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TV Weekend: Game of Thrones Wraps Up Season 2. How’s It Doing?

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It seems like it’s scarcely started, but Sunday night Game of Thrones airs its final episode of its second season. (Business note: I’m not getting an advance review screener to watch and I may have other deadline business, so my review will probably not be ready until later in the day Monday.) The fantasy series has already been picked up by HBO for a third season, and the ratings look solid enough that subsequent seasons are probably a good bet.

Judging by the numbers, and the discussions here on the blog, the series seems to have held on to initial viewers while drawing in more. Which is quite a feat for a highly complicated, highly serial drama with a vast amount of backstory, settings and characters. Generally a series like that—see Lost—may start strong and even build, but it eventually loses viewers as people become overwhelmed or drop out for other reasons, while it gets tougher for newcomers to catch up.

And while I think this has been a stronger season on balance than season one, which had the burden of more setup and exposition, I’ve definitely heard complaints from viewers (especially ones who haven’t read the George R. R. Martin source books) that it’s getting increasingly hard to follow the characters and the action. So while we wait for the finale, a couple of questions for you:

For nonreaders of the books: Have you been able to keep up? Can you keep the players, settings and logistics straight? Are there any details you’d like cleared up, and any ways GoT might make it easier to decipher?

For readers of the books: By now we’ve gotten a good sense of how season 2 has departed from the source material—considerably more than the first season did. This has included rearrangement (putting Arya and Tywin together), condensation (combining the roles and functions of certain supporting characters, having Melisandre birth one shadow rather than two), omission (shaving some details, like the ship-trapping chain, from the Battle of the Blackwater) and outright invention (Dany’s dragon-napping and other incidents during her stay in Qarth). Which have helped and hurt the series?

It should go without saying, but let’s keep discussion free of book spoilers for non-readers. And I’ll see you back here Monday-ish to talk about the finale.