The Long Night, and possibly a Long March

WightGiants

With the breaching of the ancient Wall that spans the northern frontier of the Seven Kingdoms, the realms of men are facing another Long Night.

The supernatural White Walkers and their undead army are shambling southwards through an Eastwatch-by-the-Sea sized gap in the no-longer impassable barrier, and if the old stories are to be believed, things look dire for Westeros.

But just how dire might the situation be? Probably pretty dire. If only we could hear the opinions of the First Men from thousands of years ago.

*Before we get any further into this article, this is going to be speculation about what could happen in regards to the White Walkers invasion of Westeros. I’ve been avoiding reading details from the production so I could write this post in a spoiler-free manner, so if you, dear reader, are trying to avoid confirmed plot details you won’t find any here. You’ll just find my guesses. If you are deep into the spoiler weeds already, do me a favor and don’t include any such details in the comments. Not for my benefit so much, but for anyone else reading along.*

First Man #1: You young people today don’t know how easy you’ve got it.
First Man #2: Aye, we had it rough!

Most of our information from the Long Night comes as stories from Old Nan of Winterfell. The story of the White Walkers is slightly abbreviated on the show, so here’s the relevant passage from the books:

“Thousands and thousands of years ago, a winter fell that was cold and hard and endless beyond all memory of man. There came a night that lasted a generation, and kings shivered and died in their castles even as the swineherds in their hovels. Women smothered their children rather than see them starve, and cried, and felt their tears freeze on their cheeks.”

“In that darkness, the Others came for the first time” she said as her needles went click click click. “They were cold things, dead things, that hated iron and fire and the touch of the sun, and every creature with hot blood in its veins. They swept over holdfasts and cities and kingdoms, felled heroes and armies by the score, riding their pale dead horses and leading hosts of the slain. All the swords of men could not stay their advance, and even maidens and suckling babes found no pity in them. They hunted the maids through frozen forests, and fed their dead servants on the flesh of human children.”

A Game of Thrones, Bran IV

The northmen of Westeros have at least one advantage missing from the First Men who saw the last round of the merciless walking dead – the people of the North are somewhat prepared this time.

If we take Nan’s story as more-or-less correct (we don’t have to have 100% faith in it, but let’s take it as close to authoritative for the moment) the White Walkers came as a surprise. It was the first time. And the people they encountered were not united in purpose. There were multiple kingdoms affected, and the undead hosts defeated armies plural. A score of armies. (Those not up on archaic counting words, a score is usually twenty, but don’t take it too literally.)

Wait, if the undead swept through kingdoms, does that mean they ripped through the North and down into the Riverlands? Well, maybe they did, but not necessarily. This happened before the Starks became the Kings in the North; there were multiple smaller kingdoms throughout the land.

Depending on if the climate generally was more temperate before the Long Night, there might even have been holdfasts and smallish kingdoms in the lands now north of the Wall. We know that the First Men had a settlement or outpost in the far, far north, at the Fist of the First Men. But that’s a point I don’t need to debate one way or the other. There were multiple kings in the North at this time, and these kings probably behaved like most kings do, prioritizing responses to problems when those problems were closer to their doorsteps, instead of rushing to their neighbor’s aid.

At least the contemporary North has been expecting winter, perhaps symbolically, for some time. The northmen are used to cold weather and have been stockpiling for multi-year freezes. That puts them in a better position than their ancestors.

First Man #1: Oh, we used to dream of having food stockpiled for multi-year freezes.
First Man #2: We did?

We’ll see if the logistical organization of the North, along with whatever advance warning they get about the Wall’s breaching, gives them the ability to respond effectively to the White Walkers. It’s certainly better than being caught completely unaware.

So is the situation dire? The ancient First Men somehow managed to survive after being caught flat-footed, but it was a traumatic enough of an event for them to build the huge Wall for persistent defense and vigilance. Had the White Walkers been easily repelled at the time, there wouldn’t have been a need for the unbelievably massive engineering challenge. So how did that even happen? How were the White Walkers fought off?

game-of-thrones-15.17.06

The legends are thin on the actual details that ended the Long Night. We hear this from Old Nan:

“Now these were the days before the Andals came, and long before the women fled across the narrow sea from the cities of the Rhoyne, and the hundred kingdoms of those times were the kingdoms of the First Men, who had taken these lands from the children of the forest. Yet here and there in the fastness of the woods the children still lived in their wooden cities and hollow hills, and the faces in the trees kept watch. So as cold and death filled the earth, the last hero determined to seek out the children, in the hopes that their ancient magics could win back what the armies of men had lost. He set out into the dead lands with a sword, a horse, a dog, and a dozen companions. For years he searched, until he despaired of ever finding the children of the forest in their secret cities. One by one his friends died, and his horse, and finally even his dog, and his sword froze so hard the blade snapped when he tried to use it. And the Others smelled the hot blood in him, and came silent on his trail, stalking him with packs of pale white spiders big as hounds—”

Bran’s story gets interrupted unfortunately by Hodor. Our only clue to the end of the story is literally a reference that the story has an end…

All Bran could think of was Old Nan’s story of the Others and the last hero, hounded through the white woods by dead men and spiders big as hounds. He was afraid for a moment, until he remembered how that story ended. “The children will help him,” he blurted, “the children of the forest!”

A Game of Thrones, Bran IV

The First Men during the long night were saved somehow when the Last Hero made contact with the Children of the Forest. It’s good to know that the White Walkers can be stopped with some assistance from the Children, but those elfin inhabitants of ye olde Westeros appear to be in short supply now. The last we’ve seen died defending Bran in a cave in the uttermost north.

But Bran Stark, the new Three Eyed Raven, is situated in Winterfell and is focused on stopping the White Walkers. We’re not really sure how he’ll do that. We’re not sure if Bran is sure how he’ll do that. While Bran is moving along his mystical magical journey, the men of the North will have to rely somewhat on their military might.

I think it’s fair to say that the current defenders of humanity have some martial advantages over their ancient counterparts.

“On his head was the sword crown they had fashioned him of bronze and iron.”

When the White Walkers came the last time, the First Men faced them mostly with weapons of bronze. I’m not saying that iron-working was beyond the First Men, but the books really lean heavily on the Andals being known for bringing their superior iron working to Westeros. Since the Andal invasion was thousands of years after the Long Night, bronze was probably the more common material in use.

Wait. Didn’t Old Nan say in her story that the White Walkers hated iron and fire? Why wouldn’t she say bronze and fire?

This is one of those details that I think Nan has under-researched for her stories.

Old Nan: Thanks for mansplaining this to me.

The current defenders of the Seven Kingdoms have the benefit of steel, which is superior in general to bronze, and functionally more economical since iron and carbon sources are plentiful while tin and copper, the source metals for bronze, are not. This might give the contemporary men of the North a slight advantage in performance over their bronze-using predecessors, but mundane weaponry has such little effect on wights that the steel advantage in weaponry is probably negligible. I’ll come back to this a little later.

One of the two big advantages in weapons technology is the discovery that obsidian (called dragonglass or poetically ‘frozen fire’ in Valyrian) is dangerous to the White Walkers and disruptive to the necromantic energy that animates the wights. Jon Snow brokered a deal with Daenerys Targaryen to mine the vast collection of obsidian found in the caves beneath the Valyrian fortress of Dragonstone, so thanks to their alliance, obsidian is being ferried to craftsmen in the North to shape into usable weaponry.

Dragonglass_Spear

To restate the good news: dragonglass kills White Walkers and wights. The bad news: epipaleolithic technology doesn’t necessarily make for great weaponry. Stone weapons are heavy compared to metal, are brittle, can shatter, and might not penetrate the armor that the White Walkers began to wear shortly after Sam Tarly stabbed one of the unarmored, ancient monsters with an obsidian dagger.

They’ll probably be best used for arrowheads since there will be so many wights to shoot at. Like, so many wights. And shaped into spearheads since spears are easy to produce and train people to use en masse.

The other key weapons technology that was largely absent during the first Long Night is Valyrian steel. Technically it wasn’t available at all during the Long Night since that time predated the rise of Valyria, but Sam Tarly discovered references to dragonsteel, which could kill White Walkers.

“The armor of the Others is proof against most ordinary blades, if the tales can be believed,” said Sam, “and their own swords are so cold they shatter steel. Fire will dismay them, though, and they are vulnerable to obsidian.” He remembered the one he had faced in the haunted forest, and how it had seemed to melt away when he stabbed it with the dragonglass dagger Jon had made for him. “I found one account of the Long Night that spoke of the last hero slaying Others with a blade of dragonsteel. Supposedly they could not stand against it.” — A Feast for Crows – Samwell I

This ‘dragonsteel’ seems to refer to some ancient forerunner of the excellent weaponry of the Valyrians, since Jon Snow discovered at Hardhome that his sword Longclaw did not shatter in contact with the weapons of the White Walkers, and kills them as explosively as dragonglass.

KillsOther

It would be fantastic if the Stark/Targaryen coalition had in their armories a plentiful assortment of arrows, swords, lances, and spears of the dark-as-smoke Valyrian steel. But the secret of forging this alloy vanished when the Doom took Valyria, and our plucky heroes will have to make due with what few Valyrian blades they have.

Jon: I have one.
Brienne: I have one.
Arya: I have an itty bitty one!
Jaime: I have one! Can I help? I’m a good guy now!
Bran: I’ll have to think about that, Kid-dropper.

Since I’m counting swords, it might be reasonable to estimate army sizes. Dany came to Westeros with her starting force of eight thousand Unsullied. Some died during her tenure in Meereen, some were lost taking Casterly Rock, but her number of Unsullied is probably still close to that number.

Daenerys also brought with her an enormous group of Dothraki cavalry, after cowing the khalasars by roasting the khals and surviving an inferno unsinged. I think it’s fair to say she could have tens of thousands of horselords from Essos.

At Winterfell, Sansa Stark has the loyalty of the knights of the Vale, heavy cavalry that I think number around five thousand. Enough to carve through Ramsay Bolton’s alliance with the Karstarks and Umbers at the Battle of the Bastards.

Jon Snow relied on two thousand wildlings previously, and now that the Boltons are out of the picture and the North has rallied around Jon as king, thousands of northern soldiers are available. The number of available fighting northmen has been unfortunately depleted by two events: the butchery of Robb Stark’s host at the Twins by Bolton and Frey treachery, and the defeat of the Bolton, Umber, and Karstark forces outside of Winterfell. The fighting forces of every house in the North has taken a hit in the past years, regardless if those houses were virtuous or villainous.

juego-tronos

On the other side is the army of the White Walkers. At most we’ve seen around a dozen of the supernatural bogeymen (doesn’t mean we can’t see more) but at a low estimate there are over one hundred thousand wights in their army. It’s fair to suggest that the bulk of Mance Rayder’s failed migration population were killed and converted into foot soldiers. Their army includes undead giants, and maybe we’ll see more ghoulish polar bears in the mix.

These numbers are all fuzzy of course, but it feels like the White Walkers have at least a three-to-one numerical advantage over the North in the most favorable case for the humans. Because of dramatic narrative stakes, it’s probably more like ten-to-one.

If this was a normal military situation, the defenders would be wise to get behind their walls.

“One man on a wall was worth ten beneath it.”

Ned Stark and Tywin Lannister probably didn’t see eye-to-eye on some things, but according to the books they both agreed that castle walls were a force-multiplier. Since the defenders of the North are outnumbered, perhaps they can even things up by sticking to a defensive game.

But things are still unbalanced in the White Walkers’ favor. They don’t need to eat or rest. They really have no supply lines that can be cut. The wights are their own supply line, with their slain enemies joining the army of the indefatigable undead. They can mount round-the-clock assaults. They’ll rush at walls in the face of boiling oil and arrowfire fearlessly.

The defenders inside have positional advantages, but run the risk of exhaustion in the face of sustained assaults. In these situations, the offense only needs to get lucky once to be successful. I’m sure any Unsullied manning the walls would give their all, but they’re only human.

Grey Worm: Unsullied can fight without food or rest.
Me: Really? For how long?
Grey Worm: Grey Worm was just repeating some promotional material from the Astapor wise masters. Don’t take everything Grey Worm says literally.

It’s expected that the North will shelter the smallfolk in their castles and fortifications. Undefended populations wouldn’t just be targets for attack, they’d be at risk of necromantic recruitment; there’s no incentive for the lords to try and keep the locals out. Non-combatants behind the walls would therefore have to be accommodated for and fed. Sansa Stark was expecting a great many refugees to head to Winterfell, and so had requisitioned harvested stockpiles, but the North will need some other strategy to employ than just waiting things out. The dead are excellent at playing the waiting game.

