Just for fun, we thought we would spend some time to take a deep look at the content of season 5 of HBO’s Game of Thrones. Many sites do detailed recaps, chopping up the facts you either already watched or haven’t had a chance to watch yet. Here, we’ll try to do something a little different. We’re going to compare in terms of plot and character developments how the events of the show differ from that of the immaculately detailed A Song of Ice and Fire books by George R. R. Martin. This isn’t to indicate that either the books or the TV show are superior to the other, this is only to illuminate what’s different for those curious. We’ll have some commentary, review and thoughts on the delivery of the episodes themselves too. Of course, for those that haven’t read the books of watched the show, this is a spoiler-filled look at the story. If you don’t want to have any details spoiled for either, definitely do not read anything that follows. For this first week, we’ll start with both episodes 1 and 2. After that, we’ll have an analysis for your weekly following the premiere of each new episode.
Episode 1: The Wars to Come
Following a brief recap of the deaths of Tywin Lannister, Joffrey Baratheon, Oberyn Martell and the adventures of Arya Stark, Sansa Stark and John Snow, things pick up with one of the shows few looks back into history before the events of the first season. This time, Cersei’s visit to what readers of the book know as the home of Maggy the Frog. First off, in the book, Cersei visit’s Maggy’s hut with two friends in the book, Jeyne Farman and Melara Hetherspoon. Here, in the show, Cersei is accompanied by only one—as of yet—unnamed friend. This is significant, as in the books, Farman fled the scene instantly before hearing her fortune told. Hetherspoon’s fortune was that she would die that very night. Much later in the books, it is implied that following Hetherspoon’s panic in the wake of the prophecy for her demise, that Cersei herself drowned Melara in a well. Also interesting is that the show has left out a vital part of Maggy’s prophecy to her. That is prophecy of the “valonqar,” which is High Valyrian for “little brother.” This might be just left out of the show for the moment, to be revealed later, but in the books Cersei takes that part of the prophecy to mean Tyrion will be her killer, fearing his presence constantly throughout the story.
Tyrion’s arrival in Pentos also differs slightly than the book. In addition to a flight of fancy in poisoning himself with poison mushrooms found around Illyrio Mopatis’ manse, the key difference is that Mopatis himself is not present to greet Tyrion. In the book, Tyrion has several conversations with Illyrio where they discuss both Tyrion’s situation, how Mopatis came to wealth and the mission to find Daenerys Targaryen and help her take control of Westeros. In these conversations, Tyrion learns much about Illyrio and even puzzles out many obscure details about what Mopatis might be after in trying to secure Westeros for Daenerys. Here, Tyrion is greeted and discusses the mission only with Varys who escorted his crate across the narrow sea. In the books, it is assumed Varys is still hidden in King’s Landing at this time. This discussion happens at Ilyrio Mopatis’ manse, but for some reason, Illyrio is not present (nor is it explained where he is). Diehard viewers will remember that the character appeared briefly only twice in the first season of the show: in the first episode where he helps broker the deal between Viserys and Khal Drogo for Daenerys’ hand in marriage, and in the fifth episode where Arya Stark overhears him and Viserys plotting in the dungeons where the dead dragon skulls are kept (she does not recognize either of them).
The events that explain the slayings perpetuated by the Sons of the Harpy are largely the same, though we get a closer look at an Unsullied warrior being killed while wanting nothing more than a cuddle with a prostitute.
We also get a deeper look at what leads to the execution of Mance Rayder. On the show, King Stannis, Davos and Melisandre confront John Snow and ask him to convince Mance to bend the knee to Stannis, committing the wildling army to Stannis’ cause, otherwise Mance will be burned alive for being a traitor.
In a huge change from the books, Sansa Stark and Littlefinger are shown leaving the Vale in a horse-drawn cart with several retainers. In the book, Sansa and Littlefinger are still in the Vale all the way at the end of book five. This promises to be a massive change from the slow pace their story progresses in A Feast for Crows and A Dance of Dragons. Littlefinger promises that he’s taking Sansa somewhere where Cersei cannot harm her. To boot, they both pass right by Brienne of Tarth and Podrick Payne.
