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, “BAELOR”.
1. Yoren’s rescue
TV: Spotting Arya amidst the baying crowd at Ned’s execution, Yoren retrieves her, shields her view of Ned’s impending decapitation, and sets about disguising her as a boy, so as to offer her refuge within the travelling throng heading to the Castle Black. No real explanation is given for Yoren’s vigilant presence in the crowd of onlookers, or how he seemed so prepared to come to Arya’s aid. Only Ned’s cries of “Baelor”, which alerted Yoren to Arya, who was situated above the crowd, perched on the statue, seemed to suggest some prior arrangement between the two.
Book: Yoren informs Arya that he was told by someone to delay his departure to the Wall, as Ned would be sentenced to take the black and would be returning with them. This same person also brought Gendry to him, along with some gold, and this person was Varys. Yoren only clocked Arya when he began to realise that something was amiss with Ned’s trial.
2. Dark wings, dark words
TV: Dreaming of his father in the crypts of Winterfell, Bran convinces Osha to take him down there. The two encounter Rickon and Shaggydog, who lunges at them from out of the shadows. Rickon has had the same dream, and after exiting the crypts, the three of them are greeted by a forlorn Maester Luwin, who informs them of Ned’s demise, having just received word of it himself.
Book: It is Maester Luwin who escorts Bran to the catacombs, and he is bitten by Shaggydog when they arrive. Summer intervenes, and spares him more severe injury. Luwin admonishes Rickon for unchaining his direwolf, who has deteriorated into increasingly aggressive tendencies, and accompanies the both of them to his tower. Whilst there, the wolves begin to sorrowfully howl in unison, with Rickon crying as well, just moments before the raven arrives bearing news of Ned’s death.
The wolves’ precognition concerning certain significant events that transpire for the Starks hasn’t been touched on in Game of Thrones, and nor has the almost clairvoyant bond they share between themselves. Likewise, Shaggydog’s deterioration being reflective of Rickon’s own, in light of all the turmoil he’s experiencing, exacerbated by his immaturity and frustrated incomprehension of it all, has only been minimally alluded to.
3. Hell hath no fury like Arya’s scorn
TV: Within seconds of joining the rest of the rabble heading for the Wall, Arya is set upon by Hot Pie and Lommy. Brandishing Needle, Arya deters them. Gendry then joins in, chiding Hot Pie as a piece of metal that he’ll make “sing”.
Book: This scene originally takes place in A Clash of Kings (which would correspond with the events of the second season, not the first), and in it Arya doesn’t daunt Hot Pie and Lommy with Needle, as it has been removed from her. Instead, she beats Hot Pie bloody with a wooden sword: first, breaking his nose, and after he attacks her with a rock when she turns away from him, she resumes her ferocious attacks until he has soiled himself.
Gendry doesn’t get involved as he does in Game of Thrones, either, instead only warning Arya of the rock Hot Pie attempted to hit her with, and remarking that Hot Pie and Lommy should have left her alone. Arya also receives fairly brutal punishment from Yoren, who wallops her bare behind with the same wooden sword that she beat Hot Pie with. Yoren had urged Arya to keep her head down, lest she be discovered as a girl. The flogging was primarily to prevent any retaliation from the others, which could result in the discovery of this fact, if their payback involved the strong likelihood of them removing her clothes.
Like a number of other examples throughout A Song of Ice and Fire, this scene showcases Arya’s rather barbaric nature, which belies her scrawny, childish appearance.
4. Rorge’s nose
Some might argue that this is a trivial detail, but of the three men imprisoned in the carriage that the Night’s Watch are escorting to the Wall (Rorge, Biter, and Jaqen H’ghar), one is supposed to be absent his nose. Rorge and Biter’s “friendship” has never been given any significant back story in A Song of Ice and Fire, but one could surmise that the feral Biter might be responsible for Rorge losing his nose. Despite it seeming to be inconsequential, it is frequently referred to during any scenes where Rorge is present. Much like the wound that Tyrion sustains in the Battle of Blackwater being altered so that he retains his nose, I suspect that the expenses of the necessary prosthetics is the primary reason for Rorge not being noseless in Game of Thrones.
5. Catelyn pays a visit to the Kingslayer
This is another scene that corresponds with A Clash of Kings, not A Game of Thrones. It is also just a portion of the original scene in question (the rest would transpire during Season 2), and is absent Jaime’s infamous taunt. When asked by Cat if he meant to kill Bran when he pushed him from the window, he responds with sardonic cruelty: ‘I seldom fling children from towers to improve their health. Yes, I meant for him to die.’
6. Got Milk?
Daenerys’ unscathed emergence from the charred remains of Drogo’s funeral pyre at the end of the episode is very similar to that of the books, in all but two regards. Whilst her flesh is thoroughly unburnt, her silvery, Targaryen locks do perish in the fires, and when she is found, her dragons are actually suckling on her. Due to her recent pregnancy, she has mother’s milk, which further emphasises the Dothraki’s perception of her as the Mother of Dragons. Jorah’s remark in Season 2 that Daenerys was not an actual mother to the dragons, since, among other things, they didn’t suckle at her breasts, is an obvious allusion to this exact thing transpiring in A Game of Thrones.