Game of Thrones Book / Show / Speculation followup for non-readers: Roundup of everything through S4E7, by lukeatlook
Adam Rifkin stashed this in Game of Thrones!
Hello again and welcome to followup for non-readers! It's gap week, but I have finals to study for and I desperately need something to procrastinate, so let's have another followup! This week we'll be covering some general topics regarding book-to-show translation.
TL;DR: Book trivia - Reader perspective - No spoilers - Exceptionally serious section titles
WARNING: WALL OF TEXT
The Road So Far
CARRY ON MY WAYWARD SOOOON
If you want to read the latest followup (or any of the preceding ones), go to my compilation post.
Yes, this paragraph's purpose was mostly making a Supernatural reference; I regret nothing.
Point of View
POV is a core concept to all books in A Song of Ice and Fire. Every chapter's title is a name of one of the characters. The whole chapter is then narrated from that character's viewpoint - we can see the their thoughts on the situation and recall their experiences from the past. This means that everything that happens without POV character present remains unkown to the reader unless somebody tells them about it.
What this means in particular is that no chapter ever could be written from Littlefinger's or Varys's perspective, since any insight into their minds would reveal too much too early. Any scenes between those two, including "Chaos is a ladder", are show-only content. Why do those scenes exist, then? Well, any commentary on them by POV characters happens mostly in their minds. Since we can't read character's minds, some scenes expose secondary characters, such as the infamous brothel scenes.
A hefty detail about POV chapter system is the Prologues. Every prologue is narrrated from the perspective of a one-time character who dies at the end of the prologue. Same for epilogues, but only ASOS and ADWD have those.
POV characters in A Game of Thrones are: Will (prologue), Bran Stark, Catelyn Stark, Eddard Stark (until he gets thrown into the black cells), Daenerys Targaryen, Jon Snow, Arya Stark, Tyrion Lannister and Sansa Stark.
POV characters in A Clash of Kings are the same, plus: maester Cressen (prologue), Davos Seaworth and Theon Greyjoy.
POV characters in A Storm of Swords expand by: Chett (prologue, one of Night's Watch mutineers), Jaime Lannister and Samwell Tarly. Catelyn Stark's last chapter is the Red Wedding, breaking the unwritten rule that POV characters don't die in their own chapters (Eddard's death is described from Arya's POV). Meanwhile, Theon Greyjoy is nowhere to be found.
Now here comes the funny part. A Feast For Crows breaks the convention and titles the first chapter "The Prophet" and the second "The Captain of the Guards". Both are written from the perspective of new characters. Once the focus switches to Brienne (new POV, we're there right now in her road trip with Podrick), it's titled with her name again. This trend kinda continues and the whole system is quite consistent with its new structure, but for the sake of not spoiling anything past the show I won't say anything about further contents.
Then, A Dance With Dragons comes. Chronogically it's mostly parallel to AFFC and divided by characters, so there is no Sansa in ADWD and no Daenerys in AFFC (both storylines in the show already pass over the end of ASOS: Lysa's death and Daenerys' decision to remain in Meereen). And here's the most shocking part. There are chapters titled "Reek" - a broken person that seems to be a new character, and since it's a book, you can't see his face. You can imagine the revelation when after a good few chapters an unsuspecting reader realizes that Reek is, or "was", in fact, Theon Greyjoy. And that's where we are in the show right now.
You may begin to realize why reading the books needs to be started from book one, page one. No shortcuts.
Cast of GoT is already huge for TV standards, and ASOIAF is ever bigger. You have no idea. There are hundreds and hundreds of named characters, I believe the number reaches somewhere over a thousand. Most are only mentioned, but many are physically present in the events of chapters, and some actually play a vital part in the story. However, they had to be removed to maintain any sort of clarity. Most prominent characters cut from the show are:
Stannis's court - Davos has only three chapters in ACOK, but in his six chapters in ASOS there are many, many more characters than just him and Melisandre, including the new young maester replacing the late poisoner Cressen, and an odd fool Patchface. Davos doesn't even become Hand of the King until the previous guy gets burned for treason (and not heresy). It helps portray Davos's status as a bystander in the crowd of nobles, but could have gotten cut from the show with no real problems.
Tyrell brothers - Loras has two older brothers, the eldest Willas remaining crippled in Highgarden (he is the one promised to Sansa, which makes the match bitter but realistic) and one coming with the show siblings to King's Landing (Garlan is the one wearing Renly's armor to start the legend of Renly's ghost breaking the siege of Blackwater). This of course means that show Loras's status as the only heir is not a thing in the book.
The Freys - they are truly numerous. Two of them are kept in Winterfell as wards and give Bran a hard time, one meets Arya in Harrenhal bragging about marrying the princess, unbeknownst of the fact that Arya is the said princess of the North.
Ghost of High Heart - one of the sources of prophecies, so a liability to the show format. Her role got partially taken over by Melisandre's assessment of Arya.
Lemoncloak - one of the members of Brotherhood without Banners, his humorous attire got ceded to Anguy the archer
House Westerling - Robb's wife in the books is Jeyne Westerling, daughter of one of the Lannister bannermen. This brings Westerlings to Robb's cause.... or, according to some theories, closes in the trap for Robb.
Characters I cannot describe in detail since they can still appear in the show later, like Strong Belwas and Coldhands
In some cases, a character's storyline is postponed for a season or two to avoid overloading with new cast:
The Reed siblings accompany Bran in Winterfell in ACOK and already start guiding him through his visions. Their role in season 2 got taken over by Osha and maester Luwin, moving the Reeds to season 3.
Selyse and Shireen Baratheon are in Dragonstone from the very beginning of Davos's POV story. Shireen befriends Edric Storm (book equivalent of Gendry, a bit younger).
Riverrun is featured in ACOK, with Edmure Tully and Brynden "Blackfish" Tully present. Hoster Tully is on his deathbed and the words he utters in sickness imply the story of Lysa's terminated pregnancy.
Oberyn Martell arrives a little bit earlier, before Red Wedding, but it's a minor difference
There are also show-only characters who fulfill various storytelling roles:
Ros, the prostitute moving from Winterfell to King's Landing - hated at first, she became the converation partner for Theon, Littlefinger, maester Pycelle, and, later on, Varys.
Olyvar, the male prostitute running Littlefinger's brothel in his absence. It's actually a huge change from the book that Loras gets seduced by him - book Loras is definitely not a man-whore and still grieves Renly.
Everything regarding visions and prophecies got drastically changed. When a character sees something in the book, their impression is often vague and they surely don't understand the implications of the vision - but in the show, everything would become much more apparent. What would reveal too much was:
Ned's dream after he gets struck by Jaime before Littlefinger's brothel. He recalls the times of Robert's Rebellion and his failed attempt to rescue his sister Lyanna Stark. The show seems to have a no-flashbacks policy, so the scene couldn't get in, and if it got fimled, it would either reveal too much too early or remain as cryptic as it was in the books on the first read and bring nothing to the story until way, way, WAY later.
Patchface, Stannis's fool, is a really mysterious character with his behaviour, songs and riddles. His song was sung by Shireen in S03E05. It foreshadows the smoke monster, Lysa Arryn's death and possibly much more.
House of the Undying is so completely different I don't know where to begin. Long story short, the visions are much more detailed and actually it's not clear yet what they all mean.
Ghost of High Heart, an old woman hosting the Brotherhood without Banners for a while, appears in Arya's chapters in ASOS. She tells about the dreams and visions she had, which include Red Wedding, Purple Wedding and much more.
A huge concept that you need to understand is reveal. The bets example here is the latest Littlefinger's scene. In the books, it's the final chapter of ASOS, crown jewel of resolves and reveals. Since the events are presented from Sansa's POV, Lysa breaking down and confessing how she killed her husband Jon Arryn doesn't happen until the Moon Door scene. Spreading the reveals through two episodes kinda diminished the effect.
It goes further from there. Littlefinger is generally much less ostentatious in the books. Any scene with his prostitutes or any smart-ass dialogue with Varys does not happen. Show sets up Littlefinger as a major player the whole time, while the books sort of keep him in the shadows. All we know about him are Eddard's, Sansa's and Tyrion's comments. This makes the Eyrie reveal much, much more impactful. It's impossible to translate into the show format, though - a regular viewer will not remember side remarks about a secondary character.
More from lukeatlook:
HBO - Huge Boobs Overload
Sex scenes exist in the ASOIAF series, but from the selection of POV you can understand that so far in the story only Tyrion, Daenerys, Jaime and Jon Snow have their own sex scenes (there is also Theon's "sea wife" on his way to Pyke and Catelyn's night with Eddard in Winterfell). Rest is only referenced or even merely implied.
I've already mentioned that many sex scenes serve as an insight to lover's minds, to make them say things they wouldn't say under different circumstances. This phenomenon is sometimes called "sexposition" and the finest example is Viserys's bath scene in S01E04, where he tells Dany's handmaiden about the history of dragons.
Generally the explicit content is overblown, as expected from HBO. Examples include, but are not limited to:
Any brothel scene after Ned's visit
Speaking of brothels, Ros is not a book character, so any scene with her
Any scene with Renly Baratheon and Loras Tyrell
Cersei's scene with Lancel Lannister
Any sex scene with Robb, since he's not a POV character
Moreover, some scenes that are quite consensual become violent - best example would be Dany's wedding night, but there was questionable consent from Cersei in her scene with Jaime in the sept of Baelor next to Joffrey's body in S04E03. TV made it look like outright rape, and what's worse, crew didn't intend for it to be rape.
However, there is another end of the spectrum. There is some type of content that got excluded from the show and that's everything concering Sansa. She comments on a naked Tyrion (the resolve is the same, they don't consummate the marriage), she recalls her first kisses with her female friends at sleepovers and has some particularly intriguing dreams on the road to Eyrie, influenced by her trauma from attempted rape during riots in King's Landing. Anyway, everything involving her but the attempted rape got cut off.
Also, there's a fashion among women in Qarth to cover one breast and expose the other. Cut from show along with some other trends in Essos such as dying facial hair blue.
You like GoT and want to experience something similar, but books are too heavy for you? Here's a short list.
I want an epic fantasy story, not necessarily of the same type
The Lord of The Rings: Extended Edition. 11 hour version of the nerd Bible and it's a huge misunderstanging if you haven't seen it yet. It's not as gritty and edgy as GoT, of course, but it's the foundation of every fantasy story of the last century. Keep in mind GoT is the antithesis of LotR in terms of character development, conflict and story building. It's nice to know the context, though.
I want another realistic, multi-layered TV series by HBO
The Wire. Like GoT, it follows many different characters and makes no compromises with reality. Experience the policework as it truly is and watch the stories of various different layers of American society in the neverending war on drugs. You've ever noticed that in the procedurals they never show the immensive paperwork that comes with busting criminals? Here's the show that will spoil the procedurals for you forever.Also: Rome
I want TV series about people in power
House of Cards. There's a reason this show gets so much praise: because it really deserves it. Watch the plots and schemes of Frank Underwood, a man so despicable and yet so cunning that you'll have mixed feeling rooting for him.
I want something light, less grim and adult
Try Merlin or Legend of the Seeker. Both shows are... average, in terms of quality, but will provide a fair deal of fantasy fun. Also, Merlin shares quite a few supporting actors with GoT (maester Luwin, Davos, etc.)
Avatar: The Last Airbender (TV show) and its sequel The Legend of Korra. How is it similar to Game of Thrones? Well, there's war, there's ambiguous morality on all sides of the conflict and so on, but the truth is you simply need to watch this show, even though the connection isn't really strong. If you don't have a gag reflex to animated series, this is most probably the best kid show ever made, period. Note: it's a "kid show" in the same regard Empire Strikes Back is a "family movie".After that one, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. In some regards, quite deeper and more mature (on-screen blood, death and some serious existential shit), definitely not a kid show.
I want a video game
The Witcher and The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings. When it comes to video games, many titles fall flat when it comes to story. Take the famous Skyrim: its plot is vast as an ocean, but shallow as a puddle. The Witcher video games are based on the renowned Polish books that are quite similar to A Song of Ice and Fire in how they approach the fantasy genre, but instead of featuring political schemes of noble families, it focuses on a few (extra)ordinary people caught in the political machine. The Witcher video games provide dozens of hours of intrigue and difficult moral choices. Forget any karma systems - in those games, your choices aren't black and white, there is no clear good and clear evil and the consequences will come to bite you in the back in the least expected form and moment.Also: Crusader Kings II with GoT mod. It's a thing. If you like strategy games, this seems like the perfect choice.
Thanks for your personal recommendations. Anything else you'd like to piggyback?
Firefly. Go and watch Firefly.