Mar 18 2013 10:00am

Nitpicks and Not Being a Know-It-All: Talking to Your Friends About Game of Thrones (When They Haven’t Read the Books)

Game of Thrones books show things that bother

When people talk about the mainstreaming of geek culture, the evolution of George R. R. Martin’s hugely popular Song of Ice and Fire series into the pop culture juggernaut that is HBO’s Game of Thrones is invariably noted as a sterling example of the mainstreaming trend. As always, I’m happy to see the fantasy genre making a splash and drawing new fans and new readers in—but as with any adaption, there’s bound to be a divide between two fan factions: those who’ve read the original books, and those who haven’t.

[Note: Spoilers for the books through A Storm of Swords are at least hinted at below, so proceed with caution!]

I’ve been utterly delighted to see how popular the show has become with most of my friends and family members—some of whom have started reading the books, in between seasons. Most of them, however, have not picked up the novels, and that’s okay. Would I like them to read the books? Sure. But it’s not about me. It doesn’t make their enjoyment of the show any more or less valid or genuine than mine is…but it does sometimes make it difficult to discuss the show without sounding like a crazy person. Right? Maybe it’s just me.

My problem is that when I find myself in an in-depth discussion of the series with friends who haven’t read the books, I sometimes hear myself morphing, Jekyll and Hyde-style, into the Comic Book Store Guy from The Simpsons. It’s like there’s just enough of a divide between the Westeros of the books and the HBO version to bring out the terrible, know-it-all, detail-obsessed dork that lurks in the hearts of the most seemingly normal and well-adjusted fans. One minute, you’re having a pleasant chat about the joys of Joffrey-slapping or whatever, doing your level best to politely avoid spoilers, and the next minute you feel like you’re shifting from Smeagol the Totally Mellow, Non-Psychotic Hobbit into a sputtering, muttering, sweaty, wild-eyed pop cultural Gollum choking over some relatively minor detail, all because people who haven’t read the books are going to have an inherently different way of interpreting the series than people who have.

And while it’s important to never to unleash the beast on the poor, unsuspecting folks who think that Asha Greyjoy’s name is “Yara” and who have to put up with all the creepy whispering about weddings that we Book People have been doing just out of earshot since last season, I think that now might be a good time to exorcise of few of the petty, nitpicky demons howling in the nerdy abyss between us and them. These are just a few of the weird sticking points I’ve personally run into over the past year or two while discussing the series with people who haven’t delved into the novels—maybe some of you have tripped over the same conversational stumbling blocks; maybe you’ve encountered entirely different obstacles; maybe you just think I’m nuts (totally possible). But since this is a safe space for rampant geeking out, I’m going to get to it, starting with my pettiest gripe of all:


Game of Thrones books show things that bother

There is no character named “Khaleesi.”

I try to let this one go, but I just can’t: “Khaleesi” is a Dothraki title—not the character’s name, you guys. Her name is Daenerys. Daenerys “Stormborn” Targaryen—Mother of Dragons, if you’re nasty. And yet, in my experience, people who’ve approached her story through the show only often tend to refer to her as “Khaleesi,” used as a proper name. I know they say it ALL THE TIME on the show (looking at you, Ser Jorah), but anyone who thinks that’s the character’s name just isn’t paying attention. And maybe it’s because I work on a site dedicated to SF/F, but it comes up way more often than it should—I even met a woman at New York Comic Con who claimed to be cosplaying as “Khaleesi from Game of Thrones.” And you know what? Good for her—she looked great, and I totally applaud her enthusiasm. I just wish people would start getting Dany’s name right; hasn’t she been through enough, people?

Again, I know it’s rather petty and that, given what a fantastic job HBO has done in terms of bringing the books to life, I have no right to complain, but again—sometimes you just can’t control the goofy triggers that threaten to wake your inner nerd-dragon. The Khaleesi issue sticks in my craw, for whatever reason, as a pet peeve, but most of my problems bridging the conversational gap between books-plus-show fandom and adaptation-only fandom are more complex, having more to do with changes and new characters introduced in the series. Taken at face value by viewers experiencing the story for the first time, these variations and revisions complicate the expectations of readers who think they know these characters and what’s in store for them (at least to some to degree)—and it can make for some stilted exchanges (and occasionally give rise to an ill-advised impulse to start lecturing) when worlds collide.


Game of Thrones books show things that bother

Talisa Maegyr: Not to be trusted?

Several of my (non-ASoIaF-reading) friends and family members have become devoted fans of Lady Talisa over the last season, and so I keep finding myself in conversations in which she’s held up as a (if not the) shining example of a strong, well-balanced female character. And I am all for strong, well-balanced female characters, believe me…I just can’t seem to summon up the same sense of boundless good will and adulation toward Talisa, partially because of what happens in A Storm of Swords and partially because George R. R. Martin has irreparably damaged my ability to trust new characters over the course of five books (not a complaint, for the record!).

Clearly, the show has give us more of Robb Stark’s story and POV than the books did, and in keeping with his expanded storyline, they apparently decided to ditch the pretty non-entity that was Jeyne Westerling. GRRM created the character of Lady T. for the series, and HBO cast Oona Chaplin in the role (she’s the granddaughter of Charlie Chaplin/great-granddaughter of Eugene O’Neill, for all you film, theater, and random trivia-loving fans out there). Chaplin is certainly a charismatic presence, and yet it’s taken me awhile to get used to the character and start thinking of her as real part of the story; for the first few episodes she appeared in, I couldn’t help thinking of her in terms of “Jeyne Westerling’s sassy Valyrian stand-in” or just “Sexy Medieval Nurse” (which, admittedly, sounds like something from the clearance rack at a low rent Halloween store).

