Game Of Thrones: 15 Ways The Show Is Worse Than The Books (And 10 Ways It's Better)
We’re only weeks away from the premiere of the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones. The fantasy epic debuted on HBO back in 2011, where it has continued to amass critical acclaim and an impressive following ever since. The story is adapted from the Song of Ice and Fire novel series by George R. R. Martin, which follows a fight for power in the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. Meanwhile, a mysterious force of White Walkers, leading an army of zombies, threaten to sweep down from the north and wipe out all of humanity.
Even with six more episodes to go and a ton of loose threads to tie up, many are already calling Game of Thrones one of the greatest fantasies ever put to the screen. And the same goes for Martin’s masterwork, which consists of five novels out of a planned seven-novel series. Of course, that means the show has already surpassed the events of the books, and there’s no telling how similar the two endings will be. It’s been nearly eight years since Martin released an installment, so the wait for the final two books will at least take years – if not over a decade. But that still leaves plenty to compare between these two mediums.
As epic and in-depth as the show may be, there's a lot from the novels that never made it to the screen. Some of these changes were for the better, while others were definitely for the worst. Here are 15 Ways That Game Of Thrones Is Worse Than The Books (And 10 Ways It's Better.)
25 Better In The Books: All The Stark Children Are Wargs
By and large, the show did a good job of reducing the amount of magic there is throughout the world. It makes those instances when something supernatural does happen seem all the more plausible. However, if there was one piece of magic they could have kept it, it would have been the Starks’ connections with their direwolves.
In the books, not just Bran has the ability to warg into his direwolf, all the Stark children seem to have a touch of this ability. This is what gives Jon an advantage a number of times while he's further north, as he slips inside Ghost and sees the locations of his enemies.
24 Better On The Show: No Young Griff/Aegon Targaryen
Despite being five books deep into the planned seven-novel series, George R. R. Martin continues to introduce new characters who are making a play for the throne. In the most recent installment, he reveals that Aegon Targaryen – the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Elia Martell – is somehow still alive. Thankfully, the show completely bypassed this storyline.
We don’t need another major player at this point in the series. And with Jon looking to be the primary hero in both mediums, it’s probably for the best that the show decided to focus more on his story rather than bringing another secret Targaryen into the fold.
23 Better In The Books: The White Walkers Are A Lot More Interesting
The White Walkers are a frightening and seemingly unstoppable presence on the series. But since the show has eclipsed the source material, the White Walkers are still far more mysterious and interesting in the novels. We have yet to find out their true origins in the books, or discover what they really even want.
In the show, they seem like pure evil bent on destruction. But there are many hints in the books that White Walkers have an extensive culture and history – one that might have even found them making a treaty with humans and helping to build the Wall.
22 Better On The Show: Leaving Out Lady Stoneheart
Martin has said that keeping Lady Stoneheart is the one change he wished he could make to the show. Apparently, the resurrected Catelyn Stark will continue to play a vital role in the novel series. But without knowing exactly what that role will be yet, we’re still glad she didn’t make the jump from the page to the screen.
Not only would her resurrection have lessened the blow of the Red Wedding, but it would have also made Jon’s return seem far less significant. In other words, too many characters coming back from the grave would really lessen the stakes of the whole story.
21 Better In The Books: Dany And Drogo’s Wedding Night
There’s already enough brutality in the books that the series certainly doesn’t need to pile any more on. So it was a bit disconcerting when they would decide to completely alter the scene of Dany and Drogo’s wedding night. While Dany still has no say in the marriage, Drogo doesn’t just take advantage of her after they're married. Instead, he seemingly respects her space.
Of course, Dany is also much younger in the books, which still makes this far from okay. But on the show, the fact that Dany goes on to fall in love with Drogo after he abuses her a lot more troubling.
20 Better In The Books: Stannis Doesn’t Turn Into A Total Idiot
In the show, Stannis Baratheon’s character arc has a rather unfulfilling end, which finds him being executed by Brienne of Tarth. The moment doesn’t even take place on screen, almost as if the show weren’t entirely sure what to do with Stannis.
In the books, however, he is still a key player for the Iron Throne. He’s united some of the North against the Boltons and is currently preparing to attack them at Winterfell. But more importantly, Stannis doesn’t turn into a religious zealot whose being manipulated by Melisandre. The Stannis from the books would simply never sacrifice his own daughter to please the Lord of Light.
19 Better On The Show: No Fake Arya
In the books, Sansa never ends up marrying Ramsay Bolton, Arya does. Except it’s not Arya at all, but a childhood friend of the Starks named Jenye Poole who has been disguised to look like Arya.
This is a tricky plot point, considering that Littlefinger never should have given Sansa over to Ramsay in the show; he’s simply too smart to make such a risky gamble. But it also makes sense to give Sansa a more significant role in the central plot. Either way, we're just glad that they didn't end up going the route of having a second Arya.
