The only truly bad change between the Game of Thrones books and show is that, in the latter, suddenly all the main characters are godless, save Melisandre and the red priests, and the High Sparrow. Through this single change, the show does damage to both itself and its relationship with its audience, all the while tossing some truly powerful human stories out the window, depriving us of them and replacing them with inferior, unimaginative—and sometimes downright disgusting—scenes.
Let’s start with Sansa. Show or books, everyone knows off the bat that this character is naïve. Indeed, in the first book, you learn that Sansa actually tells Queen Cersei about her father’s plan to send her and Arya back to Winterfell.
But that’s only the first book. The second and third are her developing into a woman while at the same time being caught up in a horrendous affair, hostage to her family’s enemies. And the best scenes are her in the godswood.
They are not only about the meetings with Ser Dontos. Indeed, that is only the surface level. What they are truly about is a young woman exploring both herself and the idea of something greater than herself at the same time, with a threat in the background.
In the show, she tells us with a wide smile that she only goes to the godswood to be alone. As if her husband cannot pick up on that, and—worse—as if that is the better story.
So now we get to Arya, and the Hound. One scene after he tells us that a man has to have a code, and that he may be a murderer but not a thief. He’s a guest in a simple farmer’s home, a man on his way to elderly who has a young daughter. They feed him and Arya—both are hungry—and the man wants to pray first. The Hound interrupts with “is he going to do all seven of the fuckers?” Then, next morning, he breaks his recently-described code and robs the man of all his silver, telling Arya that the farmer and his daughter would be dead come winter.
Maybe they would, and maybe they wouldn’t. You know what would help? A pouch full of fucking silver.
And what does it all center around? A scene that doesn’t exist in the books. The conversation that they have at the farmer’s table, the man and his daughter on one side and Arya and the Hound on the other, in which the gods and their laws of hospitality are forgotten and insulted, not so differently than at the Red Wedding.
Now we get to the Lannisters. Specifically, when Tyrion chose trial by combat in the matter of Joffrey’s death.
This one is egregious in its own right because of the ageism added on top. There is a lot of ageism in the Game of Thrones show, through Grand Maester Pycelle.
Don’t mistake me. Pycelle is not necessarily a character you like in the books. Still, he is a lot better than in the shows, and he is so in ways that make the story as a whole all that more badass.
Example. In King’s Landing, there are only two people who back up the Night’s Watch, after Ned Stark loses his head. Tyrion is one, and Pycelle is another. The former tries to help directly and pretty much fails (by sending them Janos Slynt as a possible replacement for Jeor Mormont); the latter tries to help indirectly and half-wins (by urging the small council to send them aid and guiding the conversation towards a plan that would result in it, so long as the black brothers murdered their Lord Commander, Jon Snow, which Cersei insists upon).
Back to Tyrion’s trial by combat in King’s Landing. Pycelle begins to invoke the blessing of the Seven, and Lord Tywin waves him off early on in the dedication. Godlessness portrayed, and why?
First, in the interest of simplicity, the show merged the Grand Maester and High Septon characters, until Lord Tywin’s death and the High Sparrow’s ascension. Before then, the previous High Septon was indeed there, but only to be shown being ripped apart by the mob on the day Myrcella sails for Dorne. Otherwise, the Grand Maester character said all his lines from the book. They could have easily not had Pycelle come out to invoke the Seven. Further, the whole fucking point of a trial by combat is to ask the gods to bless the outcome, so going out of the way to show the most powerful man in the realm waving away the blessing is a clear statement.
Yet, Tyrion’s journey through ideas of godhood are interesting too, and wholly missing from the show. As are the rest of the Lannisters’. Again, we have human characters grappling with ideas of something greater than themselves, and most all of it is tossed out the window, for what?
Well, the show is at least kind enough to answer that question for you. Nothing. Two times directly, through the lightning lord and Jon Snow. Also, when Arya and the Hound come upon a man dying of a wound to the gut, he says “maybe nothing is worse than this,” and she replies “nothing isn’t better or worse than anything. It’s just nothing.”
Listen. I’m all for exploring nothingness as the underlying concept. Truly. But to go so far out of the way, to go so hard in that direction, and to sacrifice so many truly amazing stories in the process borderlines on agenda.
Speaking of agenda, it’s time we come to the High Sparrow. Everybody loves this guy, except for one thing: he’s a homophobe. Apparently, Ser Loras needs to be branded and stripped of his titles, simply because he’s gay. Funny, that’s not in the books.
The High Sparrow’s top target in the books is Queen Cersei, without doubt. Just how terrible her rule is, after her father dies, would be impossible to portray on screen. Ser Loras and his homosexuality don’t come anywhere close to the High Sparrow’s radar. Further, it’s clear that he knows Cersei’s children are born of incest, yet he prefers the Lannisters to Stannis Baratheon, as the latter had chosen the red god, R’Hllor. The reader is left knowing that, when this guy learns of Dany’s existence, he is going to bring the Faith over to her—with all their new swords. Thanks, Cersei.
So, in the show, what happens? The High Sparrow is a huge dick to Ser Loras for being gay. What is this reminiscent of?
Catholicism. Evangelicals. Etc.
Yet, it is only the hardline, pitiful bastards in these groups who hate gay people, even if more have a hard time understanding that homosexuality is genetic. So, right off, we have a divisive misrepresentation with respect to godliness. “Hey, everyone who is watching this show; the godly guys are homophobes.” I wonder what Pope Francis would have to say to that. And that’s not the only downside, either. Again, we also see the show doing detriment to a powerful storyline in the name of godlessness.
Hollywood is a wonderful town, and a lot of truly amazing things come out of it. But all this is Hollywood at its worst. Trading powerful, human stories for a fad that says nothingness is the only answer—as if human beings are even capable of comprehending it all any more than the dog or the tree. Disparaging deep emotions held by human beings beyond counting simply because of a few radicals in their midst and because of faults in their logic. Funny, don’t all groups exhibit both those characteristics? Don’t progressive folk refuse to let the bad apples spoil the bunch?
The show is good. I’m not denying that. But its incessant godlessness is a true problem. I urge my fellows to recognize this.
Oh, and Stannis? The dude who gives her daughter to the flames in an effort to appease a god he does not truly believe in? Quote: “Half my army are unbelievers. I’ll have no burnings.” I bring this one up only because it was a true misstep by the show’s creators. Melisandre would never be so foolish as to suggest that Robert’s heir sacrifice his own. That’s like, the thing you don’t do if you are a king. I guess the world just really needed to see a sweet little girl burned alive.