From the Maester’s Desk – Endgame: The Spider and the Red Woman

melvarys

Supporting characters can be important- sometimes they can even outshine some of the main players. Hodor wasn’t a top-billed character, but I’ll be damned if his demise didn’t hit me harder than that of poor Ned Stark. And in the game of thrones, apart from those who fight the battles, there are others who pull strings in the dark and try to influence big players to change the course of a battle or even the future of an entire continent.

One such master manipulator, presumably the one who’s solely responsible for the start of the War of the Five Kings, died after the remaining Stark kids beat him at his own game. One has fallen in disgrace and the other remains at the side of the dragon queen. This article is about these two surviving players, who are wholly different and yet have a lot in common: Varys and Melisandre.

Of the two, it is Varys’ role that underwent the most changes in the process of adapting the books to the screen, but the character’s essence is well preserved. Melisandre’s part was expanded a little, with the addition of scenes that were only implied or didn’t exist at all in the source material, but that make sense for the character and have had a direct influence in the events of the narrative.

In a shortened final season that is poised to be battle-centric as the Great War looms over Westeros, there’s not much time for political maneuvers, and Melisandre’s knack for burning people died with Stannis Baratheon. So what’s going to be the fate of the Spider and the Red Woman? I’ll be making some educated guesses, while eagerly awaiting to find out!

VARYS

Varys2

Varys, known as “the Spider” by both friends and enemies alike, is one of the most intriguing and interesting characters of the series (the books and the screen adaptation too).

Conleth Hill plays him with much gusto, bringing a real sense of fun in many of the scenes he shares with Peter Dinklage or Dame Diana Rigg, but also nailing the more threatening side of the Master of Whisperers, such as the moment in Season 3 (Episode 4: “And Now His Watch Is Ended”) when Varys tells Tyrion the story of how he was castrated, and reveals that he managed to track down and capture the sorcerer who cut him. We do not know how Varys took revenge, but the implication was clear enough: under the seemingly calm demeanor there’s a ruthless man.

Up to Season 4, the character remained mostly loyal to the source material, but the road diverged in the finale (“The Children”), when Varys decided to join Tyrion and travel with him to Essos. This was a consequence of a not insignificant number of characters from A Dance with Dragons getting the axe, most notably Jon Connington and “Young Griff”. By the end of said book we discover Varys has always been a Targaryen loyalist and is actively working to undermine the Lannister rule in order to pave the road for Aegon. And even before that, wanting to remove Robert Baratheon (despite the relative peace Westeros had under his reign) makes sense because he was a wasteful king who indebted the crown, and whenever he died illegitimate heirs would ascend, allowing House Lannister to seize control of the Iron Throne.

The book version of Varys is also responsible for the deaths of Kevan Lannister and Grand Maester Pycelle, whereas in the show they died in different circumstances and at the hands of other people. In the novel, their deaths are meant to further destabilize an already messy situation for the Lannisters, and in the TV series it was a matter of removing all opposition to Cersei in one fell swoop.

Varys

How Daenerys fits in Varys’ plans is anyone’s guess for now. It’s a bit weird to be betting on two different Targaryen claimants at the same time, considering they were expecting Khal Drogo to make a move and help Viserys. Episode 2 of the seventh season (“Stormborn”) implies Varys (and his co-conspirators to an extent) didn’t take Dany into consideration at the time, since she was supposed to be married off to Khal Drogo and be little more than a trophy wife.

The show wisely took a simpler path that’s easier to follow than the many moving pieces from the literary version.

More than being a Targaryen loyalist, Varys’ support for Daenerys seems to stem from his belief that she’ll be a good ruler who’ll put an end to all the bloodshed and suffering caused by the war that is still raging, even if her worst impulses need to be reined in from time to time.

Given that he’s not one of the main characters nor a fighter (as he bluntly told Ned Stark, “When you look at me, do you see a hero?”) I wouldn’t expect him to have a big role in what is likely going to be a very battle-centric final season. I have trouble even picturing him as a character who would sacrifice himself or stay behind in order to give others a chance to escape, since it’d be a waste. Unlike Brynden “The Blackfish” Tully or Syrio Forel, Varys wouldn’t be able to hold off armed enemies (unless there’s some trickery involved and Varys acts merely as bait?).

There are some interesting possibilities, regardless, even if Varys doesn’t get to have a lot of screen time.

varysbox

The voice from the flames: The night a sorcerer castrated Varys and threw his parts to the fire, he heard a voice calling from the flames. That memory still haunts his dreams: not the blade, not the mutilation he suffered, but the words he heard. He has hated magic and all those who practice it ever since.

In the fifth episode of Season 6 (“The Door”), Varys and Tyrion meet with a high-ranking red priestess named Kinvara to seek her help in support of Daenerys Targaryen. Varys does little, if anything, to hide his disdain for red priests, pretty much calling Kinvara a fanatic to her face.

Instead of losing her temper, she gave an ominous reply, asking Varys if he’d like to remember what the voice said, or if she should tell him the name of the one who spoke. Varys seems disquiet and remains silent.

Ever since the “sorcerer in a box” scene I wondered if we’d ever know the details of the conversation Varys heard, but time passed and I assumed it’d remain a vague piece of backstory until Kinvara brought the subject back three seasons later. Alas, no new information was provided, but the question remains: will we ever find out?

A part of me very much wants to and even believes it’s inevitable, since the shows keeps very few secrets. Unlike the books, which are full of prophecies and a high number of as-of-yet unsolved mysteries, most of the questions have been answered, from the origin of the White Walkers to Jon Snow’s true name and parentage.

On the other hand, it’d be cool if no answer is given, in a similar fashion to Tyrion’s “honeycomb and a jackass” joke. There are few surviving characters and none of them really fits the bill for the voice’s true identity, so it can’t possibly be a huge revelation. Besides, it’s nice to keep one or two mysteries alive for fans to keep discussing once the show is over.

