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Adaptational Badass / Game of Thrones

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A lot of characters are stronger than their book counterparts:

  • Ned is an excellent general in the books, but his size, strength, and swordsmanship are never described as exceptional and even Ned himself regards his late brother Brandon as the better man. Ned barely puts up a fight when he's outnumbered by Jaime and the Lannister men. In the show, Ned impresses the legendary Barristan Selmy, matches the prodigious Jaime Lannister blow for blow, and is described by Littlefinger as "even more impressive" than Brandon.
  • Daenerys Targaryen:
    • She shows complete immunity to flame, and even heat in general before the famous pyre scene, unlike in the novels where the pyre was a one-time thing that burnt off her hair and she later suffers burns on her hands when mounting Drogon for the first time. In the show, she picks up a blazing hot dragon's egg with nary a mark. She's not sun-burnt in the Red Waste despite having ivory skin, gets dragon-flame from her three kiddos shot past and nearly through her without any ill effects, develops a more intimate bond with her children to the point that she can lock them away herself and almost tame Drogon with calm and poise alone; and she even assassinates every one of the Dothraki Khals gathered in the temple of Vaes Dothrak by starting one helluva fire, which consumes them all but leaves her once again unburnt in the process. Hell, some fans even think Dany has outright Playing with Fire with how it portrayed her execution of Khal Moro.
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    • Thanks to her being four years older in the show, it is she and not her advisers who come up with the battle plans in Seasons 3 and 4, plus her army does not seem to be on the verge of starving when they reach Meereen; showing her talent for logistics and conquering. Now, ruling on the other hand...
    • One of the major aspects of Daenerys' character arc in the book is that she was never 100% in control of her own fate - even after becoming Queen, she was constantly manipulated and only managed to win by exploiting her opponent's own arrogance with help from her advisors. In other words, she must learn to play the game. Here in the show, after her visit to Qarth and her spiritual trip, she was never not in complete control. Her marriage to Hizdahr zo Loraq is a stand-out case: In the book, she was forced into it in a desperate attempt to keep the Sons of the Harpy in check, was almost poisoned and Hizdahr did actually have his (ten-second) way with her. In the show, she forces him into a dragon-fire shotgun engagement solely as a political means to an end and she outright tells her paramour, Daario, that she will not even dream of trying to create a new Ghiscari dynasty with Hizdahr; considering her contempt for their society.
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    • There is also her relationship with Daario Naharis. In the book, she is utterly infatuated with him and jumped into bed with him out of loneliness and despair. In the show, she is somewhat smitten but resists him for a while before casually picking him as a consort for entertainment after a hard day's ruling in Meereen.
    • The amount of control she has over her three dragons undergoes this, as well. The books make it clear that a person can only ride one dragon. Since Daenerys masters Drogon, this means that although Rhaegal and Viserion are more amiable to her than anyone else, she can never master them (a popular fan theory is that Dany needs to find two other people to ride them, because "the dragon must have three heads"). This was initially the case in the show, but once it overtook the books after Season 5, the showrunners evidently decided to just simplify things by making her the sole master of the trio.
  • Robb gets a lot of this:
    • In the novels, Robb is a lesser swordsman (though a better jouster) than Jon and though he fights where the fighting is thickest in both the books and the show, in the books he is protected by an ample bodyguard including Theon and 30 skilled warriors (mostly the sons and one daughter of his bannermen) and his direwolf, while in the show, Jon and Theon both consider him The Ace and the bodyguard is left mostly implied. Of course, Jon holds his brother in very high regard and might believe that he is the better swordsman.
    • His first execution also requires only a single stroke with a longsword, instead of several even with a proper axe.
    • His Age Lift and more confrontational attitude (especially with his mom Catelyn, who in the books calls him out on acting childish several times) as well as his bravado not being seen as posturing to cover up insecurity downplay the "overwhelmed teenager" aspect that makes him such a deconstruction of the Kid Hero in the books.
  • Arya as well:
    • Arya is a talented archer in the show, whereas in the books, she laments that she has no such skill and can't even bend Anguy's longbow.
    • There's also her Made of Iron exploits surviving multiple stomach wounds in "The Broken Man" and "No One".
    • Also, in the original book series, her killing of Polliver was done in the heat of the moment. In "Two Swords", however, Arya kills one mook, and later has Polliver at the pointy end of her sword Needle which he stole from her, with bonus points for reenacting the way Polliver killed Lommy by quoting him word for word before killing Polliver the exact same way.
  • Jojen claims that Bran's ability to enter the mind of another human is Beyond the Impossible in "The Rains of Castamere". In the books, the skinchanger Varamyr not only shows that it's possible (though extremely taboo) but fails in a way that implies Bran only succeeded because his target was simple-minded.
