybe added another five or six episodes to the total… so that perhaps both S7 and S8 ended up with 10 each or so. Each of the main character storylines had multiple spots that could have been expanded, and on some occasions should have been. My main beef of course is in regards to Arya’s Braavos arc. They could have done so much more with that, especially had they kept Arya’s warging/dreams, actual training/teaching, not turned the timid, friendly waif into a psycho bitch and had Jaqen actually behave more like the Kindly Man instead of a douchecanoe. You know, additional stuff so that when she did return to Westeros there was at least something backing up her badass ASNAWP-ness. What they did give Maisie earned her/them an Emmy nomination so imagine if they had given her more…

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    7. I’ve read and watched both versions many times. It’s really hard for me to find fault with anything D&D have done, including Dorne. Dorne was a flop and they fixed it quickly. And honestly, it wasn’t that exciting in the books. I also commend them for leaving out Lady Stoneheart. A lot of people like that story line but I didn’t. Beric is a much more compelling character to have around. I thought it was a miracle that they salvaged 10 episodes about of Feast and Dance. Those were really dry books that almost lost me as a reader, especially Feast. Season 6 was my favorite so far, so I’m assuming that the next books are going to be great again. Victarion is the only character I would like to have seen on-screen that didn’t make it, but they did a pretty good job finding another way to carry out that story. I wish there were more seasons, but not because I thought there was missed material from books 1-5.

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    8. Marbery Typhoon: Late Night in Westeros with Olenna Tyrell

      By the Old Gods and the New, Lady Olenna deserved a long semi-retirement as a political pundit! I’d even pay to listen to her ‘Thorns Up/Thorns Down’ theatre reviews.

      (Hmmm…Maybe I should bring that character to life as a Twitter avatar…)

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    9. Clob:
      Arya’s Braavos arc.They could have done so much more with that, especially had they kept Arya’s warging/dreams, actual training/teaching, not turned the timid, friendly waif into a psycho bitch and had Jaqen actually behave more like the Kindly Man instead of a douchecanoe.You know, additional stuff so that when she did return to Westeros there was at least something backing up her badass ASNAWP-ness.What they did give Maisie earned her/them an Emmy nomination so imagine if they had given her more…

      Agreed on this. Not only is Arya’s HoBaW training much more immersive and varied and interesting on paper – not to mention giving her many more useful skills than killing per se – but we also see much more of Braavos’ vibrant culture through her eyes as Cat of the Canals. I could watch a whole season of a show just based on her time there. The subculture of waterfront hangers-on by itself is immensely rich.

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    10. “How would she react after finding out there’s another Targaryen, after thinking for so long she was the only one? Would she be willing to destroy her nephew in order to win the Iron Throne?”

      That IS the story we’re already watching, ya’ll! GRRM has to write his magnum opus, Hector vs. Achilles, Dance 2.0, from the perspective of two POV characters. The “epic Targ battle” would look mighty one-sided since we would have no idea what fAegon is thinking and we’re not even sure if he can even ride a dragon or not. It’s Dany vs. Jon! That’s why everyone is going on about it being unexpected.

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    11. I’m still annoyed with how they dropped Barristan (or maybe I’m still annoyed with how they dropped Ian…hmm.) Absolute legend, and I believe the only one left who could influence Dany by being directly linked in history to Rhaegar and Aerys. However, they can’t take away the epic scene of him basically telling the KG and ‘royals’ to go eff themselves. 😁 And they also couldn’t keep everyone that was in Dany’s camp at the time…

      I am definitely of the bunch speculating Arya bringing Mercy (as she is named, to boot) to Catelyn, not only because LSH is such an awful tragic figure (don’t try to revive bodies more than a few hours gone, kids), but because through Nymeria, she indirectly brought her back to life. The show had me whooping with Beric’s return, and not just because I love Richard Dormer and thought Beric’s sacrifice was wasted in the books. His character has been one of my favourite parts of the last 2 seasons, and him drawing the flaming sword was my #1 favourite shot of Season 7. Just really damn badass. He is certainly less diminished than his book counterpart, who is much more of a shell.

