Diana Riggs' scenes are entertaining and enlightening, they give us more of a sense of who the Tyrrells are, and why the Tyrells matter in the Lannister-Tyrrell alliance (and that'll be very important once that starts to sour next season). They serve more of a plot purpose than say, the endless faffing about Arya did in A Clash of Kings. The Tywin/Arya scenes were highlights of that season.
Arya has definitely been less bloodthirsty than her book counerpart, and I'd prefer those kills to be retained, but she has killed somebody
by this point so I assume we're on the same trajectory.
Brendan Moody wrote:
because it's a very different kind of show compared to those.
You'd have to elaborate on that. The only difference I can see is that one foregrounds its thematic ambitions in its recasting of popular genre material, and the other is content (like, it must be said, the books themselves) to shape itself as a plot-driven entertainment.
Game of Thrones owes most to Rome and Carnivale in the HBO stable because the former is a grounded Historical Fiction show, with costumes and politics and dozens of different players with different agendas, coloured with some black humour and frank sex and violence. To a certain extent Game of Thrones frames itself as if
it is the medieval equivalent of that show, but with one important caveat:
It is also a fantasy show. And that's where the lineage with Carnivale is important, the last time HBO had a supernatural series featuring a star turn by a dwarf actor. Carnivale legitimizes its fantastic elements by framing them and their vaguely alluded to mythology in low key, HBO-style drama.
of these shows are the Sopranos, with its six year study of a man and his family and his job. And none of them are the extensive analysis of the ways the system fails everyone in the modern American city, i.e. the Wire. It is a costume drama and a costume drama about a world that never was, trying to imbue itself with the seriousness of real world costume dramas and the sense of wonder and scope genre fare can manage.
Game of Thrones is by this point the most successful of those programs in terms of length, it's reached the third season that they could never reach (and there's actually some speculation that Rome's budget was cut to develop Game of Thrones instead). This is not the same thing as being better
than them, as the series has often avoided subtext for direct text, particularly in its notorious sexposition scenes - but it's been a staggeringly ambitious program in terms of the depth and length of its multiple character arcs and have executed many of them quite well.
So tl;dr: Game of Thrones is more obsessively plot driven than most shows. It's all about moving pieces around and there are dozens of pieces and multiple locations, it's arguably quite unique in the sense of narrative spine
it's given, and that's the sense it resembles Rome's Roman Civil Wars more than it does the often low-key stakes of a Sopranos episode.
And re: Essos. As I've said before it definitely reeks of Orientalism in the sense it frames the east as decadent and feminine, and really only the Nine Cities have a specifically European flavour (Meereen is all ziggurats, etc.).