Editorial Featured Small Council

Small Council: Which characters from the books do you wish Game of Thrones hadn’t omitted?

Game of Thrones is a complex show, with a larger cast than you’ll find in most places on TV. And yet there’re still a lot characters from the books who didn’t make the cut. Now that the show is entering its final seasons, we can probably give up hope of seeing a good chunk of them onscreen. Who do we wish the show hadn’t left out?

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DAN: I have a recurring daydream where Helen Mirren plays Lady Barbrey Dustin. It’s weird, I know. It started a couple years back when Mirren gave an interview and said she’d love to play a character on the show, preferably one who was “[v]ery cold and cruel.” Hmm, I thought. Helen Mirren wants to play a baddie on Game of Thrones. And if Helen Mirren wants to be on your show, it’s probably in your best interest to do what she wants, because she’s Helen Mirren and she’s awesome.

We meet Lady Barbrey Dustin in A Dance with Dragons. She’s harbored a deep grudge against the Starks ever since Robert’s Rebellion, when Ned failed to bring home her husband’s bones after he died fighting down south. Consequently, she has no problems joining up with the Boltons after they take Winterfell, although she harbors grudges against them, too. She’s grudges up and down, this woman. “Cold and cruel” indeed.

Like a lot of Martin’s characters, there were wrinkles to Barbrey Dustin, and I could have stood to see more wrinkles when it came to the Bolton side of the Bolton-Stark rivalry in seasons 5 and 6. She could have lent that plotline more weight. I imagine she was cut for time, and that’s a shame. (Arya mentioned House Dustin to Tywin in season 2, incidentally, but it looks like that was a throwaway detail.)

And if Helen Mirren played her…well, the show would pretty much have been guaranteed a Best Guest Actress Emmy. (I know they would have had to age the character up a bit, but they’ve had to problems with that before.)

COREY: This is a tough question, because the books are filled with so many vivid and complex characters that even when some of them shows up on screen they can be neutered versions of their literary selves. In the books, Areo Hotah is a top-tier warrior who dispatches a knight of the Kingsguard in epic fashion, but on screen he’s killed by a very short girl wielding a steak knife. Meanwhile, Wyman Manderly is one of House Stark’s most powerful vassals. In the novels, he delivers a great speech that firmly establishes his undying loyalty to the Starks before proceeding to murder Freys, bake them into pies, and serve them to the Boltons. But on the show he’s an apologetic toad only briefly seen when Jon Snow is elected King in the North. This is what we are missing out on.

But if I had to choose one character from the books I miss most, it would be Victarion Greyjoy. Victarion is a younger brother of Balon and Euron Greyjoy, and commander of the Iron fleet. After Euron seizes the Salt Throne, Victarion is sent to Meereen to fetch Daenerys Targaryen for Euron. Euron and Victarion have a long and complicated history, as Euron actually impregnated Victarion’s wife, which led to his banishment by Balon. This history leads Euron to conspire to ally with Dany himself, in much the same way Yara attempts to do on the show.

Victarion is a thoroughbred warrior, and his battles in the books are brutal. Victarion’s journey to Meereen in the books is much more eventful than Yara and Theon’s on the show. Along the way, Victarion captures ships, picks up a shipwrecked Red Priest named Moqorro, has his wounded hand fused solid black by said priest and finally joins in the Battle of Meereen. Quite the adventure.

It seems Victarion’s role was split between Euron, Yara, and Theon on the show. None of them equal Victarion for ferocity in battle, though, and his absence means we lose out on some of the House Greyjoy family dynamic. Victarion loathes Euron for the affair with his wife, but refuses to act for fear of kinslaying. Turning a feared warrior into the lackey of the man that slept with his wife is twisted even for George R.R. Martin, and we lose all that by splitting his role among the remaining Greyjoys.

SARAH: I’m going to have to opt for Arianne Martell, the eldest child of Doran Martell. The reason I’ve chosen this particular character is not because I’m overly fond of her, but because her inclusion would have changed the Dornish plot entirely, and most of us can agree that Dorne was poorly executed on screen. Every moment spent in Dorne in season 5 was messy, particularly the fight scene between Bronn, Jaime and the Sand Snakes, which was straight out of a Benny Hill sketch. See the video below for evidence.

