[WARNING – This article contains SPOILERS for ‘Game of Thrones’ season 5, episode 1, as well as open discussion of the ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ novels.]
Over the course of its first four seasons, Game of Thrones has stuck fairly close to the narrative of its source material. Minor changes have been made here and there, but for the most part the television series has been a surprisingly faithful adaptation; one that book readers have been watching as they cling to their foreknowledge of characters and events like a security blanket.
This season, however, expect that to change. Already, producers David Benioff and Dan Weiss have warned that continuing to watch Game of Thrones will spoil the remaining unpublished novels. And A Song of Ice and Fire author, George R.R. Martin has even hinted that characters who are still alive in the novels will die on the show.
This places book readers in a weird position. On the one hand, those who’ve read the novels could choose to hold off on watching Game of Thrones until the remaining books are published. But, considering how freely fans will discuss the latest episodes, avoiding those spoilers will be almost impossible (and even harder when those episodes leak early). The other option, then, is to embrace what happens in the books and find a way to reconcile it with the changes being made on the show.
In these Book to Screen Weekly Spoiler Discussions, we’ll be looking at the biggest changes from the source material in the most recent Game of Thrones episode and speculate on how they will affect the series going forward. And this week’s episode, “The Wars to Come,” has already begun with some big deviations from the novels.
To begin with, perhaps it’d be fairer to call these deviations a fast forward or streamlining of events, because they aren’t entirely at odds with how some events transpire in the novels. In Tyrion’s case, for instance, after murdering his father he does travel across the Narrow Sea to Pentos, but it isn’t with Varys. Instead, Tyrion meets Illyrio Mopatis – the man who housed and eventually sold Daenerys to Khal Drogo in season 1.
In the novels, Illyrio informs Tyrion of Daenerys and her dragons, then sends him off on a riverboat with a whole bunch of servants and retainers to seek her out. Clearly, that isn’t exactly how Tyrion’s adventures in the Free Cities are going to play out in season 5. And this begs the question of will Tyrion be meeting the same cast of characters on his journey or not?
A few of those characters – Griff and Young Griff, for example – have a significant role to play, or at least it’s strongly implied they will in the novels. But deleting them from the series all together might mean they aren’t nearly as important to the novels’ grand scheme as readers initially thought.
At least Tyrion intends to be just as soused on television as he is in the books, and there’s no doubt that watching him pal around with Varys for a whole season will be a real treat. Especially since, in the novels, Varys isn’t left with much to do after helping Tyrion escape King’s Landing.
As of last season, Sansa’s story was basically caught up with where readers last saw her in the books. But unlike Bran, who won’t make an appearance this season, Sansa’s story in season 5 will instead begin advancing beyond what’s been published in the books.
The first major advancement happens right away when Robin is left in the care of Lord Royce, essentially removing the sickly heir from the picture (and saving us from having to watch Sansa babysit the annoying brat). This puts Littlefinger’s plan into motion must faster, a plan that even books readers aren’t entirely aware of all the details, though we do know it involves a betrothal for Sansa.
While on their journey, Littlefinger also mentions he’s taking Sansa west, to somewhere even Cersei won’t find her. Now, seeing as in the novels they’re still in The Eyrie, this mysterious destination is left open to speculation. Could this be Riverrun, Winterfell, or somewhere further? No where in Westeros seems to be outside Cersei’s domain, so where could he be taking her?
Plus, let us not forget that Brienne and Podrick are near The Vale continuing their quest to find the Stark girls. With their story also moving past where readers left off with Brienne and Podrick in the novels – and seemingly confirming the removal of Lady Stoneheart – are these two sets of characters on a collision course?
Lastly, what was easily the biggest departure from the novels in last night’s episode was the execution of Mance Rayder. This is a scene that does occur in the novels, and when read we are meant to believe that Mance has been burned alive.
But there’s trickery afoot. In the novels, Melisandre has glamored Rattleshirt to look like Mance and vice versa. It is then Rattleshirt who is burned alive, though like in the show he’s spared most of the agony by being shot through with arrows. Mance is then sent by Melisandre and Jon – after he’s been made aware of the switch – to Winterfell to infiltrate the Bolton army currently encamped there.
But on Game of Thrones, there was no deception, no glamoring, and Mance was really killed off. This isn’t entirely surprising considering that the Mance played by Ciarán Hinds is nothing like the handsome, young singer of the books, but it is a major change in the character’s fate. (And now we know of at least one of those characters still alive in the novels who hasn’t survived on the show.)
More importantly, however, this change will have an impact on the relationship between Jon and Melisandre. The reveal that she spares Mance’s life is a shock to Jon, and afterwards he becomes a little less suspicious of the red priestess. But now that she’s just outright murdered a man Jon had a much respect for, it’ll be interesting to see how Melisandre will try to earn his trust now.
These are only the most prominent departures Game of Thrones made with its source material in last night’s premiere. How do you think these changes will continue to affect this season as it plays out? What other changes from the novels did you catch? Let us hear from you in the comments below!
Game of Thrones continues next Sunday with “The House of Black and White” @9pm on HBO.