  • The show's surly, cynical, and brutal Brienne is a far cry from the novels' naive and insecure girl. In the books, she's quite skilled but tends to win only narrowly and never kills until well into A Feast for Crows. The show has her attack and kill small groups of soldiers with some regularity, and even hacks down a pair of Kingsguard (something Loras does in the books instead), with 12 deaths to her name by the end of Season 6. Her biggest achievement in the show is besting the ferocious Sandor Clegane, whom she never even fights in the books.
  • Stannis is certainly no slouch in the novels, but like Ned, his reputation stands much more on his generalship than his personal skill so he prefers to command from the rear where he has a good overview. Not so in the show, where alongside his skills as a commander and tactician, he's the first man up the ladders at King's Landing at the Battle of Blackwater and fights like a Master Swordsman One-Man Army, killing dozens of Lannister soldiers and later survives a cavalry charge, killing many, before ending up wounded by the Boltons before Brienne finds him.
  • Ramsay is portrayed in the show as a deadly archer able to kill half a dozen men in seconds and a Master Swordsman capable of leading the defenses against a squad of "the best killers in the Iron Islands" while shirtless, coming out without a scratch, and also personally leads a commando raid to cripple an army. In the books, Ramsay isn't nearly so competent at fighting because he was never given any training by a master-at-arms and as such, his own father describes him as more a butcher than a swordsman. His greatest command achievement in the books is a surprise attack against an army that had mistaken his forces for allies, a much less difficult achievement than his victories in the show. Ramsay does believe himself to be a skilled general, but Roose points out that he has never actually won a real battle.
  • Jon Snow is a skilled fighter in the books, but the show ramps him up to Master Swordsman and One-Man Army status, slaying a White Walker general in open combat and racking up the highest kill count in the series in direct fighting. The Battle of the Bastards, in particular, sees him score the highest number of kills in a single battle for any fighter on the show, as shown here.
  • In the novels, Ygritte is a bold spearwife and skilled with a bow, but never a notable fighter. In the show, she's a prodigious archer who never misses a shot and boasts of killing more than anyone else in her raiding party.
  • Sam shows notable bravery in "The Watchers on the Wall" by soothing Pyp's jangled nerves and killing a Thenn with a Boom, Headshot!, whereas in the books he's not present for the battle and (though he has improved) largely remains a timid coward who freezes up at the first sign of danger.
  • Lady Olenna Tyrell is the blunt matriarch of the Tyrell family, unafraid to speak her mind, who helped mastermind the assassination of a King in both the show and books, but the show makes her into de facto head of the family, comparable to Tywin Lannister (and she actually bests the selfsame Magnificent Bastard in one of the most badass verbal duels in the show). In the books, her power is more limited to a woman of her station and she complains bitterly that her son doesn't listen to her on decisions of the household.
  • Shae isn't afraid of using a knife, a trait that's totally original to the show. In the books, she begs Tyrion not to kill her. In the show, she pulls a knife and tries to fight off Tyrion.
  • The Renly Baratheon of the series is shown as less of a Yes-Man towards Robert than his book counterpart and is willing to criticize his brother in the face. Most notably, TV!Renly stood up to his brother and rebuke his romanticization of the rebellion, which doesn't happen in the books.
  • Theon's torture in the books didn't just destroy him mentally, but physically as well. Show Theon, once he manages to shake some of the stress, is capable of decently holding his own in a scrap. Special mention goes to his archery skills. Book Theon will likely never hold a bow again due to his severed fingers and toes. Show Theon, while rescuing Yara, rather effortlessly snipes several of Euron's men.
  • In the books, Eddison Tollett's a steward, with any action he's part of taking place offscreen. The show implies him being a ranger. Of note, he's fought against the Night's Watch mutineers, survived captivity by them and returned with Jon to punish them, took command of the wall during the Wilding attack, and even survived the battle of Hardhome. Ultimately, he becomes acting Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, the idea of which being a joke and a chance to snark in the books.
  • Bronn is a badass in the books, but he gains way more impressive feats in the show. He is more gifted as a commander, as seen by Jamie who pretty much makes him his second-in-command and most trusted confidant. He also fights and kills Dothraki, who is seen as one of the most deadly groups of fighters in the series, during the battle of the roseroad. During the same battle, he even fires a ballista shot at a dragon, being the only one to damage it during the battle.
  • In the books, the Sons of the Harpy are secondary antagonists restricted to nighttime cloak-and-dagger assassination, but the show plays them as primary antagonists capable of overwhelming a cohort of Unsullied in broad daylight using knives and even massacring an entire stadium with little resistance except from named characters.
