Game of Thrones fans eagerly anticipated last night’s episode opening season four. To help put the story in context, and to remind myself of the characters and their back story, I’ve been re-reading the books. Season four begins in the second half of the third book, A Storm of Swords, just after Robb Stark and his forces have been slaughtered at the Red Wedding by the scheming and now-cursed Walder Frey.
Having just read the book prior to last night’s broadcast, you can’t help but notice the differences. That’s not surprising, of course — the books are huge and sprawling, and if you were to faithfully recreate every fight scene, character, and vignette, the series would be impossibly expensive to film and last forever. In a nod to the realities of TV storytelling, some characters and incidents need to be cut. (And, it being HBO, the whorehouse settings, where some random nakedness can be displayed, tend to be accentuated.)
In addition, some of the more subtle aspects of the books and, particularly, the conversations of the characters are changed to direct statements in an effort to make clear, in an instant, a realization that books might convey to a reader after 50 pages of careful writing. Last night’s observation by Jaime Lannister that Cersei Baratheon is drinking more than she had been previously is a good example.
What are some of the other differences? Characters tend to be a bit more pointed on TV. For example, the writers of Game of Thrones never miss a chance to insert the execrable Joffrey Baratheon into a scene and have him say something that reconfirms what a miserable, bullying, craven little bastard he truly is. I don’t mind that, either, because anything that makes that sniveling character easier to hate is fine with me. And, because I read the books after I started to watch the show, I don’t have the disconnect that happens when you read a book first, fix a mental image of the characters in your head, then have to get used to a different person when the story hits the small screen.
I’m glad I re-read A Storm of Swords, which is packed with great scenes and shocking developments. I’m ready for season four, which should be a very wild ride.