Welcome to the (last) weekly followup for non-readers! As the title says, this post is meant for you if you haven’t read the A Song of Ice and Fire series and/or wish to learn an extra thing or two that the show couldn’t find the time (or decency) to adapt in the latest episode.
The spoiler scope is obviously “extra stuff from the books, but nothing past the last episode”, but since the show has almost entirely caught up with the books, there is very little to be spoiled. However, if you plan to read the books, this series describes the alternative plots from them.
TL;DR: Get the trivia from books without having to read them
In the name of Renly Baratheon, the RIGHTFUL kingBrienne of Tarth, rubbing salt in readers’ wounds
It’s impossible to not be disappointed with the show version of the events in the North, having known the book version of it; all the Northern lords removed, best military commander in Westeros outwitted by a psychopath, Mance Rayder replaced by Brienne — it’s just depressing. Sure, it saved a lot of screen time and budget by removing three separate plotlines (Brienne’s Riverlands, Sansa’s Eyrie, and Davos’s journey through the North, possibly postponed until season 6), but the product of this merger barely holds the ground. Brienne’s part wasn’t even foreshadowed, it was stated outright earlier in the season, and so was, over the course of a few seasons, Shireen’s sacrifice. However, the whole ordeal required one single change to the books: the complete deconstruction of Stannis. Book Stannis is last seen preparing a carefully devised trap against incoming Bolton forces (no ridiculous plot devices such as TWENTY GOOD MEN), has the support of some Northeners, has won numerous battles where the odds were against him, and would never allow for human sacrifices (only gives Mel cannibals and traitors already sentenced to death). If the show has intended to accelerate his story to a point he’s about to get to anyway, they did so by ruining his character and making him internally contradicting.
There’s nothing particular to say about Sansa, as her book story is night and day different – she’s still (even in the TWOW promotional chapter) courting at the Eyrie, developing slowly but steadily. Show Sansa seems to have relapsed in her development back to the damsel-in-distress phase, and any notions of “I have willingly signed up for this with a long term plan” are long gone. Anything past this episode is pure speculation, as we have no source material on this whatsoever.
As for Theon’s return, I don’t imply to be an expert on psychology, but his sudden change of heart seems a little bit out of nowhere. For reference, Winterfell is seen from his point of view (POV), but the chapters are titled “Reek”, “The Turncloak”, or “A Ghost in Winterfell” – until the moment he prays in the godswood and hears his true name. It’s his resolve, actually, to “die as Theon, not Reek”, and that resolve got moved onto Sansa, somewhat disturbing his own development. His last ADWD chapter is, finally, titled “Theon”. At the very least, his final scene – jumping from the battlements with Ramsay’s wife (Jeyne Poole posing as Arya), “aim for the bushes” style – is the same as in the A Ghost in Winterfell chapter. The Theon chapter will be probably discarded in its entirety, as it takes place in Stannis’s camp.
The only way D&D redeem their shoddy writing is… well, by another questionable movement – if Stannis isn’t actually dead. It’s unlikely, but possible – in a very uncommon fashion we don’t actually see him die on screen, while the writers repeatedly claim it’s important to always confirm such deaths, and, above all, the scene bares heavy resemblance to the cliffhanger in the last Brienne POV chapter, where the situation, although in the Riverlands, is quite similar – there’s a death sentence about to be carried, there’s a question of the last words, and there’s the conflict of values and motives within Brienne herself. Still, it’s probably better to not risk further botchery and appreciate that the very end was at least somewhat badass. It also makes for a lousy trend when last two season finales have Brienne seemingly kill a character, but without 100% confirmation (the Hound hasn’t died on screen, either).
Bait And Switch
It’s one of those wildlings you’ve brought back. Says he knows your uncle BenjenOlly, baiting the audience moreso than Jon himself
Believe it or not, but Sam’s story has just reached the end of his very first chapter in A Feast for Crows, which is the fourth (!) book. Jon orders Sam to go to Oldtown right after becoming Lord Commander, and has him take maester Aemon with them, afraid that Melisandre would want to burn him once she finds out he’s a Targaryen. Aemon dies on boat, but his final scene is pretty much unchanged in its core, including his final words “Egg, I dreamed that I was old”. Another passenger of the boat is Mance’s newborn son – another potential target of Melisandre. Jon has him switched with Gilly’s baby, which is taken care of by Mance’s wife (cut from the show, obviously).
