*Beware of Spoilers for Book/Season Two of Game of Thrones
This week’s gruesome episode (“Garden of Bones”) ends with the visual adaptation that many fans have been waiting for: Melisandre’s creepy shadow birth. To be sure, the filmmakers did a commendable job of taking a moment of full-on magic from the books and adapting it without shame. The visual was frightening and weird and cool all at once. People will be talking about it.
But the shadow ‘baby’ wasn’t the visual adaptation that I found the most compelling in this episode. Nor was it the beauty of Qarth. Nor the extreme goulish awesomeness of Harrenhal. Not even Grey Wind’s great sneak attack.
No. The thing that continues to impress me most is how the show films Tyrion (visually).
“A Very Small Man Can Cast a Very Large Shadow”
A film adaptation is so much more than condensing the details of a book into a script and getting actors to read the script dramatically in front of a camera. Yes, Peter Dinklage looks and sounds the part, but a good filmmaker has to frame him in a way that enhances our understanding of the character.
This season, I’ve found that the show frequently chooses wide/long shots when filming Tyrion, which emphasize his height and the disparity between his height and the other characters. They may have done this frequently in Season One, but the effect now that Tyrion has some power is far different.
The best example of this occurred in “Garden of Bones,” when Tyrion intrudes upon Joffrey’s public humiliation of Sansa. The camera refuses to give him too many hero’s close up shots when he enters, preferring instead to show us his full size in comparison to everyone there watching and doing nothing. The framing of the scene makes us realize that, although Tyrion is smaller than everyone else (literally), he is much larger than them in truth.
The effect is mesmerizing. Think of Aragorn in Lord of the Rings and his iconic Helm’s Deep entrance scene (sorry for the low quality):
Tyrion effectively did that in this episode, but the same type of heroic manliness on display had nothing to do with him slamming open big doors and everything to do with him willing to call out a King in his court. As readers know, such tendencies will be significant in later books.
It’s choices like these, however, that best serve the purpose of adaptation. Martin can describe the concept expressed here visually through words. He does in A Clash of Kings, writing : “Power resides only where men believe it resides. […] A shadow on the wall, yet shadows can kill. And ofttimes a very small man can cast a very large shadow.”
But the visual of the very small man entering the king’s hall and taking control of a terrible situation doesn’t just ‘adapt’ this concept–it proves it.
There was one very clear, terrifying and powerful shadow on the wall created in this episode, but it’s Tyrion’s shadow that I’m most interested in seeing adapted with this level of care.