4. Sansa suffers Jeyne Poole’s fate
One of the most controversial changes the series made was to conflate Sansa’s story with that of Jeyne Poole.
In the books, Jeyne was Sansa’s childhood friend at Winterfell, and she’s the one forced to marry and endure Ramsay Bolton after his scheming father Roose convinces the realm that she’s actually Arya Stark, in an effort to legitimize the Boltons’ rule of the North.
Combining stories to bring more characters together isn’t a bad idea in principle, but in also transferring Jeyne’s rape and abuse onto Sansa, the show not only warped Sansa’s story into something drastically different from the books, but also provided more ammunition for those who believe the show relies too heavily on rape as a plot device.
5. Mance Rayder dies—like, for real
Mance Rayder’s death in the series is exactly as it is in the books—well, apart from the fact that in the books, he doesn’t really die.
Having been burnt at the stake and put out of his misery by the mercy of Jon Snow’s arrow, it later emerges in the books that the victim was not Mance at all, but rather the Wildling general Rattleshirt, whom Melisandre had used magic to disguise.
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Mance (himself concealed as Rattleshirt) is then instrumental in Theon’s escape from the Boltons at Winterfell. But even if you watch the burning scene very closely, there’s absolutely zero indication of any such deception in the show, meaning that Mance is just one of the many characters who has bitten the dust in the show.
6. Ser Barristan bites the dust
Another character whose demise is brought forward on the show is grandfatherly old knight Ser Barristan Selmy, who was slaughtered by the Sons of the Harpy in season five.
Barristan is still hale and hearty as far as the published books go, and in fact, after Daenerys’ disappearance on the back of Drogon, Barristan becomes one of the senior figures in Meereen, practically running the city in the Queen’s absence. His death in the show certainly gave book-readers a rare surprise.
7. Jojen Reed kicks the bucket
Yet another early demise is somewhat more problematic. Jojen Reed met his end in the season four finale, but given his importance to Bran in the books—his prophetic dreams drive much of that story strand, and will likely continue to do so—it seemed an odd decision to kill him off.
This was the first major death the show pulled off that wasn’t in the books, and if nothing else, at least that divergence made it that much easier for fans to view the two different versions of this story—books and TV series—as entirely separate.
8. Aegon Targaryen lives
One of the most surprising developments in book five, 2011’s A Dance with Dragons, was the reveal that Prince Aegon Targaryen was alive. Supposedly dashed against a wall by The Mountain as a baby, Aegon was—it appears, at least—secretly whisked away by Varys and placed in the hands of several trusted allies to educate him in the ways of the world, and to prepare him to reclaim the throne for House Targaryen.
Not only does the presence of another Targaryen further muddy the line of succession to the Iron Throne (Dany may not be too pleased), but it also gives us a proper answer as to just what Varys and his schemes have been in aid of all this time. However, there’s no indication of the series covering it.