The 'Game of Thrones' TV Book Club: 'Song of Ice and Fire' readers talk Purple Wedding and more

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Image Credit: Macall B. Polay/HBO

Thought we were done with Game of Thrones articles for a few days, given yesterday’s barrage? Think again! Today EW introduces the Game of Thrones TV Book Club — a discussion space for Thrones viewers who have also read the five books (so far) of George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series.

This week, Darren Franich and Hillary Busis talk 77-course meals, the truth about Jon Snow’s parentage – and what Game of Thrones might do better than ASOIAF. (You know there’ll be spoilers for the books and the show, right?)

DARREN: It’s been about eight years since I first read Storm of Swords, and in rereading the chapters about the Purple Wedding, it struck me that there was one incredibly important aspect that the TV show left out: The 77 courses! Mushroom and snail soup, peacocks stuffed with dates, fish tarts fresh from the ovens: Eat your heart out, Top Chef! Was there anything that you missed from the Literary Purple Wedding, Hillary? Or, conversely, was there any new addition that particularly jumped out at you?

HILLARY: But Darren, we did get that shot of Joffrey cutting open the dove-filled pie – and the show went a step further by panning down to all the dead birds still contained within its massive crust. That’s the kind of extra detail we expect from Game of Thrones: The Show. In all seriousness, I might have actually liked GRRM’s TV take on the Purple Wedding more than his original, simply because the show allows us to see it from multiple perspectives rather than Tyrion’s alone. Like, Brienne and Cersei having a conversation we never see in the books — and one they couldn’t have in the books, because Jaime and Brienne don’t even arrive in King’s Landing until after Joffrey’s wedding? Priceless.

DARREN: Yeah, I feel like this episode is a real watershed moment in understanding how TV-Thrones has wildly differentiated itself. As our beloved GoT guru James Hibberd pointed out in his recap, the wedding party (held outside in the sun, not inside the creeping shadows of the book’s throne room) split into a series of dialogue showdowns, most of them not even really suggested in the book. Brienne and Cersei facing off about Jaime; Jaime and Loras facing off about Cersei; Tywin and Mama Tyrell continuing their slow dance of decidedly-not-in-the-book senior-citizen seduction. (Am I the only one seeing it? Get a room, you two!) It felt like GRRM was indulging himself with all the opportunities to put characters together. And how about that chat between Oberyn, Ellaria, Cersei, and Tywin, where the subtext of every line of dialogue was “I HATE YOU I HATE YOU I HATE YOU”?

One change I found notable: In the book, Tyrion DOES kneel to Joffrey; in the TV show, he never does. Should we speculate at length about what this slight change means for TV Tyrion vs. Book Tyrion?

HILLARY: Obviously, this means that Tyrion is Jon Snow’s mother.

DARREN: But speaking of the Stark boys! In the book, Tyrion’s boozy inner monologue circles back around to the attempted assassination of Bran Stark, which happened two books/three seasons/a million years ago. Coincidentally, in this episode, Bran Stark had a vision in the weirwood which I believe is almost entirely new. So, serious question Hillary: If Bran Stark has a vision in the forest, but nobody talks about it because every other storyline is more interesting, did it actually happen?

HILLARY: Ugh, whatever; ask Coldhands. Until I reread the Purple Wedding chapters, I hadn’t recalled how much of Tyrion’s hatred for Joffrey was tied up in what Joffrey tried to do to Bran — an act the show attributed to Jaime way back in the days when Ros the prostitute was still a thing. (Edit: My bad — evidently, Jaime didn’t take responsibility for the assassination attempt on the show. Think they’ll ever bother tying up that loose end, then?)