Now that I’ve had some time to adjust, Talisa has grown on me (again, I think Chaplin’s done a great job in the role), but I can’t fully get on board with the hyper-enthusiastic Talisa Appreciation Society many of my friends have happily subscribed to. I wouldn’t go so far as to call her a Mary Sue—a term that’s both overused and just isn’t a proper fit, here—but so far, she does seem to exude a kind of Mary Sue-ish, too-good-to-be-true-ish vibe, at least to me. Maybe my expectations have become a bit warped thanks to…well, everything that happens in the novels (seriously: pick a page at random, and there’s probably some sort of treachery afoot), but fellow readers: do we trust her?

Talisa is basically tailor-made to be Robb Stark’s own personal version of a manic pixie dream girl—so instead of pursuing quirky, lighthearted adventures, she’s more into high-minded ideals, healing the wounded, and abandoning the trappings of nobility in favor of honorable pursuits and the accompanying moral high ground (Fact: the moral high ground is like catnip to Stark men). I’m as intrigued as the next fan to find out what happens next with Robb and Talisa, but I just can’t bring myself to buy into the character…or get too attached. People who haven’t read the books might not understand my reticence—but I have a feeling they’re in for some unspeakably traumatic surprises, this season.


Game of Thrones books show things that bother

Shae is…not quite what I expected.

In the same vein as Talisa, it’s taken me a little time to adjust to the show’s version of Shae. And again, it’s not that I think the actress (Sibel Kekilli) isn’t doing a very good job—her ability to move between a fierce defensiveness and touching warmth in the same scene is particularly impressive. But the character tends to be kind of humorless and intense in a way that’s fundamentally different from the Shae of the novels, who never took anything Tyrion said seriously. In the books, Shae might pout sometimes, but she spent plenty of time joking around and laughed often, and I understood the basis of their relationship to be tied to the fact that her lighthearted, mocking good humor was irresistible to Tyrion.

Tyrion uses humor as a defense mechanism, but he also wields it as a weapon, utilizing his quick wit to turn the tables against those who fail to take him seriously or treat him with any semblance of consideration or respect. In the books, I feel like Shae took a similar stance toward the world at large: a powerless figure scoffing at the pompous and powerful, rather than quaking or despairing. On the show, Shae is more guarded and standoffish—it’s still believable, but their relationship loses some of the charm, and (looking ahead) Shae’s eventual betrayal packs less of a devastating punch, at least for me, without that connection between them: the only person laughing with Tyrion, not at him, ultimately sells him out...and turns him into an object of supreme ridicule.

I suspect that Shae’s humor was borrowed and bundled into the character of Ros, another character created for the show (though technically originating from the books, where she was mentioned only as “the red-headed whore;” Ros is also given elements of Alayaya’s story from A Clash of Kings). Ros is quick-witted and generally easygoing where Shae is prickly and passionate–I’m assuming Martin and the other powers that be wanted to differentiate as much as possible between these two characters, lest casual viewers get their prostitutes all mixed up, or something. It makes no appreciable difference for people watching the show with no book-inspired expectation, but for me it changes the tenor of the Tyrion/Shae relationship quite a bit—and lord knows humor is a precious enough commodity around Westeros, as it is….


Game of Thrones books show things that bother

The softening (or at least humanizing) of Tywin Lannister.

Damn you, Charles Dance. Heading up a family filled with disturbingly charming sociopaths, you’ve managed to make me like the one character in Martin’s world that I knew was pure, unmitigated evil—and now most of my friends will never truly understand The Real Tywin Lannister. By which I mean the Tywin of the novels, who has earned a place of honor in the Right Bastard Hall of Fame—he’s like a less-sympathetic Darth Vader mixed with the dad from The Great Santini mixed with a particularly ill-tempered pit viper.

But on the show, Tywin’s taken a liking to Arya Stark (without knowing that she is, in fact, a Stark), and even his suspicions about her background and political sympathies don’t stop him from taking her under his wing during his sojourn at Harrenhal. He takes her on as a servant, talks and shares food with her, and quickly recognizes her intelligence…he’s arguably nicer to Arya than anyone’s been since her father died, and I AM NOT MADE OF STONE. Dance is still magnificently frigid and calculating in his dealings with his children and his other underlings, but he’s a far cry from the hateful, brilliant, merciless monster I’d come to expect from the books, so again—while I appreciate the change as an interesting development from the original text, it can be difficult to talk about Tywin with people uninitiated into his total bastard-dom.

Similarly, I think people watching the show without any previous exposure to Cersei Lannister (played by Lena Headey) are getting a slightly kinder view of an extremely complex character. Obviously, Cersei eventually gets her own POV chapters in the series (beginning in A Feast for Crows), but even then, she’s certainly not winning Miss Congeniality any time soon—she’s always cultivated more of a bitter, boozy Real Housewives of Westeros vibe. In all seriousness, she’s an incredibly strong, angry, frustrated character with many, many faults, but so far the show has mainly played up two of Cersei’s major facets: her almost militantly maternalistic devotion to her children and her proto-feminist frustration at being merely a pawn in a man’s world. She remains deeply flawed and antagonistic, but overall she’s being positioned on the show as a distinctly more sympathetic character: a mother lion protecting her cubs, a tormented rebel soul at odds with the system—while still being harsh and abusive toward Sansa, Tyrion, and her assorted underlings.

On the bright side, I’d argue that this somewhat revamped characterization of the Lannisters (both Tywin and Cersei) all ties back into the exact quality that makes Martin’s writing so appealing—his project of toying with the reader’s emotions, gleefully muddling heroes and villains, setting up repellent characters that one instantly despises and then showing you their point of view, forcing you to reconsider everything and learn to love them against your will. His backstories are consistently shifting, the facts rearranging themselves from chapter to chapter, book to book until you realize that (much like Jon Snow) you know nothing about what happened in the past, and even the present is tricky and uncertain at best. So getting yet another version of events, through the show, actually fits in remarkable neatly with the way narrative is approached in Martin’s books—it’s just another slightly different retelling of the facts, with a few new perspectives. Some details only hinted at before get expanded, while some threads disappear, and it’s impossible to tell whether they’ve been cut out, or simply remain unseen in the weave of the new pattern.

