Mar 11 2014 2:10pm

What Do You Do With a Plot “Problem” Like Daenerys?

Daenerys and her dragons Game of Thrones season 4

Depending on how far along you are with Game of Thrones you may not know that Theon Greyjoy’s storyline in season 3 doesn’t actually occur in A Storm of Swords, the Song of Ice and Fire book that seasons 3 and 4 of the shows are based upon.

[Note: This article will be referencing events from Game of Thrones season 4 and the ensuing books. Spoilers ahead for the whole series, basically.]

Once his taking of Winterfell goes awry at the end of A Clash of Kings, Theon (well, most of Theon) is shoved off-page in the ensuing books. It would be more than ten years in real-time until he re-emerged in the latest Song of Ice and Fire novel as Reek. And while his disappearance works well through the medium of the book, which can afford to build suspense over the years-long wait between books, it represents a problem that will continue to arise in a variety of ways as the Game of Thrones television adaptation matures.

Show runners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss could have adhered strictly to the book and kept actor Alfie Allen offscreen for two seasons. They might have even done so if Allen hadn’t proven to be such a break-out actor in his depiction of Theon during the second season of Game of Thrones. No television show can afford to let go of an actor or character that proves to be so charismatic, especially when his fate is essentially left hanging after the events of season two. Plus, on a more practical level you can’t ask an actor to forego any job they might be taking in three years time unless they’re offering them a role that will consistently last past that span of time.

As Game of Thrones season 4 gears up to close out its depiction of A Storm of Swords, it’s going to have to figure out how to deal with the absence, or diminished presence, of a lot of its characters afterwards. The most notable of these sidelined characters is Daenerys, who is as central to the show as Ned Stark was back in the first season, and that in turn begs the open question of how the TV show will deal with the absence of characters that occurs throughout A Feast For Crows and A Dance With Dragons.

Daenerys’ plotline in season 3 was a stunning display unto itself, chronicling the growth of a woman who finally appeared capable of taking Westeros by force. Season 4 will focus on how Daenerys can transition from a conquerer into an effective ruler, ostensibly moving some of her plotline forward from the fifth book, A Dance With Dragons.

But what happens after that? From season 5 onward, does Daenerys simply pop up every now and then to declare “Ruling Meereen kind of sucks”? Swap that statement with “Where are my dragons?” and you essentially have the same wheel-spinning Daenerys we saw in season 2. Except back then the wheel-spinning was crucial to having her character learn how to truly attain her goals. Now that season 5 is hinting at the same stalled momentum, how do you keep Daenerys central without repeating the wheel-spinning of season 2 or the ruling-conquered-peoples lessons of season 4?

When faced with this situation in regards to Theon and Alfie Allen, the show producers at least knew what blanks they could fill in his story in order to avoid his disappearance from television screens. Do they have that same escape hatch here? The show runners began tackling this issue during a brainstorming session with George R. R. Martin in 2013 where the author laid out the broad strokes of every character’s story. Will the show runners concoct new scenes leading up to her run-in with the khalasar just to keep her onscreen? Or will the show be forced to move up their depiction of Dany’s chapters from The Winds of Winter before the book has even been published? (Presuming that Dany is present in that book, that is.)

This is all presuming that Daenerys isn’t meant to disappear from the books and/or show. (Dragons: “Where is our Dany?!?”) This was certainly a feature of her storyline in A Dance With Dragons and when we do finally catch up with her at the end of that book, she’s in pretty bad shape. This is presumably a plot development we wouldn’t find out about until season 6 of the show, though, or the publication of the sixth book, whichever comes first.

Maybe the show runners’ answer to the question of how to deal with the absence of charismatic characters is...don’t do anything. If Daenerys disappears, then she disappears, and you hang your storyline on what happens in her absence. Same goes for Sansa, or Arya, or Brienne, or Bran and Hodor, or Margaery, and so on... They’re not totally gone, and there’s a lot of new characters and burgeoning magical threats to keep the television series plenty busy in season 5 and onwards.