7x03 - Varys, Melisandre Dragonstone

Dying in a strange country: This may or may not be related to the “voice from the flames”. In a brief conversation Varys had with Melisandre in the third episode of Season 7 (“The Queen’s Justice”), the red priestess told Varys of her intentions to travel to Volantis. The Master of Whisperers is apparently pleased about this, but then Melisandre says: “I will return, dear Spider, one last time. I have to die in this strange country, just like you”. As it happened with Kinvara, the rug is once again pulled from under his feet and he’s rendered speechless.

Carice van Houten said in an interview with Elle that she personally thinks death is coming for Varys in Season 8, and though he may try to run from it, he won’t be able to escape.

He made it clear to Dany that she can’t expect blind loyalty from him, and Tyrion is well-aware that the Spider won’t risk his neck for his friends. Varys didn’t help Ned and testified against Tyrion, and though he did help the latter to escape King’s Landing, that was mostly because of Jaime. The books made it clear:

Tyrion: You never told me why you set me free.

Varys: Your brother asked me to.

Tyrion: Could’ve said no.

Varys: Refuse the Kingslayer? A dangerous proposition.

The show, however, took a somewhat different approach, with Jaime telling his little brother “you have more friends than you thought”, which suggests the plan was cooked by both Jaime and Varys, instead of the latter being coerced into helping Tyrion.

I think it’s very unlikely Varys would betray Daenerys. He has burned all his other bridges. Qyburn has his little birds and Cersei wouldn’t have him back for the role he played in Tyrion’s escape and the murder of Tywin. I feel safe in betting that his demise won’t be caused by a dragon or the blade of an unsullied soldier.

Should he die in Season 8, I don’t feel it’d be a momentous event. He’s a very important character to be sure, and one that’s beloved by fans, but no hero material or even a character whose death would elicit tears from the audience, like Hodor. As Varys himself said, “Who would mourn poor Varys then? North or South, they sing no songs for spiders”.

My guess is that he’ll live to continue serving as an advisor and Master of Whisperers, if either Daenerys or Jon (or both of them) becomes the ruler of Westeros. Melisandre’s prediction is vague enough, and she’d still be right if Varys dies of old age in Westeros, never having returned to Lys.

These are admittedly not very exciting predictions, but Varys’s importance lies precisely in all the political maneuvering that happens behind the scenes. Other characters will have all the glory of going out with a bang, but the Spider will remain to help rebuild once the dust settles.

MELISANDRE

Melisandre Dragonstone 702 Stormborn

Lady Melisandre of Asshai, known as the Red woman, is also a character who whispers in the ears of kings and has an agenda of her own, but her methods and the mystery behind her persona are wholly different than those of Varys’s.

Carice van Houten masterfully brought to life a very difficult character to portray in live action, since in my opinion there was a big risk of turning Melisandre into one big ham, considering her fanatic devotion to both Stannis and R’hllor, and also the human sacrifices she was responsible for.

Some of the character’s characteristics from the book were toned down for the adaptation, such as her red eyes or her bright red hair, most likely to avoid them looking unnecessarily distracting.

Although there have been some alterations in her storyline, the screenwriters remained close to the source material for the most part. Some things that were only implied in the books, such as the “shadow baby” being the result of Stannis and Melisandre having sexual intercourse, are explicitly shown. And long-standing theories like the red priestess being much older than she looks, were confirmed in the sixth season’s premiere (“The Red Woman”).

Whether if there’s really a Lord of Light or not is still a matter of debate, but It’s interesting to note that the magic involved with this particular religion is real. Melisandre is not only unnaturally long-lived, but the novels also show that she can go for days without eating since R’hllor “provides her with all the nourishment her body needs”. When maester Cressen attempts to poison her with wine, she’s unaffected -whereas the maester dies. And there’s also the fact red priests are able to revive people -though both Thoros and Melisandre acknowledge it’s “the lord’s will” if someone comes back from the dead or not.

Arya observes that Beric Dondarrion never eats and doesn’t need to sleep. But is Melisandre “dead” too? While I doubt it, A Dance with Dragons hints at a backstory that remains vague, when Melisandre recalls her past as a slave girl named Melony, sold to the great red temple. We don’t get to explore a great deal of her past beyond that.

And curiously enough, the show has made it clear that even non-believers (such as Stannis or Sandor) are able to see visions in the fire.

I expect the R’hllor-related magic to remain unexplained nonetheless, since magic is always a tricky subject in the fantasy genre, hard to pin down. Even fantasy sagas that revolve around magic, like Harry Potter, are inevitably riddled with holes in their own explanations and rules. So it’s better to let the sleeping dogs lie, indeed.

Melisandre

The burning of Shireen Baratheon remains a controversial topic. David Benioff and Dan Weiss said they took this story bit from George RR Martin himself, but with the sixth book of the series being still in the works, we can’t compare. And the logistics (based in the current character locations and developing events) are complicated. Nevertheless, it’s the defeat of Stannis what makes Melisandre have a crisis of faith, especially after realizing she sacrificed Shireen for nothing.

After Davos discovers the truth, and once the battle against Ramsay is won, she’s expelled from Winterfell and is warned to never return, since she’d be facing execution. The red priestess departs the North, but still manages to reunite Daenerys and Jon before leaving Westeros -but not for good, as she told Varys.

Knowing that she’s slated for a return in Season 8, though her story could’ve easily ended with her departure, it’s safe to assume she has a rendezvous with death. But how will it happen?

melarya

Executed by Arya: Melisandre briefly made it to Arya’s kill list, after she took Gendry away in Season 3. And though she’s apparently no longer a part of said list (and Gendry made it out alive, which would render Melisandre’s inclusion moot), she looked into Arya’s eyes and told her they’d meet again one day.