Lake

“He set out into the dead lands with a sword, a horse, a dog, and a dozen companions.”

We don’t have a great deal of information on how sophisticated First Men cavalry might have been during the first Long Night. The Andals are typically credited with introducing armored chivalry to Westeros, but if we believe Old Nan’s tale about the Last Hero, horses were domesticated prior. And the White Walkers set themselves apart from their shambling rabble by riding their dead horses.

The critical factor would be if stirrups had been invented at the time, which is necessary for serious mounted combat, particularly horse-archery.

So the White Walkers might not be anticipating advanced cavalry techniques from their human opponents. But the knights of the Vale won’t be accustomed to infantry not routing when charged into.

Cavalry

The northern combined cavalry are outnumbered in relation to the wights, but we saw Stannis Baratheon’s mounted forces carve up a numerically superior force of wildlings, so I don’t want to downplay the effectiveness of horses. But the Dothraki have had negative experiences with infantry that didn’t break when charged into. In the books, we get details of a khalasar facing off against fearless, unflappable foes.

Ser Jorah Mormont recounts a tale of three thousand Unsullied who stood their ground at the city of Qohor against what should have been overwhelming numbers of Dothraki.

“But when dawn broke and Temmo and his bloodriders led their khalasar out of camp, they found three thousand Unsullied drawn up before the gates with the Black Goat standard flying over their heads. So small a force could easily have been flanked, but you know Dothraki. These were men on foot, and men on foot are fit only to be ridden down.

Eighteen times the Dothraki charged, and broke themselves on those shields and spears like waves on a rocky shore. Thrice Temmo sent his archers wheeling past and arrows fell like rain upon the Three Thousand, but the Unsullied merely lifted their shields above their heads until the squall had passed. In the end only six hundred of them remained . . . but more than twelve thousand Dothraki lay dead upon that field, including Khal Temmo, his bloodriders, his kos, and all his sons. On the morning of the fourth day, the new khal led the survivors past the city gates in a stately procession. One by one, each man cut off his braid and threw it down before the feet of the Three Thousand.

A Storm of Swords, Daenerys I

It’s quite possible that the wights have anxieties and neuroses or whatever, obviously I haven’t talked to one to find out, but I assume that they are fearless in the classical way that undead happen to be fearless. Mindlessly so. (When not being confronted with Dungeons and Dragons clerics wielding holy symbols, of course.)

The wights won’t care about the Dothraki’s reputation and they won’t rout under arrow fire. Even if the arrows are tipped with stone dragonglass points (which they had better be.)

The knights from the Vale have the benefit of steel armor and so they’ll have a better chance surviving close contact with the wights than the average leather vested Dothraki.

Rakharo

Rakharo: Dothraki don’t wear steel dresses.
Ser Jorah: Armor.
Rakharo: Armor. Armor make a man slow.
Ser Jorah: It’s true. It also keeps a man alive.
Rakharo: My father taught me how to fight. He taught me speed defeats size.
Ser Jorah: We’re entering Season Eight and I’m still alive. Didn’t you die early in Season Two?
Rakharo: No need to get all meta-referential on me, Jorah the Andal.

Regardless if it is heavy Vale cavalry or the more numerous Dothraki light cavalry trying to scatter the wights, the horsemen will become the focal point of surging murderous corpses once the initial impact is complete.

That’s assuming that cavalry charges will even be effectively possible. With the White Walkers comes bad weather. Really bad weather.

Deep snowfall would reduce the speed and maneuverability of the horses, as well as concealing any holes and other hazards in the terrain. I suspect that the Dothraki of Essos are not used to snow, nor their horses (does anyone have any evidence in the text of Essos having bad winters like Westeros? I’ve always assumed that it is only Westeros that suffers sustained climactic issues, but some of that might be because the entirety of the continent of Essos is south of the Neck’s latitude, and just doesn’t see the colder weather.)

Once winter truly hits, the advantages given by the horses will be reduced. But not the amount that the horses eat.

Stannis: At Storm’s End, we ate the horses.
First Man #1: You had horsemeat? You were lucky!

Still, provided that the northern alliance can keep those horses fed, it’s probably better that they have them than not. But the mundane destriers from the Vale of Arryn and the horses from the grasslands of Essos aren’t nearly as important as a different breed of steed.

The dragons.

A Dance of Dragons,  A Detente of Dragons

The First Men (as far as we know) did not have the benefit of dragons in their fight against the White Walkers during the Long Night.

First Man #1: That’s the way we liked it!

And they also didn’t have to contend with undead dragons (only spiders as big as hounds.)

First Man #2: Okay, we were the lucky ones. I’ll admit it.

When Dany had three dragons, it seemed like any bypassing of the Wall by the White Walkers would be easily dealt with via dragonfire. But that was before Viserion was felled by the Night King’s javelin, and resurrected into his service.

AntiDragonSpear

Dany’s dragons are still a danger to the army of the wights and Daenerys does have a two-to-one numerical advantage, but the Mother of Dragons is probably somewhat reluctant to put her children in harms way, thanks to what happened to Viserion.

Since the Night King is using Viserion as a ride, he probably won’t be committing his dragon-wight recklessly into action. He only has the one dragon, and if push comes to shove, Dany might make good use of her two dragons to stop him. But push might have to come to shove before that happens.

Because of that, the most obvious course of action for both sides is to act as a dragon deterrent: like the nuclear arsenals between the US and USSR during the Cold War. Both sides have them, so neither side uses them. Unless the other crosses a line. A line each will be watching for.

Because the dragons are such a threat to both sides, I imagine that the Night King will be unlikely to significantly divide his forces. He might send off small groups, with the intention of not attracting the attention of a dragon-riding Dany, but will keep his large army intact for its integrity and security. With one dragon, he can only provide air support for one army. So it is unlikely that the North will find simultaneous major sieges happening.

In fact, I don’t see any incentive for the White Walkers to spend much time in the North at all, dealing with the pesky northmen who were forewarned and forearmed with wight-killing/White Walker destroying weapons.

“That’s more people than the entire North, crammed into that.”

In the Season Seven finale, Tyrion Lannister informed Jon Snow that King’s Landing contained within its limits roughly one million inhabitants, more people than the population of the kingdom of the North.

KingsLanding

The Night King could take the steps necessary to depopulate the North and add just under a million soldiers to his army. It would take time, moving his massive army around the kingdom and attacking settlements and fortifications, playing aerial chess with Daenerys riding Drogon with Rhaegal beside her, dealing with feints and skirmishes from knights and Dothraki. Or the Night King could just march south instead.

Due south of the kingdom of the North, past swampy Moat Cailin in the Neck, is the kingdom of the Riverlands. Years of conflict haven’t been kind to the region, it’s not as heavily populated as it once was, but it represents something that the White Walkers haven’t experienced since before the last Long Night: a land not expecting a horde of supernatural monsters.

The Riverlands might not be a collection of small kingdoms, but it can’t be considered unified with Lannister troops trying to keep the loyalty of the smallfolk at sword-point, grumbling river-lords only recently been brought back into obedience to King’s Landing after following the King in the North, bandits in the countryside, and disgruntled religious folk still remembering that briefly there had been a Faith Militant who were going to set things right by the Seven.

Not everyone will be holed up behind strong castle walls, and no one will be holding spears with dragonglass heads. And there will be no army gathered with orders to engage with a shambling horde.

And just a bit farther down the convenient-for-marching kingsroad is densely populated King’s Landing. With one million potential new recruits.

Now, King’s Landing isn’t defenseless, it’s a walled city. But the Westerosi capital nearly fell to Stannis Baratheon who had far less soldiers than the Night King.

Ser Davos: Are you going to let that grammatical error pass, your grace?
King Stannis: I’m inclined to let it go. Technically, my army had fewer soldiers, yes. But the Night King’s wight soldiery are so much more impressive, a human soldier might be considered “less than.”

Could the Night King realistically delay taking the North and instead target King’s Landing for his first major conquest? The White Walkers aren’t a typical army. There aren’t really supply line considerations to limit their ranging. In fact, their biggest threat, the army of the North, would have to stretch a supply line if they wanted to keep pace and harry the undead as they marched into the Riverlands.

The wights are on foot, so they wouldn’t be fast, but they don’t have to stop and make camp. Ever. And no one else will be moving all that fast now that winter has come.

But how would the Night King even know to head south, know that there would be a relatively easy jackpot at the end of the road?

I think it’s a reasonable question and can generate some good discussion, but I don’t think it’s a question that demands an answer. The Night King is supernatural. If the show doesn’t give us any explanation, I’d just chalk it up to magical greensight or that he’d been sending undead crows flying south for years to inform his plans.

He might have gotten information from the dead minds of his servants. In Season One, when the dead Night’s Watch rangers Othor and Jaffer Flowers reanimated at Castle Black, Othor headed straight for the Lord Commander’s quarters. One implication is that some of Othor’s knowledge remained intact in the walking corpse, which suggests the possibility of being able to provide some kind of minimal intel to the White Walkers.

There might be a more mundane explanation. Rangers of the Night’s Watch often made stops at Craster’s Keep deep in the haunted woods when wanting to trade or to exchange information or just to get warm. Who knows what kind of conversations filled the long evenings of ‘hospitality’ at the keep?

Craster: This Kingly Landing sounds biggish, aye. Home to a few hun’red?
Ser Alliser: More like a million.
Craster: I don’t know how big that number is. I think you’re stretching the truth, southerner.
Ser Alliser: It’s all the same to me if you believe me or not, wildling. It’s not like you can visit King’s Landing and prove me a liar.
Craster: Well, I have no interest in seeing your big collection of mud huts anyway. Maybe one day my sons will see it though.
Ser Alliser: Hah! All they have to do is travel south down the kingsroad. That shouldn’t be much of a problem if they can get past my brothers at the Wall. I wish them luck.
Craster: I wish you luck in keeping my sons away!

“Everyone who isn’t us is an enemy.”

To reiterate, this is just speculation on my part. For all I know, Arya Stark will grow wings and fly up to stab the dragon-riding Night King with her Valyrian dagger, creating a leadership crisis among the undead and the fighters of the North would then focus on killing the rest of the White Walkers, ‘turning off’ all of the wights at the same time.

Then Daenerys and Jon Snow can deal with Cersei in the final episodes of the season and series. That could all happen.

But I prefer the notion of the White Walkers skipping the North and heading south to threaten King’s Landing for a several reasons.

During the diplomatic meeting at the Dragonpit last season, Queen Cersei reassured Daenerys Targaryen that she was willing to put aside her ambitions in defense of the realm. That Dany and Jon could turn north and prepare to face the invasion of the White Walkers and their ghouls, and the Lannister administration would assist by sending troops northwards in a grand alliance.

cersei1

Cersei had no intention of following through with that; she wanted the Stark-Targaryen coalition forces to withdraw so she could shore up her position and wait on mercenary reinforcements in the form of the Golden Company sellswords. In her mind,  the North would either be greatly weakened or destroyed by the wight invasion, and her rebuilt armed forces would be able to deal with the survivors, be they human or wight.

I’m a fan of Cersei being wrong about things, and I’m a fan of things unexpectedly not going her way. If the wights and White Walkers bypass Winterfell to head south, if Cersei had kept faith her alliance with the North would have been advantageous. Along the kingsroad, there are a handful of chokepoints where the larger wight army might be dealt with. The swampy terrain of the Neck would force the wights to stick to the narrow kingsroad, allowing an army at the south end to take on a line of advancing wights instead of a huge massive array.

The White Walkers don’t have to capture the Frey river-crossing at the Twins, but if they ignore it, a mobilized Lannister army could use it to assist in supplying northern-allied cavalry coming down to harass the rear of the White Walkers host. That’s assuming that Cersei had sent her forces northwards to assist, which she didn’t.

The wights don’t swim (or effectively can’t – I doubt living wildlings know how to swim and death wouldn’t improve their aquatic abilities) and so would be vulnerable trying to cross the Trident down in the Riverlands. Much like at the Neck, the crossing wights would be vulnerable to attacks from a waiting and prepared army.

(I’m assuming in all these cases that Daenerys or some other dragon-rider of Targaryen descent has a dragon in the air to counter the Night King from vaporizing any Lannister forces who are engaging with his forward deployed forces.)

Any of the above battles would be exciting to see unfold on screen, and in some fashion might still happen. There are Lannister forces in the Riverlands who might respond as best as they can. Jon Snow, on realizing that the wights are headed south, might get some troops to White Harbor and send them south by ship in a desperate attempt to cut the wights off. But without Cersei committing her forces earlier, these efforts might be too little, too late. Cersei’s bad faith dealings would then come right back to haunt her as an unimpeded nightmare army comes knocking at the door.

