It’s a tricky thing, the transition from book to TV–even with HBO’s production values and the author on set. I’m reserving judgment, of course. It’s too soon to say. And I know, I know, anticipation of the thing can interfere with enjoyment of the actual thing.
But just for kicks, here’s my list of what profited vs. what suffered in the shift of medium:
Looks Even Better in the Flesh:
1. Ned Stark is flawlessly, immaculately cast: grizzled yet handsome, greasy yet honest-looking. I’d swear fealty to him in a heartbeat. His wife’s okay too but I take issue with the notion that a woman of her age, in an age without henna, wouldn’t have some greying at the temples.
2. I was worried they’d make Arya too pretty, but I think they struck exactly the right note. She should, and does, appear a totally different species than her older sister. I also loved the clever vignette introducing her prowess with weapons.
3. Loving the walls of Winterfell–not to mention The Wall! If all the stonework is this good, the battle scenes will be stunning.
4. Ooh, bad twins. Evil scheming perverted twins. Nothing in that last scene Martin didn’t write, but knowing in advance what would happen made me feel almost like an accomplice. I’m a sucker for those feel-so-guilty-but-can’t-look-away TV moments…
5. Best. Television. Wedding. Ever.!
“Mr. Martin, We Know You’re A Genius, But We Need to Make A Minor Change”:
1. Wights. They’re Wight Walkers. Yeah, it sounds like “white walkers” in spoken dialogue, and therefore makes no sense. Shoulda changed the name, and shoulda scrapped the glowy blue eyes. In fact, the book’s Prologue was a total turn-off for many of the friends into whose hands I shoved the book; maybe HBO should have skipped it altogether.
2. I so desperately want to like the opening credit sequence. But…it looks like they’re throwing the net out for fans of steampunk, superhero movies, even The Tudors. Less is more?
3. Is it so hard to bleach eyebrows? They got the whole starts-out-a-victim thing correct with Daenerys–I’m okay with it so long as she wears nothing see-through for the entire rest of the series–but the bad wig was entirely unnecessary.
4. I wonder whom that poor extra offended to end up with that hinged-jaw wolf helmet. Can you imagine how LOUD it is in there, with each clippety-clop of his horse?
5. Okay, back to Daenerys for a second. The thing is, Khal Drogo doesn’t savage her at the end. He doesn’t. It’s supposed to be a turning point for her, after the bullying by her twisted brother and the terrifying wedding, that he turns out tender and seductive, and that her body responds to his. So why didn’t they play it that way on the show? What’s the payoff for restricting her to the role of sacrificial lamb? Are they worried we won’t believe in her imperial ambition–her ruthless, relentless drive to the throne–unless we can chalk it up to rape trauma?
Please, HBO, please make the women of Martin’s saga as complicated and powerful as their author wrote them! Please, go easy on the T & A; I promise, there’s more than enough titillation in the story without it! And while I have your ear: please choose your Brienne of Tarth carefully? She’s important!