We fans of A Song of Ice and Fire tend to do a lot of complaining about the changes made for the television series. It’s understandable given our massive love for the books. However there have been several alterations to the original story on Game of Thrones that worked perfectly within the context of the show. It’s only logical that there would need to be additions and subtractions in order to make a successful adaptation. That said, here’s a list (in no particular order) of ten changes that worked.
In A Clash of Kings, it made sense that Loras’s elder brother wore the armor instead, because Loras is noticeably smaller than Renly. In the show, they aren’t so different in height and body type, and it was much more impactful to see heartbroken Loras going to war in his love’s armor. Seeing Loras and Renly interact as a couple made the young king’s life (and death) more involving, and gave him real heart.
In ASOIAF, Shae is a common young woman of Westeros who provides comfort and no challenge to Tyrion. That worked for the books. We only spend a few days or weeks reading a book, but we’re spending years with Shae on a TV series. It would be fairly boring to see him mooning over a woman that we know little about and has no real affection for him. It makes sense for the TV version of Shae to be more intriguing for one of the cleverest men in Westeros.
Qarth is ruled in A Clash of Kings by the Pureborn, who are descendants of royalty, and various merchant guilds fighting for power.It works fine for the book, but onscreen, keeping track of the Thirteen, the Spicers, the Pureborn and the Tourmaline Brotherhood would be a nightmare. Streamlining is necessary, and Game of Thrones created an opponent to embody the wealthiness, snobbery and extravagant nature of the rulers. The Qartheen leaders needed an identifiable face aside from Xaro, and the show succeeded in creating one.
Chett is Maester Aemon’s assistant in A Game of Thrones until Jon Snow, fearing for his friend’s safety, convinces the maester to take Samwell Tarly on as his aide. This earns Jon and Sam another enemy, and Chett is plotting revenge as the prologue POV character in A Storm of Swords, until the Others arrive and the horn blasts three times. Deleting this character is another good example of streamlining. Sam is simply assigned to the stewards without fuss. The arrival of the Others/White Walkers occurred in the season two finale under different circumstances than in ASoS, and Chett wasn’t missed at all.
Irri and Rakharo’s connection
Though there is a discussion in A Dance with Dragons that shows Irri has a thing for Rakharo, Elyes Gabel was originally supposed to be playing the young and lean bloodrider Jhogo who uses a whip to stop Viserys from hurting his khaleesi. His name was swapped because of its similarity to Drogo, and so the character Rakharo in the books isn’t much like the show’s version. The chemistry between Gabel and Amrita Acharia was amazingly strong for characters that never touched or spoke of their feelings. The show provides an opportunity for non-POV characters to have moments that make them richer and more real. Their premature killing-off from the show hurt like hell, but watching Irri grieve for a man she never got to be with, as far as we know, was heart-wrenching drama.
Ned spotting Arya before his execution
In A Game of Thrones, Ned dies on the steps of the Great Sept without knowing what has happened to his younger daughter. Yoren spots Arya in the crowd, and hides her face as her father is beheaded. On Game of Thrones, her father sees Arya holding onto the statue of Baelor, and says “Baelor” to the Night’s Watch recruiter as he passes by. And so in the show, Ned is given one last good act- trying to save his daughter, lost in the crowd.
Strictly speaking, we don’t watch Mordane die, but we see her face Lannister guards while sending her charge Sansa off to hide herself. Her fate is clear and she meets it bravely. In A Game of Thrones, the holy woman disappears during the purge of the Stark household from King’s Landing, but we never know what happened to her until Sansa sees her head on the wall, along with Ned’s.
Yoren is found dead by Arya after the fight with Amory Lorch’s men in A Clash of Kings, with an axe in his head. His story on the show about killing Willem is also a new addition. His utterly badass final fight with Lorch’s men was a much more exciting end for a cool character.
Ser Rodrik’s death in ACoK occurs offscreen, at the hands of someone else entirely. His death by execution on Game of Thrones is somewhat similar to the death of Benfred Tallhart in the books. (Tallhart spits on Theon, calls him a traitor, and Theon’s men encourage him to execute Benfred or it will reflect poorly on him.) Ser Rodrik’s execution in “The Old Gods and the New” is one of the best scenes in season 2.
The addition of Theon writing a letter to warn Robb of attack on the North, and then burning it, gives us a glimpse into the turmoil Theon may have experienced in A Clash of Kings, but wasn’t actually part of the text. In the novel, Balon informs Theon of his plans, and then we rejoin Theon some time later when he is on way to raiding the shore. The new scene allows us to understand the conflict inside the Starks’ ward and the tremendous weight of betraying his best friend for the sake of his kin.
We are told in A Clash of Kings that Cersei would rather die than be taken by Stannis’s forces. On the show, we see just how far she is willing to go. Her haunting story about the creatures bowing to the lions, spoken as the Battle of Blackwater peaks, is a completely new addition, as is her almost mercy-killing Tommen with an overdose. “Blackwater” could’ve just been a noisy bucket of cool explosions without potent emotional scenes like this.
Drogo and Rhaego appear in the House of the Undying
“If I look back, I am lost.” The huge changes made to the House of the Undying sequence are controversial, but the appearance of Daenerys’s late husband and the child they could have had underline a recurring theme in Dany’s story. To take back her throne she must continue onward, setting aside the past, or she will drown in sorrow. It can certainly be debated that removing the prophecies of the Undying was a mistake. However, the Drogo and Rhaego portion of the vision was a good flesh-and-blood interpretation of Daenerys seeing the house with the red door in A Clash of Kings‘s Undying chapter. The house with the red door represents her longing for her childhood home, a place of safety and family with Viserys and Ser Willem Darry, their protector. In letting go of Drogo and the baby, the ideal family she craved, Daenerys shows she will not be swayed by dreams that weaken her. It also provided an opportunity for her to say goodbye to the young husband who was taken from her so suddenly.
Ours is the Fury: What other changes and additions for the show do you think worked well?