Game of Thrones, Episode 504

Screengrab courtesy HBO

There's always been a major divide between two factions of Game of Thrones fans: book readers vs. non-book readers.

Most of the time, we exist in harmony. But sometimes, like during the Red Wedding or Purple Wedding or Ned Stark's (Sean Bean) execution, that divide becomes all too apparent. Book readers know exactly what game-changing twist is coming, whereas non-book readers live in ignorant bliss...until that moment comes, shocking us to our core.

As someone who refuses to read George R. R. Martin's books until the HBO series ends a few years from now because I want to be surprised by every twist and death while watching the show, being friends with book readers has been...difficult at times, to say the least.

Game of Thrones, Episode 507

Helen Sloan/HBO

Watching the season four premiere, aka the Purple Wedding, I could feel my book reader friends' eyes on me as the end of the episode drew near, wanting to watch my reaction, accidentally alerting me that something bad was coming. I didn't know exactly how badsince there's no real justice in Westeros, I honestly thought Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) was the only safe character on this showbut I was steeling myself for something awful to happen because my friends just couldn't help themselves. I don't blame them...I blame their knowledge.

And all throughout season three, my book reader friends constantly referred to something coming up called the Red Wedding. Sure, they were speaking in code to not spoil anything for me, but come on. A red wedding? Doesn't take much thinking to figure that one out. As soon as the Starks sat down for the wedding ceremony, I knew that s--t was about to go. Down.

So even though I was never outright spoiled on any big Game of Thrones twists by my book reader friends, the divide was there, and it definitely affected my enjoyment of the series.

That's why executive producers Dan Weiss and David Benioff's decision to go completely off-book in season five has been the show's best twist yet.

Game of Thrones, Episode 507

Helen Sloan/HBO

Whether you've read Martin's novels or not, we're all in the same boat now. You could be the biggest Game of Thrones fan, the most knowledgeable about every single theory, and yet you know no better than I do about what's coming next on the show. Finally, we're all equals! I can venture into Game of Thrones fan theories on the internet without fear of being spoiled! And not only that, but each big book deviation has also been beneficial to the show itself.

Mance Rayder's (Ciarán Hinds) death at Castle Black, which kicked off season five in a shocking way, was the first major change from book to screen this season. In the books, Melisandre (Carice van Houten) glamours one of Mance's men to look like him during the execution and he survives in disguise, but on HBO's show, it's really Mance being burned alive, forcing a merciful Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) to fire an arrow, killing Mance in a humane way. Seeing Jon take control of the situation sparked his climb to leadership among the Night's Watch. Plus, getting rid of Mance's storyline from the books helped streamline the cast of characters, which is already pretty extensive.

Game Of Thrones, Kill the Boy, Season 5, Episode 5

Helen Sloan/ courtesy HBO

Another death that took book readers by surprise was Ser Barristan Selmy's (Ian McElhinney), since he's also still alive in the books. While Mance Rayder's death was shocking in and of itself, this second twist proved that Game of Thrones showrunners Benioff and Weiss have no qualms about killing off characters regardless of their book fate. It's open season, and everyone is fair game!

This makes the stakes higher for every single storyline since anyone could be killed at any moment. Jorah Mormont's (Iain Glen) fight with the Greyscale stone men was so much more intense and exciting because we truly didn't know if he and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) would make it out alive...and while they did, Jorah was touched by a stone man, contracting the deadly Greyscale disease. Once again, the show has flipped the script and I'm loving every minute of it.

But going off-book has been more than just killing off characters whose fates are safe in the books.

Game of Thrones, Episode 507

Helen Sloan/HBO

This has also resulted in completely new storylines, like Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) and Pod (Daniel Portman) finding both Arya (Maisie Williams) and Sansa (Sophie Turner) when in the books, she hasn't found either of them. Sure, she hasn't been able to help or save either Stark daughter, but she's still hot on Sansa's trail, and her fight with the Hound (Rory McCann), something that never happened in the books, was one of the best fight scenes on this show to date. A more competent Brienne? I am so here for it!

Another made-up storyline? Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Bronn's (Jerome Flynn) journey to Dorne. This storyline is nowhere in the books, so we truly don't know if these two fan favorite characters will make it through this season alive!

But the biggest off-book storyline that is causing major controversy among the Game of Thrones fanbase is that of Sansa's. In last week's episode, the oldest Stark daughter was raped on her wedding night by her new husband, Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon). Sansa was never raped in the books, and many regard this scene as unnecessary, gratuitous sexual violence against a woman who has already been abused by men so much.

Game of Thrones

Helen Sloan/HBO

And it totally is. 100 percent. Watching this scene made me sick to my stomach. However, this storyline isn't a completely new invention for the show.

Sansa's storyline is actually taking over the character of Jeyne Poole, who married and is raped and tortured by Ramsay in the books (and it's even worse since in the books, Ramsay makes Theon (Alfie Allen) join in rather than just watch). Benioff and Weiss have just once again condensed two characters into the one we already know for the sake of streamlining the story. And while seeing this happen to Sansa is truly horrifying and disgusting and awful, her situation offers her the chance to get revenge on the Boltons for what they did to her family during the Red Wedding. She is now poised to take back control of her home of Winterfell, with many allies hiding in plain sight.

Will this stronger, more proactive Sansa use her new position as Ramsay's wife to become the Wardeness of the North? This is something I definitely want to see, second only second to seeing Sansa slit Ramsay's throat.

But now I want to hear from the rest of you, Game of Thrones fans, book readers and non-book readers alike: Do you love all these book deviations on the show as much as I do? Hit the comments section below and let me know how you feel about it all!

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