How does HBO’s Game of Thrones compare to the continuity of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire? I’ll be assessing the biggest deviations the TV series has made on an episode-by-episode basis, and speculating on what effects the changes could have on future storylines. For the sake of ease, the altered appearances of characters (of which there are numerous), will not be included in any of my breakdowns.
It goes without saying that these articles will contain spoilers for Game of Thrones, but be wary that various events from A Song of Ice and Fire, which have yet to transpire in the TV series at the time of writing, will also be addressed on occasion. I will use a spoiler tag to ward anyone who doesn’t wish to have any of these moments ruined for them, which will be bold and capitalised, so there’s no excuse for missing it!
READ MY BREAKDOWN OF THE PREVIOUS EPISODE, “THE KINGSROAD”.
1. Catelyn and Roderick in King’s Landing
TV: After the second attempt on Bran’s life, Cat elects to travel to King’s Landing to inform Ned of what she’s learned. She takes only Ser Roderick with her, so as to avoid drawing undue attention. Upon their arrival in the capital, an entourage of guards escort them to the refuge of one of Littlefinger’s brothels, which prompts discontent from Cat, and later Ned, when Baelish ushers him to the sordid sanctum he’s so courteously provided.
BOOK: Cat and Ser Roderick do not travel on horseback along the Kingsroad to reach King’s landing, since it would be counterproductive to the rest of their surreptitious measures to make use of such a popular means of passage. Instead, they board a ship at White Harbour, and actually reach the city before the royal convoy, and not after, as depicted in Game of Thrones.
Additionally, Littlefinger does summon Cat, but not to a brothel; to some apartments in the Red Keep — though, he, Cat, and Ned do eventually convene in one of his…”establishments”. He doesn’t bid Catelyn’s presence immediately upon her arrival, either. She and Ser Roderick land at the city’s docks during the day, and Littlefinger’s escort of guardsmen don’t show up at the Inn they’re staying at until nightfall (the intimation is that their ship’s captain was an informant on behalf of Littlefinger and Varys).
It actually makes more sense for Cat to be summoned to one of Littlefinger’s brothels, rather than the Red Keep, because that is where she is most likely to be identified by those she’s trying to avert.
2. Jaime and Ned’s Expository Conversation
Given that such a vast portion of A Song of Ice and Fire comprises of various characters’ innermost recollections of past events, the prevalence of expository dialogue in Game of Thrones is necessary to establish certain elements of Martin’s continuity, which would otherwise be absent.
Jaime and Ned’s commune in the Red Keep’s throne room never occurred in the books, but Jaime’s assassination of the Mad King is addressed from various characters’ perspectives throughout A Song of Ice and Fire, as are the deaths of Ned’s father and brother. In the books, though, there is no mention of Jaime stabbing King Aerys in the back before slitting his throat (nor is there any mention of Aerys’ last words being “burn them all”), and neither is there any indication that Rickard and Brandon Stark’s slaughters were to the audience of five hundred that Jaime claims they were in “Lord Snow”.
In A Clash of Kings, Jaime notes how there was only a single, additional witness to the massacre: then Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, Gerold Hightower.
3. The King’s Council
An inconsequential difference to first appearances, but the absence of Barristan Selmy on Robert’s council might have ramifications for the approaching fourth season. In the Season 3 episode, “Kissed by Fire”, Selmy informs Jorah that due to him having fought for the opposition during Robert’s rebellion, Robert did not wish for him to serve in any advisory capacity. But in the books, he did sit on the council, as was his prerogative (in fact, he was the sole member in support of Ned’s protests against assassinating Daenerys — for obvious reasons), which meant he was privy to certain information that became crucial later on.
WARNING: BOOK SPOILERS FOLLOW
Some time after entering Daenerys’ service, Selmy eventually discloses what he knows of Jorah’s betrayal and apprising, which results in Daenerys grudgingly discharging and exiling the successively disgraced Knight. I’m not sure how Game of Thrones‘ Selmy could know of this without having been present for any of the council meetings, so it remains to be seen whether Benioff and Weiss will find a suitable route around this, or exclude it altogether.
4. Jeyne Poole
TV: Jeyne Poole is spied a handful of times during the opening episode, “Winter is Coming”, but has not put in anymore appearances since.
BOOK: Jeyne is the daughter of Winterfell’s steward, Vayon Poole (who is not depicted at all in Game of Thrones). She is the closest friend of Sana Stark, especially in King’s Landing, and features sporadically, but quite heavily throughout A Song of Ice and Fire.
Following the Hand’s Tourney, she is taken ill upon witnessing Ser Hugh’s death in the jousting competition. And she is later confined with Sana after the massacre of Ned’s men (which included her father). Cersei eventually opts to remove her from the Red Keep altogether, and tasks Littlefinger with finding some useful purpose for her to fulfil.
WARNING: BOOK SPOILERS FOLLOW
She is ultimately revealed to have become ensnared in a duplicitous betrothal to Ramsay, newly inaugurated as a Bolton; forced to pose under the guise of Arya Stark at the behest of Roose Bolton, who orchestrates the marriage in an attempt to indebt the loyalty of the northerners still aggrieved about the Red Wedding.
As with Game of Thrones‘ inability to adapt the Arstan Whitebeard storyline (Barristan Selmy serves Daenerys in disguise for a long time, before revealing his true identity), the fraudulence of Jeyne Poole’s marriage to Ramsay will be spotted straight away by the viewers. Jeyne only needs to have been momentarily introduced as an established character, and with it being so long ago and absent from most people’s memories, it will add an extra speculative dimension, as to the identity of the imposter, when we finally reach that plot point.
5. Corn, Corn, Corn
In the books, Lord Commander Mormont has a pestering raven that constantly sits atop his shoulder, demanding food with its infamous repetition of the word “corn”, and antagonising people with shrewdly provocative words, repeated in much the same style as his shrill cry for sustenance.
WARNING: BOOK SPOILERS FOLLOW
Mormont’s raven is a bit of an ongoing enigma in A Song of Ice and Fire. Its peculiar characteristics become more explicable with something Bran learns about these birds from the three-eyed raven in A Dance with Dragons, and its passing to Jon Snow once he is initiated as Lord Commander by popular vote is rather pivotal to events, so it’s a shame that it was excluded entirely from Game of Thrones.
6. First Kills
More exposition — not quite as requisite as Jaime recalling his murder of the Mad King, it nonetheless gives some background to the present characters. What’s curious is Jaime recounting how he beheaded one of the outlaws of the Kingswood Brotherhood. In A Feast for Crows, it’s detailed that Jaime’s presence in that battle yielded him no kills. He parried with the formidable Smiling Knight, but he was felled by Ser Arthur Dayne and his fabled Sword of the Morning. Jaime’s actual first kill has yet to be divulged in Martin’s novels.