Some backstory for non-book readers: in the books, Arianne is introduced to us as the heir apparent to Dorne, and she suspects that her father is plotting to pass her over for her younger brother, Quentyn. Angered by this, and by the fact that her father is unwilling to avenge the deaths of Oberyn and Elia, Arianne hatches a plan to avenge the deaths of her aunt and uncle by installing Myrcella Baratheon as Queen of the Seven Kingdoms in accordance with Dornish law. In doing this, she hopes to bring about a war between Myrcella and her brother, Tommen. Ultimately, her plan fails, but it is revealed that Doran had only ever hoped to give Sunspear to Quentyn because he once intended for his daughter to marry Viserys Targaryen, and become queen. He is revealed to be playing a long game with the Lannisters, intent on getting his revenge by siding with Daenerys.

Arianne’s inclusion in the show and her plan to crown Myrcella — assuming they stuck to her plot — would have made a lot more sense than Ellaria Sand’s ridiculous decision to murder an innocent girl — a decision that went against her dead lover’s values. Furthermore, I enjoyed the relationship Arianne had with her father. Unlike many parent-child relationships in the series, she and her father are pretty close. Doran may not have been honest with her from the beginning, but ultimately he treats her with respect, and there is admiration on both sides.

Moreover, I find Doran Martell to be one of the more interesting characters in the books. He plays his cards close to his chest, keeping his enemies in the dark, slick enough to fool even his own children. The revelation of his master plan was a really enjoyable moment for me when I first read A Feast for Crows, and I feel like his character was done a great injustice on screen when he was revealed to be a man with no plan at all. If the show had stuck with elements of the original plot, we could have seen a better side to him.

RAZOR: Oh come on! Now I finally know what Admiral Ackbar felt like when the rebel fleet was attacking the Death Star: IT’S A TRAP! You all know I’m going to pick Lady Stoneheart, so let’s get on with it. Of course I wish the reanimated corpse of Lady Catelyn Stark — the vengeful rage-zombie that haunts the Riverlands hunting and hanging Frey’s — was part of the show. She’s one of my favorite characters from the books. I can still remember reading the epilogue of A Storm of Swords and getting so stoked that with this new(ish) character, the Starks would finally be getting some revenge for the Red Wedding.

Well, that revenge didn’t come as swiftly as I’d hoped, but Lady Stoneheart’s brief appearances in the subsequent books were still exciting.

I’ve seen many counter-arguments to my Lady Stoneheart obsession, the most prominent being that she wouldn’t push the narrative forward, and I have to say I kind of agree. Despite the fact that I want her on Game of Thrones (and will until the credits role on the season 8 finale), the show has done a fantastic job of filling Lady Stoneheart’s role through Lady Catelyn’s daughters — Sansa and Arya.

Sansa has taken a much more cerebral approach to revenge. In season 6, she convinced Jon Snow to help her rally the North to evict the Boltons from Winterfell. That’s something Lady Stoneheart would never have been able to do. And Arya went on a minor murder spree when she left Braavos and killed old Walder Frey and two of his idiot sons. Arya is fulfilling Lady Stoneheart actual role by killing Freys, but Sansa is still possessed of her mother’s vengeful spirit, which was on full display when she fed Ramsay Bolton to his dogs and walked away with a slight smile.

So there you have it: Yes, I would love for David Benioff and Dan Weiss to add Lady Stoneheart to Game of Thrones (even at this late date), but I know that she lives on through her daughters, and that’s enough for me.

Note: You can choose two characters.


79 Comments

  • I wish they added Galazza Galare as well, it would have made the Mereen plot more enjoyable onscreen. She made the plot in the novels interesting as it took my second reading to be certain she is the Son’s of the Harpy’s mother and thereby enjoying the Mereen storyline soo much more.

  • Do the writers of this article (namely Corey) realise that Areo Hotah is in the series. First appearance 6.1 “The Red Woman”.

    Watch the show before writing guys. Great article all the same.

    • Actually Hotah’s first appearance was in 5.2 “The House of Black and White.” And I think Corey was complaining about book characters he thought were poorly served by the show as a prelude to his discussion of ones who were left out entirely.

