‘Game of Thrones’: the show makes one more big change from the books

08.28.15 3 years ago

Warning: Full spoilers for “Game of Thrones” season 5 ahead.

When “Game of Thrones” completed its fifth season, it left viewers with several questions, some of which were the same cliffhangers that book readers have been living with for years.

Jon Snow”s fate has launched a thousand theories, for example. I know, I know – they insist he”s really dead. Well that can mean a lot of different things in Westeros! Guess who”s NOT dead (likely because he”s just too mean to die)? Stannis “the baby burner” Baratheon.

He lives on in the books, that is. In answer to a fan question on his LiveJournal, author George R.R. Martin recently confirmed that Stannis is indeed “beyond a doubt” still breathing in the world of his novels. Now to be fair, Stannis is not yet a child killer in Martin”s creation, and he may never be one. As fans of the show know, sweet Shireen Baratheon met a horrific end at the hands of Melisandre, who was in collusion with both her mother and father in the Season 5 penultimate episode of the series. 

Even if she is to face a similar fate in the novels, however, that does not mean that it will be in the exact circumstances. In their post-episode recap, showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss indicated that they learned of Shireen's fate from Martin himself. So we can assume that the girl will be killed. However, that doesn't mean that Stannis will be present when it happens in the books – even if he is some ways culpable. In fact, that would be odd given the locations of the various characters at the moment.

During the Season 5 finale of the HBO series, it appeared as if Brienne of Tarth had finally taken her revenge on Stannis and slaughtered the would-be-king. However, because the director cut away as she swung her sword, it seemed possible, even likely that something had stayed her hand.As Entertainment Weekly reported, director David Nutter later confirmed that Stephen Dillane”s character is, in fact, dead.

Of course, there will be some fans that will contend that the show”s creative team is simply lying to us at this point to keep viewers on their our toes. However, it seems likely that Stannis simply outlived his usefulness as a character on the series. Benioff and Weiss likely needed to cull the cast a bit in order to give the show some more focus, which brings us to the increasing gap between the world of the show and the novels.

It”s an interesting twist that, as fans, we can really begin to predict certain outcomes in the novel based on what”s happened on the HBO series. If certain characters (I”m looking at you, Stoneheart) don”t make on appearance on the show, then we assume that they won”t have a hugely significant role in how things ultimately shake-out in the novels. We know that Benioff and Weiss are aware of Martin”s planned ending and that that they are all headed in the same direction.

In some ways, it”s nice to have two (somewhat) distinct stories running, because each is capable of delivering unexpected twists and turns. On the other hand, it can make for a somewhat disjointed experience of these characters. As an example, the show has inspired a deep hatred of Stannis, so his continued existence in the books – irrationally – feels like Martin keeping yet another evil scumbag alive as the heroes continue to perish. Not that Stannis was all that likable in the novels, but he hasn”t burned his baby alive in a mad power grab – yet. So he”s got that going for him. Which is nice.

What do you think? Do you like that the show is diverging more and more from Martin”s books? Does it feel like it must in order to retrain viewers, as the novels become increasingly filled with characters and a winding plot?

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