HBO's epic series based on George R.R. Martin first novel in the Song of Ice and Fire series concludes next month. I've been doing my best to sum up the adventures of the Starks, Lannisters and Targaryens each week in such a way that newcomers to the story wouldn't be overwhelmed by the sheer tonnage of characters and storylines weaving their way through the series.
But having read the books (several times) and receiving a convenient lead-in from last week's newbie observations entry from Rich Connelly, I thought I'd go the opposite route and look at some key differences between the series and the book it's based on. Because anal retentive nitpicking is what we do. In America.
And unlike my show recaps, things are going to get fairly spoiler-y after the jump. If you're looking to avoid surprises for the rest of the season (and next, for that matter), you've been warned.
Emphasis added for the first commenter, who apparently flunked the reading comprehension portion of their SATs..
1. Where Are The Goddamned Direwolves? You remember them, right? One for each trueborn child of Ned and Catelyn Stark, plus one for Ned's bastard Jon Snow.
They popped up here and there in the first few episodes (Sansa's wolf Lady was famously killed by Ned after Arya's wolf Nymeria gnawed on Joffrey). Ever since, the only one we've seen is Jon's (Ghost), even though Grey Wind (Robb's) and Summer (Bran's) supposedly played a key role in taking out the wildlings who attacked Bran last week. Instead, they were nowhere to be seen.
For all I know, this is a conscious strategy by Benioff and Weiss given the...somewhat diminished role the wolves play in later books. Still, they shouldn't be hard to incorporate at this stage, given that they're still only the size of your average German shepherd.
2. Ned's May Or May Not Be A Total Badass In the show, Ned squares off with Jaime in front of Littlefinger's brothel, giving as good as he gets before one of the Lannisters puts a spear though his leg. Jaime, the captain of the Kingsguard, is widely regarded as one of the finest swordsman in the Seven Kingdoms, and Ned fought him to a standstill.
I'm of two minds about this. In the book, Ned is a solider when required, but doesn't live for it. Jaime Lannister, on the other hand, is mentioned in the same breath with Barristan the Bold and Ser Arthur Dayne (the "Sword of the Morning"). More to the point, Ned and Jaime never actually cross swords.
Then again, when Robert's Rebellion is discussed later in the series, it's pointed out that Ned was one of only two survivors of the fight in the Tower of Joy against Dayne and two other members of the Kingsguard (the other being Howland Reed, Lord of Greywater Watch). So...maybe he is as bad ass as they portrayed him. More likely it was just a way to get the two primary figures in the series to mix it up.
3. The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name
It's (strongly) hinted in A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings that Renly and Loras were...putting from the rough, but neither was ever given a POV chapter and nothing like the manscaping scene happened in the books. Frankly, I don't think it radically alters things. To be honest, there was a hell of a lot of exposition to get through in the first half of the TV season, and it couldn't always be Robert and Ned bullshitting with each other.
Speaking of Renly, in the book he's described as a young Robert (tall and muscular), so I'm not buying the popinjay they have playing him now. But since we've most likely seen the last of him this season, it doesn't make much difference either way.