Warning: This is an article written from the perspective of a book reader. Unsullied, considered yourself appropriately warned.
Game of Thrones Season 5, Episode 4 caused quite an uproar with book purists everywhere, as Ser Barristan the Bold died fighting to save Grey Worm and the Unsullied from an ambush by the Sons of the Harpy. I won’t get into the details of these arguments, as this article is not about Barristan’s death. Instead, I’ll consider a topic that is no less a hot-button issue among fans of the books; that of Loras Tyrell.
For too long now, I have been becoming more and more dissatisfied with Loras’ character development (or lack thereof). And before we get too deep into this subject, let me be clear that I do not place the blame for this on actor Finn Jones, because he is a fantastic actor who is doing the best with what he is given. No, I lay the blame for the vapid and silly incarnation of Loras Tyrell squarely at the feet of David Benioff and Dan Weiss.
My problems with Loras began in season 1, when he was shown shaving Renly’s chest. I remember that many casual fans of the books got upset at the time because they did not even catch on to the fact that Loras was gay. However, hardcore book fans such as myself picked up on George R.R. Martin’s subtle hints about Loras’ homosexuality, and we thought we knew how his story would play out. Was the chest-shaving scene something that we thought book Loras and Renly would participate in? Not particularly, but that scene was not enough to justify raising the banners and marching on HBO headquarters.
Our first hint at what the showrunners had in store for Loras came in Season 2, when Renly was slain by the Stannis shadow-monster. In the books, Loras is so utterly in love and dedicated to Renly that he slew the guards that were supposed to keep Renly safe in a fit of grief and rage. Then, he took Renly’s body to a secret location, where no one could disturb his final resting place.
On the show, Loras’ grief was never really shown, not to any real extent. In fact, Loras seems to slide easily into court life in King’s Landing, happy to play the pawn in his grandmother’s game to improve her family’s status. This is where the show broke from the books in a major way. In A Clash of Kings, Loras requests to become a member of the Kingsguard, a celibate order. With his one true love dead and gone, his desire to love another is gone as well. A direct quote from A Storm of Swords should shed some light into the depth and complexity of Loras Tyrell from the books.
“Ser Loras said. “It is not necessary for a third son to wed, or breed. Not necessary, but some find it pleasant. What of love? When the sun has set, no candle can replace it.”
He’s clearly referring to Renly here. On the show, we see Loras become a silly, cartoonish version of his book self. He day dreams about his wedding while extolling the virtues of wearing frilly lace. He is shown having sex with other men, like Olyvar, who is obviously a plant by Lord Petry Baelish, who’s trying to gain leverage over the Tyrells. Even this season, Loras is made out to be a half-wit, as he clumsily stumbles through attempts at consoling his betrothed, Cersei, at Lord Tywin’s funeral.
When Cersei begins to make her power play in A Feast for Crows, it is Loras who steps forward to help his family. Highgarden and the Reach are in danger of being sacked by the Ironborn. However, the Redwyne fleet, which is arguably the best naval force in Westeros, is tied up at the siege of Dragonstone. Loras begs the queen to release the ships so that they may go and stop the Ironborn from reaving the Reach, but Cersei denies his request. Loras then demands to be sent to the siege, claiming that he can end it quickly. Cersei allows him to go, knowing or hoping that he will die in the process. Loras lifts the siege of Dragonstone in under 10 days by leading the charge against the gates of the castle himself. Whether the reports of his grievous wounds are to be believed is a topic for another article, but it suffices to say that the heroic and valiant knight who volunteers to sacrifice himself in the books is a far cray from the hollow shell that Loras is on the show.
Back to the show, and Episode 4, “Sons of the Harpy.” Loras was taken into custody by a band of lunatics called the Faith Militant. These men were poorly armed and even more poorly armored. Loras was sparring in full armor with a blunted practice sword, surrounded by his house knights and guard. Still, the Faith Militant were allowed to waltz in, unmolested, and lay their hands on Loras. Watching this happen made my blood boil, as it completed the slow decline Loras’ character had been on for years.
Understand this: in the books, Loras would have cut a bloody path through the Faith Militant had they accosted him in that manner. Loras is a knight of the Kingsguard who holds the respect of even Jaime Lannister, the Lord Commander. He’s a skilled fighter and known to everyone in the realm as a brave and accomplished warrior.
On the show, Loras has become a fan-service device. His sexual exploits and flamboyant personality are a clear case of pandering to a certain demographic, and that demographic should be offended. He is a pale shade of the Loras from the books, and it’s a dammed shame that show-watchers don’t get to experience the true Loras Tyrell.
Hi, my name Razor, and today I’m a sad book purist.