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Two seasons down, the Seven alone know how many to go.  "Blackwater" was a really tough episode to follow up, but I thought "Valar Morghulis" was a strong way to finish the season.  As always, spoilers for the books and the show will abound, so do make sure you're caught up before reading any further.

Well, I missed on the ending (and I'd rather not consider my overall % this year--I killed it last year, but no so much this year), but I loved the direction they took it in.  The Others marching on the First of the First Men is pretty much the prologue of A Storm of Swords, though Samwell never gets overtaken by the entire undead army like that.  He does have to tangle with one of the Others though (and later a wight).  If I were to guess, I suppose one of the bulk of the army has passed him, one of the Others will linger to finish off Sam, at which point Sam will accidentally kill it with the dragonglass as happens in the book.  And while I never quite pictured the Others looking as they were portrayed in the season finale, it looked so awesome I'm not about to complain. Really quality special effects.

On the death front, this week we bid goodbye Maester Luhwin, Pyat Pree, and it's pretty safe to assume that Doreah and Xaro Xoan Daxos died in that vault since we learned in an earlier episode how it's impossible to open it without Xaro's key.  Luhwin's death is close enough to the book that I'm not going to quibble.  Doreah actually died near the beginning of A Clash of Kings when they were still in the Red Waste--the desert basically did her in.  Pyat Pree actually never died in the book--Dany basically destroys the House of the Undying to rubble and Pyat Pree barely escape.  He and the other vengeful warlocks then try to have her assassinated near the end of a ACOK by a Sorrowful Man, and Barristan Selmy in disguise comes to the rescue.  Xaro also never died.  He actually shows up again in A Dance with Dragons, but his role is so small in that book that it's really not a big deal if he dies now.  They completely rewrote his character anyway, so why not take it all the way and kill him, right?  Right.

New characters: we didn't really meet any new characters this week, but when Theon gave his rallying speech, he named a number of his crewmen by name.  These names were actual crew members of the Sea Bitch in the book.  There isn't much point in listing each name, but I did pick out one important name he mentioned: Wex.  In the books, Wex is Theon's mute squire.  He sorts of disappears at the end of ACOK, and we basically figure he was killed along with the rest if Iron Men by the Bastard of Bolton's crew.  But then he appears again in ADWD, and we learn that he hid when the slaughter took place, and he knows the truth about the two princes.  He's also the one who reveals to Davos Seaworth where Rickon can be found.

So maybe the showrunners have created a little wiggle room to introduce Wex in more meaningful fashion later on the series if they so desire, but we'll have to wait and see in what direction they take things.  Since I always look at the deviations from episode to episode between books and show, this is as good a spot as any to discuss Theon and Bran.

With Theon, he was never betrayed by the Iron Men.  Ser Rodrick rallies a force to take back Winterfell, and this force is betrayed by a separate force led by the Bastard of Bolton.  The Bastard of Bolton then breaks Theon's jaw while his men kill the Iron Men and destroy Winterfell, killing everyone except the two Frey wards (who appear to have been written out of the show).  They were somewhat vague about why the rest of the North never rallied in the HBO series to evict the invaders the way they did in the books.  It's kind of hard to believe that no one had the wherewithal to follow through on something like this just because Ser Rodrick was killed earlier on, but I'll let it slide.  We can still presume the Bastard of Bolton's men are the ones who destroyed Winterfell, and there is a good chance they might have killed Theon's men rather than let them go.  As to Theon, after book two, we don't see him again until book five.  We hear hints about what is happening to him, but that's it.  But Robb Stark was barely in ACOK, but they gave him a lot more storyline in season two of the HBO series.  If this is any indication, I think they're going to do something similar with Theon going forward in the HBO series, i.e. we're going to see him get tortured by the Ramsay Bolton.  This would also make sense in the respect that we still haven't met Ramsay, who has a pretty meaty role in ACOK.  Dagmer Cleftjaw pretty much filled in for Ramsay in terms of moving the plot along.

