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The One Thing That Could Make Game Of Thrones Better

While Game of Thrones is one of the most popular shows on television, fans of the A Song of Ice and Fire books will be the first to tell you that the small-screen adaptation is far from perfect. In an effort to translate the rich and massively detailed world of George R.R. Martin's novels, the showrunners and writers have thrown out some of the plotlines, changed others, and even left out major characters from the books. Were all these changes necessary? Let's take a look at what would be different (and better) if D.B. Weiss and David Benioff had stayed a little closer to George R.R. Martin's original words.

The idiot's guide to Game of Thrones

When you're adapting a book series into a television show or a movie, there seems to be a strong temptation to "water down" the storyline for viewers. Game of Thrones is no exception to this rule, as the show has dumbed things down considerably for viewers. Names have been changed to avoid possible confusion ("Asha" became "Yara," and the "Others" became only the "White Walkers"), and important plot points have been completely changed or ignored. Part of the fun of a series is re-watching to see what you missed during the first viewing. If HBO realized that viewers wouldn't abandon them if they just let the plot speak for itself, Game of Thrones would be even better. Instead, they cheated viewing fans out of some of the best parts of the books.

Lady Stoneheart

It's impossible to talk about Game of Thrones changes without mentioning Lady Stoneheart. In the books, the Freys throw Catelyn Stark's body into the river after the Red Wedding. A few days later, Arya's wolf Nymeria finds Catelyn and pulls her up onto the shore, where she's found by Beric Dondarrion and the Brotherhood Without Banners. Beric demands that Thoros of Myr perform R'hllor's resurrection rite on Catelyn, but Thoros refuses—it's been too many days since her death, and she's already started to decompose.

Undeterred, Beric himself gives Lady Stark the kiss of life, and at the expense of his own life, Catelyn rises again and takes his place as leader of the Brotherhood. That's right, the books give us multiple glimpses of Arya's wayward wolf (who Arya wargs into unconsciously), and we get a zombie Cat who is hellbent on revenge and leads a merry band of outlaws. How could you leave this out, HBO?

Oathkeeper

So much would be different (and more awesome) if the show included Lady Stoneheart. Brienne never finds Sansa or Arya, and goes on an epic but ultimately futile quest over half of Westeros with Podrick. Half of Brienne's cheek gets BITTEN OFF in a fight. And when Brienne eventually comes face-to-face with the uncompromising and terrifying zombie Cat, she's forced to make a difficult choice: kill Jaime Lannister (who Brienne has come to admire, if not love), or accept death by hanging for herself and Podrick, for not keeping her oath to find the Stark sisters. (Lady Stoneheart only thinks of revenge!)

Brienne chooses to live, and lies to Jaime about needing his help to save Sansa Stark from the Hound. The last we see of Jaime—who has already abandoned Cersei—he's disappearing into the Riverlands, following Brienne to an unknown fate. Presumably we find out what happens to them both in the upcoming The Winds of Winter.

The plot of the show clearly can't compete with that. Sure, Brienne saves Sansa on the show, but in the books, Sansa doesn't need saving because she never marries Ramsay. After that, Brienne and Pod just go on a boring and unimportant mission to Riverrun to keep them busy. The reveal of the Hound's true fate was better on the show, but having him join up with the Brotherhood to go hunting White Walkers is just lame. The vengeance-crazy Lady Stoneheart, and Brienne possibly being forced to watch yet another man she loves die—and subsequently struggling with her own betrayal of him, or being forced to betray Catelyn Stark in order to save Jaime—is so much more interesting.

Arianne and Quentyn Martell

If you're a show-only watcher, then you're probably asking, "who?" But let's just say that Arianne and Quentyn Martell make the Dorne plotline in the books not just tolerable, but enjoyable—a huge difference from the bizarre Dorne story the show went with.

Arianne and Quentyn are the two eldest children of Prince Doran Martell, and the brother and sister of Trystane. While the show kept Trystane as Myrcella's love interest (before having him unceremoniously stabbed in the back by his Sand Snake cousins), it dropped the considerably more interesting plotlines of Arianne and Quentyn from the books.

The sun's son

In the books, the Martells are considerably smarter with their approach to the war—hedging their bets on all sides. Doran Martell still has to deal with his crazy nieces, who try to kidnap Myrcella to crown her as Queen of Westeros, or kill her. Myrcella survives the abduction, although her face is horribly maimed by Gerold "Darkstar" Dayne.

Doran sends his other son Quentyn to Slaver's Bay, to find Daenerys and offer her allegiance with Dorne and a marriage to Quentyn. Dany basically laughs at the offer (Quentyn has all the charisma of a frog, although he does try hard), and Quentyn later tries to tame one of Daenerys' dragons after she disappears—and gets roasted alive by Rhaegal. Awesome!

Instead of the show's convenient alliance with Dorne for no real coherent reason, Daenerys now must deal with explaining to Dorne why a scion of their ruling house was burned to death by one of her dragons. Their continued support of her is definitely not a sure thing.

Finally, Doran's daughter and heir Arianne is sent to treat with perhaps the most important figure left out of the show: Aegon Targaryen. Who? Oh, just the supposedly dead son of Elia Martell and Rhaegar Targaryen. More on that in a bit. Isn't this better than the stuff the showrunners came up with?