18 Better In The Books: Jaime And Cersei’s Relationship
Jaime and Cersei’s relationship is unsettling no matter how you look at it. But in the books, their love for each other is fairly genuine. They both have a tendency to think that they are the same person. They are so alike, that they even had the ability to fool others simply by switching clothes when they were children.
This is an intriguing and somewhat even creeper element that is missing from the show. Not to mention that Jaime never hurt Cersei during the funeral of their own child – which was totally uncalled for and extremely out of place in the series.
17 Better In The Books: How Creepy Roose Bolton Is
While he may be nowhere near as sinister as Ramsay, Roose Bolton is still a pretty unforgivable character on the show. He betrays the Starks, resulting in the Red Wedding, while also turning a blind eye to all the despicable things his son does. In the books, however, Roose is a full-blown creep.
Roose is said to be extremely soft-spoken in the books, barely raising his voice above a whisper. Yet, when he talks, everyone listens. He also has a fondness for using leeches to "improve" his health. If only some of this creepiness could have made it on the series, we could have hated the Boltons even more.
16 Better On The Show: Dany Doesn’t Have A Chance To Marry Hizdahr
With only two books left in the series, Dany still seems no closer to making her way over to Westeros than when we first met her. While her power has increased dramatically, she continues to get further entrenched in the happenings around the Bay of Dragons.
In the books, she’s actual marries Hizdahr zo Loraq, which is an event that thankfully never gets a chance to happen in the show. While it’s understandable for Dany to want to bring peace to Meereen, she should also know that a marriage pact would be the fastest way to gain an alliance when she sets sail for Westeros.
15 Better In The Books: Doran Martell’s Pact With The Targaryens
In the show, the storyline of Dorne is one of the most unfulfilling and least faithful to the novels. Characters like the Sand Snakes have their motives completely altered, while their ruler, Doran Martell, mostly just sits around and does nothing.
However, in the novels, it’s ultimately revealed that Doran has a secret pact with the Targaryens. He’s been waiting for Viserys (and later, Daenerys) to come of age so he can marry one of his children to them and make a play for the throne. Unfortunately, this storyline barely comes into play on the show.
14 Better In The Books: The Iron Islands And The Drowned God
While the Greyjoys are still at play in Game of Thrones, the Iron Islands as a whole play a much larger role in the books. In the last few novels alone, we’ve had point-of-view chapters from four different Greyjoys, as the Iron Islands are currently at civil war.
But the one aspect that’s really lacking from the show is the Iron Island's faith in the Drowned God. Growing up on these islands is a brutal existence, which has resulted in the Iron Islands having the strongest naval fleets in the world. However, this mix of extremist beliefs and savage piracy is sadly lacking in Game of Thrones.
13 Better On The Show: Daario’s Facial Hair
There have been a few main characters who have been recast throughout Game of Thrones, and Daario Nahairs is one of them. While fans can continue to debate over which live-action Daario was better than the other, we’d like to believe that they were both better than the one we got in the novels.
Here, Daario comes across as more of a clown than a suitable bodyguard and lover of Daenerys. In the books, he’s described as having a blue beard – which is divided into three prongs – along with a mustache that's painted gold. But is this really the kind of guy that would sweep Dany off her feet?
12 Better In The Books: Tyrion’s Long Lost Love
Before Tyrion fell in love with Shae or was forced to wed Sansa, he was married to a peasant girl named Tysha when he was still a teen. Tyrion’s father is furious at this, and he hatches a plot to convince Tyrion that Tysha was simply paid to make him a man. In the show, Tyrion continues to believe that this is the truth.
However, in the books, Jaime eventually comes clean about their father’s lie. It turns out that Tysha really was in love with Tyrion, and Tyrion can't help but wonder if he'll ever see her again.
11 Better On The Show: Jorah Isn’t A Hairy Brute
Jorah Mormont has had one of the most impressive comebacks on the series. He’s survived the friend zone, beaten Greyscale, and managed to restore honor to his name. He’s also a much more nuanced character than the one from the books.
In the novels, Jorah isn’t particularly handsome. He’s described as being stout and covered in black hair – looking not unlike a bear from which his homeland is named. He’s also far less likable, coming off as much more of a muscular brute with a one-track mind rather than a seasoned knight and former lord.
10 Better In The Books: The History Of House Targaryen
While it’s highly unlikely that the Targaryens literally have dragon blood coursing through their veins, the books do offer more insight into the abilities of this Great House over the years.
In the books, the Targaryens are almost treated as a superior race of humans. They have an otherworldly appearance, represented with their silver hair and purple eyes. They also have their roots in Valyria, which was home to many secrets and forms of magic that have since been lost. Unfortunately, we don't get nearly as much of this history in the show, which somewhat diminishes the legacy that Daenerys (and Jon) are a part of.