As to Bran, his third eye was supposed to open at the end of the second book.  He doesn't have many chapters in the next few books though, so it seems like they're really breaking up his storyline to stretch it out and provide enough material in the coming seasons of the HBO series.  Another big change is that Maester Luhwin never said to take the kids to Jon.  On top of this, Bran and Rickon parted ways at the end of the second book.  Rickon goes off with Osha and Shaggydog, while Bran goes off with Hodor, the Reeds, and Summer.  Since the Reeds haven't been introduced yet, it's pretty much impossible to split the kids up at this point.  In the books, we also haven't seen Rickon since the end of book two (beyond a couple of prophetic glimpses), but it appears that at the very least we'll be seeing him for part of season three, if not well beyond this.

Let's do Arya next.  Come the end of book two, she does indeed escape Harrenhal, but the details leading up to this are quite different.  In the book, after Arya whispers Jaquen's name and gets him to help her, he aids Arya in freeing some of the northern noblemen taken prisoner, allowing them to retake the Harrenhal after Tywin has left.  Jaquen then changes faces in front of Arya (as opposed to looking away and then back) while still in Harrenhal before giving Arya the coin and moving on.  Arya then becomes the cup bearer to Roose Bolton who arrives soon afterward, at which point she pours his wine while Ser Amory Lorch gets fed to the bear in the bear pit.  When Arya decides she needs to leave Harrenhal and get out from underneath Roose's thumb, it takes a bit of arm-twisting and lying before she convinces Hot Pie and Gendry to leave with her.  In her last chapter, she tricks a guardsman at the gate and slits his throat so they can pass, and thinks to herself that the blood on her hands is no big deal because the rains will wash it off (she is so bad-ass).

On to Sansa.  Petyr Baelish never tells her that he will help her escape.  Ser Dontos serves this role in the books, having secret meetings with Sansa in the godswood during the course of books two and three.  We never learn that Petyr Baelish is the one pulling the strings to engineer Sansa's escape until deep into book three.  Since they introduced Ser Dontos in the first episode of this season, I sort of assumed they would bring him back this last episode to continue advancing Sansa's plot, especially since Dontos is the one who has the conversation with Sansa in the books.  I suspect Dontos will return next season though to play out his role.

Time to put the finishing touches on the Starks with Robb.  We never see him get married in the books, and Catelyn is never kept in the loop the way she is here.  But the real change remains that he's married Lady Telisa as opposed to Lady Jeyne.  This might just be me desperately (and stubbornly) grasping at straws here, but I'm still hoping that it comes out in season three that Lady Telisa is actually Lady Jeyne.  I suspect that the season finale of season three will be the Red Wedding.  But other than Red Wedding itself and apologizing to Walder Frey, Robb doesn't have much of a role in the third book.  A lot of his other material has already been covered this season.  If they're going to flesh out his role in season two, I suspect they'll do it again in season three to make the Red Wedding have more impact with viewers.  Robb learning that the woman he married isn't who he thought she was and that he has in fact married in to a house that's loyal to Lannister would definitely be a way to fill out his story in season three.  I still haven't forgotten the fact that Talisa accompanied him to the Crag, which is where Lady Jeyne is from, but before Robb could accept their surrender, he learned about Jaime's escape and returned to camp.  So if Talisa is not Jeyne, it's an excellent example of the show runners deciding to fuck with the readers for no good reason.

I'll do Jon next, since he's part Stark.  Yeah, it pretty much follows what happens in the book, but as I've said so many times before, Qhorin Halfhand was an infinitely more interesting and savvy character in the book, and his relationship with Jon was much more nuanced.  The fight was also cooler in the books.  Ghost chomped on the Halfhand's leg while he was fighting Jon, and the Halfhand kept fighting.  Bad.  Ass.  And my favorite Halfhand lines never found their way into the HBO series?  "Is your blade sharp, Jon Snow?" Later: "Is your blade sharp, Jon Snow?"  And again later: "Is your blade sharp, Jon Snow."  And when Jon kills him with his sword, the Halfhand's last word: "Sharp."  Just one more example of how I like the HBO series, but "it ain't got nothin" on the books.  Also, regarding what Qhorin did say right before he died in the HBO series, dude, at least lean against Jon as you die and whisper it for his ears alone, as opposed to saying it loud enough for all the wildlings to hear.

