The first four episodes from Game of Thrones' fifth season leaked this weekend, nearly a full day ahead of the premiere of the fanatically obsessed-over show—giving viewers an unexpected preview of the major changes the show's producers have made to the books' plotlines.
Want to know how the show is diverging from the books without finding the leak or waiting for the episodes to air? Here's your guide.
Jaime Lannister and Bronn go to Dorne
In the books
Cersei's crippled swordsman brother, Jaime Lannister, spent most of A Dance With Dragons cleaning things up in the Riverlands post-Red Wedding, releasing Edmure Tully and failing to capture Brynden the Blackfish. He settled a minor siege and took a hostage in a scene that revealed a bit of Lannister family history, then met up with Brienne of Tarth, who asked for his help retrieving Sansa Stark from The Hound. It was strongly implied that Jaime was destined for a meeting with Lady Stoneheart, the resurrected Catelyn Stark.
Meanwhile in Dorne, Jaime's niece—actually his daughter with Cersei— Myrcella Baratheon is betrothed to Prince Doran's son in a political alliance. It's become clear that she isn't really safe after the death of Doran's younger brother, Oberyn "The Red Viper" Martell in a trial by combat in King's Landing.
In the books, Doran's daughter Arianne Martell plots to install Myrcella as queen of the Seven Kingdoms, pitting her against King Tommen and the Lannisters. Scheming with Arianne are three of Oberyn's bastard daughters, known as the Sand Snakes: Obara, Nymeria, and Tyene.
In the show
Every single piece of Jaime's storyline in the show is different. The loose ends in the Riverlands remain loose, the Hound is already dead (or left for dead, at any rate), and Lady Stoneheart has apparently been entirely written out. Instead, Jaime is going to Dorne with the sellsword Bronn, who taught him how to fight after he lost his sword hand.
Their mission: to retrieve Myrcella. And to do it without starting a war. This little buddy comedy interrupts Bronn's plan, seen in the books, to become lord of Castle Stokeworth by marrying the childlike Lollys and driving her older sister out.
Arianne doesn't appear in the show—her role is taken by the Red Viper's lover, Ellaria Sand, whose revenge plot is a bit less involved: Work with the Sand Snakes to use Myrcella to start a war between Dorne and King's Landing. They know that Jaime Lannister has arrived in Dorne, and they plan to get to Myrcella before he does.
In the books, Myrcella ends up wounded and disfigured by one of Arianne's co-conspirators, but some have speculated that she may have to die on TV in the name of expediency. Killing her outright would be a really quick way to move the show toward the probable war, and her death does seem to fit Maggy the Frog's season-opening prophecy for Cersei.
Notably omitted from the show entirely (so far) is Quentyn Martell, Doran's son and the Dornish entry in the quest to wed Daenerys Targaryen and gain the power of her dragons. Not a huge loss: He just got burnt to a crisp anyway.
Sansa and Littlefinger go to Winterfell
In the books
Meanwhile, at the Wall, Jon Snow is coping with the sudden arrival and continued presence of Stannis Baratheon's army and the execution by burning of Mance Rayder, the former man of the Night's Watch who became the wildling King-Beyond-the-Wall.
In the novels, Mance's death was a trick pulled by Melisandre, the Red Woman, who helped him switch places with someone else so she could keep him alive for her own purposes. Eventually he's sent to rescue Jon Snow's sister, Arya Stark, falsely rumored to be in Winterfell and betrothed to the cruel Ramsay Bolton. Jon's vows to the Watch and his duties as Lord Commander prevented him from undertaking the mission himself.
In A Feast for Crows, Sansa Stark and the scheming Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish remain in the Eyrie, where Sansa is to be married to whiny little Robin Arryn, an alliance intended to help Sansa (and Littlefinger) regain control of the Starks' ancestral home, Winterfell.
In the show
On TV, Mance appears to be truly and permanently dead. In fact, the entire Mance-in-disguise subplot has been cut out of the show, because it's now Sansa who's been betrothed to Ramsay, as part of a plan by her scheming "uncle" Littlefinger (who sometimes tries to make out with her).
Baelish's endgame is still Winterfell, but his tactics are more direct: He's counting on Stannis's army moving south, and believes they'll rout the Boltons and leave Sansa as Wardeness of the North. We learn in episode three that he's absolutely correct about Stannis's plans, but the outcome of that battle remains to be seen.