Sam seems to be travelling by land, but there’s always a possibility they actualy come aboard and get through at least a part of the book journey, so technically the show hasn’t caught up with the books just yet. It’s important to note that Oldtown, the destination of Sam’s journey, is actually the place of the prologue to AFFC, where we see a wannabe Citadel maester assasinated by an unknown man. Feel free to read AFFC if you wish to learn more, but the location scouting for season 6 heavily implies we’ll get to see Oldtown.
By this point you might be tired of my pro-Stannis tirades and are probably doubting my accusation that “showrunners are Renly fanboys and hate Stannis”. If you don’t believe that D&D might actually be wrong about interpreting characters, look no further than this week’s Inside the Episode, where they state that “When Alliser stabs Jon – it’s like the bad guy kills the good guy, but when Olly holds a knife – Olly is not a bad guy, he’s just a kid”. It’s like they didn’t watch the show they made – an overwhelming majority of the viewers have seen Olly’s betrayal from a mile away. It’s Alliser’s involvement that seems more surprising. Olly, if anything, is shaping up to become the GoT equivalent of Jar Jar Binks. So, if the writers can be so wrong with assessing characters they wrote themselves (Olly is a show-only character), isn’t it possible for them to be mistaken about book characters such as Loras and Stannis?.
What hurts the scene the most is the lack of the “straw that broke the camel’s back” element and reasonable motivation for the assassins. TV “for the Watch” is prepared, cold-blooded, and fueled with hatred for Jon and the Wildlings. Book “For the Watch” is an immediate reaction to Wun Wun going rampage and Jon’s colossal mistake when he orders to march on Winterfell, as abandoning the Wall for personal cause is against everything the Night’s Watch stands for. Show Night’s Watch comes out as a bunch of ungrateful, xenophobic rebels – book Night’s Watch is arguably in the right.
And what’s up with Benjen Stark? Nobody knows. The fact that he appeared in the “Previously On” clip made the readers collectively lose their minds, as there has been no information about him whatsoever. There were even some crazy theories flying around, like “Benjen is Daario” – left alone with no clues, the fanbase has gone… wild with speculations over the decades.
Last but not least, even the non-reader crowd has already caught wind to Melisandre hype. Yes, she’s around, yes, she’s seen Beric “Six Respawns” Dondarrion, yes, it is entirely possible she revives Jon. This is actually more likely to happen in the show than in the books, as Jon has another possible “way out” – warging. Just like Bran, he’s been having wolf dreams from Ghost’s perspective ever since ACOK (season two), and his last word is not “Olly”, but “Ghost”. We’re guided into that theory by the prologue to ADWD, which describes a warg moving into a wolf in his dying breath, and Melisandre’s visions, which foreshadow the whole sequence. “Now he was a man, now a wolf, now a man again. But the skulls were here as well, the skulls were all around him. Melisandre had seen his danger before, had tried to warn the boy of it. Enemies all around him, daggers in the dark. He would not listen”. Melisandre has a single POV chapter that sheds a whole new light on her and places foundation for some very prominent fan theories. Considering that her encounter with Thoros of Myr and Beric Dondarrion is a show-only scene, the warg solution seems to have been cut, though.
You were the first person on my list, you knowArya Stark, now full speed on her own “Kill Bill” vendetta
Speaking of Starks with wolf affinity in the books… Arya’s conflicting identity is not without it, either. There’s actually an infamous pack of wolves in the Riverlands, led by a mysterious giant she-wolf who can be no other wolf than Arya’s Nymeria (remember her?), and Arya occasionally sees her perspective in her dreams.
I’m not particularly a fan of making Meryn Trant so ridiculously over the top evil. It removes all the moral ambiguity from Arya’s action – the immoral Kingsguard has replaced a Night’s Watch deserter that Arya meets in Braavos. Having her kill Meryn makes it more personal and the manner in which she did it was fittingly chaotic, but overall it enforces the trend of polarizing all the major characters, removing any flaws or mistakes from the “good guys” (see: Tyrion) and all the positive traits from the “bad guys” (see: Stannis). It’s not like Meryn Trant has any redeeming qualities, but piling on reasons to hate him is definitely whitewashing Arya.
