Until a couple of days ago, I didn’t really care about Game of Thrones.
This may seem really odd, considering I regularly talk about it and post stuff online about it, so let me be a bit more specific. I didn’t care about the TV series. I am literally salivating over the thought of the next book. I’ve been thinking about that book for three years now (yeah, I know people waited longer for the last two books), ever since I saw the first season of the show, realised this was something amazing and spent the next two months glued to the source novels. I had never read anything so gloriously complex and gripping, full of thrillingly ambiguous characters and the kinds of plot twists that have you pulling your hair out in disbelief. It is my favourite ever book series.
However my rabid devouring of the novels back in 2011 had a less than desirable effect on my feelings toward the TV series. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great show full of amazing writing, acting and special effects. It’s a top tier drama unlike anything else on TV right now, or anything else I’ve seen. But the problem is that the only appealing thing about the show, really, is getting to see my favourite moments from the book played out on screen in the hands of a top quality production team. When you can deduce from an episode title what will be happening this week, it’s hard to feel a ton of anticipation. The last couple of years, seeing trailers for the new season didn’t fill me with anticipation; rather I just had a feeling of ‘oh, nice, that’ll be something to do on a Monday night’.
But in season four, things started to change. There were scenes that revealed plot points the books had not gotten to yet; potentially just artistic licence, but considering the Game of Thrones show runners know where this is all going, more likely the best clues yet as to the future of the series, both book and TV. On top of that, they made more and more bold adaptation choices, killing off relatively major characters who are still alive in the books, and coming up with whole new subplots that I actually found exciting, as for once I didn’t know what to expect.
I have always felt that in adapting a book, the more you change things up, the better. The best Harry Potter films, (Prisoner of Azkaban and Goblet of Fire) bear the least resemblance to the novels they are based on. For the flip side of that coin, look at a film as slavishly faithful to its source material as Watchmen, which ended up just being incredibly dull to anyone who had read the comic. I really don’t understand the people who complain about changes to novels in film adaptations; it seems like you don’t want to be surprised at all. The outraged cry of ‘that wasn’t in the books’ is something that I just find bewildering and kind of stupid. If an adaptation choice is in keeping with the tone and character of the story, then who cares? Sometimes they’re for the best. Having Bran kidnapped by Nights Watch deserters only to be inadvertently rescued by Jon Snow was actually way more interesting than the equivalent plot point in the books (nothing), and added some cool action and tension to the middle of the season.
Today I read an interview with the Game of Thrones showrunners who said that, while aware that books four and five are, in polite terms, a little slow, mapping out that plot for a television season has actually revealed to them how interesting that plot has the potential to be, and consequently they believe season five may well be the best season yet. And you know what? I trust them. Season four was essentially the climactic chapters of A Storm of Swords dragged out to ten hours, and it was arguably the TV series’ best season since its first. And they reiterated that they have planned seven seasons total. That means that, starting next year, we are inevitably going to see hints of the endgame creep in, even if George R.R. Martin has yet to release another book. And while I know some people hate that idea and would rather read it than see it first, I’m really excited. Because it’s finally hitting home to me that, in one form or another, A Song of Ice and Fire is nearing its conclusion and questions are going to be answered. And honestly, I don’t really care that I might see those answers on TV. After all, the show is what made me fall in love with this series in the first place. I just want to find out how it ends. If Martin takes another ten years to finish the books, well, at least I can watch the endgame in 2017; it’s only three years away. And that thought has me incredibly excited.
Alternatively, considering how closely Martin works with the show, and the insistence on the seven year plan, maybe all this confidence means that The Winds of Winter is a lot closer than we think. Right? RIGHT?
Writing words about writing words.