Last week’s episode of Game of Thrones was a surprisingly faithful retelling of events from the source material in what’s been a season rife with dramatic changes. There was, of course, the Sansa Stark’s storyline – which continues barreling ahead to no one knows where – but otherwise “High Sparrow” delivered on key moments book readers were sure to expect.
Last night’s “Sons of the Harpy” also had its share of moments realized from the novels, but scenes where things most drastically deviated from the books again proved most compelling. And not only because the changes are toying with what book readers are expecting to happen, but because they’re giving us insight into characters we thought we knew.
Another Side to Stannis
Stannis Baratheon is most easily described as a character who sticks around much longer than anyone expected he would. Through pure stubbornness and Melisandre’s sorcery he’s managed to stay in the game, and after nursing his defeat on the Blackwater, Stannis is finally ready to make another play for the Iron Throne. After all, in Stannis’ eyes he’s the rightful King of the Seven Kingdoms and no one else.
This relentless pursuit of the throne hasn’t made Stannis the most beloved of characters, and there aren’t many moments from the novels that endear Stannis to readers, either. Seen through the point of view of Davos Seaworth as he is in the novels, Stannis is a just and fair man, but he also comes across as cold and uncaring.
On Game of Thrones, however, we’re given another character through whom we can come to understand Stannis: his daughter, Shireen. In the novels, Shireen is a fairly ineffectual character, occasionally found playing in the background with her only friend, Patchface the fool, but she’s otherwise unimportant. On the show, she’s become the best argument for why Stannis should be king: he protects those he cares for.
While he’s been involved in some questionable events (shadow baby, anyone?), Stannis is also the only one vying for the Iron Throne that seems to care for the realm at all. It’s why he answered the Night’s Watch plea, and it’s why he insisted his infected and dying daughter be given a chance at life. Underneath his grim, stony demeanor is a King who could do right by the people of the Seven Kingdoms. And that’s a side of Stannis the books never revealed.
Onward to Dorne
After only briefly visiting Prince Doran in his palatial Water Gardens, Game of Thrones hasn’t spent much time with its newest locale: Dorne. In this episode, two storylines within Dorne start making strides – Jamie and Bronn’s rescue of Myrcella and Ellaria and the Sand Snakes’ thirst for vengeance.
As already pointed out in the Meet The New Players feature, Game of Thrones has whittled Prince Oberyn’s bastard daughters down from eight to three; a minor and necessary change for a series with such a sprawling cast. What’s more interesting, however, is the switch of turning Ellaria Sand into the arbiter of revenge, instead of introducing Doran’s daughter, Arianne. It’s another example of the show’s efforts to streamline George R.R. Martn’s at-times overly complicated narrative, but here it also works to give Ellaria purpose beyond being Oberyn’s last lover in a list of hundreds.
Now that Ellaria is standing in for Arianne Martell and means to start a war, how will she do it? Will the show have Ellaria put forward Myrcella as Queen, as Arianne schemes to in the novels – or is there a worse fate in store for the young Lannister?
If Ellaria and the Sand Snakes seek to use Myrcella in their plot for revenge – something that seems all the more likely given the threats Ellaria made in front of Prince Doran – then that is putting them directly at odds with Jaime. And if the Sand Snakes are fated to cross swords with Jaime and Bronn, well, it’s hard to guess just who’s coming out of that confrontation unscathed.
Plus, placing Jamie in a position where he needs to protect his “niece” will be an interesting one, and one that will have him acting more paternal than we’ve ever seen him. Could Bronn’s obvious awareness of Jamie’s true relation to Myrcella be a precursor to an upcoming confession?
Already season 5 has been deliberately deviating from the novels in some pretty significant ways. This has been most obvious when the show kills a character who’s still alive in the novels, as they did in the premiere with the burning of Mance Rayder. In last night’s “Sons of the Harpy” they did it again.
The apparent deaths of both Barristan Selmy and Grey Worm leave Daenerys with far fewer allies than she’s had since she began her journey. Without Grey Worm, the Unsullied have lost their leader and potentially their loyalty to Daenerys – and without Ser Barristan, Daenerys has lost her link to her family, especially Rhaegar. It’s a loss that will be deeply felt, and it will undoubtedly force Daenerys to ally herself with people she doesn’t trust and do things she doesn’t agree with in order to secure her hold on Meereen.
Where this leaves book readers, however, is with a bit of confirmation about just who is joining Daenerys next. Since she is desperately in need of allies in Meereen and quickly losing control, it now appears almost certain that Jorah and Tyrion will join her cause. Not that there was much doubt considering a few of the clips seen in the trailer, but removing two of Daenery’s staunchest allies in one swift blow has left some personnel openings. Now, if she could only remember she’s the Mother of Dragons, she’d be in business.
How do you believe the changes the show is making from the books will impact season 5 moving forward? Do you see Ellaria and Jaime on a collision course in Dorne? And how soon until Jorah and Tyrion meet with Daenerys? Let’s keep the discussion going in the comments below!
Game of Thrones continues next Sunday with ‘Kill the Boy’ @9pm on HBO.