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Adaptation Distillation / Game of Thrones

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As an adaptation of a series of Doorstoppers, a lot of cutting is needed to reduce the number of characters and subplots. This is especially true of Season 5, which attempts to adapt the majority of two books whose combined length far exceeds that of Book #3, which itself required two seasons to adapt even in distilled form:

  • Jon, Arya, and Rickon also have clear warg connections with their direwolves in the books but the show removes this trait from everyone except Bran since it's fundamental to his story while the others can mostly work without it.
  • In the books, Ned discovers specifically that Baratheon black hair is dominant over Lannister blond by tracking centuries of marriages between those specific families. In the show, he simply recites a few generations of black-haired Baratheons punctuated by Cersei's blond children to get the same Chocolate Baby point across.
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  • In the books, Robb crosses at the Twins with a few thousand cavalry while sending 16,000 men under Roose Bolton to engage Tywin at the Battle of the Green Fork. In the show, Bolton is not introduced until Season 2 and only 2,000 northmen fight on the Green Fork (which requires some Hollywood Tactics for Tywin's scouts not to have noticed beforehand). Robb also fights two battles to overcome Jaime and relieve Riverrun in the books, but the show simplifies this to Jaime's capture in the Whispering Wood.
  • The books often describe the various Truth in Television scouts and guards characters encounter when approaching a military encampment or a powerful individual. In the show, they often stroll right into the camp or up to the leader completely unchallenged and unescorted.
  • Jon's apprenticeship under Qhorin is very truncated in favour of a much larger Season 2 role for Ygritte, who has only two scenes in the equivalent novel.
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  • In the show, Arya is captured by Ser Amory Lorch, made a cupbearer to Tywin at Harrenhal, and has Jaqen kill Ser Amory and the Tickler before strong-arming him into helping her escape when Tywin decides to leave her with the psychopathic Gregor Clegane. In the books, she escapes Lorch only to be caught by the Mountain, set to scrubbing floors at Harrenhal, and have Jaqen kill the rapist Chiswyck and her abusive boss Weese (both Adapted Out) before strong-arming him into helping her free 100 captives who turn out to already be part of a Trojan Prisoner gambit that results in Lorch's execution and Arya becoming Roose Bolton's cupbearer, only for her to make her own escape after Bolton decides to leave her with the psychopathic Vargo Hoat.
  • In the books, Tywin marches west to end Robb's pillaging of the Westerlands but is halted by Edmure all along the Red Fork, prompting him to turn around and engage Stannis at King's Landing. In the show, Tywin simply marches to King's Landing and Edmure's victory is turned into a Pyrrhic skirmish against the Mountain.
  • In the show, Stannis confronts Renly somewhere in the Stormlands and kills him with a shadow assassin to take control of his entire army except the Tyrells who flee. In the books, Stannis besieges Storm's End in an attempt to seize Robert's look-alike bastard Edric Storm as evidence of Joffrey's bastardy, prompting Renly to rush to confront him with just his cavalry, but even after Renly's death Storm's End refuses to surrender so Stannis sends Davos and Melisandre to bypass the ancient enchantments blocking another shadow that kills the garrison commander and prompts a surrender.
  • Events at Winterfell in Season 2 focus more on Theon at the expense of postponing Bran's training with Meera and Jojen and omitting the feudal politics of Robb's new kingdom. In the second novel, Meera and Jojen come to coach Bran on his prophetic dreams and warging and it's Jojen who dreams of the sea coming to Winterfell, while at the same time Ramsay stirs up trouble that results in him being imprisoned and later playing shoulder-devil to Theon in place of the show's version of Dagmer.
  • In the books, Rodrik Cassel returns to Winterfell with an army and besieges Theon but is ambushed and killed in a False Friend betrayal. In the show, he's captured alone by Theon's men and suffers a composite of the deaths of Benfred Tallheart (motive), Farlen (method), and Mikken (time) and Ramsay is the one to besiege Winterfell.
  • The House of the Undying is packed with foreshadowing prophecies and symbolism in the books, but the show replaces all this with an ominous ruined throne room and a Jason Momoa cameo. As such, it's a much more passing influence on Dany than in the books where she takes the prophecies deeply to heart and develops a fixation with destiny and treachery.
  • The Battle of Blackwater is simplified to an amphibious assault countered by wildfire and reinforcements, eliminating Stannis' land army, Joffrey's fleet, and the chain boom used to trap both fleets in the wildfire inferno.
  • The show combines Sam's confrontation with a White Walker en route to Craster's and with wights at Whitetree into a single scene. The main consequence of this is that many more black brothers refuse to believe him because Gilly is the only witness.
