As the second season of HBO’s Game of Thrones drew to a close Sunday night with a spectacular smorgasbord of plot thread cliff-hangers, I couldn’t help thinking there just wasn’t enough space in ten episodes to do justice to the source material. While the first season remained very true to its paper and ink counterpart, the second season made larger departures from A Clash of Kings, the book upon which it was based. This may be because the second book of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire begins to become a little too complicated for the television program to handle.
The first book was told from the perspective of eight major characters in about four or five locations at any given time. This was manageable on screen. The second book revolves around the seven surviving characters from the first, plus two new perspectives for a total of nine. This doesn’t sound too bad, except that fewer of those characters stories take place in overlapping locations. This bumps up the complexity fast. Instead of four or five plot threads to keep straight, as in the first book, we are faced with closer to seven! And it will only get worse. Take a look at the tables of contents for the next few books, if you doubt me. A Song of Swords, ten perspectives; A Feast for Crows, six major perspectives and one or two-off chapters from six more; A Dance with Dragons, fifteen!
None of this is to say that I didn’t love the second season and look forward enthusiastically to what will be on offer with the next. (I was blown away by our first good look at the white walkers and their undead minions and can’t wait to see more!) It’s just a warning: if you were disappointed by incongruities between season two and the book, get over it. If HBO insists on fitting each book into a mere ten episodes, then with each season that’s going to leave an increasing amount of story on the editing room floor. This tendency is going to get much worse in subsequent seasons, but that’s okay! In order for the show to keep up its dramatic intensity, cutting the story down to size is exactly what needs to happen. If you want the rest of the story, by all means read the books, or listen to the exceptional Roy Dotrice audiobook recordings! So long as the people at HBO do their work judiciously we have a lot to look forward to.
-Aaron K. Brumley, IT