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, “LORD SNOW”.
1. Bran’s Dreams
TV: Bran dreams of the three-eyed raven leading him to the entrance of the Stark catacombs, foreshadowing his father’s eventual fate. Bran has this dream throughout a number of episodes, but it originates in this one.
BOOK: Bran dreams of his father in Winterfell’s crypts only once in A Game of Thrones, and it is mere moments before Maester Luwin confirms the truth of what Bran has envisioned, having just received word of Eddard’s execution by raven. Additionally, Bran’s dreams foretell of something that has yet to be alluded to in the television series. The three-eyed raven informs Bran that he is the winged wolf, bound in chains. The raven’s cryptic augury becomes more discernible as Bran’s story advances, and is rather important to the denouement of it.
2. Castle Black’s Southside Fortifications
A minor quibble to most appearances, but in Martin’s books it’s said that Castle Black is completely unfortified from the south, so as to prevent any attempts of the Night’s Watch to rebel against the Seven Kingdoms. In the TV series, it’s shown to have walls and a gate defending it from the south.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
This is pivotal to the attack which ensues from the group of Wildings that abseiled the Wall with Jon Snow. After he absconds from them (as seen in the Season 3 finale, “Mhysa”), he returns to Castle Black with the Wildings not far behind. The castle’s total lack of defences to the south makes the battle more of an ordeal for the Night’s Watch than it otherwise would be, considering the ramshackle weaponry that the Wildings possess. With ramparts and barricades at their disposal in Game of Thrones, the Night’s Watch should dispense with the Wildings without even breaking a sweat.
TV: Jon has Ghost stand over Rast, bearing his fangs, snapping, growling and barking, so as to put an end to Rast’s bullying of Sam. He is also heard whining in later episodes.
BOOK: Ghost is dubbed as such not just because of his albinism, but because he is as silent as his namesake (even being far stealthier on his paws than the rest of his siblings). He cannot growl, bark, etc.; he is mute. It’s an intrinsic facet of his identity, and one that Jon reflects on frequently. It’s not entirely clear why Game of Thrones has deviated on this front.
4. Alliser Recalls the Horrors North of the Wall
TV: Alliser Thorne vindictively recounts one of his horrifying rangings beyond the Wall to Jon and Sam.
BOOK: Alliser was forcibly recruited to the Night’s Watch after the sacking of King’s Landing, having been allied with the Targaryen forces, and was granted the position of master-at-arms immediately, due to his rare expertise as a swordsman. He never ventured out on any rangings, because he never occupied a position as lowly as that of a ranger.
Of course, Alliser’s objective in “Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things” was simply to traumatise Jon and Sam with his terrifying tale, so it’s entirely possible that he was fibbing when he did so.
5. “I was trained to kill my enemies, Your Grace.”
At no point in the books prior to Eddard and Cersei’s conversation in the Godswood, which ends with the infamous ‘you win or you die’ utterance, is the enmity between the two made so explicitly specific. The veiled threats exchanged between them in “Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things” deftly foreshadow the fateful events that come to pass, and how badly Ned underestimates Cersei’s guile as his primary opponent.
6. The Story of the Hound’s Mutilation
TV: Littlefinger beguiles Sansa with the tale of how the Hound came to be disfigured, but warns her against repeating it to anyone else, least of all the Hound himself.
BOOK: It is the Hound who relays this story to Sansa as the pair of them make their journey from the tourney grounds to the Red Keep, and threatens to kill her should she speak of it to anyone else. Martin’s books portray the Hound as far more contemptuous and brutal than his television counterpart, so it’s no real surprise that one of his more menacing moments was rewritten.
7. Tyrion Stops off at Winterfell
TV: Tyrion arrives to treat with Robb Stark, and impart his condolences for Bran’s recent paralysis, as well as blueprints for a saddle that Bran could use to ride his horse.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
BOOK: Upon his arrival, Tyrion is assaulted by the present Starks’ direwolves; Summer, Grey Wind, and Shaggydog. The wolves would ordinarily only attack those they deem to pose a threat, but their doing so despite the fact that Tyrion’s intentions were completely harmless, is an early allusion to all of the Stark children being Wargs (something which appears to have been omitted from the TV series). The Starks’ inherent distrust of Lannisters, unreserved without the presence of Cat or Ned, was channelled through the direwolves, which prompted their attack. Otherwise, these events are depicted exactly the same.