Based off the popular epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, the Game of Thrones television series has become an international cultural phenomenon. Boasting extremely high viewership and even bigger numbers in fan theories and number of conversations revolved around it, it’s fair to say that Game of Thrones has eclipsed the original book series in terms of cultural relevance. Over time, the Game of Thrones TV show has become bolder, altering story lines in increasingly major ways. With that in mind, here are eight ways in which the Game of Thrones TV show changed up the storytelling and character arcs – both to simplify the narrative and for the showrunners to tell their own story with already established characters. Be aware, plenty of spoilers to follow.
Perhaps the most significant change from books to TV is dropping the limited point of view. The Song of Ice and Fire book series is famous for its point of view chapters, told in a third person limited perspective. This allows for George R.R. Martin to obscure crucial information from readers, building a type of literary suspense that isn’t possible on television. The Game of Thrones TV show instead uses individual character segments with a more overarching connected world, favoring more drama instead of cliffhangers.
Largely considered to be the biggest moment in both the Game of Thrones TV show and the Song of Ice and Fire book series, the Red Wedding signifies a bold shift of evil triumphing over good and shows the importance of playing good politics. While the scene is mostly faithfully adapted from Martin’s action, there are a few key differences. Chief among them is Robb Stark’s wife, who on the show is an original character named Talisa Maegyr, who is killed during the wedding. In the books, Robb is instead married to Jeyne Westerling, who is not present at the wedding and is kept under guard in order to make sure that she does not produce an heir for Robb.
Another prominent character that is killed during the Red Wedding is Catelyn Stark, mother of Robb Stark. In the TV show, that is the last that is seen of her, but in the books, Catelyin is resurrected by Beric Dondarrion, a mercenary and priest of the Lord of Light. She then becomes Lady Stoneheart, a zombie-like creature who cannot speak and is consumed with revenge.
In both the book and television series, Mance Rayder, the leader of the Wildlings outside of the Wall, is captured by Stannis’ reinforcing army and set for execution. In the book series, Stannis is successful in executing Mance, while in the books, the Red Priestess Melisandre saves his life, sending a wilding named ‘Rattleshirt’ to die in his place.
Mance Rayder is not the only character to have survived the book series but to have met his end on the television series. Barristan Selmy, former leader of the Kingsguard and advisor to Daenerys, is alive and well in the books, and in charge of the free city of Yunkai’s defenses. However, he meets a quite different fate on the show, and dies in the streets of Meereen in a battle with the Sons of the Harpy, a clandestine group dedicated to overthrowing Daenerys’ rule.
One thing that the Game of Thrones TV show does to differentiate itself from the books is create events and confrontations to fill in the narrative blanks from the third person limited point of view of the books. The most well-received of these deviations is the fight between Brienne and the Hound, which takes place on the mountainside as Brienne attempts to rescue Arya Stark. While she is ultimately unsuccessful, the fight is a spectacular one to witness, and leaves the Hound’s fate much less ambiguous than in the book series.
Bronn is one of the breakout characters of the television series and has been given a much more prominent role both due to his chemistry with Tyrion Lannister and the great acting abilities of Jerome Flynn. Rather than being married off to a noble family, the television series includes Bronn in antics in Dorne with Jamie Lannister. Both go in disguise to rescue Myrcella, Jamie’s daughter whom he believes to be in danger, although it turns out to be a futile quest.
One of the most controversial changes from the book to the television series was the changing dynamic between Cersei Lannister and Jamie Lannister. Rather than console her after the death of their incestuous son Joffrey, Jame violently rapes her next to the corpse of their son. This change created a type of butterfly effect in the show that altered all of their subsequent reactions, and was so divisive that Martin felt compelled to address it on his LiveJournal.
By Daniel Horowitz
According to his mother, Daniel was an easygoing child. That is no longer the case. He doesn’t like the rain and writes comic books and digital journalism. He sleeps late and dreams big.