So far, HBO’s Game of Thrones series has done a commendable job adhering to the story laid out by George R.R. Martin in his novels. Those changes that have been made are often either inconsequential or understandable. But as the series progress and the effects of minor plot changes snowball into larger and larger gaps between the show and the books, we see more drastic and surprising shifts when transitioning from page to screen.
The following article explores likely deviations from the books, and quite naturally contains spoilers.
Cersei Lannister: With her father Lord Tywin dead, and her son King Tommen without a hand, Cersei will seize the opportunity and ensure a substantial increase to her power. King Tommen is still young and will require a regent, who in the absence of a King’s Hand will be a colossally influential person. That person, without a doubt, will be the Cersei Lannister. As the new ruler of the Seven Kingdoms in all but name, she will refill the empty seats of the small council with sycophants and yes men.
As Davos predicted in Season 4, Cersei is significantly less inclined than her father to pay back the Crown’s debt to the Iron Bank of Braavos. Although the full consequences of withholding funds from the Iron Bank are not clear, it certainly does not bode well for House Lannister, and may tip the scales in favor of another of the Bank’s debtors: Stannis Baratheon.
Additionally, her proposed marriage to Loras Tyrell will undoubtedly fail to take place. And her suspicions of his House will grow. Cersei will plot against the Tyrells, Margaery in particular, and use any means necessary to sever the carefully laid ties between the Houses.
The casting of Jonathan Pryce as High Sparrow speaks volumes about the nature of Cersei’s schemes, and of their ultimate backfire. It is also indicative of the show including a major plot point for this character from the books.
Though it does seem that minor details may fail to appear onscreen; like the probable absence of the Kettleblack brothers, these small changes are by no means subversive to the direction of Cersei’s story.
Margaery Tyrell: Margaery’s already considerable influence over her new husband King Tommen should continue to grow this Season. But with no one to curb Cersei’s paranoid mistrust of the younger queen, she may find herself in a precarious position. For this conflict, the books offer a template that the show will emulate. Questioning Margaery’s loyalty to her husband, and doubting her professed virginity, Cersei attempts to use the Faith to remove her rival by planting false information of Margaery commiting adultery and requesting that the High Septon investigate the matter. Directing the Faith’s attention to sexual impropriety however, will not prove the wisest of tactics.
Sansa Stark: Living under the false name Alayne, and posing as Littlefinger’s niece, Sansa has begun to learn the game of political intrigue from the master. Last season saw her transform from a scared girl into a resourceful woman; her willingness to lie on Petyr Baelish’s behalf stand testament to how far she has come from her helpless days in King’s Landing.
With relatively little material left for her character before her story leads into the unpublished sixth novel, Winds of Winter, Sansa’s activities in Season 5 are widely speculated and quite uncertain. We do know that the books offer a glimpse of Littlefinger’s plan to marry Sansa to Harold Hardyng, next in line to inherit the Eyrie after young Robert Arryn. Though this plan does not bode well for the latter, especially not when paired with this excerpt from A Feast for Crows:
Sansa: “If Robert were to die…”
Littlefinger: “When Robert dies. Our poor brave Sweetrobin is such a sickly boy, it is only a matter of time.”
Whether this plot will transition from the books to the show however, has yet to be seen.
Pictures of Sansa in what looks like the crypt of Winterfell has also led to speculation of her returning home. Though this has certainly not taken place in the books, it does open the opportunity for Sansa to meet Ramsay Bolton, reunite with Theon, and naturally, see right through the impersonation of Arya. All of which should prove interesting to watch. It should also be remembered that Sansa is not completely safe with Littlefinger, whose perception of her seems to disturbingly oscillate between parental and affectionate. Her lessons in pragmatism may lead to her venturing off on her own if she deems it necessary.
Jaime Lannister: This Season, the Kingslayer will absorbing the story of a minor and short-lived character: Ser Arys Oakheart. The relationship between the Lannisters and the Martells is a strained one. Even more so now that Ser Gregor Clegane, a Lannister bannerman, admitted to the rape and murder of Prince Doran’s sister before going on to murder his brother, Prince Oberyn. With the Dornish nursing both old and new wounds, Jaime may be heading for a diplomatic nightmare. The late Prince Oberyn’s bastard daughters the Sand Snakes will prove particularly loud in their baying for bloodshed. The fourth novel in the series, A Feast for Crows, explores a Martell subplot (not to be confused with the Martell master plan) spearheaded by Arianne Martell and half legitimized by Princess Myrcella Baratheon, who under Dornish law, would inherit the Iron Throne before King Tommen, as the oldest living child, regardless of gender. In the Show, this subplot may instead be the product of Trystane Martell, one of the Sand Snakes, or the late Prince Oberyn’s paramour Ellaria Sand. This conspiracy ends in Myrcella’s mutilation, Arianne’s imprisonment, and Oakheart’s death. Whoever replaces Arianne (whose casting has not been announced) will likely meet a similar punishment in the show, and although it is almost certain that Jaime will not be meeting the same gory fate as Oakheart, another beloved character may.
