Monday, September 26, 2016

scattered conversations

Along with rereading GRR Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, I'm making my way a second time through HBO's "Game of Thrones" TV series. A second viewing reinforces the fact that the HBO show diverged from the books from the first episode onward, and this is most visible in terms of character interactions: on the TV show, there are conversations between certain characters that never take place in the books, and the inclusion of these "non-canonical" exchanges actually gives the show a unique charm: the conversations flesh out the characters in ways that keep them consistent with their on-the-page counterparts, while also taking the characters in somewhat different directions.

Some exchanges of note, off the top of my head:

1. King Robert and Cersei, Season 1—the moment when they talk over the irony of how their marriage, terrible though it may be, is what's holding the Seven Kingdoms together. I particularly liked this interplay because it allowed the actors to cover a wide range of emotions; the exchange ends frigidly, with Cersei claiming to feel nothing at all.

2. Varys and Littlefinger, Season 1—neither Varys the Spider, Master of Whisperers, nor Petyr Baelish, Master of Coin, is a point-of-view character in the books, but the HBO show puts them together for some interesting private conversations. These are two of the most influential and politically savvy men in the entire series; watching them banter and spar in a manner both playful and prickly is supremely entertaining.

3. Arya Stark and Tywin Lannister, Season 2—this encounter never happens in the books, but in the HBO show, Arya finds herself taken to the cursed castle of Harrenhal, where she suddenly finds herself the cupbearer of none other than Tywin Lannister, who is eventually the co-author of the infamous Red Wedding that takes place in the third novel and in Season 3 of the TV production. Tywin's affection for Arya—he has no idea that his cupbearer is one of the last living Starks—is genuine, but also bittersweet to the extent that he has been far less tender with his own children: Jaime, Cersei, and Tyrion. Lord Tywin has a nose for aptitude and ability; he quickly sees through Arya's attempt to disguise herself as a boy, and later discovers she is extremely well-educated, perceptive, and quick-witted. Letting down his guard to an extent not seen elsewhere in the show, Tywin confides plenty to Arya in terms of family life and war—bitter wisdom acquired over the course of a hard existence. This non-canonical exchange is, by far, the most interesting of the TV-only dialogues I've seen. It's too bad that Arya and Tywin's association is so brief. Arya, who soaks up information like a sponge, could have learned much from the old man.

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