It remains to be seen how (and when) that meeting will happen. Four seasons have passed since that ominous prediction, and the parts involved don’t seem to be looking forward to it (or dreading it). Maybe plans changed behind the scenes or perhaps the dialogue (or the vagueness of it) made it seem like a bigger deal than it really is, but currently I don’t see a lot of motivation for Arya to kill Mel. Other than crossing a name off her list, it wouldn’t be really satisfactory.

Surely they’ll meet again. The consequences of it may not be so deadly, however.

Mel and Davos

Executed by Davos: As opposed to Arya, Davos does have plenty of reason and motivation to kill Melisandre. In fact, he told her that if he ever saw her again, he’d execute her himself.

The loss of someone who was like a daughter to him surely still hurts Davos, and he’s unlikely to ever forgive the red priestess despite her important role in retaking Winterfell from House Bolton.

Davos already tried to impulsively kill Melisandre, and paid the price for it. They were always uneasy allies at best. And now there’s a huge chasm between the two.

Though it makes more narrative sense than having Arya executing her, and it’d be a way to end the feud between the two, I personally wouldn’t like this outcome. Davos has a forgiving and gentle nature, as evidenced by the fact he never harbored resentment towards Stannis for chopping his fingers off, or for dooming himself and his entire family (and army) by listening to Melisandre. Tyrion was directly responsible for the death of his son Matthos (and Davos does remember. “Last time I was here you killed my son with wildfire”), but there’s no bad blood between the two.

Much as he’s justified, I’d be sad to see him killing the red priestess.

The real Melisandre in "The Red Woman"

Melisandre is Nissa Nissa: This may sound a bit crazy or far-fetched, but please bear with me. Although the show has been really low on prophecies and references to mythical figures, there have been some tiny details sprinkled here and there.

In the Season 2 premiere (“The North Remembers”) Stannis’s sword is named Lightbringer, like the sword of legend that belonged to Azor Ahai.

Azor Ahai is a legendary hero (according to the stories of the followers of R’hllor anyway) who forged a sword to drive the darkness away and defeat the Others (or the White Walkers). But the power of this sword came with a heavy price: Azor Ahai had to sacrifice the life of his wife, Nissa Nissa. He pierced her heart with the blade, and her soul combined with the steel, creating a hero’s sword that wouldn’t break.

Legend says that Azor Ahai will come back to fight the Others once more, as a champion reborn, sent by the Lord of Light himself.

The White Walkers have already breached the Wall and began their invasion of Westeros, and Jon has been resurrected by Melisandre (or by R’hllor through her). Fans have theorized dozens of possibilities for the identity of Azor Ahai, from Daenerys Targaryen to Jaime Lannister, but Jon is the one that makes the most sense for me. And considering Melisandre’s longevity and her obsession with this legend, including her affinity to fire, I think it makes her a plausible candidate for Nissa Nissa’s role.

Melisandre wants to help in the Great War, and possibly seek to make amends for the damage she has caused. She’s aware that her fate is to die in Westeros, but we don’t know how it’ll happen -maybe she doesn’t know the details herself. Perhaps the realization will hit her during the trip to Volantis, and she’ll come back to fulfill her role, as told in the legend.

It wouldn’t be as much of an execution but more of a willing sacrifice. Giving her life in order to save others, instead of burning people for naught, would be one hell of a way for the Red Woman to redeem herself.

The main problem I see with this theory is precisely that the show has shied away from these elements from the books, possibly to keep things mostly grounded and realistic, but then again, it’s a series with dragons, magic and ice zombies. An ancient hero reborn would be hardly the most bonkers thing that has happened so far.


As opposed to other characters I’ve talked about in previous “Endgame” articles, Varys and Melisandre posed a bit of a riddle for me. It’s not that the others are “predictable”, but their paths are a bit more clear: they have enemies and scores to settle, goals they want to accomplish, ambitions they have expressed. Not the same case with Varys and Mel, since they’ve kept things ambiguous and they don’t even have foes (Davos hates Melisandre, but the feeling isn’t mutual. And Varys didn’t seem to feel annoyed by Qyburn taking command of the little birds).

As with all my predictions, what the screenwriters have in store could be something completely out of left field, and I expect no less. I’m fully expecting Varys to be one of the few who live to see the end of the Great War, but if he dies I’ll sure be surprised. On the other hand, Melisandre is a safe bet when it comes to characters who are going to kick the bucket in the final season, but the how remains a mystery.

Nonetheless, I’m really glad both Conleth Hill and Carice van Houten will grace our screens as their GoT characters one last time when Season 8 finally arrives next year. It still feels far away, but we’re getting closer each day. 2019 can’t come soon enough!

98 responses

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    1. Varys had basically three scenes of consequence in Season 7:

      1. Being challenged by Dany about how nonsensical his supposed motivations are (something the show points out and then sidesteps, incidentally), he asserts that he will never pledge absolute loyalty, and Dany says she’ll burn him if he betrays her.

      2. Being told by Melisandre that he will die, and the implication of the scene is that it will be soon.

      3. A long scene with Tyrion where he vocalizes his concerns about Dany’s recent actions and how the stuff Tyrion is saying reminds him of his own experiences serving the Mad King.

      This show is pretty straightforward in its foreshadowing and setups, generally, and to me there’s an obvious conclusion to draw from these three scenes in respect to Varys’ probable fate (one that, not incidentally, would dovetail with his probable fate in the novels, albeit by a different road).

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    2. I very much doubt D&D would’ve put that dialogue, accompanied by haunting music, b/t Varys and Mel… if they both weren’t going to die.

      “Should he die in Season 8, I don’t feel it’d be a momentous event”..
      I disagree. While Varys himself dying wouldn’t be a huge deal for most of the audience, the situation surrounding his death could be during a hugely climactic moment.

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    3. To elaborate further, I’m guessing that subsequent to the reveal of Jon’s parentage, Varys decides that Jon would make a better king and tries to kill Dany to make it happen. He fails, and is BBQ’d for his treason.

