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Well after they jumped ahead of the published books in last week's episode in revealing information about the White Walkers, I said I would be foregoing further predictions to the ends of each episode.  One friend actually asked me to keep doing them, but as it turns out I'll soon be giving up my write-ups as well, but we'll get to that later.

So I don't recall any new characters being introduced this week, and we bid farewell to quite a few in Locke, Karl, Rast, and the rest of the Night's Watch renegades.  So with that we can get right into the episode.  As always, spoiler warnings are in effect for the books as well as the show.

Early on Cersei and Maergary's scene was fairly straightforward following Tommen's coronation (speaking of the coronation, anyone else get the sense everyone was clapping so enthusiastically because they were ecstatic to be free of Joffrey?)  I did find it interesting how there was a moment were Cersei seemed like she was willing to work with Maegary for Tommen's benefit ...until Margaery's "call you sister or mother comment."  I'd have to go back to book four to be certain, but I don't think Cersei ever had an equivalent moment in A Feast for Crows.

And while that storyline has already reached book four, Dany's story in book three is essentially over now that Dany has decided to remain in Mereen and rule as a queen.  The key moments still remaining from book three are Dany being kissed by Jorah, learning that Jorah betrayed her, and then exiling him.  These are all things that should still happen, but since she's not in A Feast for Crows, the next time we pick up Dany's story they'll be using material from A Dance with Dragons.  These events with Jorah will get mixed in along the way.

Shifting over to Sansa and Petyr, things are quickly coming to a head here as they follow the story laid out in the third book.  As always, I was pleased to see the same actors returning, in this case those portraying Lysa and Robin.  I thought Robin tossing the mockingbird toy of silver from Petyr out the Moon Door was a brilliant bit of characterization that really captures the character quite nicely.  Those who don't read the books were also treated to an answer to one of the show's oldest mysteries, this being the true cause of the death of Jon Arryn.  It's a small variation, but in the book Lysa actually reveals this when she's hysterical and babbling to Petyr in a jealous fit, while about to throw Sansa out the Moon Door.  It'll probably be another two episodes before Lysa's unfortunate demise takes place and Sansa's story in book three concludes (episode seven is called "Mockingbird"), which isn't all that much. They might wrap up her existing published material in the books as early as the end of this season.  It's scary how fast some of the stories are now moving along.

The same might be said for Arya, since I doubt she'll be with the Hound much longer.  After that she'll be heading to Braavos.  The trailer for next week's episode showed what appeared to be the Titan of Braavos, but I think they're showing that because Stannis and/or Davos will be visiting them, which doesn't happen in the books.  Sam also visits Braavos, but Sam's story doesn't seem to be far enough along yet for him to head there--at this point Gilly is still in Mole's Town and Sam still needs to help sway the election in Jon's favor (if they're going to follow the book).  Regardless, they've been prepping the readers quite a bit for Braavos being incorporated in a major way going forward, as there are now regular mentions of the Iron Bank of Braavos.  This week it was during conversation between Cersei and Tywin.  We'll get to see Braavos on the map during the opening credits next week, which will be rather awesome with the Titan.  But getting back to Arya for a moment, it was a bit jarring to hear her mentioning names of people she meant to kill that weren't part of her list in the books, like Beric Dondarrion.  And in A Storm of Swords, the Hound doesn't make it sound like they'd kill his brother together so they can both cross a name off their list.  Instead, when Arya declares her intention to kill the Mountain, the Hound narrows his eyes and says "No you won't."  The dynamic is different here, but the only reason I remember this at all because of how well it was rendered in the book.  But once Arya reaches Braavos, they'll burn through her existing story in the books in short order, though I imagine there are a number of means to flesh this out as she begins her training among the House of Black and White.  Also, watching Arya train this week with the water dancer moves was nothing short of awesome.  Out of all the casting in the show, no one comes closer to what I picture in my head from the books than Maise Williams with Arya.

Brienne and Pod represent two more characters whose stories are now into A Feast for Crows.  I have to say I rather enjoyed this scene in HBO's GoT.  The casting for Brienne has been excellent, and I've really come to enjoy the actor playing Pod.  They played off each other quite nicely.

Turning to the Cersei/Oberyn scene, it's not from the books, but it seemed to serve two important functions.  First, we see Cersei trying to influence Oberyn since he's one of the judges in Tyrion's trial.  Second, they made a point of reminding us that Myrcella is in Dorne, and this was the first mention of the Sand Snakes, Oberyn's children.  Just as the writers are setting things up for Braavos, they're also setting things up to take readers down into Dorne following the death of Oberyn.  So I think we can extrapolate from this that they won't be cutting too much of Dorne's role to play in future events.  How they mean to handle the Iron Isles is still in question a bit, especially with Asha's change in story and Balon Greyjoy still being alive.  At this point but I wouldn't be surprised if Balon dies in a much different manner than he does in the books.  They'll probably make Euron Crow's Eye do it, perhaps drown him a barrel of seawater, which is what we learn he did to Sawane Botley in book three when he the Crow's Eye seizes the Seastone Chair following Balon's death (although we never see it, just read about it secondhand).  Having him drown Balon instead would be a hell of a way to introduce the Crow's Eye, but this is just conjecture.

