‘ Game of Thrones’ books started the drama, but show will fin­ish the job

USA TODAY International Edition - - LIFE -

In 2015, at the end of Game of Thrones Sea­son 5, I wasn’t happy.

The sea­son had been a huge dis­ap­point­ment, a mix of gra­tu­itous sex­ual vi­o­lence and poor writ­ing that left me frus­trated rather than en­ter­tained. The fi­nale fur­ther de­mor­al­ized me about the se­ries’ fu­ture. It brought sev­eral of the ma­jor char­ac­ters’ sto­ries — in­clud­ing those of Cer­sei ( Lena Headey), Jon ( Kit Har­ing­ton) and Daen­erys ( Emilia Clarke) — to the end of their nar­ra­tives in George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire books, on which the se­ries is based. As a reader, I couldn’t help but won­der where the se­ries was headed.

A year later, I was pleas­antly sur­prised by the sixth sea­son, which, rather than flail­ing without the guid­ance of the source ma­te­rial, thrived on its new­found in­de­pen­dence.

The books had a habit of wheel- spin­ning to pre­serve the sta­tus quo for hun­dreds of pages, and the se­ries mir­rored this slow pace. But in Sea­son 6, Thrones be­gan run­ning at full speed, al­low­ing char­ac­ters to meet or re­unite, to move across the vast fic­tional world and to get closer to their ul­ti­mate goals ( or their ul­ti­mate demise).

Dany sailed for Wes­t­eros. Cer- sei mur­dered her way to the Iron Throne. Bran con­firmed that Jon was the son of Rhae­gar Tar­garyen and Lyanna Stark. And that was just the fi­nale.

As the se­ries be­gins its sev­enth sea­son, and starts set­ting up its con­clu­sion ( only 13 episodes re­main, in­clud­ing seven this year), I’m ex­cited to see it con­tinue this mo­men­tum and de­liver a sat­is­fy­ing fi­nale. But I’m also a lit­tle heart­bro­ken that these char­ac­ters will fin­ish their sto­ries on screen be­fore they even get close on the page. Martin plans two more books to fin­ish the saga.

This isn’t re­ally a prob­lem for ei­ther the cre­ators or Martin, who is free to write on his own sched­ule. The au­thor could also sur­prise us with the sixth in­stall­ment, The Winds of Win­ter, at any point, fol­lowed by a sev­enth novel, A Dream of Spring. But the tim­ing makes it un­likely that he’ll beat Thrones to its con­clu­sion.

It’s more than just want­ing to avoid hav­ing the se­ries “spoil” fu­ture books. I’ve al­ready seen events that I’ll likely read about later. It’s that I know I’m los­ing the op­por­tu­nity to find out what hap­pens to Dany and Jon and Sansa through the medium I first met them. The se­ries and the books are very dif­fer­ent, as both Martin and the pro­duc­ers like to point out, and I miss the story the book was telling all on its own.

Like so many other fans, I have a per­sonal con­nec­tion to the books. They’re writ­ten in pointof- view chap­ters, and go in­side the heads of char­ac­ters. I ex­pe­ri­enced them alone, without the deaf­en­ing drum­beat the se­ries sparks on so­cial me­dia. My ver­sion of live- tweet­ing the Red Wed­ding? I went to my dad— a fan of the books — who told me, “The Starks were never very good at the game, any­way.”

I’m ex­cited for Thrones to an­swer its mys­ter­ies and go out on a big and ( prob­a­bly) fiery note. I just wish I was read­ing about it, too.

HBO

Tyrion ( Peter Din­klage), Mis­sandei ( Nathalie Em­manuel) and Dany ( Emilia Clarke) sail to­ward Wes­t­eros in Game of Thrones af­ter the show blew past the books.

ROBERT HANASHIRO, USA TO­DAY

Au­thor George R. R. Martin, right, and Game of Thrones pro­duc­ers al­ways note that the books and the se­ries dif­fer.

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