8. Jaime Lannister Doesn’t Kill His Cousin To Escape Robb Stark’s Camp (Because It’s Completely Out Of Character)
In both the books and the television show, Jaime Lannister is by far one of the most compelling characters. He’s a character that is fundamentally misunderstood by basically everybody on the entire show, and is considered to be a vastly worse person than he really is. Though initially it seems like Jaime is just a total bastard, it’s later revealed just how wrong this perception is, and how Jaime has actually spent the majority of his life fighting against his misaligned Westerosi reputation.
It’s a fairly large character twist when we discover that Jaime – aka The Kingslayer – murdered Mad King Aerys not as a twisted act of betrayal, but in order to save the lives of pretty much the entirety of King’s Landing. Jaime tells Brienne that Aerys’ last orders were for Jaime to kill his father and burn the whole city and its people with wildfire. In an act of defiance – and in order to save thousands of lives – Jaime killed the Mad King.
This whole twist, then, hinges on the fact that Jaime actually doesn’t kill those he’s loyal to, or those who are his kin, for completely no reason. Jaime’s act was caused by necessity, and was in no way for personal gain. Yet in the season two episode A Man Without Honor, Jaime brutally murders his cousin Ser Alton in order to escape from capture by the Stark army.
It may seem like a slight moment, but it’s a complete betrayal of Jaime’s character, and makes absolutely no sense when you consider the reveal that comes later. Even more bizarrely, the character isn’t even in the books, but was actually created exclusively for the show – so, needless to say, the scene in the book does not involve the ruthless murder of Jaime’s own family member.
7. Jon Snow’s Whole Experience With The Wildlings
Despite the fact that Jon Snow is regarded as one of the central, most important characters in the entire television series, he’s frequently portrayed as incompetent, and has a huge reputation for being overly dour and moany. That’s how he was up until recently, anyway. After his relationship with the Wildlings progresses (thanks, Ygritte) he grows a bit more of a backbone, but how it’s accomplished in the books makes so much more sense, and is so much more satisfying.
In A Clash Of Kings, Jon Snow has a whole arc that sees himself and four other members of the Night’s Watch try and outrun a hawk. That might sound absurd, but it’s not just any hawk…the hawk in question is being controlled by a Warg, and enables the Wildlings to hunt down Jon and his companions. As the arc progresses, three of the Sworn Brothers are killed, leaving only Jon and the ranger Qhorin Halfhand left alive.
One of the strengths of this sub-plot is that it shows Jon as much more capable than the other Night’s Watch members in the face of adversary, and depicts him as immensely brave. All of this takes place before Jon meets Ygritte, too – the Jon who meets Ygritte in the show is mopey and bumbling, and his strength doesn’t come until much later.
On top of that, in A Clash Of Kings, when Jon and Ygritte finally do meet, the dynamic of their encounter is much more interesting, with Ygritte telling Jon the story of “Bael the Bard”, a song that heavily implies the Starks have Wildling blood running through their veins.
6. Qyburn Is Set Up As A Much More Maniacal, Murderous Scientist
If you don’t remember who Qyburn is, he’s pretty much responsible for the (incredibly likely) resurrection of Gregor Clegane, aka The Mountain. The last confirmed sighting of The Mountain was after he went up against Oberyn Martell, lying on a slab in Qyburn’s chamber. Though Clegane was the ultimate victor, Martell managed to severely wound and poison him, leaving him extremely close to death.
A season later and The Mountain appears to have been resurrected. Though the show version of Qyburn is clearly implied to be up to all kinds of strange, experimental antics, his ability to literally bring someone back from the dead is perhaps a bit of a stretch given everything that we see. For the book version of Qyburn, however, such a feat is much easier to stomach.
For a start, book Qyburn is regularly kidnapping and torturing people, carrying out a host of gruesome experiments. One particularly grim example sees Cersei consider releasing Falyse Stokeworth in an attempt to oust Bronn from Stokeworth, but upon enquiring with Qyburn about what state she’s in, Qyburn tells her that Falyse is completely unable to feed herself, let alone rule.
More examples of Qyburn’s scientific monstrosity in the books render him a more memorable character, and make his ability to resurrect the dead a lot more believable.
5. Stannis And The Symbolic Peach
Symbolism is one thing that films and television really struggle with executing correctly. More often than not, literary symbolism is stripped of its subtlety upon translation to the screen, desperate to make sure that the audience understands exactly what’s being said.
It’s entirely likely this is why one genuinely affecting scene was left out of the television series, but it’s a total shame nevertheless, and is one of the many great things about the books. During a peace meeting near Storm’s End during the War of the Five Kings (depicted in A Clash Of Kings), Stannis’ brother Renly offers him a peach during a parley.
Seeing Renly reaching for something, Stannis believes he is about to be attacked, but is confused to find Renly offering him the fruit. Stannis refuses, and Renly says: “A man should never refuse to taste a peach. He may never get the chance again. Life is short, Stannis.”
Though this is a rather throwaway moment, it greatly confuses Stannis, who spends a lot of time thinking about what the offer actually means. Even in A Storm Of Swords, Stannis is haunted by the memory of Renly and the peach.
Given the fact that Stannis in season five becomes a frustratingly erratic character (at first he seems to have broken free from the influence of Melisandre, then he burns his daughter alive for her anyway) this detail would have gone a long way towards establishing Stannis’ humanity, and possibly could have been used to elicit more sympathy coming up to his (apparent) death.