  • In the books, almost everyone believes Brienne killed Renly, leading to a confrontation between her and Loras that Jaime must step in to resolve. In the show, Loras simply blames the true culprit, Margaery (who does initially blame Brienne) is easily convinced otherwise, and no one else seems to care.
  • Brienne's search for Sansa is condensed to a couple of scenes in which she quickly and coincidentally picks up the correct trail, clearing the way for a more action-oriented Adaptation Expansion than her melancholic A Feast for Crows material witnessing the aftermath of the war to provide context for the rise of the Sparrows.
  • The Battle of Castle Black is simplified to an all-out, one-night attack from north and south. In the books, there are raids all along the Wall to draw out the garrison and three distinct battles: the Thenn's southern attack (which Jon spoilers), Mance's main assault a few days later which drags on for days, and an attempt by the Weeper to cross the Gorge near the Shadow Tower. The arrival of The Cavalry also borders on Battle Discretion Shot, Mance surrenders rather than leading a counter-charge, and Tormund is captured rather than escaping.
  • The Vale arc is very self-contained with a dozen new characters in the novels: Littlefinger creates a patsy for Lysa's murder and wins over the initial investigation with bribery, but seven powerful lords including Bronze Yohn Royce demand his resignation and custody of Robin Arryn, prompting Littlefinger to use diplomacy and duplicity to win over his less zealous opponents, all while Sansa struggles to remain incognito. Since the showrunners consider this "sidelining" the characters, Littlefinger has no patsy, Sansa wins over Yohn Royce for him by revealing her identity, and Robin is immediately left in Royce's custody so Sansa can be moved into the role of Ramsay's abused bride Jeyne Poole.
  • The witch's prophecy in "The Wars to Come" is trimmed. In the books she concludes that once grief has consumed Cersei, the valonqar (little brother) will choke the life out of her, which strongly affects Cersei's view of Tyrion especially after Joffrey's death. Cersei's friend Melara is also prophesied to die young, and the books strongly imply Cersei pushed her down a well soon after.
  • A number of scenes centered around Tywin's murder and funeral are condensed into a single bier-side scene. Notably missing are Cersei's reactions to the crime scene, the corpse's grotesque rictus and smellnote , and Jaime's first real attempt at parenting.
  • Mance Rayder is legitimately burnt at the stake in the show instead of disguised by Melisandre and later sent to Winterfell as "Abel the Bard" to rescue Ramsay's bride.
  • The election of a new Lord Commander takes many days in the books and involves Sam playing The Chessmaster and ultimately lying to sell his compromise candidate to different factions in different ways. In "The House of Black and White", it takes only a few minutes, a single ballot, and Sam's role is reduced to an attack ad against Janos Slynt (who isn't even a candidate in the show).
  • In the books, Jon gives Janos Slynt a couple of chances to reconsider before executing him for insubordination. In the show, a second immediate refusal is enough and Jon calls for his sword without considering hanging him first.
  • Jaime's Season 4 arc sees him take over his uncle Kevan's role as Tyrion's quasi-lawyer and Go-Between between him and Tywin. In the books he comes far too late to King's Landing, well after Joffrey's death, and doesn't get much chance to interact with his little brother, though the crucial climactic conversation between them, despite additional time to be built up in the season, is Adapted Out. Season 5 gives him an Adaptation Expansion Redemption Quest to Dorne rather than his book arc attempting to reform the Kingsguard, refusing to be Cersei's Yes-Man, and leading a thoroughly professional mopping up campaign in the Riverlands.
  • Cersei simply arrests the reigning High Septon, appoints the High Sparrow and restores the militant orders, and prompts them to strike at the Tyrells. In the books, the previous High Septon dies by Vorpal Pillow at Cersei's command, the more militant sparrows strong-arm their leader's election, Cersei is coaxed into rearming the Faith in exchange for forgiving Crown debts and acknowledging Tommen as king, and her strike at the Tyrells is part of a separate-but-interconnected plot.
  • The Kingsmoot:
    • The gathering itself is held on a random cliff to save on establishing the holy site of Nagga's Ribs.
    • In the books, Euron usurps the throne within hours of Balon's death, so his brother Aeron dredges up the long-derelict kingsmoot tradition in an attempt to oust his despised brother. In the show, no one disputes Aeron's assertion that "the law is clear" the previously unmentioned kingsmoot must be held, allowing Euron to be elected without first becoming The Usurper.
    • Theon is present for the kingsmoot, negating the precedent that could overturn the election in the book, where claimants involuntarily unable to participate are not bound by the result. In the show, Theon is very vocal about his wishes, and since his uncle wasn't even The Usurper before the election, he and his sister now intend to overthrow one of the few proto-democratic institutions in Westeros simply because they don't like the result.
