From the Maester’s Desk is a weekly column about the book-to-show adaptations of the characters, world and other elements from George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire books. Apart from analyzing the differences between the two mediums, it offers bits of trivia, speculation and educated guesses about the future of the story in both the books and the TV show. The article contains spoilers from ASOIAF.
“See? We [Lannisters] pay our debts.”
“Right. Just not to me.”
Last Sunday’s episode, “The Spoils of War”, was a big one for Jaime Lannister and Bronn (of the Blackwater, formerly from whatever nameless shit heap he’s from), but fans who haven’t read the books could be surprised to discover this jolly pair of rascals and their highly-quotable lines are nowhere to be found in George R.R. Martin’s version of the story.
Well! The characters certainly do exist, but they aren’t working together. In fact, the last we see of Bronn in the books was when he went to visit Tyrion to tell him he wouldn’t be his champion against The Mountain, agreeing to marry Lollys Stokeworth instead.
After that, Bronn disappears from the page (so far, at least) and we only are informed that he went on to become a lord (after the immediate heirs were disposed of) and even parents a bastard son, named Tyrion (much to Cersei’s chagrin). So, ironically enough, the book version of Bronn got the castle his show counterpart is still yearning for.
So who’s traveling with Jaime in the books? Why, none other than Ned Stark’s executioner, Ilyn Payne. The king’s justice was first recruited to help Jaime train with his left hand, the reasoning being that he wouldn’t be able to tell anyone how much of a bad fighter Jaime is now, since Payne had his tongue removed with hot pincers (courtesy of the Mad King).
Ilyn Payne disappeared from the show after Season 2, because actor/singer Wilko Johnson was diagnosed with late-stage pancreatic cancer, and it seemed like he only had around nine or ten months to live. Fortunately, doctors discovered Johnson really had a less aggressive form of the disease that could be treated, and after a radical surgery, Johnson announced he was cancer-free.
>He’s still touring and playing music, and has said he’d love to return to the show. His character is still alive, so hopefully Wilko will be able to return for the show’s final season.
Though it can be assumed that Bronn replaced Ilyn because of Johnson’s absence, perhaps that was always the plan. Even if there are a few amusing moments, like when Jaime tells Payne to go find a spear and shove it up the arse of a man called Shitmouth (imagine how Bronn would react to that name) after said man used the expression “Bugger me with a bloody spear”, Ilyn would be a rather dull companion in the TV adaptation.
Now, I can see some comedy gold material in the idea of a one-handed man and a mute one traveling together, but it’s really not in Payne’s character to be “funny”. And it would be really difficult to deliver some exposition or any kind of meaningful interaction when only one character is doing all the talking. It certainly wouldn’t flow the same way as with Bronn. And the “bad pussy” moment wouldn’t have happened otherwise!
Jaime didn’t go to Dorne in the books, however. He was ordered to travel to the Riverlands to deal with those who still supported Robb Stark’s rebellion. The way he takes Riverrun is similar to the TV version, threatening Edmure with catapulting his newborn son against Riverrun’s walls, but the Blackfish decides to escape instead of making one last stand against his enemies. His current status and whereabouts are unknown.
After dealing with the sieges of Riverrun and Raventree Hall, Jaime and his men spend a night at Pennytree, a small village in the Riverlands, and there he’s visited by Brienne of Tarth, who asks for his help to rescue Sansa from the Hound.
Wait, what? How did that happen?
Brienne’s adventures with Pod in A Feast for Crows are rather different, and way more harrowing, as opposed to the show’s uplifting version, in which she’s able to avenge Renly Baratheon’s death and also fulfill her vow to Catelyn Stark.
Her path never crosses with Sansa’s or even Arya’s, and she never gets to fight the Hound in single combat. She does meet a minor character whose name would make Bronn’s day (Nimble Dick, no less. And let’s not even talk about Dickon Manwoody. Yes, he’s a real character. Maybe he’ll appear in season 8?). Dick helps her to find a fool, believed to be Dontos Hollard, who may provide a clue regarding Sansa’s location, but instead they find Shagwell and some other members from the Brave Companions.
The Brave Companions and their leader, Vargo Hoat (who ordered a fat Dothraki named Zollo to cut Jaime’s hand off in A Storm of Swords), don’t exist in the show per se. Their role was given to Bolton soldiers, and Vargo morphed into Locke.
I knew it was a long shot, but before Season 3, I was hoping for the Brave Companions to appear in the TV adaptation. But perhaps they were too eccentric for the (let’s say) more realistic version of the story, which has also eliminated some of the more outlandish elements from the books, like the purple eyes, the blue beards and Yezzan’s morbidly obese self (not to mention his freak collection). What works in the novels doesn’t necessarily translates well to a visual medium. Keeping it simple as a Bolton unit instead of splintering it in two different factions was more effective for the screen.