4. Jaime Doesn’t Rape Cersei
Over the course of the TV show, Game Of Thrones has been accused of being gratuitous for the sake of shock, and of trivialising rape. There’s a much lengthier discussion to be had on these issues, and the validity of the claims, but one thing that’s certain is that the writers took a key scene from the book and, well…inserted rape.
In the season four episode Breaker Of Chains, Jaime Lannister rapes Cersei in the Sept, following her grief over the death of her son Joffrey. The equivalent scene in the books, however, is completely different. For a start, Cersei actually consents to the encounter.
“Hurry,” she was whispering now, “quickly, quickly, now, do it now, do me now. Jaime Jaime Jaime.” Her hands helped guide him. “Yes,” Cersei said as he thrust, “my brother, sweet brother, yes, like that, yes, I have you, you’re home now, you’re home now, you’re home.”
In the book, the scene is an emotional culmination: Jaime’s return and Joffrey’s death manifests in an extremely passionate (if wholly inappropriate) moment. In the show, though, the scene is completely different. It’s aggressive, Cersei repeatedly tells Jaime to stop (he refuses) and he literally tears her clothes off as she struggles.
Like Jaime’s murder of his cousin, the scene does nothing but damage Jaime’s character. Why was this included? Was it supposed to be shocking? All it is is disappointing.
3. The Truth About Tyrion’s First Wife
Despite coming across as a bit heartless in the first season of Game Of Thrones, Tyrion soon becomes one of the few characters that viewers can unequivocally get behind (at least comparatively). One of Tyrion’s darkest moments, though, comes at the end of season four, when he murders his former lover Shae and his father, Tywin.
The motivation for doing this is largely fine (Shae likely could have been handled better – she genuinely seems to care for him until she’s suddenly sleeping with Tywin). Tywin’s prolonged cruel treatment of Tyrion is plenty clear. Nevertheless, there’s one key detail omitted from the show and used in the books that makes Tyrion’s murderous motivation even greater, and makes Tyrion himself a vastly more sympathetic character.
In A Storm Of Swords, when Jaime springs Tyrion free from his cell following his trial (which takes place during the finale of season four) he tells Tyrion that his first wife Tysha wasn’t, in fact, a whore, but was a peasant who developed real feelings for him after Tyrion took care of her at a young age. Tywin had previously lied to Tyrion about who Tysha really was, claiming she had been paid to pretend to love him. Tywin also forced Tyrion to rape her.
The revelation of this lie is essentially what drives Tyrion to kill both Shae and Tywin, and in the books it seriously damages the relationship between the two brothers, unlike in the show, where the scene focuses on the positive emotions elicited by Tyrion’s release. In the books, Tyrion hates Jaime for his prolonged deception, and even goes so far as to physically strike him, revealing the truth about Cersei’s sexual escapades with Lancel and Osmund Kettleblack in an attempt to wound him.
This sets up a much more interesting dynamic going forward, especially given the fact that Jaime is the one who orchestrated Tyrion’s escape with the help of Varys. Alas, just another of the many complex relationships lost in translation.
2. Sam Tarly Kills A White Walker In Front Of Members Of The Night’s Watch
Oh, Sam. It seems you’re forever destined to be beaten and downtrodden. Throughout the show and books, Sam is seen as a laughing stock by the other members of the Night’s Watch, useless at both combat and being courageous. One of the first major acts of skill and bravery committed by Sam, then, happens when he manages to kill a White Walker.
In the show, this encounter is incredibly secluded, witnessed only by Gilly (and versus a Walker that has its back turned to Sam and is on foot). For this reason, most of the Night’s Watch don’t believe poor old Sam, and continue to treat him with as little respect as before.
In the book, however, the scene is completely different. For a start, there are witnesses. Sam, Grenn and Small Paul fall slightly behind several other members of the Night’s Watch. Though Small Paul is killed (proving Sam to be a more proficient fighter than someone, no easy task) Sam manages to stab a White Walker that’s riding an undead horse and kill it. This is seen by Grenn, who manages to convince the others of the truth of what happened.
Sure, there’s no Gilly involved, but it’s a huge piece of character development for Sam, as he manages to astound those who have spent so long making fun of him for his incompetence.
1. The Complexity Of Loras Tyrell
Here’s how the vast majority of conversations about Loras Tyrell in the show go.
“You know, Loras Tyrell.”
“Loras Tyrell? Margaery Tyrell’s brother.”
“I’m trying to remember…”
“The gay one. The one in all the gay scenes. With Renly. Being gay.”
This, in essence, sums up the problem with Loras in the television show, and how his scenes in the books are just so much better. In fact, the whole character is better.
On the show, Loras spends most of his screen time either naked, naked with another naked man, or talking about getting naked with other men. He’s the very definition of a character who has been reduced to nothing more than his sexuality, and it does the book version of Loras a massive disservice.
In the books, Loras may be attractive, but he’s primarily a capable warrior, proficient in the use of swords, aces and morning stars. He joins the Kingsguard when Margaery becomes queen so that he can use his fighting prowess to protect her. In fact, Loras and Renly’s relationship is so understated that George R.R. Martin actually had to confirm the characters were gay during a 2005 interview.
“Yes, I did intend those characters to be gay.”
Try applying that quote to the characters in the show and the situation just becomes laughable.