It’s no secret that HBO’s Game of Thrones is slowly moving away from its source material. In fact, it’s something of a necessity, as the last two novels in George RR Martin’s epic series A Song of Ice and Fire haven’t been written – let alone published – yet.
Nevertheless, book fans might be surprised to see significant changes already unfolding at the beginning of season five. Namely when it comes to Sansa Stark’s storyline, which is “a very bold departure” from her path in the novels.
This week’s episode, which aired last night in America and in the early hours on Sky Atlantic, saw Sansa Stark become engaged to Ramsay Snow/Bolton.
Her guardian Littlefinger arranged for the long-suffering Stark to wed Roose Bolton’s cruel and psychotic bastard son – and to live with them in her former home of Winterfell. But Sansa’s storyline looks a little different in Martin’s books, where she remains at the Eyrie while Ramsay marries a minor character who hasn’t appeared in the TV version.
So why has the eldest Stark girl’s path changed?
“Sansa is a character we care about almost more than any other, and the Stark sisters have from the very beginning been two characters who have fascinated us the most,” said showrunner David Benioff, adding: “We really wanted Sansa to play a major part this season. If we were going to stay absolutely faithful to the book, it was going to be very hard to do that.”
“The seeds were planted early on in our minds,” writer and producer Bryan Cogman added, speaking to Entertainment Weekly. “In the books, Sansa has very few chapters in the Vale once she’s up there. That was not going to be an option for one of our lead characters. While this is a very bold departure, [we liked] the power of bringing a Stark back to Winterfell and having her reunite with Theon under these circumstances.”
It was a choice, says Cogman, between using Sophie Turner more, or bringing in yet another new face to the show: “You have this storyline with Ramsay. Do you have one of your leading ladies – who is an incredibly talented actor who we’ve followed for five years and viewers love and adore – do it? Or do you bring in a new character to do it? To me, the question answers itself: You use the character the audience is invested in.”
Sansa’s storyline also brings a Stark back to the family’s former stronghold Winterfell, something Benioff was clearly excited about.
“It was great to get back to where so much of the story started,” he said. “It’s great for us because there’s probably no location that has more emotional resonance for viewers than Winterfell and with Sansa coming back there it’s amazing – you walk into that courtyard, and even though it’s in a different place than it was from the pilot and for season two, it still feels like you’re walking back into Winterfell. Like, ‘that’s where Bran was shooting at a target in a first episode, that’s where Tyrion slapped Joffrey…’ there’s so many memories.”
Game of Thrones continues tonight at 9:00pm on Sky Atlantic