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burning questions

Where Will Game of Thrones Go Now That It Is Diverging From the Books?

Here’s one thing I figured I’d never do when talking about Game of Thrones: reference Robert Frost. But how else to begin a discussion about last night’s episode than with the Pulitzer Prize–winning poet’s two roads diverging in a yellow wood/Haunted Forest north of the Wall? Up to this point, those of us who have read George R. R. Martin’s "A Song of Ice and Fire" book series have had an “I’m so smart” grin on our faces heading into each new episode. But as the plot veered deliriously away from the path set out by the source text — more than it had in any other single hour to date on the program — the stark differences (pun intended!) wiped that cookie-eating grin away and made us wonder quite a few things. Will showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss continue to move the action farther away from the source material and make this show as much of their own as they can? Will readers ever experience any genuine surprises while watching? Will we be seeing much more of the awesomely named Ser Pounce? Here are a few more questions worth asking now that Game of Thrones has reminded us that it’s willing to play fast and loose with fidelity.

1.  The White Walkers were turning the baby into a White Walker, right? Not a wight?

2. If so, why would they bother killing humans at all?

3. Do White Walkers age? Because if they don’t, which had been my assumption (maybe stupidly!), then I don’t get what the benefit of transmogrifying the Craster baby/babies would be, other than to significantly up the cute factor of the White Walker army. But I guess they do age!

4. And if they age, can old age kill them?

5. Couldn’t we just assume that Caster’s wives/daughters were being raped by the mutineers rather than having the rape actually depicted in graphic detail? Because, come on, who isn’t tired of seeing all the rape on Game of Thrones, talking about all the rape on Game of Thrones, and reading about all the rape on Game of Thrones? It was completely clear that the mutineers were bad guys with the first glimpse we got of that made-up psychopath as he drank from Jeor Mormont’s skull. This is now bordering on showrunner trolling ...

6. Are they planning to have the Bran and Jon Snow story lines intersect at Craster’s Keep? I would imagine not; I’m guessing that it’ll be more of a “Whoa! Bran was just here and fled the scene only ten seconds ago? Oh, well, we don’t have any time to look for him because we have to get back to the Wall, pronto!” kind of situation, but who knows anymore?

7. Was there anything better than Podrick’s face when Jaime told Brienne that Pod would be joining her on her quest to find Sansa Stark? And yet that moment doesn’t happen in the books either, since Pod and Brienne don’t team up until they’ve already left the capital. Regardless: Team Brienne-Pod!

8. Hodor?

9. But the biggest question arising from last night’s episode: At this point, is anyone who has read the books bothered that the show is playing out differently, and do people who haven’t read the books care? To me, the episode felt like a leisurely stroll to get to the same place depicted in the novels, and even a mild improvement in some ways: The sortie to Craster’s Keep will add a flash of excitement to Bran's story line, which in the books is mostly dull.

10. And finally, has there been a study of how many viewers have read the books versus those who haven’t?

Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO