Adaptational Heroism / Game of Thrones

While they're not strictly heroic, many characters are more heroic than in the books:
  • House Lannister. While Cersei or Tywin never exactly make it to 'heroic', Tyrion arguably was there even in the books and Jaime is... Jaime, all of them get somehow polished, or at least made to appear more humane in the show. After all, we get to see them so often that is better if we care about the characters for some degree. To balance it out, Joffrey is made even nastier in the show than he was in the book.
    • Although still one of the villains, Cersei is a far more sympathetic and tragic character than the paranoid and sociopathic God Save Us from the Queen! depicted in the novels. Not that this is particularly difficult:
      • She genuinely loved Robert "for quite awhile, actually" even though she knew he didn't reciprocate, and mourns their Canon Foreigner child who died of a fever, with their private conversation together suggesting that she still had feelings for Robert himself at the time the child was born. These changes introduce a much more human side to her character, whereas in the corresponding book there's no real indication that she wasn't a cruel, contemptuous and hateful person from the start. In the books, while Cersei was initially attracted to Robert and enthused by their betrothal (though she also recalls having sex with Jaime on her wedding day), this immediately died when Robert called her "Lyanna" during their wedding night. From then on, she hates Robert for his drunken abuse of her and for killing her childhood crush Rhaegar Targaryen in battle, and it's revealed she aborted her child by Robert with moon tea behind his back.
      • She recognizes Joffrey as a monster and grieves about that but tragically cannot help loving him instead of finding him perfect and dismissing his cruelty as "willfulness" and his dissection of a pregnant cat as "mischief." To be fair, Joffrey is also nicer to her in the books.
      • She has a much lower body count in the show. In addition to the murder of Robert's bastard children and the attempted murder of Tyrion committed by Joffrey in the show, in the books she also has the High Septon smothered, guards murdered for incompetence, is implied to have drowned her friend Melara as a child, and attempts to assassinate Bronn for naming his stepson Tyrion.
      • She only grants her Mad Doctor Qyburn a dying man and a decapitated head as test subjects instead of a plethora of healthy victims like her handmaid Senelle, some subversive puppeteers, some fraudulent bounty hunters, and Falyse Stokeworth.
      • Her opinion of Margaery as an ambitious vamp intent on turning her children against her is completely validated by Margaery's actions in the show, justifying her retaliation. In the books this is almost entirely her own paranoia since Margaery's motives are a much more open question and her "schemes" include giving Tommen kittens and positive reinforcement and urging him to take an interest in government and public opinion.
      • Her scheme against the Tyrells involves merely empowering the Faith to arrest them for legitimate (if extremely dissonant) crimes they actually committed instead of outright framing them by creating a false accuser using Sex for Services and a "witness" using Two Plus Torture Equals Five.
      • The omission of the Shield Islands and Dragonstone campaigns removes her refusal to aid the Reach against invaders because she distrusts Margaery and her decision to waste thousands of her own men on a Uriah Gambit.
      • Because the Lannisters are secretly bankrupt in the show canon, Cersei wisely sends a representative to negotiate when the Iron Bank demands a large payment, ridding herself of an annoying councillor in the process. In the books, she instigates the crisis by arrogantly defaulting on the debt just because she wants a new fleet and thinks the Bank is powerless to retaliate.
      • She's much less abusive of Tommen, even comforting him (however disingenuously) after Margaery's arrest. In the books, when eight-year-old Tommen stands up to her for the first time in his life (by forbidding her to tear Margaery's tongue out!), Cersei has him personally bloody his whipping boy under threat of having the boy's tongue cut out if he refuses.
      • Her sociopathic approach to sex and promiscuity is heavily de-emphasized, with her frequent cynical use of Sex for Services (the three Kettleblack brothers) and her emotionless, sadistic, even misogynistic liaison with Taena Merryweather adapted out, and she only has "affairs" with Lancel and Jaime.
      • Her love for Jaime is more sincere and she remains committed to him long after his maiming. In the books, her love for him is basically a twisted narcissism since she sees him as the embodiment of her desire to be a man, and she quickly turns cold and spiteful after his maiming ruins this illusion so their relationship pretty much ends and his Character Development stops him from being her Yes-Man.
      • In the books she has no problem having sex next to Joffrey's corpse. In the show she clearly wants nothing to do with it.
      • Kicking Tyrion about is nothing heroic, but in the show it's clear that she loved her late mother and mourned her death. In the books, it's mentioned that lady Joanna once found out about her twin childrens' affair and separated them for a time, but soon died. The tone of Cersei's narration makes clear that it was one obstacle out of the way for her.
