Welcome to our weekly Game of Thrones column Compare the Throne. Each week, we dissect the new episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones and scene-by-scene compare the television show to George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire book series. Last week, Sansa suffered a slightly less bad fate than Jeyne Poole did in the books (though still powerfully awful) and both Loras and Margaery Tyrell were formally slated to be brought before a trial of the faith thanks to Cersei’s scheming and the High Sparrow’s piety. Without further delay, here’s this week’s Compare the Throne.
Episode 7: The Gift
This week’s episode opens with Jon Snow preparing for his journey to Hardhome with Tormund Giantsbane. He gives command of Castle Black to Alliser Thorne in his absence. Alliser is quick to reproach him for what he believes is a reckless and disrespectful mission. Samwell embraces him warmly as he says goodbye, and gives Jon the same obsidian dagger he used to kill The White Walker two seasons back. None of these things happen in the novels. In the books, Jon stays at Castle Black until he decides to head to Winterfell to confront Ramsay. Alliser is sent on a ranging North of the wall at last count in the books, begrudgingly following his order only because he knows Jon will execute him the way he did Janos Slynt. Sam is also not present at this point, as he is sailing towards Oldtown with Gilly, a child (actually Mance Rayder’s child posing as hers) and Maester Aemon. Jon sends Sam there to learn to become a Maester for the watch and he sends the child and Aemon because he fears Melisandre may try to burn them alive. Shortly later, Aemon is in his bed apparently dying, holding Gilly’s child and reminiscing on his younger brother Aeg (Aegon). This does happen in the book, only it happens while the group is at sea.
Reek brings some food to Sansa in her chambers. It’s apparent that Ramsay has been abusing her nightly ever since their wedding, keeping her locked in her room all day. Sansa confronts him and begs him to light the candle in the broken tower for her; the sign Brienne’s messenger told her would bring aid. She forces him to hear that he has and always been Theon, not Reek. Theon wastes no time and rushes straight to Ramsay to tell him of the plot. Brienne sees no candle lit in the broken tower.
Back at the wall, Maester Aemon has one last vision of his younger brother Aegon and then quietly passes away. In the books Aemon certainly does of old age/natural causes, but again, this happens half the world away, somewhere off the coast of Braavos aboard a Summer Islander ship. Importantly, this means that Maester Aemon never meets Xhondo in Braavos. In the books, that is where he learns of Daenerys’ existence, and most importantly, of her dragons. He doesn’t make it to Old Town in time, but he does tell Sam that the Maesters must send someone to Daenerys to council her on the old ways and of Dragonlore. Seemingly, this part has been erased from the story.
Ramsay speaks with Sansa on the battlements of Winterfell. He menacingly tells her that she has made him very happy, revealing that Stannis and his army are on their way to Winterfell. Sansa makes the mistake of lording over Ramsay how he likely will not inherit Winterfell since Roose’s wife is pregnant. Ramsay takes her to the courtyard where the elderly servant that had pledged loyalty to Sansa (delivering Brienne’s secret message) has been flayed and pinned to a marker in the courtyard. He reveals how Reek revealed the plan about the candle. Of course, as we’ve discussed in detail before in this column, none of this happens in the books as Sansa never marries Ramsay and is still in the Vale with Littlefinger.
Not far from Winterfell, Stannis and his army have ceased their march due to the harsh snows. Daavos councils that they had back to Castle Black but Stannis refuses, firmly stating he is happy to risk all on their march rather than winter at Castle Black. Melisandre insists that her visions hint at their victory and the defeat of the Bolton’s. But, she claims great sacrifices are necessary to ensure that victory and that she wishes to sacrifice Shireen. Stannis refuses. Except for the march being stalled in the blizzard, none of this happens in the book. Melisandre and Shireen are left back at Castle Black. Davos is sent on a separate mission to head to White Harbor to attempt to secure Wyman Manderly’s support.
At Castle Black, Sam is badly beaten protecting Gilly from being raped by two vicious members of the Night’s Watch. Ghost (apparently left behind by Jon Snow) intervenes and scares the two brothers off. Gilly tends to Sam insisting that he should run next time something like that happens. As they discuss this, they eventually kiss and begin to make love. This does happen in the books, only it happens on the ship they’re sailing towards Old Town on after the celebration for the departed Maester Aemon that the Summer Islanders throw (they both drink rum heavily during the celebration and Sam all but wishes he could stop himself but can’t).
Back in Slaver’s Bay, Jorah and Tyrion are auctioned off at a slave market. Jorah sells easily, but Tyrion has to make the case of how he should be bought as well since they are a team. This does happen in the books, but there, Penny is with them and they’re sold off to an immensely fat slave master Yezzan zo Qaggaz, and none of them are angled to fight in the fighting pits.
