Though the ending left much to be desired, Game of Thrones offered an overall rich, dense dark-fantasy world filled with lore and backstory for fans to uncover in what HBO’s adaptation chose to put on-screen. There’s a solid amount of context from A Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin’s source material that gives new insights on narrative inspirations and divergences from the show.
In addition to the fantastical lore elements, the most dedicated of fans have dug into various behind-the-scenes pieces of information given by actors and writers in interviews. These helped shed light on how creators thought to put together various iconic scenes in the series, as well as where actors looked for inspiration for their roles.
Updated October 7th, 2022 by Guillermo Kurten:
The recent release of the prequel series House of the Dragon has unsurprisingly revitalized interest in Game of Thrones. As one of the biggest, most expansive, and most detailed TV series ever made, it comes as no surprise that there are still new secrets being revealed about the HBO smash-hit show.
Catelyn Stark Stuck Around After Death
Book-to-TV/movie adaptations will always leave things out, including fan-favorite elements of the source material. Catelyn Stark was a love/hate character for many Game of Thrones fans due to her bitter and neglectful treatment of Jon Snow. In the show, she, Robb Stark, and his pregnant wife Talisa met a gruesome end at the Red Wedding, but this wasn’t the end of Catelyn in the books.
She essentially becomes an “undead” as Lady Stoneheart, a vengeful supernatural entity that’s purpose is to kill anyone associated with those who betrayed Robb. It was somewhat of a disappointment that the show veered away from the mystical and occult at points.
Tyrion Lannister Is The Show’s Most Prominent Character
Pinker Dinklage’s portrayal made Tyrion Lannister the most outspoken and beloved Game of Thrones character, and his prominence reflects that. Out of the 73 episodes of the show, Tyrion is featured in 67 of them — as documented on IMDb. Like several other characters, the last season lost the plot with many character arcs, but Tyrion was pivotal for the vast majority of the show.
More often than not, the black sheep of the Lannister family was an instrumental strategic mind, making his many appearances warranted. This includes fighting off Stannis Baratheon’s army at the Battle of Blackwater Bay and snuffing out Cersei’s insurgency in King’s Landing.
Daenerys Targaryen’s Other Nephew
While the revelation that Jon Snow was also a Targaryen was an inevitability for many big fans, those familiar with the books knew that another omission was Daenerys Targaryen’s other nephew. Prince Rhaegar Targaryen had another son prior with Elia Martell, also named Aegon Targaryen.
He’s known as the Young Griff, and was supposedly smuggled out of Westeros during Robert’s Rebellion, raised as a commoner’s son to protect him. It’s a shocking development removed from the show that would’ve added an even more tense dynamic to Daenerys’ already-turbulent journey to the Iron Throne and complicated relationship with Jon Snow.
The Inspiration For Joffrey Baratheon
The original sadistic villain of Game of Thrones that fans loved to hate was Joffrey Baratheon. Jack Gleeson brought the character to life and exceptionally executed the portrayal to convince audiences of the dark, bottomless pit that is Joffrey’s capacity for evil — as well as the overall grim world of Game of Thrones itself.
Gleeson mentioned in an interview with Entertainment Weekly that his main inspiration for playing such a vile character was Joaquin Phoenix’s portrayal of Commodus in the 2000’s Gladiator movie. That’s a fitting base to work with for Joffrey, as Commodus is also a cruel character riddled by greed, power-hungry motives, and a complete lack of a moral compass.
The Show’s Starks Were Aged Up
Though the actors that made up the Starks for the show were quite young at the time of casting, fans coming from the books immediately recognized Game of Thrones aged up the characters from the A Song of Ice and Fire novels.
Bran went from 7 to 12, Arya 9 to 13, Sansa 11 to 15, and Rickon 3 to 6. Fan-favorite tragic heroes Jon Snow and Robb Stark in the books started at 14 and 15 years old, respectively. Even Eddard “Ned” Stark and Catelyn were younger in the books, approximately in their early/mid-30s.
Omitting The Targaryen Violet Eyes
A visual touch taken out from the show was the Targaryen family line’s violet eyes. In the books, the violet eyes they had were their distinction of having Valyrian heritage from Essos. Violet was the most common shade, but other shades of purple were known to be genetic within House Targaryen.
As listed by Den of Geek about the series’ Blu-ray releases, this was originally planned for the show but was eventually scrapped. The reason for this was understandable, as they had used violet-colored contacts for Emilia Clarke to wear, but they proved to be noticeably uncomfortable to use.
Game of Thrones‘s House Lannister spectacularly lost power over Westeros, and one turning point toward that in the series was Tommen’s suicide at the end of season 6. It marked the next stage in Cersei Lannister’s tyrannical reign. But while actor Dean-Charles Chapman is the most recognizable face for Tommen Lannister, he also had an entirely different and smaller role in season 3.
He played Martyn Lannister who, along with his brother Willem, was murdered by a vengeful Rickard Karstark in retaliation for Jaime killing his son Torrhen. This event would prove instrumental in certain houses falling out with Robb Stark.
Martin Asked The Showrunners Who They Thought Jon’s Parents Were
Before HBO released the first season of the show, D.B. Weiss revealed in an interview with Collider that George R.R. Martin asked them who they thought Jon Snow’s biological parents were. Benioff and Weiss talked about it in retrospect on how it felt like it was a test by the author.
This question would be on the minds of millions of fans through the show and was fitting considering the timing of Martin’s current and most recent mainline novel. Season 1 premiered in 2011, which was the same year Martin published A Dance with Dragons. The book ends with Jon’s death at the hands of his Night’s Watch brothers-in-arms, which is also where season 5 of the show finished.
The Battle Of The Bastards Was Inspired By The Romans
Without a doubt, “Battle of the Bastards” was one of the most cathartic episodes of Game of Thrones. It was one of the most bitter blood feuds depicted on the show, with the vile Ramsay Bolton finally getting punished for his atrocities. The meat of the episode was the actual battle between the two army’s cavalries, which demonstrated one of the show’s most exceptional uses of cinematography.
Its choreography was also masterfully executed, and an IGN article revealed that the writing team used the Romans as an influence on how the battle played out. Specifically, they referenced their fights against the Carthaginians, where the Romans were trapped in an encirclement and gradually slaughtered within.
Budget Constricted The Dire Wolves’ Screen Time
It’s one of the disappointing aspects of the show for fans, as the dire wolves of the Starks were beautiful and heartwarming sights to see. On top of the natural affection toward animals and the symbolism, they were great for establishing emotional dynamics with the characters. However, Insider noted that their limited screen time (for those that managed to survive) was largely an issue of the budget rather than narrative choice.
After the crew had to stop using puppies and grown dogs to represent the likes of Ghost, Summer, Grey Wind, and Nymeria, CGI had to be used to show the scale of a full-grown dire wolf. The CGI for them was one of the most taxing parts of their budgetary constraints, thus restricting their appearances.
The Late Queen Elizabeth Visited The Set — But Wasn’t Allowed On The Iron Throne
Given the immense cultural impact that Game of Thrones had on a global scale, it wasn’t surprising that other prominent celebrities and figures visited the set. One of those people was none other than the late Queen of the United Kingdom herself, Elizabeth II.
A fairly fitting event considering the show’s emphasis on royalty. However, despite visiting the set, an Esquire article noted that she wasn’t allowed to sit on the Iron Throne itself. The reason is much more humorous than it sounds on its face, as it was an obscure rule that states that the UK’s monarch can’t sit on a foreign throne prevented her from doing so.
The Opening Sequence Of Game Of Thrones Changed Week-To-Week
On top of being widely considered one of the best TV shows of all time despite its panned ending, Game of Thrones arguably had one of the most memorable opening themes. Ramin Djawadi’s majestic score was certainly part of it, but the visuals were immersive and engaging as well.
One thing some fans might not have noticed, though, is that the visuals in the opening sequences changed week to week — which an article on Bustle re-confirms. It’s easy to miss, but each opening highlighted the locations where the given episode’s main events would take place.
HBO & George R. R. Martin Wanted 10-13 Seasons
In a more somber behind-the-scenes fact that the franchise’s most devoted fans know all too well, it’s been reported back during season 8’s release and the current run of House of the Dragon that the plan for Thrones wasn’t initially for it to end with 8. Martin’s source material ran out by the time season 6 came to a close, so the showrunners had to improvise with 7 and 8.
Perhaps it’s a case of shared blame in terms of how the final season was poorly received, but Benioff and Weiss said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly that HBO was willing to greenlight more seasons. More recently, Martin said during a Wall Street Journal interview for House of the Dragon‘s promo campaign that he “was saying it needs to be 10 seasons at least and maybe 12, 13. I lost that one.”
Catelyn Stark & Daenerys Targaryen Were Recast From The Unaired Pilot
The showrunners have talked retrospectively about the unaired Game of Thrones pilot episode. Much of it was heavily reshot and rewritten for the finalized version of the show, and some of that included the actors themselves. Both Catelyn Stark and Daenerys Targaryen were recast to the versions played by Michelle Fairley and Emilia Clarke, respectively.
It’s impossible to say what the initial depictions would’ve been like since that footage seems as good as lost to time. However, the actresses that came to be were widely praised in their portrayals, especially for such a long-running role like Clarke’s as Daenerys. The casting director opened up about it in an interview with Vanity Fair.