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 WOLF AND THE LION”.
1. Daenerys the Unburnt
TV: Whilst acclimatising to life in Vaes Dothrak, Daenerys, apparently hypnotised by its beauty, retrieves one of the dragon eggs gifted to her by Illyrio Mopatis from its bed of hot coals. Irri hurriedly snatches the searing egg from Dany’s clutches, only to be severely burnt herself. Daenerys, however, is left without wound, despite having held the egg for longer than Irri, who discards it like she’s playing Hot Potato. This, as with Dany’s unflinching walk into boiling waters in the very first episode, telegraphs the eventual revelation that it is she, and not Viserys, who has the blood of the dragon coursing through her, which imbues her with a natural resistance to “fire” (i.e. heat), because fire cannot kill a dragon, of course.
Book: No such thing occurs in A Game of Thrones. Daenerys’ innate resilience to heat (it’s not absolute immunity, as later books demonstrate that she can still be scathed by flame, albeit of a more intense variety), is barely hinted at before she emerges unharmed from Khal Drogo’s funeral pyre in the final chapter. But it is no less deducible in the book; since Daenerys’ dialogue during Viserys’ execution infers the fact much the same as it did in the TV series.
2. Bran in DIRE need of some assistance
TV: Accompanied by Robb and Theon, Bran takes the saddle designed around his needs by Tyrion out for a spin, before he wanders too far and is set upon by a handful of Wildlings. Robb arrives on the scene and dispatches two of the attackers, and incapacitates a third (Osha). Theon then intervenes when Robb and the final Wildling find themselves at an impasse, and strikes the man down with an arrow, which releases Bran from his grasp.
Book: Robb and Theon were outnumbered to a greater degree in A Game of Thrones, but thanks to the direwolves in their company at the time, Summer and Grey Wind, the odds of the skirmish fell into their favour. It was one of a number of examples of the books illustrating how crucial these wolves were to the Starks and Bran in particular, who has been saved numerous times by Summer throughout A Song of Ice and Fire.
3. There’s only one thing we say to Death…
It’s not of any real significance, but the maxim that Syrio Forel frequently imparts to Arya during their combat practices — “There’s only one thing we say to death: not today” — was not said by the character in Martin’s novels. Just like the Mad King’s “burn them all” mantra, it was invented for the TV series, possibly to make the Braavosi Water Dancer’s brief presence all the more memorable.
4. Boar Hunting and Brotherly Dissent
The hunting venture that saw King Robert slain by a combination of intoxication and a boar’s tusks was never written from a firsthand perspective, since none of the characters present were focal points of any of the book’s chapters. The animosity witnessed here between Renly and Robert was more vehement than anything in the books — Robert has always appeared to favour Renly over Stannis, bequeathing Storm’s End to him, despite him being the youngest sibling, and Stannis being the rightful heir to those lands once Robert ascended to the Iron Throne. Robert did harbour a certain level of disdain for his kin (the person he was most familiar with was Eddard Stark, after all), but not quite to the extent that this scene depicts.
5. Tyrion’s Trial by Combat
TV: Immediately following Tyrion’s mocking series of confessions, he bargains for a trial by combat, and Bronn takes up arms for him against Ser Vardis. The trial takes place in the Eyrie’s High Hall, and after some aversive tactics from the fleet-footed Sellsword tire the Knight, and his footing is compromised, Bronn begins his offensive. He slashes Vardis’ leg first, then trips him, stabs him through the neck, and finally throws him through the Moon Door as the trial’s victor.
Book: After negotiating his trial by combat, Tyrion is forced to spend one final night in the Eyrie’s sky cells. The next morning, his trial is convened in the Eyrie’s High Garden, where the obstacle of the weeping woman statue at its centre is utilised as a tool by Bronn to aid his evasive combat tactics. Vardis’ demise comes about due to the same circumstance of fatigue, but he is only stabbed once, through the chest. He is not wounded multiple times, and nor is he thrown through the Moon Door. The two play out quite similarly, but with the book’s version, there’s a bit less showmanship and brutality to Bronn’s combat manoeuvres.
6. The Moon Door
This is a minor point, but in the TV series, the Eyrie’s infamous Moon Door is a circular opening in the High Hall’s floor. In the books, it is not described as such. It’s a doorway that similarly opens to a sheer and fatal drop for any who cross its threshold (usually, reluctantly), but it is to all appearances, an ordinary rectangular door, albeit a heavily barred one. Its name is derived from the emblem of a crescent moon that adorns it, not from its shape.