Just about every Game of Thrones dream I had came true this past weekend. Well, not every dream. My OTP Jaime/Brienne is still not a thing, but hey, there’s still time. That said, our latest episode “The Lion and the Rose” finally featured what is known as the Purple Wedding—something that I had been waiting to happen for a very long time. And now that I’ve seen it, I can only wonder what’s in store for our characters in the future.
I have only finished the first three books of the A Song of Ice and Fire series, which puts me quite a bit ahead of the show, for the most part. However, the show has already started to add in or hint at things in the fourth and fifth books. In some instances, this is needed—we don’t see Theon at all during the third and fourth books—but in other instances, the narrative gets changed completely. Sometimes this is for the better, but other times, I wonder how the TV series is going to tie everything together.
Massive Game of Thrones spoilers and a trigger warning for rape after the cut.
For me, the Purple Wedding is both a happy occasion and a sad one. I’m not sad that Joffrey finally died: he was a horrible little shit of a person and watching his death was glorious. At the same time, however, he was our main villain, and most of the large players from the first couple seasons are already gone. Joffrey’s death was a big change, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how the rest of the world fares in the coming days. The war is practically over, but the White Walkers, Wildlings, and Dany still have yet to make their grand entrance into Westeros proper. And even though Joffrey’s now dead, things still look pretty bleak. The Stark House is all but diminished, the White Walkers and the Wildlings are about to attack the Wall, Ramsay Snow is still alive, and Tyrion was just accused of murdering the king.
Additionally, though I would hardly mourn for Joffrey’s character, I am going to miss him. He was just so much fun to watch. Mostly, though, I’ll miss getting to see Tyrion slap him.
That said, there have been some massive changes in the narrative during the adaptation of the original series. Even as someone who has read most of the books and gone over in-depth summaries of the ones I haven’t read, I do wonder what some of these changes will end up meaning for the HBO series.
Shae’s story in particular is something that I’m both dreading and excited to see. Her character and relationship is massively different in the books—she’s not in love with Tyrion, and she’s not even a well-fleshed out dynamic character; she’s just a prostitute that Tyrion pays. Moreover, in the books, she’s not a particularly likable character either. She never properly meets Sansa and develops a relationship with her, and at any given time, all Shae really cares about is money. At one point in the series, a noble girl is gang raped, and Shae quips that the poor girl in question should have nothing to fret over because, paraphrasing, “all they did was fuck her”. As you can probably imagine, Shae is not a character that I missed once her role in the books was done. But considering her relationship with Tyrion in the TV series, I have a hard time imagining that her story will end even marginally the same way—and if it does, well… I can tell you right now that I’m not going to like it or be happy about it.
I’m also not going to like it because of how much more likeable and interesting her character became for the show. While her original book counterpart existed merely for Tyrion’s character, the Shae in the TV series is not defined by her relationship to men. She is a much more independent character—she takes initiative in looking after Sansa, knows how to defend herself, fearlessly belittles Tywin and his disapproval of her relationship to Tyrion, even though she knows Tywin would kill her if he found out, and all in all, she’s simply more relatable.
Shae is hardly the only character whose story was changed for the better in the HBO adaption. Margaery is a much more interesting and developed character as well, and since we don’t see that much of her in the books—or really get to know her all that well—I look forward to watching her and the other Tyrells deal with the fallout of Joffrey’s death. I hesitate to say who actually killed him, since the books tend to lead us to believe one thing—such as making us think Joffrey was responsible for the attempt on Bran’s life—only to upend that thought completely several books later.
But as I said, though there are some changes between the books and show that I like, there are plenty of others that I don’t. Many of these changes I can understand due to budgets and time constraints. In the books, for instance, Loras is not the heir to Highgarden. His older brother, Willas, is, and it is to Willas that the Tyrells attempt to marry Sansa. Willas was also crippled in joust by Oberyn Martell, causing some potential bad blood between the houses. Jaime and Brienne are not supposed to arrive at King’s Landing until sometime after the Purple Wedding, Ros doesn’t even exist in the books, and Yara’s real name is supposed to be Asha. Her name was only changed because the producers worried that audience members would mistake her with Osha. So yes, I may not like any of these changes, but I can at least understand them. For the most part, they’re also really minor.
However, some of the other changes make no sense, and I wonder why anyone thought they’d be a good idea. There are two changes in particular that I absolutely detest. The first is Dany’s marriage night with Drogo, and the second is Robb Stark’s wife.
The events that lead Dany and Drogo together are the same in both the books and the TV series. For obvious reasons, many of the characters were made older for the show—in the books, Dany is about thirteen when she and Drogo, who is still in his thirties or forties, are married. So I did like that the show doesn’t give us a visual representation of a child and an adult having loving “healthy” relations. That said, in the book, Drogo doesn’t rape Dany as he does in the TV series. He respects her quite a lot, and on their wedding night, he only has sex with her after he makes certain that she’s willing and unafraid. Other than the issue of age, their relationship is actually quite loving and adorable.
This is not the case of the TV series. After their wedding, Drogo rapes Dany. In some ways, I get that, since that’s something that would happen in this kind of world, just like child marriage would be common as well. At the same time, however, it sends a bad message. Dany eventually grows to love Drogo, despite the rape, and their relationship is eventually shown as a positive. This bothers me, because it happens to people in the real world all the time. Some people think it’s okay to rape someone if you love that person. Some people think rape is love. And while it’s possible, and sometimes healthy, for a victim to forgive her rapist, forgiveness is a far cry from falling in love with said rapist. I do like that Dany is no longer a thirteen-year-old girl, but for the show, there was no reason to add an unnecessary rape scene into their relationship. I get enough “rape is love” narratives from fanfiction; I don’t need it on a popular show watched by a good number of people.
Another unnecessary scene was Talisa, Robb Stark’s wife, being stabbed over and over again in her uterus during the Red Wedding. For starters, in the books, her name is Jeyne Westerling, and she is the daughter of a petty lord sworn to the Lannisters. She doesn’t go out onto the battlefields and tend to people’s wounds, she’s not a foreigner from overseas who has a personal reason to despise slavery, and she is altogether a rather uninteresting person. As such, I will admit to liking Talisa significantly more than I like Jeyne. Talisa is a far more dynamic character. That said, in the books, Jeyne isn’t at the Red Wedding, and she’s still alive at the end of the latest book. Robb and Catelyn decide not to take her to the wedding, since they fear her presence there will upset the Freys. As such, I don’t know why Talisa needed to attend the wedding either. If the show really needed her there because they didn’t plan to do anything else with her character, then I can understand her inclusion. Her death, however, did not have to happen the way it did. It was pointless violence against her, directed at her womanhood, in a show that already objectifies and shows violence against women every other episode. We really didn’t need a scene of a pregnant character stabbed over and over again in her uterus, especially when that character wasn’t even supposed to be there.
I do think that the TV series has improved on the books in a lot of ways—I really love both Shae and Margaery—but some of the changes are unnecessary and borderline offensive. They also make me wonder where the show is going to go. It’d be unfortunate for the show if a character like Jeyne, who was also pregnant, turned out to be a really big character in the later books, or if her unborn child ended up being a huge plot point. That child is potentially the heir to Winterfell. Though some of these changes do upset me, I’m not worried that the show won’t be able to improvise in order to deal with some of the more glaring plot holes. Thus far, Game of Thrones has had some really good storytelling, and I’m interested in what we’ll see happen next.