At long last, it’s finally here: The Game of Thrones season 5 premiere and the advent of the days when Game of Thrones sucks. And man, does it! This season is not off to a great start—not by any means. Indeed, based on the first four episodes—which I did not watch through the leak, mind you, but through a screener—season 5 is, as long feared, going entirely off the rails. Or at least partially off the rails, but a derailment is a derailment, and Thrones is not looking good right about now. This is obviously going to spoil some stuff, but tell you what—I’ll keep it limited to the first episode.
Game of Thrones season 5 sucks. Four episodes in and that is abundantly clear. The many fears of book-lovers like me have come to fruition. There are three basic reasons things are getting worse this season: The show leaves out critically important parts of the books, the show keeps changing the books, and the changes the show makes don’t make any sense half the time.
Leaving Stuff From The Books Out
Game of Thrones has always felt fairly reined in as an adaptation, as far as these things go. It has changed storylines and combined characters, of course, but not until last season did those changes really become major. Game of Thrones season 5, however, turns that on its head. It leaves out, from what we can tell, six critically important characters. Six! They are Arianne Martell, Quentyn Martell, Euron Greyjoy, Victarion Greyjoy, Griff, and Young Griff. In the books, the entire Dornish plotline hinges on Arianne, heir to Dorne. The Greyjoys and Quentyn have major implications for Daenerys, and, as for Griff and Young Griff… well, don’t worry about them.
By leaving out six major characters, Game of Thrones season 5 is dramatically changing the narrative of the books. The implications of that are some ways off yet, and that’s part of what’s so troubling. The show is going to be constrained by these choices for the rest of its duration.
Changing The Books
Leaving things out of the books is one thing. Actually changing the books is a different problem. This issue comes into play most strongly in episode 4, and I won’t spoil the details for you, but it’s apparent that the show is making some dramatic story changes on a scale it has never done before. You can even see it earlier on some storylines. The most obvious—the death of Mance Rayder. This doesn’t happen in the books. At least not like that. It’s another change that will reverberate across seasons, and force the writers of Game of Thrones to invent new storylines while throwing away one that was already excellent.
Making Dumb Changes
The changes to the books in the Game of Thrones season 5 premiere are bad on principle, at least as far as this writer is concerned. Those changes are, unfortunately, also bad in practice. They are, to put it another way, dumb changes. Killing off Mance is cutting off the toe to spite the foot: Changing something just for the sake of change, or perhaps for simplicity. He still had a role to play. He’s still alive in the books, after all! And cutting off one of the most important parts of Cersei’s prophecy—that great harm would be visited upon her by the ‘valonqar,’ or brother—makes her fear and hatred of Tyrion less relatable. Her actions vis-à-vis the Faith also make less sense, since the appropriate context is removed. It’s a damn shame, really.
I hesitate to get into Game of Thrones season 5 spoiler specifics, but have at it in the comments. Do you think, based on what you’ve seen so far, that Game of Thrones sucks now? ‘Cuz this writer sure does.