    • Corey actually seems to know his shit, very insightful and his statements are fact checkable. I also agree totally on his points about victarion and also cast one of my votes that way.

    • He might have meant, actually having the character on the show.
      Not just some guy who happens to share his name.

      Show Hotah did absolutely nothing but die.

      Saying Hotah was on the show is like saying Jeyne Poole was on the show. (She was in a 2 minutes scene in the first season). Sure, someone had her name. But the character isn’t there, the plot isn’t there, she doesn’t marry ramsay, she doesn’t fear for her life, gets tortured, raped by ramsay (or worse), she doesn’t escape with Theon… It was all given to Sansa.

      So, what Jeyne Poole really on the show? I say no… No more than Hotah.

  • First of all, thanks team. A great read. Now, I have to say the character I have most wanted to see is Arianna Martell. I think her story line so far in the books is good, but I also think there is so much more to come. My second choice (& for pretty much the same reason) is Jon Coonington. That would have been a fantastic story line.

    • I also hoped for Jon and Arya’s wolf dreams. I wanted more intel on the WW and COTF.

      Only two seasons left,and so many more charachters I had hoped to learn more about.

      I sincerely hope we get some Rhaegar flashbacks!!!!

    • Agree. The wolf dreams are interesting and riveting too.

      Although it’s a minor character, I also like the Ghost of High Heart. Some of her prophecies have already come true.

      Arianne Martell could have been included in the series instead of the Sand Snakes.

      Jon Connington and Young Griff. I love the way Tyrion was able to discover their true identity in the book.

    • First, there is much more that Lady Dustin is upset about besides her husband’s body….she had been in love with Brandon Stark! Had a tryst with him! and was upset about his pending marriage to Cat. Plus, she searches for something important in the Starks’ crypt. Her dealings with the Boltons shows she is a player….ah well…
      THE DIREWOLVES!! The writers really screwed up by ignoring their significance. The beginning of the series is set up with white walkers and the Starks finding antlers (Baratheon) killed the mother, and the pups are orphaned (like their human counterparts). Arya is always connecting with Nymeria and her wolf pack. The direwolves significance is as important as the dragons to Targaryen…fire and ice.. in the books. The TV writers just kill them off with nary a second thought. That is the most disappointing.

  • I would go with Aurane Waters because his appearance in the books show how out of touch and delusional Cersei is. Okay, this was established already, but hear me out: Aurane Waters reminds Cersei of Rhaegar and she goes out of her way to give this man power just because she thinks he is hot. It would remind the viewers that Cersei is actually a Targaryen fangirl, whose dream was to marry a dragon and be the princess her father promised her she would be; that she is also losing the seduction skills and her beauty, as Aurane is just playing with her and , lastly, that Jaime has been Cersei´s second choice.

    • From what I remember, I thought Cersei appointed Aurane Waters to Master of the Royal Fleet or whatever his title is, because she thought she could easily manipulate and essentially control AW.

      I love the idea of seeing Jon and Arya’s wolf dreams, let alone just the simple mention that they both can warg.

      I vote Lady Stoneheart. I, for one, LOVE the character and find it difficult to understand why a lot of fans reallt dislike the character.

  • I voted for Strong Belwas of the honeyed locusts, but could have just as easily voted for Galazzar Galare (for her name alone), the Ghost of High Hat, Reznak, Patchface, Penny, Arianne and Moqorro. Maybe Patchface gets 2nd place. (I know! I know!)
    I would like to see another Small Council meeting about great book characters who could have been done better the show. I vote for Euron Greyjoy, who in the Winds of Winter sample chapter ” The Forsaken” emerges as the most terrifying figure in the whole series, straight out of Alan Moore’s “Black Freighter” comics.

  • If they had included Aegon I don’t believe they would be shortening season 7 or rapping but the entire series in 8 seasons. I also believe that the entire Dornish storyline would have been better if they had included Arianne Martel. It seems as if after season 4 it has been rushed and more about big battle scenes than about the characters. Yes it would be a longer length of time that but they committed to doing the series in the first place. Yes I know that some characters would need to be cut, and I agree with that but it seems the cuts in Dorne just seem to make season 5 a total mess for me inspite of all the awards they won for it.

