‘Game of Thrones’ conclusion shocks unprepared viewers

(Spoiler alert: Fans of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” who have not caught up with the current season should avoid reading.)

“The book was better.”

That’s the typical war cry of literary-minded people who insist that the big-screen movie versions of their favorite stories usually fail to live up to those penned by the original authors.

In recent years, these comparisons also have become applicable in television.

And perhaps no show has illustrated the tug-of-war between book and screen as vividly as “Game of Thrones.”

HBO’s fantasy masterpiece wrapped up an exceptional third season Sunday.

I suspect, though, that fans will be buzzing about it long into the summer, particularly the show’s gut-wrenching Red Wedding sequence that occurred in the penultimate episode.

Social media exploded with shock, outrage and disbelief over the plot twist that had would-be king Robb Stark, his mother, Catelyn, and his pregnant wife, Talisa, getting brutally slaughtered.

Devotees of George R.R. Martin’s book series knew it was coming and thus processed it quite differently than nonreaders who had no preconceived notions.

In the days that followed, it was great fun to observe the reactions from both camps.

But it also was irritating to witness the barrage of nitpicking from readers who dissected all the disparities between book and screen and slammed the show for not paying “proper respect” to the source material.

It’s important to remember that books and TV shows are two very different beasts.

Producer David Benioff explained it this way: “the great thing about George’s books is that the skeleton is so strong. Even if we sometimes strip away some of the muscles and the flesh, we know we’re still remaining true to the underlying story, because we know the major character arcs.”

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