This Game Of Thrones Book Reader Has A Problem With Season 6

Photo: Courtesy of HBO.
When I watched the first episode of Game of Thrones this season, I was confused. Why was Sansa running away from Ramsay Bolton? He was her husband?! How did Tyrion wind up counseling Dany? It wasn’t that I couldn’t remember the previous season; it's that I was a loyal devotee of the books who had, until then, refused to watch the show.

I avoided watching the first five seasons of Game of Thrones, yet this past April, I started with season 6. I never went back to watch the first five seasons — I figured that, having read all five released novels of the A Song of Ice and Fire, I’d be fine. In some ways, I was right — and in some ways, I was very wrong.

I first received a copy of Game of Thrones when I was 12 years old. I didn’t read it then. It took me a while before I read a Harry Potter-sized book that wasn't about Harry Potter. Sometime in college, I decided to give it a go. I slowly read all the way through the series, never feeling the need to rush myself since, even back then, George R. R. Martin was infamous for writing at a slow pace.

It wasn’t until the show was announced that I started to worry. The first book came out in 1996, and here we were in 2011, and there were still two books to go without a publish date in sight. (It’s been an additional four years, and we’re still waiting for that sixth book.)

I watched the first couple of episodes season 1, but didn’t feel the need to continue. I was invested in the characters I had spent thousands of pages reading about, and they didn’t feel the same on the small screen. For starters, the characters were older, with different nuances that come with age. (I totally agree this was necessary for the television show, but it was still hard to get used to.) Secondly, sexual violence is a large part of the Game of Thrones world. It’s one thing to read it from the perspective of the survivor, with paragraphs of context around it. It’s another thing to watch it. I decided the show wasn’t for me.

Until this past April. On one hand, I admit I'm one of those pretentious people who thinks everyone should be forced to read the source material before watching movie or TV adaptations. On the other hand, I wanted to know what happened next. Since I work at Refinery29, I couldn’t hide from the plot points of Game of Thrones, and I knew Jon Snow had “died” at the end of last season. That is also all I knew from the books.

If it weren’t for the show, we would never have ended up with sassy Lady Mormont or a Westeros that is filled with feminists claiming their power.

It had been three years since I had finished the fifth book, and I wanted to know if Jon was alive. I really, really wanted to know. So I decided I would commit to watching the sixth season. It was pretty easy to follow along with the characters — even if half of them were wearing the same ugly wig. But there were some plot points that made no sense to me. I had some really strange conversations with my friends.

Me: “Sansa isn’t married to Ramsay!”
Them: “Yes, she is.”
Me: “No, he’s married to someone people think is Arya, but it’s really Jeyne Poole.”
Them: “What are you even talking about?”

While my friends celebrated Jon coming back to life, I thought about how it must be anticlimactic to see a second character get brought back to life. Then I learned that in the television-world of Westeros, Lady Catelyn has never been brought back to life. She was truly still dead. Lady Stonehart is a plot point the TV writers left on the cutting-room floor.

There were some moments that I loved — I am so glad that I got to watch the story behind Hodor, without it being spoiled on the internet. I’m not sure the pages of a book could have made me cry the same way. But I was ready to give up on the show if one fan theory came true: Sansa being pregnant. Her having Ramsay’s baby would be a nightmare on TV, not to mention an immaculate conception in the realm of the books. I get that the two exist in different timelines, different worlds some would say, but I didn’t want something to alter the character so completely.

I went into the season 6 finale ready for it to be my last episode. But it wasn’t. If anything, it convinced me to go back and watch every episode from the beginning. Sure, there was a bit of a pacing problem — everything happened in a single episode — but there was one moment that stuck with me. Yes, we are talking about Frey pies.

Frey pies definitely happen in the books. Arya isn’t the mastermind, but contextually, I understand why that decision was made. In the books, a beloved minor character, Ser Wyman Manderly, does the honor. He is loved for always being loyal to the Starks, even when he bows down to the Boltons and Freys after the Red Wedding. He lets three of the Frey progeny into his house as a ruse to kill them and turn them into three large meat pies. His eldest son was killed at the Red Wedding, so it’s only fitting he presents the pies at the next wedding — the nuptials of Ramsay and Jeyne Poole. Martin always says more with subtext in his books, so, while it's accepted by fans as truth, the ingredients of the pies are never 100% confirmed.

Sunday night’s episode at once confirmed a popular fan theory from the books, and gave a nod to the Jeyne Poole wedding. It reminded me that both worlds can exist, and if it weren't for the television writers, we would never have ended up with sassy Lady Mormont or a Westeros that is filled with feminists claiming their power. And, really, who doesn’t want to watch that?

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