Game of Thrones: Spoiler-y Speculation, Take Two

What’s (probably) in store for the final episodes
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HBO

Yes, yes, the Memorial Day barbeques and pool parties are lovely. And thank god summer is finally here. But the fact that HBO temporarily suspends Game of Thrones over the holiday weekend has turned it into a bit of an anti-holiday in my household. That said, even if we can’t watch the show, at least we can sit around idly speculating about it.

When season four began, I suggested that while it might not offer any single shock quite on the level of season three’s Red Wedding or season one’s Be-Nedding, it would offer many more such shocks and they would likely be doled out incrementally over the course of the season. Even a month ago, when I wrote an earlier post on spoilers, I still imagined that a few Big Moments were imminent. But of the six scenes on my previous list, only one—the defenestration of Lysa Arryn—has yet taken place, and even that was in the final scene of episode seven. Which is all a long way of saying that, having taken their time with a few narrative detours over the course of the season, showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss look as though they’re preparing to cram an extraordinary number of thrills into the last three episodes.

Before I go further, let me say once more that these are spoilers, intended only for readers of the George R. R. Martin novels. If you haven’t read the books, get out now. (Any book readers who don’t want to be reminded of what is coming are encouraged to do likewise.) Also, I should note that I have not seen any of the three remaining episodes, so technically these spoilers aren’t really even spoilers, but rather educated spoiler-y guesses. Readers are welcome to offer their own guesses in the comments, especially given my own mediocre results to date in predicting where things have been headed.

Episode Eight: “The Mountain and the Viper”

For anyone who didn’t see it coming long ago, last week’s terrific scene between Tyrion and Oberyn (combined with the title of the episode) made pretty clear what we can expect this coming week. As I noted at the time, I was not a fan of the reintroduction of the Mountain as a shirtless thug massacring random peasants. But his duel with Oberyn will be awfully hard to screw up. Pedro Pascal has been magnificent in the latter role, and just imagining the drumbeat of his chant—“You raped her. You murdered her. You killed her children”—is nearly enough to give me chills. (Oberyn’s mantra is often compared to that of Inigo Montoya, but I hadn’t known until recently that it is, according to George R.R. Martin, a conscious imitation.) If they pull it off correctly, the conclusion of the duel should be one of the most gut-wrenching scenes of this season, or any other.

As for the rest of the episode, last week’s preview offered a few hints. We’ll see some of Ygritte, Tormund, et al. for the first time in a while—their last appearance was all the way back in episode three—and it looks as though the Magnar of Thenn may be making mole stew out of Mole’s Town. It’d be nice if we’d also finally get another glimpse of the great Ciaran Hinds as Mance Rayder (last seen all the way back in season three) approaching the Wall from the north, in preparation for the big battle in the next episode. From the look of things, Ramsay’s taking of Moat Cailin (with the help of Theon/Reek) is being imported from book five, although whether they’ll complete the gory storyline this episode or drag it out is anyone’s guess. And given the removal of Marillion the singer—who served as a convenient fall guy in the novels—it’s unclear how Littlefinger is going to get away with dumping Lysa out the Moon Door. In the preview it appears that Sansa is turning him in to the Lords of the Vale (“Lord Baelish has told many lies. I have to tell the truth”), but it wouldn’t surprise me if this is a bit of misdirection being thrown our way.

Episode Nine: “The Watchers on the Wall”

Again, it’s not hard to figure out what will be the primary thrust of this episode. Benioff and Weiss brought back director Neil Marshall, who helmed the “Blackwater” episode in season two, and he says the struggle for the Wall will take place on a still-larger scale, involving “three different battles going on at the same time in different places.” My assumption is that these will be the skirmish at Castle Black involving Ygritte and the rest of the scouting party (which took place earlier in the books), the battle for the gate (will we see Mag the Mighty?), and the broader siege of the Wall proper. (For the curious, there’s more from director Marshall here.)

I’m guessing that the heartbreaking kicker of the episode will be Ygritte’s final “You know nothing, Jon Snow,” which I’ve been dreading all season. Like Pedro Pascal, Rose Leslie has parlayed a supporting performance into one of the very most appealing roles on the show. Losing the two of them in consecutive episodes is going to be incredibly painful.

The doings at the Wall will take up the bulk of the episode, so I wouldn’t expect too much else in the way of major developments. If anything, I suspect some of the story up North—the arrival of Stannis’s army, for instance—will slosh over into the episode 10 finale.

Episode 10: “The Children”

The title of this episode is not nearly as revealing as that of the previous two, though I have my thoughts on it. What we can say with some assurance is that this season, Game of Thrones is breaking with its usual formula of offering a major turning point in episode nine and then putting the pieces back together in episode 10. At least, so says Alex Graves, who directed this episode and called it “by far the largest episode that they’ve ever made.” (At 66 minutes, it will also be the longest episode.) As noted, I suspect most or all of the business with Stannis will occur this episode. And “The Children” is in all likelihood a reference to Daenerys’s dragons, which may be expanding their misbehaviors (and diets): The scene with the goat’s bones earlier in the season was a pretty clear indicator that we will also get the scene with the bones that are not a goat's, which could make the episode’s title a bit of a gruesome double entendre. Benioff and Weiss have already tinkered with Daeny’s relationship with Jorah, so it’s unclear what may still be in store. But if she is going to banish him (as she does in the novels) this would be an obvious point in the show for it to happen. It also wouldn’t surprise me if we see more of Daario Naharis and the battle to retake Yunkai. Finally, though the Hound’s wound from Biter is different from the one he sustained in the books, I suspect the outcome will be the same, and at some time in these final three episodes he will be left to his (presumed) death as well. Rory McCann has really lifted his game this season, so this will be another major loss to the show.

And, of course, we will almost certainly get the scene that book readers have been waiting for all season long, when Jaime releases Tyrion and tells him the truth about his first wife Tysha, followed by the Imp paying a visit to the Tower of the Hand, where it is revealed once and for all that a) Tywin Lannister is less anti-whore than he pretends; and b) he does not, in fact, shit gold. In all, I estimate that, after seven episodes involving only two major deaths (Joffrey’s and Lysa Arryn’s), we’ll see five or more characters bite the dust in the final three episodes. Ouch.

A Storm of Swords, the novel from which this season was mostly drawn, closes with an epilogue featuring the appearance of Lady Stoneheart, a.k.a., Zombie Catelyn. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if she closes out the show as well, given the series’ penchant for ending with supernatural reveals (dragons in season one, white walkers in season two.) It’s even possible that Benioff and Weiss have moved Brienne and Pod’s storyline ahead far enough along that it could be their necks in nooses this time around rather than that of some second-tier Frey. On the other hand, there will be plenty going on in episode 10 even without Zombie Cat, and she’d make a natural pre-title sequence opener for season five…

Thoughts? Anything else that I’m leaving out?

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Christopher Orr is a senior editor and the principal film critic at The Atlantic. He has written on movies for The New Republic, LA Weekly, Salon, and The New York Sun, and has worked as an editor for numerous publications.

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