While in bed together, Daario Naharis tells Daenerys that she should gather up all of Mereen’s Wise Masters and publicly execute them. Mostly accurate by the books, one such scene ends with Dahario heading off angrily since Daenerys insists she must continue with her marriage to Hizdahr zo Loraq.
Olenna Tyrell finds the High Sparrow in the Great Sept of Bealor. She tries to convince, deal with and threaten the High Sparrow, but he doesn’t budge one inch. He implies to her that all will be held accountable to the laws of the Seven and that he represents the many (as opposed to the few) who will be placed above the importance of the few. While exiting the Great Sept, Lady Olenna is given a letter bearing Littlefinger’s Mockinbird seal. None of this happens in the books as Lady Olenna stays in Highgarden following Joffrey’s death.
Inside the Red Keep, Tommen discusses Margaery Tyrell, and his extreme sorrow in that he can’t help her. Cersei, ever lying with a plain face, convinces Tommen that she will negotiate with the High Sparrow on his behalf. In the books, this conversation does not take place as Tommen is much younger and the two don’t get to interact much before Cersei’s incarceration.
Way down in Dorne, Myrcella Baratheon is brought to see her “Uncle” Jaime Lannister. Jaime explains why he attempted to steal her away explaining the threats against her life. Myrcella furiously rebukes the effort to take her back to King’s Landing, claiming she means to remain in Dorne and marry Trystane as she planned. This is a wildly different take on Myrcella’s story, as in the books she is a decent degree younger and hasn’t begun her romance with Trystane Martell. She is used as a pawn by Ariane Martell entirely, unaware of the efforts everyone is undertaking to use her to further political influence.
Further down in the dungeons of Dorne, Bronn sings “The Dornishman’s Wife” while the Sand Snakes listen on. Tyene claps in approval explaining he has a good voice (he does in fact). While Bronn trades quips with her, she begins to seductively undress and taunts him at the notion that there would be any woman in the world more beautiful than her. As she does so, she also reveals that the dagger she cut him with was dipped in a poison called “The Long Farewell.” She throws him the antidote only after he states she is the most beautiful woman in the world. As we’ve covered in previous editions of this column, none of this happens in the books as Bronn never goes to Dorne and is safely with Lollys at Castle Stokeworth. For the record, thank the gods Bronn did not die. Such an amazing character.
Lady Olenna meets with Littlefinger in the destroyed remains of his main brothel. They discuss their mutual plot to rid the world of Joffrey. Littlefinger explains that he has a gift for Lady Olenna, the same he had for Cersei, a beautiful young man. It’s not revealed before the end of the episode what he means. Like with Sansa, this is all new for the show as Littlefinger is still in the Vale at this point in the books.
On the other side of the world in Mereen, an exhibition fighting pit match is being held. The slave group Jorah and Tyrion are a part of are being used for the demonstration. Jorah discovers that Daenerys is present for the bout along with Hizdahr zo Loraq. Sensing the opportunity to present himself, he armors up and heads out ahead of schedule to partake in the fight. He ably beats every single man without killing a single one, incapacitating each man easily. Tyrion is freed by a jailor and rushes out as well. Jorah presents himself to Daenerys and initially she asks for him to be removed from her sight. Jorah claims to have brought her a gift. Tyrion comes forth and explains he is the gift and introduces himself by his full family name.
Finally, Cersei visits Margaery Tyrell in her prison cell. Just like the books, Cersei makes a feigned plea telling Margaery that she will do anything possible to see her freed. Margaery sees right through her lies and empty gloating and tells her, “Get out you hateful bitch.” Cersei seems pleased with herself and heads to talk with the High Sparrow. They discuss what will happen to the Tyrell siblings. The High Sparrow explains that they will be tried by a council of seven septons, himself among them. Cersei seems happy with the stern justice the two will face. As she is about to exit, The High Sparrow gives her a speech about the excesses of finery, explaining his desire to set the world back to the more primitive and pure state his religion (The Seven) once enjoyed before the rise of the Targaryens. The High Sparrow springs a trap revealing that Lancel has confessed a great deal of things about Cersei. She is taken by a stoic group of septas and locked in a prison cell of her own. This does all happen in the books, however, the main difference is that it’s not Lancel who confesses and brings her down; it’s actually Osney Kettleblack folding under extreme torture by The High Sparrow.
It probably goes without saying, but Game of Thrones has never had so many impressive plot lines running concurrently. The show may be differing wildly from the books, but it’s still making for amazing television.