Anyway, let's move on to the Lannisters.  Cersei, Joffrey, and Tywin were all by the numbers.  Tyrion was too, except in the book it was a different maester tending him when he woke up (Baellabar, I believe), and while he was still under the influence of milk of the poppy, he had powerful dreams about Tysha, his former wife.  It looks they gave him a pretty sizable scar, but it's definitely worse in the books.  Bronn was never commander of the city watch in the books, so it's no surprise that he's been relieved of his command in the HBO series.  It was around this time that Bronn and Tyrion's relationship started to drift apart some.  We'll see if that holds up in the HBO series.  Also, Shae has become way more sympathetic.  I suppose that will make her affair with Tywin in a couple of seasons from now that much more shocking.  

On Jaime, the first time he really witnesses Brienne's heroics in the books is early in ASOS, when she pulls off one hell of an escape while they're being pursued on the river.  That seems to have gotten the ax.  There might have been a scene where she cuts down bodies in the manner she did--A Storm of Swords is so long and so dense that despite how many times I've read it I still don't remember all the scenes, but their story is more or less progressing how it does in the books.

Who else?  Stannis?  Choking Melisandre seems way out of character for him, but whatever.  I was glad the show runners made the decision to keep the audience in suspense about the fate of Davos until season three.

On the Ros front, it seems like the long-term plan is to make her a spy for Varys.  I suspect it will take a couple more seasons before we really see this develop though.  Varys is right in the thick of things in book three.  Then he disappears in book and doesn't show up in book five until the final couple of pages.  So if it takes HBO two seasons to adapt ASOS, while I'm sure we'll see some tidbits regarding Varys/Ros in the next couple of seasons, whatever the show runners really have in mind for Ros is probably three seasons off, when Varys won't be nearly as present barring some rewrites (though I could easily picture a few seasons between he and Ilyrio, this time in Essos).  

Last but not least, we have Dany.  I've already discussed Xaro Xoan Daxos and Doreah.  So let's talk about her journey into the House of the Undying.  In the books, it was far more perilous, she saw a lot more visions through the various doors, and she saw very different visions than what we saw in the season finale.  I could definitely complain about that. And I'm going to ...kind of.  But first, let's talk about the cool stuff ... like Khal Drogo!  It was awesome that we saw him again like that.  This gives me hope that when we adapt Bran's storyline from A Dance with Dragons, when he inhabits the weirwood trees to look back in time and sees his father, maybe this means they won't cut this.  Maybe it means that we'll get a Sean Bean cameo as Ned Stark.  I would love that.  

Now the maybe not so cool stuff: while the prophecies may have been different, there was quite a bit of foreshadowing going on.  When Dany sees the Iron Throne, it's snowing.  The roof also appears as though it's been destroyed by dragon fire.  So it seems as if Dany won't claim the Iron Throne until winter has descended on King's Landing ...and she might be taking it by force with her dragons.  The other interesting tidbit is that when she does to see Drogo, she passes through the Wall.  So if we want to play the extrapolation game, after Dany claims the Iron Throne--be it from humans or a city overrun by the Others and the wights--she won't be there for long, because her real destiny is beyond the Wall.  I would imagine she and her dragons will be critical instruments in pushing back the steady advance of the undead armies.  And if she's seeing Drogo beyond the Wall, perhaps this means that Dany is going to die beyond the Wall while saving Westeros from the Others, and as she dies maybe she'll Drogo at last.