Bronn: The snarky sellsword and fan favorite Bronn has been a highly speculated traveling companion for Jaime. The choice certainly makes sense when one considers that strictly adhering to the books would give Bronn very little screen time this Season, and that the two have recently been introduced as sparring partners. Having already served as a cutthroat and confidant for one Lannister brother, it is not hard to imagine Bronn fulfilling a similar role for another. But if the ill-fated knight of the Kingsguard Arys Oakheart has had other parts of his story transferred to different characters, will his death find its way to another as well? If so, Bronn is a more likely candidate than the Kingslayer.
Stannis Baratheon: Though Stannis and his followers are currently at Castle Black, one fragment from a Season 5 episode synopsis is revealing: “Stannis comes into trouble on his way South.” This is suggestive of a clash with the current Warden of the North, Roose Bolton. In the books, Stannis recruits the Mountain Clans of the North to his army to reinforce his strength against the Boltons. This may still take place in the show, but the clans are likely to be replaced with the Wildlings, which will avoid character overload and also give Tormund Giantsbane something to do this Season. Mance Rayder will in all probability remain a prisoner on the Wall.
Ramsay Bolton: The maniacal bastard of the North has on several occasions openly displayed his depravity. From torturing Theon Greyjoy to hunting a young woman like an animal, Ramsay Bolton has shown himself to be just as much of a psychopath as the late King Joffrey. Perhaps more so. Last Season left off with Ramsay being legitimized as a Bolton and effectively becoming Roose’s heir. Upon becoming a true highborn, Ramsay’s marital status developed into a political opportunity. By marrying the right woman, he could join his House to another, and what House is more suitable to claiming power in the North than the Starks? Roose and Ramsay plot to marry the younger of the two to an imposter disguised as Arya Stark. In the books, this woman was Jeyne Poole, but seeing as she is an all but nonexistent character in the show, another choice will likely be made. Who will pose as Arya then? It is plausible that Ramsay’s sociopathic female companion Myranda will be assuming the role. The synopsis of episode 6 includes the words “Winterfell prepares for a wedding”, which leaves little doubt that this scene will take place in Season 5.
The Wall and Beyond
Jon Snow: At this point in the series, the Night’s Watch has a brief moment of peace after the tumultous events leading up to the Wildling siege of the Wall. The brothers in black seize this opportunity to name their next Lord Commander, Jon Snow. Though it is uncertain when this will take place, if the pacing of the show reflects the books, it should happen sometime after episode 2 and before the end of episode 5. The former is significant because of a revealing sentence in the synopsis of the episode: “Stannis tempts Jon” and the latter is significant because the episode is titled “Kill the Boy” which is most likely taken from a piece of advice Maester Aemon gives Jon, as he once gave King Aegon V upon assuming power. The tempting offer is almost certainly Stannis proposing to legitimize Jon as the son of Eddard Stark and name him Lord of Winterfell, which in the books, takes place shortly before his election as Lord Commander. The synopsis of episode 5 is also revealing; the brief words “Jon swings his Sword” are suggestive of him exercising the right of execution belonging to the Lord Commander. Which would be especially fitting considering Eddard Stark’s belief that “the man who passes the sentence should swing the sword.” A belief he made certain to pass onto his sons. The execution itself will likely be satisfying if the identity of the victim remains the same as it was in the books. If it does, Lord Stark’s lessons to Jon may continue to bring justice to the world, even from the grave.
A major deviation that awaits Jon’s story is the inclusion of a scene that takes place in Hardhome, an ominous settlement north of the wall. Little is known about what HBO plans with this new setting, though they have said that this was the location for “one of the most complex and ambitious scenes of the Season.” HBO has beefed up the story of the Night’s Watch before, and the results have been jaw-dropping cinematics and unforgettable fight scenes. If this trend continues, additional albeit uncanonized scenes are more than welcome.
