Once again, If you’ve not read the books, STOP READING HERE! Major spoilers abound.
Episode 8: The Prince Of Winterfell
This episode pays off the one of the main changes from the books, and effectively gives Ros The Wonder Whore a reason to have been around, other than her breasts, instead of the whole Alayaya/other whore/switcharoo, we get basically the same outcome, only with Cersei thinking Tyrion’s prostitute lover is Ros. Cersei holds her at ransom, to ensure Joffreys safety against Tyrion, because she think’s he’s plotting to kill him. This, readers will note, is foreshadowing to what happens to Tyrion in Book 3, and probably foreshadows Ros’s execution to be in Season 4, (revenge by Cersei), when we finally, finally, get to see Joffrey die.
The scene between Davos and Stannis isn’t quite different, as much as it is the second half of an earlier conversation they had in the series, that was split up into two different parts. This conversation in the book to me, defined Stannis to a T. He’s the kind of guy who would thank you, and honor you with knighthood for smuggling in food to save all the lives of the people during a siege, and then turn back around and punish you for smuggling. He is bound by duty to punish you, but will lessen it by only taking the tips of your fingers, rather than the whole hand, in recognition of the good you’ve done. He’s the creepy older uncle type who sits in his castle all day playing building models, and his brother is the young, cool, hipster guy who throws awesome parties. Unfortunately, it’s Stannis’ duty to be King, and he’ll take what is his by right, because it’s his duty. It’s prevalent in the series, but not as concrete.
Arya actually makes a pretty brilliant turn, and picks a different name at first from her third name in the novel. She thinks to name Tywin, but can’t find Jaqen and loses her chance. I can’t remember her third name in the book being anybody BUT Jaqen, since she required his help to escape. In the book, she pretends to be delivering a message, and even stabs a guard in the throat herself to get out. I was sad to see this scene missing, because it was a pretty awesome moment in the book.
Again, almost everything with Robb in this is new, since he wasn’t even a POV character in the book, but the basic reason for Catelyn stupidly letting Jaime go stays the same. Robb’s urges getting the better of him and having sex with Talisa are there, and we see his the beginning of his downfall, the second he drops her robe and lets the name “Frey” disappear from his duty, and his honor dies, like his poor dad did, only way more sexy and with 100% less beheadings.
Over the wall, the scene between Qhorin and Jon discussing him defecting is abridged, and ends up having pretty much the same outcome, as we’ll see later in the show, but one of the bigger differences, is Sam and Grenn finding the dragon glass weapons, along with the Horn Of Winter, which Mance Rayder had in the books, and we haven’t seen or heard about yet in the show at all. I’m assuming it’s the Horn Of Winter, unless the show is double faking us out, and making multiple horns, and the future series will have horns that have weird horny effects, and everybody starts getting really horny and… Sorry. I’m getting off topic. The point is, the little changes here, are gonna be a big deal later. The last change I noticed, was Asha actually showing some affection and love for Theon, which was a great difference from how she treats him in the book. It was a great scene, and added to their respective character depth.
Episode 9: Blackwater.
This episode is mostly the same as the chapters from the book, only with its perspectives changed around, and previous details that were changed, adhered to in turn. There was no chain to trap Stannis’ fleet, and Stannis’ fleet was MUCH smaller than the literal half page of named ships in the book. They seemed to purposely leave Davos’ fate ambiguous, along with his son, who we know dies in the book. Tyrion is still attacked by Ser Mandon, but no real context is given to who he is, and one could easily miss the fact that he was betrayed.The other rather significant change is the far less literal depiction of Ser Loras showing up in Renly’s armor. In the book, this was taken as Renly literally rising from the dead to fight and defeat him, and may not even have been Ser Loras in the armor, The entire vanguard in the book was supposed to be led by “Renlys’ ghost”, but has been changed to Tywin and his alliance with Ser Loras winning the war by coming in and taking them from the back. Stannis does notice Renly’s armor, but it’s a very subtle scene that lets the viewer decide it’s meaning, until it’s shown to just be Loras a few minutes later. A definite downgrade, as Renly’s ghost was a huge WTF moment for me as a reader.
Episode 10: Valar Morghulis.
Hoo boy. Where to begin? I guess I can first start by saying, that there’s officially no Ser Dontos pretending to be the rescuing knight for Sansa. In the book, she believes Ser Dontos is her ticket out of the hellhole she’s in, and is the reason she keeps refusing offers to get out from others. In the show now, they’ve seemingly cut him out entirely, and just gone straight to Lord Baelish up and telling her he’ll get her home. If this means we’ll get to the Lysa/Arryn/Baelish murder plot reveal sooner, remains to be seen, but it was definitely a revelation for me in book 3, where we find out almost everything was Lord Baelish’s machinations. So this change, while small, may lead to yet another future change, that will be big. Joffrey deciding to wed Margaery Tyrell, in the manner he chooses, is also a change, as that wedding doesn’t really come into play at all until book 3, and I’m hazy as to whether it was first planned in CoK, or A Storm of Swords, but either way it’s different. The scene with Varys turning Ros into one of his “little birds”, so to speak, will assuredly pay off with some kind of new scene in the future, since it’s not in the books at all. Ros is a character that is simultaneously frustrating and intriguing, because she personifies the changes in the story, in a way, and just like the changes, I sometimes hate her, and other times find her great. What we can all agree on, is she has great breasts, and ultimately, great breasts make anything easier to accept.
