The second season of Game Of Thrones has ended, and like many of the fans of the novels out there, I am absolutely brimming with excitement for the next season, because it will finally get to many of the character developments fans of the series have been waiting to see depicted for a long time. Not to mention the glorious shaudenfreude we feel as we watch our non-book-reading friends and family become stunned and shocked at the twists and turns the story takes. There’s also the curious case of spending each episode guessing what will end up like what, who will do this like they did, or how this one thing looked in my head when I read it and holy-crap-that’s-just-what-I-imagined, or OH WOW THAT’S DIFFERENT DO I HATE IT? Of course it goes without saying, that for any non-book reading, solely show watching Game Of Thrones fans, that this might contain SPOILERS for future seasons, as talking about the books adaptation inevitably leads to talking about further character development, and future scenes yet to be filmed.
Once again, If you’ve not read the books, STOP READING HERE!
Now forgive me, because I’m doing a lot of this based off memory, as I’m currently wading through A Feast For Crows, and haven’t read A Clash Of Kings in a few months or so, and I’ve watched most of the new season’s episodes only twice. I’ll be going on a loosely episode by episode basis, for if I were to literally list every single difference this would turn into an absurdly long wiki article, so there’s a strong chance I might miss a detail here or there, and if I have, feel free to comment and call me a horrible human being. It’s what the internet is for.
Episode 1: The North Remembers.
To me, the most immediate change was that the episode clearly is reversing the order of events, showing Maester Cressen trying his assassination attempt on Melisandre after the symbolic burning of The Seven. The prologue in the book served to show how new, unique and alien Melisandre was, especially when his attempt on her life fails, and results in his own death. It portrays her as a very dark enigma, and a mystery to the reader early on. Granted the show did this as well, but the scenes were switched, and Stannis still comes off as an interesting new character, determined to take what he truly feels is his by right, blood relations be damned. We also meet Davos Seaworth for the first time, who despite only having 3 POV chapters in CoK, has arguably the three most important chapters in the book, as he witnesses directly many of the crucial events that shape the newly divided Westeros. In this manner, I’m a bit saddened that non-book readers don’t really have much of an idea of Davos, or who he even is in some cases, as he was one of my favorite characters from the book. Other smaller changes include the exclusion of Jojen and Meera Reed, who have effectively been replaced by Osha in the series. In the book, Jojen and Meera are two young adults who pledge to House Stark, and begin coaching Bran on his dreams, and what they truly mean.
Episode 2: The Night Lands.
The conversation between Cersei and Tyrion in the novel, touches on quite a few other subjects involving the tainting of King Roberts wine, the unceremonious firing of Ser Berristan and most notably touches on the fact that Kings Landing is beginning to starve since all trade routes are closed due to the war. The series eventually shows the fallout of the people becoming restless in a later episode, but not here. Meanwhile, at the Iron Islands, Theon gets groovy with some awful woman who begs to be his salt wife, and then proceeds to put his whole foot entirely in his mouth, and really lecherously hits on and gropes his unbeknownst to him at the time, sister. The series showed this, but boy howdy was it far, far worse in the book, as book Theon is quite a bit more of a bastard than show Theon. Then of course, there’s Daenerys Targaryen, who is trapped wandering the Red Waste, desperately searching for help with her now very tiny Khalasar. The show added the scene with one of her scout’s horses returning carrying it’s riders head. In the book, her dragons are also growing larger, as she notices they’ll only grow after eating cooked meat, whereas in the show, they’re still just above lizard sized. Arya’s story is also greatly sped up in pace in the show, as large sections of character development are skipped over, to get to the interesting scenes of interaction between her and Gendry. Jon’s story is mostly the same, with some exposition, mood setting and further character development excised.
Episode 3: What Is Dead May Never Die.
This is where the show takes a great leap forward, and just cuts out a rather boring and tedious subplot from the book concerning Shae and Tyrion. Throughout the book he is determined to hide her, and goes to great lengths to secure her safety, first hiding her in a mansion, then as a maid to a Red Keep noblewoman, then in A Storm of Swords, finally appoints her as Sansa’s maid, as at that time he is wed to Sansa, and it is the most reasonable way to keep her close. The show does us all a favor and just skips to Shae being Sansa’s maid. There’s also a great, entirely new scene between Cersei and Littlefinger, that shows the dynamics of power between the two, and portrays Cersei in a new and powerful light, but conversely also plays Littlefinger as a bit stupid and caught off guard. One aspect of the books that’s been almost entirely ignored up until now, is Bran’s dreams, and their significance. The show plays it far more subtle, which I can guess is to not alienate casual viewers from being thrown by one fantasy element too many, too quickly. Then there’s Renly, who in the book, is arguably not even gay (although Rainbow Guard? Cmon.), where show Renly is closeted as hell. This culminates in Margaery Tyrell trying to seduce Renly, then suggesting an incestuous three-way between herself, Renly and her brother, Ser Loras. Not a bad addition, as the actress who plays Margaery is gorgeous, has a nice rack, and plays her part of a conniving wannabe queen very well. Back at the Iron Islands, Show Theon is a much more sympathetic character, as he is much more troubled by the decision to warn Robb of his fathers impending attack on Winterfell, and even has a cool scene where he calls out his father for giving him up as hostage to the Starks years ago. It goes a long way to make Theon’s eventual betrayal all the more heartbreaking. Arya gets a new scene with Yoren, who tells her his own personal story of revenge, detailing how every night he spent recanting the name of those who had wronged him, which sets up Arya’s own list of names, which foreshadows Arya making her own long list of enemies to obsess over nightly. This scene wasn’t in the book, but was a great addition that gave character depth to both Yoren and Arya. Another small but notable change is that the Lannister bannermen in the book were led by Ser Gregor Clegane, who kills Lommy and takes Aryas’s group hostage with them. The show had Ser Amory Lorch do this instead, and be tricked into thinking that Lommy was Gendry, and that they had already killed the man they were looking for. This change while seemingly small, leads to one of the bigger divergences from the book, as Arya’s story becomes fairly different, as we’ll see in later episodes.