Really, there’s the distinct possibility that this might only be a “problem” for readers (like me) who have always comfortably known how the television show will roll out. Now that we’re close to facing some real unknowns, now that it’s possible for us to be shocked by Ned Starks and Red Weddings again, perhaps that manifests in a worry over how the show will remain the amazing rollercoaster that it has been thus far.

Does one solve the problem by ceasing to consider it a problem?

Chris Lough is going to put “Pipes of Peace” on repeat and just relax and let the hooks do their work. If you like one-liners over open-question thought pieces, you can find some on his Twitter.

Allana Schneidmuller
1. blutnocheinmal
I was having these thoughts last night after I finished re-watching the end of S3. Mostly I keep hoping that we get a release date for book 6 soon, for later this year or Q1 2015.

But barring that, we're pretty okay because the showrunners can be like, 'Ok well, you know what's going on George, what can we do about X?'

They won't really have to invent much to keep Dany in Meereen until at least the end of S5, and maybe show up at the end of S6 meeting the khalasar.
Walker White
2. Walker
I think Winds of Winter will come out before Season 6. But the book after that, not likely. So the big question is: will GRRM let HBO finish his series for him?
Christopher Morgan
3. cmorgan
One of the main problems here is Ol Grr’s, I like to think of George as a small, waffle loving robot disguised as a puppy and constantly singing the Doom Song, process is just too damn slow. TV moves at a book/season a year, right now Martin is hitting 6-10 year spans between books, it’s only a matter of time for the show to be caught up to Winds of Winter. It's not a matter of if but when as to whether or not HBO will finish the Song of Ice and Fire.

I sincerly stopped expecting an end to the series back before Dance of Dragons came out, I really don't expect a end to the series before the TV Show.
4. wanderlustywriter
It's been a few years since I read the books, but isn't there some stuff with Daario going on at some point? They were definitely building up sexual tension in the last season, so I'm guessing they'll capitalize on that at some point. Then there's the whole Jorah thing to get into. Then what's-his-name Martell shows up. I think there's enough to keep flashing over to Dany for a few seasons, they'll just have to spread it out a bit.

So excited for season 4, but even more anxious for book 6!
5. timothy trepanier
the author of this article apparently doesn't realize that the author of the books addresses this issue in the books. he says that some of the books happen at the same time he just chooses to focus on different characters in the books. the problem brought up in this article doesn't exist its just based on not knowing what is going on and assuming there is a problem. the bigger problem i see is george using the killing off of main characters he has built up from the beginning to create tension in the story. never read books that did that. at times its hard to keep reading when your favorite character dies suddenly and needlessly.
Merchanter Pride
6. MerchanterPride
The much bigger problem is that almost literally zero things happen during her reign in Meereen, one of the most tedious sections of any genre novel I've ever read. Televising her endless, recursive thoughts about Daario, concerns about how her dragons are treating the sheep, and total incompetence in politics will be a challenge.
7. ViewerB
Seeing how they split up Storm of Swords into two seasons (with part 2 coming up), and Feast for Crows and Dance with Dragons happening concurrently time-wise, they could feasibly get 3 seasons total out of those two with a few creator-approved additions (and if they merged them together into the super-book Martin originally had it as before splitting it in half). If Winds of Winter is as long SoS, that's another 2 seasons right there. So, counting the upcoming season, that's 6 seasons for Martin to crank out Winds of Winter and the next book. Yes, I know Martin doesn't exactly "crank", but if Winds of Winter comes out in the next year or two, he's still got 4-5 years to finish the next one.

Just so long as he doesn't die on us...
F Shelley
8. FSS
I remember Neil Gaiman telling fans that GRRM was not their "bitch". The question is: is he HBO's bitch?
9. ViewerB
And then there's this...


Looks like they're going to end it regardless (though if it continues to be a tentpole for HBO, I can't imagine them NOT extending a season or two).
Deana Whitney
10. Braid_Tug
HBO guys know where he's heading overall.
Considering we already have differences between the books & the TV show, I would expect the TV show to hit the general points of GRRM's end. But the fine details will be different.

