On April 14, the show that has put HBO in the headlines for nine years will finally come to a close. “Game of Thrones” has set an extremely high bar when it comes to television. Each episode has an average budget of $6 million, with each receiving more dedication to set design, special effects and on-screen talent than many theatrical releases.
The show itself has engrossed millions around the world. The political intrigue and uncertainty of how characters would fare each episode has enthralled fans for years, with the Red Wedding of Season 3 leaving most show fans feeling betrayed and most book series fans laughing (or crying) around the corner.
However, it’s not just what fans of the books have already known about the series that has caught their attention. All transitions from book to live action require at least some cuts, especially for the textbook-length novels of George R.R. Martin. Yet many fans of the books were dissatisfied with the alterations and cuts made in the show.
Here are three major divergences that HBO’s “Game of Thrones” made from the books that left fans particularly embittered. Needless to say, spoilers follow.
1. The End of Stannis Baratheon
Stannis Baratheon is a character whose depiction in the show left viewers divided. He is shown with an authoritative personality and desire to follow what he views as the honorable path, but is also easily swayed by the red witch Melisandre. These personality traits culminated in an act that left viewers disdainful of any character even remotely connected to him: the sacrifice of his daughter Shireen as assurance of victory over the Boltons. As Stannis’ hand, Davos, would point out in the following season, Shireen’s death was not only cruel, but yielded no apparent gain, as Stannis and his army were wiped out anyway.
The Shireen sacrifice plotline differs substantially from the book. The novels have not yet arrived at the point where the Baratheons reach Winterfell, but the family has already had much greater success in rallying Northern houses under their banner, which Jon Snow tries to accomplish in Season 6 of the show. While events in the books still have potential to turn out like the show, there is much less reason for it. Because the show overtook most of the books’ plotlines by Seasons 5 and 6, it is very possible that the book version of Stannis will have an entirely different fate.
2. Lady Stoneheart
Catelyn Stark is a very dynamic character, showing great affection to her husband and children while maintaining a deep disdain for those she views as destabilizing forces in her life, such as Jon and the Lannisters. The Red Wedding not only presented Catelyn with the horrific deaths of her son, daughter-in-law and grandchild, but the death of her entire family, as far as she knew.
Her final seconds on the show are quiet and brutal, as her scream is followed by silent end credits. Her memory serves as a one of many motivating forces for the surviving Starks. However, Catelyn’s story does not end at the wedding in the books.
The Brotherhood without Banners find her remains in “A Storm of Swords” three days after the wedding. They bring her back to life, but with the unintended consequence of her becoming a decayed and relentless agent of chaos. She hunts down anyone and everyone even remotely related to her family’s massacre, which earns her the name of Lady Stoneheart.
The metamorphosis was teased in the break between Seasons 3 and 4, but ultimately nothing came of it, and the plotline was cut. Readers had been looking forward to the twisted character transformation, and for such a major plot thread to be cut when it was so intertwined with established characters left many fans embittered.
3. Tyrion’s Overall Character
Peter Dinklage ties rather squarely with Kit Harrington and Emilia Clarke as the most recognizable face on “Game of Thrones.” Dinklage’s interpretation of the character is relatively flattering. The show version of Tyrion has moments of drunkenness and indulgence, but he also is a generous and caring individual. He does his best to help Sansa through her captivity, has a good relationship with his brother and is deeply infatuated with his lover Shae.
The relationship between Shae and Tyrion lasts four seasons, ultimately culminating in Tyrion killing Shae in self-defense after she betrayed him in court. Not only is the framing of the murder different in the books, but it is meant to stand in for another, more impactful event in Tyrion’s life.
Before Shae, Tyrion had met and fallen in love with a woman named Tysha. Tywin despised the notion of his blood marrying a commoner, and so orchestrated a horrific facade that was intended to convince Tyrion that she had simply been a prostitute.
In both the show and the books, Tyrion recounts these events. However, when Tyrion is freed by Jaimie after being accused of murdering Joffery, his brother tells him that Tysha really was in love with him. In the books, the revelation, combined with his more cold-blooded murder of Shae, leaves Tyrion resolved to finally kill his father. The fact that the show went so far as to mention Tysha without following through was another disappointing aspect.
Martin still has a lot of material to cover, so much so that since Season 4 the writers of the show have been taking narrative liberties. It would be silly to assume that a show as large as “Game of Thrones” would wait years for Martin to complete the series, which started in 1996. Regardless, there have been many times where the need for concision led to the omission of many important plotlines. While the book and TV iterations of “Game of Thrones” are masterful works, they also serve as a lesson for how to balance between what is superfluous and what is essential.