To be honest, there’s been a lot of wheel-spinning over the course of season 7 of Game of Thrones – and so much for ‘breaking the wheel’, as Daenerys’s increasingly confused metaphor would have it. Jon and Daenerys took the entire season to team up (and of course give in to their throbbing biological urges). There’ve been quite a few battles but none – even the one where dragons set hundreds of people on fire – have had an awful lot of visible effect on the wider conflict. Cersei’s still holding up the Lannister regime in King’s Landing, and the rest of the country’s a ragtag bunch of misfits under Daenerys.
Really, the faction who’s done best this season is the Army of the Dead – as they’re all dead already, they’ve technically suffered zero casualties, are now one dragon to the better, and have invaded mainland Westeros with far more ease than Daenerys, who had a false start with the Dornish/Greyjoys, and then a no-score draw when Casterly Rock and Highgarden both fell in one day.
The key point, though, is that the petty squabbles of humanity are still distracting from the real enemy – the ice demons who have had it occur to them ‘are we the baddies?’ and concluded that yes, they are, and there’s an awful lot of living beings they want to kill. However, in a very real sense, the show is still leaning on ‘the army of the dead’s coming! And it’s going to be epic!’ – saving their actual invasion of Westeros for the very last episode. Their other perennial jam-tomorrow promise, mad crazy dragon attacks, did show up in this season, but only after the characters did everything they possibly could to avoid it.
Over the course of my reviews of this season, I’ve tried to keep my references to the books limited to where it is vital or interesting. The books are, at time of writing, still in the limbo state of Jon being dead and Daenerys having fled Meereen on Drogon’s back, with only a few advance chapters of The Winds of Winter passing this point. But – and at the risk of what are technically large spoilers – it is perhaps worth trying to suss out future events in the books by examining what’s happened on the show. Hear me out.
While not a slavish adaptation by any means, I’ve always had the impression that the show is at least attempting to hit the most important plot points. It’s a matter of public record that George R.R. Martin has let the showrunners in on the planned end of the series, so this is as close to canon as we’re likely to get any time soon. There’s always the possibility Uncle George has been gaming us all, and I’d love him for it, but I can only work with what I’m given.
So, let’s explore this point by point:
Arya wipes out the Freys
Unlikely that it’s Arya, but the Freys do have a massive target on their collective back. The more likely candidate is the Brotherhood Without Banners – still in the Riverlands, getting bolder about jumping and murdering Freys, and, under the leadership of a certain undead agent of pure revenge, incredibly pissed off about the Red Wedding.
Arya baking Freys into pies at the end of season 6, meanwhile, was a nod to another plotline in the books – Wyman Manderly, featured for about five seconds in the show, is posing as a Bolton loyalist but in reality is out for revenge after losing his son at the Red Wedding. He’s meant to have three Freys in his party when he comes to Ramsay’s wedding – somewhere on the road he loses track of them, but when he arrives at Winterfell he just happens to have acquired three great big pies, and really wants everyone to get a piece…
Sam curing Jorah’s greyscale
Doubtful, by way of them being nowhere near each other. Sam is at the Citadel, but Jorah is over in Meereen, getting ready to mix in in the Battle of Fire alongside Tyrion, and given his self-destructive mental condition it’s unlikely he’ll escape alive. There is another potential candidate for this – Jon Connington, who’s both in Westeros and has greyscale (and had elements of his plot folded into Tyrion and Jorah’s trek to Meereen), but is unlikely to go near the Citadel any time soon.
Euron teams up with Cersei
Very unlikely – Euron’s out for himself, which actually applies to the show too. At no point have they had the iron islands roll back from being in open rebellion against the iron throne, and that was a kingsmoot where Euron was elected, the operative word being ‘king’: it wasn’t a supplicant-to-a-feudal-overlord-moot. However, Euron being happy to betray his ironborn base at the first opportunity is completely in character.
Ellaria and the Sand Snakes are killed by Euron and Cersei
The way the Dorne plotline has been adapted means that any attempt to predict whether this happens would be, as physicists say, ‘not even wrong’.
Daenerys takes Casterly Rock
Quite likely, and as in the show, probably Tyrion’s idea. It’s the culmination of Tywin trying to deny him his birthright all these years, plus he’s promised a mercenary company a whole lot of gold and land acting as the Rock’s heir presumptive. The Unsullied attacking via the drains isn’t implausible either – Tyrion was in charge of them, after all, and the Unsullied have form for breaking into places via the sewers, like when they took Meereen.
The Lannisters take Highgarden
Doubtful. What’s more likely is Euron at least having a pop at it, since he has the ironborn raiding into the Reach. Plus, unlike the show, the Tyrells’ll have battle commanders beyond Olenna sitting in a room waiting to die – Loras’s older brothers, kept largely in the background but built up as a martial type and a strategic thinker respectively as well as generally decent blokes, will be there waiting for whatever threat it is.
Interestingly, this is one of very few times George R.R. Martin broke the polite covenant of adaptee’s silence, publicly stating ‘I didn’t just put (Willas and Garlan) in for hoots and giggles, they have roles to play in the last two books, and they don’t exist in the show’. When he’s saying this about two of A Song of Ice and Fire’s sprawling sea of minor characters you can be pretty certain there’s something special about them. This may explain why the fall of Highgarden took about two minutes onscreen and everyone moved on very quickly.
