My initial thought is that I enjoyed Season 2. As both Widge and I have commented, season one of Game of Thrones on HBO tended to stay very close to book, with the differences being in basic character development scenes, aging of the characters, etc. There were no major plot point differences. I feel like in Season 2, we started to get a bit more of The Walking Dead feel, where the series started to stray more from the original text. I imagine some of this was budgetary, but I also think that there is now room for some variance as the series progresses, to make it something set in the world of Westeros, but not completely canonical to the book. I like this, because I like to have my world rocked with surprises. See: Kirkman.
My first discussion is related to Tyrion and his plot for the Battle of Blackwater Rush, and the various events surrounding this. I will preface this commentary with the understanding that most likely, almost all of this was changed because of budget concerns. In the TV series, the plot was basically Tyrion discovers that Cersei has commissioned a wildfire stockade, he takes it, waits for Stannis’ fleet to arrive, and uses a suicide-kamikaze-explodo ship to attack them. This is highly altered from the book. In the book, Tyrion is the only one that ever commissioned the wildfire, and they actually didn’t have enough to use, until they discover a stockpile that Aerys Targaryen had made many years before. Also in the book, Cersei had commissioned a weapons stockpile, which is what Tyrion seized, and changed their instructions to build a massive chain, with which he used to trap Stannis’ fleet so that he could utilize the wildfire. This particular scene is absolutely the part I missed the most, as I was very much looking forward to seeing this unfold via the wonders of HBO TV. This whole battle was basically different from the book. Tyrion has part of his nose cut off in the book, but in the series he just has a scar across his face. I am sure this is also budgetary, as we have theorized will happen in…shall we say…another very popular show. This so that a major character doesn’t need any type of major prosthetic/make up work for every single episode. Would simply cost too much.
There seems to also be some difference in the events related to Jon Snow. The primary being that in the series Ygritte escapes Snow, and as he catches back up to her he is eventually captured as she leads him into a trap. In the novel, Snow canâ€™t bring himself to kill her, and he intentionally lets her go, and later on he and his group encounter the Wildlings. I like this change that the Show makes over the book. I was bored during these sections of the book, and the show added some intrigue as to how the events would unfold. You knew that ultimately Snow had to kill Halfhand and join the Wildlings, but it wasn’t clear how that would unfold necessarily.
There are several changes that could have significance later, but just seem to be normal TV alterations for now. Tyrion choosing Bronn as the new City Watch commander as opposed to Jacelyn Bywater. The differences in the story of Arya and Jaqn H’ghar and who she asks him to kill. Several names are changed in the TV series to make it more simple to understand who these various cousins and siblings are. The scene where Joffrey abuses the prostitutes is completely unique to the show. Many differences also occur around the exploring beyond the wall, etc. None of these had any impact on my viewing, other than making me go “hmm, that isn’t how it happened in the book” …which I actually quite enjoyed. Any surprise is a good surprise. I also liked the scene they added between Cersei and Tyrion where she opens up about the fear of Joffrey being “mad: like the Targaryens due to her incest, as well as the scene between Tyrion and Shae after Tyrion is injured, where Shae reaffirms her love to him. I believe the character of Tyrion is so powerfully mentally, that it is important to remind the audience that he has an emotional influence on people in a positive way as well.
I will end with bringing up my favorite character: my dear Daenerys Targaryen. I love her so much. Every time I see “Daenerys” at the top of the chapter heading, I squeal with delight as if Barrowman himself had just entered the room. When she is on the screen, I am absolutely captivated. I definitely do want her to wake the…errr, I digress. So the major change in her storyline was in Qarth. In the TV series, she has her dragons stolen from her, and she has to go reclaim them from the House of the Undying. This particular plot element I hated. In my opinion it is so out of character for Daenerys to leave her dragons to be attended by the hand maiden rather than bringing them along with her. We as the viewer are constantly reminded that she treats them as her newborn babies, and typically a mother struggles mightily with leaving her child with the babysitter for a while. I think this is a similar characteristic Daenerys should would display. She would always have them with her. Always.
Because of this added plotline of the stolen dragons, it changes many things about her time in Qarth. The whole sequence of Doreah betraying her to Xaro is added to the TV show to explain the dragons being stolen. The whole reason for Daenerys going to the House of the Undying is to find her meaning. This whole aspect and her visions–are all omitted from the TV show. Perhaps this will come later on in a different way, but I really feel as though Daenerys was made to appear as a weak character on the TV show, so that she could then use the might of her dragons to avenge the wrongs done to her. While it is true that she has command of the dragons, they are not her only strength. She is a very strong character herself, and has the ability to lead men, not just dragons. Maybe my crush has made me a purist for Daenerys, but I just wish this aspect wouldn’t have been changed.
Overall, I was very pleased with Season 2, and am quite excited about Season 3. The stories did start to have differences, and I think there is some foreshadowing for some major plot differences. I would like that, and I would love to be surprised by a major difference. Just please leave Daenerys alone, though. She is perfect!