      This would work as a climactic story for Tyrion, who was shown being disquieted by Dany in Season 7, and will ultimately choose to back her anyway against his friend Varys.

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    4. Thank you Morgoth for another great article! I love these “Long Reads”. I like that you pointed out Varys’s interaction with Kinvara from S6 as I too was surprised that she brought up that voice he heard. It made me think that perhaps we will find out what the name was and it will have some relevance in Season 8, otherwise why bring it up again?

      I felt book!Varys was a lot more duplicitous and manipulative. Whereas he’s a Targaryen loyalist in ASOIAF, he’s more a servant of the people in GoT (by any means necessary). Also I never really considered Melissandre as Nissa Nissa and honestly, that whole prophecy sounds a lot like a creation story or some kind of fable so I don’t want to take it too literal. If Lightbringer is indeed a literal sword, I could see one of the Dragon’s being Nissa Nissa as they are “fire made flesh,” or perhaps the dragons themselves are “lightbringers.” Anyways, I love speculating about all this and can’t wait for the last season!

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    5. I guess I haven’t expected a lot more depth in Varys’ remaining story considering what type of events are left to the finale, which seems to be a lot of warring. I’ve been just assuming some more random lines in an adviser capacity. Of course those alone are always fun from Conleth so that’s not a bad thing. Without knowing how things go for J&D it’s difficult to foresee how that advisory role for him will follow. I’m on the fence regarding him living or dying. Does he ‘deserve’ to die? Maybe I lean more towards living but perhaps his mutilation is rectified in some manner for him, and for the viewers.

      To me Melisandre does seem like she could have more involvement in the action one way or another. She’s traveling to and supposedly returning from Volantis for some reason. Whether it’s to bring a group of red priests and priestesses or the Fiery Hand for assistance, or both, I do think she’ll come back with an entourage. She herself told Jon she’s not a soldier prior to the BotB so I don’t know what she could do personally in battle… but maybe as a group they’d be effective. No one other than Davos really has a reason to want her dead anymore, and he won’t forgive her. Still, I can’t see him actually killing her, especially if he believes she can help them. She seems like one that is likely to be killed by a WW or the NK himself.

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    6. Sean C.:
      To elaborate further, I’m guessing that subsequent to the reveal of Jon’s parentage, Varys decides that Jon would make a better king and tries to kill Dany to make it happen.He fails, and is BBQ’d for his treason.

      That was very much my takeaway from the scenes you’ve described. And to be honest I wonder if that might also be Melisandre’s fate.

      Since resurrecting him, Mel’s been all about Jon Snow. When she discussed the PTWP prophecy with Dany, I didn’t get the impression that Melisandre thought Dany was the PtWP – but she didn’t contradict Dany’s assumption that she was. I had the impression that Melisandre wants Dany to work with Jon against the Night King, but that in Melisandre’s view Jon is the PtWP and/or will be more important in defeating the NK.

      If both Varys and Melisandre decide they must support Jon over Daenerys, whether for the same reasons or because, say, Mel’s focused on her interpretations of visions and prophecies while Varys decides that Jon is much better ruler material than Daenerys, they’d each stand a good chance of being burned alive. It was strongly foreshadowed for Varys, and it would be an ironic and fitting end for Melisandre.

      This would work as a climactic story for Tyrion, who was shown being disquieted by Dany in Season 7, and will ultimately choose to back her anyway against his friend Varys.

      I’m not so sure that Tyrion will continue to back Daenerys. But that’s just me.

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    7. I like your objectivity. however, one thing that strikes me, you seem to have it mentally ‘locked in’ that if vary’s is to die then it must be murder. i might remind you that hundreds of people died when cersei sent the demolishing crew into the great sept of baelor. with the only real objective being to get rid of the great sparrow and a few ambiguous sparrows, i suppose what i am saying is, it does not have to be that someone is out there to get vary’s, it might be that he just happens to be piggy in the middle with a lot of other little piggies when an event that can not be relocated in time and space is due to happen around him.

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    8. Gwidhiel:
      Since resurrecting him, Mel’s been all about Jon Snow. When she discussed the PTWP prophecy with Dany, I didn’t get the impression that Melisandre thought Dany was the PtWP – but she didn’t contradict Dany’s assumption that she was. I had the impression that Melisandre wants Dany to work with Jon against the Night King, but that in Melisandre’s view Jon is the PtWP and/or will be more important in defeating the NK.

      Maybe, although the stuff that leaked from S7 suggests otherwise.

      As she walks we pan over to the great rocks by the shore. Standing in the shadow of one of them, her red cloak stirring in the wind, is MELISANDRE, watching the princess who was promised returning to town.

      [N.B A fire element maybe added to scene to jog our memory of Melisandre].

      Though it’s difficult to tell if these are Mel’a thoughts or if this is D&D outright stating that Dany is the PTWP

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    9. Jay Targ: Maybe, although the stuff that leaked from S7 suggests otherwise.

      Hm, hadn’t seen that. Although that could also be read in a rather tongue-in-cheek way, I suppose, because there’s no doubt in Dany’s mind that she’s the PtWP. Regardless, interesting!

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    10. Sean C.,

      I think Varys’ death could more serve as a breaking point for him, to turn against Daenerys.

      It’s hard to imagine situation where Tyrion would support Varys’ death when you consider their relationship. Even if he for some reason tries to kill Daenerys.

      Tyrion didn’t want Cersei dead after all.

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    11. Sean C.,

      I also think that Varys will meet his end by Daenerys. She warned him that he should always be honest with her and not plot behind her back (something along these lines). So I guess he will try to switch sides to Jon once it’s clear he has the right family name, and Daenerys will not be grateful.

      In the books, I guess it will be more straightforward and the non-explanation for his weird actions isn’t needed. Varys supported (F)Aegon (which is why they didn’t mind to sell Daenerys, and they didn’t support Viserys) and I suppose Daenerys will not be grateful for that.

