There are combat scenes in season four that aren't in the books – in previous seasons, they added mostly conversations that aren't in the book. But this time around they needed to add some extra fight scenes. However, there's no scene where someone rides on a pig, because that would be cruelty to animals.
They built an all-new version of the Wall for the massive battle sequence in episode nine, directed by Neil Marshall, and then set this bigger version of the Wall against the largest greenscreen in Europe.
"It's just more intense than it has ever been," says co-showrunnee David Benioff. The show successfully lobbied for a budget increase from HBO this year. We'll see the "nice" characters make more surprising choices – the season begins with a vengeful killing, and ends with a trio of episodes that are packed with major set pieces. "The last couple episodes were, even by our standards, pretty hardcore," says co-showrunner Dan Weiss.
Early in the season, Lady Olenna says, "Killing a man at a wedding. Horrid. What sort of monster would do such a thing? As if men need more reasons to fear marriage." At Joffrey's wedding, Joffrey cuts open a big pie with a sword and tons of real birds fly out.
The Hound's new plan is to return Arya to her aunt at the Vale of Arryn – and this is like a "twisted road movie," says Weiss. According to Maisie Williams, Arya will be "learning a lot from the Hound and being heavily influenced by that. She's learning his brutal ways." He becomes a kind of mentor in vengeance and cruelty.
Also, it sounds like Tyrion does spend the bulk of the season locked up — thus answering how quickly his storyline from the third book will play out this year. "Reversals of fortune really send him down the rabbit hole," says Peter Dinklage. "I think funny and drunk only lasts so long. He sobers up in many ways. And love is in his life [with Shae] and that causes a tremendous amount of damage, because he's vulnerable and he doesn't like to be vulnerable." Also, Tyrion gets a lot of scenes with Jaime this season and we see that "they have a real friendship."
Meanwhile, Cersei and Jaime have a "very dark encounter," says Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, and Cersei spurns Jaime's advances.
Roose Bolton returns home and is annoyed to find that his bastard son Ramsay has "pruned" Theon (now known as "Reek") — so Roose gives Ramsay a new mission, to prove his worth. Theon is no longer chained up this season, because he's so broken he no longer needs chains to keep him imprisoned. "It's more of a mental torture than physical this time," says Alfie Allen.
Jon Snow has to prepare the Night's Watch for the attack of the Wildlings, but first he has to answer a lot of questions about where he's been. Jon gives more speeches than he ever has before, and is less reactive and more proactive. Meanwhile his ex-lover Ygritte is coldly terrorizing the local villagers. (This sequence of events involving Ygritte appears to be new to the TV series.)
And finally, the article says A Feast For Crows and A Dance of Dragons contain a lot of tangential material that is unlikely to make it into the TV show – the clearest hint yet that some of the subplots in those books will be cut or heavily trimmed.