Did the Red Wedding turn Game of Thrones viewers against readers?

Sansa fan art by AniaMitura

My friends and I talk about Game of Thrones every week during the season. During the first three seasons, there was a curiosity about the whole universe and the two readers in our group definitely had a better grip on the families and relationships. When we chatted through email or through the posts on my blog, the viewers were likely to ask the readers questions.

But things changed. What I keep seeing this season is a variation on the comment “Oh, like you don’t know…” when I ask a question meant to spur discussion.

My friend Bryan has brought up that he is sick of the phrase “in the books” that he hears everywhere people talk about Game of Thrones. To his credit, he was sick of it before the Red Wedding and it is getting abused lately (because the show has gone so off-book) but it prompted me to wonder, “Did the Red Wedding turn Game of Thrones viewers against readers?”

After Season 2, I read an interview with the show creators discussing the third season. They teased that they’d wanted to make it to Season 3 since the first episode since something more shocking than anything ever seen on television would happen in Season 3. Well, that convinced me. I powered through books 2 and 3 over that summer. In all honesty, I didn’t even realize the Red Wedding was that moment. That was it? I mean, when Ned was killed in book 1, I knew things weren’t stable.

There does seem to be a sea-change since that episode though. When it happened, Bryan’s first comment was “Todd I cant tell you why, it doesn’t effect me, but I hate that you knew that shit was coming.”

I understand his feeling. That is, after all, why I went and read the books. I wanted to know everything I could about the story. But I think it did something else. The Red Wedding made the readers complicit with George R.R. Martin in a giant game of spoilers. We’ve seen behind the curtain to a certain extent and more than just annoying viewers, it’s put us on different ground.

Up to a point, we know the fates of Tyrion, Jon, Danaerys, Tywin, Cersei, Sansa, Arya, Bran. God, that’s got to annoy them.

But guys, it’s the show runners’ fault.

What drives these viewer friends of mine crazy is that I point out where the show diverges from the books. But here’s the thing: I wouldn’t say a thing if the show didn’t diverge. So I wonder again, what is the point in diverging? Do the show runners really feel they’re adding to the story? Who among readers wants to see different scenes than those which we read? The changes annoy and confuse readers who wonder aloud about their confusion which in turn annoys viewers.

I can’t stop wondering why they’re changing things. That’s just human curiosity. But we’re approaching a point where my viewing friends aren’t going to want to chat with me about the show. The intrigue between knowing and not-knowing may have become a real rift. I hope not. If so, I may have to spoil a whole bunch of things just to put us on the same page.