This would appreciably raise the stakes, with the danger of King’s Landing falling to the White Walkers being a legitimate end game crisis. It would tie nicely into Dany’s vision of the ruined throne room in King’s Landing.

It would even pay off the scene in the Season Seven finale where Bronn ordered a Lannister sergeant to double the number of barrels of pitch. We saw King’s Landing readying for a siege last season, we should probably get to see a siege. It would also tie all of the separate storylines together. There wouldn’t just be a northern storyline of Jon and Dany versus the wights, unconnected with Cersei’s scheming in King’s Landing. It would all be one thing.

Game of Thrones is ending, and so storylines will need to converge into some kind of satisfying conclusion. When I stare into the fires and try to envision Season Eight, I see those storylines converging, not in the North where they’ve been readying for Winter, but on King’s Landing. With Jon, Dany, Cersei, and a whole mess of wights.

162 responses

Jump to (and Always Support) the Bottom

    1. Excellent article! And, I have to say, one which has me considering the military aspects of the coming war.

      In book!verse, I always considered Bran to be The Last Hero, but season seven sort of projects Jon in that manner. For all our Magnificent Seven and Seven Samurai references (and fears the body count would be the same!), there were around a dozen men with Jon, if we include the redshirts.

      Old Nan is someone who should be listened to and considered one of the ultimate ASOIAF/GOT truth tellers! Her stories may sound fantastical, but throughout the books they are more often than not proven to be true (unfortunately). We may not get ice spiders as big as hounds, but we’ve seen snow bears, horses and now a dragon reanimated. That is…..not good.

      Back to my original point about the military side of things – for all that Jon has made sure they’re more prepared than the First Men, with his warnings of what is to come and mining of the Dragonstone dragonglass, they are badly outnumbered. The Northern population – specifically their fighting population – has been decimated by the War of the Five Kings and then the Stark recovery of Winterfell. The Night’s Watch and the wildlings are a fraction of what they once were after fighting each other.

      Mance spoke of an army of a hundred thousand. Of those, Jon rescued around, what, five or six from Hardhome? The remainder were unwilling recruits of the Night King.

      If they are going to win, the Seven Kingdoms will need to listen to Jon’s Hardhome speech.

      “No clan can stop them. The Free Folk can’t stop them. The Night’s Watch can’t stop them. And all the southern kings can’t stop them. Only together, all of us, and even then it may not be enough, but at least we’ll give the fuckers a fight.”

      Or – “As the snows fall, and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies, but the pack survives.”

      I love that line – for me, it sums up where we are at the end of season seven. The living need to work together, to become a pack, or they’ll all end up dead.

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    2. Great article! As someone who avoids spoilers its nice to still be able to enjoy this site with articles of a non-spoilery nature!

      Sam the Slayer also has a Valyrian Blade in Heartsbane!

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    3. Your hypotheses sound interesting but I just can’t see how the Army of the Dead could ever reach Kings Landing before the end of Season 8. It’s only 6 episodes isn’t it? They walk so slow and it’s so far!

      We’d need to see some kind of battle near Winterfell with them, then at Moat Cailin and then Kings Landing. It would be such a different White Walker pace to the rest of the series, so I just can’t imagine it. However, my brain my well just be very small.

      For this reason I imagine a montage of White Walker destruction of the North (à la ‘Poup and Soup’), everyone holed up in Winterfell’s tunnels to avoid Dragonfire, a protracted siege, a few twists and turns and then a win for Team Warm Blood.

      We’ll find out soon anyways, well we’ll find out in a year or so.

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    4. … there might even have been holdfasts and smallish kingdoms in the lands now north of the Wall. We know that the First Men had a settlement or outpost in the far, far north, at the Fist of the First Men

      For what it’s worth, I recall in “A Clash of Kings,” when Commander Mormont sees the maps he requested from Sam before journeying beyond the Wall to search for Benjen, he said something like “Was this all you could find? These are old.”

      To which Jon responded (my emphasis), “The villages may come and go, but the hills and rivers will be in the same places.”

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    5. Great article, but some corrections and additions have to be made.

      First of all regarding the numbers. In 707 Sansa said that they were asking 20 thousand men to fight for them. In 705 Jon said that he had 10 thousand or less (fewer), he must have ment only the northern forces (including the wildlings). So, based on Sansas words the North & the Vale have 20 thousand combatants (+ suppotive force formed of half-trained noncombatants).
      Dany has the Unsullied (7 thousand or more) and the Dothraki. And in 607 she was talking about 100 thousand Dothraki, which means that her Dothraki horde alone is about the same size as the AOTD. If we count everything Jon & Dany has some 127 thousand agains the NK’s 100 thousand + plus 2 dragons against 1.

      Howerver, those forces are divided: the northern army and the KofV are in WF, Dany & Jon and the Unsullied and the Dragons are sailing to the White Harbor, and the Dothraki are on the King’s Road ALONE. So, if the NK is a greenseer (and that’s a legit assumtion), his best move would be marching south ASAP and intercepting the Dothraki on the King’s Road before they reunite with Dany and get the dragon coverage. I assume that the Dothraki have already been armed with dragonglass, so the fight wouldn’t be easy, but the NK would be able to use his dragon, as well as the fact that the Dothraki would be fighting without a commander. And they are unorganized and bow to the strong. So, the NK has a good chance to scatter the Dothraki, if he intercepts them, and add most of them to his army along with horses. His present wight wildling army would be lost, but it would be replaced with a wight Dothraki army – mounted, faster and much deadlier, not to mention that Jon’s and Dany’s numbers would shrunk to negligent 27 thousand. Therefore, I conclude that the NK’s best strategy would be intercpting the Dothraki on the King’s Road, south of WF.

      As for Jon and Dany, they should learn about it somehow (from Bran or otherwise), but the only way to prevent shit from happening would be leaving (or not going to) WF and attacking the NK from the rear with a rather small force and the dragons. If they choose the right timing, they win (though the NK would still maintain a chance to flee to safety), but if not…

      One way or another, I think that the Dothraki were send to ride alone by the King’s Road for a reason, and that Dany may lose a big part of them to the NK just as she lost one of her dragons.

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    6. Ten Bears:
      Hey Patrick! Thanks for the article.. but where’s my weekly vocabulary word?

      I have failed you Ten Bears.

      I was hoping epipaleolithic would suffice. Next article, I will try to crank up the vocabulary

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    7. Inga,

      Wow, your supposition that the Night King would surprise the Dothraki on the road is a terrifying scenario! I want Season 8 to get here even faster

        Quote  Reply

    8. Ten Bears:
      Sandor Ahai!

      “He is the Lord’s Chosen. The Warrior of Light.”

      Sandor Ahai..that will be cool

      Patrick Sponaugle:
      serum,

      Egad! I can’t believe I forgot about Heartsbane. You are correct to remind me

      Heartsbane will wielded by Azor[Sandor]Ahai next season to kill some White Walkers.

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    9. ABlueEyedGiantNamedMacumber,

      I respect your skepticism, it is a long way to travel. But I do assume that wights can move faster than Robert’s entourage getting from Winterfell to King’s Landing in a few episodes – we know the show isn’t shy of omitting travel times.

      Hopefully any such large travel won’t be as haphazardly shown as the stuff in Season 7.

      I agree that only six episodes puts pressure on my speculation.

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    10. Excellent article! But also a lot of good additional comments down here!

      Rakharo: Armor. Armor make a man slow.
      Ser Jorah: It’s true. It also keeps a man alive.
      Rakharo: My father taught me how to fight. He taught me speed defeats size.
      Ser Jorah: We’re entering Season Eight and I’m still alive. Didn’t you die early in Season Two?

      The show does kind of rub our noses in the fact that speed is inferior to armor. And who relies largely on speed, has no Valyrian steel sword (just a itty bitty tiny one) and no armor? Oh man, don’t make me think they kill off Arya after Sandor gave her the whole “Trant had armor and a big fucking sword”-speech. I’m not ready yet.

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    11. I am intrigued by the surviving characters going into S8.
      It would be poor writing to just kill of people now as cannon fodder.
      For example Arya can’t just get killed by an arrow. If she dies it must be more meaningful.

      In the books Bron is married, but not on tv, I wonder if they will resolve that.
      I would like to see Bron marry Sansa and move into Winterfell.
      My other possible end game is more controversial.
      Sansa leaves to live a life at sea with Yara!

      Also Arya to marry Gendry and both with both as joint rulers.

      I think that the dragons will do so much damage that Jon and Danny might retire to old Valyria.
      Just my guesses, not spoilers.

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    12. But how would the Night King even know to head south, know that there would be a relatively easy jackpot at the end of the road?

      Of course this thought crossed my mind… Perhaps the NK won’t be conveniently stupid and actually reconnoiter the lands atop wight-Viserion, unlike Daenerys or any suggestion of doing so from Tyrion. She could have covered a lot of ground and seen a lot of what was going on from well above range of any danger.

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    13. Cliohna,

      Well, now Arya is relying on many more things than spreed alone. She has become a master of disguise etc. I don’t think the showrunners are going to kill her off. I rather fear that she’s gonna be underused, just like Bran last season who did nothing but confirmed the obvious (the NK’s march on Eastwatch, Jon have predicted without andy supernatural assistance). Therefore there might be other thing the showrunners are rubbing our noses into: all those obvious advantages like supernatural skills or dragons or even army numbers are good for nothing without a proper strategy and planning. Tyrion was good at planning during the Battle of Blackwater Bay, ever since – not that good, but his head still works. And Ramsay taught Jon something about traps, too.

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    14. Colin Armfield:

      In the books Bron is married, but not on tv, I wonder if they will resolve that.

      Given the “I’ll double it” offer, I do wonder if Bronn will end up with The Twins in show canon? Two castles rather than one (technically)…..

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    15. Colin Armfield,

      I haven’t forgotten about Jaime but he won’t be able to do much planning in the first stage of the war. As for now, he is somewhere on the King’s Road behind the Dothraki and a lot will depend on how many men he’ll get. He gaved the order for the Lannister men to summon at some town, but Cersei may cancel this order – or not, if she decides that such cancellation reveals her treason and that it would be better for her to continue playing the ally until the GC arrives. In other words, it’s very hard to predict what Jaime is going to bring into the fold. But one way or another, he will be adjusting his moves to Jon’s reaction to the NK’s first move.

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    16. Great article, Patrick:) I wholeheartedly agree with everything in your train of thought about Nk going South to KL, Cercei and etc. Your reasoning was excellent. I really hope that D&D worked along those lines!

        Quote  Reply

    17. Alba Stark,

      Yes, Twins would be a right double castle for Bronn and he had flirted heavily with two Frey girls (or handmaids) back in Ep 610. So, him ending there would be quite natural.

        Quote  Reply

    18. Inga,

      “One way or another, I think that the Dothraki were send to ride alone by the King’s Road for a reason, and that Dany may lose a big part of them to the NK just as she lost one of her dragons.”
      ———————-

      Things are looking up for my boy NK, aren’t they? 😈

        Quote  Reply

    19. Bravo, Patrick, this is fantastic. I need to re-read it later to digest it better, but the breadth and depth of what you covered plus welcome dollops of humour–that’s great writing. Your command of the military aspects is particularly impressive. You make an excellent case (both dramatically and militarily) for the AotD heading for KL. And Cersei would be up the creek without a paddle if they do that. Nice thought, that. We all worry about the NK’s ability to replenish his army, but if the show uses your idea of attrition at the chokepoints they must encounter on their journey south, the numbers could be more equal by the time they reach the capital.

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    20. Great discussion! I apologize for finding any faults, BUT… Your concern about how the swampy Neck and various rivers will slow down or block the wight walkers is misplaced. They bring the cold with them, remember? The swamps will freeze hard, the rivers ice over and the wights will shamble on.

      Also, you didn’t give enough prominence to the role of FIRE. It doesn’t all depend upon dragons, after all! How about fire arrows, catapult and trebuchet loads of burning pitch (or whatever)? How about putting all the cached wildfire to good use? The more closely the wights “march” together, the more effective a conflagration they’ll be.

      I think you’re right on track with the upcoming assault on King’s Landing. That’s where the people (future wights) are, and that will take the smirk off Cersei’s face. Plus, fulfilling Dany’s vision. This is also where the wildfire is, and all the remaining Lannisters know about it (Cersei, Jaime, and Tyrion). This could be where the wight army is stopped – at the cost of maybe a million living residents. Smallfolk, to be sure – but it got rid of all the fleas in Flea Alley! I’d guess either Cersei or Jaime would trigger the firestorm, as Tyrion has become too soft-hearted/-headed these days.

