This "Game of Thrones" actor was killed off in the show, but not in the books —here's why
Warning: This post contains information from the latest episode in this season of Game of Thrones. So if you’re not yet caught up, consider getting as far away from these spoilers as quickly as you can.
While it’s been clear for a while now that though Game of Thrones is closely based on George R.R. Martin’s fantasy novel series, the TV show and the books do not always follow the same storylines. That’s becoming even more clear this season as many characters’ stories are taking dramatically different turns from the books (while others have yet to even make an appearance).
That was true again in this season’s latest episode when The Blackfish (aka Brynden Tully) met an untimely demise. In the books, he is not only alive and well, but he was actually never even at The Red Wedding (which his TV character managed to survive through a little luck — he happened to excuse himself to go to the bathroom before the slaying began). Clive Russell, the actor who plays The Blackfish, had some insight into the mindset and ultimate death of his character during an interview with Vulture.
He points out that the fact that he survived the Red Wedding massacre of his family by fleeing has certainly been a defining factor of his character. He says, “I think he did feel survivor’s guilt, because he didn’t go back in there and try to save anybody.”
While it’s perfectly logical to point out that there would have been nothing he could (likely) have done if he had returned to the ambush to change the results, Russell makes the point that “In a massacre, the sensible thing to do would be to run. However, soldiers don’t necessarily do sensible things. They expect of themselves something different.” And since The Blackfish very much identifies as a soldier and warrior, he could have felt a deep sense of disappointment in his own seeming cowardice by letting his family be slaughtered while he survived.
When he retakes Riverrun, he finally has a chance to avenge his family’s lineage and prove his courage to the people directly involved in the tragedy of the wedding. And when that goes awry (thanks a lot Lord Edmure), he’s left with only one real possibility of an honorable death. As Russell explains, “My concern is to get Brienne out. By the time I do, the soldiers are upon me. But I’m also refusing to run. It’s very much him dying honorably, fighting an enemy, which is what part of him felt he should have done at the Red Wedding.”
Basically, the fact that his character survived (and was even at) the Red Wedding in the show hugely informs us about his motives and gives understandable reasoning behind his desire for an honorable death (once, of course, that became the only option).
While the show will continue to have story lines veer off as it reaches its own eventual (yet still untimely because something this good needs to last forever) ending, at least we know that the overall show storyline will be similar to the eventual storyline of the long-awaited novels.