And yes, TV show will be done before GRRM is.

@7, I hope they don't drag Book 3 (part B) - Book 3&4 over 3 seasons. Maybe 2.2?
Either way, GRRM has a few years. so there is always hope.... maybe?
Lauren Hartman
11. naupathia
@5 - basically what he said, though I may have put it a bit nicer.

GRRM says in the forewards of each that AFFC and ADWD occur at the same time, just focuses on different characters. And since they pulled Theon's storyline from ADWD into S3, I figured the show is going for more of a straight timeline, rather than focusing only on Westeros or Danny. And since there's so many characters with so much to do, even if they do let some go by the wayside for a while, I don't think anyone will even notice.

So to answer the question raised in the article, I don't think it's going to be an issue.

@7 I don't know about that timeline. I thought I read somewhere that the producers and GRRM already expect the show to outpace the books and they plan to go forward anyway. I seem to recall mention of ending the show differently than the books, because GRRM didn't want to spoil the books, but who knows. Either way I'll still watch it.
12. Justin Duty
Feast for Crows and Dance with Dragons will be mixed up just like in this mashup. Honestly the for my next Ice & Fire re-read I will be useing this as a guidline.
13. winterking
I'm looking forward to HBO finishing the story. For one thing, given Martin's general...habits...I am not optimistic of him living long enough to finish however many books the story ends up needing (does anyone really believe he can tie up all his plotlines in 2 more books? Especially considering his "solution" to plot complication in ADWD boiled down to adding more filler story).

For another, I think that HBO has actually been doing a better job of telling the story than Martin did. Heresy, I'm sure, but they benefit from a more restrictive medium. The show can't really churn out a season or two where nothing really happens, and expect their funding and fans to stay on board.
Chris Nelly
14. Aeryl
@11, They didn't pull Theon's story from ADWD for Season 3, they pulled Theon's story from what was happening during ASOS that we didn't know about, because there wasn't a POV.

If the show begins to surpass the books, I will stop watching. I'll DVR them, and ignore them until I've finished the 7th book.

But I can see that they will drag Dany's story in Mereen out for at least another season. This season she'll take Mereen and decide to stay, and we'll begin to deal with the beginning of her trouble there, while the Westeros side concludes with Tyrion's escape and murder of Tywin.

So Dany's S5 storyline will be dealitng with the insurrection, marrying that Mereenese guy, while war threatens from outside and Tyrion get to Mereen.

As far as the release of WOW, I'm assuming Martin is pulling a Stephen King, who completed the final three books of the DT series before releasing any of them. So I'm guessing Martin has already finished WOW, and is now working on Book 7(title?), but won't release it until WOW until he's close enough to done. So I'm guessing we'll get WOW in time for Christmas this year, while Book 7 is out next summer, after S5 of the show.
Rob Munnelly
15. RobMRobM
People are being too pessimistic re GRRM. He's been having trouble working through the details in the tough middle part of the story but I have reasonable hopes that things will move faster as we get to the end game.

I'd expect WoW in June 2015 (four years to the day after ADWD) - that means he'd finish writing in late 2014 and would have extensive editing process in early 2015. I'd bet pretty serious dollars it will take him not more than three years or less to write the final book, so he'd finish writing in summer 2018 and the book ould be released in conjunction with the final season of the HBO show (Season 8 or 9 depending on how things play out.) in Spring 2019.
Rob Munnelly
16. RobMRobM
Aeryl - I don't think he's finished WoW. When he gets close we'll start seeing posts in his Not a Blog site.
Chris Nelly
17. Aeryl
Unless he's doing as I suggested and finishing both before he allows a release on WOW. If he even HINTS that WOW is done, the fandom will have a meltdown.
Rob Munnelly
18. RobMRobM
By the way, I don't see any problem with Dany's storyline. Lots happens in Meereen, including all sorts of people showing up on her proverbial doorstep and a potentially complex plot re dealing with those opposed to her rule. And dragons. And advisor dynamics. And eating grasshoppers for snacks.
Sandy Brewer
19. ShaggyBella
It shouldn't be too hard to finish up a series if you keep killing off main characters. It comes down to who is left alive at the end.
no happy endings here, I think.
Chris Nelly
20. Aeryl
@19, Then you have misunderstood the story, IMO. All those who have died are defenders of a world that needs to die. This is an Apocalypse story, as in a world reborn after the destruction of the old.
Shelly wb
21. shellywb
Daenerys' plot descends into YA romance after this, and then the character loses everything that made me love her. It should be easy to write filler plot where she moons over which gown to wear.