    • Aside from some minor tension with Theon, Yara is the only candidate until Euron comes gatecrashing. In the books Theon is still missing, Asha is preceded by several other claimants including her Uncle Victarion, and Euron campaigns prominently beforehand.
    • Yara is endorsed only by Theon instead a number of respected lords and warriors, and Euron brings only himself and his "big cock" and trumps Yara and Theon with Ad Hominem attacks rather than presenting lots of delegates, bounteous wealth, and magical artifacts to back up his promise of dragons.
    • Euron clears out any intrigue by publicly admitting he personally killed Balon, which was shown on-screen. In the books, the killing is only relayed second-hand and implied to be the work of a Faceless Man (who specialize in Make It Look Like an Accident), and Euron never publicly admits to it since kinslaying is one of the few taboos the ironborn share with the mainland.
    • Theon and Yara easily escape with a large fleet during Euron's coronation and flee to join Daenerys. In the books Euron blockades the bay, massacres all who deny him, and sends his brother Victarion east with the Iron Fleet to find Daenerys while Asha (Yara) barely escapes to the North with just four ships, where she's promptly captured by Stannis.
  • The Meereenese plot is extremely abbreviated. The books have more councillors, more killings, more suitors, more intrigues, and a second war that engulfs Slaver's Bay involving macro politics and economics, bloody sieges, naval blockades, hostage exchanges, treacherous sellswords, a plague of dysentery, and a plot to steal a dragon. The show distills all this down to a domestic struggle between Daenerys' abolitionists and the Sons of the Harpy.
  • Tyrion's journey from Pentos to Volantis is covered in two scenes of Snark-to-Snark Combat with Varys, eliminating his lengthy journey down the Rhoyne and the major plotline it introduces with the Griffs. The only exception is the confrontation at Chroyane, which is transposed to Valyria and involves Jorah instead of Griff the Elder.
  • In the books, Tyrion and Jorah are bought by one of the Yunkish patricians besieging Meereen but escape by striking a deal with a devious mercenary captain while Barristan establishes a military junta to break the siege before the Volantene fleet arrives. In the show there is no Yunkish siege or Volantene fleet and Barristan is assassinated, leaving Tyrion to run the city while Jorah and Daario go looking for Dany.
  • The show omits Daenerys' Vision Quest in the Dothraki Sea. In the books, she accidentally poisons herself with berries, bringing on delirious visions featuring Jorah, Viserys, and Quaithe all urging her to be a true Targaryen and fulfill her destiny, which seems to have a marked effect on her confidence and decisiveness.
  • Hardhome takes place entirely off-stage via laconic reports in the books. The show's Hardhome arc is actually a loose amalgam of three separate events: Cotter Pyke's naval expedition to rescue the starving wildlings besieged by the Others at Hardhome, Jon's discovery of Wun Wun the giant while escorting recruits to swear their vows, and Jon's negotiations to allow Tormund's band through the Wall. The show takes the Hardhome context and applies it to successfully bringing thousands of wildlings and giants through the Wall, with a Big Badass Battle Sequence for good measure.
  • In the books, Sam vehemently protests Jon's command that he become a maester and Jon forces Gilly to swap babies to protect Mance's son from being sacrificed by Melisandre. Since Mance's son has been Adapted Out, Sam requests to become a maester and departs with Gilly and her son.
  • Stannis' campaign against the Boltons is vastly abridged.
    • Stannis' entire faction accompanies him on campaign, whereas in the books Melisandre, Selyse, and Shireen all remain safe at the Wall and Davos is sent south by ship to seek allies in White Harbor and later recruited to find Rickon.
    • The delicate Balance of Power in the North is barely touched upon, with Stannis' overall strategy reduced to an all-out Capital Offensive, eliminating his detour to rally part of the North by driving the Ironborn from Deepwood Motte. Meanwhile, Ramsay weds the real Sansa rather than an imposter forced to pretend to be Arya. Ostensibly this is done to gain support from other northern lords, but none are actually shown changing their allegiance as a result (unlike in the novels), except for Cersei authorizing Littlefinger to campaign against them.
    • The Boltons remain unscathed by the elements, unlike in the novels where they are besieged by Mors Umber and suffer the collapse of their stables from snow-accumulation, someone playing Ten Little Murder Victims among their supporters, and rising tensions between their dubious allies that eventually prompt Roose to send a force against Stannis rather than risk infighting within his walls.
    • Stannis' larger forces ultimately disintegrates from the Weather of War and From Bad to Worse until he's easily swept away by a totally unified Bolton army, unlike in the books where both sides suffer severely from physical hardships and dubious allies.