The way she conducts the assassination is heavily based on her promotional chapter from The Winds of Winter, where she goes under the name that oddly fits the episode, “Mercy”. The victim of that attack was Rafford the Sweetling, one of the Lannister men who had chased Arya, Gendry and Hot Pie from King’s Landing. Considering Rafford accepts Mercy’s sexual proposition while others refuse, the paedophilia element added onto Meryn Trant makes much sense, it’s just the physical abuse part that makes the whole ordeal over-the-top. After wounding him, Arya makes him speak out that he “can’t walk, and she’ll have to carry him”, which mirrors Lommy’s last words (the boy mistaken for Gendry and killed on the Kingsroad).
The Mercy excerpt was actually supposed to be the opening Arya chapter after the initially planned five-year timeskip (back when the series were supposed to be, wait for it, a trilogy). It then has transformed into one of the Braavos chapters, first the closing one in ADWD, and finally the opening one in TWOW.
Going blind afterwards is the exact same moment she ends at in AFFC, so the adaptation is quite direct, but altered chronologically – the Thin Man assignment and the visit to the Room of Faces is taken from ADWD. This means that both solutions – moving beyond ADWD and picking up the remaining bits from AFFC and ADWD – are possible, especially considering that the whole organization of Faceless Men has been confined to two characters (Jaquen and the Waif).
Let’s Get Out of Here, ‘Tis a Silly Place
You want a good girl, but you need the bad pussyTyena Sand, with a close contender for the “Worst Line in TV History” award
Apparently the Sand Snakes are not done with ruining the show. I don’t know what should we be afraid of more: the possibility of Jaime turning around to avenge Myrcella, or the future development of Dorne with just the Sand Snakes left. Given that the grand Dornish conspiracy has been written out altogether with Aegon Targaryen, Daenerys’s supposingly miraculously survived nephew, the development of the show-only plot fills the readers with nothing but disdain.
Myrcella is still alive in the books, but doesn’t get out unscathed – quite literally, she gets disfigured in a messy fight. Having her dead already dosen’t change that much in the bigger picture, but removes an important part of Cersei’s prohpecy from Maggy the Frog – that her children will all have “golden crowns” and “golden shrouds”. In AFFC Arianne Martell, Doran’s daughter, attempts to crown Myrcella the queen of the Seven Kingdoms, as by the Dornish custom women can inherit before their younger brothers. Myrcella not becoming a queen is an omission that could be interpreted as the prophecy not coming true – unless we accept that Cersei’s kids being princes and princesses is enough to fulfill the “gold will be their crowns” part. And generally every single vision and prophecy in the ASoIaF series has come true one way or another.
The whole Dornish story reeks of bad writing, with Ellaria’s plot going against everything her beloved Oberyn believes in, the corny lines from the Sand Snakes, and the godawful fight in the Water Gardens, started by a stupidly improbable coincidence of everyone getting into the same place at the same time – almost as bad as Sansa’s candle lighting in the tower mere seconds after Brienne takes her eyes off it. It seems that the whole point of Jaime’s journey to Dorne was to keep him occupied for a season and bring a recognizable primary character to a new location. And that’s about it. Now let’s get out of there before Bronn changes his mind and turns around. They deserve better than this.
How To Train Your Drogon 2
I’ve missed youTyrion to Varys, speaking out what all the audience thinks
The final chapter of A Dance with Dragons consists in 90% of Daenerys thinking, searching for food and having weird dreams. What we saw in the show was the other 10%. What we’ve lost is dreams of her brother Viserys, more cryptic words from Quaithe (the masked woman from Qarth) and this beautiful passage:
Sunset found her squatting in the grass, groaning. Every stool was looser than the one before, and smelled fouler. By the time the moon came up she was shitting brown water. The more she drank, the more she shat, but the more she shat, the thirstier she grew, and her thirst sent her crawling to the stream to suck up more water. When she closed her eyes at last, Dany did not know whether she would be strong enough to open them again.George R. R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons
And just like that, Daenerys’s story has come full circle. From a horselord’s wife, to a desert nomad, to a dragon queen, to horselord surrounded lady back again. This is the exact same point where we leave Dany in ADWD. The khalasar she encounters is led by Khal Jhaqo, former lieutenant of Khal Drogo. Dany has a personal feud with them, as when they left Drogo once he became ill, Jhaqo’s bloodrider Mago raped a girl Dany had tried to protect from him. The girl was then raped by Jhaqo and his men, and eventually killed. Having learned of this, Daenerys vows to take her vengeance on Mago and Jhaqo.