So let's move to north of the Wall.  I loved the way they handled Jojen's visions, but what the hell?  When did he turn into the Human Torch?  That was ...well, it was damn annoying, because George never relies on the obvious when it comes to magic, and wielding fire on your fingers is about as obvious as it gets.  But this aside and if we overlook all the logic flaws already apparent in Bran getting captured by the renegades, I suppose everything ended as well as we could hope since Bran and Jon never spoke to each other.  Of course, the near miss in itself becomes rather repetitive since they already had one of these south of the Wall that they chose to depict in the HBO series last season (which happened in book three).  But in fairness, if you follow my link and read the parts about Bran, you'll also see that they did exactly what I said they should, with Bran warging into Hodor and kicking a little ass.  So I think they made the best out of what they had to work with in order to flesh out Bran's story, but had they put a little more thought into this invented storyline, they could have avoided a number of the more obvious mistakes, which would make me more forgiving about whatever issues remained.

So two weeks ago there was RapeGate, and last week there was SpoilerGate.  When they reached the end of the episode, I actually took a relieved sigh, thinking I wouldn't have to get upset about anything in my write-up this week.  Silly me, I should have held onto that sigh until the trailer for next week's episode, because what I saw there represents the point of no return for me.  I'm going to have to stop watching the series now.  Next week they depicted Ramsay Bolton getting in a bloody battle.  The only thing is, that battle hasn't happened yet.  It's fast approaching at the end of book five, a great battle in the snowy North.  It's going to be different since Stannis and his forces are nowhere around, but that's irrelevant.  This battle is supposed to take place early in book six, The Winds of Winter (confirmed by GRRM interviews more than than once).  But being as The Winds of Winter hasn't been published yet, we've reached our next stop on Spoiler Central.  With no Jeyne Pool from the books and Theon having already been through his torture and renamed Reek, Ramsay and Theon's story just jumped ahead to book six.  It appears Asha's story has as well, and perhaps even Roose Bolton.  I can come up with all sorts of conjecture about what this means for future storyline's going forward, but I don't have the slightest interest in doing so.  Instead, I am bowing out from watching the series until the book comes out ...sort of.

You see, I was pretty damn shocked by that trailer.  My first reaction was, "I need a drink."  And during that first drink, I was mostly consoling myself.  As I said about the White Walkers last week, I can't un-see what I'd already seen, so I might as well keep watching.  But I thought I had a lot more time before this spoiler stuff popped up again.  I figured this was just a quick reminder about the Others and that I had a good year or so before I had to worry about the show catching up to the books.  That hope went out the window.  But on my second drink I realized I can still watch next week's episode ...until they reach that point where the battle takes place, which I imagine will be toward the end of the episode.  That's when I turn off my TV and cut myself off from the HBO series until the next book comes out. I feel like my convictions are being tested after The Wall Street Journal quoted me last week on this very topic of spoilers, but while it's going to be hard to stop watching, the choice itself is very easy.  The books come first.  When The Winds of Winter come out, I'll start watching the HBO series again, and if the series catches up to George a second time I'll simply stop watching again until he publishes A Dream of Spring, the final book in the series.

So I'll do a partial write-up next week, but it won't be until Tuesday at the earliest.  When a new Game of Thrones episode comes out, the Monday afterward is now a blackout day for me on social media and all news websites.  This is the first line of defense against spoilers.  Other measures will be taken, but I won't bore you with those.  But after next week's partial episode I'll content myself with waiting for the new Westeros story coming out in the Rogues anthology in June, and that concordance about the history of Westeros coming out in October.  I also never bought those lavish maps in that World of Ice and Fire book, so I'll probably treat myself to that after next week's write-up--it will help cheer me up.  It's a bit odd that I never bought the World of Ice and Fire before now, very odd in fact.  I can't explain it.  But now I'm glad it worked out this way.  At least there is a lot I can look forward to in the coming months, even if the HBO series is about to be cut out of my weekly schedule.  And after I read that concordance in October, well, I wouldn't be surprised if I decide another reread is in order for the entire series.  It will have been over three years by that point since I last read A Dance with Dragons, and I'll no longer have the HBO series to refresh me.  But I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

It will be interesting going forward to see how many fans the HBO series starts losing.  I suspect most of them were willing to forgive the scene with the White Walkers last week (although had I known something new was coming in advance I would have stopped watching already), but now readers are going to start finding themselves faced with these sorts of dilemmas/questions on an increasingly regular basis.  Keep watching and learn how it happens in HBO's version, or wait for the books?  I doubt it will ever hurt HBO's bottom line.  In fact, I expect the show's popularity to continue growing.  But if enough readers are willing to wait, this could certainly slow the growth of the show.  We'll see.  It all depends on your tolerance for spoilers.  My tolerance is essentially 0%.  So next week is it for me.