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    12. I do agree that the only character to kill Varys that feels like a right choice is Daenerys.

      Cersei? Nah. I don’t feel like they had any relationship and they were together for 4 seasons in KL. I don’t remember that they ever even talked to each other.

      Qyburn? Maybe, but it feel like it makes more sense for Varys to kill him, not other way around.

      The Night King or his army? No.

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    13. fdr,

      I don’t disagree with this, and they certainly foreshadowed Dany killing Varys back in season 7, but it almost felt too obvious to the point that I’m starting to think that maybe Varys will die differently. GoT foreshadows a lot, but I just wonder if this particular foreshadowing is too on the nose for it to come to fruition.

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    14. Mr Derp,

      Too obvious to whom? I don’t think this is popular theory even on internet. GA has no idea. That’s for sure.

      Sansa killing LF was popular idea since ASOS but it still happened. Ramsay killing Roose and Walda was far more popular that Dany killing Varys but it still happened. R+L=J, Jon’s resurection,…

      I mean many popular theories were proven right and this isn’t even that popular.

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    15. mau,

      I dont know what youre talking about. I didnt say anything about anything being popular. It’s simply a personal opinion of mine, one I couldn’t care less if you or the internet agrees with.

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    16. Clob,


      “…She seems like one that is likely to be killed by a WW or the NK himself….”

      I’m assuming she saw her death in the flames? I tend to think she’ll die in battle too. Hopefully she is able to bring over reinforcements

      I’m not sure about Varys. If he has to die, hope it’s while he’s doing something to protect his ‘birds’

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    17. Hmm…

      I actually disagree completely! But thanks for the speculation article.

      These are my thoughts, for what they are worth:

      1. The scene between Dany and Varys was setup, and Varys WILL burn. This is precisely why the season 7 scene was included. Furthermore, Melisandre arriving right then was no accident, and the reason Varys will be burned by Dany will be directly related to Dany’s connection to blood magic, and Varys’s abhorence of same.

      2. Dany has in fact always had ties to blood magic. It happened in Essos, so we tend to not relate it much to what happened with Stannis and Mel, but just like Stannis, Dany has burned people alive and willingly embraced magic when it suited her. With the Rhllor priesthood on her side, this is one branch of her story that is going to escalate in season 8. I suspect this will happen as a result of the loss (death) of either Jon or Drogon, or possibly an attempt to “reclaim” Viserion. Love is the thing that pushes her towards magic every time. When she learns that Rhllor can bring people back from death… indeed the show has already danced around her curiosity about Jon’s wounds and Davos’s rhetorical slip and it seems when she learns it that will be important.

      3. Mel was expelled from the North by Jon, now king. He said if she ever returned he would kill her. So her death will likely be related to that context, and happen in season 8. It may simply being a matter of Jon sticking to his word and having the power and circumstances to act himself. If however Arya does happen to be the one to carry out the sentence, it will be because she is acting as the King/Queen’s justice now, as we already saw with Littlefinger. Just because a name is on her list does not mean her objective in action will be revenge. She will be doing in the name of law and justice, and only on the specific orders of her King/Queen (same applies to Cersei if Arya does end up being her killer.

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    18. After Varys spoke with Melisandre on the Dragonstone cliff he looks out to sea and sees a ship…. Varys’ expression looks like he saw a ghost…

      I wonder what Varys saw as he looked out and saw that ship in the Dragonstone bay and why he looked so scared?

      Maybe is was because Varys always looks scared after talking to a Red Priestess.

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    19. firstone,

      I think the look Varys gave at the end of that scene was in response to what Mel told him about dying in this strange land, but that’s, ya know, just like my opinion and stuff, man 🙂

        Quote  Reply

    20. firstone,


      I wonder what Varys saw as he looked out and saw that ship in the Dragonstone bay and why he looked so scared?

      I wondered at that too. Had the ship just appeared out of nowhere? Was it because of the type of ship it was? The last time on the show I remember Melisandre using an unexpected mode of transport was in S5, when she was seen leaving Stannis’s camp on a horse after all the horses were supposed to have been taken by deserters or dead.

        Quote  Reply

    21. firstone,
      It didn’t register with me until my third watch on the night that episode aired… I thought it was something he was thinking in regard to what she said as well until then.

      What it was is him seeing the Greyjoy ship returning alone to Dragonstone and realizing that something must have gone wrong. So, during the time Jon is meeting Daenerys he goes down to the bay, finds out what happened and then goes to the throne room to report. That shot was simply showing how he is going to learn of what he interrupts Daenerys with that ends her meeting with Jon.

        Quote  Reply

    22. Clob,

      That’s a good read of the situation I think. I personally don’t recall Varys’ expression really changing much once he saw the ship, but I could certainly be misremembering it. It was kind of like a double whammy right there with Mel’s statement and then the Greyjoy ship returning.

        Quote  Reply

    23. Clob,

      It’s there, but it’s pretty subtle, IMO.

      Whenever I watch this scene I keep expecting to see Mel fly away on a broomstick all the while sporting a maniacal laugh with the wicked witch of the East song playing in the background.

      “and your little birds too!”….muahahahaha!

        Quote  Reply

    24. Mr Derp,

      On very first watch I was somewhat expecting one of them to throw the other off the cliff. Maybe it’s just me that finds standing or watching someone stand too close to a cliff uncomfortable. 😛

        Quote  Reply

    25. Clob,

      Ha, I doubt it’s just you. Have you ever seen the Mike Myers movie “So I Married an Axe Murderer”?

      There’s a scene where the girlfriend is confessing to Mike Myers that occasionally she has certain, urges….

      “Charlie, have you ever stood at the edge of a cliff or a subway platform with someone and you thought just for a split second “What if I pushed him?””