      Also, these scenarios make it clear why the eighth season won’t be ready until 2019.

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    21. The Showrunners have shown again and again that time’s a variable in GoT. If they decide that it would make a great “Holy Crap!” moment, then they could easily have Cersei wake up one morning, look out the window, and see half a million wights surrounding KL – with no greater explanation as to how they got there than was offered when Euron’s fleet showed up to surprise Gray Worm.

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    22. Inga,

      “…I rather fear that she’s [Arya’s] gonna be underused, just like Bran last season.”
      ——————

      I thought Arya was egregiously underused last season, especially after S7e4 when she essentially became a bit player in the manufactured sibling rivalry/LF-Sansa Winterfell sideshow.

      Candidly, I was also somewhat disappointed by what should’ve been iconic Arya scenes in S7e2 that felt strangely….underwhelming. That’s all on the director of the episode. (I could barely make out what Arya was saying at some points during her scene with Hot Pie; the Nymeria reunion resorted to the director’s trademark, distracting blurry background scenery; and most of the casual GoT viewers I know misunderstood Arya’s parting words, “That’s not you”, to mean that the direwolf wasn’t Nymeria.)

      Still, I loved Arya’s scenes in Episode 1, and will always enjoy the dagger twirl, dagger flip and, sparring match in Episode 4.

      As far as I’m concerned, Season 8 should focus on Arya much the way Season 4 did. [The S4e1 – S4e10 Arya & Sandor storyline was the best aspect of the show so far, in my view.]

      Abridged S8 wish list:

      • Arya – Sandor reunion
      • Arya – Jon reunion
      • Arya – Nymeria & Wolfpack
      • Arya does something amazing with VS dagger
      • Arya saves Sandor, or Sandor saves Arya.
      • Arya – Dany flying lessons or dragon joyriding
      • Arya = YMBQ
      • Arya doesn’t “marry” anybody.
      • Lord Manderly issues retraction and correction: “Arya Stark avenged the Red Wedding!”

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    23. Inga,

      Ever since I read some comment where Emilia supposedly claimed her new short blonde hairstyle would require her to spend less time in hair and makeup for the upcoming season, I have wondered whether her Dothraki forces might meet some terrible fate on their King’s Road journey. After all, a Dothraki “defeat” would certainly warrant the loss of her elaborate Khaleesi braids. I even speculated that as newcomers to Westeros, the Dothraki might succumb to the cold and/or some illness for which they never built an immunity to (much like the American Indians succumbed to illnesses brought by the Europeans). Of course a defeat at the hands of the Night King would be even more terrifying, as he would gain not only a horde of ferocious warriors, but their horses as well.

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    24. evenwind,
      Ten Bears,

      Show Westeros is not that big as in the books. Winterfell lies in a fortnight of hard ride form KL (or 1 month in standard pace). The distance to the Wall may add a week or two to that. So, technically the NK should be able to reach KL in 1-2 months (one, if the AotD marches straight and 24/7 without rest; and 2, if it engages into numerous “recruiment operations” along the way). One way or another, it’s not that much – not enough even to make Cersei loook obviously pregnant before its arrival.

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    25. Cliohna,

      I am not predicting Arya’s demise, but armor is an advantage not to be discounted lightly (until it becomes obsolete, thanks to guns)

      Thank you for your feedback and kind words!

        Quote  Reply

    26. mmk,

      Interesting idea, Dany cutting off her braids as a result of the defeat. But that raises ba bunch of questions. You see, the story demands Jon winnig an intermediate victory by midseason. If the first big battle with the AotD is lost despite of all the preparations, the best thing for the surviving main characters would be evacuation to the Bay of Dragons, and therefore there wouldn’t be any final showdown between Jon and the NK in KL. Therefore, the firs big battle must be won, although at such a cost, that Cersei could proceed with her plan. On the other hand, the first big battle is more like a theoretical concept. If the NK overruns the Dothraki without Jon being involved that will be a sideline story like Euron defeating Yara or burning Grey Worm’s ships. But Dany will have a reason to cut her braid anyway.

      Or that may happen as a reaction to Jon’s true status revelation which should shake her to the core.

        Quote  Reply

    27. I’m loving (and terrified) of the idea of the NK & the army of the dead heading to King’s Landing first. I agree that it would fit nicely to Dany’s vision in the house of the undying. But I’m also weary of the fact that the NK & his YUGE army can travel south without being spotted in the North.

      Also, I always felt that any greensight capabilities the NK developed were a result from marking Bran in S6 The Door. Or perhaps the wights are to the NK, what trees are to the Three-Eyed Raven?

        Quote  Reply

    28. Clob,

      I think the Night King would be able to get a lot of air reconnaissance accomplished, until he has to keep his dragon near his forces to counter Dany, who might be brave enough to risk javelins if she can nuke the Night King’s lieutenants. So I don’t think he’d get a chance to map out the high population center of King’s Landing as a discovery from dragon back.

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    29. Re: getting the wights to KL —

      I can only dream that show!Euron will actually begin to resemble book!Euron and (1) betray the Iron Islanders by enslaving them through sorcery and (2) betray Cersei by using her gold to purchase the Golden Company and their ships for himself and (3) offer the ships to the Night’s King and his army in return for the Iron Throne before (4) losing everything in a supernatural battle with Bran.

      Wishing for the Eldritch Apocalypse!!!!

        Quote  Reply

    30. Inga:

      Show Westeros is not that big as in the books.

      I’m not sure that I accept your assumption but even if I do, I have no trust that D&D will “waste” any airtime with explanations. From past examples, they’ll be no scenes where Cersei is being briefed on the WW’s steady advance – that would ruin the viewer’s surprise and Cersei’s “Holy Crap!” moment. I suspect that one morning, they’ll just be there. Maybe we’ll get to see a Breakfast Wine spit take?

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    31. SiriuslyStark:
      Great article, Patrick:)I wholeheartedly agree with everything in your train of thought about Nk going South to KL, Cercei and etc. Your reasoning was excellent. I really hope that D&D worked along those lines!

      Thank you so much! I put a lot of thought into it, but not too much of my hopes. I am often wrong when it comes to Game of Thrones.

        Quote  Reply

    32. zandru,

      No need to apologize! I didn’t want to make too many assumptions about the zone of cold from the Others, since enough wights do crack lakes. Swamps might be more resistant to freezing since the waters will have a higher percentage of particulate matter (and whatever swamp water has) but even a frozen swamp is probably difficult to march thru, which would have the horde’s main force moving faster along the kingsroad, presenting a different formation to deal with.

      I was thinking about talking about fire, but my article was getting long. The show has shown us some different results of fire on wights, Othor went up fast, from burning lamp oil on his clothes, Jeor Mormont set a wight on fire that was encumbered by Ghost, but the flaming polar bear was pretty terrifying, and I don’t know if Beric’s flaming sword was all that extra effective (in that I didn’t see wights going up en masses like oil drenched kindling, the way I have read wights are supposed to burn – or at least when people are theorizing wight flammability)

      But I definitely believe Bronn’s flaming pitch barrels will come into play.

      But so might the Other’s fire suppression ability.

      Anyways, I appreciate this feedback. Please never hesitate to challenge my assumptions, this is how we’ll stay active until next April.

        Quote  Reply

    33. Dark Sister,

      Yeah, I don’t think an army of the dead can move so fast as to outrun a raven carrying a note to Cersei, so I don’t think King’s Landing will face a surprise siege from the wights.

      Maybe a surprise attack from a dragon, though.

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    34. evenwind,

      Yes, Cersei really deserves such “Holy Crap!” moment, but I hope that D&D will come up with a reasonable explanaition for that and it wouldn’t be that hard with the NK being airborn. He may lose the battle in the North – even on purpose and dissapear in the clouds. And then, when everyone assumes that he fled back to his den, he lands in KL, right in Cersei’s map-yard, and raises hands and all the dead start crawling from their graves:] He might not even need to drag the AotD along.

        Quote  Reply

    35. Excellent article and hard to argue with any of it. I really like your predictions in fact.

      But I NEED there to be a long night after all that we’ve been told. I NEED to see kings shivering and dying in their castles even as the swineherds in their hovels. I NEED to see women smother their children rather than see them starve (OK maybe I don’t need to see that part).

      But still-Winter is coming and we need to damn well see Winter and all the hell that it brings with it, not half an inch of snowfall and some frost that we’ve seen so far.

      And also my thirst for being punched in the guts (which, let’s face it, is long overdue by GOT standards).. requires that we lose beloved characters to the WWs, for them to become wights and devour other beloved characters. It’s gotta happen surely? We need to see more than that Wildling woman on team blue eyes.

        Quote  Reply

    36. Inga:
      mmk,

      Interesting idea, Dany cutting off her braids as a result of the defeat. But that raises ba bunch of questions.

      When Drogo is presented to Daenerys in Winter is Coming, Viserys tells her that Dothraki cut off their braids when defeated in combat – Daenerys effectively became their leader when she made them all her bloodriders in Blood of my Blood. Doesn’t the loss of Viserion constitute a defeat for her as a Dothraki leader, even though the Dothraki themselves were not involved?

      Perhaps it isn’t after a Dothraki defeat as such that she cuts off her braid, but after she learns the Night King has enslaved her child?

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    37. As soon as they get the news about the wall, the northerners should send out a general distress call for ships to evacuate non-combatants by sea, and urge those living near the neck to head south by land as soon as possible, with as much food as they can carry. Unfortunately, non-combatants are worse than useless because they become combatants for the other side as soon as they die.

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    38. This article is great Patrick! I like these sorts of articles every once in a while to break up the news articles, and I love reading predictions from people who haven’t read any news spoilers. And better yet, this was a really interesting take on what could happen and very well thought out.

      Keep up the good work! I’d love more of these (though I know they’re hard and take a lot of time and thought).

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    39. Alba Stark,

      All of the Dothraki who fought against the 3000 Unsullied at Qohor cut off their braids, being unwilling to continue the fight against the remaining Unsullied. So if the Dothraki have a bad encounter with the wights, it might legit be considered a defeat requiring Dany to cut off her braids.

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    40. Apollo,

      I don’t know if we can get the full nightmarish generation of suffering in six episodes, but I respect what you are saying, and what you want.

      Hang in there!

        Quote  Reply

    41. Jaehaerys,

      Thank you Jaehaerys! I will try to write up a feature every so often, since we have such a long wait ahead. I am very fortunate to be able to contribute to the site, it helps as therapy, you know what I mean.

        Quote  Reply

    42. Patrick, great article, thank you!

      The Night King could also fly behind enemy lines and start a secondary force of the dead, while his army is on the march…

      Speaking of supernatural advantages, maybe Dany’s Fire walking abilities will come into play again, she would be the perfect person to set off a trap, in say, a burning Winter Fell…

        Quote  Reply

    43. Northstar,

      I appreciate the kind words, thanks!

      I wouldn’t put it past the Night King to try that, but whenever he takes his dragon away from his main force, he risks Daenerys attacking his main army that no longer has air support (but I admit that his army does have anti-dragon defenses, as we know – Dany will have to worry about ice javelins.)

      I hadn’t thought about Dany and her fire-proof nature. That might be a pretty cool component for a big trap, with Dany as the lure.

      That’s a cool notion, thank you!

        Quote  Reply

    44. Apollo,

      “We need to see more than that Wildling woman on team blue eyes.”
      ________________

      Apollo:

      “Team Blue Eyes”…. I love it! I may have to use that from now on. I’ll be sure to credit you.

        Quote  Reply

    45. Patrick Sponaugle:

      All of the Dothraki who fought against the 3000 Unsullied at Qohor cut off their braids, being unwilling to continue the fight against the remaining Unsullied. So if the Dothraki have a bad encounter with the wights, it might legit be considered a defeat requiring Dany to cut off her braids.

      True, but surely Viserion’s enslavement constitutes a defeat for Dany herself (and given her role as leader of the Dothraki she includes herself as one of them) and could therefore be a possible reason why she herself would cut her braids?

      Just throwing some thoughts out – it will be a very long night!

        Quote  Reply

    46. Alba Stark,

      Oh, I completely see what you are saying.

      Dany might also have cut her hair as a show of grief. That’s the same with Ellaria (who no one likes, I know, I know) who cut her hair after Oberyn died.

        Quote  Reply

    47. Colin Armfield:
      I am intrigued by the surviving characters going into S8.
      It would be poor writing to just kill of people now as cannon fodder.
      For example Arya can’t just get killed by an arrow. If she dies it must be more meaningful.

      This goes for all the main characters. At this point in the story, main character deaths have to mean something to their arc.

      Take Jamie, for example. Him dying as part of killing Cersei is hugely meaningful and poetic for him because it’s him killing this person who has been such a big part of his “bad” side. It would likely be in a desperate attempt to save innocent lives like he did back when he killed the Mad King, so it resonates strongly with his past. And then having his good deeds recorded in the book of Lord Commanders would finally wash away that stain of “Kingslayer” for all to know and he’d be remembered as a selfless hero. Pretty damn powerful if you ask me!

      Colin Armfield:
      Also Arya to marry Gendry and both with both as joint rulers.

      Yes, please! 🙂

        Quote  Reply

    48. Ten Bears:
      Inga,

      “…I rather fear that she’s [Arya’s] gonna be underused, just like Bran last season.”
      ——————

      I thought Arya was egregiously underused last season, especially after S7e4 when she essentially became a bit player in the manufactured sibling rivalry/LF-Sansa Winterfell sideshow.

      Candidly, I was also somewhat disappointed by what should’ve been iconic Arya scenes in S7e2 that felt strangely….underwhelming. That’s all on the director of the episode. (I could barely make out what Arya was saying at some points during her scene with Hot Pie;the Nymeria reunion resorted to the director’s trademark, distracting blurry background scenery; and most of the casual GoT viewers I know misunderstoodArya’s parting words, “That’s not you”, to mean that the direwolf wasn’t Nymeria.)

      Still, I loved Arya’s scenes in Episode 1, and will always enjoy the dagger twirl, dagger flip and, sparring match in Episode 4.

      As far as I’m concerned, Season 8 should focus on Arya much the way Season 4 did. [The S4e1 – S4e10 Arya & Sandor storyline was the best aspect of the show so far, in my view.]

      Abridged S8 wish list:

      • Arya – Sandor reunion
      • Arya – Jon reunion
      • Arya – Nymeria & Wolfpack
      • Arya does something amazing with VS dagger
      • Arya saves Sandor, or Sandor saves Arya.
      • Arya – Dany flying lessons or dragon joyriding
      • Arya = YMBQ
      • Arya doesn’t “marry” anybody.
      • Lord Manderly issues retraction and correction: “Arya Stark avenged the Red Wedding!”

      I totally respect your opinion that you don’t want Arya to marry anyone at the end, but you can’t deny that an Arya and Gendry reunion can only mean good things for her. Apart from Ned and Jon, there’s really no one that she has shown to care more for than Gendry. She was sulking the whole episode after he was taken away, and then put no fewer than 3 people on her list!

      Also, if Gendry doesn’t end up with Arya, who does he end up with (if anyone)? Unless he dies, but I hope not. I, for one, hate the idea of him and Sansa together. There is no history between them and I don’t think they fit together personality-wise. Does he just go off on his own then, after being legitimized as a Baratheon, and we’re to assume he’ll just find someone to settle down with? That’s kind of weak.

      Definitely approve of the rest of your wish list though. 🙂

        Quote  Reply

    49. Onedon:
      Great article Patrick. Thanks man. Good drama and effective military use of involved, making wights terrifying again. Awesome read

      Thank you so much! I’m glad you liked it and thank you again for the comment. It’s much appreciated.

        Quote  Reply

    50. “I’m a fan of Cersei being wrong about things, and I’m a fan of things unexpectedly not going her way.”

      YES! The dead have to make it south, but not only for Cersei to face her mistake. If they are contained and defeated in the north, the rest of the kingdom either won’t believe it or will think the dead weren’t much of a threat. I want the kingdom to understand the horror and destruction that they were facing.

      My pet theory is that the Night King will split his army, and the bulk of it will move down the coast from Eastwatch to King’s Landing. A significant portion will stay in the north. This force will be large enough to distract (and challenge) the allied forces so that when the dead arrive outside KL, it will be a massive Holy $#@%! moment.

      Inga,

      Oh, I hadn’t considered the Night King going straight for the Dothraki. That would be amazingly awful. More guilt for Dany.

        Quote  Reply

    51. Chreechree,

      This comment has made me appropriately question my assumption that the Night King would have to keep his army as one large mass, so he could protect it from Dany with his dragon.

      But if he is putting suitable pressure on the North, Dany stays in the North, and the army moving south doesn’t need air support.

      This might lead to an interesting situation.

      Jon: Where are you going?
      Dany: To fly south and roast that army.
      Jon: But we need you here. Can’t you just send Rhaegal?
      Dany: Rhaegal will eat something and fall asleep.

      Scenario 1:

      Bran: Jon, you can fly Rhaegal, you’re a Targaryen.
      Jon and Dany: WHAT?
      Bran: I’ll explain later. One of you can go roast that army, one of you can stay here and keep the Night King from roasting us.

      Scenario 2:
      Rhaegal: Hey guys, I’m Bran, warging this dragon. Daenerys, you go fly south and roast that army, I’m going to surprise the Night King up here.
      Daenerys: I am not amused.

        Quote  Reply

    52. Patrick Sponaugle,

      Right! A divided army is an unexpected and interesting scenario. I actually hope that they don’t realize the Night King’s forces are divided. You know, it’s a stealthy army of 70,000 dead. Regardless, dividing the dragons would probably be too risky.

        Quote  Reply

    53. Chreechree:
      Patrick Sponaugle,

      Right! A divided army is an unexpected and interesting scenario. I actually hope that they don’t realize the Night King’s forces are divided. You know, it’s a stealthy army of 70,000 dead. Regardless, dividing the dragons would probably be too risky.

      Solid thinking! Thanks again for these comments.

        Quote  Reply

    54. Enharmony1625,

      Gendry does not deserve Arya. She saved his life and freed him from Harrenhal; he blew her off when she said “I can be your family”; and he never asked about her or mentioned her at all to Jon or the BwoB during his S7 Whingefest. Or at any other time.

      (And I guess I just don’t like the Gentry 2.0 version with the buzz cut and whining attitude.)

        Quote  Reply

    55. Chreechree:
      Patrick Sponaugle,

      Right! A divided army is an unexpected and interesting scenario. I actually hope that they don’t realize the Night King’s forces are divided. You know, it’s a stealthy army of 70,000 dead. Regardless, dividing the dragons would probably be too risky.

      I didn’t think ( and others also ) the army split being unexpected, Robb did it and so did Jamie.
      Now Jon or Danny may not expect it, but many viewers figured it may happen.

        Quote  Reply

    56. Enharmony1625,

      I should really divulge my biases here. I am really hoping these eight+ years and 73 total episodes don’t come down to a grab bag of cliched baby dramas, pregnancies ex machinas, romantic couplings, and determinations of who will marry whom. (If I want to see that kind of thing, I can watch a guilty pleasure rom-com, or rewatch “Pride & Prejudice” or “Sense and Sensibility for the tenth time.)

      Most of all, I don’t want the fates of Arya, Sansa or Daeny to hinge on winding up with the right guy or birthing a predestined magical baby. So that’s another reason an Arya-Gendry meet-up wasn’t on my abridged Season 8 wish list, above.

      IF the showrunners believe these kinds of elements are integral to a satisfying ending, then how about this addition to my Wish List:

      • Ghost hooks up with Nymeria, and the series finale episode “A Time for Wolves” concludes with a scene of…. adorable newborn Direwolf Puppies!.

        Quote  Reply

    57. Enharmony1625,
      Ten Bears,

      I’m affraid that Gendry may be killed after euniting and possibly even developing some romance with Arya. That may be necessary for her charater final development like the last impetus to sail west of Westeros or back to Braavos or any other place where she could be leave the world of the living without actually dying.

        Quote  Reply

    58. Ten Bears:
      Enharmony1625,

      Most of all, I don’t want the fates of Arya, Sansa or Daeny to hinge on winding up with the right guy or birthing a predestined magical baby. So that’s another reason an Arya-Gendry meet-up wasn’t on my abridged Season 8 wish list, above.

      .

      Totally agree with you! This isn’t some extended episode of the bachelor where they’re all required to “end up” with someone … its the battle for the survival of mankind.

      Ten Bears:
      Apollo,

      “We need to see more than that Wildling woman on team blue eyes.”
      ________________

      Apollo:

      “Team Blue Eyes”…. I love it! I may have to use that from now on. I’ll be sure to credit you.

      You’re welcome to use as often as you please! 😆

        Quote  Reply

    59. Milutin,
      Ten Bears,

      I agree with Milutin: survival of Westeros will require a post-war baby-boom one way or another. However, I have a gut feeling that the baby-drama will be centered more on child sacrifce – figurative or even literal, than on which baby is gonna sit on the IT (which may be no more). The fandom has already “sacrificed” Cersei’s baby – no-one wants it to be born, although it’s also fan-favourite Jaime’s baby. We just want it out of the picture asap, despite of being told again and again that children are not their parents and that they shouldn’t be judged by their sins. But what if that baby inherits the best of the Lannister genes. Whereas Dany’s baby… Sure, we all want Jon and Dany to have a child, especially if they are supposed to die by the end of the series, but who knows what kind of a person that child would grow into.

      On the other hand, the show has no room for such developments and most probably the two unborn babies will act only as plot devices affecting their parents’ actions. So far, the twist around Cersei’s pregnancy hasn’t resulted in any major payoff: Cersei used that to trick Tyrion but even that could have been done otherwise (at least the whole pregnancy could have been faked). Hence, Cersei’s pregnancy should give a payoff next season: either that baby survives and grows into a good ruler against all expectations and odds, or it will simply serve the purpose of Cersei’s ultimate self-destruction in a form of abortion (a natural misscarriage wouldn’t serve that purpose, IMO). As for Dany, I believe at some point she will be confronted with the dilemma of risking her unborn baby’s life (along with her own) vs saving someone or something else (Jon, KL or Westeros in general) – the same dilemma Stannis had and that would be gruesome, especially if the baby doesn’t survive. Therefore, there’s no need to rant about an all-too-sweet baby-drama, yet: it has a full potential of resulting in the most heartbreaking moments of the show along with the Red Wedding and Hodor and the burning of Shireen.

        Quote  Reply

    60. @ TenBears:
      “• Ghost hooks up with Nymeria, and the series finale episode “A Time for Wolves” concludes with a scene of…. adorable newborn Direwolf Puppies!.”

      Yeaaaah!!!
      This would be part of my favoured ending GoT and really bitter sweet: sweet because of the puppies, bitter because… they were inbred *sorry ;o)*

        Quote  Reply

    61. Apollo,
      Ten Bears,

      I would have to say I disagree with this. The fight for mankind and of Westeros doesn’t mean much if there is nothing after. Part of the ending is knowing how (and which) houses survive and how they move forward after the great war. Houses and politics is such a huge part of the plot of GoT that it has to play a part in the ending, and a big part in this is unions between characters/houses.

      But I do agree that we don’t want an over-emphasis on “who ends up with who” and a final episode with a bunch of marriages or something. What I like about a possible Arya & Gendry union, though, is that it would be one (maybe the only one?) based on trust, caring and friendship (not to mention all the callbacks and parallels with history). Jon and Dany is a bit tricky, because it depends on when Jon finds out about his heritage. If they get married before that, it will likely deteriorate for a number of reasons (Jon not being pro-incest, and Dany feeling her position threatened). If he finds out before, I think the only reason he would even consider getting married is because he doesn’t want to father a bastard. In either case, this relationship is doomed (as is one or both of them..).

      Now I’m not saying that Arya/Gendry must happen, but I would love it. I’m open to a number of endings for Arya (as long as it doesn’t involve death 🙂 .. but it won’t because she’s a survivor!), but this would be my preferred one. I actually heard someone predict that she will end up back in Braavos as an actress, which would be pretty interesting.

      I like your Ghost/Nymeria hookup though! 🙂 I actually would love love love to see them fight together. Nymeria and Ghost leading a wolf pack to take down wights. That would be amazing!

        Quote  Reply

    62. Inga,
      Ten Bears,

      You could be right. But geez.. how much trauma is going to be heaped on poor Arya..? If she does end up sailing West or leaving Westeros, it would have to be something big to trigger that, because contrary to what some people say, she’s not a loner. She doesn’t want to be alone. She’s always seen tagging along with people, following them around, making friends, etc. So it would take something like Gendry dying, Jon dying, or other devastation to make this happen I feel.

      But then part of me also thinks that Gendry being the last Baratheon will have some importance as well. Was he brought back just for his smithing? Is house Baratheon going to be snuffed out as well? That would be unfortunate..

        Quote  Reply

    63. Chreechree:
      Patrick Sponaugle,

      Right! A divided army is an unexpected and interesting scenario. I actually hope that they don’t realize the Night King’s forces are divided. You know, it’s a stealthy army of 70,000 dead. Regardless, dividing the dragons would probably be too risky.

      One of my crackpot ideas last year that I didn’t believe would happen but thought would have been an interesting twist is if there ended up being two Night Kings… or actually princes to something else. Furdik’s NK would have been the one attacking the Wall and drawing all of the living opposition while at the same time Brake’s NK and his equally large wight army gets past unnoticed at Westwatch-by-the-Bridge.

      Even without a surprising second NK it would seem that the other Walkers are competent and strong enough to lead contingents of wights in separate areas. The more unprepared people they mow over the larger the overall army becomes as he flies over all “look, no hands, ma” raising them. Hell, the NK wouldn’t even need to take any of his current army. He could fly straight to the edge of Oldtown, kill a handful of people, animate them… they kill a bunch, animate, etc. etc. He could raise an even larger army with the whole of Oldtown and the unsuspecting southern regions in no time. Then they just meet in the middle at KL.

        Quote  Reply

    64. Gran articulo.

      Yo particularmente creo que el Rey de la noche a preparado esto con mucho cuidado y paciencia,lo que implica que es conocedor al menos a grandes rasgos de la situcacion de los 7 reinos.

      Dicho esto creo que intentara confundir y mantener sus planes lo mas oculto posible,despistando y enganñando.

      Con pequeños grupos atacando y recutando mas fuerzas por el norte y mandando un paqueño grupo de tal vez unos 10 mil y un caminante blanco a invernalia.

      Mientras el y su grueso se dirigiran a Desembarco del rey para convertirse en una fuerza imparable si consiguen convertir a todos.

        Quote  Reply

    65. Clob: He could fly straight to the edge of Oldtown, kill a handful of people, animate them… they kill a bunch, animate, etc. etc.

      To be honest, in my mind it seems like that would be a smart idea. That means it won’t happen due to convenience for the ending, just like Daenerys & Tyrion not doing things correctly so the 7K war wasn’t a push-over. The NK will see that the living are amassing forces in The North so why not just leave his army to fight and deplete the opposition there. The armies in the south are either weak, gone or defending King’s Landing. Other than Daenerys and her dragons it would take weeks for anyone to arrive to help… and those in the north would be busy.

        Quote  Reply

    66. Ten Bears,

      I don’t think it’s that he doesn’t deserve her, it’s that theirs isn’t a romantic story line in the show – she was clearly a ‘child’ when they were travelling together. My interpretation of their friendship was that of ‘big brother – pesky little sister’, Gendry had his own problems to deal with so no surprise he wasn’t overly invested in Arya. And if you’re talking romance, I think Gendry is more Sansa’s type of guy.

        Quote  Reply

    67. kathy,

      Well if you are talking friendship.
      Hotpie told Arya that she was pretty!
      Arya seemed shocked / surprised.
      Perhaps we will get Arya and Hotpie as an item.

        Quote  Reply

    68. Season 1 episode 1, King Robert proposed to Ned that Robert’s son marry Ned’s daughter. This has been hanging out there the entire show, and it will happen. The only question in my mind is which of Ned’s daughters will marry Gendry.

        Quote  Reply

    69. AlanD,

      I think you’re right. Obviously Arya and Gendry have a past, so it would be easier to see those two together. However, I could see Gendry and Sansa together making more sense from a political perspective. Also, Arya wants to explore and see what’s West of Westeros. I’m not sure I see Gendry following her.

      I don’t know if anyone will really “pair off” by the end of the show, but if they do, I could definitely see Gendry marrying Sansa for a political alliance and such.

        Quote  Reply

    70. Clob,

      I’ve never heard a theory of there actually being two Night King’s! Kind of a crackpot idea, also kind of brilliant… too bad it didn’t turn out that way. I do like the idea of the Night King being from a “special” descent… aka Stark, Targ, etc. I think that’s what you were inferring to by saying, “… or actually princes or something else.”

      And I just had an idea that maybe the Night King could actually be of Targ descent and not a Stark like some people have thought. It could be the reason that the White Walkers can’t burn… because they are true dragonlords! It could also give reason to the Night King now being a dragon rider.

      Side note: I think you meant, “Look ma! No hands.” But good song choice.

        Quote  Reply

    71. Alba Stark: True, but surely Viserion’s enslavement constitutes a defeat for Dany herself (and given her role as leader of the Dothraki she includes herself as one of them) and could therefore be a possible reason why she herself would cut her braids?

      Just throwing some thoughts out – it will be a very long night!

      Losing Viserion wasn’t a defeat for Dany, it was the price of victory. Her goal was to rescue Jon and his companions and capture a wight to show Cersei. Those goals were both achieved, but at great cost. It was pyrrhic victory, but not an actual defeat.

      The Night King was defeated, but being an optimist, he made lemonade out of lemons and recruited Viserion to his cause.

        Quote  Reply

    72. Mr Derp,

      Gendry and Sansa make no sense from a political perspective, because Gendry makes no sense from a political perspective. He is a blacksmith. He can be legitimised, but that won’t change and I don’t think that the lords of the Stormlands will accept him – by all the rules they shouldn’t, because Gendry has zero ruling or leadership skills. If he lives, he’ll continue to be a blacksmith and Arya may become a blacksmith’s wife, which would fit her musch better than being a lady. But somehow, that’s not her, too, although I would wish her that. Therefore, Gendry’s role would probably be adding bitterness to the ending.
      As for Sansa, she should end up either with Sandor or with Tyrion, if they survive.

        Quote  Reply

    73. Inga,

      Why would the Stormlords not accept him? Ever since Aegon conquered Westeros the Stormlands have been controlled by Baratheons, and Gendry is the LAST Baratheon. If they are loyal, they really should have no choice. Him being a blacksmith has really nothing to do with it. People have been forced into leading before, especially in Westeros’s history, and haven’t necessarily been the best choice but they make it work by putting people on their council that they trust and can listen to.

      Not saying that Gendry is going to live, because every single character’s status is in jeopardy heading into season 8; but if he does live, I think he will most likely be spared because he is the last Baratheon and will have to rule Storm’s End. The lords of the Storm Lands wouldn’t just pick a leader from one of the lesser Storm Lands’ noble houses, unless they were forced to because the Baratheon line died with Gendry.

        Quote  Reply

    74. Inga,

      Well the North accepted Ramsay Bolton. So did Sansa. And they all embraced Jon. And theoretically, there’ll likely be nobody left to contest any claim by Gendry anyway as most of Westerosi will be dead by the end.

      So a royal decree by a monarch who’s just saved the 7Ks (and a bastard himself) may well be palatable enough to the smallfolk.

      That said, all these romantic pairings to allegedly further the species is just lame. We don’t need to see main characters get married to know that mankind will continue on.

      I think too many folk are getting carried away by what day this is.

      “If you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention.”

        Quote  Reply

    75. After all the talk of “bittersweet”, if this thing ends with a bunch of happy couples holding hands and skipping off into the sunset, I, for one, will be annoyed.

        Quote  Reply

    76. Great article!

      I’m thinking the NK must make Winterfell a priority stop on his road to KL. Whether alone, or with the AotD, he needs to blind Bran. (or try). Their connection is show-Bran’s biggest challenge/arc. That connection is the biggest threat to both of them.

      Besides, the scene where the NK touched Bran was one of the best “holy sh*t” moments of the show for me. I’d love to see more surprises like that.

      What I hope isn’t over-used during the final season…
      1. Martyrdom for dramatic effect.
      2. Coincidence to speed up pace.
      3. Fan service to distract from lazy writing.
      4. Red Herrings
      5. Soap-Opera style cliffhangers

        Quote  Reply

    77. Inga,

      Sansa ending up with Gendry makes no sense from a political perspective, but Sandor or Tyrion does? Yea, ok, whatever.

      Jon was just a bastard, same with Ramsey Bolton, yet they were both legitimized, yes? Their connections to powerful families were enough to make it happen. So saying Gendry makes no sense from a political perspective just because he’s a blacksmith and ignoring his Baratheon roots is a bit short-sided.

      *Edit* I see others have stated the same, so nevermind. And for the record, I could care less if anyone ends up with anyone else. Just speculating what could happen 🙂

        Quote  Reply

    78. Mr Derp,

      Jon wasn’t legitimized, he’s still a Snow… for now!

      But besides that everything you said was on-point. And to be honest, I don’t even think political “alliances” will be necessary after the Great War; at least not immediately after. Westeros could very well be left with so few inhabitants (which I think will happen) that the only important thing is building Westeros back to where it once was. I’m probably rambling and not making much sense, but I just don’t think that political marriages will be a top priority, or even necessary at all, after the Great War.

        Quote  Reply

    79. evenwind:
      After all the talk of “bittersweet”, if this thing ends with a bunch of happy couples holding hands and skipping off into the sunset, I, for one, will be annoyed.

      I think Grim said it would be bittersweet like the LotR ending. Tolkiens bittersweet ending was happy Samwise and Rose with children and sad Frodo leaving Middle-earth. So I think there could be one „happy“ couple at least, though maybe Grim af [pun intended].

        Quote  Reply

    80. SomeGuy,

      I’ve warmed up to the idea that the NK will try to do something at Winterfell, I think you are right that it is a priority before heading south.

      Thanks for your feedback!

        Quote  Reply

    81. Cliohna,

      He did. But going by his style so far, I’d say the sweet part will be the obvious defeat of the WWs, with the bitter part being the almost total annihilation of mankind.. including most of the central characters. All the sorrow and tragedy we’ve read/seen so far is just a warm up for what’s to come.

        Quote  Reply

    82. Mr Derp,

      I knew what you were saying too Mr Derp, just wanted to point it out!

      Side note: Are you and other WotW commenters commenting from your phones? You guys are always throwing in emoji faces and I can’t join in!

        Quote  Reply

    83. I never really found the end of LOTR to be particularly bittersweet. I thought it was like 90% happy, 10% bittersweet. Frodo was traumatized or whatever, sure, but he got to go to the undying lands for crying out loud. That ain’t bad.

      I suppose the bittersweet would be Arwen choosing a mortal life, but overall, I just never found the end of LOTR to be very bittersweet. Yes, the scouring of the Shire happened, but did any of the “good guys” die from it? If the worst thing that happened to the Shire after all that happened was that they needed to rebuild some hobbit homes I think everyone would take that ending any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

      Though I admit, it’s been a while since I read the books, so I could be remembering incorrectly.

        Quote  Reply

    84. Jaehaerys,

      Lol, nope. I’m posting from work on a PC.

      The smiley face is easy. Just put a colon, hyphen, and then a right parenthesis next to each other. The wink is the same, except replace the colon with a semi-colon.

      I’m pretty emoji challenged, so if I can do it you can too

        Quote  Reply

    85. Mr Derp,

      Ahh, I see. Thanks! Never wanted to try that if it was just gonna type out the face, but now that I know it will make it into an emoji I’m all set 😉

        Quote  Reply

    86. kathy:
      Ten Bears,
      I don’t think it’s that he doesn’t deserve her, it’s that theirs isn’t a romantic story line in the show – she was clearly a ‘child’ when they were travelling together. My interpretation of their friendship was that of ‘big brother – pesky little sister’

      I agree with what you said in regards to deserving and their relationship in the earlier seasons. So it was a good thing he wasn‘t too invested in her.
      I have the feeling that most people who want Arya and Gendry together at the end are book readers. I mean it‘s understandable, they were much closer friends in the books than in the show. And I think in the books you get to know more where Gendry is coming from, just from the dialogues he has.
      Their friendship wouldn‘t have worked out in the long-run and he would have been safer away from highborn people, just from his perspective at that moment in time (and Arya also showed him she would clear out without him), so he joined the BwB. It‘s not like he wanted to blow her off.

      And if you’re talking romance, I think Gendry is more Sansa’s type of guy.

      I don’t know. Sansa and Gendry? What would they do, bonding over their messed up sex life? Considering that they share traits of their abusers (Sansa: red hair, blue eyes, beautiful; Gendry: dark hair, blue eyes, roughly same height) it would be kind of out-of-character, no? But hey, we got ’overly chatty‘ Gendry last season, who knows.

