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?
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.