In the book, Shae genuinely seems to care for Tyrion, which makes it such a shock when she is forced to betray him so terribly later on. The show did a lousy job showing this, right up until this added scene, with her telling him to leave all the BS behind, and go with her to live together. It’s very well acted, and genuinely tugs at the heartstrings to see such a big man, (in spirit), come to tears with emotion.
Over in Stannis’ camp, he starts to really wig out and choke the hell out of Lady Melisandre. This never happened in the book, since by this point, she has him totally around her finger. In the show though, he’s clearly questioning his judgment and trust of this woman, but she turns him once and for all, making him gaze into the fire, to see the visions she sees, cementing him as a R’hollor zealot. In the book, he’s been far gone for far longer. Back to Robb’s story, the main change of his continues, with his love for Talisa being proclaimed to his mother. She has a great dialogue that actually makes a solid argument for arranged marriage, but he’s not having it. In the books, if I remember correctly, I believe it’s at this point where he just drops Jeyne Westerling on her, revealing that he plans to break his deal with the Freys. Then again, this could be in Book 3, but regardless, he’s sealed his fate, and marries Talisa.
Theon’s story continues, showing new scenes between him and Maester Luwin, expressing great doubt over his decisions, and truly questioning everything he’s done to come to this point, where he’s facing almost certain defeat and death. It goes a long way towards making him a much more tragic character, rather than the lying, backstabbing bastard he was in the book. His speech and the subsequent interruption, beating and blackbagging by his own men is all new, since the book just shows the battle with Roose Bolton’s bastard attacking and allegedly killing Theon. Soon after, there’s a new scene showing Maester Luwin’s death, and he officially gives them their mission to go north, rather than the Reeds, like in the book.
Now, nearly everything about Daenerys’ scenes in the show at this point are different. Everything. Xaro Xoan Daxos didn’t have an empty vault, he didn’t turn Doreah heel, he didn’t get Amontillado’d by Dany as punishment. Her entire scenes inside the House Of The Undying where totally and absolutely different, in many ways. In the book, this is a much stranger scene, where she enters willingly after having drunk a potion made by Pyat Pree. She is given instructions to only take doors to the right, and only take stairs up. During her exploration, she sees many doors on the left, showing many prophetic visions of the past, future and things that couldn’t be. She eventually reaches the right door, and makes her way out, and all the readers collectively wonder what the hell they just read, until all of its prophetic meaning becomes obvious in later novels.
Here’s where they made one of the biggest changes in the whole series, and in my opinion one of the best. In the book, the House of the Undying is almost certainly illusory. It’s a trick, and while the prophecies it shows of the Red Wedding come true, the things happening in it, aren’t “Real” for lack of a better term. By not including these prophecies, the show runners have given us NEW, more subtle, and nearly fourth wall breaking prophecies to decipher. Fourth wall breaking, in that they’re for book readers and show watching alike, to both decipher. In particular, Dany entering the Iron Throne room, now broken and covered in snow, reeks of symbolic meaning that wasn’t in the book. Does this mean Winterfell will be breached by the icy threats north of the wall? Does it spell doom for Westeros, since this would mean that Jon and Nights Watch have failed their duty? This is further compounded, by showing her leave the room, exiting The Wall itself! Is it her fate to go north? What will she find there? The questions abound, but none of these changes and the new questions they raise rival the last big change, where Dany is reunited with Khal Drogo.
Aside from being one of the most emotionally impacting scenes in the show, it’s also one of the most curious. They both embrace each other, and both openly question what they are experiencing. As the viewer, we’re left to interpret this scenes’ “trueness”, and wonder if Dany really is speaking to Drogo here? I personally like the idea that this literally is a real section of the afterlife, and she literally is speaking to Khal Drogo’s spirit, who has spat upon his journey into the Night Lands, and has been waiting for her since. Also with him, is their unborn child, adding further question as to what exactly this place is, and the nature of it being an elaborate illusion, or an actual gateway into the afterlife.
It’s a scene akin to the buddhist belief in the Bardo, a word that translates to “intermediate state”, and is a religious concept, where one exists between the two states of existence, being after death and before rebirth. In this state, one’s consciousness isn’t connected with their physical body, and they see and experience a variety of phenomena, memories, and symbolic hallucinations. The show creates the possibility that Dany has entered this state via the House of The Undying, and is effectively getting her rebirth, prematurely via Drogo’s choice to wait for her, making this scene, and their love, truly unique and something revelatory in its importance for the show, and the finality of death therein.
Of course, I could be looking too much into it. I guess what I’m saying is, I really liked this change. A lot.
The last change, is the manner in which the Whitewalkers attack the Wall. Sam wasn’t there to see them, and the scene of him, Edd and Grenn hearing the horns and running in terror is taken from the prologue of the third book, only the book had three entirely new characters instead. It’s a change that left everybody clenching their teeth, ready for the REAL war to go down, and ended the season pretty perfectly, and I think, better than the book ended, which I don’t even remember.
That being said, the amount of changes the story has seen, while being seemingly minimal, are overall adding up. This is a going to be a continuing effect as the series goes on, as changes build upon more changes, and spiral either somehow back into the story we know, or diverge entirely into new things. I honestly can’t decide if it’s something I dread or look forward to, but it’s there, it’s happening, and we’ll have to accept it. That being said, I am optimistic, as the show in and of itself, is still excellent, and consistent within its own storytelling and development. Sometimes, change is good.