I want to thank those who have told me how much they've enjoyed my write-ups.  I'd love to keep doing them, but it's just not an option, not when I love the story in those books as much as I do.  I'm still happy to discuss Game of Thrones with people going forward, just not anything in the HBO series beyond parts of episode six of season four, and of course I'm always happy to talk about the books.  I'm not one of those fans who gets upset with George for taking so long with the books--my feeling is take as long as he needs to get it right.  Nothing has changed with these latest developments.  This said, winter can't get here in the books soon enough, not so much so that I can continue watching the HBO series (which would be great), but rather because it's going to be awfully hard to avoid spoilers.

And with that said, I'll also add that while I'm happy to discuss this week's episode,let's refrain from discussing what Ramsay's battle next week might mean about what will happen in the books.  I am compartmentalizing my brain now and refusing to dwell on it.  So please respect that.  If you insist on discussing it anyway, I'll have no choice but to unfriend you on all social media to protect against spoilers.  Your understanding is appreciated.

I'm also really curious to hear what other readers think.  Are you going to keep watching the show?  If you are, is there a a point of no return for you?  Or are you willing to see it all unfold on the screen before you read the books?  I for one can't even fathom doing this, but to each their own!

See you all next week for an abridged write-up.




akashiver wrote:
May. 6th, 2014 11:58 am (UTC)
I thought the implication of the "Human Torch" scene was that Jojen & his sister were going to be burned alive. (By the Red Woman?) She was asking him how it would end for them, after all.
douglascohen wrote:
May. 6th, 2014 05:54 pm (UTC)
That would be fine if the flame was part of his vision ...maybe it was, but the way it was depicted I thought he was actually summoning flame to his hand, and I'm not a fan of that choice.
matthewsrotundo wrote:
May. 6th, 2014 01:52 pm (UTC)
Doug, I think you might be a bit premature in your judgment here. Just because Ramsay's going into a battle doesn't mean it's the battle you think it is. We just watched the whole bit at Craster's Keep with Bran and Jon--completely invented, not a hint of it in the books--and by the end, found the basic story line altered not at all. The showrunners have done this sort of thing before--cf Jaime's captivity--and I think they're doing it again. Rather than catching up with the books, they're actually trying to slow down certain subplots, in order to synch them up with the rest of the action.

Consider: Ramsay and Theon utterly disappear for two books in the series. That simply won't work for the TV show. Hence, the depiction of Ramsay breaking Theon, which in the books took place entirely offstage. As we have some time yet before the show catches up to the canonical Ramsay/Theon storyline, Weiss and Benioff pretty much have carte blanche. They can make up anything they like, so long as they bring it back to the books eventually. I'm comfortably certain that's what's happening here--not spoilers, just stuff that isn't in the books at all, and never will be.

Here's a possibility, off the top of my head: the battle is a confrontation between Yara's men and the Boltons. In the end, Ramsay will convince Yara that her brother is dead. And before she has a chance to exact bloody vengeance, she will get word that her father has been killed, and return to the Iron Islands.

See how easy? Then we're right back to the books, and no harm done.

Like I said last week, I think you'll be able to safely watch through the rest of this season, and probably the next.

Oh, and I rather like Jojen's burning hand. I don't think it's much of a spoiler to predict that there will be a great deal of burning before the end of this thing.
douglascohen wrote:
May. 6th, 2014 05:53 pm (UTC)
Sorry Matt, those aren't chances I'm willing to take. If the showrunners are serious about wrapping up this show in seven or eight seasons then I firmly believe they just skipped ahead in these storylines. If the equivalent scene hasn't happened in the book yet--no matter how different--I refuse to watch HBO's version. It's not even a remote possibility for me at this point, because I refuse to risk being exposed to spoiler-y information again. At this point it is very much a risk, and I'm not taking chances that I can maybe squeeze another episode in for my viewing pleasure if it means ruining the books in any shape, form, or fashion.
fixnwrtr wrote:
May. 8th, 2014 02:23 pm (UTC)
I actually enjoyed seeing the White Walker king at the end of the show before last and it proved what I had thought was happening all along with Craster's boys. Nice to know I got something right. I have read all the current books through once, except for the first, Game of Thrones, which I recently reread, and I will read all of the books again in turn once I get through the current crop of books to be reviewed. I'm already champing at the bit.

I enjoy your write-ups and your predictions, even when they fall off the mark, and I will miss them. I will, however, continue watching the show because spoilers don't bother me so much. I still have to read/see them for myself, but knowing ahead of time what will/might happen isn't a problem for me. I often see a movie I enjoy, find out it is based on a book or story, and seek out the book/story to read for myself. It's how I finally got into Jane Austen's work and how I've discovered several new favorite writers. I enjoy (and am sometimes frustrated) by the differences between the written word and a director's vision of those words.

I did swear off True Blood for a whole season, but that's because it was going in a really strange and not wonderful direction. I finally watched the seasons I had missed and am now current, but not sure if I want to watch the upcoming season. I have not been pleased with the direction the show has taken. I hope it is not the same for AGOT. That would be horrid.


Douglas Cohen

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