Readers of the series that Game of Thrones is based off of have been preparing for the departure from book canon in gradual steps up until season 5. Previously, the events of the books have provided plenty of material to set the course of action for the show, and while cinematic choices created a few necessary diversions along the way, readers could be pretty confident about calling the major plot points the show would hit.
Not so anymore(!), as Season 5 begins to surpass the books and delve into unexplored territory–and, naturally, a whole lot of changes from the original material. Books 4 and 5 cover a truly staggering amount of detail, taking readers away from the beloved main cast and introducing a slew of new viewpoints and plot points. For some, these departures slowed down the reading experience and created a meandering progression that came off as confusing. But the woes of Planetos are great, and many are its players, so while the wealth of information introduced during the two novels may have required some careful book-keeping, I wouldn’t complain that it’s senseless, and generally not unnecessary.
Despite how you feel about the past two ASOIAF novels, there’s little argument over the fact that things must be handled differently on the small screen. Streamlining is required in order to tell the story in the most precise and riveting way possible for TV-watchers. It’s an entirely different medium, and develops on a different set of principles. Besides, it’s nearly impossible to reach conclusions based on internal dialogue on a television screen; we need a little bit more showing in these cases. But differences in how plot developments are reached aren’t the only changes to the format of Game of Thrones. More surprising plot alterations have begun occurring throughout the show, including, most notably, the deaths of many characters who yet live in the novels.
Several of the deaths that rolled through towards the end of Season 4–Jojen, Grenn, and Pyp, for example–upset me more deeply than I could have anticipated. Those in particular struck me as not only odd but unconducive to the natural progression of the plot we still have source material for. Less so for Jojen Reed, whose overarching purpose had been fulfilled by his untimely demise, and there are now others to fill his part later on. Grenn and Pyp, however….
I’m not here to argue the impact logistics of it, because that I get. They’re recognizable characters that show-only folk have gotten to know over the years, and their deaths would have a far greater emotional impact than a few nameless and unfamiliar Watch members dying. And while they may not be hugely significant to the future of the series, I do recall Grenn and Pyp playing an important role in helping Jon in his next venture at the very least. Yes, we’ll need to see Jon’s support system slip away at some point in the series, leading him to the point we’ve reached in the books (well, maybe, if that remains the same), but he hasn’t risen to the point where Grenn and Pyp’s role as supporters can be dismissed so blithely. I can only take it as an indication of future changes to come.
EDIT, post The House of Black and White: I suppose I have forgotten that death is a much bigger deal than electoral support, since Jon managed to successfully be nominated and rose to Commander with one word from Samwell and a chip from Master Aemon in the course of three minutes. I tried to give Grenn and Pyp a bigger purpose to live for, okay, I tried.
Perhaps the most surprising deviation from the books thus far was the death of Mance Rayder during the Season 5 premiere episode, “The Wars To Come”.
Book readers may have expected Mance to be sentenced to burn at the stake and then later see “Mance” do just that, as the real Mance slipped away into the night, off for a few Winterfell flavored adventures, but it was the real Mance Rayder that we found tied to the pyre, flames licking at his knees and agonized screams tumbling from his lips. And just so we’re sure he’s dead, Jon Snow provides the mercy bolt to the heart. While admittedly very little has come to fruition from Mance’s infiltration up to the current point of the novels, I’ve never been one to let go of a promising storyline so easily. But as Ciaran Hinds adds in a recent interview with EW, “It’s impossible to recreate everything that’s in the books. You can’t be absolutely faithful to the book, and why would you want to be? It’s a different medium. You have to make decisions and bold decisions and there are so many other characters, that there is enough in the pot.”
And I believe that he’s right there. We’ve already seen a few deviations from the goings on of the book, both of minuscule and major importance, but so far D&D are doing a fabulous job of ramping up the adventure and giving viewers something fascinating to look forward to each week. If it’s one thing we’ve learned from Game of Throne, it’s that there’s no use crying over spilled blood and dead favorites. We have more important things to worry about. Winter is Coming.