Warning: Book spoilers. Ranting. Nerd rage. Etc.
Winterfell burns no more. Of course it was glaringly evident last season that Sansa’s television story arc had caught up and gone beyond her book storyline, as we’ve had only a handful of Sansa/Alayne chapters since A Storm of Swords. George may have released a new Alayne chapter in an attempt to catch us up a little, but Sansa is off to meet her destiny, full speed ahead, in the season 5 opening episode, The Wars to Come. While I have been longing to see the maiden slaying a savage giant in a castle built of snow I shudder to think what Dan and Dave have in store for her.
I have never wanted to see Dan and Dave’s fan-fiction take on the end of Thrones. Which is probably why I have spent several months ignoring most of the Game of Thrones news. Hearing how much better the show is than the books makes put my head in the dishwasher. This is a strange phenomenon you see. Fantasy and science-fiction books generally don’t make it out onto the commercial market unless a film or series is made. In most cases science-fiction and fantasy films don’t actually attract a ‘general’ audience, sci-fi and fantasy nerds watch the films and buy the books. Game of Thrones has been marketed, and been embraced by, a ‘general’ audience. The Song of Ice and Fire series embodies a lot of the medieval-style landscapes and feudal societies traditional to the high-fantasy genre, which is of course familiar to anyone who has enjoyed a historical fiction show. It’s not surprising the series was popular, George was actually a very well-respected, popular and hugely successful author well before the series. But now I get people asking me ‘what do you mean fantasy books are always this long?’, ‘why does he spell the names weird?’ ‘this isn’t realistic’ (but dragons are always fine).
I was hoping George might get Winds of Winter published in time for season 6, but it really no longer matters when George gets his books finished. A series that has almost been twenty years in the making will finish up in the hands of Dan and Dave and HBO and anyone who was in denial (like me, who has spent several years in the throes of it) now has to accept that we are going to get the full Dan and Dave version of A Song of Ice and Fire‘s conclusion. Pretty damned baffling for an author who has pointedly refused to entertain the idea of another writer finishing his books if he dies before he completes them.
Dan and Dave are also in a huge hurry, despite mulling over book three for two seasons. Now they’re cramming the last four books into three seasons. Dan and Dave signed on to make a movie after they finish Game of Thrones, which is probably what all the hurry is about. They might be tired, it will be over ten years by the time the seven series are completed. So despite George and HBO executives public lamenting that the show is being cut short, because cut short it will be, Dan and Dave are adamant they will do no more than seven seasons. While I was entertaining the idea that new writers/producers could just take over, that would require George to put his trust in more people and reveal his ending, and the next writer/s having to write themselves out of the corners Dan and Dave have placed themselves in. There’s little use trying to make changes now.
Now that the writers are deviating so widely from the books and creating many lame filler storylines the quality of the show is seriously declining. It is easy to see why. Clearly Dan and Dave don’t actually write as well as George does (you know, the author of those ‘boring’ books the wildly successful series is actually based on). The first three seasons stuck reasonably close to the canon. By season 4 some of the storylines needed to cross over to introduce elements from books four and five. But because Dan and Dave are now indiscriminately trimming the ‘fat’ from the cast, killing off people who haven’t died in the books, abandoning vast storylines from the books and introducing all new plot lines of their very own, the descent into chaos and ruin has begun. Buckle up.
Last season the showrunners not only revealed their spectacular lack of understanding of various characters, Cersei and Jaime being the main problems, they also showed an embarrassingly pedestrian view of the fantasy genre in general. Last season we were subjected to fireballs (seriously?), this season, it’s nipples on breastplates. Last season we suffered through their fan-boy adoration of Cersei Lannister, and their tiresome sad faces and sombre tones imploring us to remember Joffrey was ‘just a boy’. Millions of fans worldwide ignored them completely and celebrated by plastering the internet with grotesque, sticky-faced pictures of Joffrey’s death mask. This season we’re likely to see Cersei’s arrest as a terrible ‘tragedy’. Look I love Lena Heady too (who doesn’t?) but this ‘clever’ and ‘misunderstood’ version of Cersei is just so false and dishonest to the original character that she barely resembles her. Give it a rest already. And for the love of dragons, please stop ruining Jaime’s character.
It’s clear they love Cersei so much they’re prepared to overlook continuity, as episode one’s opening scene would indicate. I was very surprised to see Cersei’s scene with Maggy the Frog, with Maggy several decades younger than her book counterpart. But no matter. If I am remembering correctly they usually don’t do flashback scenes. I was expecting the ‘Valonqar prophecy’ which would have actually fit in with the show, but they left it out. Instead they focused on Cersei’s marriage to Robert and her children. They also made an error in the opening scene as Maggy told Cersei she would have three children. Only Dan and Dave, back in Season One, gave Cersei an extra child, a black-haired boy who died, a ‘trauma’ she shared with Cat Stark after Bran was injured. Of course in the book when Cersei fell pregnant to Robert, Jamie arranged for an abortion, so she actually did only give birth to three children. It’s Dan and Dave who gave her four, all to make us feel sorry for her of course.
Varys’s storyline also seems somewhat muddled, with him claiming he has supported Daenerys all along – wasn’t that Varys who was encouraging Robert to kill her in Season One? No matter. That can probably be explained away. But the dialogue between Tyrion and Varys was just gauche, especially Varys’ jarringly modern use of “our country”. That’s what happens of course, when the showrunners have to move away from actually adapting material and write their own dialogue. We’ll see plenty more of it over the next three seasons.
I don’t know why Loras is there, other than to remind us he is gay. Yes, yes we get it. You think you’re very progressive. Also, Loras is gay. Remember the cringe-worthy explanation of Oberyn’s sexuality we were given last season? Thanks Dan and Dave, maybe you’ll tell us about the birds and the bees next. Perhaps Loras will be given some clothing again soon.
I have not watched any of the leaked episodes although I have seen many dire, spoiler-free warnings about the internet exploding after they air. Sansa and Baelish appear to be heading towards Winterfell and the Boltons, without Harry the Heir. Heading towards Winterfell could be a simple matter of rallying allies against the Boltons to take it back (as there seems to be no other army from the Vale accompanying them) but both Sophie Turner’s comment that she filmed a ‘super-traumatic’ scene for season 5 and Iwan Rheon saying he was very disturbed by some of Ramsay’s scenes and didn’t really want to film them isn’t giving me much hope if Sansa is heading somewhere in Ramsay’s vicinity. I really hope I am wrong.
Tyrion is heading straight for Daeny rather than tarrying with his slave storyline, and I suspect they’ll pick Jorah up on the road somewhere. Now Prince Aegon seems to have been abandoned Varys is heading straight for Daeny as well. Sir Kevan has reappeared, perhaps just in time to be murdered? So at this point we might expect Daeny to move against the Lannisters, or whoever is on the throne by the end of the season, by early season six. Why don’t we just finish it off in six seasons and get it over and done with?
Next week, Arya (hooray!), Dorne (which almost didn’t make the cut), and maybe some nipples on breastplates.