'Game of Thrones': A look at that plot change and why the show is different from other book adaptations

The most recent episode of 'Thrones' included a big change from the source material books written by George R.R. Martin. The fact that the show is making major changes and running out of source material makes the show unlike almost any other book adaptation.

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'Game of Thrones' stars Kit Harington (l.), Liam Cunningham (center), and Stephen Dillane (r.).

A recent episode of “Game of Thrones” included a big change from the source material fantasy series written by George R.R. Martin. 

(Spoilers for the most recent episode of “Thrones” follow…) 

In the April 26 episode of “Thrones,” Sansa Stark, daughter of deceased Warden of the North Ned Stark and Catelyn Stark, arrived at Winterfell after seeming to agree to marry Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon). As book fans know, this development does not occur in the books. The plot line also intriguingly puts Sansa near Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen), a young man with whom she grew up at Winterfell but who has since been tortured by Ramsay. 

There have been changes between the plot of the books and the plot of the TV show almost since the beginning of the series, but this is a big one.

“We really wanted Sansa to play a major part this season,” co-showrunner David Benioff told Entertainment Weekly of the change. “If we were going to stay absolutely faithful to the book, it was going to be very hard to do that." 

Is this only the beginning of big changes between the books and TV show?  In an interview with Vulture, “Thrones” writer and producer Bryan Cogman discussed further the process behind deciding what to keep from the books. “It's a juggling act,” Cogman said. “And then George reads the outline every year, and gives his notes and thoughts... We pick and choose what's from the books, and what we need to satisfy an arc within a given season, so if we want [character] Dany emotionally to start here and end there, we will find what's in the books at various points to achieve that. And that's why you've seen things that have been switched around… You end up having the show universe and the book universe as a result. We've been doing that to a degree since season one.”

As we’ve reported before, the concern among fans for some time has been that the TV show “Thrones” will get farther ahead than the plot of Martin’s books. Martin has published five books in the series and is reportedly planning two more, “The Winds of Winter” and “A Dream of Spring.” Martin recently announced he would not be attending some events so as to get more time to work on “Winter,” but the book still doesn’t have a publication date, and the events of the show are getting closer to Martin’s last book, “A Dance with Dragons,” as each episode airs. 

Benioff previously discussed the issue.

"Luckily, we’ve been talking about this with George for a long time, ever since we saw this could happen, and we know where things are heading,” he said, according to Vanity Fair. “And so we’ll eventually, basically, meet up at pretty much the same place where George is going; there might be a few deviations along the route, but we’re heading towards the same destination. I kind of wish that there were some things we didn’t have to spoil, but we’re kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place."

It’s an unusual situation. In other recent high-profile book-to-visual medium adaptations, either all the books in the series have been published already or the author had a fairly regular schedule for releasing them. For the movies based on Suzanne Collins’ bestselling “Hunger Games” series, the final book, “Mockingjay,” had been released years before the first movie came out in 2012.

For the long-running “Harry Potter” series, four of the books in the series had been released when the first movie came out. The longest gap in the publication of the series occurred between the fourth and fifth books, but it was only three years in between “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” and “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.”

There was a six-year gap between the second-newest “Thrones” book, “A Feast for Crows,” and the newest, “Dragons." It’s been almost four since “Dragons” came out and, as we mentioned, there’s no publication date yet for "Winds." If the TV show "Thrones" is the first to reveal new plot developments rather than a book doing so, it would be an almost unprecedented joining of two mediums – book and TV – to tell a story, intertwining the two rather than having the book be first.

Creating the TV show of “Thrones” means uncharted territory when it comes to adapting books for movies or TV. And yes, here be dragons.

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