So, there we have episode four, with some real highs and real lows.
Talisa…well, the less said, the better, really. This is of course the scene I wrote about here. I am thrilled they changed the name of the character since they changed her back-story so radically. I am not thrilled with that cliché-filled scene. It just sucked, plain and simple. Not the acting, just the concept of the scene and the words being said.
Qarth…gone is the awe-inspiring, magnificent reception, not to mention the fairy-tale like way that Dany’s meeting with the three wise…well, the two wise men and the wise woman plays out well ahead of her getting to Qarth itself. There’s something very archetypal to Dany’s journey in A Clash of Kings and they have lost those elements entirely. I am also disappointed in Dany’s reaction here. Or rather, it may make sense in this desperate situation, but she just doesn’t get this aggressive in ACoK. She’s still very much caught between that timid young girl she started out as in the first book and the young woman driven by magic and destiny to follow the red comet. I feel the way they decided to play this out sacrificed the actual storyline for some cheap drama.
Xaro…well, he’s not Xaro, in any way, shape or form. Why didn’t they just change the name of this character as well? He’s every bit as different from book Xaro as Jeyne is from Talisa. His appearance, his background and, most significantly for the rest of the storyline, his personality. He’s a warrior. I am dubious we’ll be seeing him crying at will to persuade Dany. Are they keeping his sexual preferences? I think it would be particularly inappropriate to change that and still keep the character’s name. But even with what we’ve sen so far, they really just should have renamed the character if they absolutely had to cast and write him so completely differently. And they had to go and invent some weird ritual…
The scene, as it is, is well acted. I just wish we got the scenes from the books and the characters from the books. Added scenes from non-PoVs are one thing, completely altered scenes another. I did thoroughly enjoy the performance of the Spice King, however. His correction of Dany’s pronunciation was priceless and I feel he really captured the way the Qartheen see themselves as so superior to everyone else.
This episode also has some wonderful examples of what happens when they really nail adapting scenes from the books. The scene with Tyrion and Lancel is hilarious, with great performances from both actors. You can’t help feeling sorry for Lancel here; he really doesn’t stand a chance, caught between Cersei and Tyrion. And, of course, the final scene is everything it should be. Yes, they are conflating two events, but I am so relieved they really went for it with the shadow birth.
The Joffrey and Sansa scene is very good, both of them act it really well. I also think the added scene with Joffrey and the prostitutes was a good way of showing what the slightly older Joffrey might get up to; its clear from he way he orders Sansa stripped during the beating that there’s a sexual component to his sadism. I also liked the Harrenhal scenes quite a bit, both the way they handled the torture (even if I couldn’t actually watch that) and the terror and the brief interaction between Tywin and Arya. Again, they are conflating a lot of different scenes, but I think it kept true to the core of those scenes. I guess that is what I ultimately look for: does the adaptation stay true to the spirit of the storyline in the books? For the lows of this episode, I don’t think it does. For the highs, it very much does.