(On Cable TV, April-June 2011) The first season of Game of Thrones was an astonishing adaptation of a long and complex epic fantasy novel into an easy-to-digest, well-produced, well-written ten-hours TV series. The second season may not be as groundbreaking, but it, too, manages to adapt a lengthy novel with a cast of hundreds into a fairly successful series of episodes. This time around, though, the changes from George R.R. Martin’s source text are more apparent: Sometimes for cost, sometimes for dramatic balance, sometimes to exploit the talents of the series’ actors, and sometimes to keep fans happy. The result is, despite a few noteworthy weak moments, generally successful. The War of the Five Kings is successfully brought to life despite the limited budget of the series, and the ninth episode, “Blackwater” is noteworthy for dispensing with the story’s multiplicity of subplots to focus exclusively on a spectacular military engagement. The story adds many more characters, but nearly everyone turns in some distinctive work: Peter Dinklage is up to the standards set by his Emmy-winning first-season work, but there’s also some fine work by Maisie Williams as Arya and Lena Headley as Cersei. Story-wise, many subplots hidden in the novel are shown onscreen, Arya’s travels are successfully condensed (something that led to the addition of a few gripping all-new scenes) and Theon’s inner conflicts are made more obvious while Daenerys’ time in Quarth is clumsily altered for greater dramatic suspense. These alterations to the original text are enough to keep readers engrossed in the series, even as they serve to adapt the original material on-screen. It’s unclear whether Game of Thrones will be able to juggle all of the extra subplots to be introduced in the next season, but the adaptation so far is amazingly faithful within the constraints of the production. On to Season 3!