I agree with some of those points, in particular Charles Dance and Maisie Williams perform so brilliantly together that any of their scenes easily compensates for many ills. OTOH, I think Robb's love story was cheesy and diminishes the choices the character makes in the book, and the Winterfell arc was badly butchered with the removal of entire layers of story and important characters. This is especially annoying when time is instead spent copiously on characters that don't even exist in the book and have for some reason been kept around despite their exposition-carrying function from season 1 no longer being upheld. And Cersei's doing an odd little hot and cold dance vs. her rather more consistent portrayal in the book, and a lovely bit of finale-defining ambiguity is culled from Jon's story, and Tyrion's shining, key moment of the story got cut (leaving him with rather little to actually do
despite copious screen time), and Stannis is behaving very out of character - even for the series - in the Battle of Blackwater, ...
I'm not a purist; I don't expect an adaptation to cling to the books page by page. In fact, I thought the first season did a tremendous job at picking the best bits from the book, and adding its own, complementary beats that didn't contradict the book but instead showed events from new, interesting angles or gave new insights into characters. Season 2 is far less successful at this - it got jumbled up in the picking-the-best-bits stage and didn't even get to adding much in the way of complementary stuff.
Ultimately, I think Clash
was just a little too big for one season. I'm happy they're doing Storm
in two seasons - it's even longer and higher-density than Clash
. All the potential is certainly still there, it can easily recover (at least for now, when the changes haven't snowballed into insurmountable problems yet).