      • Subverted come the Season 6 finale, when Cersei's remaining sympathetic qualities go out the window and she reveals herself to be just as cruel, ruthless, and destructive as her book counterpart with the Green Trial, racking up possibly the biggest kill count of major characters since the Red Wedding. Although since the adaptation's overtaken the books at this point, it remains to be seen if her book counterpart (who's already displayed a knack for killing innocents and burning things) catches up.
    • Tyrion is "the grayest of the gray" in the books, per George R.R. Martin, but the show omits or justifies virtually all his less-than-heroic aspects in favour of a more traditional protagonist:
      • In the books, he arranges at least two murders, threatens Tommen with any harm (including rape) done to Cersei's hostage, strangles Shae in a crime of passion rather than self-defence, and callously rapes an Essosi Sex Slave rather than chatting politely.
      • Even his lesser transgressions like breaking Marillion's fingers for mocking him, arranging a truce-breaking False Flag Operation to free Jaime, and disdainfully answering Thorne's petition to aid the Night's Watch by offering a few shovels (to keep the Animate Dead buried, you see) are all omitted, and Shae's adaptational heroism helps turn him from a deluded (and occasionally abusive) john into a genuine lover.
      • Following his exile from Westeros, Tyrion becomes even darker and crueller than he was previously in the books, and tries to join Daenerys on the condition that he can inflict revenge on his family, especially by raping and murdering Cersei. In the show, he never expresses these desires and actually takes a level in kindness after joining Daenerys as his adviser. When they actually return to Westeros, Tyrion tries his best to have Daenerys' conquest to be clean as possible and still feels sympathy for his relatives, even though they are now his enemies.
    • Tywin is given some Pet the Dog moments to show a softer side whereas in the books, he never lets his guard down:
      • His 'disowning' of Jaime is not as harsh as in the book, either and instead he uses Tyrion's trial to con him into following in his original plan. He also tries to indulge in flattery to Cersei on occassion and even Tyrion in the moments before his death.
      • A major change which softens Tywin considerably is the excising of the crucial conversation about Tyrion's first wife Tysha in the moment before his death. This was Adapted Out of the show, and being perhaps Tywin's most despicable moment he comes off a lot nicer without it.
    • Jaime Lannister:
      • Jaime in the books even after the beginning of his Redemption Quest is quite blunt and jerkish, and after the loss of his hand tries to cultivate a more distant and intimidating demeanour, whereas Jaime in Season 4 barring one or two interactions is often quite nice. The scene where he asks Tywin to spare his brother for instance is quite far apart from Book!Jaime at least in levels of earnestness and sincerity. For the most part, however, Jaime falls under Adaptational Villainy, as he stays on Cersei's side for much, much longer than he does in the books.
  • Jon is one of the straightest heroes in both versions, but there are subtle shifts in the show:
    • The final reason he gives for joining the wildlings is implied to be partially honest, but in the books he says he's rebelling against his treatment as a bastard child, while in the show he's upset by the inaction against Craster because he wants to fight the White Walkers.
    • He also freely undertakes a Suicide Mission instead of being forced into it as a Uriah Gambit, dismisses Stannis' offer without any of the soul-searching required in the novels, and is assassinated for protecting wildlings rather than for the more multi-faceted reasons in the novels: while Jon works to save the wildlings in the books for both humanitarian and pragmatic reasons and some Watch members don't like it, in Dance, Jon — for understandable reasons — also begins performing dual roles by serving both the Watch and its oaths to protect humanity honorably while trying to keep the Watch afloat but — at the same time — secretly gives strategic advice to Stannis on Stannis’s Northern campaign, which proves to be crucial and he is assassinated when a faction of the Watch brothers turn on him once he announces his intention to go to Winterfell and confront Ramsay Bolton after he receives Ramsay's threat, essentially breaching the Night's Watch stance of neutrality. In the show, he sticks to the Watch's oath of neutrality.
    • The omission of Mance's son also negates one of his few darker moments.note 
  • As dark as she becomes in the show, Arya's traumatic experiences in the books leave her even colder and more Ax-Crazy.
  • Sansa's Alpha Bitch treatment of Arya is toned down to normal levels of bickering and her unwitting role in her father's downfall is adapted out for reasons of Age Lift, a change the series' author GRRM himself has supported. She's also kinder to Tyrion (perhaps because of his own Adaptational Heroism) whereas in the books she was quite cold to him after their wedding. In the books, Sansa likewise heard Lysa Arryn specifically shouting out that she killed Jon Arryn for him (which Sansa doesn't allow herself to believe) and in the show she is never called upon to act as Littlefinger's accomplice in framing a Fall Guy for murder as said Fall Guy lost his tongue back in Season 1 and hasn't been seen since.