        Quote  Reply

    26. Dark Sister,

      I agree. It was a good article. One of my favourite aspects of WotW is the “long reads’ that delve deeply into subjects ranging from hero’s journeys to costumes, redemption arcs, etc. Essays give a good, thoughtful writer the length needed to ruminate at length and explore alternatives. And we have many such writers: Morgoth, Patrick, Joe Magician, Vanessa, Petra and Luka (alone or together), and many more.

      I concur with all who said that if Varys is killed by one person, it will be Daenerys, which means he’ll betray her in one way or another. Ironic, considering he was the person who made her rise possible. It’s also possible he’ll be a casualty of war. If he’s still alive in episode 5, he’d likely participate in the Allies’ infiltration of Kings Landing and the Red Keep, utilizing his knowledge of and contacts in the city and Red Keep, and perhaps even his Little Birds. I don’t think Arya or Davos will kill Melisandre. Since she has been so associated with fiery sacrifice since her first appearance (2.01), I think she’ll volunteer to go out by one. And she’d probably consider it an honour. Alternatively, since she also specifically preached about the PTWWP and Lightbringer in that scene, Jon might plunge his sword into her and pull forth Lightbringer.

        Quote  Reply

    27. mau,

      If Tyrion isn’t willing to punish attempted regicide, he needs to find another line of work than “Queen’s Hand”.

      On the subject of Melisandre’s death, it’s pretty strongly indicated that Melisandre has seen and accepted her future demise, so I don’t think her end is going to be framed as sort of “justice” by one of the main cast. I think she mostly likely goes out fighting the Army of the Dead.

        Quote  Reply

    28. Sean C.,

      Maybe he needs. But what I don’t get is what is purpose of Varys’ death? I mean why waste time and space to create a situation where Daenerys has to kill him?

      They could keep him alive and in background.

        Quote  Reply

    29. D&D have mentioned that GRRM told them 3 major plot twists:

      1. Burning of Shireen
      2. Origin of Hodor’s Name
      3. Yet to be revealed….

      So far, GOT has strayed away from the many many ASOIAF prophecies.. And yet there are two major ones in the show, neither of which have yet made it into the books.
      1. Melisandre telling Arya we will meet again.
      2. Melisandre telling Varys she has to die in Westeros, just like him.

      Its possible that all this is connected to that big twist (and I don’t believe it is Arya murdering either character).
      I have no idea what it is… but something big is coming IMO.

        Quote  Reply

    30. I think if Varys is going to die, his death needs to serve some purpose in the plot. To create that tension just to kill him off feels like waste of time in the season where a lot of things need to happen.

      It’s not like Varys is some villain, that needs to die. I could see his death being somehow used in Dany and Tyrion’s relationship in a major way, because before S7 I really didn’t feel like he needed to die and I still don’t feel it tbh.

      He was type of character I was sure would be kept alive and in background like Gilly or Missandei for example. I didn’t feel like story demands his death.

      But there are hints, so something is going to happen for sure.

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    31. I definitely disagree with Varys living. There would be no sense in dropping that line in 7×02 about him dying if nothing was to come of it. That would be quite strange.. As I see it, D&D are basically telling us: “These two characters are going to die. We’re giving away their fates. But now you get to ponder how and under what circumstance.” There is just as much tension and intrigue in that sort of reveal as there is in wondering who lives and who dies.

      As for how Varys dies, I can only imagine it has something to do with Dany. I have trouble seeing another possibility at the moment.

      I wouldn’t mind Arya killing Mel, but only if it’s on Jon’s orders. I think we’ve seen enough revenge killings from Arya (as spectacular as they were). It would seem a bit odd to have Davos do it, even though he has every reason to. Mel sacrificing herself in the war seems the most plausible to me.

        Quote  Reply

    32. One example that would support the argument that Dany will kill Varys is that the threat is based on Varys being honest with Dany and telling her when she’s not doing what he feels is in the best interests of the people. Varys obviously had a problem with Dany killing the Tarlys a few of episodes later, but he didn’t say anything to her about it at all. All he did was confide with Tyrion that he didn’t think what she did was right. That right there is an example of Varys not being up front with Dany.

      If this trend continues in season 8 then Dany will probably be the one to kill Varys. I’m just not sure yet what to believe. I personally hope Dany doesn’t kill Varys. I like them both, and I think it would bring Dany to a very dark place.

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    33. Great article, Morgoth. Me, I’m hoping for a big Spider-Mel fight scene ala Gandalf and Saruman at Isengard.

        Quote  Reply

    34. Well, I guess it’s just me who thinks that Gendry’s long after- the-fact incessant whinging about Melisandre was a setup for Melisandre’s flame-broiling by Gendry at WF’s forge. Perhaps while impaled on Needle and slowly rotated like a shriveled hot dog at a 7-11.

      #WitchKeBob

        Quote  Reply

    35. Enharmony1625,

      With all her blabbering about fire “purifying” the soul and the fact that she burned a little girl alive… Mel’s gotta learn how it feels. The Red Witch is gonna be lit up like a human torch in S8.

      “A bad way to go.”
      – Mance “the King Beyond Understatement” Rayder

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    36. awol,

      I agree with most of what you’ve written.

      I could totally picture Dany being seduced by the idea of being the Princess that was Promised, especially if there was some superficially sympathetic reasoning, such as wanting to protect or bring loved ones back from the dead.

      All the Red Priests and Priestesses aside from Melisandre believe that Dany is the “saviour”.

      Kinvara’s words to Varys and Tyrion are most illuminating,

      “The dragons will purify non-believers by the thousands.”

      “You want your queen to be worshipped and obeyed… I will summon my most eloquent priests. They will spread the word. Daenerys has been sent to lead the people against the darkness. In this war and in the great war still to come.”

      “Everyone is what they are and where they are for a reason. Terrible things happen for a reason… We serve the same queen. If you are her true friend, you have nothing to fear from me.”