And of course, in the end, great storytelling is all that matters, right? After all, one rabid viewer’s beloved Lady Talisa is another’s Sultry Replacement Jeyne. Like the song says, you say Yara, and I say Asha; you say Khaleesi, I say Daenerys, so I’ll continue to do my best to muzzle my annoying, nerd-splaining impulse as much as possible as we start the new season. Whether you’ve read the books or not, I think we can all agree that there’s a certain tiny, angry blonde who needs to stop wandering around Qarth insisting to anyone that will listen that she’s the Mother of Dragons all the time. Because WE GET IT. We got it the first million times. Honey, we miss Drogo, too, but it is time to find yourself a stable plotline and settle down!

In the meantime, we Book People will be over here, muttering to ourselves about how you better beware of creepy, gold-toothed gigolos in your very near future. Or who knows? Maybe not. The one thing I’m sure of is that March 31st better get here in a hurry.

Bridget McGovern is the managing editor of In some circles she is known as the Auntie of Dragons.

1. Jim12345
It's spelled Shae.
Rob Munnelly
2. RobMRobM
My big peeve is emo Jon Snow in the TV show compared to the more competent, cooler, Jon Snow in the books. It's not Kit's fault - he's just written that way.
3. thelastgoodkiss
The thing that gets me is how they aged up the kids. I totally get it, but there's something so much more horrific about a seven year old being thrown out a window than a ten year old. And in the books, Robb is named a freaking king at like fifteen! And Arya is such a badass at nine or ten! (I could go on.) It's a relatively small detail, but somehow the age difference just really changes the story for me. I don't mind it, exactly. But it can be frustrating when talking to someone who hasn't read the books (or who watched the show first and cannot properly imagine the kids as being younger than they're portrayed), because I just want to shout "YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND JUST HOW EPIC/AWFUL THIS SITUATION REALLY IS."
Bridget McGovern
4. BMcGovern
@Jim12345: Fixed; apparently I was so focused on not mangling "Daenerys" that I confused poor Shae with...the butter, maybe, for a paragraph or two.

@RobM: Yeah, that's a tough one! I love Jon, obviously, but most of my non-ASoIaF-reading friends find him to be irritatingly pouty and inept on the series. Hopefully the writers will let him show a little more backbone in the coming season!
5. cleopatra2525
I couldn't have told you Lady Talisa's name before I read this... to me she was always 'Not Jeyne Westerling'. I wonder if she goes to the Twins with Robb or if she stays away like the real Jeyne.
Chris Long
7. radynski
For me, one of the biggest disappointments of the show was how they dealt with Stannis and Davos. I don't believe they introduced those characters very well, or their motivations. As such, it really muddled their story and had my non-reader friends scratching their heads about who the hell these people were.

They really needed to put the story of Stannis cutting off Davos' fingers in the first episode to set up their personalities. Instead, it gets mentioned half-way through the season. Very poorly done. The whole first season is Lannister vs. Stark and no one understood why we should care about the Brothers Baratheon.
Rob Munnelly
8. RobMRobM
Bridget - I think the writers are all about the character arc - so they are starting Jon on the low side so that the high side later will be that much more meaningful.

Rad@7 - I actually liked the Stannis/Davos introduction. Did a nice job of characterizing the two of them up front without doing a total info dump up front. I can understand why you and others might think the contrary, however,
9. Kallistrate
I have been having a huge problem with all of these except Talisa (I wrote her off as being a straight Jeyne substitute, but now you've made me wonder...).

My number two peeve is the Khaleesi issue, and I haven't come up with a way to correct people without foaming and flailing my arms about, so I end up saying nothing and grinding a few more millimeters off my teeth. Shae bothered me a lot at first, but that's faded as I get used to the new take on her character, and while the concept "nice" Tywin drives me up the wall, I love Charles Dance so much I mostly make dolphin-like "eeee!" sounds of joy through all his dialogue.

My biggest problem with the show as a longtime reader of the books is Ros. Ros serves zero purpose in the show except to serve as a means to cram more sex and nudity into a series that already has plenty at the expense of plot and detail. I have no problem with the sex in the book (my mother gave me her advance copy of Game of Thrones when it arrived, and I was pretty young), and in fact I feel it adds a lot to the feel of Westeros and the characters. There are huge amounts of character development, interesting supporting plots, and world building that are chopped out of the TV show purely for time issues, but somehow they manage to fit in the unneccessary character of Ros (she shows us Littlefinger is treacherous after he betrays Ned and that Joffrey is mean well after that's been adequately portrayed, and that's it), Littlefinger's brothel, and what amounts to extremely unerotic porn.

I'm all for porn, and I'm all for nudity in shows when it furthers an emotion or character development, but, honestly, it is so easy to get sexier, higher-quality porn for free at any time of the day or night that I can't understand why HBO insists its shows add in as much as they can (the differences in tone between Harris's fairly innocently sexy Sookie books and True Blood is astonishing, although half of that can be attributed to the horribly unrealistic dialog on the show). It's fine on shows like Showtime's Spartacus, because the plot was created and paced to allow for it, but when you're cutting out wonderful touches like Valyrian steel and what happened to Ice, and condensing characters because you just don't have time to introduce them all in order to manufacture cheap shock value by wiping bodily fluids off a whore's mouth? I get upset. I want to see the books come to fully realized life, not be insulted by HBO's assumption that I'll only watch something complicated if there's a breast visible every few minutes to keep me focused.
Chris Nelly
10. Aeryl
I am definitely side eyeing Talisa, she's just a little too go to be true, and like you said it doesn't take a rocket science to know, like you said, that moral high ground is catnip to Stark men, and set a trap accordingly. Yet, at the same time from some of the shots I've seen, it seems Talisa goes to the Twins. So we shall see, I think the show will give a definitive answer to that question as it has others.

