Game of Thrones is in the middle of filming its third season, which airs starting March 31. So it's a great time to ponder: how much of George R.R. Martin's A Storm of Swords will the show include? The show's already taken some liberties with the first two A Song of Ice and Fire novels — and Storm of Swords is even more crammed with far-flung storylines. than the first two.
So here are 12 subplots from the books that we think Game of Thrones might just leave out of season three. Major book spoilers ahead... And we mean it. If you haven't read A Storm of Swords, you should just stop reading now. We're assuming you already know about everything that happens in the third book, so you only have yourself to blame if you keep reading and encounter a major book spoiler below.
Because there's just so much going on in Storm of Swords, we decided to consult an expert about what, in particular, HBO might drop. So we asked Elio M. Garcia, aka Ran, the webmaster of Westeros.org, who basically has a PhD in GRRM-ology.
One open question is, just how much of A Storm of Swords will season three cover? The show's creators have said before that they would probably split the novel into two seasons — and the other day, Martin told a Spanish interviewer that season four of Thrones would probably consist of the second half of Storm of Swords, plus some early chapters from both A Feast for Crows and A Dance With Dragons, the fourth and fifth books in the series which take place concurrently. And we know that not only will the Red Wedding happen in season three, but we'll see some of the "fallout" from that event afterwards. (I'd guess it's episode nine, since the show often seems to put major traumatic events in episode nine of each season.)
So luckily HBO's not trying to cram a whole ginormous book into 10 episodes — but there will still be some stuff that has to be dropped, and here are our bets:
1) Tyrion murders Symon Silvertongue
Symon Silvertongue is a musician who gets wind of Tyrion's continuing affair with Shae, and tries to blackmail the Imp by writing a song about it. Instead, Tyrion has Symon killed. Says Garcia, "It seems to me that on the whole the producers have made Tyrion a less 'grey' character, and dropping that murder would be in keeping with that. Plus, we've no hints that Silvertongue has been cast, though with such minor roles it's always possible that it's just not something that's been discovered yet." Set photo via The Mary Sue.
2) Bran and Rickon split up
In the books, the two youngest Stark boys would already have gone their separate ways, with Osha keeping Rickon company. But the TV show opted to keep Rickon and Osha around, so it's entirely possible that Rickon will stay with his older brother for a while to come. We do know that Bran is going to be meeting Jojen and Meera, who help him on his journey to the North, so Bran's group might become rather too large for comfort at some point. But since we've barely seen anything of Rickon until now, it seems likely we'll get to know him a bit more before he vanishes — if the show aims to bring him back later and have us remember him, that is.
3) Ser Dontos and Sansa Stark
We did actually meet Ser Dontos in season two — he's the drunk fool who shows up for a joust and is nearly forced to drink himself to death. But he barely appears after that, and he certainly doesn't appear to be playing the pivotal role he plays in the book, promising to help Sansa escape from King Joffrey. Instead, Littlefinger may "have a more direct hand" when it comes to Sansa, says Garcia — in the books, Littlefinger uses Dontos as his pawn. Garcia points out we've already seen Littlefinger delivering information to Sansa that Dontos delivered in the books. "One of the hints of new scenes we've seen for this season involve him approaching Sansa for another conversation," says Garcia. Set photo via Blastr.
4) Danaerys might not visit as many slaver cities
We already know that Daenerys' story will remain mostly the same as the book — the role of Daario Naharis, a warrior who befriends her, has been cast. But another one of the sellsword captains she interacts with, Brown Ben Plumm, definitely won't be showing up, says Garcia. And it's possible she won't visit three separate slaver cities, as she does in the book — the show might cut one of the three, or even two. You could have all of Daenerys' action take place at a single slaver city, Garcia points out.
5) The Death of Lord Hoster Tully
In the books, Catelyn Stark's father is dying when she comes to Riverrun, and she spend some last moments with him, although her sister Lysa refuses to leave the Vale of Arryn to say her goodbyes. And in his delirium, Lord Hoster says some things that confuse Catelyn, until she realizes he's alluding to a family secret she never knew about. HBO's already announced that the new season will start with Lord Hoster already dead and his son Edmure installed as Lord of Riverrun. Riverrun set photo via Collider.
