It’s finally that time of year. Flowers are in bloom, the sun is shining, and Game of Thrones is returning with new episodes to HBO this Sunday. If, like me, you’re a fan of the show, you’ve been eagerly anticipating the fifth season. But if, like me, you’re a fan of the book series as well, you’re anxiously dreading what new and potentially problematic deviations the show will inflict upon us.
It’s been widely stated that this season marks the show going it’s own way more than ever before—including beyond the books. Although the reviews for the first few episodes of the season are promising, if season four is any indication as to where the show’s going, I’m going to have to consider pausing my viewership until after the books are released.
Adaptation, especially of these massive tomes, is a tricky thing and it’s impossible to transfer everything from page to screen. The first three seasons more or less do a terrific job of streamlining, adjusting, and adding in a way that stays true to the spirit of George's work, often even surpassing the books in some regards. Season four (with some spectacular exceptions like Oberyn Martell and the Purple Wedding) starts to buckle under the strain of the complexity of this story, omitting entire plots that will have further impact later on and effectively destroying certain characterizations.
Ultimately, would I rather see David Benioff and D.B. Weiss's interpretation mangled together with what they know of the rest of the story, or would I rather read it in detail the way George intended? I no longer trust the show entirely to properly handle the written material, let alone the unpublished finale. Not to mention the fact that Benioff and Weiss have repeatedly said their plan is for seven seasons, which seems impossible at the pace they’ve set. How will they fit four books worth of material in to three seasons, when they’ve already used two seasons just to cover the material in book three?
This upcoming season will serve as a test—if it can hold it’s own against the books and correct some of the issues that plagued last season, I'll be inclined to continue watching the show before the books are released. (I'll accept a late entry Lady Stoneheart; I still think it's possible.) More likely than not, the show will still make adaptation choices that upset me and jump farther ahead than my liking, but will I really be able to resist tuning in? Probably not.