“If you come at the king, you best not miss.”

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There has been much talk of comparing the new HBO series “A Game of Thrones” to another classic series, “The Wire”.

The comparison certainly holds a bit of truth in that “A Game of Thrones”, like the books it is based on, focuses much time on politics, intrigue, and relationships between characters.

I’ve been re-reading the original George R.R. Martin books as I watch the episodes of the new TV series, and can’t help making the comparison myself.

Especially when Cersei Lannister, the devious queen, says something like,

When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.

I’ve been enjoying the show so far but am somewhat unsure of how I feel about the story changes made for the series.  When you are trying to adapt hundreds of pages of multiple interwoven storylines for the TV screen, you have to make some tough decisions about what to keep and what to cut.  There is an overarching need to tell the story in the most efficient way possible, while taking advantage of the screen to show the action directly.  However, there are some changes in the series that don’t seem to be driven by that need for efficiency.

I’ll save you the fanboy rant and just illuminate one of the key changes I noticed.

*** WARNING: SPOILERS FOR THE SERIES AND THE BOOKS BELOW ***

Early on in both the series and the first book, the King travels north to Winterfell to ask his old friend Ned Stark to be the King’s Hand.  The previous Hand has died (in mysterious circumstances) and the King is now surrounded by lords and ladies from royal families who bear no particular love for their King, including his devious Queen Cersei of House Lannister.  The King desperately needs allies in the royal capitol and has traveled a long distance to ask Ned Stark, Lord of Winterfell, to take the job.

How Ned and his wife, Lady Catelyn, react to this offer differs between the book and the series.

THE BOOK

Ned, being an honest and guileless Northerner, is completely against traveling south to the capitol as it would mean getting involved in the intrigue and political games played there.  He loathes the thought of being away from Winterfell and his lands, as well as his family, but Catelyn urges him to accept.  Her sister was wife to the previous Hand and she has reason to suspect there is foul play afoot.  She also reminds him of his duty to the King, and of their long friendship.

THE SERIES

In the show, Ned is the one who is focused on duty and loyalty.  He accepts almost at once, despite entreaties to stay from his wife.  Catelyn throws a fit and makes her unhappiness at his decision known.

What’s the difference?

It’s a small change, but in the book Catelyn comes off as a strong, practical character, while in the show she seems emotional and spiteful at his decision.  I don’t really see the point of this change, except maybe to minimize Catelyn’s role in the story.

I’ll be curious to see how these changes play out in the series, and may even write another post about it!

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