  • In the show, Canon Foreigner Harald Karstark fully supports Ramsay. In the books, the Karstarks are divided in their support: the true heir Harrion is a captive of the Lannisters, so his Evil Uncle Arnolf seizes power and becomes The Mole in Stannis' army for the Boltons' until he's exposed when Harrion's sister Alys flees to the Wall and marries a wildling to escape a forced marriage to Arnulf's son.
  • In the show, Smalljon Umber fully supports Ramsay, even killing Shaggydog and turning over Rickon Stark, just because he hates wildlings. In the books, Smalljon is already dead and Last Hearth is ruled by his great-uncles Mors and Hothor, who divide their forces between the two sides solely because the Greatjon remains a hostage. At no point in the books does any Umber sell out a Stark, in fact it's Mors rather than Brienne who saves Ramsay's bride on the assumption she's Arya.
  • In the books, Arya successfully kills the insurance broker after finding excuses he deserved it, and her posting with the theatre troop is just identity practice, from which she's distracted by Raff the Sweetling. In the show, she fails to kill the insurance broker because she's distracted by Meryn Trant but is given a new target among the actors, whom she finds excuses to spare.
  • Maege Mormont and Galbart Glover seem to be dead in the show since their daughter and brother rule as their successors, while in the books Robb sends them to Howland Reed at Greywater Watch and they are presumably still there and their lands are administered by regents.
  • Zigzagged with the Blackfish. In the show, he escapes the Red Wedding to retake Riverrun from the Freys who seized it off-screen, which is less simple than just leaving him behind as castellan like in the books. However, in the books he holds out to protect Robb's widow as well as his own honour and ultimately escapes to continue La Résistance, while in the show he deliberately opts for a Last Stand instead of escape.
  • In the books the Siege of Riverrun is commanded by Jaime's cousin Daven, who's glad Jaime has come to help him with the incompetent Ryman Frey and the querulous Emmon Frey (who's married to Jaime's aunt Genna). In the show, the siege is led by Black Walder and Lame Lothar and Daven, Ryman, Emmon, and Genna are all Adapted Out.
  • Lame Lothar and Black Walder name drop an uprising of Mallisters and Blackwoods (the other holdouts from the novels) when reporting the loss of Riverrun in "Blood of My Blood", but this isn't followed up on or even mentioned again, while in the books Jaime spends another chapter dealing with the Blackwoods.
  • Walder Frey is never actually on Arya's kill list in the books. She thinks of adding the Freys at one point, but never actually does.
  • In the books, it's Lord Manderly rather than Arya who bakes Jared, Rhaegar, and Symond Frey rather than Lame Lothar and Black Walder into pies and serves them at Ramsay's wedding feast rather than to old Lord Walder for supper. Unlike Arya, however, Manderly gleefully eats part of each himself and never reveals the truth about the ingredients.
  • Loras Tyrell is never a target of the Faith Militant, who are not overt Heteronormative Crusaders in the novels. He's also forced to renounce his inheritance (effectively extinguishing the male line of House Tyrell) in the episode "The Winds of Winter", something he's long since done by joining the Kingsguard in the books where he's the youngest of three sons.
  • The books are packed with prophecies and dreams, but the show demystifies most of the storylines, leaving only Bran and Jojen's dreams, a few of Melisandre's visions, and Maggy's prophecy about Cersei. This leads to characters like Moqorro and the Ghost of High Heart being Adapted Out, Quaithe of Asshai playing a much more limited role, and occasional oddities like the showrunners describing Daenerys' adoration outside Yunkai as a "revelation from a prophecy" even though the show's revision of the House of the Undying meant no such prophecy was established.
  • The many complex relationships between noble families are generally either simplified or omitted. House Frey is a good example since despite their secondary importance in the books they are part of multiple succession disputes and broken into several factions (particularly the rivalry between Edwyn and Black Walder), all of which the show ignores since sifting through that huge family tree could be a show unto itself.
  • What killed Joffrey is hit with this. In the book, Joffrey is poisoned but the book doesn't make it clear if its the wine that killed him as everyone suspects, or perhaps the piece of pigeon pie he ate, as Joffrey drank some wine from the same cup before eating a piece of pie, and it was on the second drink of wine that he was poisoned and died. The show cuts this out completely and has it where Joffrey was poisoned with wine and died as a result. This change also has greater implications on the story as well, with some detailed further up.
  • In the books, The Mountain killed Elia Martell and Aegon Targaryen (Rhaegar's son) and Amory Lorch killed Elia's daughter Rhaenys. In the show, all three kills are attributed to The Mountain and Lorch's participation is left out.


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