Jhaqo’s troop is actually significantly larger than in the chapter (the squad was described as consisting of 50 men), signifying a dramatically increased budget compared to season 1, where the greatest khalasar in Essos, supposedly consisting of thousands of riders, looked more like a desert caravan. What’s removed from the scene, however, is the presence of Drogon feasting on horses, so we might see a different dynamic between Dany and Jhaqo in season 6.
The ring drop, assessed by some viewers as perhaps trying to hide her identity, was described in “Inside the Episode” as a “breadcrumb” that’s supposed to lead the searching party towards her. It seems ridiculous, considering Drogon has dropped her a hundred miles away from Meereen. While the searching party is a new thing, Dany’s supporters being left with governing the city is more or less the same… give or take the entire cast. Daario is a hostage in Yunkai, Tyrion and Jorah are still far away, currently in the sellsword company Second Sons, Missandei is a little girl, Grey Worm is not such a prominent character, and Varys is in another place entirely. The reign over Meereen passes over to… Barristan Selmy and Hizdahr zo Loraq, both prematurely dead in the show.
Writing out Barristan, Hizdahr and Quentyn Martell from post-Dany Meereen allowed to place Daznak’s pit at the end of season 5. The post-Daznak ADWD has a good few chapters occur in Meereen while Daenerys is away, and it’s a entwined mess also known as “Meereenese Knot” that took George R. R. Martin good few years to resolve. It’s safe to say that the show has made all these changes in order to avoid that problem, even if it came at expense of killing off some characters early on.
Shame. Shame. Shame. DING DINGSepta Unella, upgrading her vocabulary from “Confess” to Hodor 2.0 (now with two phrases!)
Even though the High Sparrow suspects that Cersei isn’t telling the truth, revealing Tommen as a bastard is not convenient for him, as the Faith is afraid of giving Stannis and his “red fire demon” the throne. That’s why even though he clearly sees through Cersei’s lies, he allows her to walk for now.
If you think that scene was too long and disturbing – and it was – then you’d be terrified if the book chapter was adapted without change. Cersei was shaved completely, not a single hair on her body. There are actresses who are willing to go to such extreme lengths (like Natalie Portman in V for Vendetta), but still, it’s something really uncommon to ask for. Cersei laughs as the septas shave her, reminiscing how warm Jaime’s kisses were and how cold the razor is, and planning a violent revenge on every single person around her. At first she walks proudly, hopeful to get over with the whole thing and see her son again. She disrobes herself in one smooth gesture, presenting herself as proud and beautiful.
That doesn’t last long, however. She begins to break when the illusion shatters – it’s not only the pain and the filth, but moments like the one when a little boy says “that can’t be the queen, she’s saggy as my mum”. There’s also more to Cersei’s breakdown than we see, as she hallucinates, seeing faces in the crowd: Ned Stark, Sansa’s direwolf, her father, finally recalling Maggy for Frog’s prophecy that her days as the queen will pass.
Other than that, the scene was adapted piece by piece as it was. It’s worth noting that a show-watcher has more information about Robert Strong than a book-reader, as the books leave mere breadcrumbs to pick up and make the connection between Gregor Clegane and the new Kingsguard, while the show has made two graphic scenes depicting Qyburn working on the Mountain’s body.
And that’s all, folks. We’ve arrived at the end of ADWD… or did we?
Actually, no. There’s still some book material to cover – Sam’s journey to Oldtown, Arya’s training in Braavos, the whole Iron Islands plot, Davos’s chapters in the North – possibly enough to warrant the future of this series in the next season. Unless hell freezes over and TWOW is published before season 6 airs, in which case the series will have an obvious basis to continue.
Now, here’s the question: Can I read The Winds of Winter when it gets published? The answer is: yes, technically you can, but it’s a bad idea. The point where you should start reading is Chapter 1, Book 1: A Game of Thrones. Anything else will result in confusion, as plotlines will be changed, characters who are dead in the show will be still alive in the books and vice versa, not to mention those written out from the show.
Thanks for sticking to the series, and see you guys next year!
…What to do now?
That’s a damn good question and I’d like to redirect you to the reddit thread for some possible answers 😀