!!!SPOILER TAG: I have watched all five seasons of GOT and read all five books of ASOIAF as well as the Alayne/Sansa chapter from WOW. All of these are referenced below. Proceed at your own risk!!!
For those of you that don't know, I am a HUGE fan of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire saga and used to be a fan of the show Game of Thrones as well, but as any bookreader that also waded through the mess that was Season 5 knows, keeping the faith is difficult when the night is dark and full of terrors.
One of the most important aspects that is the driving force behind a lot of the controversies from this past season is, weirdly enough, the manner of storytelling.
(Stay with me here. I promise this will make sense in a second.)
Martin was nice enough to release a chapter from Sansa/Alayne's POV from Winds of Winter ten days from the GOT Season 5 premiere date to assure his fans that--no matter what happens in the show--"Book" Sansa is happily manipulating everyone around her in the Vale. This is going to sound terrible, but it was the first real time that I rooted for her. Sure, Sansa has had a rough time of it, however, this is a girl that spent the past five books making her situation worse by not thinking things through. I mean, Sansa accidentally signed her own father's death warrant so she could stay close to Joffrey.
"Book" Sansa is learning from her mistakes and, although it's regrettable that she never grew out of her selfish, vain ways, her character arc is clearly catapulting her from "pawn" to "player". Even Littlefinger is impressed by the change.
So the question remains... why does none of this happen in the show?
Well, for one thing, listening to Robert Arryn's sniveling would slow the show's momentum a bit. You can't exactly cut from an epic battle scene like in "Hardhome" to a scene in which Robin complains for five minutes straight. For another, D & D (showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss to be exact) could not care less about Sansa's character development.
Instead of leaving Sansa alone to train for a higher (less cinematic) purpose like they did with Bran, D & D decided to strip Sansa of her well-earned stripes, ship her to Winterfell, and saddle her with being the object of Theon/Reek's redemption arc.
Its almost as if George R.R. Martin was whispering to his readers, "Ssshhhhhh... Fear not! In my version, Sansa actually has some agency."
Even though the show seemed nearly identical to the books in the beginning, there is one gigantic difference that has been driving a wedge between them: the books are character driven, while the show focuses on plot.
Of course, D & D had to diverge from some key points to keep audiences engaged, but the two are currently steamrolling over all of the carefully constructed character development in order to achieve their plot goals.
Yes, I will be one of the first to admit that Martin has a bad habit of sacrificing plot progression in favor of lengthy character development (see Meereen) and yet I can confidently say that I am not alone in wanting the character's decisions to make sense.
Remember when Shae pulled a knife on Tyrion just because he "dumped" her? Does the half-hearted attempt at a self-defence plea really make Tyrion more likeable?
Remember when Khal Drogo, the love of Daenerys's life mind you, was misinterpreted as her rapist? Could they have reinforced the "savage" stereotype just a little bit more?
Remember when Jaime Lannister, Cersei's solace in her loveless and abusive marriage to Robert, became... well... abusive for no particular reason? AND THEN neither of them even acknowledged it as a problem afterwards? (Just in case you were wondering, the fact that this was consensual in the books made it MUCH creepier.)
Remember how not-okay this scene was? Remember how Tommen is supposed to be around NINE at this point?
And finally, remember the creme de la creme from this season: Ramsay and Sansa's wedding night? The one in which D & D made it exceedingly clear that the entire storyline change was for Theon/Reek's benefit because it relegated Sansa back to the victim role which she has clearly outgrown?
Unfortunately for everyone, that one was not easy to forget.
As you can see, many of the examples of intimate partner violence in the show came about from misinterpretations of not just the source material, but of the characters themselves.
I have no problem with certain plot changes that maintain the integrity of the characters like the intense battle between Brienne the Beauty and the Hound in the Season 4 finale or, for that matter, Brienne (arguably) killing Stannis at the end of this past finale.
Unfortunately, those pleasant changes are few and far between (and mostly seem to happen to Brienne).
Although the plot is exciting, D & D need to remember as they begin working on Season 6 that it was the characters we fell in love with and the characters that will determine whether or not audiences come back for more.
I honestly do not know if I can make it through another season without generous spoonfuls of Winds of Winter to help the butchering go down, but I feel like--as a diehard fan--if this ship sinks, I'm going down with it.
This article was originally published here: reeltalkjointheconversation.wordpress.com