With every episode that airs, Game of Thrones finds itself running out of source material. With four seasons under it’s belt and characters spread across all seven nations, fans of the books and show alike my have to realize something; Game of Thrones may not be Game of Thrones.
The show runners for Game of Thrones find themselves in a unique position, one that most other show runners have never found themselves in. Most shows that are based on books or comics have their source material finished by the time they begin production. (the Walking Dead and True Blood are notable exceptions). Part of the problem is how long it takes George R R Martin to write his books; there was a six year gap between books four and five. Book six is planned but there is no guess as to when the next book will be coming out and the show has almost caught up with the books. Several characters, such as Sansa and Bran stark, have found their story-lines essentially finished.
So, the show has begun to take some liberties. Quite a few liberties. For example, in the season four finale (spoilers!) Jojen Reed was killed off. While he is apparently dying at the end of Dance with Dragons, he has not been killed off yet and it was possible that he would get better. But now that the show has killed him off and show runners have claimed it was because his story-line was done readers can probably expect Jojen to die in the books. But by doing it in the show first it robbed readers of that first hand shock and while Jojen was fine in the show, he is a stronger character in the books and his death would be a little less sudden and even sadder.
This kind of thing is likely to happen more and more as the show outpaces it’s source material. Many readers were shocked when a season 4 episode revealed what the White Walkers do with the sons they take from wildling Craster as it was the first time this action was addressed, book or show.
Concerns For Book-Readers
For people who solely view the show this is not a problem. It is book readers who have to worry, especially anyone who hates spoilers. For the characters who find their storylines nearing their end on the show readers should be especially wary. They are not going to skip Sansa or Bran for an entire season while the other characters catch up (although some viewers probably wouldn’t mind this) and as the writers know how the books end there is no reason they will not pull from the actual story line. Readers could know what happens to some of these characters years before Winds of Winter ever hits shelves.
If producers and show-runners Weiss and Benioff chose not to pull from the upcoming story-line then they will find themselves essentially creating alternate stories. Not so much as to change the end but characters will be going off in different directions. Season 4 already started this by having Brienne of Tarth and the Hound run into each other. While the ensuing fight was great to watch it never happened in the books and is quite a character change for Brienne. It seems the show is attempting to limit it’s landscape by keeping characters together, such as having Varys board the ship with Tyrion in the finale, something that definitely does not happen in the books.
Even more important for fans may be the stuff they plan on omitting. Every adaptation has to make sacrifices but fans may be forced to watch their favorite scenes never happen. Several sources claim that “Lady Stoneheart” will not be appearing in season 5. Or at all. While she works mostly in the shadows in the book, Stoneheart plays a big role in the books and is poised to play an even bigger role. We do know that Dorne is being scouted for the next seasons but as of now there is no word on the drama that happens in the Iron Islands. The Iron Islands may not be viewers favorite story it is one that proves important to the show as their ships travel to the north and even across the Narrow Sea.
So, the problem-can book readers trust the show? The answer is going to be no. With no publication date for Martin in sight and producers maintaining that they want the show to end after 7 seasons or so, readers will have to watch episodes with a certain trepidation. Many will want the joy of reading the story first because that was how they fell in love with it. A few could even stop the show but most will not. They may just have to accept that Game of Thrones may not be A Song of Ice and Fire.