      There’s never been any real payoff from them setting Dany up as an alternate “saviour” for followers of the Lord of Light to worship. Of course, it’s possible that an army of devoted converts will come riding to the rescue in the great war, with no further consequences. But that’d be unbelievably lame considering what we’ve seen and know of followers of the Red God.

      Varys will probably switch allegiances to Jon, especially if a bunch of Red Priests and Priestesses turn up with a bunch of converts declaring Dany their saviour.

      Unlike other people, I don’t think he’ll try and have Dany killed, because that would make Dany entirely justified in having him executed. I think his execution would be controversial, and could be the last straw from Tyrion’s perspective.

      So it’s more likely that she discovers he’s been plotting against her and executes him, or her followers do and Dany does nothing to prevent them sacrificing him to the Lord of Light.

        Quote  Reply

    37. Ten Bears,

      I would be completely okay with that. Given her shift in character since then, and the fact that she does genuinely seem to want to help in the Great War, perhaps she pays for that horrible act in a noble way. That adds a bit of GoT-level complexity to it that would be rather interesting.

        Quote  Reply

    38. It seems that Red Velvet will be on the battlements of Winterfell during a great battle, and that she will meet Arya again. I’m guessing she goes down fighting the WW there, as the Red God’s agent.
      Dany may discover proof of betrayal by Varys, perhaps through the
      Red Priesthood, and he burns as promised. Just my two coins worth.

        Quote  Reply

    39. Morgoth, excellent article (Im another fan of the long reads here, they give me lots of food for thought, led by some interesting discussion)

      I can see Varys turning to Jon, then being killed by dany and the dragon of her choice. I also wonder if Melisande will be burned at the same time – this would be after she sees Arya…

      So far, GOT has strayed away from the many many ASOIAF prophecies.. And yet there are two major ones in the show, neither of which have yet made it into the books.
      1. Melisandre telling Arya we will meet again.
      2. Melisandre telling Varys she has to die in Westeros, just like him.

      Its possible that all this is connected to that big twist (and I don’t believe it is Arya murdering either character).
      I have no idea what it is… but something big is coming IMO.

      yes, I can see that. Also wonder if the other priestess (kinera sp?) will play a part here, esp as she seemed keen on burning non belivers.

        Quote  Reply

    40. HelloThere:
      D&D have mentioned that GRRM told them 3 major plot twists:

      1. Burning of Shireen
      2. Origin of Hodor’s Name
      3. Yet to be revealed….
      ********
      I have no idea what it is… but something big is coming IMO.

      ______________
      Why don’t we all put on our tinfoil hats and theorize what Big Twist #3 might be?

      Here’s one … that’s completely whacko but I’m going to throw it out there anyway. (In the interests of full disclosure, I’ve always thought “Alien Resurrection” was a vastly underrated movie. It was written by Joss Whedon, and had some truly freaky moments.) Anyway…

      1. Even though it was reported second-hand, Dany’s stillborn baby supposedly came out with scales and leathery wings. What if that baby of the “Mother of Dragons” had been a deformed half-human creature all along?
      2. Red Witch Melisandre copulated with King Stannis to give birth to a shadow demon.
      3. Getting involved with practitioners of blood magic rarely turns out well. Ask Dany, Varys, Shireen, Gendry, Stannis, pre-NK human, and Cersei (via Maggy).
      4. Dany has allied herself with the High Priestess of the Red Temple of Volantis, who seemed really excited about “purifying” nonbelievers by the thousands with dragonfire but didn’t show any sense of urgency about preparing for the great war in the North. She also knew all about the sorcerer who cut of Varys’s private parts and threw them into a fire.

      Ultra tinfoil twist: The “dragonspawn” of Dany & Jon comes out as a half-human, half-dragon hybrid.

      Like Ripley’s half-human, half-alien baby in “Alien Resurrection”

      . As with Mel’s offspring, he/she/it reaches adult size in a matter of hours or days instead of years.
      What then? Exterminate it as an abomination, or praise it as a savior genetically engineeered by the Lord of Light to battle the enemy?

      I got up too early today and I’ve been up too late tonight, so please don’t ridicule me too much if I think a human-dragon hybrid would be cool.

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    41. Until his meeting with Melisandre I always thought Varys was so clever and cunning that nobody would ever succeed in killing him.

      Varys to Tyrion after meeting Shae:

      Storms come and go, the big fish eat the little fish and I keep on paddling

      I hope he survives. And I love how Conleth Hill plays him.

      Book spoiler

      In the books Varys paved the road for an Aegon who was said to be Rhaegar’s son, in the show he’ll do the same but for another Aegon.
      In the books he might be a Targaryen descendent too, but I don’t think he will be in the show. Because of his kings blood, the followers of R’hllor want to sacrifice him. And that’s why he supports the Targaryens.

      But I do think, once it is known Jon is Rhaegar’s only surviving son and has therefore a claim on the Iron Throne, a lot of people and also Varys will want to follow Jon instead of Dany. Jon is a better ruler than Dany is and grew up in Westeros and was raised by and is related to Ned Stark who the northerners hold in high honor. And that might cause some problems for Dany with the northern lords, Sam and Varys. I hope that she doesn’t roast them all.

      I love it that there is still so much we don’t know and that we can speculate. I like it to know almost nothing, just like when I watched the first seasons of GOT before reading the books.

      About Melisandre. I live in Belgium, but my native language is Dutch. Years ago I bought a dvd-box titled ‘movies with Carice van Houten’. She has some very good and sensitive en very human female roles in Dutch movies. The moment I discovered GOT I literally binge watched the first 3 seasons. And after that I read somewhere that Carice also had a role in GOT. I started thinking wich role she played. I thought she played some small role. I looked it up on IMDB and was completely surprised she was the one playing Melisandre. I hadn’t recognised her at all! Her acting style is completely different. Really impressive!

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    42. “There are few surviving characters and none of them really fits the bill for the voice’s true identity, so it can’t possibly be a huge revelation.”