  • In the books, giants stand 10-12 feet high and are more Sasquatch than human, with limited vision and almost no technology. In the show, they're closer to 18 feet, able to stomp human-sized wights flat, and intelligent enough to wear clothes and use complex technology like bows and saddlery.
  • Not that book!Tormund was a push-over, but show!Tormund one-ups him by being an absolute monster on the field, single-handedly racking up more onscreen kills during the Battle of Castle Black than most of the other Wildlings combined.
  • The handless Jaime manages to defeat a Dornish knight in "Sons of the Harpy" and holds his own against Obara Sand in "Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken", while at the equivalent point in the books he continues to get his ass handed to him by a sparring partner who is hardly a gifted swordsman. Of course, in the books he compensates by becoming a badass general, negotiator, and administrator, an aspect that is missing in Seasons 4 and 5, though it appears in Season 6 onward as he is the one who forges alliances with the lords and outwits Tyrion by sacrificing Casterly Rock (temporarily as he points out they won't be able to hold it) to seize control over the Reach and stranding the Unsullied army there, weakening Daenerys' force to the point she is the one on the losing side of what would have been a Curb-Stomp Battle in her favor.
  • In the books, the High Sparrow has to back down in front of the Tyrells' army and release Margaery. In the show, he has Tommen's trust and so the King's army and his Sparrows backing him and takes over the capital fast.
  • Beric in the books is pretty badass, but he never got to fight (and win) against a giant, undead polar bear, or fight an army of onrushing hundreds of undead and survive.
  • Daario Naharis' combat prowess is something of an Informed Ability in the books, with him not doing much on-page fighting once he brings the heads of the other Stormcrow commanders. On the show, he kicks all kinds of ass in the siege of Yunkai and demonstrates himself to be quite the Lightning Bruiser, takes the Adapted Out Strong Belwas's place as Dany's Champion and curb stomps the champion of Mereen, and is basically a One-Man Army.
  • Xaro Xhoan Daxos is an effeminate, melodramatic Non-Action Guy merchant in the books, but a burly man whose first reaction to danger is to reach for his sword in the show.
  • Tyene wields two daggers in the show; in the books, she has no apparent fighting ability, though she is confirmed to be a Master Poisoner with a great knowledge of the subject. The TV series put a twist on this to make her more active: she's still a Master Poisoner, but she wields daggers coated in poison, instead of just surreptitiously slipping people poison unawares. This is played out when she lands a hit on Bronn, who only survives because Tyene gives him the antidote after a brief bit of toying with him. When Yara's fleet is attacked by Euron, Tyene tallies up the most kills out of all the Sand Snakes and is the last to be taken down, while Obara and Nymeria are killed by Euron, Obara failing to get a single kill in the battle.
  • There's no indication that Book!Euron is particularly skilled in combat. TV!Euron seems to have gained the combat prowess of his Adapted Out brother Victarion and retains all of his manipulative intelligence. On the other hand, he seems to have no skills in magic. Though to be fair, we really haven't seen his book counterpart use magic either, it's just been hinted at.
  • In the books, Tycho Nestoris is an obliging clerk sent to offer Stannis funding after Cersei arrogantly defaults on the realm's debt. In the show, he appears to be CEO of the entire Iron Bank and throws Stealth Insults in Stannis' face for coming to him as a supplicant.
  • In the books, Alliser Thorne is never seen fighting and is implied to be a bit of a Small Name, Big Ego given how rangers like Dywen look down on him, but in the show, he fights skillfully and heroically until he's wounded and dragged away by his men.
  • As he takes the place of Gared in the role of the Ranger executed by Ned, Will is a lot more coherent than Gared, who was incomprehensible with fear, and gets out a few more words asking Ned to tell his mother that he didn’t die a coward and that he’s sorry.
  • While Asha is badass in the books, it is not to the point of her show counterpart Yara. In the books, she doesn't have the Undying Loyalty of the Ironborn.
  • Lancel's book counterpart remains meek and has yet to show any of the bravado of his TV version.
  • In the books, Roose commands an army but there is no evidence that he actually fights. In the show, the first time we see Roose, his face is splattered with blood, making it clear that he fought.
  • In the books, Medger Cerwyn dies from a wound after a battle; here, he tells Ramsay Bolton to get stuffed to his face.
  • Tywin is a Frontline General unlike the books as shown in Battle of the Blackwater.
  • In Gregor Clegane's Duel to the Death with Oberyn Martell in the books, he can't get a hit on him until he (Gregor) is down. In the show, he manages to kick Oberyn off his feet, smash his spear, and throw him across the arena before Oberyn spears him several times.
  • Pyat Pree's Me's a Crowd ability doesn't show up in the books.


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