HBO’s Game of Thrones series has always been quite a bit different on the small screen than the books. Characters and locations have been changed and information has been condensed on numerous occasions to fit the tight runtime of the show. Luckily, HBO has been pretty good at giving creators D.B. Weiss and David Benioff extra minutes and plenty of budget money to make sure the narrative is everything fans expect and more each week. So, at this point, there’s no reason not to expect quality.
With Season 4 finally hitting the schedule, now seems like a good time to fondly look back at all that quality and specifically celebrate some characters who are even better than we expected in the TV version of the narrative. Without further ado, here are the five characters we love more on television. As usual, if you aren't caught up on Game of Thrones, there are some spoilers in the following paragraphs and you may want to avoid this list. Additionally, a few more characters would have probably made this list (Robb, Ros, Talisa), but we’re sticking to names that should pop up sometime during Season 4.
Margaery TyrellMargaery Tyrell popped up in George R. R. Martin’s series as more of a pawn than a prominent player. She’s a sweet girl whom the readers rarely get to see and who seems to be manipulated a bit by her grandmother into various marriage alliances. Onscreen, Natalie Dormer plays Margaery as a kind individual but also a shrewd one, willing to work with her grandmother to scheme. Her skill sets have helped her into several prominent marriages, but her behind-the-scenes machinations have had other effects, as when the two schemed to get Sansa to marry Margaery’s brother.
Most importantly, Margaery’s ability to sway Joffrey with a gentle and teaching manner has been pretty amazing to behold. We’ve seen her play up her ability to be excited about Joffrey’s inner viciousness and we’ve seen her find her way into the hearts of the common folk living outside the castle. She holds a pretty stacked deck, and we can’t wait to see how her storyline will continue to change from the sidelined character rarely mentioned in the books.
ShaeIn many ways, Shae’s trajectory has been similar thus far to her role in the books. She meets Tyrion on a battlefield and is brought to King’s Landing where Tyrion hides her in plain sight. However, Sibel Kekilli’s portrayal of the character is completely different. In HBO’s world, Shae is a mysterious character, neither lowborn nor stupid, who ends up as Sansa’s handmaiden much earlier than she does in the books. She has a fierce affection for Sansa, despite it hurting her deeply that she must work for the woman her lover, Tyrion, has married.
She’s lovely and mysterious and often likeable on television. It’s easy to see this through the way Varys treats her on the show. Instead of thinking Tyrion is a fool for liking a slippery whore like Shae, Varys sees her as a kindred spirit and even tries to help the young woman slip out of King’s Landing. It will be interesting to see if her character continues to evolve in Season 4 or to see how the writers help to maneuver the character back into the realms of George R. R. Martin’s writing.
GendryOn television, like in the books, Gendry is good-natured and strong, a man with blacksmithing skills. Unlike the books, his storyline is merged with another of Robert’s bastards, Edric Storm, and taken to Storm’s End. In the books, Gendry is still hanging out and using his blacksmithing skills to remain a part of the Brotherhood Without Banners. In HBO’s show, he’s busy making shadow babies and getting leached by Melisandre. It’s a big change and one that puts the character into more of a dangerous but prominent position. In the books, we can assume Gendry will be safe because he isn’t aware that he is the bastard son of a King. On television, he is fully aware of his status and is more valuable because of it. We’ll have to wait and see where that will take the character during Season 4.
OshaGame of Thrones has really milked the most out of Osha’s scenes in the book. Nearly all of the main events written about her character have made their way onto the small screen, which is certainly a feat for a side character like Osha. What we have found to be a little more interesting is how her devotion to Bran and to Winterfell has been even more hyped up. After bending a knee to Theon, she goes as far as to have sex with him in order to have free reign of the castle. This eventually leads her to planning an escape with the two boys and Hodor. At the end of Season 3, we’ve learned about her former life and how her husband turned into one of the undead wights on the wrong side of the wall. She’s had a tough road, but we hope to see more of her journey as the seasons continue.
LittlefingerLittlefinger might seem like an odd choice for this list. He’s the only truly big character to make the list and his big picture trajectory on the series has matched the show fairly closely thus far. However, Littlefinger is still much different than his novel counterpart, thanks to an interesting performance by Aidan Gillen, who plays the character as an openly lofty and ambitious man with his fingers in many pots. On television, he is not really trusted by anyone, but he has made himself so important to King’s Landing that it doesn’t really matter.
This is strikingly different from Martin’s novels. In the books, Littlefinger is so persuasive that everyone seems to like and trust him, at least excepting Tyrion, who can still find no real fault in the man. Littlefinger is seen as helpful, and his power grabs are so subtle that no one really ever sees them as power grabs. Both Gillen’s performance and Martin’s character are complicated individuals, just in completely different ways. What’s most interesting about this change is that the character can be played completely differently and still achieve many of the same ends.
Game of Thrones Season 4 begins airing on Sunday, April 6 at 9 p.m. ET. If you are in need of a refresher before the new season airs, we’ve got you covered.