        Quote  Reply

    87. Mr Derp:
      Also, Arya wants to explore and see what’s West of Westeros. I’m not sure I see Gendry following her.

      After realizing that he made a grave error not listening to Arya in the decision to join the BwB…hell yeah, he would. And he followed Jon beyond the wall.

        Quote  Reply

    88. Cliohna: I have the feeling that most people who want Arya and Gendry together at the end are book readers. I mean it‘s understandable, they were much closer friends in the books than in the show. And I think in the books you get to know more where Gendry is coming from, just from the dialogues he has.

      I’m 100% behind Arya-Gendry together at the end. I was while reading the books and actually thought stronger about it with the show. He now appears to be in a better position for such a thing to happen on the show… Still, the last he’s been seen in the books he ISN’T with the BwoB, but smithing at the Inn at the Crossroads. It’s entirely possible that book!Arya runs into not only Hot Pie when she returns but Gendry as well. He may be back in her story earlier than the show is getting to it.

      https://i.pinimg.com/736x/5c/5e/d6/5c5ed6623e91c3bac7915b64d5064f86.jpg

      I’ll never push Sansa and Gendry. That’s such a mismatch in many ways, and more so with the book characters. To be honest I’d almost rather Sansa get flung out the moon door in the books than anything. I felt that way about the show version as well, but I did soften a bit on that in S7. I’m fine with her living through now… just give her someone more her style.

        Quote  Reply

    89. Jaehaerys,
      Apollo,
      Mr Derp,

      You have missed my point. Both Jon and Ramsay were bastards – yes, but they were raised and trained to command military forces and both proved to be rather good at that. That’s why they were chosen or recognised as rulers: the medieval ruling is all about commanding armies on a battlefield. Gendry has never been trained for that nor has he shown any inborn leadership skills: he has always been a follower. So, put him into some power position and he’ll go crazy (or run back to the smithy). And what would the lords of the Stormalans think of the king or queen who would be forcing the most incompetent ruler upon them? As for loyalty, we haven’t seen much loyalty in the ranks of the lower nobility, have we? Therefore, there’s no reason to expect blind loyalty to the Baratheon blood, when even the Starks got none of that.

      As for Sansa ending up with Sandor or Tyrion for political reasons, I meant only Tyrion. If she ends up with Sandor, that will be more for personal reasons, though Sandor would also make Sansa’s proxy on a battlefield – something she’ll definitely need, if she ends up at any position of power. That was my point.

        Quote  Reply

    90. Patrick Sponaugle,

      Basically, the NK has to options. He may go against Winterfell which is the general staff and the brain center of the resistance or he can try to take out the Dothraki, which form the bulk of the enemy’s forces. Both options have advantages and disadvantages, in both cases he risks to get between the two, but anyway he should do his best to hit before all those forces unite (his best option would be hitting Jon and Dany as soon as they march out of Whiteharbour, but I guess the AotD won’t make it there in time).

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    91. Clob: I’m 100% behind Arya-Gendry together at the end.I was while reading the books and actually thought stronger about it with the show.He now appears to be in a better position for such a thing to happen on the show…Still, the last he’s been seen in the books he ISN’T with the BwoB, but smithing at the Inn at the Crossroads.It’s entirely possible that book!Arya runs into not only Hot Pie when she returns but Gendry as well.He may be back in her story earlier than the show is getting to it.

      https://i.pinimg.com/736x/5c/5e/d6/5c5ed6623e91c3bac7915b64d5064f86.jpg

      I’ll never push Sansa and Gendry.That’s such a mismatch in many ways, and more so with the book characters.To be honest I’d almost rather Sansa get flung out the moon door in the books than anything.I felt that way about the show version as well, but I did soften a bit on that in S7.I’m fine with her living through now… just give her someone more her style.

      I like you. You make sense.

      The only way they’ll end up with Sansa and Gendry together is to personally piss me off.

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    92. You’re thinking about the Night King’s army too conventionally. Yes, he doesn’t have supply lines to worry about but he also can replenish and even grow his army on the move. In fact, his current army has very little value to him. His best course of action would be to send that army to start attacking the North to draw the armies of the living into the North. Then he gets on his dragon along with his fellow walkers and flies off. Start dropping off White Walkers at any lightly defended population center. Before anyone can react there will be a dozen undead armies spread across westeros, each growing exponentially.

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    93. This is well done, Ser Patrick, including your responses to comments. Many thanks. It’s good to know you’ll be with us through the Long Night.

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    94. Clob: I’m 100% behind Arya-Gendry together at the end.I was while reading the books and actually thought stronger about it with the show.He now appears to be in a better position for such a thing to happen on the show…Still, the last he’s been seen in the books he ISN’T with the BwoB, but smithing at the Inn at the Crossroads.It’s entirely possible that book!Arya runs into not only Hot Pie when she returns but Gendry as well.He may be back in her story earlier than the show is getting to it.

      https://i.pinimg.com/736x/5c/5e/d6/5c5ed6623e91c3bac7915b64d5064f86.jpg

      I’ll never push Sansa and Gendry.That’s such a mismatch in many ways, and more so with the book characters.To be honest I’d almost rather Sansa get flung out the moon door in the books than anything.I felt that way about the show version as well, but I did soften a bit on that in S7.I’m fine with her living through now… just give her someone more her style.

      Yes, thank you! Sansa and Gendry is just no no no! They don’t fit together at all personality-wise. I do like Sansa though, and while I want a nice ending for her, it would be too nice for her to end up with Gendry, and there’s no history between them, no substance to their relationship, they don’t even know each other exists at this point. Besides, there needs to be a twist if she ends up ruling the North or Westeros.

      As far as the bittersweet ending goes, I don’t think we have anything to worry about when it comes to heartbreak coming our way. But I completely reject the notion that the story should, or will, end in total carnage and tragedy. That would be too depressing, and would make watching the show a slog knowing that nothing really good happens. There needs to be some nice things to offset the bitter part of the ending.

      Furthermore, I think the show has made it fully clear that there was more than just a brother/sister bond between Arya and Gendry. e.g. When she “checks him out” in season 2 when he’s forging a sword shirtless, her saying “I can be your family” as if she’s saying “I love you”.

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    95. 3eyes:
      This is well done, Ser Patrick, including your responses to comments. Many thanks. It’s good to know you’ll be with us through the Long Night.

      Thank you very much! I’m honored by the level of discourse in the comments.

      It’s good to know that you’ll be with us too.

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    96. Leuf:
      You’re thinking about the Night King’s army too conventionally.Yes, he doesn’t have supply lines to worry about but he also can replenish and even grow his army on the move.In fact, his current army has very little value to him.His best course of action would be to send that army to start attacking the North to draw the armies of the living into the North.Then he gets on his dragon along with his fellow walkers and flies off.Start dropping off White Walkersat any lightly defended population center.Before anyone can react there will be a dozen undead armies spread across westeros, each growing exponentially.

      I kind of disagree. If the current army has no value, he wouldn’t have needed to have taken the time to grow it. His undead giants are extremely valuable assets alone.

      If he abandons his army, taking a few White Walkers with him in the hopes of growing new troops, he risks a great deal as Dany (or all of the Dothraki in a rush) can target his remaining lieutenants in the North and the White Walkers are valuable.

      We don’t know how easily he can make new White Walkers. We’ve only seen one of Craster’s sons turned into a baby Other, so we can make some guesses, but one data point doesn’t give us much of a confidence interval no matter how we suppose things.

      The White Walkers are tough, but individually they might be able to be dealt with by determined groups of humans. After all, Sam killed one. Now, we know it was because of dragonglass, and maybe the Night King already knows there’s no obsidian weapons south of the Neck, but it still seems incredibly risky to put these high value minions in possible harm.

      You might be correct, and we might well see the Night King engage in some behind the lines guerrilla warfare, but I’m very skeptical.

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    97. cos alpha:
      What about Sansa and Bronn?
      Not befitting her rank, but… I think, he could make her laugh again.

      No damn way I want that slimy sell sword near her, he sticks with the Lannisters for money and his own gain. paraphrase from Tyrion to Bronn – If I ask you to kill a babe, no questions asked would you do it?
      Bronn – I ask how much first.
      He may be funny, but I don’t know if he totally Ned’s idea of Brave, Gental and Strong.
      I’m also not sure if he isn’t under Cersei’s control.

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    98. Cliohna:
      Patrick Sponaugle,
      Oh, I know you didn’t. 🙂 But I immediately had to think of Arya and the Hound as I read the Rakharo quote, you know. As you say, armor is an advantage.

      And the kind words are well deserved!

      🙂
      Thank you!

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    99. Inga:
      Patrick Sponaugle,

      Basically, the NK has to options. He may go against Winterfell which is the general staff and the brain center of the resistance or he can try to take out the Dothraki, which form the bulk of the enemy’s forces. Both options have advantages and disadvantages, in both cases he risks to get between the two, but anyway he should do his best to hit before all those forces unite (his best option would be hitting Jon and Dany as soon as they march out of Whiteharbour, but I guess the AotD won’t make it there in time).

      I agree with all of this. When I wrote this article, I kind of assumed Jon and Dany’s forces having arrived at Winterfell, but of course things might heat up before the Dothraki get there, or the Dothraki might encounter the army on the road, depending how the Night King wants things.

      Dany in theory has her dragons with her.

      I am interested in what will happen in the first episode, and how they have everyone.

      Hopefully, Bran will have a thousand eyes and two keeping tabs on the army of the dead, and Viserion.

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    100. Clob,
      I‘m torn. I understand both sides, the one which says Arya doesn‘t end up happy with someone because it doesn‘t fit her character arc, but also the side which says their relationship will be sure as rain: romantic. The Gendry-Arya Team has a place in my heart, I can‘t deny it. Though my mind tells me 1) in the books it‘ll probably play out differently than in the show, and 2) there are ’a million different reasons’ why it will not end with them together. But between those two extremes is very much space, so…I would also be fine with them just being friends. I expect at least a happy reunion.

      I’ll never push Sansa and Gendry. That’s such a mismatch in many ways, and more so with the book characters.

      Pigeon: The only way they’ll end up with Sansa and Gendry together is to personally piss me off.

      Enharmony1625: Sansa and Gendry is just no no no! They don’t fit together at all personality-wise. I do like Sansa though, […] [but] there’s no history between them, no substance to their relationship, they don’t even know each other exist at this point.

      I agree, I would find this match to be…very irritating. If they would do it, there is only one option I would find convincing, if at all: they have to be wed without really wanting to. Which is highly unlikely, Jon wouldn‘t force Sansa to do that and I would think she has had enough of marriages, no?

      I think the show has made it fully clear that there was more than just a brother/sister bond between Arya and Gendry. e.g. When she “checks him out” in season 2 when he’s forging a sword shirtless, her saying “I can be your family” as if she’s saying “I love you”.

      I just agreed with the specific sibling description of their friendship in the earlier seasons. My point is that it was predominantly platonic for Arya and exclusively platonic for Gendry then. And look at her, giving Gendry that side-eye. That is still baby Arya from Season 2 just starting to become a woman, at least as it is portrayed. :3

      And yes, I do think he became dear to her heart, but the love she expressed with „I can be your family“, which she definitely had for him then, was also an „I need you“. In a morale and mental support kind of way, not necessarily the tangible way. And both those undertones „I love you“ and „I need you“, you can also find in a familial relationship, you know.

      If a romantic relationship develops, they have to build that up from the bottom, on top of the foundation of their friendship, of course. Which is an option. Again, I don‘t know how likely that is in the show or books.

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    101. Ten Bears, Gendry does not deserve Arya. She saved his life and freed him from Harrenhal; he blew her off when she said “I can be your family”; and he never asked about her or mentioned her at all to Jon or the BwoB during his S7 Whingefest. Or at any other time.

      I already explained my standpoint for the „blowing her off“ decision above. As for the other complaint…there is another interpretation how one can read the lack of mention of Arya from him: That promise. So far he kept his word. 😉

      (And I guess I just don’t like the Gentry 2.0 version with the buzz cut and whining attitude.)

      Fair enough. I like the longer hair better too. The mostly aloof manner and the keep-one‘s-composure attitude as well. But we already exchanged opinions about that, right? 🙂

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    102. Wow, I had no idea my military-centric post would kick off so much discussion of Gendry, the future king of Westeros.

      (I am now clearly trolling, but I do love that bastard blacksmith.)

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    103. Patrick Sponaugle:
      Wow, I had no idea my military-centric post would kick off so much discussion of Gendry, the future king of Westeros.

      (I am now clearly trolling, but I do love that bastard blacksmith.)

