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'Game of Thrones' recap: Charting its own course

May 14, 2012 |  8:20 am

Game of Thrones
The "Game of Thrones" that plays out weekly on HBO will never be the "Song of Ice and Fire" books exactly, it never has. But with each passing week, tiny changes from the plot of the books are rippling out and causing the series to deviate more and more from what was widely praised as a near-identical transcription of the books during Season 1.

"A Man Without Honor," is the latest and most striking example yet of the cumulative effect these changes are having on the series, with very few scenes from the episode playing out exactly as they did in the book. And events changed in previous episodes forcing developments in this episode to chart their own unique path. For those who fell in love with George R.R. Martin's richly imagined world and have come to expect the HBO series to stand proudly side-by-side with the books, this episode seems like a test. Just how far can the TV show deviate before fans cry foul? And do the changes really matter?

The nice thing for those unburdened by knowledge of the books is that the seventh episode of the season slows things down from the usual blistering pace of plot developments and character revelations whizzing by at 1,000 miles an hour, blurred by heavy accents. Several intimate scenes in this episode are two-person interactions designed to flesh out the characters rather then speed the plot along. And though many of them are total inventions of the TV series, they're so good they deserve to be seen on their own terms.

CHEAT SHEET: All you need to know about 'Game of Thrones'

Best among these scenes are the conversations between Tywin Lannister and Arya Stark in the dragon-scorched castle of Harrenhal. Despite her best efforts (including siccing assassin Jaqen Hagar on Amory Lorch last week to protect her identity), Lannister seems to be seeing through Arya's front as a common serving girl. However, in a development that not even Lannister himself could foresee, the old nobleman doesn't seem to care all that much that this girl who is so close to him is apparently lying about who she is. Blame it on getting soft in his old age, but Lannister seems to have a soft spot for Arya — or at least girls who know their ancient Westerosi history.

North of the Wall, Jon Snow continues to endure the never-ending torments of the aggressively flirtatious wildling Ygritte. If this were a romantic comedy, Jon and Ygritte would be in the first act where they really don't like each other. Is it any secret what's ahead for these two? Yes, Jon Snow has vowed never to lay a finger on a woman as part of the Night's Watch, but come on! He can't go through the entire series without having any romantic interests. Despite all the flirtation, Ygritte does have other things on her mind, such as getting loose from Snow's ropes. And with the appearance of other wildlings near the episode's end, it looks like Snow may be the one in ropes soon.

In the camp of Robb Stark, Jaime Lannister makes his first appearance since the initial episode of the second season. Yes, he's still locked in a cage, but at least this time he's allowed to have a long, chatty scene with a fellow prisoner (and lesser Lannister relative) who promptly gets pummeled to death by Jaime as part of an escape attempt. Of course, the escape lasts all of one scene before he's being carted back before Catelyn Stark in chains, but it was a good effort and a good scene. And for those wondering, the "Man Without Honor" in the episode title is Jaime Lannister.

In Winterfell, poor out-of-his-league Theon Greyjoy continues to stumble through his new career as a warrior, conqueror and turncloak. In the few scenes taken straight from Martin's books, Theon's rule of Winterfell isn't going well. Taking control of his foster home wasn't difficult, but controlling it appears to be something Theon doesn't quite have a handle on, as he desperately attempts to find the Stark boys (Bran and Rickon) who have escaped with Hodor and the wilding Yara.

Theon's ham-handed attempts at ruling with an iron fist lead to the shocking final scene of the episode, with the former Stark ward displaying the tarred remains of Bran and Rickon Stark to the horrified residents of Winterfell. Did "Game of Thrones" really just kill off two cute kids? First Sean Bean and now this?

Considering that there was a suspicious amount of activity not shown on camera, it's a safe bet that those two bodies aren't the Stark boys.

Meanwhile, across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys' story line is winding its own way toward the House of the Undying. Her search for the missing dragons leads her there, although it wasn't any great detective work on her part. Pyat Pree, the supremely creepy warlock who introduced himself to Daenerys last week, confesses to hijacking the dragons with the aid of the dragon queen's supposed friend, Xaro Xhoan Daxos, who has now fashioned himself King of Qarth. But what about the Thirteen, including the Spice King, who currently rule Qarth? Dead. Pyat Pree executes them all mob-style in one of the flashiest deviations from the book in this episode.

Now it appears Daenerys has no choice but to visit the House of the Undying, which will surely be quite an unsettling sequence.

Most surprising of all is that after so many weeks of reminding viewers why he won an Emmy, Peter Dinklage has just one scene.

Still no word this week from Stannis, Davos and Melisandre. And for that matter, no one gives birth to anything unseemly this week.

The sex-and-violence tally

Sex: One man's naked butt. Face-down on a table.

Violence: A soldier getting hanged, another getting bludgeoned to death, the Thirteen of Qarth get their throats slit and Pyat Pree gets stabbed by Jorah Mormont (although he pulls an Obi-Wan and turns into a pile of empty clothes).

Extra-credit book report:

Most everything that happens in this episode is invented for the series, with the exception of Theon's hunt for Bran and Rickon and the display of their bodies on the walls of Winterfell. The Thirteen of Qarth were never executed by Pyat Pree and Xaro Xhoan Daxos never declared himself King of Qarth. Arya Stark and Tywin Lannister never sat around swapping dragon stories with each other (though they should have).


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'Game of Thrones' star Carice van Houten on magic and Melisandre

— Patrick Kevin Day

Photo: Emilia Clarke, center, Iain Glen, right, in "Game of Thrones." Credit: HBO.