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 POINTY END”.
1. The Starks’ accord with Walder Frey
The conditions of Walder’s begrudging alliance with Robb Stark in Game of Thrones are almost identical to those laid down in the book (with a trivial exception being that the Frey Arya is affianced to was named Elmar, not Waldron). The most significant omission, though, is Walder’s final imposition that two of his grandsons, ‘Big’ Walder and ‘Little’ Walder, will be sent to Winterfell as wards, much like Theon Greyjoy was after the failure of the Ironborn’s revolt.
These two Frey youths are unsurprisingly every bit as odious as the patriarch of their House, and antagonise Bran and Rickon during their stay, eventually becoming embroiled in the crucial subplot surrounding the brief subjugated rule and ruination of Winterfell at the hands of Theon and Ramsay Snow/Bolton, respectively. They ally themselves with Ramsay, even writing a letter addressed to Robb that implicates Theon not only in the crimes of which he was actually guilty, but also as being the perpetrator behind Winterfell’s destruction.
The two of them remain in Ramsay’s service all the way through to A Dance with Dragons, with ‘Big’ Walder all the while becoming evermore disconcerted by the extent to which ‘Little’ Walder’s nefarious behaviours begin to mirror that of the sadistic Ramsay’s, until [SPOILERS] one of them, ‘Little’ Walder, falls victim to a string of assassinations within the walls of Winterfell, whilst Roose Bolton and his forces reside there preparing for the nuptials between Ramsay and “Arya”.
2. Arya the Urchin
TV: After Syrio sacrificially buying her the time to escape from the clutches of the guards sent to take her captive, Arya camouflages herself as a regular street urchin and sticks to the slums of Flea Bottom. Whilst bartering for a bit of bread with a vendor, generously proposing the pigeon she slew in exchange, she hears the bells tolling the pronouncement of Ned’s adjudication on the Sept of Baelor.
Book: Roaming Flea Bottom in the aftermath of the slaughter, Arya heads for the docks, in the hopes that she will find remnants of her father’s retinue waiting for her there. Instead, she find’s her father’s ship occupied by disguised Lannister guardsmen hoping to lure her from hiding, and is on the verge of approaching them for aid before realising this, fleeing the scene, and dropping the pigeon in her state of panic. The food she earlier attempted to barter for was actually a lemon tart, and this is perhaps significant, because Sansa had stated on their journey to King’s Landing that lemon was her favourite flavour, whilst Arya wasn’t remotely interested in the lemon flavoured food on offer, and her tastes in everything are often the antithesis to Sansa’s.
3. Tyrion’s tale of Tysha
As with a number of instances in A Song of Ice and Fire, the depiction of them in the TV series are far more tamed. Tyrion recounting the events of his marriage to Tysha, to Bronn and Shae (who were each informed separately in the books) omits and alters certain details. The age he was when this occurred is upped from a mere thirteen to a less impressionable sixteen, and Tywin’s final, abominable act of cruelty is not present at all. After forcing Tyrion to endure the spectacle of his wife being successively raped by an entourage of guards, he then forces Tyrion into doing so himself, while he watches on. Ladies and gentlemen: the Tyrannical Tywin at his cruellest.
4. The Battle of the Greenfork
TV: Owing, no doubt, to budget restrictions, the pivotal, diversionary assault that Roose Bolton launches on Tywin’s host at the Greenfork is only evidenced in its aftermath, with Tyrion being knocked unconscious by the errant war hammer of one of his clansmen right as it commences, and only arising after the battle’s conclusion.
Book: Game of Thrones does Tyrion a real disservice here, as he fought admirably at this battle. Donned with a miscellany of ill-fitting armour scoured from the camp, including a unicorn helm that he resourcefully utilises to dispatch a rider’s horse at one point, Tyrion fends off numerous northmen with his signature weapon, including a Knight who eventually yields to him. The book describes the severe pain going through his limbs while he clatters his axe off soldiers, and how determined he is to not let the hindrance of his stature stop him.
Also, Bronn’s retort after Tyrion requests the whereabouts of his squire upon being notified of the approaching, northern forces (‘You don’t have a squire.’) is an obvious allusion to the fact that the character of Podrick Payne was introduced around this time in A Game of Thrones, and did in fact squire for Tyrion during the Battle of the Greenfork.