      Yeah, I found this amusing as well. It all sprung up from a discussion about Arya, and to me it just proves that she’s one of the most interesting and complex characters in the story (full of interesting and complex characters). And easily my favourite. 🙂

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    104. Great article. I have no idea what’s going to happen, I’m studiously avoiding spoilers for this season (I remember the thrill of watching Hardhome with no knowledge that it was going to kick off… I want that thrilling feeling again when watching season 8). I do hope the Army of the Dead isn’t defeated in the first big battle. It would be anticlimactic. After all the build up they really have to push humanity to the brink. If the Night King and some of his walker pals fly straight to Kings Landing, what could possibly stop them taking the city? It would be even worse if the Golden Company are there and are killed. Imagine undead elephants! Though personally I’m not sure that’s going to happen – I reckon Cersei’s story is going to go all the way through to episode 6, but I might be wrong.

      Someone further up made an analogy with the Borg, I figure the first major battle is going to be like the battle of Wolf 359, a total slaughter and it will be down to the ingenuity of the survivors to stop the Night King in the end.

      One thing I did notice missing from the article is any discussion about what the Night King wants, and how that plays into this apparent conflict between the Lord of Light and the Many-Faced God that seems to be playing out. If our heroes can figure out what’s truly going on, maybe that will hold the key to victory, a bit like how Sheridan and Delenn defeated the Shadows and Vorlons in Babylon 5 by understanding the conflict that was occurring.

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    105. Good article, thanks for the thought-provoking read.

      Enharmony1625,

      I also feel like there would be political issues with a Sansa-Gendry union, especially if he’s legitimized as the next lord of Storm’s End. Sansa is effectively the Lady of Winterfell; Bran probably can’t reproduce. So unless Sansa abdicates to Arya (which, from season 7, we know Arya doesn’t want), or unless Jon somehow ends up as Lord of Winterfell/King in the North (which I doubt will happen), a marriage to Gendry would produce an heir who would inherit two of the seven kingdoms. That would be a major power imbalance in the putative re-established, post-long-night Seven Kingdoms. It would also effectively wipe out the Stark line as the rulers of the North (unless there was some elaborate arrangement where one child takes the Baratheon name and inherits the Stormlands, and another takes the Stark name and inherits the North – but that seems unnecessarily convoluted and, given dynastic disputes over control of various titles, potentially pretty risky to future stability.)

      So, personality issues aside, and assuming Gendry is legitimized and Bran can’t have kids, there are political problems with a potential Sansa-Gendry match.

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    106. Fierce as a Wolverine,

      I appreciate your thoughts on this, my guess is there will probably be some kind of consort ruling for Sansa, whoever she marries, so her eldest male child might retain the Stark name. Otherwise the Stark name goes away, unless a Karstark, who are a cadet branch of House Stark from way back, gets renamed or something.

      This is just me throwing stuff around.

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    107. Patrick Sponaugle:
      Enharmony1625,

      Arya is a fave of mine too! (This is not all that controversial a notion, even as I agree with some that she’s been a bit underused recently)

      I definitely agree that she’s been underused, and even as far back as season 4. That season was some of her best stuff with the hound, but she sat out 4 episodes. Same with season 5.. Season 6 was better, but several of her scenes were quite short. She’d better be in every damn episode in season 8!! 🙂

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    108. To: Book Readers
      Re: Maisie Williams as Arya

      As a “pre-books” fan, I’ve been curious how those of you who had read the books before the show aired in 2011 feel about Maisie’s portrayal of Arya. Did she look and behave how you pictured Arya looked and behaved when you read the books?

      PS: I had copied a quote by GRRM from an interview he gave in April, 2011 about the challenges and frustrations in casting the children’s roles. I’ll try to find it to see if you think he was prescient or just puffing.

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    109. Ten Bears:
      To: Book Readers
      Re: Maisie Williams as Arya

      As a “pre-books” fan, I’ve been curious how those of you who had read the books before the show aired in 2011 feel about Maisie’s portrayal of Arya. Did she look and behave how you pictured Arya looked and behaved when you read the books?

      Yes. I imagine casting child actors in a role that may last for close to a decade (if the series becomes successful) is a daunting task with quite a bit of risk involved. People notice a bit when tertiary characters are replaced, imagine if a lead turned out not quite right!

      Maisie had me from the first arrow to upstage her brother, and never had me thinking ‘what if so and so had played Arya…’. 😉 Jon and Arya’s goodbye scene sealed it. Any doubters should have been relieved by her ‘face acting’ during Ned’s execution. And if anyone was left wondering still by Season 5 (?????), her scene with Needle at the pier in Braavos should have made them plead with the Stranger to forgive them.

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    110. Pigeon,

      “Maisie had me from the first arrow to upstage her brother, and never had me thinking ‘what if so and so had played Arya…’. 😉 Jon and Arya’s goodbye scene sealed it. Any doubters should have been relieved by her ‘face acting’ during Ned’s execution. And if anyone was left wondering still by Season 5 (?????), her scene with Needle at the pier in Braavos should have made them plead with the Stranger to forgive them.”
      ————

      That is exactly how I felt for the same exact reasons. Those early Arya scenes were what drew me into the show, and probably the main reason I binge-watched Seasons 1 -3 during an HBO pre-S4 marathon.

      In addition to the zinging arrow/take a bow to upstage Bran, I thought the mischievous look on Arya’s/Maisie’s face when spoon-flinging dessert at Sansa, and the frown when Robb came over to pick her up to take her to bed, were just perfect.

      Oh, one of my other favorites: when Arya begged Sandor not to kill the pork merchant after he knocked him unconscious; Sandor relented, but told her she was too kind; then the groggy pork merchant sits up…and Arya picks up a block of wood and bonks him over the head, knocking him out again. The look of shock? admiration? on Sandor’s face when he did a double-take was priceless. I’ve watched that scene dozens of times.

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    111. Ten Bears:
      To: Book Readers
      Re: Maisie Williams as Arya

      As a “pre-books” fan, I’ve been curious how those of you who had read the books before the show aired in 2011 feel about Maisie’s portrayal of Arya. Did she look and behave how you pictured Arya looked and behaved when you read the books?

      Book reader before the show here. I think Maisie was excellent casting for Arya. It’s been a plus for the show that Maisie didn’t really outgrow the role the way Isaac did as Bran. (I’m not knocking on Isaac, I really like him, but I have to kind of de-age him in my mind’s eye)

      All of the Arya stuff in the first season was extremely faithful to the book, and to my visual imagining while reading the book before the show aired.

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    112. Jon Snowed:
      Excellent article!I can certainly see a lot of what you write playing out on screen.

      Thank you very much, hopefully I gave myself some wiggle room in my speculation (ambiguity is the key..)

      Thanks for reading and commenting,

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    113. Ten Bears:
      To: Book Readers
      Re: Maisie Williams as Arya

      As a “pre-books” fan, I’ve been curious how those of you who had read the books before the show aired in 2011 feel about Maisie’s portrayal of Arya. Did she look and behave how you pictured Arya looked and behaved when you read the books?

      PS: I had copied a quote by GRRM from an interview he gave in April, 2011 about the challenges and frustrations in casting the children’s roles. I’ll try to find it to see if you think he was prescient or just puffing.

      As I’ve mentioned numerous times, Arya was (and is) my favorite book character going into the premiere of the first season. I don’t recall any trepidation that they cast her properly and adequately, but I know was hoping they had. Like Pigeon wrote, as soon as she fired that arrow, curtsied and ran away giggling I knew she was perfect. Subsequent scenes just kept building on that feeling. I recall reading a lot of comments online that first season saying the same so I think the feeling was and is pretty universal among readers that little Maisie was indeed the best casting for the part.

      * When it comes to her appearance I don’t remember what my mental image was for Arya because now all I see is Maisie’s Arya. All I do remember is that when seeing her for the first time it was surprising. I mean, it was like, “oh, that is definitely Arya,” and then it’s been her ever since. 🙂

      As you’ve probably heard at least once during interviews from D&D, they’ve said that finding the right Arya was turning out to be one of the toughest, longest processes… Then they saw a little clip of Maisie while on location somewhere and immediately thought, “that’s our Arya!”

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    114. Clob,

      (Found the GRRM quote…)

      Here’s GRRM in 2011 talking about the challenge of casting the child actors for the show (Excerpt from April 15, 2011 Time Magazine: Interview of GRRM):

      [Interviewer began by mentioning that he’d seen two episodes of the show at that point, and particularly liked the casting of the difficult children’s roles.]

      GRRM: “The child actors were the hardest to fill because we looked at literally hundreds for the three major children’s roles. I mean, most child actors. Well you know, you see these kids and they’re kids, they’re not actors. Their triumph is that they’ve memorized the lines. And mommy and daddy are very proud that they’ve memorized the lines, but that’s all.

      “And then you’ve got the other extreme. You’ve got some kid whose obviously been told by mommy and daddy or by their school drama coach that part of acting is you have to emote. So those kids go to the other extreme and they emote all over the place, they’re rolling their eyes and they’re grimacing and they’re really going way over the top for everything and it’s completely unnatural.

      “So you watch all this stuff and you reach a point where you’re just ready to despair and say, this can’t be done here because most child actors—a lot of child actors out there are in sitcoms. And their role in sitcoms is to mug and look cute, you know. Our kids have actual dramatic roles where they have to deal with grief and loneliness and anger and a lot of very adult stuff. [I thought] “my God, how the hell, are we going to do this”,you know?

      “But then you find that one in a hundred, or one in a thousand that suddenly… “oh my God, thank God, this is great.” And Maisie Williams, who plays Arya, was one of those. I mean, just from the moment we saw her audition, I knew she was our Arya. And you know, the same was true for Sansa and Bran; two good actors who played those roles too. They were extraordinary.

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    115. Patrick Sponaugle,

      I think there will be a consort, but (again, Bran aside) Sansa is the ruling lady of Winterfell, so her consort will not be ruling for her. She will be in charge. She can delegate stuff to him if she likes, but it’s her title.

      The name thing is pretty easy to circumvent so long as two acting rulers are not married to each other. The man will just marry into the Stark line, and the name will pass down with the title. People think this is some kind of crazy impossible thing but it’s not; they seem to forget that inheritance laws are made by people, not biology, and that a person’s house affiliation (and even legitimacy) depend on the perception of the folks around them. It’s happened in the real world and in Westeros, where the Stark line passed through the Stark daughter who was kidnapped or ran off with Bael the Bard and gave birth to a son. That boy took his mother’s name. It’s also happened in cases where rulers without an heir have adopted a nephew through the female line and given him the family name. This adoption thing happened all the time in, for example, ancient Rome, too, and of course the current situation with the British monarchy is one where the woman’s house is the one that’s inherited by the children.

      Luckily Daenerys won’t have to worry about this once she realizes that Jon is a Targaryen too (Ick. But one of the few benefits of incest, I guess. And the two of them will still have to hash out who is the ruler and who is the consort, if they both survive and there’s still a throne to argue over.)

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    116. Pigeon:
      Ten Bears,

      The Adventures of Little Wolf and Large Pup were probably my fondest memories of the entire show.

      *bonk*

      🤕

      Their scenes together in S4e7 (plus Oberyn “I will be your champion” Martel), made that episode (“Mockingbird) my #1 favorite out of all 67 in S1e1 – S7e7.

      The best segment was the closing eight or nine minutes of S4e1, “Two Chickens” – I mean – “Two Swords”, startin with Arya pestering Sandor; “When am I going to get my own horse” through “Fine little blade; maybe I’ll pick my teeth with it.”

        Quote  Reply

    117. Patrick Sponaugle:

      I think the Night King would be able to get a lot of air reconnaissance accomplished, until he has to keep his dragon near his forces to counter Dany, who might be brave enough to risk javelins if she can nuke the Night King’s lieutenants. So I don’t think he’d get a chance to map out the high population center of King’s Landing as a discovery from dragon back.

      And now I want to see the NK fly up to Cersei while she’s looking out the highest window in the Red Keep, and watch her lose her wine… 😜

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    118. Patrick Sponaugle:

      Swamps might be more resistant to freezing since the waters will have a higher percentage of particulate matter (and whatever swamp water has)…

      Swamps have lizard-lions, and the idea of wightified lizard-lions scares the s*** out of me.

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    119. Wolfish:
      Patrick Sponaugle:

      And now I want to see the NK fly up to Cersei while she’s looking out the highest window in the Red Keep, and watch her lose her wine… 😜

      I totally want to see that too.

      Cersei: Oh [expletive], there’s a dragon.
      *sees that it’s a zombie, that the Night King is riding it*
      Cersei: [EXPLETVE]!!!

        Quote  Reply

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