      I liked Victarion and the bits of the story surrounding him, and having a brother remaining to clash with Euron could have been very cool. Especially with the crispy hand.

      Oh how I wish Hotah’s wife had taken out Ellaria before she pulled the crap with Doran. Her personality switch and the beyond disappointing outro of Siddig and Oparei made me yell at the TV. I never yell at the TV.

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    12. I would have liked to see more of Dorne. Of course, the execution needed improvement. Dorne did resist the Targs and so was exceptional. Seeing the Alhambra on screen would have been wonderful.

      D&D did a good job of cutting the story to the essential parts. The story is unfinished and maybe that is so because the writer has too many balls in the air. Prune, prune, prune.

      Actors want to move on to new projects…not everyone is Susan Lucci. Much of the filming is in Belfast and Iceland, the acting staff and crew may not have wanted to spend their entire lives in these locations. Dubrovnik is lovely but it is also a small touristy town. If it continued much longer, I think they may have had to replace actors like Peter Dinklage. D&D also wanted their lives back. Exceeding 7 seasons also has some industry practice contracting implications.

      Of the characters that made the final part of the GOT, the character I think is most affected by the changes is Jaime Lannister. When the undead Cat was cut, a big part of his story was removed. Worse, he was left with Cersei for a very long time. This choice made his arc a lot less clear than it should be at this stage. D&D and HBO are the main beneficiaries of this – it has made it less obvious that Jaime is a critical character for the end game. Perhaps, the critical character for the end game.

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    13. I will only reply to the Dorne bit…

      Is it possible the Mad King might have switched his grandsons? If so… Jon is the ruler of Dorne by birth, just as he is the heir to the Iron Throne.

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    14. Firannion:
      I love the chapters about the ‘Ghost of Winterfell,’ partly because, aside from the mystery and growing paranoia among the fractious Bolton alliance, they give us so much more insight into Theon’s struggle to recover his identity. They are also a very vivid description of what it’s like to be snowbound. The latter aspect may be essentially unfilmable, like Stannis’ army’s epic, doomed attempt to invade the North through chest-deep snow (learning the same lesson that Napoleon and Hitler learned about never invading Russia in wintertime). For real-life Northernerslike me, scenes of warriors striding or riding casually through half an inch of fake snow just can’t capture the challenge of winter travel. So I get it why they cut that part out, but I miss it. And I miss Wyman Manderly, who’s so adept at putting his foes off-guard by playing the fool even while he’s plotting their overthrow.

      Very much agree!

      The WF chapters in ADWD were my favourites because of Theon’s psychological portrayal, the snow-bound claustrophobia, sense of the supernatural, sense of foreboding; sifting, unsure alliances, conspiracy paranoia, Wyman Manderly and Frey pies, and the snow, snow, snow! (A real life northerner her, too :-D)

      BTW, it’s always annoyed me that GRRM doesn’t seem very aware of how common and useful transport by skis/sleds is in areas with regular wintry conditions. I mean, where I live, parents stick their babies and toddlers in a plastic pulkka, not a pram or buggy to haul them along suburban streets in winter, lol!

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    15. Chilli:
      With the shows it’s good that we have a perspective, we know it’s gonna end someday. We have a beginning, a middle and a final act. In the show we can really see the structure. In the books, we have a beginning, but the middle keeps on going on without seeing an end somewhere down the road.

      Pretty much this.

      I’ll read TWOW when it comes out (dare I hope in 2020…), and I’ll probably enjoy it as it’ll put “meat” on the “bones” of the show. But my enjoyment will be blighted by the fact that I’ll probably have to wait another 10 or so years before I see the next book, if ever. Plus I doubt GRRM can finish his story in just two 1000-page books. He’s been adding too much “meat” on the “bones” of the story and it’s become like Wyman Manderly. A wonderfully character, devious and cunning, but too fat to ride.

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    16. Clob:

      I think what I would have enjoyed the most is if they had expanded just a bit here and there on the main cast stories only.

