05 Jul Winter… will be with you in just one second
(Spoiler alert for both books and show!)
There have been some stellar TV shows in the past decade, some of which have built from nothing into a success and others which have been a hit from the get-go. George R.R.Martin’s series A Song of Ice and Fire is one of those rare ones that has had a cult following since before the first episode, but with some assistance from the large popularity that came from the first book in 1996; ‘A Game of Thrones’. Then one of the mighty television powers from HBO decided to adapt Martin’s legendary books and the rest is history.
Game of Thrones has, up to now, been running for over six years, with the penultimate season, (not including the extremely likely-looking spin-offs), to be released in just over two weeks. It has won critical acclaim with no less than 38 Emmy Awards, 3 Hugo Awards and four Golden Globe nominations amongst a long list of others. A lot of people are sad to see it go, but also anxiously whittling away the days in steadfast anticipation at how will this all play out.
The show has never one to pander to happy endings, even if that would have been nice just once, but each episode has managed to give more twists and turns than the spaghetti junction and it’s made the ride all the better for it. Season 5’s final episode ‘Mother’s Mercy’ finished where the most recently published book in 2011, ‘A Dance with Dragons II; After the Feast’, also finished. For five years, fans of the books had been biting their fingernails in anticipation after one hell of a cliffhanger, but thankfully (or annoyingly depending on how you see it), the first episode of season 6, ‘The Red Woman’, resolved some of these long standing questions. This episode was released on April 24 2016 to a staggering viewing figure of 7.94 million people watching that night alone.
The sixth season had the highest average viewing figures of all seasons by half a million people. I think this rise was in no small part down to the book readers who desperately wanted their long-standing questions answered, and with Martin’s promise of a new book failing to materialise by each deadline, the readers needed some relief. However, with Martin sitting on the show’s board as a co-executive producer and creative consultant, the likelihood is that the main writers would defer plots and ideas to him to try and ensure some accuracy towards these as-yet-unwritten books, and their viability in Martin’s canon. One thing for certain is that this split between books and the adaptation is unchartered territory; even media giant Warner Bros waited for J.K.Rowling to complete the final Harry Potter books before adapting them. With GRRM’s unique position on the show and influence over it, who’s to say what work, accurate or not will be produced? However, with the books and closing seasons still as yet to materialise, it simply seems to be a waiting game to see whether they will be a rendition of each other, or if both mediums going their own separate ways.
Since Game of Thrones began in 2011, fans of the books and fans of the show have clashed over dropped plot lines, dropped characters and altered characterisation, with each side seeming to war over their preferred version. Martin himself chose to alter the relationships between characters like the much more amiable relationship between Tyrion and Sansa and Brienne and Jaime, and so the show in some aspects has acted as a do-over or an alternate universe where some relationships blossomed where in the books they failed.
This being said, there are some dropped plot lines a majority of fans on both sides have been in furore over, when with each passing season it seemed they weren’t going to be shown. This has been made all the more apparent coming into the final season where there isn’t likely to be much room amidst dragon battles and the long-awaited Stark reunion of course.
For me, the biggest plotline is part of this grand Stark reentrance. Remember all of those sweet faces in the first episode, so innocent and fresh faced, where the worse thing was the way Lady Catelyn treated Jon Snow? Well look at them now; the ones that are still alive are war torn and extensively travelled, and the dead didn’t exactly have the kindest demise. The Red Wedding had a hand in that.
And therein lies one of the biggest plots missing from the show. Lady Stoneheart is still tossed around places like Reddit and Game of Thrones fan blogs who question if she will ever make an appearance, or if it will be like she never existed.
In the books, Brienne of Tarth is sans any romantic entanglement with Ser Jaime Lannister, and is on a quest to find Sansa Stark whom she believes to be travelling with the Hound. Ultimately, she crosses paths with a gang of infamously vile sellswords called the Brave Companions and is injured when one of them bites her cheek off. Thankfully, she is saved by the Brotherhood without Banners headed by Gendry (remember him? Last seen in the show in a paddle boat), who takes her and a much younger Podrick Payne than in the show, to the new leader. Beric Dondarrion, kept alive thanks to the Lord of Light and Thoros of Myr, used to head this forest dwelling troupe, but he heads it no longer. That honour is now bestowed to Lady Stoneheart, who it is revealed to actually be none other than the resurrected Catelyn Stark. Who would have thought that Lady Stark, killed books ago and whose body was dumped into the river after the Fray’s cut her from ear to ear, would make a shockingly strong return? Of course, it is not the motherly figure we all came to briefly know: she is now unable to speak after the Fray’s destroyed her Larynx, her skin is the pallid grey complexion of a bloated corpse after resting too long in the river, the side of her head that is left with hair is now white and she’s lined with scars on her face from when she raked her nails down her skin when she saw Robb killed by Roose Bolton.
Not the prettiest picture, but for sure a shocking one that would make this much awaited for Stark reunion a highlight and a half; especially now that everyone knows Jon isn’t Ned’s and Arya is just a whole bag of tricks on her own. The likelihood of a full Stark reunion, however, is unlikely, especially with Jon’s own resurrection thanks to the Lord of Light. It’s true that the books have yet to show how Jon is resurrected, so maybe Melisandre didn’t have Thoros of Myr bring Jon back, maybe the Lord of Light is just infinite in his ability to raise the dead, who knows?
The second trailer for season seven was released a couple of days ago, and aside from some pretty impressive voice over from Jon Snow and the omnipresent creep Lord Baelish, we have a serious looking Brienne and Pod and a glimpse of Beric Dondarrion complete with flaming sword. A hint of the potential lost plot line coming back into play? Or just a reminder of how much money has been put into the show to have it complete with flaming weapons and recurring characters, that is a question we will have to see if answered in the show.
One thing is for sure though, with the end, unfortunately, looming for this television giant and the goosebump-inducing trailers, that you have to watch to get your blood pumping for the show, this season will be the biggest, baddest and most watched yet, and I am already cancelling plans for the 16th of July unless they involve popcorn, dragons and my television.