Cerse meets Lancel, garbed in his new, ultra-pious Sparrow garb, him seeming to admit full acknowledgement and regret of the wrongdoing he perpetuated in collusion with Cersei, both his role in the death of Robert Baratheon and in fornicating with her regularly.
There is a brief discussion between Daenerys and Hizdahr zo Loraq where he explains how Yunkai is now ruled by a mixed council of freed slaves and former slaveholders. Hizdahr also takes this opportunity to make the case for the re-opening of the fighting pits, which Daenerys denies calling it, “Human cock fighting.” This is a small change as in the books Daenerys merely allows the city to retain rule of itself following her defeat of it and the city freeing its slaves.
In the final scene John Snow is unsuccessful in convincing Mance Rayder to bend the knee to Stannis. Mance refuses to accept the mercy offered him by Stannis and is subsequently condemned to die in front of Stannis’ army (his wife Lady Selyse is shown looking on in almost lustful glee), the Men of the Night’s Watch and some of the captive wildlings (Tormund Giantsbane is seen watching solemnly). The only real change here is John Snow shoots the arrow that kills Mance early, rather than ordering archers to do so.
Needless to say, a phenomenal opening to the season for the show. One that alone sets the stage for a half-dozen storylines to come.
Episode 2: The House of Black and White
Episode 2 of Game of Thrones season 5 opens right where season 4 finished, with Arya Stark arriving at Braavos. Much like the book, Arya is rowed through the city’s many canals past Ragman’s Harbors up to the edge of the island that contains The House of Black and White. Only in the books, Arya is rowed up to the building by a ship’s mate and not the captain himself. Most likely for narrative effect, Arya finds herself shut out instantly by a mostly quiet man in a white robe. She spends a couple of days reciting her murder mantra outside the gates before venturing forth into the port city, tossing the coin Jaqen H’ghar gave her into the water.
Furthering the splinter of Sansa and Littlefinger leaving the vale, we find them dining at an inn… the same inn that Brienne and Podrick happen to be at. Brienne instructs Podrick to ready their horses and storms forth to introduce herself to Sansa, explaining her oath to Catelyn Stark to protect Sansa. Sansa—likely because of Littlefinger’s demonization of Brienne—rebukes her offer, still endlessly cautious of anyone associated with the Lannisters following her ordeal in King’s Landing. Brienne and Podrick flee to the forest with a small host of Littlefinger’s guards pursuing them. Brienne easily kills them and instructs Podrick they’re going to follow Littlefinger, believing Sansa to not be safe with him. This is all not in the book. At this point, Sansa and Littlefinger are still in the Vale of Arryn and Brienne and Podrick are making their way through the countryside, unaware of Sansa’s location.
Meanwhile, Cersei receives a box from Dorne including a pendant that only her daughter Myrcella would have had mounted on a model snake. She reveals this to her brother Jaime and he insists that he’s going to head to Dorne to retrieve Myrcella. He also informs that while he won’t be heading to Dorne with an army, he won’t be heading there alone. This leads to a scene showing how Ser Bronn is happily plotting his nuptials with his betrothed, Lollys Stokeworth. Bron and Lollys seem happy in their planning, though Bronn will not immediately inheriant Lollys’ father’s lands. They spy Jaime sitting shore side. Jaime informs Bronn that Cersei has already made a different marriage pact for him. Jaime implies he’ll make an even bigger match for Bronn if he accompanies him “as far South as South goes.” This is wildly different from the books as Jaime never heads to Dorne. What’s more, while mentioned several times, Bronn is not seen following his revelation of marrying Lollys to Tyrion just before Tyrion’s trial by combat. In the books Jaime is in King’s Landing until Cersei sends him away for a different reason.
