Outside of the blooper reel and a few quippy bits that started out the evening, the Game of Thrones panel in Hall H at San Diego Comic-Con International this year was largely all business. Mainly the business of defending the TV choices, peppered with levity from the cast. Because, man, fans of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy novel series had heaps of questions about those myriad changes that took place between the books and the television show. Oh yeah, we should also mention that there are going to be some potential spoilers here — more book-related than show related, but still! — so if you’re afraid of that sort of thing, turn away now.
Moderated by Craig Ferguson, the audience’s energy was palpable and very nearly frenetic — even in a space as gargantuan as Hall H. Several members of the series’ seriously large cast were in attendance: John Bradley (Samwell Tarley), Rose Leslie (Ygritte), Kit Harington (that know-nothing Jon Snow), Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark), Natalie Dormer (Margaery Tyrell), Maisie Williams (Arya Stark), Rory McCann (The Hound), Gwendoline Christie (Brienne of Tarth), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister), Pedro Pascal (Oberyn Martell), and creators Martin, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. All of whom were more than happy to defend the decisions made in the name of character development and story plotting.
Ferguson eased the group into the discussion — there was a particularly funny bit wherein the show’s oft-controversial subject matter became a problem for filming: “We lost a location this year,” Benioff explained, “because [the location’s owner] didn’t want to be associated with, as the owner called it, ‘Porn of Thrones'” — but after that? Despite requests to the contrary from Ferguson and Benioff/Weiss, many fans obsessed over the deviations from the books, the potential liberties yet to come, and the potential that the series may beat out the books.
Benioff, Weiss, and Martin took it all in stride all things considered. They downright refused to answer questions regarding Lady Stoneheart, the fate of Benjen Stark, and the potential that the series will surpass the books. “I just got distracted,” Harington explained, to laughter, when questioned on his lost uncle.
“Do you book fans feel superior?” Ferguson asked at one point, clearly annoyed at the obsession. There were more than a few loudly bellowed “Yes!”es that permeated the crowd. One fan even explained that there is a subsection of book readers that are going to stop watching the show for fear of having their “pure experience ruined” by details that get ahead of ASOIAF.
But for Martin — whom it felt at times the Q&Aers were needling for some sort of dissent — brought up the example of Robb Stark’s wife as a prime example. Is she Talisa or Jeyne Westerling (whom we’re going to hear from in the prologue for The Winds of Winter)? He compared it to the story of Scarlett O’Hara in her book versus movie iterations. “Does she have three children or one? The correct answer is she doesn’t have any, because she’s not a real person.”
It’s not for lack of want to be loyal to the book and its myriad details and fan favorite characters. “We’re amazed to find how much detail we cannot include,” Benioff explained. If they had their way they’d love to do 13 episodes as opposed to 10, but their production from season to season butts up against each other. “As soon as we finish post-production on one, we immediately go into pre-production on the next season,” explained Weiss. To put it simply? There’s just not enough time to have your cake, make sure it’s loyal to every single minute detail, and eat it, too.
And Martin agreed. “I wish we had 3 more episodes a season,” but for what it is, he’s very pleased. “You have to remember we originally were going to make these movies, one for each book,” Benioff said. (Imagine how much detail would’ve been lost then!) As for those scene additions that really grind certain book-readers gears (“why add those scenes when you could do something from the book?!” they oh-so often cry)? Martin gets their necessity as a storyteller. “The things I mourn are what don’t make it. The stuff that gets added, I love,” he stated. Often those scenes are put in “when there is no point of view character,” he added, or in lieu of more efficient character development. “It’s great television.”
Adding a bit of humor, Bradley added, “What the show really excels at is putting the actors in the same conditions as the character. If they’re cold we’re cold.” Ultimately, Martin explained his approval of all the changes thusly. “The common humanity [is what] unites all these characters, and that’s what I try to do.”
“The show is the show and the book is the book,” explained Martin. So there.
What’s your stance on the matter? Does the show have a responsibility to book readers? Or are they merely getting too possessive of a story that has many iterations? Sound off in the comments.