With Season 5 of the smash hit HBO adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones nearly upon us, the end of the show (if not the books) is nigh, with as few as two more seasons potentially remaining. So, what should we expect when Winter finally arrives?
5. Jon Snow will turn out to be another Stark’s bastard
This prediction is so widely accepted among the Game of Thrones fanbase, it almost doesn’t bear repeating. But for those who somehow missed it: Jon Snow is almost certainly not Ned Stark’s bastard son. Interestingly, despite the mystery surrounding Jon’s parentage cropping up several times throughout the Song of Ice and Fire books, the adaptation has pretty much let it fade into the background. So if you’re a fans of the show who hasn’t read a single page of Martin’s tomes, you can be forgiven for never giving the subject much thought.
But you really should give it some thought. Throughout Game of Thrones Season 1, we’re shown that Ned values his sense of honour above almost anything else – does this really sound like the type of man to have a mid-war fling when he has a wife waiting for him at home? It doesn’t fit with his character, does it? Also consider how evasive Ned is when King Robert grills him on the identity of his baby mama; his reaction goes beyond mere discomfort and borders on hostile. Clearly, an inexperienced liar like Lord Stark does not want his story subjected to close scrutiny, in case it doesn’t hold up.
So, if Jon isn’t Ned’s kid, then who exactly is his father? Well, funnily enough, although his paternal heritage is definitely a big deal, the more important question is, “Who is Jon’s mother?” I mentioned earlier that Ned will almost always take what he considers the most honourable course of action. I say “almost” because Ned’s insincere admission of guilt at the end of Season 1 shows that he’s prepared to act dishonourably provided it will benefit the people he cares about. Imagine, then, what Ned would do if he discovered that his kidnapped sister, Lyanna, had conceived an illegitimate child with her captor, Rhaegar Targaryen?
Consider the danger this child would face from a vengeful King Robert and the calculating House Lannister (who wouldn’t be keen on a potential claimant to the throne they now had a stake in, through marriage). I’m reasonably confident that Ned would have been prepared to sully his reputation and lie to his loved ones to disguise Jon as a child of his own.
Fans of the books already know that Lyanna’s last (conveniently enigmatic) words were “Promise me, Ned”, which – alongside a fairly convincing body of circumstantial evidence littered through the novels – seems to confirm their suspicions. Game of Thrones viewers weren’t granted the same flashback to Lyanna’s final moments. Time will tell whether future Game of Thrones seasons will show this pivotal flashback, however, it seems likely.
Of course, if we find out that Jon is the son of Rhaegar and Lyanna, that would also make Jon a Targaryen. I’ll touch on this more later in the post, but this means Daenerys might not end up the only character with dragons at her beck and call…
4. We won’t find out who the “real” god of Westeros is
The Game of Thrones show tends to fill in the gaps on some of its source material’s more ambiguous elements, but even so, we won’t necessarily get all the answers we’re after by the end. Fans expecting a definitive answer on more peripheral mysteries – like which of Westeros’ gods is the “real” one, and exactly how the magic in this world works – will likely end up disappointed.
Martin has previously stated his distaste for real life religions claiming that their deity is the “true” one. This is reflected in the books, which present all the religions in Westeros and Essos as simultaneously plausible and discountable. Indeed, it’s quite possible that all the religions are actually tapping into the same elemental force, and that whatever actual magic that occurs is a misunderstood offshoot of this primal power.
Whatever the truth is, Martin’s unlikely to spill the beans, so expect the show to remain tight-lipped on the subject, too.
3. Characters will continue to drop like flies
Even given Game of Thrones notorious penchant for killing off major characters, I think we’re all going to be surprised by just how many major characters won’t survive the series finale. I’m torn on whether Dany, Jon, Sansa, Bran or Arya will snuff it, but every other member of the lead cast is fair game, and more than any other character, I’m starting to worry that Tyrion is marked for death.