The difference between the Shae of the books and the show was shocking to me, as the relationship is definitely played with some genuine affection on the show. My guess is that this season, where the show has placed her as Sansa's maid, is going to drive her away from Tyrion to do what she does.

I love Ros. I know she is the most polarizing non book character, mainly because she's used for all the sexposition, but I love her. I think her role has helped humanize the prostitutes on the show, where they are mostly ignored in the books, and provided a through line for the sexual violence. That scene with Joffrey and Daisy was terrible, but would it have had the impact if it hadn't been Ros, the girl who's been with us since Tyrion's first scene? Likely not, so I definitely think there was a purpose to including her so prominently, and this season, with Varys' proposal and a heightened presence with LF, I think she will get to exercise some agency, instead of being acted upon.
Chris Nelly
11. Aeryl
@9, Some of the stuff you are talking about hasn't been covered by the books at this point in the timeline, like what happened to Ice. That won't be revealed until right before Joffrey's wedding. Ros is a very important character, she establishes a POV the books neglect, the POV of the average prostitute. She is definitely getting more agency this season, which I am excited for.

And Spartacus is on Starz, but that's an interesting point. My coworkers I watch GOT with(who don't read the books, this is the THREAD FOR MY PAIN) tried Spartacus, and felt it to over the top compared to GOT in re sex and violence, though I agree with you about how HBO can cram it in unneccessarily. But I definitely feel Ros is going somewhere in the story on the show, rather than JUST a sexpo character, though that wasn't immediately obvious.
Sky Thibedeau
12. SkylarkThibedeau
I have the same issue with "Walking Dead". What happens in the comics is Way different from the TV (and most could not be shown on tv even with the leeway of the usa network). Daryl and Merle are kinda like Shae but Darryl is really really cool
Jakub Wrobel
13. ptyx
While I understand that Talisa is quite different from Jeyne, I don't get what is the issue with Jeyne exactly. I mean I wouldn't blame her for what happens to Robb in the books. IMO she is genuinely in love with him and has no active part in all the scheming.

Re: Jon - more competent and cooler in the books? Really? Well, he has some good moments, but his emo nature reveals itself just the same every now and then.

Also - Qarth, not Quarth and Valyrian, not Valerian :)
14. Lunarose
You just convinced me NOT to watch the show. I was already having issues with 13 and 14 year olds that looked between the ages of 16 and 21, from the stills I've seen of the characters. And the Imp is supposed to be homely, but they went with a very attractive actor instead. I wonder how they are doing the make up for him now? OR did they get rid of the little accident with the axe?
Chris Nelly
15. Aeryl
@13, The book never definitively answers this, but her mother was apparently in league with Tywin, slipping her potions that Jeyne claims are to help her concieve, but she could be colluding with her mother to prevent pregnancy. She took a very active role in seperating Robb from Grey Wind, don't forget. I think they went a different route with Talisa so the show could give a definitive answer about things that are only hinted at in the books, like some relationships.
Chris Nelly
16. Aeryl
@14, Mandon Moore attacked him, but it just left a scar across his face, not removed his nose. They had to age up the kids, reading about this stuff is bad enough, I think a lot of viewers would be turned offto see this stuff happen to even younger children.

YMMV, and all, but the shows are a very different creature than the book and it's entirely possible to enjoy them both for the different things they can do.
Alan Brown
17. AlanBrown
The stories are different in the book and on TV. They need to be, because effective storytelling works differently in different media. You can argue over exactly what needed to change and how much, but a slavish reproduction of the book on TV just wouldn't work. And people who are exposed to only one version of the work are going to have a different understanding of the story.
I hope I don't offend anyone by saying this, but I just feel that complaining about all this is a waste of time and energy.
Genevieve Williams
18. welltemperedwriter
One of the changes I've really rather enjoyed is seeing scenes between Varys and Littlefinger. We don't get those when reading the books because neither of them is a POV character, but it's such fun watching their verbal fencing.

Accordingly, I do think that Ros has a purpose beyond titillating the audience--she's an example of how Varys and Littlefinger do their work, and how one of them might co-opt the sources of the other. The scene where Varys visits the brothel and tells Ros that he protects the people who work for him was very nicely done.
Deana Whitney
19. Braid_Tug
Re: Aging up the kids. As I understand it, GRRM thought it was a great idea, and wished he could go back and do it for the books.

Because Bran as a 7 year old should not have been as great as he is in the books. And Ricson at age 2 would really not be able to hold it together, or talk like he did. I have a 2 year old, they are not that aware.
GRRM always wrote them like they were older, and I feel assigned random ages to them. Now the show gives them the age they were written at.

And find a Hollywood actor that is as ugly as Tyrion is supposed to be. Would people still watch? Someone on Leigh’s Read of the books pointed out, maybe he’s not as ugly as we think. All the whores couldn’t be that great of actors and willing to bed a troll for gold. But how often does the average person think of themselves as uglier than they truly are? Especially if you grew up with siblings that are the pinnacle of attractiveness?

Jenye vs. Talisa:
Maybe HBO was being lazy and didn’t want to introduce her and her whole family, to the plot. I don’t know. But they altered everything about it and how the news of the boys’ death affected Rob and Cat.