9 Better In The Books: Arya Crossing Paths With Sam In Braavos
There are still a lot of intriguing chance meetings that make their way into the show. But one of the coolest that never made its jump to the screen involved Arya crossing paths with Sam in Braavos.
In the books, Sam actually travels by sea when he departs for the Citadel. This takes him across the Narrow Sea, where he unknowingly bumps shoulders with Jon Snow’s sister. Arya even ends up executing one of Sam’s traveling companions, who decides that he isn’t going to return to the Night’s Watch.
8 Better On The Show: Tyrion’s Trip Through Essos Doesn’t Take Forever
The characters traveling throughout the world really sped up in the seventh season of Game of Thrones. In fact, Varys traveled across the Narrow Sea so many times that some theorized that he's a merman. That being said, there are many trips in the book that simply take way too long. Such is the case with Tyrion making his way across Essos to aid Daenerys.
Tyrion departed Westeros at the end of the third book, and two books later, he still hasn’t met her. While he’s bumped into a number of other characters along the way, we’re glad the series decided to massively streamline this journey.
7 Better In The Books: Ser Barristan’s Disguise
When Ser Barristan Selmy is dismissed from serving as the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard by the Lannisters, he decides to head east and pledge his allegiance to the Targaryens instead. In the show, he meets Daenerys after saving her life from an assassination attempt, and she is immediately told who he is.
However, in the book, Barristan poses as an old squire under the name of Arstan Whitebeard during his early travels with Daenerys. He does this to discover if the Mother of Dragons is really worthy of his sword, which makes for a great reveal when Barristan finally lets his true identity be known.
6 Better On The Show: Mance Rayder Doesn't Escape His Execution
Mance Rayder met his demise in the show so long ago that it’s easy to completely forget about the character. But the former King-beyond-the-Wall is actually still alive in the books. Instead of being executed at the Wall, Melisandre uses a bit of magic to keep Mance alive. The wildling is then sent to Winterfell at the request of Jon Snow to infiltrate the Boltons.
While this is an intriguing subplot for the books, it's also one that makes sense to do without on the show – especially considering how epic the showdown between Jon and Ramsay turned out to be.
5 Better In The Books: How Tyrion Wins The Battle of Blackwater
It’s easy to assume that an action sequence will almost always be better in the show. But in the case of the Battle of Blackwater, we actually get a much more in-depth look at how the battle carries out in the books – especially Tyrion’s role in the defense of King’s Landing.
While Tyrion is the unsung hero in both mediums, the show emits his idea of the chain boom. This is what prevents the enemy from retreating following the wildfire explosion – delivering a fatal blow to Stannis' fleet. This takes a lot of preparation on Tyrion's part, and it demonstrates just how effective of a strategist he actually is.
4 Better On The Show: Cutting Out Insignificant Characters
Without knowing where the last two books of A Song of Ice and Fire are heading, it’s hard to say which characters are the “insignificant” ones. But with so many characters floating around Martin’s fantasy epic, there’s simply no way that all of these individuals will be given an impactful arc.
While there are undoubtedly some characters we would have liked to see make their jump to the screen, as a whole, the series does a good job at cutting out a lot of side characters and plots. As a result, we get to form a stronger connection to the main players throughout the show.
3 Better In The Books: Littlefinger’s Plans For Sansa
Littlefinger may have been a master manipulator on the show, but in the books, he’s one of the smartest individuals in the Seven Kingdoms. While it’s understandable for the show to gloss over some of Littlefinger’s more complicated schemes, one thing he never would have done in the books is give Sansa to Ramsay.
Instead, Littlefinger has an impersonator marry Ramsay; the Stark name is simply far too valuable in the Seven Kingdoms. Petyr decides to keep Sansa under his protection at all time in the Vale. He knows that he needs her trust to win the North, as we’ve already seen what happens when he doesn’t have it on the show.
2 Better On The Show: Arya Working For Tywin
Watching characters with distinctly different worldviews interact with one another is one of the most fascinating parts about Game of Thrones. In that regard, season two gave us one of the most interesting dynamics when Arya is chosen to be the cup-bearer of Twyin Lannister.
This series of events never came to pass in the books. But by pairing Arya up with Tywin, we get to see a side of each character that we might now have otherwise. Even though they should both hate each other – especially if Tywin knew who Arya really was – they also can't help but develop a mutual respect for one another during their time together.
1 Better In The Books: All The Prophecies And Lore
It goes without saying that there’s a lot more going on in the novels – some of which we’re glad didn’t make it to the show. However, one thing that they could use more of is all the history, legends, and prophecies that appear on the page.
While the world presented in Game of Thrones feels fully realized without this additional content, much of the point of the novels revolves around prophecies coming true and history repeating itself. There's a ton of legends about the White Walkers, ancient Starks, and Targaryens in the books – some of which could have really helped set the stage for the final season.
So what do you like more about the show/ novels? Let us know!