Posted by: Patrick Allen Foster | June 19, 2013

Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones wrapped up its third season earlier this month. At Slate, Rachael Larimore and Jay Busbee have an episode recap that also effectively serves as a season recap. Likewise, Laura Hudson at Wired has an episode recap which, among other things, looks at differences between season 3 and the books. See also this post on the same theme.

(Lots of spoilers at the links, clearly. And there are some spoilers below the fold.)

Kathleen Geier looks at some of the historical inspirations for various elements within the Game of Thrones story and fictional universe. Some of this is well-trodden ground, or will seem fairly obvious to students of history, but the post is well worth reading. I think it is fairly widely known that the War of the Roses in English history was the inspiration-writ-large for George R.R. Martin’s epic, and so a number of elements in A Song of Ice and Fire bear a rough correspondence to various elements from 15th Century English history:

  • The Stark family (the preeminent family in the North) correspond to the House of York, with the Lord of Winterfell corresponding to the Duke of York; the Lannisters, then, are the Lancasters.
  • Robb Stark corresponds to the young, martial King Edward IV, of the House of York.
  • Bran Stark and Rickon Stark correspond to the Princes in the Tower.
  • Aegon Targaryen’s conquest of Westeros, taking place some three centuries before the War of the Five Kings, corresponds to the conquest of England by William the Conqueror.

And so on. The correspondence is not one-to-one (e.g., in real history, the Princes in the Tower were King Edward IV’s sons, not his younger brothers); indeed, Martin’s story would lose some of its suspense if it tracked real history too closely. Nevertheless, the parallels and connections are striking. Shortly after I began reading the Song of Ice and Fire novels, I also happened to read The Red Queen, by Phillipa Gregory, which is a fictional portrayal of the War of the Roses from the perspective of Margaret Beaufort (the mother of the future Henry VII). I was struck by the similarities between the world portrayed in Gregory’s historical fiction and Martin’s fantasy saga.

This post at Lawyers, Guns & Money delivers a list of links to various posts and podcasts dealing with assorted aspects and components of season 3. At the Huffington Post, David Gibson asks, Can a Christian Watch Game of Thrones? (I have to believe the answer is “Yes. Duh.” Just as a Christian can read the Iliad, the Aeneid, or the Romance of the Three Kingdoms.) In the Wired recap linked above, Hudson does look at one unsettling aspect of the show (and Martin’s series): Daenerys Targaryen as a White Savior. Dan Drezner (who is not reading the books) has a post reviewing the highs and lows of season 3. (Drezner’s review includes this bit: “The overwhelming number of plotlines meant that, from episode to episode, not a lot seemed to happen. There were a few eps where, literally, the overwhelming bulk of the show consisted of protagonists marching from point A to point B while they argued, kind of a poor medieval version of bad Aaron Sorkin. Speaking of marching, those damn White Walkers have been taking their sweet time getting down to the Wall, eh?”)

Meanwhile, between 1996 and 2011 Martin has released five books in the series. Two more volumes are planned. The first two seasons of the TV show covered the broad story arc of the first two books of the series (A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings). Season 3 covered the first two thirds or so of the third book (A Storm of Swords), and season 4 in 2014 will presumably finish book three (and a bit more).*

Given the long time spans between Martin’s release of the most recent volumes (the fourth book, A Feast for Crows, appeared in 2005, nearly five years after A Storm of Swords, and the fifth book, A Dance with Dragons, did not appear until 2011), there is a real concern that the TV show will catch up with the books in the next few years. Jace Lacob has an article looking at this concern and some of the contingencies for such an event. The article discusses a number of possibilities (including the idea of a prequel season–which I think is a bad idea and a distraction), as well as the possibility of a switch from television to one or more theatrical releases:

Among the other options raised by Entertainment Weekly‘s James Hibberd: the show could take an additional hiatus (which seems unlikely, given the costs and what will surely be audience outrage at having to wait even longer than the now-traditional 10 months between seasons), or the narrative could move beyond television and into theatrical film releases, something that HBO doesn’t confirm nor deny is a possibility.

“I would never say it wouldn’t make sense to explore it because that would be foolhardy,” Lombardo told EW. “We’re always open to a conversation, we’re always open to a smart way of doing something that’s true to the show and honors the fans. It would have to make sense for everybody—for HBO, for the fans and for the show. At this point, there’s no plans to do that.”

Still, that ticking clock continues to tick the longer that The Winds of Winter doesn’t materialize on the shelves, though producers have at least two years before they need to make a tough decision. While Martin has told Benioff and Weiss how the novels will end, it’s a complicated and tricky scenario for the showrunners to complete the story before the author does.

“We still have our fingers crossed that George will get there,” said Weiss. “That’s what’s best for us; it’s what’s best for the fans. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”

Those comments are shaded slightly differently than those made by Weiss and Benioff in a Hitfix interview earlier this year: “There’s no question that this will be better for us if the books come out before the various seasons come out,” Benioff told Hitfix. “That said, we’re not going to take a two-year-hiatus (to wait for a book). The little kids are growing older, the show’s got momentum now, and the show must go on. We’re just hopeful that it will all time out.”

Finally, via Steve Saideman, this:


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Oh, also, if you haven’t already seen it, do check out this compilation of reactions to the Red Wedding.


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And, because it’s true, this:


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Seriously, Mr. Martin: write like the wind.

* People have noticed, of course, that the producers tend to place major events (Ned’s execution, the Battle of the Blackwater, the Red Wedding) in the ninth episode of each ten-episode season. This pattern has led some people to speculate that the ninth episode of season 4 will feature the Purple Wedding. I don’t think that’s right. To finish book three, season 4 will have to cover, basically, a wedding, a trial, and what happens after the trial. My guess is that the Purple Wedding will come in episode seven or eight of season 4, and episode nine will feature the trial — and possibly the big event right after the trial, which is a game-changer in the books, just like Ned’s execution and the Red Wedding are game-changers. That’s my prediction, anyway.

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