Best thing I got out of the show was how to pronounce all the names.
20. Kallistrate
@11 I see what you mean about Ros's POV being unique, however, I'm not sure they go about it the right way. For me, I got more of that POV from several characters across the books, Shae included, than I have out of Ros (although I grant it would be impossible to use all the bit characters from the novels). Alayaya was a better example (we knew where she came from, where she worked, her family, what she had aspired to and what she had reached, only to see it torn away from her on a royal whim based on a mere rumor). With Ros, we see that prostitution is a grim job, but we don't ever see why she's in it, why she's forced to stay, or anything about her as a character (unlike the minor characters in the books, for whom we often see a whole history). For me, it seems like she's only ever used as a device to show more of other people, often without any real character advancement for either, or boobs. I don't hate the character of Ros (or the actress - I think she does a fine job); I dislike the way she so often seems to simply be the venue by which they get in the most nudity because most of the actresses have a stronger nudity clause in their contracts. I have been looking at her as a throwaway character, though, and not as a permanent one throughout the series, but you're right, she does seem to be one that will stick around. Maybe looking at her that way will change how I feel (she has gotten better in Season 2, it's true).

We learn about the importance of Ice in the first book (I wasn't referring to how it affects the Others or its ending as much as the emotional ties to these family swords, and the fact that the Lannisters don't have theirs). The fact that the emblem of his honor was stripped from Ned and used to behead him was very poignant, and is amplified later by its fate. Yes, they might mention it later, but it won't have the emotional impact it should.

And yes, Spartacus is incredibly over the top (I obviously don't watch it since I don't have any clue what channel it's on :D). I only meant to point out that the gratuitous violence and nudity it's known for can have its place, just as long as it isn't getting screentime instead of something that actually serves the plot.
21. Kallistrate
@17 I don't think anyone would argue that all of the changes made during the adaptation were bad. As was pointed out above, the Littlefinger/Varys dynamic was improved a lot with the addition of a single scene, deepening the intrigues of the court in a way that the book, with its POV characters, could not (since we, the reader, arrive with Ned at court, we're limited to his somewhat naive perception of the council, but in the show we're able to see how they interact with each other). For every tiny change that might have been better in the book (e.g. Qartheen gowns), there were a dozen details that only work in an audio/visual medium (e.g. the Dothraki language being spoken). This article wasn't complaining about the changes, but commenting that some of the differences make bridging the seperate audiences a bit tricky.
Chris Nelly
22. Aeryl
@20, I will admit than I tend to be defensive of Ros, cuz A) I love her and B) She seems to draw the most fanboy hate(not that that's what you were doing), so I'm overprotective(I am the same way with Arya).

And yeah they are failing to maximize her potential by failing to give her backstory other than Theon's favorite. One of the things being discussed over on the spoiler thread for the book read, is how much of these books are about deconstructing narratives, and I think the show is doing much of the same. I can definitely see "country whore goes to the big city" getting some deconstruction here.
23. Lsana
Of the changes you've mentioned, I think the only one that really bugs me would be people who think Dany's name is Khaleesi, though in that case I would think that you can manage a gentle correction without sounding too much like Comic Book Guy. After all, the show has mentioned her name a few times, even if not very much. She's "the white-haired lady in the desert" to those of my friends who haven't read the books.

I can see how Talisa might present a problem for the readers/viewers, because it strikes me that she's smart enough not to be used unknowingly, so either she's as sainted as she seems (to which anyone familiar with books says, "Fat chance"), or she's actively involved in betraying Robb (which the TV show fans might recoil in horror from).

Shae...I didn't have much of an impression from her in the books, honestly, except the feeling she was kind of a bitch. I've gotten to like her more here, and this girl's betrayal will hurt more than the entirely predictable one from the Shae of the books.

As far as Cersei is concerned, I think she's really pretty much the same as she was in the books at this point: a dangerous villain, but one who honestly loves her children and who has a point about the unfairness of what happens to her because she's a woman. Strangely it isn't until she becomes a PoV character that she really loses all sympathy.
Chris Nelly
24. Aeryl
@24 It is a testament to Lena Headey's acting that I CANNOT stand Cersei and couldn't even before I read her POV in the books, when typically she is the type of character I defend endlessly. I like Atia from Rome more than Cersei, and that is saying something, because Cersei hasn't yet kidnapped, raped and tortured a feminine rival(only kidnapped and put on trial) YET, and then drive that rival to commit suicide in front of your own home to make sure EVERYONE knew what a first class evil person you are.
25. Slynt
That was an interesting read. I'm myself torn between the books and the show, but I try to enjoy the show for what it is though it's difficult with some of the changes.
Interestingly (perhaps) none of your pet peeves are the same as mine. Well, I wish Tywin was more like book-Tywin, and I struggled with the new Shae and can't wrap my head around Talisa, but they aren't the worst culprits for me. Mine are:

#1) The look of the Others. Really, it bugs me so much that the end scene of Season 2, Episode 10 made me angry. Their appearance was too silly to be taken seriously in my opinion and took away all the impact the scene when Grandpa Other watches Sam.

#2) Littlefinger. I think they found the perfect man looks-wise, but I just can't buy the way he delivers his dialogue. Feels so flat.

#3) The Hound/Sandor Clegane. Same as with Littlefinger, really. But I think he'll come into his own.

#4) The lack of epic size especially during the Tourney of the Hand, and any scene where Daenerys is leading her people (like when she's outside Qarth, her army is what 20 strong?)

#5) Though I realize it has to be this way, I wish there were more scenes, dialogue and characters lifted straight from the book. I find that Martin's writing is already good enough for TV but I might be biased :) I miss all the secondary and tertiary characters like Jacelyn Bywater, Jhalabhar Xho, etc. I know I'm a nerd.
Chris Nelly
26. Aeryl
One of the strangest things about the show, and it is huge reversal of most fantasy adaptations, is that the filmed version is more explicit than the book. Usually the books give you more detailed information and adaptations have to skim over stuff. But because of the POV technique GRRM uses that the show cannot replicate, the show is outright confirming things that are only hinted at in the books, because no one is there to see it.
27. Ed Avern
Is agree with most of what you say, except on the Tywin front. Now, don't get me wrong, Tywin's attitude to Tyrion is horrendous, and there's no denying he's a cold bastard, but I never felt that he was completely unsympathetic. In particular the scene where Jamie's aunt tells him about how Tywin was as a child shows where a lot of the character's brutality is coming from.
Constance Sublette
28. Zorra
I have no problems since not a single person in my daily circles, whether home, family, friends, colleagues, have either read the books or watched the show. They haven't been able to avoid all the references that go on all the time, so they know what it is. But when looking at the television they do love, and trailers, and so on come on, their attitude is -- "Meh," and, "The writing sounds awful."

