[Editor’s Note: The following contains potential spoilers for the final two episodes of “Game of Thrones.”]
By now, many parts of adapting “Game of Thrones” from page to screen has become television production lore. For example, showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss had initially won over George R.R. Martin to let them adapt his books by telling him the true identity of Jon Snow’s (Kit Harington) mother, even though it hadn’t been revealed in the books yet. But the clues were all there for devotees of the novels.
And then there’s the matter of the three twists. Back in a 2016 interview with EW, the showrunners said that Martin had sat down with them to give a general outline of the rest of his unwritten novels since the show had surpassed the books plotwise in Season 6. As part of this rough sketch, he revealed three “holy shit” moments. Two have already come to pass: The burning of Shireen Baratheon (Kerry Ingram) alive at the stake and the time-bending explanation to Hodor’s (Kristian Nairn) name. But the third big WTF twist “is from the very end,” Benioff said.
“Game of Thrones” had already established a reputation for twists from Ned’s death to the various deadly weddings in the earlier season. There have also been plenty since Hodor’s heartbreaking demise, including turning Viserion into an ice dragon, burning down the Wall, and Arya’s (Maisie Williams) most recent assassination of the Night King.
But this promise of a twist at the “very end” feels like another game-changer, one in line with Martin’s ability to upend expectations. In a Reddit AMA, director David Nutter had said, “As far as season 8 compared to the Red Wedding I just have to tell you — hang onto your seat cause it’s going to be special.” It would also make sense if it paralleled the loss of Ned (Sean Bean), in that it a) upset who viewers thought they should be rooting for, and b) occurred in the penultimate episode of the season. This would make Sunday’s upcoming Episode 5 the perfect time to pull the Westerosi rug out from viewers and make them wail for mercy. Then again, a twist at the beginning of the super-sized series finale would also be unsettling in the best possible way.
Many fan predictions of what the third moment could be feel like legitimate twists. For example, Arya Stark attempts to finish off her only two viable remaining names on her kill list — The Mountain (Hafthor Julius Björnsson) and Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) — and either succeeds or dies trying. Or Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) could finally tap into his Three-Eyed Raven powers — by warging into a dragon or shifting time — and save the day. Or Drogon could be a female dragon and bring a phalanx of dragonets to the battle. However, none of these really feels like the twist but could put absolutely make for dramatic, pivotal moments.
No, to be effective, the third big moment should involve the people that the other characters are the most invested in at the moment, and that would be Daenerys Taragaryen (Emilia Clarke) and Jon Snow. Already the show has set up rival factions backing each potential ruler. Having one or both of them die would make the most sense; having one betray and kill the other would make the most twisted sense in “Game of Thrones” since they’re also lovers. While Daenerys has been shown to value her ambition for the Iron Throne more than Jon does, again, a twisted logic would make it poetic justice for him to be the one who kills Daenerys, perhaps to save the realm from the Mad Queen reputation that the show has been building for her.
As much as this would upset the feminist trajectory that Daenerys has been on, there is a poetic parallelism at work with this theory. Ned was betrayed by his beloved friend’s son, is driven by integrity, and will make hard decisions — such as executing the Night’s Watch who abandoned their post — for the good of the realm. Jon has many of these same qualities, and having to kill someone he loves that he thinks is harmful to Westeros would be the ultimate in operatic tragedy. To take it one step further, using Dany’s own dragon to burn her would just be sick but still really the epitome of WTF.
A secondary twist related to that theory could happen as well. Following with a Vanity Fair theory, Jon could then return to the North instead of taking the throne. That would leave it vacant for someone far more level-headed — perhaps Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) — to rule instead.
No matter what happens though, viewers are expecting an epic body count and minds to be blown. Come on, “Game of Thrones.” Give viewers the doozy that has been promised. Valar morghulis.
What are your theories on the big WTF moment?
”Game of Thrones” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.