At this point, we finally get to see Dorne and it’s leader, Prince Doran Martell. Doran is the brother to the recently deceased to Oberyn Martell. Doran is observing the water gardens, grieving for his dead brother. His Captain of the Guards Areo Hotah stands vigil nearby. While Areo says little in this scene, it’s important to note that many of the chapters involving Dorne in the book are told through his viewpoint. He says little in the book too, but much of his personality is revealed in his quiet visage of the extreme politics that unfold in front of him. Here, Oberyn Martell’s former paramour Ellaria Sand accosts Hotah to speak to Prince Doran. Doran grants her entry and she angrily protests that Doran is taking no action to avenge his dead brother. She claims she has the Sand Snakes “with her.” The Sand Snakes have not been introduced yet, but they are the many dangerous daughters of Oberyn Martell. She asks for Doran to allow her to send Princess Myrcella back to Cersei piece-by-piece. Ever cautious, Doran refuses. This is noteworthy as in the books, it is not Ellaria who confronts Prince Doran, but Oberyn’s eldest daughter Obara Sand. In the books, Ellaria is more solemn and saddened than vengeful.
Cersei meets with her small council, elevating Mace Tyrell to both Master of Ships and Master of Coin. She also reveals that Qyburn will become Master of Whisperers. She offers a new position Master of War to her Uncle Kevan Lannister, but he declines unless he is offered the post by King Tommen himself. He also calls out Cersei for stocking the small council with sycophants and refuses to be her puppet. This is largely the same as in the books, save for that the conversation between Kevan and Cersei happens in private and Kevan will only take office if Cersei returns to Casterly Rock. Kevin hints to her there that Tywin had every desire to get her out of King’s Landing.
A small conversation takes place between Stannis’ daughter Shireen, Gilly and Samwell Tarly, in which Shireen reveals she was cured of Grayscale at a young age at great expense to her father. Gilly indicates that while the wildlings had no name for the affliction, it did happen to two of her sisters back at Craster’s Keep. She explains that they were isolated to a hut outside the keep and eventually the disease consumed them. She details how they both met a grisly end at the hands of Craster. (this explanation of the affliction will no doubt come into play much later at events not yet revealed.)
John Snow learns from Davos Seaworth and Stannis how they have been denied by the Mormonts of Bear Island for support. The Mormonts cite they will only follow the King in the North whose name is Stark. While John finds this amusing, Stannis makes him an incredible offer. Stannis states his will legitimize John Snow, making him John Stark and Lord of Winterfell if he will bend the knee and swear fealty to Stannis. Shortly thereafter, at the choosing of the new Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, John explains to Samwell that he intends to turn Stannis’ offer down. This is all exactly accurate to the book as of this point, though the show makes no mention of Stannis’ request for John to forsake the old gods of his house and how he must burn weirwoods down in favor of the Lord of Light.
Right after that, the Night’s Watch make final speeches for whom should be 998th commander. Denys Mallister and Alliser Thorne are the main candidates, but Samwell makes an impassioned speech for John to be considered as the new commander too, mostly for his countless acts of bravery in service to the watch. Naturally, John is the victor, Maestor Aemon himself casting the winning vote for John. This is all essentially the same outcome as in the books, though there, this takes place over several chapters, several rounds of voting from the brothers and much political convincing by Samwell.
The episode ends with Mossador, one of Daenerys’ newly appointed counselors, being revealed as having killed a Harpy member they captured and meant to stand trial. Daenerys make a public showing before the cities rich and poor citizens, explaining that his breaking of the law must be met with justice. He is executed by Daario Naharis at Daenerys’ command, even though the former slaves on hand wildly call for mercy. All Hell breaks loose with his execution and a full-scale riot happens. Back in her pyramid, Daenerys ventures out onto her balcony. She finds her lost dragon Drogon perched atop the pyramid. He comes close to her without hurting her, but ultimately flies off towards the city below. While nothing is explained as to why Drogon appears here, this is likely a hint of something to come involving the dragon.
Like episode 1, this was a stunning episode, as beautifully rendered as it was acted. Wonderfully, the show’s often-quicker pace is thus far slowed, taking each story thread and slowly pushing it forth. Until next week!