This would all be cool ...BUT if this is how it goes down in the books, I'm going to be annoyed.  I LOVE the fact that HBO is adapting the books, BUT I DON'T WANT SPOILERS FOR BOOKS IN THE SERIES THAT HAVE BEEN WRITTEN YET!!!  I don't even want minor ones.  Of course I know that Dany is coming to King's Landing at some point, and I could have guessed some of that other stuff if I really put my mind to it as viable scenarios, but spare me the details like the roof being burned by dragon fire ...please.  The series will be forever secondary to the books, which is why if it ever surpasses George's books in terms of timeline, I'll stop watching the series until the book come out.  Of course, it's going to be YEARS before I know whether I'm actually annoyed with HBO for pulling this shit or not.

One overall observation about episode ten: I said they had their work cut out for them after "Blackwater."  One way they made sure the season finale wasn't flat was with magic.  There wasn't a shred of magic in "Blackwater" (which was fine).  Episode ten had closeups of the Others, warlock magic, prophecies in the House of the Undying and the suggestion of such in Melisandre's flames, triple dragon fire, and Faceless Men.  Not too shabby!  

So that wraps up episode ten and season two.  As a special bonus, let's list some of the major characters who have already appeared in the books that we haven't seen in the HBO series yet.  I'll put an asterisk next to those where I've learned online we'll be seeing them next season (note that if there is no asterisk it doesn't mean we won't be seeing them--it just hasn't been reported yet):

*Meera Reed
*Jojen Reed
*Edmure Tully
*Brynden Tully
*Vargo Hoat
Various members of Hoat's Bloody Mummers (I'm sure we'll meet some of them--the question is which ones?)
*Ramsay Bolton
*Shireen Baratheon
*Selyse Baratheon
Patchface (I sure hope they keep him--Martin has something in store for him, since he's the only character Melisandre fears)
Aeron Greyjoy (though we might have met him--there was a scene this season with Theon and a Drowned God priest that could have been Aeron--we never learned one way or the other
No shock that Victarrion never got his cameo this season. We'll have to wait a few more seasons to meet him.
Mace Tyrell
Strong Belwas

And I'll cut off there, because Martin has a cast of thousands, so I could play this game all night.  Suffice it to say I'm glad that so many cool characters have been delayed from appearing in the storyline as opposed to being completely axed.

So now we have to wait another ten months for season three, but longtime Martin fans can do ten months standing on our heads.  That's easy.  And if we're lucky, we'll get that new Dunk & Egg novella before the new season, an extra little treat that I'll eagerly devour.

As to how the season premiere for season three will end ...tough to say.  Benioff & Weiss have demonstrated they're not afraid to veer from the original story (although Ros aside, these deviations are all pretty minor in the grand scheme of things).  But since we never saw Barristan Selmy in season two, making his first appearance be the last scene in the season premiere seems like a good way to reintroduce him to the fold.  So that's my best guess, though at this point I've been reduced to throwing spaghetti against the wall and hoping it sticks.

And I really don't know if I'm going to keep doing this posts next year.  They're fun but they're also pretty time-consuming.  A Storm of Swords is extremely complex, so I suspect it will be even more demanding of my time to write up the episodes in this manner next year.  I'll probably just ask you all as the season premiere draws close.  If there is enough demand, I suspect I'll keep doing these write-ups.  If not, I'll probably abandon them unless someone wants to pay me. :)

Anyway, let the countdown to April 2013 commence. Of course, if you're dying for some good TV in the interim, I'd recommend catching up on Breaking Bad before season five airs in July if you're not already watching it.  It's the best show on TV.  Yeah, it's probably a little surprising I give the nod to anything over GoT ...but I know what's going to happen in GoT.  Breaking Bad shocks the hell out of me on a weekly basis, and Walter White is one of the most fascinating characters in the history of television.  It's way different from GoT, but it's something to consider if you like dark shows with complex characters and you're dealing with GoT withdrawal.

Later all.


Douglas Cohen

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