Before you read: I assume you have seen the first four seasons of Game of Thrones, but have not necessarily read the books. I have carefully written this to not give anything major away about upcoming plotlines that may or may not be in the show. (But note: book readers, this is written for you as well. I just tried to keep it vague enough for the non-readers.)
There has been a lot of negative hype recently about this upcoming fifth season of Game of Thrones. The main theme of the hype is that the show and the books are diverging dramatically, that the show will “spoil” the books, that a major character who does not die in the books will die in the show, etc.
But here’s the thing: all of this is actually good news.
And here are the reasons why:
1. The fourth and fifth books of A Song of Ice and Fire are not as good as the first three books. If you aren’t aware, the show has thus been adapted with Book One (A Game of Thrones) inspiring Season One, Book Two (A Clash of Kings) inspiring Season Two, and Book Three (A Storm of Swords) inspiring Seasons Three and Four. The confusing thing is that Books Four and Five are actually parallel storylines, because Martin’s story and characters got so bloated, epic, and unfocused that he had to say “I’m not even including Jon Snow, Tyrion, or Daenerys in Book Four.”
Everyone agrees that A Feast for Crows is, without a doubt, the worst book in the series. He introduces many new storylines, settings, and characters, while ignoring established ones, but, more importantly, these new storylines are not as compelling as the established ones. In A Dance with Dragons, he returns to many of those characters, but it basically feels like he is not very focused and that no one helped him edit any of it. Yes, some amazing things happen, and a lot of it is beautiful, poetic writing, but there are also other parts that are basically just kinda boring, and lots of other parts where you just aren’t sure what is going on.
2. There is a 150-page section of A Feast for Crows dedicated to pirates electing a new Pirate King, and it will not be in Season Five. The worst portion of the ASOIAF storyline is, almost indisputably in my opinion, the half dozen chapters in which the Greyjoys (Theon’s sister and four uncles) all decide to have something called a “kingsmoot,” during which they figure out who will be the new King of the Iron Islands, i.e. the new Pirate King. It’s long, boring, confusing, and becomes predictable about halfway through. How we know that we won’t have to suffer through this endless kingsmooting in Season Five? Because not a single new Greyjoy has been cast, and we should all be very thankful for that.
3. Season Four is both the best season so far, and the loosest adaptation of the books. In Season Four, HBO began to take us in a new direction from the books. And not only this, but major changes include some of the best scenes in the series. One that comes to mind is when Brienne and The Hound have their epic fight in the season finale. That scene was not in the books. In the books, Brienne wanders around fighting people you’ve never heard of and won’t remember, while The Hound suffers his potentially-mortal wounds during a fight with someone you’ve never heard of and won’t remember.
Another example of Season Four containing massive improvements is the relationship between Jaime and Tyrion. In the show, during Tyrion’s trial, we are treated with finally seeing all four adult Lannisters in the same room together: Tywin in the judge’s seat, Tyrion as the defendant, Cersei as the accuser, and Jaime caught in between. Jaime was entirely absent from any of this in the books; all he did was stand around in the shadows and feel sad about not having a right hand.
4. The Tyrion storyline is far too dark and negative in the books. Now, I’m not saying that the scene in which Tyrion kills both his ex-lover and father (also the season finale) should be considered lighthearted. But, believe it or not, that scene is far darker and more upsetting in the books. In fact, Tyrion becomes such an unpleasant, bitter, jaded, and misogynistic character in the books that he is virtually unrecognizable. Based on the few things I have heard and seen from Season Five, we are getting a different, better storyline for Tyrion. (For more on the difference between book Tyrion and show Tyrion, check out “In Defense of Tyrion” on the blog I Can’t Possibly Be Wrong All The Time.)
5. Bronn is in Season Five, and he’s buddies with Jaime. Bronn isn’t in the books after his goodbye to Tyrion in Book Three, which is also much harsher than it is in the show. I really enjoyed the dynamic between Bronn and Tyrion, as well as the Bronn and Jaime dynamic, and the fact that these two are gonna be on a mission together in Season Five is very, very exciting.
6. HBO has done a better job of eliminating characters and streamlining storylines than Martin did. As I said above, the fourth and fifth books are bloated and confusing, with far too many characters. Now, something I really enjoy about Martin’s writing is his very consistent use of the third person limited perspective. Every chapter has one character from whom’s eyes we see the world. The trouble is that in AFFC and ADWD, he begins introducing characters who are very loosely tied to the plot, just to give us more angles on a situation. While he does a good job with the technical aspects of it, do we really need to see what Areo Hotah and Arys Oakheart think and feel? No, we don’t, especially when they are wooden characters that Martin seems to have given little thought to.
This is also a lesson learned: while I greatly enjoyed the Davos chapters in Book Two, I found his character to be boring and superfluous in Season Two. They gradually built his character over the following two season, but they probably recognized, after pondering Season Two, that just because a character is compelling in the books, it doesn’t mean you can adapt them without effort to the screen.
7. The news about a main character being killed in the show, who is not killed in the books, is also good news. It’s just very exciting. Some of the greatest moments in Season Four were when, as a book reader, I was genuinely surprised. Like when Jon Snow fought the dude at Craster’s Keep, or when that completely insane thing happened with the baby and the King of the White Walkers. To hear that someone will die who might not ever even die in the books? That’s just plain exciting.
8. Finally, Martin will not finish the books before the show finishes. Thus, it’s good for the show to become a different story. A persistent worry recently has been that the HBO show Game of Thrones will “spoil” the A Song of Ice and Fire books. But no, it’s not like that. Yes, the show will overtake the books, but instead of viewing this as “the books are coming to life on the screen in front of me,” it’s time to view the show as a different vision of the same overarching story.
The more different the show and books can become, the better, as long as they both remain good.
Now, let’s stop worrying and just get excited about the fifth season of the best thing ever.
Enjoy this? Check out The Snow Also Rises: Thoughts Regarding Ned Stark, Jon Snow, and Jake Barnes or Made Fun Of, For Liking Superheroes or Slouching Towards Westeros: Why Daenarys Should Die in Season Five (And Who Should Kill Her).