They do love the television that they love though, in case it sounds as though my friends and family are non-viewers.

All of them: Justified, yes. Treme, absolutely! Deadwood, for sure. And my Albuquerque friends love Breaking Bad, though the rest of us, not so much.

Love, C.
Ian Johnson
29. IanPJohnson
Probably another concern with aging up the Starklings was the fact that there aren't as many actors at the age of seven (or thereabouts) who can deliver a more subtle, nuanced performance like the actor who plays Bran (forgot his name momentarily; brain fart) is capable of giving. Which makes sense, after all. They're seven.
Chris Nelly
30. Aeryl
Isaac Hempstead Wright. I am the self proclaimed president of the fan club for the Stark kids.
Tim Marshall
31. smaug86
Considering that it is Jeyne's mother that works behind the scenes with Tywin Lannister to remove Robb and his army from the board, I am curious to see how everything gets set up in the tv series. Seeing as how it was GRRM himself that removed Jeyne, he must have given the producers something as good, storywise, in replacement.
Alan Brown
32. AlanBrown
@21 In an age where we have learned to embrace all sorts of diversity, why is it that we can't deal with the fact that there are people who view a TV show through a different perspective than we do? ;-)
33. Nessa
I agree on Tywin, Ros and Shae. I really can't reconcile Charles Dance's character with the proud, cruel, and calculating Tywin I've come to know and loathe in the novels. The way they managed to humanize Tywin seemed almost unreal at times - the man who tells Arya she should "eat more and be less skinny" seems a far cry from the same man who ordered the deaths of Aegon and Rhaenys (and 'forgot' about Elia, ha!) and who's been tormenting Tyrion ever since the day he was born. I had a total WTF moment when Show!Tywin told Arya (almost fondly) that she reminded him of his daughter, Cersei. As far as I know, the most 'fatherly' conversation Book!Tywin ever had with Cersei was when he told her "You will marry, and you will breed" like she was only worthy to be a broodmare (her words).

Shae too, really bothered me for a specific reason. I always thought one of the reasons Tyrion got involved with Shae was to show how he had a tendency to fall in love too quickly with the wrong people. I always felt this connected back to his childhood, and his lack of caring relationships with women (dead mother, cruel sister, wife raped on Tywin's orders). Shae was always a calculating (but also free-spirited) woman in the book series, but the TV series has turned her into a trademark Hooker with a Heart of Gold. I suppose they might try to do something with the theme of 'jealousy' when Shae finds out Tyrion loves Sansa, but so far, I wish they'd kept the original Shae. And Ros is just annoying, 'nuff said.

Talisa was more of a disappointment to me. Originally, I was excited when I heard about the impending character change for Jeyne Westerling (who never struck me as the most interesting character in the book). But the change in her personality to Exotic Battlefield Nurse didn't seem realistic in the context of the series, where women often get raped even for looking at men funny. Put together with the changes in Robb's own character, their love was one huge mess I couldn't get on board with.

To end on a somewhat cheerful note, I actually don't mind it when people mistakenly call Dany Khaleesi. It's such a cute mistake to make, and I love to explain to them that Khaleesi is just her title and not her name.
Rob Munnelly
34. RobMRobM
My bigger problem with Robb-Talisa is that in the books it is clear that he slept with her in an evening of passion and then felt duty-bound to marry her. Thus, he literally chose the girl's honor over his family and bannermen's interests, especially where they are from such a wimpy house. Here, they had time to fall in love and it is not obviously clear she is of a much lower class noble house - both give a different dynamic to the issues going forward.
Chris Nelly
35. Aeryl
She's not eve Westerosi, she's from Volantis, and seems to have forsaken her wealth to do what she does, so there isn't even the same concern there.

My thought is it's to make the dynamic different, in the books he was trying to be honorable, in the show he is acting out of love. It seems to me that this is done so the show can give the definitive answer as to how intentional was the seduction of Robb? Either Talisa's story is bunk and she's working for Tywin(remember she shows up after a Lannister battle), or it's true love and show is about to show what THAT means in Westeros.
Iain Cupples
36. NumberNone
@33 Nessa: actually, IIRCin the books Cersei does recall some fond conversations with her father when she was younger, and the plan was still to marry her to Rhaegar. This would have been when her mother was still alive, I think. So it does fit with the idea that Tywin became more of a monster when Joanna died, and after the twin humiliation (pardon the expression) of having his overtures for the Cersei-Rhaegar marriage rejected and his heir swiped for the Kingsguard.
37. Emerson Harris
My wife stopped watching the show during the pilot when they turned the awkward first night of an arranged marriage into a rape. I enjoyed the show, but it made it clear this was a cheaper, uglier version that relied on shock value.
Shelly wb
38. shellywb
I don't really mind any of this from the fans very much. I'm just so excited that people are enjoying a fantasy, something many of them would never have considered before Game of Thrones was on. That means we'll get more in the future.

The only things that have annoyed me in the show itself are the sexing up of the series (understandable, given that it's HBO) but doing it at the expense of the things they're leaving out is annoying, the dumbing down of Dany's arc from season 2, and the Walking Other Dead.

Charles Dance's Tywin is so good I forgive them everything they did to the character.

Oh, about the aging up of the characters, GRRM said when he chose their ages that he didn't know much about kids and chose ages that were too young for them. He said that could he go back he'd have made them older, so really, the TV show is merely setting something straight for him.
39. Tim A.

