Beyond the Wall: Do the changes really matter?

Game oF Thrones Sansa Sophie Turner

‘Beyond the Wall’ returns this week with a look whether or not the changes we’ve seen so far really mean anything in the long run.


A week after Game of Thrones provided a look in the world of the White Walkers in a level of a detail that author George R. R. Martin’s series hasn’t yet provided. We have been exploring the myriad changes that producers David Benioff and DB Weiss have made to the story throughout the adaptation, but the scene with the White Walkers is the standout example that Season Four has seen the most changes.

If you didn’t react to Petyr’s introduction of Alayne with, “wait, niece?” then this post isn’t for you.
There are several different viewpoints on the diversions that the show has taken from the novels. There are those who lament every change the show implements, but that approach is short-sighted. Adapting the thousands and thousands of GRRM’s pages into what may be 80 hours of television requires changes. Keeping the major plot points and the spirit of the story is more important than getting every detail correct. “First of His Name” saw more of those changes; this week we’ll take a look at how those differences worked on the screen.

But before we jump into that, our usual SPOILER WARNINGS. Beyond the Wall is a column written by those who’ve read the books for those who have read the books. So if you didn’t react to Petyr’s introduction of Alayne with, “wait, niece?” then this post isn’t for you.

Bob: I’ve heard some mixed reviews about this week’s episode … at least from the small sample size of my Game of Thrones friends that I talk to every week. I, for one, thought it was a pretty good episode. I’m always a fan of the scheming and politics, which took up a large chunk of the show this week, but what I really want to talk about is the last half of the episode, and specifically Jon’s siege of Craster’s Keep.

Game of Thrones has been such a faithful adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s novels to date, it was a little refreshing to get some real new and unique material on the show. (From the previews for next week, it looks like we are going to get some more, learning about Yara’s little adventure that began in the finale last year). I really enjoyed the sequence north of the Wall, with Jon and other crows laying waste to their traitorous brothers, and Bran and his gang escaping the clutches of Locke. It felt like a fun diversion and I enjoyed it. I also thought the writers did an excellent job in creating another near-reunion for the Stark (or quasi-Stark) clan.

Ivey: Count me in the group of people who didn’t necessarily love this episode. I too enjoy the politicking and such, but “First of His Name” was the first episode this season — and well into last season — that felt like filler to me. Sure, some things I was looking forward to happened (Littlefinger and Sansa’s arrival at the much-different-looking Eyrie for one), but it almost felt like this episode was just checking boxes on a list … at least until they got to Craster’s Keep.

I was a little confused by some of the things that we saw. Cersei being the first Lannister to mention the pairing of Margaery and Tommen didn’t feel in-character to me. Maybe if it had come after her conversation with Tywin — and what the hell is up with the Lannister’s being broke — it would have made more sense. Regardless, Margaery might be playing the game (of thrones) better than anyone at this point.

But all of my problems disappeared the minute the story shifted north of the Wall. The only bad part about adding Burn Gorman to the cast was that they only gave him two episodes to really shine.

Bob: Karl couldn’t get a sword through the head fast enough for my liking. His time was short-lived, but he had to be one of the more detestable characters we have seen in Westeros.

I’ve always wondered if the show is too faithful to the source material. As you say, sometimes it feels like there is a checklist that the show is running through. I’ve always been a fan of the departures and would honestly love to see more of them. One of the things I love about The Walking Dead is just how different it is from the comic books it is based upon, while still managing to hit all the major plot points. Yes, sometimes the characters involved in those plot points are different, but the impact and emotion is always spot on. Heck, the most popular character on the show isn’t even in the comic books. I really wouldn’t mind seeing more changes in Game of Thrones. Granted, the fan base is far more difficult to please, but I’d still be all for it.

I think we’ll find out soon what the real story with Shae is this season, but I think it would be kind of fun if she really did get on that boat headed across the narrow sea. We know that Tyrion is headed over there soon enough, wouldn’t it be an interesting change if he met her over there and they traveled together on his adventure in Essos? Yeah, I doubt it will happen, and if it did, I doubt it would be well received, but the Tyrion/Shae relationship has felt so different to me on screen than on the page, the change almost makes sense.

Ivey: Shae’s betrayal of Tyrion was a lot harder to swallow in the books than I think it will be if it happens similarly on the show. Shae’s relationships — both with Tyrion and Sansa — were much different on the page. And while Tyrion tried to burn their relationship down to the ground to get her to leave, the kind of love that we were lead to believe Shae had runs a little deeper than that.

I don’t particularly like Shae … either version. But I will be a little sad if her story plays out the same in the series. But is that the kind of sweeping change I’d want to see? Probably not. I’m much more intrigued by the butterfly effect that minor changes might have down the road. The Lannister’s are broke? Yara is leading a rescue mission? Jorah still hasn’t been outed as a former Baratheon spy? These are the things that interest me more.

Bob: Yes, those are all changes, but … honestly, I don’t see how any of the three is going to amount to anything in the long run. Those are some small-ass butterflies.

Photo Credit: Helen Sloan/HBO

One Comment on “Beyond the Wall: Do the changes really matter?

  1. If the Lannisters are truly broke, it is a major book spoiler, particularly for Tyrion who was last seen confidently signing on to huge debts with the Second Sons. Also, it would be hugely ironic if the family found themselves run into the ground under Tywin’s watch, given his devotion to the family’s legacy. That is no “small-ass butterfly.” I’m surprised more people aren’t talking about it.

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