Thursday, April 17, 2014

Game of Thrones Season Four Book Comparison - Episodes 1 & 2

As we plunge headlong into the new season of Game of Thrones I’m interested to see how the story contorts and develops between the sprawling and intricate chess game in A Song of Ice and Fire and the much more visual and limited medium of the HBO series.

Thus far, this season has done a much more adept job at telling the right kinds of stories from the book and developing a more legible plotline. The characters have been well developed despite their limited screen time and extremely interwoven and complex plotlines have been turned into more digestible stories without sacrificing future stories.

I hope it holds up, but in the mean time, join me under the cut if you want to know more in the way of comparisons to story arcs and plots between Game of Thrones season four and the book series.

Note: this article includes spoilers up to and including Game of Thrones season four episode two. Future book spoilers are not included.


It’s interesting that the Theon/Reek storyline has been brought forward in the television series and in large part I don’t think this was done well in the third season. Theon’s transformation into Reek is one of my favourite plotlines in the novels, mainly because of the insight it gives into Theon’s character and the true nature of the game being played in Westeros. In this season it is certainly being undertaken in much clearer fashion. I think it was unnecessary in season three to play up the deception for so long to the reveal that Ramsay is Roose Bolton’s bastard son, and frankly the reveal itself fell flat. Although the links are clearer at the beginning of this season it was time that could have been spent elsewhere.

Having said that both Iwan Rheon and Alfie Allen are doing incredible jobs of conveying the desperation of the situation and the depths of Ramsay’s depravity. It is also serving to set Roose Bolton up as a serious figure moving forward.

The scene where Theon is shaving Ramsay and finds out about Robb Stark was not in the novels and was expertly executed. It added richness and terror and sets up the future plotlines well.

Ramsay himself is shown in an even more intimidating way than last season, not only torturing and controlling Theon but also killing others in terrible ways for mere sport. The scene with the girl being chased through the woods, hunted and mauled by dogs makes the stomach turn. I am not sure who the woman with Ramsay is at the moment, I don’t remember her being in the novels, and it seems a little silly to be including extra characters when the story is already overflowing with them.

It will be interesting to follow Ramsay and Theon as they now make their way to Moat Cailin and the Ironborn.

Daario Naharis

In episode one we see a significant actor change in Michiel Huisman replacing Ed Skrein as Daario Naharis. This is an important change as the previous representation of Daario was not only forgettable but also lacked any chemistry with Daenerys. I do wonder how many viewers could have made the connection though as it was very confusingly handled. Thankfully, this Daario from what we have seen is at least charming.


It’s only one scene but it’s good enough that it needs to be noted. Those dragons are huge and fierce and there is certainly no indication that anything about that is going to change any time soon.

Dany is going to have her work well and truly cut out for her and the audience needs to be reminded that they have a significant role to play moving forward.

Margaery Tyrell

I was recently asked by a friend who only watches the television series to know a little more about Margaery and her motivations – is she actually like Joffery? Is she actually unkind? And had to say that these are clearer in the show and expertly displayed by Natalie Dormer. Margaery is a much richer character for the visual displays of wit, kindness, ambition and disgust than her book counterpart. Her interactions with her grandmother Lady Olenna are perfect. Keeping Olenna a very visual addition to the series is a stroke of genius, as is having Margaery interact with other characters – especially other woman such as Brienne and Cersei.

I hope that Margaery’s disgust at the Purple Wedding was noted, as well as her skill at diffusing terrifying situations and acting shocked and sad when required. She is an absolutely stunning player of the game and the show has continued to allow Dormer to demonstrate just how fantastic she is.

The Lannister’s

Thus far, as far as the Lannister’s are concerned, my main bone of contention is Cersei’s accusation that Brienne is in love with Jamie the way that she was in love with Renly. If interpreted literally this would significantly diminish the friendship that Brienne and Jamie share as well as their future stories. Brienne does not need to be romantically in love with Jamie in order to care for him and admire the person he has become and vice versa. Brienne’s love for Jamie, if it exists, is more akin to that of a sister, which is ironic given that Cersei is actually Jamie’s lover.

Another problem that presents itself is that Jamie is present during his son’s wedding and subsequent death. In the novel Jamie arrives after this fact and it strongly shapes his motivations moving forward. This is one change that I am sceptical will add anything positive to the story. It’s difficult because the show obviously needs to include as many characters at the same point as possible so as not to be telling someone’s coming home story at the same time as telling that of the King’s death. I think some of the interaction between Joffery and Jamie that took place earlier will be used to shape Jamie’s future motivations.

I don’t believe Loras’ proposed wedding to Cersei was ever in the novels and this again poses a problem. Loras is part of the King’s Guard which is important in the future – perhaps this will become clearer later. In the novel, Loras is not the heir to High Garden, which is significant to why the Tyrell’s would allow their daughter to be married to Joffery.

Joffery’s Death and the Purple Wedding could not have been done better. The intensity between Jack Gleeson and Peter Dinklage is some kind of gift from the television world. The tension was papable and made the viewer want to hurl. I hope that this was a total distraction to what was about to happen to Joffery.

The lead up clearly showed a number of unimpressed and hurt characters, not only including Sansa and Tyrion but also Margaery, Olenna, Varys, Oberyn, Tywin and others. It was a rare glimpse into the hearts of some of the major players.

The play of the war of the five kings was particularly vile and affecting – both for the characters in Westeros and for the viewers. It really reminded people of just how terrible Joffery is deep down and how much people wanted him dead.

The prolonged choking of Joffery was perfectly grotesque and fitting for such a well-played but utterly deplorable character.

To round out the Lannister’s problems we see Tyrion send Shae away, calling her a whore and telling her that she means absolutely nothing to him. Although this was not in the book series, this definitely makes sense for where Shae will end up and what her motivations will be. It also allowed for her to be kind to Sansa while she was her handmaid.

Sansa and Sir Dontos


The Sansa and Sir Dontos plot has been significantly parred back – one might actually query why it has been included at all – but it seems fair enough given the limited number of episodes that the show has at its disposal. I hope that his role will become clearer in future and I was definitely paying a whole lot of attention to how it unfolded. Nothing was particularly clear though.

Right now Sophie Turner is knocking Sansa out of the park and I am not sure that many people really notice or care. Most of Sansa’s character development in the books happens in her head rather in actions and this can be very difficult to convey on the screen. The writers have found a way around this with Tyrion due to his large speaking role and status but it has been a lot more difficult for Sansa. The tiny, perfect gestures that Sophie weaves into the story make me really excited for what Sansa might eventually become.

The Hound and Arya Stark

Back tracking to the Hound and Arya, we have another powerful journey underway. As someone who loved this part in the book I could not be happier with how it is currently playing out in the show. Maisie Williams is some kind of dead-pan comedic genius and Rory McCann is outstanding. There are going to be a lot of Hound T-Shirts before this series is done.

Oberyn Martell; The Red Viper of Dorne

It’s two episodes in and nothing in this show currently gives me more pure joy than Pedro Pascal as Oberyn Martell. I am so excited about Dorne finally weighing into the story and about the history that is going to start to unfold after so long. Pascal is perfect; mysterious, charming and dangerous. If only someone similar had been cast as Daario Naharis. Indira Varma as Ellaria Sands is also simply fantastic. I cannot say anymore without giving things away but the casting and the plot points thus far have been amazing. Watch this space.

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