I think I’ve already done a pretty thorough treatment of all the Game of Thrones characters (except for Tyrion) who are in a very different place from this stage in the books. And the ones who are also dead in the books. For this post, I’ll do a run-down of the characters whose situation on the show is extremely similar to where they are in the books. And also Tyrion. Consider this a broad, slap-dash book/show comparison post.
SPOILER ALERT applies, as with the rest of my Season 5 Finale-related posts. I’ll also apply a content notice for sexual abuse.
There’s a new article on Cracked, in which they tell us about where the show pulls its punches compared to the books. The last list item is the only one from the season finale: Dany’s departure from Meereen. It’s the same turn of events in essentials, but Dany’s journey in the book is complicated. She travels a lot further before the khalasar finds her, and she travels most of the way on foot. She gets hungry and dehydrated during the long walk, comes across some water and berries that look like a good idea at the time. They make her really sick with diarrhea, and she has hallucinations while shitting her guts out. It’s a bad situation. It ends up being Drogon who comes to her aid, carries her off somewhere else, and that’s how she finds that big Dothraki horde.
Lena Headey seems to have enjoyed filming Cersei’s walk of shame far more than anyone should enjoy that.
Showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss told Headey before this season that “this was as far as they knew” of Cersei’s story line, “because this was as far as George [R.R. Martin] had written,” she said during an international press day in Belfast. “And I love it. I love what’s happening.”
In case anyone’s wondering how similar Cersei’s “atonement” is in the books: it is extremely similar. I’m actually kind of disturbed at how faithfully they wrote that scene. They tell her how she has to get back to the Red Keep, and she signs on, because she is a Lioness of the Rock and a bunch of worthless Sparrows can’t break her. They finally let her out of that cell, they strip her naked, shave her hair off—and in the book, they shave her clean from head to toe, I mean those razors are sharp and the septas on shaving duty are thorough and diligent—and take her outside to show her to the crowd. She manages to keep up a brave face for most of the walk, but eventually she falls apart and runs the rest of the way back to the castle.
I think the most significant change the show makes is that when she gets back to the Red Keep, Uncle Kevan is just standing around with that group of creepy old men, staring at her. In the book, Uncle Kevan is the one who wraps her in the cloak. Qyburn is the next to appear, and introduces her to her new Kingsguard. The giant’s name is Robert Strong, and he’s quite obviously a reanimated Gregor Clegane.
Cersei needs a bath, medical attention, a clean change of clothes, snuggles with her Tommen, and I’m sure she’d appreciate a good meal with a flagon of wine. Notice how she kept looking up at the Red Keep during her walk through the crowd? All the way, she’s thinking of her son. This is what it takes to get back to being Tommen’s mother.
Arya’s blindness is something that happens to her midway through A Feast for Crows, and that’s the last we see of Arya until she appears in A Dance With Dragons. Blindness is part of her training; it’s about teaching her how to listen. She works her way out of that stage of her training. When she’s proven her abilities of observation, her mentor gives her sight back to her.
IOW: Arya will be okay.
Samwell is headed down to the Citadel to become a maester, and he’s taking Gilly and the baby with him. This is a journey he started at an earlier stage in the books, relative to all the other events shown in the finale. They traveled with Maester Aemon, mostly to get him away from Melisandre, who might burn him for his royal blood, and another sworn brother named Dareon. It’s a long, complicated, tedious journey, and Dareon ends up abandoning the journey and deserting the Watch. Maester Aemon also dies during the journey, though of entirely natural causes, like on the show. The Citadel is in Oldtown, which is a port city in the Reach. Samwell’s family seat of Horn Hill is also in the Reach, not very far from Oldtown. The plan for Gilly is to bring her to Samwell’s family, tell them the baby is Sam’s bastard, and Sam’s mother and sisters will take Gilly and the baby into their household and take care of them. Sam even entertains some fantasy that his father will respect him more if he thinks Sam fathered a bastard. (Notice: Sam is a much, much better son than Randyll Tarly deserves.) Also, Gilly jumps Sam’s bones while they’re on the ship. Last time we saw Sam, he had just presented himself to the Citadel.
Tyrion, at this stage in the books, still hasn’t quite reached Daenerys. He and Jorah have taken advantage of a dysentery epidemic to escape from their dying master and join the fight for Meereen. Tyrion has just signed away a sizeable fortune to get himself a spot in the Second Sons—Daario’s sellsword company!—and is in the middle of convincing them to fight for Daenerys again. Penny is with him (I’ve mentioned her before); they did a mock joust in the fighting pits, where they would have been fed to lions had Daenerys not interceded. The Dragon Queen doesn’t realize that one of the dwarfs she saved from lions is about to become one of her most valuable allies. Jorah is still with him as well, does not have greyscale, and also hasn’t yet had a chance to present himself to Daenerys.
Varys, as of the end of A Dance With Dragons, is not in Meereen and has not seen Tyrion since getting him out of the Red Keep. Varys is lurking around King’s Landing, up to no good at all.
(If you visit the Cracked article linked at the top, the first list item concerns Brienne. Oddly enough, that horrible thing is not even the scariest that happens to her in A Feast for Crows. This is why I don’t mind that Game of Thrones does some things differently from the books. There are some things that I simply don’t want to see on TV.)
I’ve heard that Season 6 will be even more divergent from the books than Season 5. I suspect that the events in Season 6 that are most faithful to the books will concern Arya, Samwell, Bran, and perhaps Yara Greyjoy. Maybe a little bit of Davos.