6) The Inn of the Kneeling Man
This is the inn that's being kept open by some disreputable characters, who are scammers in league with the outlaws in the forest. It's visited first by Jaime and Brienne, and later by Arya and her friends. The "innkeepers" sell some horses to Jaime and Brienne and try to trick them into going down the road that leads to capture by the outlaws — but Brienne is too clever for them. Later, Arya gets caught stealing from a vegetable garden and is taken to that same inn. Arya no doubt still ends up getting captured by outlaws and meeting Lord Beric, Thoros and the Brotherhood Without Banners — Thoros has already been cast — but she probably won't need to stop off at the inn first. There will probably also be less of Arya and the outlaws wandering around searching for Lord Beric, too.
7) The Ghost of High Heart
Speaking of Arya, the youngest Stark girl also has a couple of encounters with a tiny old woman named the Ghost of High Heart, who speaks of her prophetic dreams as well as hints about long-ago events. Given that the show steered clear of including most of the prophetic visions that Daenerys witnessed in the House of the Undying, and the Ghost of High Heart's prophecies are pretty confusing for people not steeped in the mythology of Westeros, she might easily be dropped altogether.
8) The Brave Companions
We were originally told that Mackenzie Crook from the British version of The Office would be playing Vargo Hoat, the leader of the Brave Companions, a rather nasty group of sellswords. Instead, Crook is playing Orell, a skinchanger who is part of Mance Rayder's group of wildlings. So it seems likely that we won't actually be meeting Vargo Hoat at all, or at least that we'll spend less time with Vargo. Garcia speculates that Lord Roose Bolton could have more to do with a certain mishap that befalls Jaime Lannister. (Which we know happens this season, since we meet the ex-maester Qyburn, who tries to amputate Jaime's whole arm.) Jaime and Brienne set photo via Fanpop
9) A lot less of Dorne
It doesn't sound as though we'll be meeting Oberyn Martell, the Prince of Dorne who visits King's Landing, in season three. At least, the role of Oberyn doesn't appear to have been cast. In the book, Oberyn arrives seeking vengeance on Gregor Clegane, aka the Mountain, for some atrocities he committed during Robert's Rebellion. It's entirely possible we'll meet Oberyn, and some other Martells, in season four — if there's no Oberyn at all, then Tyrion's story would have to be quite different.
10) Fewer Wildling characters
Garcia speculates that some of the characters following Mance Rayder will be cut or combined — now that the beloved Mackenzie Crook is playing Orell, he'll probably be Jon's major antagonist, taking up the role occupied by the Magnar of Thenn in the book. Also, we probably won't see hundreds of giants and tons of mammoths, for budgetary reasons.
11) No Coldhands
Coldhands is the mysterious figure riding on a giant elk and commanding an army of ravens, who saves Samwell Tarly and Gilly when they're attacked by wights. He charges Samwell to bring him Bran Stark — and then isn't seen again for a couple of books. Garcia speculates that Coldhands could be left out in the cold.
12) No Edric Storm
The show already passed up the chance to show us Stannis making a detour on his way to King's Landing to lay siege to Storm's End to capture Edric Storm, the illegitimate son of King Robert. So it's likely we'll never meet Edric, who plays a pretty big role in A Storm of Swords — the priestess Melisandre wants to sacrifice Edric to the Lord of Light, because he has a king's blood and that spells power. Davos argues against human sacrifice, and this becomes a key part of his power struggle with Melisandre. But Garcia predicts that instead, Melisandre will propose sacrificing Stannis' own daughter Shireen, who we know will be appearing. Also, we probably won't ever meet Lord Florent, Stannis' Hand who falls from grace, nor will we see Stannis' castellan trying to manipulate Stannis into taking part in his power schemes. Instead, we'll probably stay focused on just Stannis, Davos and Melisandre — with Stannis' wife and daughter caught in the middle, Garcia says. In any case, if Melisandre wants to sacrifice Stannis' trueborn daughter rather than Robert's illegitimate son, Garcia speculates that "the Dragonstone story seems particularly ripe for ending up rather different." He adds, "Will we see Lucian Msmati's Salladhor Saan again, even? I've no idea, but I'm personally hoping we will." Set photo via Fanpop
Of course, there are likely to be some large additions this year — chief among them that we'll probably see more of Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) following his betrayal and capture. (And Allen told us he's looking forward to playing out this storyline.)