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, “CRIPPLES, BASTARDS AND BROKEN THINGS”.
1. Tyrion’s Offensive Method
TV: Whilst on the Eastern Road to the Vale, Catelyn and her entourage, including a captive Tyrion, are ambushed by some men of the hill tribes. During the chaos, Tyrion briefly contemplates making his escape, but elects instead to defend a helpless Catelyn, using the butt of a shield to subdue and kill one of the tribesmen advancing on her.
BOOK: The fight was more of a massacre for Cat’s group than in the TV series (and a much lengthier ordeal), and during it Tyrion displayed his battle prowess for the first time (which would be affirmed further with his participation in the Battle of the Green Fork, during which he was forced to fight on the front lines), felling multiple foes with what became his infamous weapon of choice; an axe.
The character of Ros is an invention of the TV series, and has no direct counterpart in Martin’s books (though, there are vague references to a “red-headed whore” throughout A Song of Ice and Fire). She first appeared in “Winter is Coming” during the scenes that introduced Tyrion, was later name dropped during an exchange between Tyrion and Theon, is the whore in Jon’s tale of how close he came to losing his virginity, and is seen during “The Wolf and the Lion” in…session with Theon. She goes on to feature in more and more storylines in subsequent series, until she is dispensed with by Littlefinger after becoming caught up in his rivalry with Lord Varys.
Ros seems, partially at least, to be an amalgamation of multiple characters from the books, most notably that of Chataya and her daughter, Alayaya, since she assumes roles in certain storylines respective to both of them. But the majority of her part in the events of Game of Thrones has no correspondence in the novels.
3. Arya’s Adventures
TV: Arya puts Syrio’s imparted wisdom into practice, chasing the Red Keep’s resident tomcat down into the underground passages, wherein she finds a Dragon skull, and unwittingly eavesdrops on a conversation between Illyrio Mopatis and Varys.
BOOK: During her feline-chasing escapades, she is confronted by Tommen and Myrcella, who mistake her for a male urchin wandering where he shouldn’t, and set their guardsmen after her. Arya eludes the guards, but inadvertently finds herself in the vaults beneath the Red Keep, which contain all of the Dragon skulls that were once housed in the throne room (in addition, the bones of dragons are coloured black in the books, due to the elevated content of iron, not white, as depicted in the TV series).
And while Arya overhears the conspiring duo in the same fashion, it is just Illyrio that is conclusively identified by the description of his very unique appearance. Varys is donned in one of his customarily unrecognisable disguises, and is only identifiable due to one of his remarks about “little birds” (i.e. his web of spies).
4. Oh, Brynden, Where Art Thou?
Introduced in the third episode of Season 3, “Walk of Punishment”, Brynden ‘Blackfish’ Tully should have been one of the guards presiding over the Bloody Gate, along with Donnel Waynwood, which is the gated entrance to the Eyrie not featured in Game of Thrones. Instead, Vardis Egen, the knight who later acts as Lysa Arryn’s champion for Tyrion’s trial by combat, protects the television series’ dissimilarly unfortified passage of entry.
Brynden’s appointment of Knight of the Gate is considered one of very high honour, and was brought about due to the schism between him and his brother, Hoster Tully, on the subject of an arranged marriage, which prompted him to depart from Riverrun for the Vale in Lysa’s company.
It’s rather crucial that he be at the Vale when first encountered, and not in Riverrun, in order to stay true to his ‘black sheep’ personality, but no doubt casting restrictions were to blame for his absence.
5. The Last Leg of Cat’s Journey
TV: Cat and co. arrive at the foot of a bridged pass that leads to the Eyrie’s castle entrance.
BOOK: The Eyrie isn’t a traditional castle sat atop the peak of a mountain; it’s made up of seven individual towers bestriding the mountainside shoulder of the Giant’s Lance. The stepped path to it is an extremely perilous, narrow formation of rocks that spiral up the mountain, with three small watchtowers interspersed along it. It is taxied by sure-footed mules, which are the means by which Cat makes her ascent, escorted by Mya Stone, another of King Robert’s bastards, who is omitted from the TV series. The book’s description of the Eyrie gives far more credibility to the fabled impregnability of it.
6. Jon Arryn’s Investigations were assisted by…
A dismissible difference, to all intents and purposes, but Littlefinger baits Ned to accompany him to the brothel that houses Robert’s infant bastard with the following line:
“If you’re still here come nightfall, I’ll take you to see the last person Jon Arryn spoke with before falling ill.”
Game of Thrones doesn’t address the fact that Stannis Baratheon attended Jon Arryn’s enquiries about King Robert’s descendancy. Martin’s books note on a number of occasions that Stannis visited the brothel and the blacksmiths that Gendry apprenticed at in Jon’s company. Considering that just a few snippets of dialogue were all that was required to allude to this, it’s a bit strange that there were none.
7. The Wolf vs. the Lion
TV: Jamie and his retinue of red cloaks surround Ned and his modest number of household guards outside Littlefinger’s brothel. Jaime demands that his brother be released from Catelyn’s custody, to which Ned refuses. Jaime orders his red cloaks to kill Ned’s guards and take Ned himself captive. Ned’s guards are felled in an instant, and Jory Cassel is slain by Jaime. Jaime and Ned then cross swords, before one of the red cloaks takes it upon himself to stab Ned in the leg with a spear. Jaime is visibly angered at the guard’s interference, and strikes him (an early hint to the inhibited nobility that would eventually be extricated in Brienne’s company), before riding off and shouting one last demand for his brother to be returned to him.
BOOK: Ned and his guards depart from the brothel on horseback, before being confronted by Jaime and his red cloaks, also on horseback. Jaime orders his red cloaks to put Ned’s men to the sword to teach him a lesson, and then rides off to escape the melee. In the midst of all the chaos that ensues, Ned’s horse stumbles and falls, crushing Ned’s leg in the process. Jory Cassel is killed along with everyone else that was in Ned’s company, but by one of the many unnamed guards, not by Jaime. Ned, sadly, never gets the chance to properly engage in combat with anyone before he is knocked unconscious by his horse’s fall.