Long after it was suggested to me by a number of people (a number that must’ve tripled after the HBO series came out), I finally started to read George Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” novels. I’m currently on the third book, “A Song of Storms,” and I’m greatly enjoying the ride so far. I’ve watched the TV series as well but I made sure to do so only after reading that first book that the show is based on. I thought the TV series was great too, despite suffering from some of the downfalls inherent to adapting an 800+ page monster of a novel into less than a dozen hour-long episodes but I digress. There is one scene in particular though, the one that closes the second episode, that completely amazed me in its execution.
Here’s a brief recap of the events that lead up to that moment. Bran Stark, a 7 year old boy and son of Eddard (or Ned), is thrown off a tower after seeing something he shouldn’t have. He survives but goes into a coma and an assassin is sent to finish him off by, presumably, the people that caused him to fall in the first place. Now, each of the Stark children has a direwolf, a large wolf-like creature, with them and Bran’s direwolf, who at that point had no name, rips out the would-be assassin’s throat before he carries out his mission, saving Bran. Bran eventually wakes up and that’s the part that I want to talk about.
In the book, chapters are told from the perspectives of major characters in the series. When Bran wakes, it’s his perspective we’re seeing it happen from and the chapter starts with a dream he’s having while in his coma. In the dream, there is talk of Bran’s higher purpose in the series and of the coming winter. It’s worth stressing that winter at this point in the book has been established not only as being extremely dangerous because of its fierceness but also as a more ominous and foreboding time. Winter is coming are, appropriately, the ominous words of House Stark. So when Bran finally wakes towards the end of the chapter, the first thing he sees is the serving woman who is tending to him and then, once she runs off to spread the news of Bran’s waking, he sees his direwolf next to him and pets him. When his brother Robb enters the room, the very first thing Bran says is: “His name is Summer.”
The name’s significance is clear in that it’s the polar opposite of the severe winters that people dread in the series but this is also, considering Summer saved Bran’s life, a touching moment that strenghtens the connection that the Stark direwolfs have with the respective owners. Just before this, in the chapter prior, Ned Stark had been forced by the King to kill his daughter Sansa’s direwolf, Lady, and later, after hearing that Bran was saved by Summer, he reflects on the importance of his children’s direwolfs and fears the repercussions that his killing of Lady might bring to his daughter.
In the TV series however, these two moments are weaved together into a single scene where the lack of dialogue and the subtlety of the conveyed visual information create what is, arguably, the single greatest moment in the show. In it, the setting jumps back and forth between Bran lying on his bed in his home at Winterfell to Ned in the Kingsroad as he goes to kill his daughter’s direwolf. We see Ned somberly approaching the pup, petting her and then pulling the dagger to end it. We then cut back to Bran at Winterfell and pan across his bed, from bottom to top, and see Summer perhaps a little distraught but laying protectively on top to his master. We go back to Ned with an off-camera Lady and his sorrow is palpable as he pulls the knife and we hear the wolf shriek for one last time. And then Bran wakes.
With no dialogue, pitch perfect music and brilliant direction, this scene conveys in less than a minute and half the importance of the direwolfs and the folly that Ned Stark is causing by ridding their children of one. Bran wakes just as Ned kills Lady and the way the scene is directed cements the importance of Summer and reminds the viewer of the fact that Bran would be dead without him. This strengthens the idea that, in killing Lady, Ned may have unknowingly sealed his daughter’s fate for the worse. This type of quick jump cuts between settings that are miles apart would be extremely difficult to achieve clearly in prose so this scene plays to the strengths of television as a visual medium and quickly and succintly presents information and ideas that do, in fact, take a bit longer to express in the novel.
There are other examples where I feel the book is stronger than the HBO series and yes, generally speaking, I enjoyed reading “A Game of Thrones” more than I enjoyed watching it. This particular scene however, is a perfect example of how to adapt something to another medium instead of merely translating it and is a testament to how well crafted this show is.Posted on September 12, 2011 in Miscellaneous |