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3 Things Game of Thrones did Better in the TV Series than in the Books
Books often don’t translate well to screens because of the difference in narrative tools available to both mediums, but sometimes the content of a book is so intensive and engaging in itself that even without the narrative power of the written word, the story glows on-screen. Such is the case for George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire saga, which HBO has turned into the hugely successfully Game of Thrones miniseries.
Well into its third hit season, Game of Thrones continues to do well with ratings, critics, and fans alike. I personally don’t know many people who have irredeemable issues with how the TV series has brought the book saga to life. Of course, many would have small problems with details here and there, but by and large, most people I know are pretty satisfied – thus far. While it’s understandable that some details and story developments will inevitably be different on TV than they are in the books, there have also been some moments and details added into the TV series that, in some ways, have given the story of the war in the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros even more depth than they had in the books. Well, actually, since the TV series took some and added some in exchange, one could say they’re fairly even. But I digress. Here are three things that I personally believe the TV series did better than the books.
Renly Baratheon and Loras Tyrell’s Relationship
The baby stag and the fighting rose. In the TV series, there is no doubt that they’re gay and they dig each other. This is made glaringly apparent by how enthusiastically one literally devours the other in some of the series’ R-rated scenes that dangerously resembles softcore porn. On the more tender side of things, their genuine love for each other also shines through in Loras’ devotion to Renly’s vengeance when he was slain by Stannis Baratheon’s shadow care of Lady Melisandre. Bottom-line: they’re gay. In the books, however, they were portrayed to be close confidants, perhaps it was even hinted that something homosexual was afoot, but from the moment Renly’s name was first mentioned to the time of his death, only devotion and loyalty were apparent. No love, no sex, no homo. Of course, in retrospect, anyone who could read between the lines can possibly reach that conclusion.
So, how did Renly and Loras’ gay sexual and romantic relationship make the TV series better? Game of Thrones revolves around sex, love, devotion and loyalty (and its opposite, betrayal), and the taboo. Renly and Loras’ relationship may not be a big deal in some States where same-sex marriage is legal, but in a medieval fantasy setting where royalty is expected to be ideal, regal standards (though they almost always have the inevitable faults) and where only wildlings are expected to engage in sexual relations with the same sex or a different species, I can imagine it is. Where Cersei and Jaime’s taboo was incest, Renly and Loras’ taboo was sexual and romantic relations. Of course, it also shows the depth of devotion the Tyrells would have given the would-be King Renly. It portrays the duality of the pedestal that is royalty – on one hand regal, respected, and proud, on the other secretive, taboo, and thrillingly illicit.
Where in the books Renly came and went like a royal afterthought with not much mind given to his personal background and motivations, and where Loras was portrayed as just a pretty face with some combat prowess under different cloaks of loyalty, in the TV series they were given depth and more character.
Joffrey Baratheon Lannister’s Level of Douchebaggery
King Joffrey is like Harry Potter’s Malfoy raised to the tenth power; a royal douchebag with a small mind and an even smaller heart. In the books, that’s all he is: a jerk with power. A weak-minded individual given more authority than a hundred of him could handle, with his ideas of kingship straight out of doucheland. It makes for a wonderful character people would love to hate, but what’s under all that douche-ness?
In the TV series, Joffrey explores his thirst for power and his twisted thrill at watching people suffer and die. Cersei and Tyrion even discussed it briefly, citing the Targaryens as an example of a family who marries sons to daughters and either genius or madness results from the union. Joffrey, it appears, suffers from one of the most basic reasons why incest is taboo even in the real world – genetic predisposition to mental instability. Joffrey is a cowed, whimpering loser when faced with odds stacked up against him, and a tyrant deluded with the idea that the world owes him everything when he holds all the power. Deeper into his psyche, the TV series explores his fascination with one of the most feral and fundamental forms of power that one man could wield over another: the power of pain and death. It even gives us an excuse; one that has held true for a different royal family.
Adding a reason for Joffrey’s penchant for douchebaggery gives us more than a person to hate, but a reason for it. It also gives us a glimpse of probably the same madness that The Mad King suffered from before Robert Baratheon instigated the rebellion that overthrew him. Beyond that, it provides a sliver of a chance that somehow Joffrey can be redeemed like any other person with a severe psychological disorder. Joffrey needs to see Dr. Phil.
Margaery Tyrell’s Cunning
Don’t tell my wife, but I think Margaery is hot. Beyond her great figure and alluring eyes, however, is something far sexier and more dangerous: a cunning intelligence that makes her one of the most powerful females in the series. She puts all the gifts the gods gave her to good use too, wooing the masses, butting heads with Queen Regent Cersei, and manipulating King Joffrey.
While Margaery was also quite the femme fatale in the books, most of the plans came from the Tyrells in general, and her grandmother, the “Queen of Thorns,” Lady Olena (gods bless this old soul, or they’ll be sorry). Margaery was never shown to be at the heart of the manipulation, merely at the forefront because of her position as queen-to-be. In the TV series, we can see her charitable side winning over the masses from an already unloved Queen Regent. We can see her expertly brushing aside Joffrey’s questioning of her allegiance to the late Renly, and subsequently, how she uses Joffrey’s base thirst for power to become closer to him and manipulate him. Hot, I tell you.
It’s nice to see that one of the Four Queens (small spoiler there) actually has the substance that makes her formidable. We can see Cersei’s tenacity and Daenerys’ will forged from dragonfire. As the greatest immediate threat to Cersei’s control over King’s Landing and the Iron Throne, the TV series gave Margaery all the right tools to become not just “a” queen, but “The” queen.
Now, why am I so fixated on the details? What can these details about these people really contribute to making the TV series better? Consider this claim: the main story of the book saga of A Song of Ice and Fire is totally simple and overrated. If you look at it from the “big picture” point of view, it’s true. The grand scheme of each book can be summed up in a few paragraphs like any other story. What makes the book saga – and the TV series – so wonderfully engaging, however, is the details. These seemingly small things make the story, the people, more real, more relatable, and thus more easily lovable or despicable.
You know Jon Snow’s struggles of isolation and wanting to be a part of something he simply cannot be, waiting at the fringes of a family he cannot belong to. You feel Tyrion’s pain when, even with his superior intellect and excellent critical thinking, he’s still forever the outcast, a prisoner of his own physique, blamed by almost his entire family for the loss of (by all accounts, what seems to be a wonderful) wife and mother. You heft the same weight of responsibility Daenerys does with her Khalasar, her dragons, and her conquest, only you have your family, your school, or your work instead. Every twitch of the face, every movement of the hands presents something real to relate to in the books, and we see nearly the same attention to detail in the TV series. It’s true that we know the White Walkers will be defeated (or won’t they?), though they might be the coolest thing to happen to zombies since they became mainstream. Forget that. The gods are in the details, and the details that the TV series are bringing into the story are making things a lot juicier for all of us. It’s how they are defeated that makes it a hit. It’s how Renly and Loras’ relationship, how Joffrey’s behavior, and how Margaery’s cunning fit into the grand scheme of things that makes it a whole lot better.
I sincerely hope that more such nuances are yet to come. [by G Dino]