In fact, by the end of the latest book, all the female characters I cared about seem to have lost what made them strong and special, even Arya. Though some have disappeared for a book so perhaps when they show up again they'll be their old selves.
Trae Ashleigh
22. Trae
Arya? Her old self? I think not! The girl is nothing of what she used to be! (If only I could blindly post the spoiler I'd wished to here!)
23. nightofsnow
I don't actually see any problem for the tv series. There will never be something like "characters went absent". A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons happen simultaneously. As for A Clash of Kings, I actually didn't notice any departure of characters only that some do come out sparsely. nightofsnow
Rob Munnelly
24. RobMRobM
Showrunners just did an interview in Vanity Fair where they said no more than 8 seasons and they'd prefer 7. Hmmn - would be tough to fit everything in re 7.
Gerd K
25. Kah-thurak
It is easy enough to cut a lot of sub-plots out of the series without anyone who has not read the books noticing they are missing...
Rob Munnelly
26. RobMRobM
Agreed (much of Brienne's plot in Book 4 can be reduced to a good parts version) but I'm concerned they'll miss too much of the good stuff. Book 3 is more or less getting the two season treatment (at least 1.5 anyway). That means books 4, 5, 6 and 7 will need to be handled in 3.5 seasons. Tight, very tight. I'd rather have 8.
Chris Nelly
27. Aeryl
We are going to be halfway into AFFC & ADWD for some characters(pretty much everyone except for Tyrion, and I think they will introduce FAegon another way, to expedite his trip to Mereen) by the end of S4. It can fit.
28. Jeff R.
I can see Tyrion making it into the beginning of ADWD, actually. Now, Sansa is going to be right at the end of the book when the season ends. (And she and Petyr are going to have much less to do in the Feast/Dance season(s) than Dany, for that matter.)

As for Dany, well, hopefully GRRM has reminded the HBO people that the Three Heads prophesy is actually important, and so they can invent a new way to deliver it to her and the viewers.
Chris Nelly
29. Aeryl
@28, The audience doesn't really need a mystical way to be told that the dragons need to have a rider each, they already know that Aegon's dragons all had riders.

And I don't see how Tyrion's ADWD story comes into play at all. Based on episode titles, ep 9 will be the one where Jaime frees him and he kills Tywin and Shae. You might see him on a boat to Pentos in Ep10, but he won't get to Mereen, Volantis or Pentos this season.
30. Jeff R.
@29: Have the other six episode titles been released already? Why has nobody told me about it yet?
Chris Nelly
31. Aeryl
It wasn't here I saw them, it was in the comments at WinterIsComing.net. But that does make the most sense to me.
Sky Thibedeau
32. SkylarkThibedeau
I think the show is going in an entirely different direction than the books. I doubt we'll see the Martell/Greyjoy trip to Meereen. Skip those two POV's and you've lost nothing.
33. Petar Belic

I would be fine with dropping the entire Sansa / Eryie storyline entirely. Her story, once she leaves King's Landing is entirely uninteresting to me. Also, Jaimie's wanderings after he leaves King's Landing seems a little aimless, but I hope it's building to something.