  • STANNIS….
    Not the average written and total opposite version they showed of him on screen…
    NEWSFLASH!!! he is not only fighting because is his duty and personal gain, he wanted to give the throne to her daughter, he would never, NEVER sacrifice her daughter…. heck he wasnt even listening to melissandre anymore.
    He wasnt the horny buffon being manipulated by melissandre presented by HBO.
    HE WAS THE ONE USING MELISSANDRE…

  • A great question…and nearly impossible to answer because there are so many other characters in the books that add context and depth to the story. But if I really had to narrow it down to just one character I would go with Arianne Martell mostly because if there’s one thing that fans of ASoIaF agree, it is the show did a poor job of adapting the storyline of Dorne.

    Also, other than Victarion, most of the other characters on the list are not PoV characters and it appears that Arianne’s character will continue through at least Winds of Winter. Which tells me that the show is probably excluding a lot by omitting Arianne. While it would’ve been nice to include Victrarion in the show I do think we got a pretty good sense of the Ironborn in general and what their story is all about by including various other Greyjoy characters as well as other minor Ironborn characters.

    But, with Dorne we were introduced to one of the coolest characters of the entire series through Oberyn. And then to see what the show did with Dorne afterwards was a huge disappointment and I think including Arianne and allowing her character to grow could have increased the entertainment value of Dorne. Think about the possibilities. They could’ve had Arianne seduce Jaime for instance (instead of Aerys Oakheart). And even if Arianne goes on to lead a coup against her own father (Prince Doran) in the books, it makes sense for her to lead the coup because she is the heir (unlike Elaria Sand who just happened to be Oberyn’s lover). But oh well….

    One final thing, no list of omitted book characters is complete without “Nimble Dick”.

  • Ariane Martell, of course! Only this character could have brought some sense in the Dornish plot… Furthermore, she’s an interesting character, full of ambition, yet still naive and compassionnate (Remember what happened to Arys and how she reacted…)

    And Young Griff, not because I like the character (he’s actually pretty boring and a bit full of himself), but only because of what the addition of another Targaryen could have brought to the plot… Would the Tyrells, the Greyjoys and “Dorne” really have joined with Danaerys if another Targaryen was still alive, moreover the heir apparent? Dorne may have, but certainly not the Tyrells who are surely unhappy to be allied with Dorne. As for Yara and Theon… I get the feeling they don’t really care who ends up on the Iron Throne, as long as Euron is killed.

  • All these characters made the many of us love the story to begin with so its hard seeing any of them omitted I suppose. Obviously the TV show doesn’t have the time to add them all. Arianne is the driving force behind the Martell storyline in the books so I found it strange that she was omitted from the show. And oh Victarian you glorious dumb oaf, how could they leave him out ? Vic is a fascinating character and i was really bummed he was left out.

    The show leaving out Aegon pretty much tells me all I need to know about his endgame in the books. I’m surprised Lady Stoneheart isn’t running away with this. I admit I was shocked she wasn’t included on the show but I am fine with it . I vote Arianne and Victarian since Wyman Manderly isn’t a choice due to technically making an appearance on the show .

  • Agree about Arianne. But Lady Stoneheart Lady Stoneheart Lady Stoneheart. It would have worked wonderfully in Season 4 to give fans hope after the utter annihilation of the Red Wedding. We needed hope.Instead, they kept us wondering and hoping, even teasing us a bit. Until the Hound totally pissed on the idea in Season 6. It would also have been interesting from a Nymeria/Arya point of view. And speaking of hope, the real, fat, funny but deadly Wyman Manderly with hints of a Great Northern Conspiracy. He could even have Frey pies back.

    Also, Jeyne Poole. The whole Ramsay-Sansa story rang hollow and exploitative. It could have been short and still made its point. Had Sansa gone on learning manipulation at the Vale, I could buy what Sophie T and D&D say about her now being a master. Compared to Littlefinger, in S6 she’s punching way above her weight and you can’t help but feel she’s in for a big, dangerous fall.

  • Going through the list, I have to say that I didn’t have a single connection with any of the characters omitted from the show. That said, if I had to choose, I would go with Aegon. He is most likely going to have the biggest impact on the story. I’m surprised by how many votes Lady Stoneheart is getting. She was only in two pages of the book.