Sure, but do you remember the later nights described? They basically became rape. The Dany-Drogo relationship felt like whiplash to me when reading, from the apprehension to relief on the wedding night, to nights of pain and anguish, to love. It's just easier to do that swap once in the show when you have more limited time.
Chris Nelly
40. Aeryl
@39, Yeah, he may have been tender that first night, but after she states than any time she objected he ignored her. So, for visual purposes, it makes sense to show that this one not a scenario where she had any agency.
41. BubbaCoop
You forgot "daughter of Geraldine Chaplin" of Dr. Zhivago, The Impossible
Theresa DeLucci
42. theresa_delucci
Ah, Jezebel called Dany Khaleesi today! Destroy them. And also check out the pretty Game of Thrones cast on the red carpet. Natalie Dormer (Plotty McPlot-face) is even wearing her weird sideways smirk.
Chris Nelly
43. Aeryl
Thanks for the link! Love Osha's hair, she's got a Little Mermaid theme rocking it!

And only Brienne could rock that gold lame dress.
Alan Brown
44. AlanBrown
@42 That was a fun link, sometimes it was kind of hard to guess who the actors were--a lot of them look very different without their wigs, costumes and makeup!
Chris Nelly
45. Aeryl
I heard an interview with Emilia Clarke where she talks about how she goes to Cons to meet fans, and none recognize her!

Oh, and Lisa Bonet is a lucky woman!
Brandon Lammers
46. wickedkinetic
maybe off-topic - but i'm wondering if Jeyne (and her TV counter-part) are secretly carrying King Rob's child and Jeyne is hiding/lying/disobeying her mother and Rob's male heir (before his siblings) would be next in line to the North - so if this becomes important in seasons 6/7 now the unborn King has a more dynamic momma - instead of the less dynamic Jeyne from the books....

but who knows what's coming in 3 or 4 years from HBO or GRRM? I just always felt all the attention called to 'better not be pregnant - better take care of it if you are - etc' plus the small-weak-once-powerful-house having a shot at a King in the family - too many possibilities for there not to be a pregnancy involved.....
47. Bean
Thank you so much for saying this, Bridget!:

"Whether you’ve read the books or not, I think we can all agree that
there’s a certain tiny, angry blonde who needs to stop wandering around Qarth insisting to anyone that will listen that she’s the Mother of Dragons all the time. Because WE GET IT."

I couldn't agree more - it's gotten to the point that every time the show cuts to a scene with Daenerys I just roll my eyes and mentally prepare myself for her bratty dragon-mother schtick. Her storyline is almost comically repetitive, and it bugs me that the show is trying to push her as some kind of all-mighty earth/dragon mother when she's among the cruelest villains out there. I mean, locking two people in a vault to slowly starve to death in total darkness? That's a slower torture than any a Lannister has devised! But mostly both she and her plotline are just dull - boring and blustering in equal measure. The precious few episodes that are free of the Daenery's subplot are pure bliss.
48. Margaret Garside
May I say a few words in the newbies' defense?

The Khaleesi 'mistake' is perfectly understandable. it's what the people around her call her most often, so it's how viewers new to the series will identify her. In the book, we see 'Danaerys' or 'Dany' constantly, so we have no trouble.

I don't think Tywin Lannister is more likeable; if anything, his rapport with Arya (Charles Dance and Maisie Williams were the best pairing in season two) makes his villainy that much more repulsive. My mother, who enjoys the show but who hasn't read the books, thinks he's a total SOB.

We must wait and see about Talisa; is she a plant, like Jeyne? And what will she do when events play out (yeah, I'm trying not to drop any spoilers).

BTW: Anyone else think that Jeyne might kill herself in the next book?
49. Eyeless621
I think the "Khaleesi" issue is because the title is a different language. No one is confusing "Your Grace" as Joffrey's name (or any other king's name). The two people I know who are watching the show without reading the books aren't confused on her name though, its used often enough I think (mostly by Dany herself yelling who she is all the time).
50. Maac
Yanno -- I read the books when they first came out, and reread them all just before the release of Dance With Dragons, and I still remain convinced that Book Tyrion only started out "ugly" in comparison to his ridiculously beauteous siblings, and only that mainly because his family is effing shallow and think just the fact of his achondroplasia IS ugliness, so of course they would say it all the time. I never thought I was supposed to believe Cersei's opinion. I was therefore very pleased when Peter Dinklage was cast.

And Re: Danaerys, both book and show -- I never thought either one was trying to convince me to like her -- only to position her as a plausible contender in the Game. I'm actively hoping she does not ever sit the Iron Throne, both because of her own personality and actions AND her family history, plus the subversion that excluding her would be, genre-wise. I feel for her, but I do not like her... but I like having her around as a character, for the story. (My opinion towards a great many SoIaF characters.)
Deana Whitney
51. Braid_Tug
Re: Jeyne. I first I thought you meant Rob's book wife Jayne, so my reaction was "Who cares?"
Then I thought you meant Jeyne Pool. Which I couldn't blame her. Her life sucks.

Re: Photo, I'm with AlenBrown. Could not ID half the women. The guys, easy. The girls, not so much.

@ Maac, I agree with you about Tyrion's "ugliness." Or lack thereof. But any person without a nose would still be a disturbing sight. Glad the show changed it to a facial scar. Easier on the makeup department too!
Maiane Bakroeva
52. Isilel
I thought that we also saw Tyrion from Jon's, Bran's, Sansa's and maybe (not sure) Cat's POVs and they all concurred that he was quite ugly?

Re: humanization of Tywin, in the later volumes we did get hints from his siblings, who were quite fond of him, that he did have a more human side, which he only showed to very few people, and his children were not included. We mosly saw him from Tyrion's PoV and he obviously was a magnificent bastard to the hilt during their interactions.

Tywin's cruel words to Cersei were after a series of truly epic screw-ups on her part, which almost got the family killed, don't forget.

