Warning: If you have not seen the finale of Season 4, do not enter. If you have not read through the third book in the series (A Storm of Swords) and plan to do so, click on out of here. That is, unless you like spoilers. Because this, my friends, is full of them.
I am an unabashed Game of Thrones geek-girl. I plan my Sunday nights around showtime. I have read all the books – more than once. For the first three seasons, this generally meant I knew what was coming on the show. Oh, there were some big change-ups. HBO made Joffrey even more hate-worthy and the Red Wedding even more brutal. They turned Robb Stark’s nondescript wife into a character I cared about (and then killed her). They reduced Robert Baratheon’s bastard count by turning Gendry and Edric Storm into “Gendric.”
But that didn’t prepare me for Season 4. For most of this run, I felt like Jon Snow. I knew nothing. And now it is over, and so our watch begins. Season 5 and Book 6 seem as far away as Dany and her dragons are from Westeros. So I am creating my own little ‘mini-series’ here on this blog, to discuss some of the major differences between HBO’s season 4 and Martin’s books.
Let’s begin with the end.
I have anticipated watching Tywin Lannister get offed on the shitter for weeks now. The scene was all that I expected. Peter Dinklage and Charles Dance have brought the complex, twisted relationship between Tyrion and Tywin to life from their very first scenes together. Their grand finale did not disappoint.
Even so, Tywin proving that he does not shit gold wasn’t the episode’s shining moment for me. I was still reeling from Brienne of Tarth biting a huge chunk out of The Hound.
That entire scene came out of nowhere. Don’t get me wrong. I think it was a very well-planned and executed twist. I’ve been disappointed by some of the ways HBO has veered away from the books. But not by this one.
In the book, Arya leaves a dying (we think so, anyway) Sandor Clegane after refusing him the mercy of a quick death. But Brienne of Tarth is not involved. Brienne never actually crosses paths with Arya and The Hound. HBO ignored that and gave us an epic battle between two favorite characters. I applaud this twist for many reasons.
1. It highlighted just what all her suffering has made Arya. Brienne offers her protection. Instead of taking it, she hides during the battle, then returns to Clegane before leaving him to die slowly. Brienne didn’t lose her chance to save Arya because Clegane pegged her as a Lannister affiliate. She lost it by offering Arya something the child no longer believes in – safety.
2. If there were ever two ugly ducklings unable to transform to swan status, they are The Hound and Brienne. Their lives are defined by their lack of beauty. Brienne is huge, awkward and unfeminine. Sandor is scarred and twisted. They are too big, strong and angry to fit in by fading into the background, so they build lives around serving others. Sandor serves so he can fight. Brienne serves out of love and loyalty. She is broken by failure to save those she chooses to serve, and he is reduced to nothing by the sight of fire. They are two characters who seemed destined to meet in the books, and never did.
3. Both George R. R. Martin and HBO make you feel for The Hound in spite of his brutality. But in my mind, HBO took the relationship between Arya and The Hound to the next level, making you like him just a bit more. Brienne is one of the few characters I can forgive for cutting short a relationship journey that had really grown on me. I’m still pissed about the lack of Hound in the most recent books.
4. The fight was epic. You saw a brutal, clawing, desperate, fierce side to Brienne. This wasn’t the tough but insecure woman who served Renly and found herself being rescued from a bear by Jaime Lannister. This was a creature of raw force. This was almost The Hound in female form.
What did you think? Did HBO do the right thing by making Brienne the one who took down The Hound, or would you have preferred they stick with the original storyline?
Next up: The new and improved (?) Sansa.