Since us fans of the ASOIAF series tend to do a lot of complaining about changes made for the TV series, here’s another list to balance that out. In no particular order…
Removing the ambiguity surrounding Loras and Renly’s relationship, and having Loras in his lover’s armor at the end of “Blackwater.”
In A Clash of Kings, it made sense that Loras’s elder brother wore the armor instead, because Loras is noticeably smaller than Renly. In the show, they aren’t so different in height and body type, and it was much more impactful to see heartbroken Loras going to war in his love’s armor.
Shae’s personality adjustment and backstory
In ASOIAF, Shae is a common young woman of Westeros who provides comfort and no challenge to Tyrion. That worked for the books. We only spend a few days or weeks reading a book, but we’re spending years with Shae on a TV series. It would be fairly boring to see him mooning over a woman that we know little about and has no real affection for him. It makes sense for the TV version of Shae to be more intriguing for one of the cleverest men in Westeros.
Putting a face to the rulers of Qarth in the Spice King
Qarth is ruled in A Clash of Kings by the Pureborn, who are descendants of royalty, and various merchant guilds fighting for power.It works fine for the book, but onscreen, keeping track of the Thirteen, the Spicers, the Pureborn and the Tourmaline Brotherhood would be a nightmare. Streamlining is necessary, and Game of Thrones created an opponent to embody the wealthiness, snobbery and extravagant nature of the rulers. The rulers needed an identifiable face aside from Xaro, and the show succeeded.
Deleting Chett from the Night’s Watch storyline
Chett is Maester Aemon’s assistant in A Game of Thrones until Jon Snow, fearing for his friend’s safety, convinces the maester to take Samwell Tarly on as his aide. This earns Jon and Sam another enemy, and Chett is plotting revenge as the POV character in A Storm of Swords, until the Others arrive and the horn blasts three times. Deleting this character is another good example of streamlining. The arrival of the Others/White Walkers occurred in the season two finale, and Chett wasn’t missed at all.
Irri and Rakharo’s connection
Though there is a discussion in A Dance with Dragons that shows Irri has a thing for Rakharo, Elyes Gabel was originally supposed to be playing the young and beardless bloodrider Jhogo who uses a whip. (Rakharo is older, mustachioed, and uses an arakh.) His name was swapped because of its similarity to Drogo, and so the character Rakharo in the books isn’t very similar to the show’s creation. The chemistry between Gabel and Amrita Acharia was amazingly strong for characters that never touched or spoke of their feelings. The show provides an opportunity for non-POV characters to have moments that make them richer and more real. Their premature killing-off from the show hurt like hell, though watching Irri grieve for a man she never got to be with, as far as we know, was heart-wrenching and great drama.
Ned spotting Arya in “Baelor”
In A Game of Thrones, Ned dies on the steps of the Great Sept of Baelor without knowing what has happened to his younger daughter. Yoren spots Arya in the crowd, and hides her face as her father is beheaded. On Game of Thrones, Ned sees Arya holding onto the statue of Baelor, and says “Baelor” to the Night’s Watch recruiter as Ned passes by him. And so in the show, Ned is given one last good act- trying to save his daughter, lost in the crowd.
Onscreen Ends for Yoren, Septa Mordane, and Rodrik Cassel
Strictly speaking, we don’t watch Mordane die, but we see her face Lannister guards while sending her charge Sansa off to hide herself. Her fate is clear and she meets it bravely. In A Game of Thrones, the holy woman disappears during the purge of the Stark household from King’s Landing, but we never know what happened to her until Sansa sees her head on the wall, along with Ned’s.
Yoren is found dead by Arya after the fight with Amory Lorch’s men in A Clash of Kings, with an axe in his head. His story on the show about killing Willem, told to Arya the night before his death, is also a new addition. His utterly badass final fight with Lorch’s men was a much more exciting end for a cool character.
Ser Rodrik's death in ACoK occurs offscreen, at the hands of the Bastard of Bolton. His death by execution on Game of Thrones is somewhat similar to the death of Benfred Tallhart in the books. (Tallhart spits on Theon, calls him a traitor, and Theon’s men encourage him to execute Benfred or it will reflect poorly on him.) Ser Rodrik’s execution in “The Old Gods and the New” is one of the best scenes in season 2.
Amory Lorch as a victim of Arya’s death wishes
It was difficult to adjust to the large amount of changes to Arya’s Harrenhal storyline, as it’s a personal favorite of mine. Some of them I think worked, some I still find puzzling. One that does make perfect sense to me is moving up the death of Ser Amory Lorch, the Lannister-serving knight who kills Yoren. In ASOIAF, Arya witnesses Lorch dying in the bear pit of Vargo Hoat. In Game of Thrones however, Arya leaves Harrenhal earlier and so she wouldn’t have seen him die. Adding him to the Jaqen H’ghar list of victims makes sense, and it’s more satisfying than watching some random steward with a dog get killed.
Cersei’s story for Tommen in “Blackwater”
We are told in A Clash of Kings that Cersei would rather die than be taken by Stannis’s forces. On the show, we see just how far she is willing to go. Her haunting monologue about the creatures bowing to the lions, spoken as the Battle of Blackwater peaks, is a completely new addition, as is her almost mercy-killing Tommen with an overdose. “Blackwater” could’ve just been a noisy bucket of cool explosions without amazing scenes like this.
Drogo and Rhaego in the House of the Undying
"If I look back, I am lost." The huge changes made to the House of the Undying sequence are controversial, but the appearance of Daenerys’s late husband and the child they could have had underline a recurring theme in Dany’s story. To take back her throne she must continue onward, setting aside the past, or she will drown in sorrow. In facing Drogo and the baby and then letting go of that ideal family she craved, Daenerys shows she will not be swayed by dreams that weaken her. It also provided an opportunity for her to say goodbye to the young husband who was taken from her so suddenly.
Here endeth the list.