No Spoilers. I promise. I’m a no-spoiler veteran at this point.
The first book of R.R. Martin’s master literary work, a Song of Ice and Fire, in HBO Series format, now has more mainstream flavor! As a geek who’s read all four of the released books, I’ve had mixed feelings about this from the get-go. In truth, it falls in line with all the other geek culture out there that’s leaking into mainstream; Thor and Green Lantern have their own movies, the recently crowned Miss USA confesses to being a ‘history geek’, and almost anyone on the street, do an impression of Yoda, they can.
Both the fans of the books, and the fans of the show tend to enjoy the same things about the HBO series. It is very well cast, the scenery and settings are both beautiful and spot on, the story is engaging, and the characters are multidimensional and interesting to watch. You can genuinely see that the $50 million budget was well spent. I think ultimately, this wide base of consensus is what allowed the show to be picked up for a second season so quickly. Before the release, a large part of the viral marketing depended on fans of the books to pick up the call, tell their friends, play the interactive games, and throw news about the show all over their social media venues. But as soon as the first episode aired, HBO realized that the mainstream folks were just as into it as the literature fans. And so they had a deal. Game (of Thrones) on.
The things we love about the show actually unite the book lovers and the TV viewers. It’s what we DON’T like about the show that sets us apart. From those who have not read the books, I hear the most common complaint of not being able to get all the characters and their stories straight. If you haven’t read the books, all the hopping around from one plot to another may be daunting, and it may move too quickly for viewers to become attached to the characters. The other complaints are similarly of a larger scale. I’ve heard that the show has too little appeal for women, or that the last episode wasn’t full of explosions or swift vengeance, like you expect in a season finale.
People who’ve read the books had put all these high-level grievances behind them years ago. Reading some of the comments about the show, I find myself thinking geekl33tist things like, “Aw, did they off a character who you think didn’t deserve it? BOO HOO, you better get used to it, cuz that’s how RRMartin rolls!”
For those of us who’ve read the books, our concerns tend to be much more granular. “Where is Commander Mormont’s crow?” “There isn’t nearly enough time spent on the dire wolves!” “Cersei is twice as evil in the books!” “So little time, and you made up a prostitute character to do HALF the exposition in the show?!” “Woah woah woah, he’s gay? For REAL? But I thought- Cuz in book four he-“, followed by furious google-fu to see if the highly emphasized sexual orientation is indeed canon. It has to be, right? R.R. Martin is there backing up Benioff and Weiss in everything they write for the show. And that is really the thing that keeps us crazy book-fans at bay. The author himself has given his seal of approval on all of it. He actually wrote one of the TV episodes himself.
So, to sum up how I feel about all this cross over from Song of Ice & Fire geeks, to mainstream people watching Game of Thrones, I am hopeful. In the past, the only way Ice and Fire books got read was if another reader told you just how AMAZING these books were, and so you picked them up, like a geek bequeathing. But now, so many more people know about the excellent story being told.
Yes, I know that henceforth, there will be hundreds, maybe thousands of people who now proudly think of themselves as ‘geeks’ because they liked watching Game of Thrones. I’ll grin and bare those comments, so long as this prompts people to actually read the series, to read ALL the books out so far, so I can talk to someone new about it and not have to bite my poor scarred-over tongue. That’s another story all together, the sheer amount of spoiler-avoiding for people who’ve read the books is maddening. I guess, what I’m really wishing, is for some closet quasi-geeks, to actually come out and engage in some full fledged nerding-out over this fantastically well written saga.
Part of the beauty about how well A Song of Ice and Fire fit into a TV adaptation is that the premise of the whole story itself fits neatly into TV budgeting needs. In the story, magic and mythology have been dead for thousands of years, and are only now slowly creeping back in at the edges. The first season budget only allowed for so many special effects, so it was a good thing the first book in the series was so limited in its portrayal of fantasy elements. Now that the show is a hit, and HBO doesn’t mind giving the producers a bigger budget to play with, we can all breathe a sigh of relief. All the fans who wanted more wolves, more crows, more snow zombies, more mythical beasts, bigger more epic battles, finally, Winter is coming!