The Sympathizer: Some Novel Difference Between The Text and the On-Screen Adaption 

An unidentified Vietnamese-French police captain is scheming as a communist spy in Vietnam and Los Angeles. The plot of the HBO original, which is currently streaming on Max, and the Pulitzer Prize–winning novel, written by Viet Thanh Nguyen in 2015, is really thrilling. Taking place in 1975 during the Fall of Saigon, The Sympathizer is both a political thriller and a stinging satire that poses important concerns regarding loyalty, politics, and identity.

Actors Hoa Xunde (Captain), Sandra Oh (Sofia), Toan Le (General), Fred Nguyễn (Man), Alan Trong (Sonny), David Duchovny (Ryan Glenn), and John Cho (James Yoon) are all featured in the series. Along with his duties as an executive producer, Robert Downey Jr. plays other characters in the series, such as Claude, a CIA operative, professor Robert Hammer, Congressman Ned Godwin, and Niko Damianos, a film director.

But the novel and the limited series are different in a number of ways, some major and some little. Find out the most notable distinctions by reading on.

Beginning at Different Places

In both adaptations of The Sympathizer, the protagonist, the Captain, is incarcerated and is composing a confession. However, the TV show begins in a different way than the novel does.

The captain’s confession, detailing his ordeal from Vietnam to Los Angeles and the events leading up to his detention, is unveiled early on in the episode. Throughout the course of the series, we see the Captain converse with officers at the encampment regarding his work on multiple occasions.

The Sympathizer: Some Novel Difference Between The Text and the On-Screen Adaption 

As a communist spy, the Captain is required to murder multiple individuals throughout the book and series in order to divert attention away from himself. A Major who had served under the Captain’s boss, the General, and had also emigrated to the United States following the Fall of Saigon is among his intended victims. In an effort to shield himself, the captain suggests the Major as a possible informant within the General’s inner circle.

In the TV show, this character has a few minor quirks. First of all, the Major resides in Los Angeles with his mother, wife, and twins. Because of the Major’s mother, the Captain has to rethink his assassination plans because there is now another possible witness. Only the captain, his wife, and their children reside in the house in the novel.

The most notable distinction is that Captain Jack and Lana, the General’s daughter, jump into his car and proceed to the set of the movie together. Actress Lana joins the cast and develops an ill-defined romance with Jamie Johnson, a famous R&B singer who plays a soldier in the film.

Captain as The Spy

Sofia Mori, the captain’s ex-college professor’s secretary, is the love interest of the captain throughout the book and the series. But when the Captain leaves to supervise Hamlet and stops communicating with Sofia, their relationship starts to fall apart. The General’s American actions have been covered by a Vietnamese journalist named Sonny, and the Captain learns of Sofia’s relationship with him upon his return to Los Angeles.

Following the Captain’s decision to eliminate Sonny, the plot takes a turn for the worse. Sonny had begun dating Sofia while he was gone, and the Captain wanted to derail the General’s investigation, but Sonny had other motives.

The Captain pays a visit to Sofia following Sonny’s death. Later, she approaches the Captain and accuses him of being a spy and of killing Sonny, but she first gives an alibi for his whereabouts during Sonny’s murder. After Sonny dies, Sofia doesn’t confront the Captain since she doesn’t suspect him of his covert operations.

Unexpected Union

The Sympathizer: Some Novel Difference Between The Text and the On-Screen Adaption 

The Captain goes back to Vietnam towards the story’s conclusion to fight with the exiled General’s forces; he and Bon are captured and sent to an encampment during their return. The captain is subjected to torture at the concentration camp because the authorities there are determined that he is withholding a crucial element from his confession. This detail pertains, in particular, to a fellow communist agent, whose torture he witnessed firsthand under the supervision of the General’s other officers.


A prisoner at the camp herself, this agent is forced to write a confession to back up the narrator’s in the TV show. When the Captain sees her again, he remembers that he omitted the part about her abuse from his own confession since he had forgotten about it.

Both the agent and the captain never see each other again in the book, and she never even visits the prison. After another officer prods him, he remembers the missing portion of his confession.