Part of me thinks that a meaningful death (not necessarily a heroic one, but one with purpose) would be a logical and fitting end to the little guy’s character arc over the series. Another part of me thinks that Tyrion has escaped death too many times, and will soon fall victim to the brutal logic of the world he inhabits. Then there’s the fact that Martin and showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have openly admitted that they enjoy writing Tyrion. And what is the golden rule of writing? Kill your darlings.
Of course, there’s also Martin’s original outline for the A Song of Ice and Fire books (written when he intended the books to form a trilogy, rather than a septa… septo… when it was going to be seven books), in which Tyrion lived beyond the story’s end. While this means I could be wrong about the Imp’s fate, the tale Martin originally planned to tell is so far considerably different to what saw print, so I’m not entirely convinced that this signals a reprieve for Tyrion.
I also think that fans of Game of Thrones should brace themselves for some symbolic deaths too, as characters lose their sense of identity and their original selves basically cease to exist. Take Arya, who is slowly becoming more and more dehumanised with each passing episode (and will continue to do so, if the books are any indication). I wonder whether the young woman present in the closing minutes of the last ever Game of Thrones episode will bare any resemblance to the plucky young girl we met in the first.
2. All Houses will live by a new motto: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”
Despite ranking second only to the Terracotta Warriors in the list of slowest moving armies in history, evil snow-zombies the White Walkers are going to invade Westeros before Game of Thrones wraps. What’s more, at this stage, it seems like wiping out the Seven Kingdoms won’t prove too much of a hassle, with the Nights Watch seriously low on numbers and all the Great Houses too busy fighting each other to mount much of a resistance.
But for all that, I’m dead certain that at least one part of Martin’s initial plan for the series will come true: everyone still left standing when the White Walkers finally come knocking will unite together against this common threat. I’m also guessing that Dany will pilot one of her dragons into battle, with Jon in the saddle of another, and the third and final dragon allocated to a yet another as-yet-unseen member of House Targaryen (fans of the books will be aware of an as-yet-unseen character who could fit the bill, but I’m not convinced this contender is legit).
It’s also worth noting that in the series so far, we’ve encountered dragon glass, a substance which can kill White Walkers. We’ve also seen the effect fire can have on wights (undead humans possessed by the Walkers), so there’s at least some evidence to suggest that the part Dany and her dragons have to play in the fight to come has been amply foreshadowed.
1. Say goodbye to the Iron Throne
My final prediction for Game of Thrones is easily the most controversial: despite the show revolving around the Iron Throne, I don’t think it will still be around once the series wraps up. At the very least, we can infer from the visions of a ruined, snow-filled Red Keep experienced by Dany and Bran that the future of King’s Landing isn’t looking bright, however, I’d argue it goes deeper than that.
Over the course of the last four seasons, we’ve seen the world of men like King Robert, Ned Stark and Tywin Lannister slowly eroding away. Indeed, the Great Houses are slowly being swept away, and there’s a sense that the status quo of the old world is being carried away along with them. And considering a key theme of Game of Thrones is power, including the power to both destroy and create, what better way is there to show this than by having the Iron Throne destroyed by the next generation as they use their own power to create a new world of their own?
So yes, in the end, I think we’re going to see Westeros and its social order irrevocably changed, as becomes a place where something like the Iron Throne would be out of place. Maybe citizens of this world will end up with a democratic government at long last? Or am I being just a tad too hopeful? Whatever the new world turns out to be, it will be portrayed in a way that gives us a satisfying ending, but one that is very much bittersweet, too. After all, Martin doesn’t believe in the possibility of humanity achieving a true social utopia or in naïve happy endings devoid of consequence or uncertainty.
Heck, even if the ending of Game of Thrones is surprisingly uplifting, I wouldn’t count on it being totally upheaval-free. So, even if the Iron Throne does get left on the curb for collection, don’t expect that to mean that the people of Westeros are automatically going to end up living happily ever after.