Game of Thrones Season 2: The Problem With Adaptation

7 Aug

Now everyone knows that I loved season one of ‘Game of Throne’ but did season 2 live up to the hype. First let me say that season two is not up to the same calibre as season one but I don’t believe this has anything to do with its writers, I think the books are entirely to blame. Adaptation is always tough ask and the new trend of adapting book series into TV shows is untested and bound to hit a few hurdles. Given this would still say that adapting the 2nd book of George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire book series is almost mission impossible. The second book ‘A Clash of Kings’ brings in a whole new set of characters, largely ignores many of the old ones and has story lines taking place in over seven locations, not exactly adaptation gold.

First off let me start by stating for the record that I haven’t read the books. I have been told that the show is a lot easier to understand if you read the books and hopefully someday I will, however I am a firm believer that an adaptation should be able to stand on it’s own. It should not act like a petulant child and keep running back to it’s source material and yelling that if you’d read it, it would make sense. It either works or it doesn’t, there is no half way.

So lets begin with problem number one, too many new characters.  While it is customary to introduce a few new characters in a second season that amount is usually limited to around 3 or 4. Look at an older program like ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ new characters in season two Spike, Drusilla, Oz and maybe Kendra, clear concise easy to remember. But with HBO’s new generation of television with endless budgets and source material to keep in mind cast numbers have really started to multiply. True Blood for example introduced at least 8 or 9 new characters in its second season and the numbers are going up every year. However this year ‘Game of Thrones’ really took the crown and thanks to its insane source material was given the great task of introducing around 40 new characters. This number doesn’t include the numerous characters they put off introducing until season three since they thought it might be too much. I think it’s a little late for that.

While some of the new characters are great and well worth the introduction others I could have done without. I am sure they were vital to the source material but when if you can’t figure out what’s happening, does that really matter. It was getting particularly difficult to keep all the men of the Night’s Watch straight, yet I really enjoyed the Wildling Caster and his disturbing wives/daughters. Similarly Stannis Baratheon and his many followers were very confusing. Although the naked pregnant Red Priestess Melisaandre of Asshai was a bit of highlight even if occasionally I’d like to forget it.

While there are many many more characters the most memorable for me are Jaqen H’ghar and Brienne of Tarth. Jaqen’s  gruesome mentor relationship with my favorite character Arya was a pleasure to watch. While Brienne’s conversation in the last episode with Ser Jaime Lannister had excellent chemistry and can only mean great things for the pair in season 3. Unfortunately all the fantasy genre names don’t help matters when you are trying to remember who people are. This massive onslaught of characters made watching the program an exhausting experience and I was often only able to watch one episode before I gt tired and switched to less taxing material.

Big problem number two locations. Sewing together stories with so many locations is extremely difficult. The beautiful and mythical Quarth with Daenerys Targaryen, The Iron Islands with the very irritating Theon Greyjoy, Winterfell, King’s Landing and over The Wall in Wildling country, there are more but I can’t remember them. Again books are limitless and can tell stories from hundreds of locations but TV has a different format and the changing locations and short scenes so as to fit everyone in really got  grating.

By trying to fit all these stories in, the season never really seemed to get going, the flow was affected and the meat the story was never really gotten to. When you have too much material you spend too much time setting things up and not enough time exploring. This being said the most effective exploration of character this year was that of Tyrion Lannister his journey from a clever manipulator in season 1 into a great leader and hero in season two is the clearest and best written character arch of the season.

Ending off on a personal note I found it really hard to finish watching season two. Devouring season one is less that an week, I stopped watching season two mid way through full of confusion and irritation and couldn’t go back. Feeling lost and bored I wanted to give up, until both my brother and good friend encouraged me to keep going. I’m glad a I did and found the last couple of episodes particularly the penultimate great viewing. Keep that in mind when you feel like giving up but if you do, I don’t blame you, this adaptation is a lot to handle.

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One Response to “Game of Thrones Season 2: The Problem With Adaptation”

  1. Kim August 8, 2012 at 12:23 am #

    It’s a dense story, even in the books. The writers are trying, but it seems like this one benefits from rewatch.
    And don’t worry if you don’t remember every single character! Either they’ll be back, or they’ll be dead.

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