This version is actually much easier to follow than the convoluted way George R.R. Martin slowly, torturously moves Stannis toward Winterfell in the books, and it gives the show's darker, more cynical and scheming version of Sansa a more dynamic role in the Game of Thrones.
Speaking of Sansa and Littlefinger, they briefly cross paths with Brienne and her squire, Podrick Payne, whose book-plots are left in complete disarray by the omission of Lady Stoneheart. Brienne, discovering that neither Sansa nor Arya wants her help, has to find a new mission in life: it looks like it'll be taking revenge on Stannis for his magical murder of sexy younger brother Renly Baratheon, who Brienne had sworn to protect.
Last, but not least, of the major characters in the north is Jon Snow's loyal friend Samwell Tarly, who has grown to love the wildling girl Gilly. There's an awful lot of Sam's story that seems like it won't make it into the show (at least this season): Gilly's baby gets switched with one of Mance Rayder's, and Sam has to flee with the child so Melisandre can't sacrifice it in a royal blood ritual. Conveniently, Jon Snow wants him to go home to Oldtown to train as a maester and replace the Night's Watch's ailing, aged Maester Eamon.
The crib-swap story is right out, but the Sam-as-maester plotline could eventually happen. There's a pointed mention on the show of Eamon's failing health.
Tyrion Sprints to Meereen
In the books
On the other side of the narrow sea, Arya Stark makes her much-anticipated arrival at the Braavosi House of Black and White, home of the Faceless Men—elite assassins who can change their physical appearance seemingly at will.
In the books, she lived on the streets under the name Cat of the Canals until the House finally agreed to accept and train her. (In the show, she waits in the rain until Jaqen H'ghar, the Faceless Man who gave her a coin and told her about the House of Black and White, lets her in to the temple.)
Also arriving in Essos: a crate containing one Tyrion Lannister. The Imp was smuggled out of King's Landing by Varys the Spider, who's been secretly working with the wealthy merchant Illyrio Mopatis to put Daenerys Targaryen on the throne.
Tyrion goes on a lengthy voyage with Aegon Targaryen, the son of Dany's brother Rhaegar and his wife, Elia of Dorne. Aegon, long thought to have been killed as a baby, has been living undercover and technically has a stronger claim to the throne than Daenerys.
He has a humiliating stint riding a dog in a dwarf show, makes a new friend named Penny, and is eventually captured by Dany's former confidant and advisor Jorah Mormont, who plans to use him to get back in the Dragon Queen's good graces.
In the show
Arya's plot is largely unchanged, except that rather than a nameless old man training Arya, the show just slots her old pal Jaqen into the role.
But Tyrion's represents an enormous divergence from the novels, probably in the interest of time: There's no Aegon Targaryen. Apparently GRRM is a huge tease, and young Aegon, who seems like a possible major character, will turn out out to be inessential to the larger plot. (Either that, or Aegon's storyline involves a meeting with Dornish princess Arianne Martell, who's also been removed from the show.)
HBO also skips over Tyrion's dog-riding stint, having Jorah kidnap the Imp directly from a Meereen brothel and sail down the Rhoyne toward Meereen immediately. The meeting between Tyrion and Daenerys hasn't happened in the books yet, but it looks like we're going to see it on TV this season.
The Mother of Dragons has also had her story arc sped up for TV, skipping over an entire war between Meereen and Yunkai—the war involves a number of threads that don't exist in the show, including that of the Greyjoys (who have sent their own candidate to court Daenerys) and some mercenary companies who only made things more complicated. With those plots gone, and no need for the war to connect Tyrion with Daenerys, the show can skip right past the Yunkish conflict.
Instead, the focus is on The Sons of the Harpy, a group of rebels conspiring against Dany and killing former slaves and Unsullied. They also take out Ser Barristan Selmy, who is still alive (for now) in the books and plays a crucial role in the war. No war, no need for Selmy. Instead, the show's writers get to use his death to heighten the conflict between Dany and the Sons.
The connection between Hizdahr zo Loraq—the nobleman who incessantly begs Daenerys to reopen Meereen's fighting pits—and the Sons of the Harpy hasn't yet been established in the show. That connection proves crucial to igniting the now-unnecessary war, and it'll be interesting to see if the character of Hizdahr changes as a result.