  • I would like to add that Davos lost four sons at the battle of Backwater in ACOK. He still has three sons alive including one who is Stannis personal squire. The show only included Matthos.

  • When I saw the title for this article, the first thing that popped into my head was another rant by Razor about how Lady Stoneheart should have been in the show…
    Now I’ll read it and see if I was right.

  • Jayne Pools inclusion would have restored some plausibility to Sansas storyline. There is no longer the illusion Littlefinger is a brilliant mastermind for not knowing the psychotic nature of the depraved individuals he was working with, and the value of an ally he’s forfeit.

  • 1: Penny. Hear me out.
    Her existence in the books is so so so important for Tyrion’s arc in ADwD. Leaving her out meant that Tyrion in the show went from being miserable and depressed to be jolly and happy without any extra character developement. I love Peter Dinklage and I quite enjoyed that part of season 5, but it lacked meaning. It was a transition more than anything else. In the books Tyrion finally realises what it means to be a dwarf. It’s an eye opening and perspective shifting journey for him. The show just gave us the Tyrion we all know and love, which is fine. But there could have been so much more.

    2: Strong Belwas
    Do I need a justification? I didn’t think so.

    But if I had the choice I’d tick all the boxes, because then the show would be the books and that would be good

    • Good point about Penny’s influence on Tyrion’s personal growth.

      My vote was for Griff and Young Griff (and everyone Tyrion interacted with on that boat) because I positively loved Tyrion’s storyline in that part of A Dance With Dragons. For the first time he seemed like he was genuinely happy. He’s a young man in his 20s* who has had a very rough life. He deserves a chance to be liked and carefree.

      * Book Tyrion, at least. :-)

    • Big Hazza, agree. Not to mention the way Penny steals a kiss from Tyrion. Haha!

      Renee, agree. Tyrion’s storyline in ADWD shows another side of him being casual and carefee. Jon Connington, on the other hand, would have been a good addition, so we could know his relationship and secrets with Prince Rhaegar.

  • Can we just all agree that there is a cluster fuck of good material and great useful characters the show has pushed on the backburner. Both could make these final 2 seasons the usual 10 episodes per season. Instead of 7 then 6…

  • It may be too late for a Stoneheart storyline, but she could have been in the background the entire time, and may cameo! A shadowy distant figure watching the remaining Stark kids reunited at Winterfell.

  • Lightbringer was analogous to Excalibur combined with a light saber, with sacrifices. While not exactly a character, it’s inclusion would change the odds in the wars to come!

    • There is one big difference between Excalibur and Lightbringer: Excalibur was THE sword of prophecy, whomever would pull it out would be king. Nobody questioned that Excalibur was that sword. Because a lot of people tried to pull it out and never could. But Arthur, the King, could.

      Lightbringer? it could very well be just a normal sword that Stannis put in the fire and pulled out. Even then, he needed gloves not to burn himself. Maybe anybody could have pulled it out. Maybe Maester Cressen could have pulled it out. Maybe Davos. Maybe Patchface…

      Then after, in the show or in the books, we never see Lightbringer have any real use. It glows? Maybe Melisandre put a glamour on it so that it would glow thereafter. She did it on herself… The show or the books put more emphasis on Ice, Longclaw or Oathkeeper…

      I’m more interested in Dawn, which only just popped out in the show…

      • Dawn has its merits, too. Being the oldest known sword, composed of a completely unknown material, and having the sunrise forged into the hilt, already hints at a relationship to the real Lightbringer. By definition the word “dawn” is also a light bringer. It is carried by the “sword of the morning”, a title that isn’t treated lightly. I like that it is prominently displayed at the foot of Lyanna’s bed when Jon is first given to Ned.
        I would like to see what Jons impression would be holding this weapon the first time!

        • I’m not sure there is a connection between Dawn and Lightbringer. It’s pretty clear by the descriptions those are 2 different swords: Lightbringer is glowing red, hot and seems to be made of fire. Dawn is “pale as milkglass” and was made out a shooting star. Seems pretty different. Beside the similar name of the swords and the wielders, nothing seems to match.

  • I give credit to the writers in writing the show, except for the Dorne plot (I loathed the Sand Snakes, it didn’t make any sense). The GOT contains a lot of characters and a studio like HBO cannot afford to put every character on screen, nor hire actors that fit every character.

  • Where’s Mormonts Ravon gone?!? I loved it in the books that he happily adopted Jon as the new lord commander, and that Jon walked around with a menagerie of birds and direwolves following him everywhere?
    And aren’t the ravens the spirits of the children of the forest? I was hoping for some great Ravon reveal, where people actually start listing to what they’re saying… might be tinfoil..
    Tyron!! Tree!! Corn!!!

  • I’m one of those weirdos who enjoyed Tyrion’s voyage on the Shy Maid and his mysterious traveling companions. I still hold out hope that Septa Lemore may be Ashara Dayne, and will cross paths once more with Ser Barristan.

    Agreed that by cutting out Arianne and her queenmaker plot, the show forfeited the most interesting aspect of Dorne: the existence of an alternative paradigm for inheritance, which could be a major game-changer if adopted by others of the Seven Kingdoms.

    As for LSH, I believe that she still has a crucial role to play in Arya’s arc. Arya will feel obligated to give her the Gift of Mercy when they meet, and after that will lose her taste for being an assassin. One of the ‘bittersweet’ components of the endgame.

  • I have to disagree with Razor. Lady Stoneheart would have too much Lord of the Rings style.
    I’m glad they left her out. I would have taken away from Arya’s story in the show.

  • I became very fond of Aegon VI., even if the rumors won’t stop that he isn’t a true Targaryen. One reason is, I like how he is starting to make his own decisions, like adding Rolly Duckfield to his Kingsguard against the wishes of Jon Connington, the other one is, I developed a dislike for Dany in the novels. But I think, there is still a chance for the “young dragon/griff” can appear now, to slow Dany down. I really hope that this will happen, together with Arianne Martell. I have the hope that they will marry, maybe they are already married if the show introduces them now. I also wish that Aegon will have a dragonhorn, so that he can switch Drogon, Rhaegal and Viserion to himself! Then the good Dany has no other choice than to bend the knee to him.

    • I think it’s too late for all of that in the show. My guess is that the main character to interfere and slow Dany down will be Euron. He’s the one building a thousand ships. Cersei, on her own, is not prepared for Dany’s arrival. But I’m guessing Cersei and Euron will form an alliance (or marriage) out of necessity on Cersei’s part. But as for Aegon and Arianne, it’s waaayyy too late for all that – there are only 2 abbreviated seasons remaining.

  • HBO omitted so many characters that I just can’t choose one lol.
    There are less than 5% of the book characters in the tv show…

  • Man, Arianne is THE REAL THING that could have saved Dorne in the show.

    I really don’t see much importance in Lady Stoneheart in the show, she just kill some Freys. We’ll only see the real importance of the character in the next book, I don’t get why everyone think she’s great deal. Could someone explain me?

    • Thank you for pointing it out — for me, LSH is a useless character. Arianne Martell was the only character that shouldn’t be excluded from the show.

  • I think it’s mainly because the Starks had been so beaten down that readers got a satisfaction from the vengeance she and the BWB dished out.

  • I utterly don’t get the Lady Stoneheart obsession. She was a minor character in the books who did essentially nothing to further the story. The show producers were right to leave her out.

  • Bandit 77 said Lightbringer was analogous to Excalibur combined with a light saber, with sacrifices.

    Yes, but NO HUMAN SACRIFICES! That would ruin the show for me and lots of other people. And several of you mentioned Dawn as a potential Lightbringer. Plausible, but it would remove an important aspect of Ned’s character–that he took Dawn back to the Dayne family out of respect for Ser Arthur and the fact that it was the Dayne house sword. I hope D&D will include that, especially as they allowed Bran’s comment to wrongly sully his father’s reputation. Bran thinks that Ned committed a dishonourable deed when Howland Reed stabbed Dayne in the back. Book Ned always made it clear that Howland had saved his life and didn’t boast about beating Dayne.

    So where does Jon get Lightbringer? Perhaps from Beric when he falls in battle. He had fought the Hound with a sword that lit up and hes a lord of light follower.

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