  • Catelyn is unpleasant to Jon in the show but doesn't go so far as to declare You Should Have Died Instead or refuse to let him stay at Winterfell after Ned leaves. She even laments her treatment of Jon as a failing in the show, rather than adamantly opposing Robb's trust in Jon throughout, as in the books.
  • Varys gets stacked with this. In the books, he's a sleazy, hypocritical Giggling Villain who preaches neutrality and the common good but is Not So Different from Littlefinger in Playing Both Sides and manipulating everyone to serve his own agenda. As such, he remorselessly testifies against Tyrion and must be given An Offer You Can't Refuse before he will help. Then there are his little birds... By contrast, the show paints him as a sassy and affable Only Sane Man and Benevolent Boss with very few Kick the Dog moments and a genuine soft spot for Tyrion and the common people.
  • Robert was very liberal with his Marital Rape License (complete with some drunken sadism) in the books, but the show never goes into this.
  • The Tyrells in general are portrayed more positively in the show:
    • In the books, they are directly to blame for the famine in King's Landing by closing off trade while they support Renly Baratheon but the show puts the blame squarely on Joffrey's inept rule. Their feud with the Martells is also replaced by Loras and Oberyn actually flirting briefly.
    • Margaery's kindness is shown to be manipulative in the show, but she also seems genuinely fond of Sansa since — unlike in the books — she remains supportive, even after the ploy to gain Sansa's claim falls through. She's also totally innocent of poisoning Joffrey in the show, while in the books, it is implied that she knew about this since she was sharing the chalice. This gets Zig-Zagged, however, whenever Margaery is shown actively plotting against Cersei but in the books, Margaery's plotting is heavily implied to be only a product of Cersei's very real paranoia.
    • Olenna is the very picture of a Cool Old Lady in the show instead of the spiteful harridan of the books who calls Ellaria Sand "the serpent's whore" and is so generally acerbic that Tyrion wonders if her late Henpecked Husband rode off a cliff intentionally. She also displays sympathy for Sansa in the show rather than just seeing her as a pawn.
    • The show omits Loras' main Kick the Dog moment of unjustly murdering two fellow Kingsguard in a fit of rage.
    • As part of his wimpification, Mace loses his abrasive moments like pressuring his son Willas (Adapted Out of the show) into jousting, holding an unreasonable grudge against Oberyn for crippling Willas in a tourney accident, and arguing strenuously for the execution of the man he believes nearly poisoned his daughter.
  • The show's Jorah Mormont is a higher tier of man than his literary counterpart, with his Dirty Old Man lust for Daenerys downplayed into All Love Is Unrequited and his Forceful Kiss adapted out. He also seems more ashamed of his dabbling in slavery and begs forgiveness for his spying instead of haughtily insisting that it's all Never My Fault as he does in the books.
  • In the books, Shae is Only in It for the Money and sides against Tyrion as soon as she gets a better offer. In the show, she's a Hooker with a Heart of Gold who refuses several offers of wealth because she genuinely loves Tyrion and serves as a Cool Big Sister to Sansa, whom she completely dismisses in the books. She still sells them out, but because she's a Woman Scorned after Tyrion is forced to Break Her Heart to Save Her.
  • In the novels, Sandor Clegane goes to Sansa's room during the Battle of Blackwater with the apparent intention of raping her, holding her down with a knife at her throat. The show makes their confrontation much less frightening, making Sansa's refusal to escape with him much less understandable. In the previous season, he is implied to have killed the butcher's boy Micah by accident and shows no joy in it, whereas in the book he deliberately cut him down and laughs about it.
  • In the books, Gregor "The Mountain" Clegane is not just physically terrifying but also a sadist who enjoys torturing his victims (including forcing them to eat their own cut-off body parts) and initiates the gang-rape of a 13-year old girl. In the TV series, Clegane becomes more of a simple-minded thuggish brute whose love of killing is more animalistic than sadistic. Bpok Gregor is shown to have a decent, if unremarkable command of war tactics, and seems to know what he is doing, while several characters explicitly describe Show Gregor as too stupid to think for himself and merely following Tywin Lannister's orders.
  • While he's still insolent, thuggish, and Only in It for the Money, Bronn is more of an affable Punch-Clock Villain who genuinely befriends Tyrion, encourages Jaime to defend him, and puts a much more apologetic spin on their parting than in the novels.
  • Renly is changed from a brash, frivolous, and entitled Sleazy Politician and unabashed usurper into a thoughtful Wise Prince who rebels out of a genuine sense he's best for the job.
