With the final season of Game of Thrones in full swing now, and general hysteria for the show at fever pitch, I thought it would be the perfect time to do a comparison between the show and the books.
I am a huge fan of both the show and the books, and while the show was pretty loyal to its source material for the first season or two, they are very different beasts now. There have been so many chops and changes to the story George R.R. Martin has written, with characters being written out or blended with others and the story moving past the point in the books, that in so many ways the show writers are now telling a very different story. This post is a look at these changes and whether I think they were a success and done well, or whether they have left me screaming at the TV about how they ruined everything.
Now, I obviously can’t comment on what has happened since the show moved past the books in this – those wouldn’t be changes, really, – so, really, I will be comparing things that happened in the first five season of the show.
Anyway, without further ado, here are my best and worst changes in Game of Thrones:
Increased White Walker screen time
In the books, the White Walkers (known as The Others) don’t get seen a huge amount. They’re always there as a threat, and Jon Snow’s chapters are constantly alluding to them and their actions, but we don’t actually get to read much about their exploits directly. As such, they feel very much secondary to the story, whereas in the show, the season’s have slowly but steadily been bringing them to the fore with increasing screen time.
The absolute best example of this is Hardhome. In the books, we get to hear about what happened there second hand from a handful of surviving Rangers sent north by Jon Snow. In the show, we get an amazing episode. Gritty, brutal and absolutely terrifying. Hardhome was a real triumph as a cinematic battle. Sure, the next episode they upstaged it with The Battle of the Bastards, but it was still a great episode.
House Tyrell (especially the ladies!)
George R.R. Martin missed a trick here. The Tyrells in the books seem to be floating around in the background and are much more passive than in the show – Margaery especially. In the books, she feels very much a victim of bad luck. None of her marriages are working out and she just gets passed between men. In the show, however, she really comes to life as a political force. You can really see how she uses everything at her disposal (including her ‘womanly charms’) to twist Joffrey and then Tommen around her finger. She is determined to reach the top. This does have the impact of making Cersei seem less mad and more understandable in the show. Not likeable, just more understandable.
Speaking of Tyrell ladies, Olenna is just amazing in the show. Sure, her touch is subtly hinted at through the books, but we only really hear of it through Little Finger. In the show, we get to see the scheming face on, and Dianna Rigg’s portrayal of her takes her character to the next level! I suppose you could say the same about Charles Dance and Tywin Lannister, and Iwan Rheon and Ramsey Bolton, but they weren’t really changes to the characters, where as the Tyrell ladies characters are tweaked – and for the better.
Arya and The Hound
Sure, Arya and The Hound have some adventures in the books. And sure, they kind of get on by the end of it. But in the show, they have genuine friendship chemistry. Maisie Williams and Rory McCann really pulled it out the the hat with this one, and the writers just kept on giving us more and more of it. They still never admit they like each other, not until the hounds speech to Brienne about how she isn’t the right person to look after Arya if she believes that bringing her back to Winterfell and into the politics of Westeros will keep her safe. He is kind of right too. I like Brienne, but she wasn’t the right person to look after Arya. The Hound was. The fight after the speech was spectacular too. It really served to reinforce how much of a force Brienne is as well. Arya leaving The Hound after is just gut wrenching.
Almost everything Dorne
This doesn’t include Pedro Pascal and his portrayal of Oberyn Martell – which was phenomenal – but the way Dorne was shown in this book was terrible. In the books, they have a great plot. Doran Martell comes across in the same way Olenna Tyrell does in the show, a politcal mastermind who is determined to succeed and avenge the slights to his family;s honour from Robert’s rebellion. Dorne is fascinating and the characters are well written and thought out. The Sand Snakes each have a distinct personality and are fierce warrior princesses. This can’t be said for the show. Doran Martell is just ruined as a character. We never seen any form of political shrewdness from him, while the show’s Sand Snakes have about as much character as a piece of cardboard. I blame the show writers, personally. I know Alexander Siddig can act. He was clearly let down by the writers, who just gave him nothing decent to work with.
Once again, poor Oberyn. He got us all so excited for the Martell’s storyline!
The lack of Lady Stoneheart
If you don’t know who Lady Stoneheart is, and you;re reading the books, you may want to skip this section. Okay, good, got a sort of spoiler warning out of the way.
Lady Stoneheart is a great character, really fitting the increasingly dark nature of the books – and yes, they start pretty grimy and dark. Catelyn Stark, brought back from the edge of death and driven but nothing but cold-blooded vengeance for her son. It is such a cool concept, and she isn’t brought back in the same way that Berric Dondarrion is: she is really kind of the walking dead, only kept alive by her bitter refusal to let the crimes against her go unpunished. George R.R. Martin’s descripion makes he seem absolutely terrifying, while her appearance really puts Brienne in a sticky situation!
I think Lady Stoneheart was a missed opportunity. The fact that she is missing probably means she doesn’t play a huge role in the endgame of who sits on the throne, but she is a cool character and I wanted her in there! Okay, childish rant over.
We all knew this one would be on the list, right? Book Euron is a charismatic, brutal and smart. Show Euron is a buffoon with a huge sense of self-importance, who likes to walk around making dick jokes. Sure book Euron was cocky and had the self-importance, but he backed it up. Show Euron does not. Plus, book Euron actually poses a credible threat to Dany and her dragons with the Dragonbinder. I think he will take one of Dany’s dragons, not the Night King (The Others don’t seem to have a real leader in the way that the show’s White Walkers do).
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So, there was my list of the best and worst changes from the books to the show. What did you guys think? Do you agree? Would you have anything different to me? Let me know!
Oh, and enjoy the rest of the season!