On another note entirely: In A Storm of Swords, it’s not too difficult to figure out who is ultimately responsible for Joffrey’s death. Sansa gets a fancy hairnet studded with gems, GRRM takes pains to show Olenna fixing the girl’s hair — then, when she’s escaping, Sansa realizes that one of the gemstones is missing from the net. The pieces of the puzzle are a lot more subtle in the show, perhaps because we aren’t granted entry inside Sansa’s mind. How difficult do you think the show makes it to figure out who really killed Joffrey? Because unless you’re looking verrry closely at Diana Rigg’s hands when Olenna says hello to Sansa at the reception, it’s tough to notice the attention she pays to the girl’s necklace. (Also, why a poisoned necklace instead of a poisoned hair net? Did Sophie Turner not want to look like a royal lunchlady?)

DARREN: I’m not sure how intentional this was, but I got a very “Who Shot Mr. Burns?” vibe from the final ten minutes of this episode. The camera kept on cutting to seemingly-meaningful closeups of people, mostly to remind you that basically everyone kinda-sorta wanted Joffrey dead — besides his sibling-parents. I wonder if part of the intention was to give TV viewers more of an Agatha Christie-ish mystery?

Certainly, the wedding scene cemented to me the main achievement of the TV show so far: It NAILS King’s Landing. I might have minor complaints here and there about long journeys through the North or the general inability to do anything interesting with Davos (my favorite book character), but just look around that wedding feast! Tyrells and Martells, Lannisters and Lannister-Baratheons. Although, on that note: Now that we’re past it, how did you ultimately feel about the decision to bring Jaime back to King’s Landing before Joffrey’s death? It made for a nice little sequence between him and Tyrion, and there was a gut punch seeing him run to his dying son, but to me ultimately felt a bit extraneous.

HILLARY: I could live as long as Maester Aemon and still never understand your devotion to Davos — but that’s a conversation for another day.

I also think I disagree with you about Jaime’s earlier arrival; if there’s one issue that plagues A Song of Ice and Fire, it’s GRRM’s fondness for thrusting his characters farther and farther apart when all we want is to see those storylines begin to converge. (Don’t even get me started on Tyrion and Daenerys in A Dance with Dragons.) To that end, it’s a real treat to see a large chunk of the show’s huge cast in the same spot; according to Hibberd, this scene featured the largest gathering of GoT regulars since the show’s pilot. And knowing what’s going to happen next, this could be the last time we see this many main characters at once until the series starts adapting The Winds of Winter. (Assuming The Winds of Winter, you know, eventually exists.) Speaking of which, maybe we should end by talking about the future: How well do you think the show’s Purple Wedding sets up the back end of A Storm of Swords? Personally, I can’t wait for some more creepy Sansa/Littlefinger psychodrama.

DARREN: One thing Thrones is good at: Creepy Stark Daughter/Scary Old Man psychodrama. I’m especially intrigued to see how the show deals with the reintroduction of Littlefinger, a character who was a huge part of season 1 but who has mostly taken a back seat to the more colorful conspiracies of the various ruling classes. (And I’m intrigued to see how the show deals with Tyrion’s imprisonment. Tyrion in Season 4 = Jaime in season 2.) But before we go, can we discuss what’s happening up North? I believe that ol’ Ramsay Snow just got sent towards Moat Cailin by his skin-loving daddy. Are we reaching the point where action from Books 3, 4, and 5 will all overlap? And WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR QUENTYN MARTELL????

HILLARY: My hope for the Ramsay Snow stuff is this: That having established who he is, how monstrous he is, and what, exactly, he’s done to poor Theon, the show can now set his whole storyline aside for a few episodes (or the rest of the season) and focus on less torture-y stuff. This is both for personal reasons — okay, we get that Ramsay is The Actual Worst; can we move on? — and practical ones; if Benioff and Weiss don’t slow down, this may be the first storyline to catch up to Martin’s book. Which wouldn’t be a bad thing, necessarily, though it would mark the beginning of the end for book readers’ feelings of superiority. (Also: The Theon plot definitely loses some punch when the gradual transition from proud Greyjoy to sniveling Reek happens onscreen, but we can debate that another time.)

Tell us, book-readers: How did the show’s Purple Wedding compare to your vision of the Purple Wedding?

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