      Not so sure I agree with that… we still have the 3 eyed raven. My bet is Bran is the voice in the flames.

      The show always ties up loose ends (often years down the line), and this has been to significant a plot point to overlook, being referenced more than once. We will know for certain who that voice belonged to and what it said, before the end.

        Quote  Reply

    43. Thank you, Morgoth, for a great article, and thank you WotW for publishing these articles to while away the long night between seasons.

      Book and show Varys have quite different paths because of no (f)Aegon on the show, but I think the end will be the same: dead Varys. Probably at the hands of Dany. The show has forshadowed it, as Mr Derp, commented above. Varys not being upfront with Dany as he promised to do, and he already has slipped on that, and may slip some more, e.g. due to RLJ.

      As to Mel, book and show have seen her on a similar path until the end of the last book, the show then taking the baton. I like the idea of Mel dying for her cause, a willing sacrafice. A while back I came across an interesting (book) idea/theory about Nissa Nissa.

      BTW, I’ve always been a bit sceptical about a female character getting nissa-nissaed by the male hero to forge a SUPER DUPER MAGICAL SWORD. For one thing, the Azor Ahai Reborn prophecy says nothing about forging such a weapon or Nissa Nissa – that’s the legend of the original AA. Secondly, I think the idea of a literal special weapon in the hands of a special hero is a bit cheesy. I like to keep an open mind about non-literal swords = weapons, and possible multiple heroes each playing their part.

      Anyway, the usual nissa-nissa theories have AAR (usually Jon) sacraficing his true love to save humankind, which wouldn’t fit as Jon does not love Mel. However, the idea/theory I mentioned above speculates that the original Nissa Nissa may not have been “only” AA’s wife but some kind of a priestess willingly sacraficing herself for the common good, which means Mel – with her strong beliefs – could fit the bill. So Mel as Nissa Nissa gets a cautious thumbs up from me.

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    44. awol:

      … possibly an attempt to “reclaim” Viserion. Love is the thing that pushes her towards magic every time. When she learns that Rhllor can bring people back from death… indeed the show has already danced around her curiosity about Jon’s wounds and Davos’s rhetorical slip and it seems when she learns it that will be important.

      … If however Arya does happen to be the one to carry out the sentence, it will be because she is acting as the King/Queen’s justice now, as we already saw with Littlefinger. Just because a name is on her list does not mean her objective in action will be revenge. She will be doing in the name of law and justice, and only on the specific orders of her King/Queen (same applies to Cersei if Arya does end up being her killer.

      Ooh, I LOVE your idea of Dany trying to reclaim Viserion through Rholler ressurection! Meddling with dubious blood magic! I can see Varys being very worried about that, many others. Jon completely conflicted, being a Rholler resurrectee himself, but maybe feeling a bit uneasy, not fully embracing Rholler/blood magic. Plus RLJ might throw a spanner in the works.

      As to Arya executing Mel or anybody on Jon’s orders… That would be very bad and sad for both Jon and Arya. Remember Ned: “The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword.” Is Jon forgetting Ned’s lesson and using a headsman (executioner) now? Also, would make Arya a colleague of Ilyn Payne, someone she hated enough to put him on her list. Just, no.

        Quote  Reply

    45. talvikorppi:

      As to Arya executing Mel or anybody on Jon’s orders… That would be very bad and sad for both Jon and Arya. Remember Ned: “The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword.” Is Jon forgetting Ned’s lesson and using a headsman (executioner) now? Also, would make Arya a colleague of Ilyn Payne, someone she hated enough to put him on her list. Just, no.

      This.

        Quote  Reply

    46. This is an excellent article, discussing my favorite character in the series (Varys) and my most hated character in the series (Melisandre).

      I appreciate the thought it took to come up with these options. It’s difficult for me to do since I have such an absolute love for The Spider and my hatred for Melisandre is palpable.

      I do believe Varys will die, but I think he will have a “good” death.

      The Nissa Nissa idea for Melisandre is very interesting, but as D&D never really delved into that topic, it’d be hard for them to make it a powerful moment.

        Quote  Reply

    47. HelloThere:
      D&D have mentioned that GRRM told them 3 major plot twists:

      1. Burning of Shireen
      2. Origin of Hodor’s Name
      3. Yet to be revealed….

      So far, GOT has strayed away from the many many ASOIAF prophecies.. And yet there are two major ones in the show, neither of which have yet made it into the books.
      1. Melisandre telling Arya we will meet again.
      2. Melisandre telling Varys she has to die in Westeros, just like him.

      Its possible that all this is connected to that big twist (and I don’t believe it is Arya murdering either character).
      I have no idea what it is… but something big is coming IMO.

      I’m not sure the third GRRM-revealed twist is related to Mel. It could be but I don’t think so. One already was (Shireen) and having two just seems… Put it this way, Mel isn’t THAT important. I feel the third twist is related to something else. (I could be wrong, of course.)

      The bit I bolded. That S3 Mel/Arya interaction was scripted and filmed before GRRM told D&D the three twists (it happened after S3). I always thought Mel was taking on some book!character Ghost of High Hearth lines.

      In the books Arya with the BwB meets this old crone (GHH) who has prophetic dreams (she e.g. forsees the Red Wedding) and she reacts strongly to Arya, saying she smells of death, calling Arya wolf child, death child, “begone! begone!”

      Also, Mel and Varys dying is hardly a twist even in the books, even less so in the show.

        Quote  Reply

    48. talvikorppi:
      As to Arya executing Mel or anybody on Jon’s orders… That would be very bad and sad for both Jon and Arya. Remember Ned: “The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword.” Is Jon forgetting Ned’s lesson and using a headsman (executioner) now? Also, would make Arya a colleague of Ilyn Payne, someone she hated enough to put him on her list. Just, no.

      Very good point.

      It does make me very curious to find out what this prophesied meeting between Arya and Mel will mean. That scene in the show had enough weight to it that it would be odd if nothing came of it. