Episode 4: The Garden Of Bones.
The first difference I noticed from this episode was the new scene where Tyrion decides getting Joffrey some action could perhaps “cure” him of his awfulness. Of course we get to see Joffrey unleash his inner Patrick Bateman, and force the two unfortunate prostitutes to beat each other at crossbow-point. It’s a scene that is there to really drive home how utterly psychotic Joffrey is, but unnecessary ultimately, as everyone already hates the crap out of him. A big change comes, as Robb Stark meets and speaks with a field nurse who calls herself Talisa. This character is replacing the role of Jeyne Westerling, who in the book, Robb meets after being injured in battle, and she tends to his wounds. My guess is they wanted Robb to have a romance that wasn’t as suddenly introduced as it was in the novel, and to give some foreshadowing to the dire consequences he faces for this romance later in the series.
Truer words, Bronn. Truer words.
Next comes the biggest change in the show yet, where Arya, Gendry and Hotpie are taken to Harrenhal, and Gendry is nearly tortured by The Tickler for information. This is ended by the arrival of Tywin Lannister, who immediately recognizes her as a girl and makes her his cupbearer! The books had a long sequence of chapters with her serving as a cook, a washing maid, and finding herself adding more names to her long list of vengeance. In my opinion it was a welcome change, as the interaction between her and Tywin were very interesting and captivating. Being a book reader, those scenes were tense because they were new to me too.
When Daenerys gets to Qarth, the entire way she gets in is different in the show. In the book, she simply enters the city, as her scouts have gotten her appropriate permission previously. The three who would have her audience are Pyat Pree and Xaro Xoan Daxos. She visits Daxos’ palace, and Pyat Pree says the House of The Undying will welcome her. Much different from the show, where they nearly leave her to die outside of Qarth, until Daxos takes a personal interest and invokes a blood oath to let her in. Another difference, is Lord Baelish showing up to speak with Catelyn, lies about the Lannisters having Sansa and Arya captive and ready to trade for Jaime. He then presents Catelyn with Eddard Starks remains. This is pretty huge, as one of the big debates in the book fandom is what the fate of Eddard’s remains happens to be, and whether or not it is as significant as we think. The show however, seems to think he’s dead and gone, barring those remains actually being Neds’, and just another lie from someone as untrustworthy as Lord Baelish.
The last big change is the order in which we see the shadow babies presented. In the novel, Renly is killed, mysteriously by a shadow, and no explanation is given, other than it resembling Stannis. The scene with Davos taking Melisandre to the castle to birth it, is much later in the book. The shadow singlehandedly ends a siege overnight by slaying all the besieged, giving Stannis much more militaristic might nearly overnight. After two shadow babies being seen, Davos notes that Stannis looks visibly aged, by at least a decade, and it is implied that Melisandre is using his life force to make the dark things. The show has none of these details, and I feel, lessened the shock of Renlys’ death.
Episode 5: The Ghost of Harrenhal.
This episode is almost entirely scenes from the book, recreated with tweaks here and there. It touches on the subplot of Kings Landing starting to become restless from hunger, and gets to Tyrions plan using the wildfire. A notable change I could see was that he hasn’t commissioned all the cities’ blacksmiths to being making large chain links for him, which he’d later use at the battle of Blackwater. Here they seem content to only use the wildfire. The main new addition of course, is the scenes with Arya and Tywin playing mental chess. Accordingly, since Arya isn’t doing all of the different duties she had in the books, her first name from Jaqen is different, and has her first name be The Tickler. It’s a bit sad, as her stabbing the Tickler to death over and over again in the third book was a pretty great scene, but i’m sure they’ll keep it, or incorporate it in some way.
Episode 6: The Old Gods And The New.
In the books at this point, Jojen and Meeren Reed have been coaching Bran on his dreams, their meanings, and his latent abilities as a skin changer. They then bust him out of Winterfell, away from Theon and his iron men, by using Winterfell’s tunnels. The show has a similar thing to this, only with Osha seducing Theon, and lets Hodor escape with Bran and Rickon. Robb meets up with Talisa again, and plans his revenge with Roose Bolton to capture and execute Theon, while promising amnesty to all other Iron Men who give up. The scene with Ygritte was mostly how I remember it in the books, although the sexual teasing was a bit more exaggerated, with the scene of them having to huddle together for warmth. Sansa’s attack is actually shown in the show, in the book we simply see The Hound return with her as the riot begins, and she has a few bruises, rather than the truly vile attempt to rape her we see in the show. In both it is The Hound who rescues her. Another added scene with Arya and Tywin, this time she’s privy to a tactical discussion between Tywin and Lord Baelish, and it sets up an interesting plot thread of Lord Baelish possibly noting that ‘Arry’ is actually Arya. Of course, this being a new scene, it’s all speculation. Arya overhearing the war plans Tywin was making, manages to steal some war orders on paper, but is found out by Ser Amory Lorch. This leads to Arya’s second new name from Jaqen, and ends with a hilarious moment where Ser Amory literally drops dead at the door of Tywin’s room.
Message for you ser!
Then we come to the biggest change in Daenerys story yet, the kidnapping of her dragons. This straight up didn’t happen in the books, and it’s purpose in the show was to me, at the time, entirely unknown.
Episode 7: A Man Without Honor.
Sansa wakes up having had her first period, as she does in the novel, only now she has Shae there to sympathize with her, and even hunt down and threaten one of the handmaidens who had seen Sansa in such a state. It seemed as if her flowering was going to be kept secret, until The house appears, and has seen the bloody sheets they were trying to hide. In the book, Shae isn’t there at all, so all of this interaction was new. Another great new scene was yet another discussion between Arya and Tywin, and they discuss the legacy and conquest of Aegon The Conqueror. Tywin figures out Arya is lying about her past, and we’re all left to wonder just how much he does or doesn’t know, or is even letting on. The Harrenhal scenes between these two are very clearly a brilliant new addition, and i’m glad to see them every episode they’re in. The last big change is this episode, is the almost entirely new scenes of Daenerys in Qarth. Pyat Pree assassinates the Thirteen, leaving Xaro Xoan Daxo’s now the king of Qarth, and informs Dany her dragons are in the House of The Undying. In the book, Daxos’ wishes to wed Dany, initially to help her reclaim her throne, but it turns out to be that he plans to exploit some Qartheen marriage right, that the bride must give her newlywed husband a gift, and ti turns out Daxos was really after her dragons, (at least one) the whole time. In the book, Dany willingly enters the House of The Undying, as she is invited peacefully. These changes I initially had problems with, but only because the chapter where Dany goes to the House is such a great chapter, and I couldn’t wait to see it portrayed.
This scene was a great example of something happening onscreen that happened in the book, adapted even better than I thought possible. My mom literally started shouting at the screen and yelling “No! They can’t do that! NO!”, which was a far cry from my reaction when reading that chapter: “Oh. Bummer.”