    • He also supplants Stannis as the Black Sheep by being a squeamish Non-Action Guy who's "very educated" rather than a boisterous Book Dumb jock.
    • His Kick the Dog moments of mocking Shireen and Brienne are omitted or turned into genuine respect, his proposal to Catelyn is much more conciliatory than the join-or-die ultimatum of the books, and his hostile mockery and "cheerful way of grieving" for Stannis are downplayed or replaced with sad resignation.
  • In the show, Alliser Thorne grudgingly respects Jon, believes being a Drill Sergeant Nasty helps his recruits, and heroically leads the defence of Castle Black, whereas in the books, he reviles Jon unconditionally, sadistically berates his recruits purely out of malice, and interferes in the siege by arresting Jon and pressing him into a Uriah Gambit.
    • On the other hand, he's not involved in Jon's assassination in the books, if only because he's not there at the time.
  • Qyburn is introduced as being a victim of sadistic murderers instead of serving as their Medic, his on-screen mad doctoring is restricted to dead or dying men, and there is no hint of the Torture Technician role he takes on in the novels.
  • Dontos is more of a hapless bumbler than the two-faced Dirty Old Man of the novels. In the books, he regularly attempts to wheedle kisses out of Sansa and helps her primarily for the promise of gold, meaning he could be convinced to turn on her for gold as well. In the show, there's no sexual harassment and he just has Loose Lips when drunk, implying he would never betray her while sober.
  • When Yara finds out that Theon has been imprisoned and tortured in the show, she launches a rescue mission in defiance of her father. In the books, she contemplates the news only momentarily before turning to more pressing matters.
  • In the books, Daario is an arrogant and shallow Blood Knight who attracts Dany solely with his looks and bad-boy attitude. In the show, Daario is much more thoughtful, earnest and personable.
  • While he's still charismatic and snarky, the Oberyn of the books is also an arrogant jerkass who only sees championing Tyrion as a means to get what he wants regardless of the justice of his cause. There's even a hint he's doing it because he believes Tyrion is guilty.
    • Notably, his story of Tyrion as a baby is drawn almost directly from the books but placed in an empathetic context instead of a derogatory one, and his daughter Obara's Origin Story in "Sons of the Harpy" deftly sidesteps the part where her mother was crying because Oberyn had backhanded her.
  • In the books, Hizdahr zo Loraq is an ambitious Sleazy Politician who petitions to reopen the fighting pits because he's now the majority shareholder and has enough connection to the Sons of the Harpy to negotiate a truce as proof that marrying him will bring Dany the peace she desires. In the show, his petitions are heartfelt attempts at conciliation and restoring order, the marriage is foisted on him while he's utterly helpless, and he dies heroically while attempting to lead the royal entourage to safety.
  • Drogon gets this in "The Dance of Dragons" when he plays the Big Damn Hero who roasts mostly Asshole Victims to save Dany from the Sons of the Harpy rather than being attracted by the noise and slaughter to gorge on a dead fighter and roast several bystanders until Dany whips him into submission and flies off.
  • Euron is certainly a Jerkass in the show, but aside from targeting rivals who explicitly promise the same to him, his on-screen villainy has been limited to being politically incorrect and killing an Asshole Victim.
    • In particular, he comes to the kingsmoot alone as a dark-horse candidate instead of as The Usurper who's already seized the throne, and there's no indication he molested his brother Aeron or violently suppressed any dissenters.
    • There is also no indication that he shares his book counterpart's apocalyptic ambitions.
  • Theon's motivations. His feelings of rejection, his desire to belong to at least one of his families (his blood family, the Greyjoys, and his surrogate family, the Starks), as well as his belated realization that he wants to be a Stark, and the horror at his own actions, are shown much more clearly and earlier in the series than in the books.
  • Davos is an example of this, mostly as a result of Melisandre being made more villainous on the show. Book!Davos straight-up attempted to murder Melisandre after the Battle of the Blackwater out of religious bigotry (he had a religious experience where the Mother appeared in a vision and made him believe Melisandre was responsible for the death of his sons). On the show, he's made into an atheist, and lunges at Melisandre when the latter taunts him about Matthos' death.
  • Locke's book counterpart, Vargo Hoat, first served the Lannisters, then betrayed them to join the Boltons. Locke, despite accomplishing all the same important villainy, remains loyal to the Dreadfort the whole time and does have a few standards.
  • Downplayed with Maester Wolkan. In the books, his counterpart Maester Tybald was ordered to spy on Stannis Baratheon pretending to be the Karstarks' maester. In the show, he doesn't do any such thing.


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