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I’m late to the game as I was traveling but I wanted to jump in on some of the topics here.
The execution of Petyr Baelish- I also think it was clumsily written but the biggest problem was that the show had to change plots and then his character to give Sansa a borrowed storyline. In the books Littlefinger has not made one wrong step, he has Sansa hidden away in the Aerie under his protection with dyed hair pretending to be his illegitimate daughter and learning his ways. She is his prize and he is scheming the best way to advance her and really himself. The girl in the books given to Ramsey the sadist was one of Sansa’s friends who came with her from the North to King’s Landing. She wasn’t important enough to be worth anything so Baelish put her in one of his brothels after the Starks were ousted and after Arya disappeared and he needed a dark haired Northern sounding girl, pulled her out, said she was Arya and traded her off to the Boltons. All the torture and suffering was done to Jayne Pool as a fake Arya, not Sansa. Book Petyr Baelish would never throw Sansa into the unknown to be tortured. Changing the plot line and torturing Sansa necessitated making Baelish foolish instead of the human computer he is in the books. I have no doubt he will be killed by Sansa or at her demand in the books eventually (because of a prophecy that basically says so) but I am sure it will be much more subtle and surprising in its execution.
I think the biggest problem as some people have pointed out, is that Weiss and Benioff signed up to adapt the story from Martin’s books, not write it. No one every dreamed after so many years there would be no new books to draw upon. Martin gave them an outline verbally of what generally plays out but left characters stuck all,over the place in his books plus added even more in Dance with Dragons. There is a limited amount of time HBO can keep paying these actors as they get more and more famous and only so many seasons they can afford. The show has to end at some point and they are stuck with trying to wrap things up and get out of the” Meerenese Knot” Martin is still caught up in. Rather than creating whole new stories or leaving Sansa out, they borrowed a storyline that brought them a lot of backlash but got Sansa up north to get in on the action. It unfortunately took the most clever character and made him seem dumb. I firmly believe the Battle Of The Bastards will play out very differently in the books. There is no way Martin will make Jon that impetuous just to have a deus ex machina ending with the Vale riding at Sansa’s request.
One thing I find funny is that people think Jon and Daenerys are fan service but love Tormund and Brienne, when it’s quite the opposite. Jon and Daenerys have been Martin’s goal, they are the fire and the ice and the two main characters as he sees it Tormund and Brienne just took off after a bit of creative interpretation on the set and now it’s played up.
I truly enjoy the show but I think of it as its own entity from the books. Some things are better on the show like Tormund in general and his relationship with Brienne and some are worse like Jamie who left Cersei in the books LONG ago. I think it ruined his rehabilitation to stay with her so long and after she burned all those people! Once he knew what she was, after spending time with Brienne and her good influence and that she was unfaithful to him, he left her in the books. On the show he just became pathetic. He killed the mad king to save people from burning but on the show he stands by Cersei even when she is a complete monster and all their kids are dead. Like Baelish, it lessened his character I think.
Something better in the show is Davos. The show had Shireen teach him to read not a cleric like the book, which was a great choice. Also the bastard son of Robert he saved in the book wasn’t Gendry but a noble woman’s bastard by the king who led a privileged life and had other protectors who took him off in a ship with Davis’s help. Having Davos save poor Gendry who also grew up in flea bottom and bond with him and send him off in that little rowboat had much more of an emotional effect than saving some other illegitimate son of Robert’s the audience never met before. But that also meant the Brotherhood had to become villains selling poor Gendry to get him into Melisandre’s hands. In the books they don’t and retain more of their moral high ground.
I guess what I’m saying is I’m taking the good and bad from both interpretations and enjoying both.