Bran Stark: If rumors are confirmed and Bran Stark won’t be seen this year, his absence from Season 5 is not a major deviation from the books. On the contrary, it is a simple refusal to charge further ahead in this character’s story, which has already caught up to events in A Dance with Dragons. Furthermore, a silent period may actually be beneficial in giving Bran an opportunity to learn to master his powers offscreen; when we next see him, he will undoubtedly be more powerful and full of surprises.
Across the Narrow Sea
Daenerys Targaryen: Last Season saw Dany conquering and assuming control of Meereen. Under her rule, all slaves were freed and many of the former masters were harshly punished. Her reforms were often met with resistance, sometimes even from former slaves who felt lost and helpless in their own freedom. While struggling to control her people, Daenerys’s dragons also grow unmanageable, after Drogon kills a young girl, she chains and confines her dragons, though Drogon himself evades capture.
Dany’s struggles will continue this Season. The books saw the rise of a hostile faction known as the Sons of the Harpy, an outbreak of the bloody flux, a marriage proposal from Quentyn Martell, and even a botched assassination attempt on Daenerys’s life.
The show on the other hand, will not be strictly adhering to the events laid out by the books. The Sons of the Harpy will almost undoubtedly still be seen, the bloody flux may or may not be making its way into Season 5, Quentyn has yet to be casted and is almost certainly absent from her story, and the assassination attempt is probable but only in a different form.
Tyrion Lannister: Tyrion has been smuggled out of King’s Landing and narrowly avoided his own execution, but his troubles are far from over. with no money to hire protection and no tools at his disposal other than his mind, Tyrion is highly dependent upon his traveling companion, Lord Varys. In the books, the Spider did in fact disappear from King’s Landing but he was not aboard the ship with Tyrion, in most respects he has somewhat replaced Ser Jorah as the Dwarf’s traveling companion. With Varys’s less than subtle hint from the Season 5 trailer, the fact that Tyrion is sailing to Daenerys is all but certain. Consequently; the much awaited meeting between the last Targaryen and the Little Lion will in all likelihood be coming much sooner in the show than in the books. Unless she disappears before he can reach her, the show will be touching on material that has yet to be published. However, the meeting we will see onscreen is unlikely to be strikingly different than the one we will later experience in written form. It is unclear what role Tyrion will be serving for Daenerys, if any, and what this means for Westeros.
Jorah Mormont: Major plot changes lie in wait for this wayward knight. After being exiled by Daenerys for his correspondence with the Iron Throne, Jorah is supposed to meet Tyrion in Volantis and force the dwarf to accompany him back to Meereen and Daenerys. Though Tyrion will indeed be making a trip to Volantis and it is possible that the two will meet, it seems that the show has different plans for Ser Jorah. He will indeed find his way back to the Dragon Queen albeit in a far different way, as a gladiator in the infamous Daznak’s Pit. Consequently, this has led to speculation that Ser Jorah’s story will come to an end this Season.
Arya Stark: The very last scene of Season 4 was Arya sailing to Braavos. But what awaits her in the youngest and wealthiest of the Free Cities? The second episode of this Season, titled The House of Black and White, is likely to offer some clarity. The city has already indirectly influenced Arya; two of the young girl’s mentors (Syrio and Jaqen H’Ghar) are from Braavos, and her knack for finding dangerous individuals to train her should continue once she reaches the city. The books lead her to the House of Black and White and to the Faceless Men, a society of assassins who count Jaqen H’Ghar among their members. The only changes one should expect to Arya’s story this Season is the possible inclusion of additional material and the absence of a few very minor characters she meets in Braavos.
Sam Tarly: Jon Snow’s most trusted companion stands to play a major role in the Stark bastard’s ascension to command. But if his story remains faithful to the books, he should also be taking a voyage to Braavos in the near future. Recognizing Sam’s intellectual gifts, Lord Commander Snow sends his friend to the citadel to begin forging his Maester’s chain so that he may one day replace the aged Maester Aemon. Though their voyage makes a stop at Braavos, It is hard to say if the show will be following through with this piece of Sam’s story in Season 5, if at all, but a potential meeting between him and Arya would prove entertaining.
Quotes from episode synopses found at gameofthrones.wikia.com
Filming description of Hardhome taken from the documentary Game of Thrones Season 5: A Day in the Life (HBO)
Eddard Stark quote taken from Game of Thrones chapter 1
Sansa/Littlefinger excerpt taken from A Feast for Crows chapter 41