Victarion Greyjoy

The show boiled down the Ironborn plotline to its most basic elements: Euron Greyjoy wins control of the Iron Islands and Asha (Yara) flees. After that, the two plots diverge completely. While Asha and Theon end up captured by Stannis in the books (yep, he's still alive—for now), their roles were mostly merged in the show with that of Euron's brother, Victarion.

In the books, Euron sends Victarion to Slaver's Bay to gain an alliance with Daenerys, through offering the support of the Iron Fleet and a marriage to Euron. If she refuses the offer, Euron has a backup plan: Victarion will take control of one (or more) of Daenerys' dragons by using Dragonbinder, a sorcerous horn found among the smoking ruins of Valyria. Victarion has his own plans, however, which involve double-crossing his crazy brother and taking the Dragon Queen (and her dragons) for himself.

The valonqar

As previously mentioned, Myrcella is still alive in the books, although she's been horribly maimed. Tommen is also alive, the Faith has released Margaery, and Cersei still awaits her trial. In the show, the producers decided to advance Cersei's storyline further than the plot of the books, so it remains to be seen how closely the show's version will match what happens in the next novel. These changes already have far-reaching implications, however: in the books, Cersei still has the support of the Tyrells, while Daenerys has their armies handed to her as allies on a silver platter in the show's timeline.

One major part of Cersei's history has been left out, a part which plays a large role in her psyche—the prophecy of the valonqar. While the show gave us a glimpse of the prophecy Cersei received as a girl about her future children and husband, it left out the most important part. In the books, after the woods witch tells Cersei her children will die before her, she goes on: "And when your tears have drowned you, the valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you."

"Valonqar" is an old Valyrian word for "little brother," and Cersei became convinced as teen that the prophecy referred to Tyrion—which explains her lifelong hatred of him. It also gives us a huge hint about Cersei's ultimate fate: the books reveal that Cersei was the firstborn twin. Jaime followed her into the world a few minutes later, so he's technically her little brother, too. If you want to read more about why Jaime is actually the valonqar, check out this article.

Aegon Targaryen and Jon Connington

Jon Connington was once Rhaegar Targaryen's best friend, and commanded the Iron Throne's armies during Robert's Rebellion. After a loss in the Battle of the Bells, King Aerys stripped him of his rank and exiled him. When Rhaegar was killed, Jon was heartbroken—he'd secretly carried a torch for his friend for a long time. Varys later reveals to Tyrion that he switched the infant Aegon Targaryen with a peasant baby, and that instead of being brutally murdered by Gregor Clegane, the real heir to the Iron Throne was sent off to Essos to be raised by Jon Connington, and he has an entire sellsword company at his back.

While the original plan was to unite Aegon with Daenerys and have them jointly launch an invasion, Daenerys' disappearance from Meereen forced Connington and Aegon to take a different route—they pronounce Aegon the true King and send an invasion force to Westeros. Not only do they manage to quickly overwhelm the areas around Connington's old ancestral seat, Aegon's forces even take over the nearly-impenetrable Baratheon fortress of Storm's End. In preview chapters for The Winds of Winter, Arianne Martell is hurrying to reach the castle before Mace Tyrell's army arrives to lay siege, much like they did 15 years before during Robert's Rebellion.

The mummer's dragon

For the purposes of the show, Aegon's plot has been completely removed, and some aspects of Connington's character have been merged with Jorah Mormont. In the books, it's Connington who saves Tyrion from being drowned by the stone men on the Rhoyne, and Connington who contracts Greyscale as a result. While it's debatable whether Aegon is legitimately who Connington and Varys say he is, his true identity isn't really that important in the long run; what he represents to Daenerys is the more tangible issue. The show appears to be rolling part of that into Jon Snow's character. While the two may become short-term allies, what happens when they both learn of Jon's true parentage?

Dany has been presenting herself as the true heir to the Iron Throne. "Aegon's" claim—as the supposed trueborn son of Rhaegar and Elia—actually supersedes her own. Instead of Dorne, the Tyrells, and a fleet handed to her in a neat little ready-made invasion package, Dany would have a lot more to contend with if the show had followed the books. Instead of the fairly boring Daenerys plotline from the TV series, Dany would be facing a rival claimant, very little tangible support, an entire nation of pissed-off Dornishmen, and a crazy Ironborn with a magical horn.

Days of our wights

In dramatic television, pacing is everything. It's understandable that HBO didn't want to have the series drag on forever and risk fans getting bored. But at the same time, treating your fans like infants incapable of following complicated plots is doing them a huge disservice. Just look at daytime dramas—the storylines on those shows are impossibly convoluted, yet they still command legions of fans who could probably tell you every last twist and turn of their plots from the last ten years.

The plots mentioned here are just a handful of the most important things left out of the show, and most fans would agree that the show would be better if they'd been included. Most importantly, adding these plots into the show probably would have meant extending the series by at least a couple of seasons. More Thrones is always a good thing, right?

All that said, Game of Thrones is still a pretty amazing adaptation, and if book readers have to wait until The Winds of Winter is released to see how George R.R. Martin really imagined things, then we'd better settle in and get comfortable—it could be a long wait.