Arya reunites with Nymeria
Near certain, and since the books aren’t limited by CGI budgets and needing to have animal handlers on set, there’s also a strong possibility Nymeria and her whole pack join her. Throughout the books Arya’s been having Stark-style ‘wolf dreams’ where she sees through Nymeria’s eyes, and has developed some limited ability to warg into other animals like Bran – which really gives her an edge when the House of Black and White temporarily blind her.
Arya returns to Winterfell
Of course. Don’t be silly.
Gendry joins up with the Expendables for one last job
Hard to judge, since show Gendry is an amalgamation of book Gendry and Edric Storm, another of Robert’s bastards. Book Gendry did actually join up with the Brotherhood Without Banners (it being Edric who’s still somewhere out there, rowing), but as I mentioned earlier, they’re still in the Riverlands rather than heading North with the vague idea that they’ll be needed.
Viserion dying and being resurrected as a wight
Probably not in those circumstances – however, during the kingsmoot, Euron made a big deal of a horn called ‘dragonbinder’, which he claims lets the user control dragons. It should be noted that in the books Euron isn’t just a sexually deranged pirate king, he’s also knee-deep in mysticism. His ship’s hold is full of captured warlocks and he habitually uses shade of the evening, the trippy stuff the warlocks gave Daenerys at the House of the Undying.
Littlefinger is killed at Sansa’s command
Pretty certain. Sansa will, at the very least, be the main contributing factor. She’s still in the Vale with Littlefinger, posing as his bastard daughter and learning the game from him. The Lords Declarant really don’t like Littlefinger, and poor old Sweetrobin – the current key to power, and completely under his thumb – is probably on the way out.
The next key to power, meanwhile, is Sweetrobin’s distant relative, Harry ‘the Heir’ Hardyng, who an advance Winds of Winter chapter reveals Sansa is already wrapping around her finger. This is far more likely to be how the armies of the Vale end up going to Winterfell than Littlefinger pulling them out of his sleeve as he did in the show, and once it’s Sansa controlling the key to power his days are numbered.
Rhaegar and Lyanna were in love
Sort of – their relationship is the key to R+L=J, which the show at least has confirmed. However, to put it bluntly, Lyanna was sixteen and Rhaegar was a handsome prince. It’s more likely she was in teenage one-true-love-to-end-them-all, an impression which probably faded at some point before Rhaegar locked her up in a tower under armed guard to birth his baby. A baby, incidentally, he was convinced would save the world. Even if you’re inclined to view that charitably, he was basically using her.
Robert’s Rebellion, however, wasn’t based on a lie. Even if Robert was just jealous Rhaegar stole his girlfriend, there’s still the matter of Aerys II having Ned’s father and brother burnt alive with no trial. Another point, incidentally, that might have put Lyanna off Rhaegar a bit.
Jon and Daenerys bang
Quite likely, and if they don’t they’ll probably at least get on. Even discounting how it’s now happened in the show, their arcs have too many parallels – particularly in A Dance With Dragons, when they’re both grappling with leadership – for them to not recognise kindred spirits in each other if and when they meet.
There are a series of flowery prophetic images – most obviously, Daenerys seeing ‘a blue flower grew from a chink in a wall of ice’ in book two – that do seem to hint in the direction of them getting together. And while it’s probably a mistake to put too much stock in fantasies, dreams, and drug trips, a lot of the prophetic imagery of the books has been pretty unsubtle: in the same vision, Daenerys also sees ‘a feast of corpses…In the throne above them sat a dead man with the head of a wolf.’
The Wall is breached
Yes, and it’s quite possible it actually comes down completely. As a bluff, Mance Rayder claimed to have found the Horn of Joramun, which is supposed to do just that, bring down the Wall. Mance had a fake but impressive-looking horn to try and bolster this threat. However, one of the most popular theories is that the actual Horn of Joramun is the little broken one Sam found in the stash of obsidian during the great ranging. Sam is of course at the Citadel, and Euron’s on a collision course with Oldtown – so he’s a likely candidate to blow the thing.
There are some very strong suggestions that the Wall has some kind of mystic mumbo-jumbo about it that stops the white walkers in their tracks, which was hinted towards obliquely on the show when undead Benjen said he couldn’t go past it, so for the eventual white walker invasion the Wall coming down is basically a requirement.
The Golden Company coming to Westeros
This hasn’t happened in the show yet, but despite all the brouhaha about Game of Thrones ‘passing the books’, by book canon the Golden Company are already mixing it up in the Stormlands, elephants and all. Their faction – a Targaryen pretender who may not be who he says he is – is speculated to end up opposed to Daenerys, so this probably represents two plots being folded into one.
It’d be mighty ambitious of the show to introduce another Targaryen claimant in the final act, so we probably won’t get the supposed Aegon VI. We’re more likely to have a crude adaptation of Jon Connington, who – if they do him right – could make a very good straight-man foil for Euron as the other sub-commander in the Lannister coalition.
Now, it could well be that the adaptational changes we’ve already seen have brought about a situation where the books and the show actually can’t end the same way. In this case you’ve just read a bunch of speculative gibberish. A big part of these differences, though, is simply the result of both properties playing to the strengths of their respective mediums. The books have florid world-building and the subversions of fantasy archetypes where the show has CGI spectacle and shocking twists.
Both, of course, have gratuitous nudity, but you could argue that nudity’s just that more so in a visual medium. My point is that it’s perfectly possible that one has an explosive, crowd-pleasing finale of blood and thunder, and the other has something quieter and bittersweet – and perhaps most importantly of all, that one isn’t necessarily completely spoiling the other.
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