Season four of Game of Thrones drifted away from George R.R. Martin’s source material more than any other season to date. This is mostly good and occasionally bad! Listing every difference would require hundreds of entries, most of them entirely minor and insignificant, so instead, let’s take a look at 12 of the most prominent changes (and Tywin’s speech), ranked from least welcome to most.
12. Brothers are doing it for themselves.
The TV show is sure going all-out to make us love Jaime, aren’t they? The scene in the finale, when Jaime helps Tyrion kill Tywin, plays out very differently in the book. During the escape, Jaime tells his brother that the story he’s been fed all these years, that Tyrion’s first wife Tysha was a hired whore, is bull. She was, in fact, in love with Tyrion. Hearing this enrages Tyrion, and he slaps Jaime in rage. Including this in the show would have given context to Tyrion seeking out his father with a crossbow, and not make it seem like a whim he has at the last second. “Wherever whores go.”
11. Lady Stoneheart.
Oh Lena, you big ol’ tease. (Maybe it’s unfair to include Lady Stoneheart on this list, because the show probably will get around to her next season — no specific spoilers, please — but whatever, screw Alex Graves says.)
10. Needs more Strong Belwas.
There’s no good reason for Strong Belwas, a bowling ball of a former Meereen slave who protects Daenerys, to be in the show, other than Strong Belwas is awesome and instead of Daario whipping out just the tip, he takes a massive dump after killing Oznak zo Pahl. Here’s a depiction:
I’d watch that.
9. Jaime and Cersei
If only it had been portrayed the same way it was in the books. Then we would have been spared THIS.
8. Through the moon door.
Marillion is a singer who can’t sing. He had his tongue ripped out by Ser Ilyn Payne in season one. But he plays a major role in A Storm of Swords: he’s accused of throwing Lysa Tully through the Moon Door. Littlefinger is still the one who does the deed, but Marillion, who previously tried to rape Sansa, was nearby, attempting to sing and play the harp so as to drown out Sansa’s screams, and now he’s confined to the sky cells. Littlefinger blaming someone else, and not passing off a story about Lysa committing suicide, is more in-character, but it’s not too egregious of a change.
7. The Battle at Castle Black.
There are a myriad number of changes between the Battle at Castle Black in the book vs. the Battle at Castle Black in the show (Sam and Gilly aren’t there, Pyp and Grenn survive, etc.), but the biggest is: “The battle does not last a few hours before Jon goes to meet with Mance, but for several days. Jon also does not go willingly to kill Mance, he is forced by Ser Alliser and Slynt.” (Also, some of the Stannis stuff is a little wonky, and Jon is nearly executed by his own men.) I’m quoting the Game of Thrones Wiki, because I’ve already spent enough time bitching about Jon Snow. But honestly, although I didn’t like the episode much, I’m OK with this change: there’s no way a TV show could get away with a multi-day battle with their limited budget; it’s better to throw all the giants and mammoths at you at once.
6. Grey Worm <3 Missandei
Grey Worm didn’t HAVE to fall in love with Missandei, but we’re glad he did.
5. Tywin’s speech to Tommen.
Charles Dance needs his Emmy submission, too, even if it’s not in the books.
4. R.I.P. Jojen
Oberyn. Tywin. Shae. Joffrey. Ygritte. A lot of main characters died this season, and then there’s Jojen, who served his only purpose (to get Bran to the three-eyed raven) before heading to the Great Pond in the Sky. It was a vicious death, but one that few are mourning. Sorry, Meera.
3. The near-meeting at Craster’s Keep
The Mutiny at Craster’s Keep does exist in the books, although it plays out a little differently, but what I enjoyed in the TV show version of the bloody, rape-y battle was how close Bran and Jon got to seeing each other. It’s shades of Arya nearly reuniting with her family before, y’know, but I still liked it, because it added an extra dimension to a setting (Craster’s Keep) that frankly, wasn’t very interesting. Also, Jojen’s the one who says Bran shouldn’t go to his bastard brother, so it’s good that frog-eater is dead.
2. The Night’s King
Even book readers can have things spoiled. The Night’s King, a former Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch who later took human sacrifices, is mentioned but never seen in the books, so it was a huge surprise when he appeared at the end of “Oathkeeper.” He’s a big deal not only for the show (if he exists, is EVERY Westeros legend is true?), but for viewers — no one knows what to expect anymore.
1. Brienne vs. the Hound fight.
The Hound (maybe) dies in the books, though not from injuries suffered from a fight with Brienne. Remember early in season four, when the Hound and Arya visit the inn and get into a scuffle with Polliver? Well, this is the point when Arya doesn’t grant her traveling companion the gift of mercy — she leaves him behind under a tree, and he’s never heard from again.