      This would’ve been the best tactic for a hypothetical 11 or – gasp – 13-season GOT. Some of the storylines in the past 2-3 seasons feel like they could’ve benefited from a bit more development, e.g. the whole Bolton/Stannis/North situation or Sansa and Arya in Winterfell.

      I’m very, very glad GRRM is not in charge of GoT. He can bloat his ASOIAF books all he wants, and I’ll probably read them all if they ever come out, but I want my TV show to have a beginning, middle and end, all within a few years. 8 seasons is already pushing it but of course I’ll eagerly watch because I want to know how this version of the story ends. If the show was going to last another 3 to 5 years, I’d probably be losing interest by now.

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    17. Great article but looking through the list the only one I’m disappointed about was Aegon. Now I think I understand why he was cut (I’m guessing he will be an enemy for Dany when she arrives in Westeros) within the show but it was a good strand in the book. I also feel Barristan will likely die in the battle of Meereen in the books but assume killing him earlier just help D&D give Tyrion more focus vs his book plot which I found rather boring.

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    18. Joey:
      I’ve read and watched both versions many times. It’s really hard for me to find fault with anything D&D have done, including Dorne. Dorne was a flop and they fixed it quickly. And honestly, it wasn’t that exciting in the books. I also commend them for leaving out Lady Stoneheart. A lot of people like that story line but I didn’t. Beric is a much more compelling character to have around. I thought it was a miracle that they salvaged 10 episodes about of Feast and Dance. Those were really dry books that almost lost me as a reader, especially Feast. Season 6 was my favorite so far, so I’m assuming that the next books are going to be great again. Victarion is the only character I would like to have seen on-screen that didn’t make it, but they did a pretty good job finding another way to carry out that story. I wish there were more seasons, but not because I thought there was missed material from books 1-5.

      I think D&D said they would explain why they left certain book arcs out when they finish the show. Now they may not do that given GRRM still hasn’t even released Winds and I assume is unlikely to ever release the final book but I’d love it if they do. For me Stoneheart just wouldn’t really work on screen like it does in the books (I’m still not a huge fan of that arc either in the books).

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    19. talvikorppi:

      BTW, it’s always annoyed me that GRRM doesn’t seem very aware of how common and useful transport by skis/sleds is in areas with regular wintry conditions. I mean, where I live, parents stick their babies and toddlers in a plastic pulkka, not a pram or buggy to haul them along suburban streets in winter, lol!

      Truly, how backward would the Free Folk have to be not to have invented Nordic skiing by now? Northerners should be used to relying on it for getting around quickly in winter as well. Sleds and sledges, whether pulled or pushed, should be a no-brainer. Even a travois, however primitive, works way better than a wheeled cart in snow. Do we even get a mention of snowshoes? This is all really basic technology in sub-Arctic cultures.

      Too bad George isn’t more of an outdoorsy guy, or he’d know this stuff. (He’d also be fitter, but I’d prefer not to open that particular can of worms.)

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    20. Pigeon:
      I’m still annoyed with how they dropped Barristan (or maybe I’m still annoyed with how they dropped Ian…hmm.) Absolute legend, and I believe the only one left who could influence Dany by being directly linked in history to Rhaegar and Aerys. However, they can’t take away the epic scene of him basically telling the KG and ‘royals’ to go eff themselves. 😁 And they also couldn’t keep everyone that was in Dany’s camp at the time…

      I have hopes for Barristan having more to do in the books before his demise, but they have less to do with what’s likely than with my personal tinfoil theory that he’s fated to be one of Dany’s three betrayers. I want that simply for the irony of it, since he’s constantly held up as the paragon of unquestioning duty and loyalty.

      What could sway him? Here’s where the serious tinfoil comes in: What if the septa with a mysterious past and stretch marks, Lemore, does turn out to be not-really-dead Ashara Dayne, the one great love of Barristan’s life? If so, what happens when Team Dany and Team fAegon cross paths? Might not Ashara try to persuade Barristan to switch sides? Could he even possibly end up a Queenslayer, or fail in the attempt and be executed? All more interesting potential endings to his arc than the show version, which to me felt like a rather abrupt shortcut.