Speaking of Shae, with all the changes to her character and her trying to convince Tyrion to leave the court for the Free Cities, I have to wonder if they aren't going to take the tragic misunderstanding route. I.e. maybe it will be evident to us that she was trying to get Tyrion's life spared an not just looking for number 1.

As to Talisa... Hm. I don't for a second believe in a completely unnecessary (and further detrimental to the North) son of Robb. Either she is indeed a plant of Tywin or she will share Robb's fate.
Chris Nelly
53. Aeryl
Yeah, Tyrion is described with mismatched eyes, one black(suspected dark purple by some people) and green, and a bulging forehead, as well as stunted legs that make it painful for him to walk(which doesn't really compute with the acrobatic flipping off of door frames we first meet with Jon)
54. Maac
Yeah, Tyrion is described with mismatched eyes, one black(suspected dark purple by some people) and green, and a bulging forehead, as well as stunted legs that make it painful for him to walk(which doesn't really compute with the acrobatic flipping off of door frames we first meet with Jon)
Re Tyrion's looks -- but all the things they describe as "ugly" are merely standard things you find on people with a certain type of
achondroplasia. Short limbs in proportion to body, often with a spine curvature that makes the bum more prominent; proportionally large and prominent forehead compared to non-achondroplasics. Look at Peter Dinklage -- his head is large (in proportion) his forehead is quite prominent (covered by his hairdo in the show, but not invisible by any means, and you can clearly see it in the extras when he's getting his makeup done for "Prince Caspian") and his legs are also proportionately short -- or "stunted" and "bulging" in the blunt, rude language of medievals like the residents of Westeros. The actor himself has all these things, and yet it's commonly agreed that he's quite the cutie. And I LOVE it. And I love that he's getting to demonstrate this, while playing a human being (as opposed to a member of a magical dwarf "race").

Mismatched eyes are not necessarily a symptom of achondroplasia, but I also don't find them particularly ugly. (David Bowie, anyone??) So my opinion of Tyrion's looks remains unchanged, and I attribute the negative language to the failings of medieval prejudiced people. He might not be beautiful, but I do not believe any of them when they tell me he's hideous and hard to look at (at least not pre-disfigurement). This is the same story in which a dark-skinned Summer Islander shows up and freaks out a white girl with his blackness. I'm similarly not taking Jeyne's opinion for anything like the one I should have.
55. Maac
I'm not being allowed to hyperlink, as I can't seem to log in to the site, but here -- I hope it shows up.

In which Peter Dinklage has a 'bulging forehead' and is smoking hot regardless.
Chris Nelly
56. Aeryl
It's been a while since I've read GOT but Jon's description was pretty bad. It's not just that he had a bulging forehead, it was described as distended, and his eyes are not symmetrical either, IIRC(which was what I meant to include along with mismatched).

I've read similar discussions where it's suggested Brienne isn't as ugly as people in the books say she is, they are just judging her too harshly because she doesn't conform to femininity well. Which is entirely possible.

But at the same time, I don't think it matters if these characters are actually repulsive looking or not, we care that they are being judged on their appearances and mistrusted and misunderstood because of it. That is literally the only value their looks have in the story, so it's kinda silly to argue about it. And you know, people who consider themselves ugly deserve heroes too.
Bridget McGovern
57. BMcGovern
@Maac: I adjusted the link--if you're still having trouble signing in, feel free to drop us a line at the webmaster address, and we can sort it out for you :)

@Everybody: I keep meaning to comment, in between moderating all the other threads, but you guys clearly don't need any help from me in keeping the discussion going! Just to clarify a couple of points:

Margaret Garside @48: I hope that the newbies (or at least people who haven't been drawn into the books in spite of watching the show) don't need too much defending--I really don't think of this as an Us versus Them situation. Both ways of enjoying the show are perfectly valid!

But I will say that the Khaleesi issue probably bothers me so much because I tend to be a rather detail-oriented person. If I love a show (or a book, song, or movie) I generally want to know as much as possible about the characters, the actors involved, the correct lyrics, interesting trivia, and so on. I realize that not everyone approaches entertainment this way, but it always strikes me as a little odd when someone enjoys a show enough to watch and discuss it every week (much less cosplay as one of its characters), and not bother to learn the major characters' names. It would be like someone calling Cersei "The Queen" all the time, or repeatedly referring to Ned Stark as "The Lord of Winterfell"--not wrong, but awkward, you know? But of course, I fully admit that this is my own personal pet peeve, so by definition it's a little irrational :)

Braid_Tug @51: Not sure if I'm clearing up any confusion, here, or simply adding to it, but the Jeyne that I was talking about in the post is Jeyne Westerling (in relation to her replacement, Talisa). But yes: poor, poor Jeyne Poole...
58. Maac
I'm logged in!

@56 -- NOTHING is too silly for a Nitpick-designated thread. ;-)
Deana Whitney
60. Braid_Tug
@ BMcGovern - sorry, my Jeyne comment (51) was supposed to be directed at #48! You were very clear about who you were talking about.

@48, asked if anyone thought Jeyne might kill herself in the next book.
Chris Nelly
61. Aeryl
Funny, and completely true story. My partner, who watches the shows with me, asks me for clarifications cuz I'm a sponge, has seen every episode more than once. And was resistant to a massive rewatch before the new shows started this Sunday. So instead I flipped on a 20 minute "Previously on GOT" that HBO had on On Demand. Where it's mentioned that Joff is Jaime's bastard. And he looks at me and says "I didn't know that."


Deana Whitney
62. Braid_Tug
@ 61: Sorry!
Did he not pay attention? It's said like 20 times and I haven't even watched most of the second season!
Chris Nelly
63. Aeryl
I KNOW!!! He got really embarassed as that little preview showed HOW often it's brought up. I'm guessing it's the boobs.

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