Dick is slain by the Companions, but Brienne makes short work of them and then sets off to find The Hound, since the sellswords tell her he’s the one who “stole the Stark girl”.
She doesn’t find Sandor, but comes really close after she stumbles upon an itinerant septon named Meribald, and his dog (named Dog). Said septon takes her to Quiet Isle, a refuge for sworn followers of the Seven and men who want to atone for past sins through contemplation, prayer and silence. There lives a gravedigger with a limp and a hidden face who seems to be fond of dogs.
The presence of Sandor’s horse, Stranger, in the stables of Quiet Isle seemed like a dead giveaway that the gravedigger was truly the Hound, and fans debated this for years until the sixth season of the show confirmed everyone’s suspicions: that an itinerant septon found the gravely injured Clegane brother and nursed him back to health.
Only that Meribald, same as Vargo, didn’t make it to the show intact. Instead, he was turned into a new character who kept some of his book traits, Brother Ray.
Things inevitably get lost in the adaptation process, but perhaps the biggest loss in regards to the Brother Ray character was Meribald’s “Broken Man” speech, one of the most iconic speeches from the books. I think it would’ve been difficult to accommodate in the context of the scenes Ray was in, however. And the limited time was indeed better spent in addressing how Sandor came back to the show after having disappeared for two seasons.
The speech Ray does give (I’ll call it the “Never too late to come back” speech) was better suited for Sandor, and it conveyed mostly the same idea: that war is horror and suffering, but it adds what could’ve been the seed of the Hound’s path to redemption, so to speak. That it’s never too late for people to change their ways and start doing some good. We started to see some of that in Sandor during the Season 7 premiere, when he showed regret and gave proper burial to the family he robbed from back in Season 4.
Meribald assures Brienne that the Hound is dead, and so she’s left unsure of where to go next. It all goes downhill from there.
More Brave Companions show up, Rorge and Biter among them. The latter has been using the Hound’s helmet and posing as him while raping and murdering and looting in the Riverlands with his “partners in crime”. Rorge is easily dispatched, but Biter wounds poor Brienne, biting the flesh off her cheek, disfiguring her as a result.
She and Pod are rescued by Gendry and the Brotherhood without Banners, who are now being led by the undead Catelyn Stark aka “Lady Stoneheart”. So there we have yet more differences with the adaptation, since Gendry wasn’t sold away to Melisandre and Beric Dondarrion gave his life force to Catelyn, who came back from the dead, in the words of Martin, as a vengeful wight.
Oathkeeper, the Valyrian steel sword that Brienne obtained from Jaime, is seen by Stoneheart as proof that Brienne is now working for the Lannisters and has forsaken her vow. Brienne is given an ultimatum: either she kills Jaime Lannister, or she hangs, along with Podrick.
It’s safe to assume Brienne does not wish to kill Jaime, but obviously the alternative isn’t a particularly attractive one. So, when she goes looking for Jaime at Pennytree, what’s her plan? Will she explain everything to Jaime in the road back to where the Brotherhood and Stoneheart are waiting? Perhaps in order to stage a farce and rescue Pod somehow?
Stoneheart has been a constant source of controversy among the GoT fandom. Personally, I feel like the showrunners made the right choice. The return of Catelyn in undead form would’ve diminished the impact of the Red Wedding. As Cersei would put it, the finality of death. Her absence also helped to make Jon Snow’s resurrection an eventful moment, even if many fans never believed he would remain dead. It would have felt as an overused resource otherwise.
It’s not clear what’s the endgame for the [Stoneheart] character in the books. If it is to take revenge and annihilate House Frey, giving that role to Arya instead worked beautifully. Up to that moment, Arya had only slain minor characters and needed a bigger fish to fry. The scene(s) in which she kills Walder and his family also serves to showcase the mad skills she learned in Braavos.
As for Jaime, there’s another major difference from the adaptation. Show’s Jaime is still very much in love with his sister, and remains loyal to her, but the book version already lost faith and practically abandons her when she’s imprisoned by the High Sparrow. After taking Riverrun, he receives a letter from Cersei, asking for his help. He burns it and doesn’t reply.
His disillusionment is easy to understand, considering that Book Jaime is aware of how Cersei took many men to bed during his time as Robb Stark’s prisoner, including their own cousin, Lancel. In the show, Jaime never finds out. Whether or not he’ll end up abandoning Cersei or will remain by her side to the bitter end remains to be seen.
Jaime and Brienne already met again in the show, during the siege of Riverrun, and parted on good terms despite being on opposite sides in the war. It is likely that they will meet again in a future episode, and maybe not in a good way. Will they be able to fight each other in a battle? Fans of the show already had a taste of how torn they’ll feel in this past episode, when Daenerys’ army finally clashed against the Lannisters.
Inevitably, some of the characters we love will fight each other and die. The stakes are higher than ever, and for many people it’ll be next to impossible to root for someone in particular.