Come on GRRM, you can do it!
34. Petar Belic

Arya? Her old self? I think not! The girl is nothing of what she used to be! (If only I could blindly post the spoiler I'd wished to here!)
Hey! I see what you did there! ;)
35. shellywb
@22, I didn't mean that literally- obvious they can't go back to themselves as they were characterized- I meant that they started as women of power that weren't defined by the men around them and have become otherwise. Arya has lost herself. She's not as bad off as the rest of the women in the series- she's at least gaining power of a sort, but she too is only becoming merely a tool at men's hands.
Chris Nelly
36. Aeryl
@35, I really don't see how you read that from Arya's story at all. Being Faceless, we actually don't know the gender of the people teaching her, though one presents as male, the other presents female.

Also, the biggest lesson they are trying to teach her is how not to be a tool to anything but her own desires. They WANT her desires to accord with theirs, serving the God of Death, but she is resisting that very well.
39. csb
"Depending on how far along you are with Game of Thrones you may not know that Theon Greyjoy’s storyline in season 3 doesn’t actually occur in A Storm of Swords, the Song of Ice and Fire book that seasons 3 and 4 of the shows are based upon."

There are a LOT of things in these Teleplays that are not of Mr. Martin's Amazing books. I'm one who decided to read all the books before seeing this HBO series... It's a good thing I did.

I didn't like that Flowers and Renly have a Gay relationship... Renly wasn't Gay in the books... and Mr. Martin does have a Gay boy on the Wall with Jon... but I felt that Mr. Martin should not have allowed this odd relationship of two main characters.

This is simply another example of Demographics overrulling creative intelligence. HBO, looking to entrap the Gay Population and make their show more popular.

The show is good, don't get me wrong, but I don't like seeing additions to the source material. A creator like Mr. Martin should know better.

Protect the work!

40. Rukos
HBO has already said they envision 7 total seasons for this series. The ony way for GRRM to have a chance to catch up, if for them to pull a Dr Who and take a break between seasons. Perhaps they can have specials on the off years, to keep the actors working, or just lock them into contracts,ala Marvel/Disney. Regardless, HBO will probably end up finishing this series without the benefit of the final book(s). Might be a good way to sell the last one, a box set of all the seasons with the final book... or the final book might be finished by the GRRM estate (ala Dune, Wheel of Time, etc) just in time for the series to be rebooted, 15 or so years from now...
Chris Nelly
41. Aeryl
@39, Renly and Loras were lovers in the book, it's all over the books. There are snide remarks about Renly's sexuality and behavior, Jaime says he'll stick something in a place "Renly never found" to Loras, Loras repeatedly stumbles over almost giving away what him and Renly were doing together the night before he died, and that Renly ignored his new bride in favor of the bride's brother was observed by Caitlin. The entire reason it was so prominent in the show was to finally clue in people who had missed it in the books.
Deana Whitney
42. Braid_Tug
@39. Sorry, but you are wrong. Renly was gay in the books. But GRRM wrote the book when it was not common to stress that fact. Plus his limited POV allowed for people to not think or dwell on that fact.

How often do you think about your friends, "he is straight, she is gay..." it's not the first thing that you are going to think about a person.

Why else could Margery been seen as "still a virgin" with any reliably? Renly was known to be gay. Why else would Jamie say “I’ll shove that sword somewhere even Renly didn’t find.”

Yes, the show runners changed much.
Yes, they made the relationship much more in your face. But that was not one of the things they "added for no reason."

Ron's "Love match" wife he married before his brother were killed was something they added.
44. I can't think of an Alias
One of the problems with the length of time it takes GRR to finish the series is the age of the actors. Not only do you have to worry about their getting other work, but it is going to be tough playing Arya when Maisie Williams is 25 (she's 17 already).

With all of the plot lines GRRM has dangling, does anyone really believe there are only two books left? Remember, Rober Jordan thought he had one WOT book left when he died and it took Sanderson three to finish (and several plotlines were still rushed).

HBO will have to finish the series on their own. They've had too much success to wait for GRRM.
45. NickLogan
If you really want to know why Daenerys is such a frustrating character check out this post, it explains her problems in depth - http://www.coolreviewsrule.com/2013/11/daenerys-hate.html

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