      Maybe it was the excision of the fAegon plotline that forced Barristan’s planned obsolescence.

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    21. Thanks for the great read Morgoth!

      Firannion,

      That was one of my favourites as well, and also gut-wrenching to read, especially how the Northmen all react to Theon: “I’ll leave you to him, then” I remember one saying regarding Ramsay torturing Theon. Oh and snow shoes were definitely mentioned but I believe the characters wearing them were from tribes in the North that are not part of the houses.

      Also, I can’t help but think that perhaps the Vale storyline would have tied up more nicely if Sansa stayed there on the show and it would have been interesting to see where it could have gone, especially since Littlefinger is slowly poisoning Robyn with sweetsleep. Now I wonder how that will be tied up in the final season.

      But overall I would have liked a more fleshed out season 7 but I don’t think the plots would have translated well for 13 seasons.

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    22. Nothing succeeds or fails like excess, most of the time. The exceptions to this are the true tragedies. Game of Thrones as a TV show is an exception. I agree with George, the show could have gone on for ten years and maybe even twelve. This used to be not unheard of in television; but I suppose that in the age of millisecond attention spans and unlimited data plans, it is to be expected.

      After reading the books last spring, I was amazed at the amount of good TV left out of the books. The scenes at Harrenhal, the Dornish storyline, Euron’s storyline and the vibrant, rich and sensational World and worlds Martin creates in the fifth book, and indeed gives us in all of the books, comes to mind. The last two seasons of the show have been unbelievably rushed after wallowing in a true Wagnerian pace and a truer Wagnerian structure for the first five seasons. We’ve not been allowed to truly traverse and absorb this Medieval World like we were allowed to in seasons two and three. There was certainly enough material from the books to guarantee the TV series not becoming tedious or boring. But, this is the way it is and there is no need of whining about what could have been.

      To me, the TV series cheated itself, fans, readers and viewers by embracing prematurity. I think Dan and Dave, and certainly HBO, know this now and sadly know it too late. The show-runners, bet and gambled out of fear of failing and came up craps as regards the success of the show. Alas, we’re left wanting more. For me wanting more, in this instance, is like traveling to Bayreuth to hear the Ring and after performances of Das Rheingold, and Die Walkure respectively, being told, that because they are too long, Siegfried and Gotterdammerung will be butchered and combined into one performance: A true Wagnerian tragedy.

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    23. Jack Hamm,

      There really aren’t that many shows that are 7+ seasons and remained must watch TV past that point.

      Sure, there are a handful of exceptions, but they’re often procedurals or have a revolving cast.

      The overwhelming majority, however, start to lose their audience, who become tired of the show and by then it’s also often turned into a mere shadow of it’s former self. There are thousands of shows that got canceled because they went on without getting to a point and ended terribly. (24, X Files, How I Met Your Mother, …) and there are dozens that kept going regardless and are now basically considered a joke – Simpsons, Walking Dead (yes, we’re there, time to admit it), Big Bang Theory,

      8 seasons for an ongoing story is plenty. Especially a demanding show like GoT.

      Maybe it could’ve gone longer, but then, maybe Breaking Bad should been 12 seasons, maybe Lost should’ve had 15 seasons.

      But then again, maybe not…

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    24. I love GoT, but lets be real here. It’s just a t.v. show. It’s a minor distraction from the hellhole that is real life. I personally can’t stay with a fictional story year after year just to see how it eventually ends. Life happens, people evolve, people move on. Tell your fictional story, but tell it in a concise fashion and move on. There are zero fictional shows that I would ever see myself sticking with year after year after year. I would personally find it somewhat pathetic if someone stuck with the same fictional story for decades.

      WHich is probably why I’m not really all that enthused about prequels. SOmething about it just feels like a drug addict who can’t figure out when to say enough is enough and keeps desperately hanging on because there’s someone out there willing to enable the desperation by keeping it going. I hope I’m wrong about the prequels, but right now it just feels like GoT is being milked to death until the cash cow finally runs out.

      It’s better to go out on a high note and be fondly remembered than overextending your welcome and petering out as a shadow of your former self.

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