Season 5 is here (no spoilers below), and everyone is panicking as to why the producers aren’t following the books! I mean, the books are literary masterpieces, why would someone want to deviate from them?
David Benioff and Dan B. Weiss have created the ultimate show for this day and age that has a little bit of something for everyone: medieval sword fighting for the action enthusiast in the family, political plots for the drama fan, 50 shades of lovemaking for the romantic in your life, and dragons and magic for the diehard fantasy lover. And all of this has come together to create a show that constantly breaks viewing figure with every premiere, now at the point where the only records it has left to beat are its own.
This perfect formula adhered to the books, and that snobby reader in your life who had read the books before it was cool could raise their nose whenever you wondered what happened next (everyone has a friend like that, and if you don’t then it’s probably you). But now, even the elitist book readers (I’m ashamed to admit I’m one of those snobs) are starting to have no idea what will happen next, and it’s become even worse with George R.R. Martin’s announcement that characters that still live in the books will die in the show!
And this is honestly the best thing that could have happened to the show! The one loose end for GOT was the readers, who would always criticize the show for its deviation from source material (what was wrong with “only Cat”?), and examine it every week to see how certain scenes were depicted. Don’t get me wrong, the show did a marvellous job keeping even the most well-informed reader on their toes, with iconic scenes like the Red Wedding and the Red Viper fight surpassing all expectations. But the issue still stood that some fans would have an inevitable bias that could harm the show’s reputation should a scene fall short of expectations.
Now, all fans are on an almost level playing field, and the home court advantage will continue to grow slimmer as we move towards Season 6 and beyond. The show began to achieve independence from the books as it started taking more creative license and tweaking things to suit its television audience and plot. Much like Harry Potter, where after every movie the readers would criticize the deviations first, then appreciate the movie second. The more a movie deviated, the worse the criticism. HBO’s Game of Thrones is becoming its own entity, gaining the necessary independence to continue the plot into places the books have not yet reached.
If you enter your nearest bookstore or browse through Amazon, you’ll see A Song of Ice and Fire on the bestseller list again and as top-sellers. This is due to the popularity of the show. But if the show continued to try to loyally follow the books, it would always disappoint someone and eventually harm both its own success and that of the books. The books have certain level of depth and complexity than can only be reached through a thousand pages, not a 52-minute episode every week for ten weeks. To even try and achieve that same level of depth with the limitations of television would eventually be disastrous, hence why the show began deviating in the first place. David and Dan are taking increasingly bigger steps each season and not only adapting the story for television, but also giving it the necessary independence to succeed on its own as it enters unwritten territory.
As the show continues to make creative choices that differ from the books, future deviations will be more accepted as they will drive the altered plot of the television show and make sense within the show’s context. The show’s ultimate leak (the readers) is now being quenched as GOT veers away from the books, though it might help to stop the piracy leaks first. Obviously the spirit and ending of the books will stay intact, but now we’ll be taking a different road to get there. Game of Thrones has reinvented how television shows are seen today, and its move towards more independence is one that may be mirrored by more shows and films in the future.
Change is difficult, but from a show that killed off their main character season 1 and became more popular for it, I would have thought we’d be used to it by now.