Season five of "Game of Thrones" is officially in the books, and now, show-only viewers know just as much as the fans who have read every single sentence in George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire." Right? Well… no. No, not exactly.
It's true that most of the major plot points from the five published novels in the series have now been covered on the show, but not all of them. For some characters, there are small distances still to travel in their stories. There are minor aspects of the saga, too, that have yet to see the light of day, if they ever make the leap to the show at all. And then there are the curious cases of the massive deviations between show and source material, where characters like Sansa and Brienne are in completely unknown territory on "Game of Thrones."
So, has "Game of Thrones" actually caught up with where we are in the books? Yes and no. It's complicated. Here's how it breaks down:
YES: Jon Snow
The very last thing we see of Jon in "A Dance with Dragons" is the very last thing we see of Jon on the show, albeit with a bit more ambiguity. Still, Jon appears to be dead in the books, just as he appears to be dead on the show. Don't grieve too much. He will return. It is known.
YES: Daenerys Targaryen
The Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, among other titles, is indeed stranded in parts unknown, surrounded by a massive Dothraki army, in the books, just as she is on the show. Drogon is nearby as well, refusing to fly. Where she goes from here? Your guess is as good as ours.
NO: Arya Stark
But mostly. There are two additional Arya chapters following her blinding in the books, but much of what happens in those chapters has already transpired on the show. Even the circumstances of her blinding are different between the two mediums. In other words, the show's take on Arya's new circumstances could be wildly different than what we see in the books.
NO: Bran Stark
But mostly! He ended his story in season four by reaching the Three-Eyed Raven, and in the books, he only goes one chapter further, learning more about his abilities as a green-seer and warg. He experiences some trippy flashbacks, and has a few potential cameo appearances in other characters' story lines, and we haven't seen those things yet on the show. That all seems like season six material.
IT'S COMPLICATED: Sansa Stark And Littlefinger
Their stories are very different on the show than they are in the books. In the books, they never left the Eyrie. They're still palling around with Sweet Robin while Littlefinger schemes up different ways of restoring Sansa's Winterfell glory. So she's not hanging out in the snow with Theon Greyjoy as she is on the show. Likewise, Baelish isn't back in King's Landing, assembling an army to march on the leftovers of the Bolton/Baratheon battle. Too different to compare right now.
IT'S COMPLICATED: Stannis Baratheon And The Boltons
The Battle of Ice has not yet taken place in the books. There are whispers about it, however, from Ramsay Bolton writing a letter boasting about killing Stannis Baratheon, to a different Stannis sighting that indicates he's very much alive. He's certainly not killed by Brienne in the books, at least not yet. The Boltons and Baratheons' book future remains entirely uncertain.
NO: Theon Greyjoy
Buuuuut mostly! Only because there's an Iron Islands component at play in the books that's not at play on the show, and also because there's a sample Theon chapter from "The Winds of Winter" currently available online. Other than that, both the show and the books are more or less on the same page as far as Theon goes.
NO: The Iron Islands
There's more business with Balon Greyjoy, his daughter Asha (called Yara on the show), and his brothers Euron, Victarion and Aeron in the books. Apparently, the show is interested in this material, based on early casting calls hinting at the arrival of the Brothers Greyjoy. Even in the books, though, their story is a slow-going one, certainly not enough material to pack into an entire season.
She's just hanging out on the Wall, waiting to find out that Jon Snow's been murdered by his men. Good thing we know red priests have a proven ability to bring people back to life! We'll see if that pays off as soon as "The Winds of Winter" or "Game of Thrones" season six, whichever comes first. (No pressure but PLEASE HURRY, GEORGE.)
IT'S COMPLICATED: Davos Seaworth
He's on a completely different mission in the books than he is on the show, involving the Starks, but not Jon Snow. The show might get into all that in season six, or it might not. Absolutely no way of knowing right now.
IT'S COMPLICATED: The White Walkers
The show has been moving the White Walker ball forward at a faster speed than the books ever since "Oathkeeper," the season four episode that introduced the Night's King for the very first time. In the books, we hear about Hardhome, but we do not witness the massacre firsthand. The books only suggest that White Walkers are vulnerable to Valyrian steel; we do not see them shatter into ice upon meeting Longclaw. The amount of White Walker information we have on the show is far greater than the amount of information we have in the books right now.
NO: Samwell Tarly
BUT! MOST! LY! Most of his season five story mirrors what he's up to in the books, except in the books, he's on a boat on the way to Oldtown, rather than on the Wall. Maester Aemon dies on the trip, Sam and Gilly have sex for the first time on the trip, and it all ends with finally reaching Oldtown. There's a tiny bit of business there at the end of "A Feast for Crows," but since then, not a peep. What happens next with Sam's quest to become a maester, especially in light of Jon's "death," is anyone's guess.
IT'S COMPLICATED: Brienne and Podrick
They're nowhere near Stannis in the books. They're near someone else who is familiar to show viewers, but isn't on the show. Once again, another example of characters who we have no idea about moving forward. Isn't this fun?
IT'S COMPLICATED: Tyrion Lannister and Varys
The Imp is in Meereen in the books, but he's not in charge of Meereen; he's still a slave, hoping to earn an audience with Daenerys. In the books, Barristan the Bold is still alive, and he's the man behind the Meereen wheel. Tyrion on the show is further along than he is in the books, in other words, though we can't say for sure whether or not this is his direction in the books. As for Varys? He's in a completely different part of the world in the books, but what he does there has a great impact on…
NO: King's Landing
BUT MOSTLY! SO CLOSE! We don't know what will happen with Cersei Lannister's trial. We don't know what will happen with Margaery. We don't know with 100% certainty that the zombified Mountain is beneath the new Kingsguard helmet. (But, come on.) However, there is one thing involving Varys that has a huge impact on a certain character, and potentially everyone in King's Landing as a result. That action has not occurred on the show yet, and most certainly cannot occur at the hands of Varys… but it's hard to imagine the action not occurring at all.
IT'S COMPLICATED: Dorne
Like so many other story lines, what happened in Dorne this season is very different from what happened in Dorne in the books. Ellaria Sand is hardly involved. Myrcella is injured, but not fatally, assuming she's on her way to an early grave on the show. Doran Martell does seem loyal to the crown on the show, but in the books, there's a calm fury brewing beneath his obedient exterior. There's a whole other story happening with Jaime Lannister outside of Dorne, and a whole other story happening with Doran Martell's son (who ISN'T Trystane), but all signs indicate that we won't see that stuff on the show. Bummer. That stuff is fun.
YES, NO, IT'S COMPLICATED: People You Do Not Know
Lady Stoneheart, Jon Connington, Young Griff, Wyman Manderly… these are all names that matter very much to "Game of Thrones" book-reading fans, but the show-only crowd? Not so much. Maybe these people, and some other key figures, will arrive on the show at some point in time. Most likely, they will not. There will always be those subtle differences between the books and the show, the characters who don't leap off the page and onto the screen. (I'm pouring out a goblet filled with locusts for you, Strong Belwas, EVEN THOUGH I KNOW IT WAS YOU WHO SET TYRION FREE.) That's why it's absolutely worth reading GRRM's books as soon as you have the time. Just know that some of the things you'll read in the books have not happened on the show quite yet — even though many of those things are happening soon, or might never happen at all.