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What Game of Thrones changed from the books: season 5, episode 6

Andrew Prokop is a senior politics correspondent at Vox, covering the White House, elections, and political scandals and investigations. He’s worked at Vox since the site’s launch in 2014, and before that, he worked as a research assistant at the New Yorker’s Washington, DC, bureau.

Spoilers follow for the newest episode of Game of Thrones.

This week's episode of Game of Thrones, "Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken," made a major change from the books involving a central character — and has caused quite the controversy among fans of the series.

There's been such heated discussion that George R. R. Martin felt compelled to weigh in on his LiveJournal. Showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss and HBO, he said, are "trying to make the best television series that they can. And over here I am trying to write the best novels that I can."

He continued, "All of us are still intending that in the end we will arrive at the same place." But, he acknowledged, "more and more, they differ." Here are the biggest differences between what happened in "Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken" and what happened in the books.

1) The final, awful scene isn't in the books — not with Sansa, at least

Sansa and Ramsay HBO

Game of Thrones weddings — unrelentingly awful. (HBO)

The harrowing scene that ends this week's episode — in which Ramsay Bolton rapes his new wife, Sansa Stark, while Theon Greyjoy is made to watch — is an invention of the show, but only partly.

Martin's written version of Ramsay's wedding night in A Dance With Dragons is indeed truly horrific. Vox is a family website, so I won't go into details here, but I'll say it may be the most disturbing scene in the entire series. Even worse things are implied to happen to the bride later on.

The big difference, of course, is that the bride on the page is an extremely minor character — a friend of Sansa's named Jeyne Poole, mostly missing since the first book in the series. The show has chosen, instead, to put Sansa herself through these events. Since Game of Thrones has been criticized for its handling of rape in the past, this new development has been hotly debated: Vanity Fair's Joanna Robinson argues that it undercuts Sansa's agency, while Slate's Amanda Marcotte believes the show is finally treating rape "with the gravity it deserves."

2) In the books, Margaery is arrested because she's accused of adultery

Loras trial

In the books, the accusations against Margaery resemble those against Anne Boleyn. (HBO)

Much of this episode is spent on the High Sparrow's "inquest" into whether Loras Tyrell has known the company of men — though eventually, Cersei's true purpose is revealed, as Margaery is suddenly detained by the Sparrows for lying to the gods to protect her brother.

But in the books, Margaery is accused of far more serious crimes. Through torture and scheming, Cersei "persuades" several men to swear they had been Margaery's lovers, accusations that seem to be completely dubious (especially because the Margaery of the books is younger and more innocent). So the Sparrows detain Margaery, not Loras, whom Cersei has tricked into leaving the city. (As I mentioned two weeks ago, Loras's sexuality never becomes a matter of major controversy in the books.)

Also, Margaery's grandmother, Lady Olenna, returns this episode. The character hasn't been seen on the page since her initial departure from King's Landing, but the show understandably couldn't wait to showcase Diana Rigg again. Littlefinger, too, makes a return to King's Landing in this episode that he doesn't make in the books.

3) There's no big fight between Jaime and the Sand Snakes in the books

Book Obara constantly wants to fight people, but we haven't seen it actually happen yet. (HBO)

The Dorne plotline is perhaps the most divergent this year; though its roots are in the books, the characters featured are almost completely different. The core similarities are that certain characters want to take Cersei's daughter Myrcella away from Prince Doran, but their plot is foiled by Doran's captain of guards, Areo Hotah, and the plotters are imprisoned by the prince.

On the show, there are two dueling factions who just so happen to make their play for Myrcella at the exact same time. Jaime Lannister and Bronn come to try to take her back to King's Landing at Cersei's request, while the Sand Snakes and the late Oberyn Martell's paramour Ellaria plot to harm her.

But in the books, the set-piece plan involving Myrcella is hatched by the prince's daughter, Arianne Martell — a character seemingly cut from the show. Arianne wants to crown Myrcella queen of Westeros, not kill her, to trigger a war with the Lannisters and shore up her own claim to be Doran's heir. As on the show, the plan is thwarted by Areo Hotah — though the consequences in the books are much more violent (Myrcella's ear is chopped off!).

Semi-relatedly, in the books, Trystane Martell and Myrcella Baratheon are both much younger, and they don't make out.

4) In the books, the people captured by slavers are Tyrion, Jorah ... and Penny

Tyrion HBO

Jorah and Tyrion definitely do not become besties so quickly in the books. (HBO)

In A Dance With Dragons, Tyrion Lannister and Jorah Mormont are captured by slavers during their journey to Meereen, just as they were in this episode. Some of the details and the context are different, though. Jorah and Tyrion still loathe each other at this point, so they're not having heart-to-hearts about their respective dead fathers. Additionally, Tyrion doesn't have to convince the slavers to go to Meereen.

But probably the biggest change is the show's omission of a character named Penny, a female dwarf Tyrion encounters during his visit to Volantis midway through the book. Penny's brother, it turns out, was one of the dwarves mistakenly executed by hunters that Cersei sent out to search for Tyrion. After initially being furious at Tyrion, she joins up with him and Jorah because she has nowhere else to go, and the two dwarves start to become close.

Though Penny provided a new perspective on being a dwarf, she was a controversial addition to the books, since many readers who felt that Tyrion's plot line in A Dance With Dragons meandered viewed the Penny material as a pointless digression.

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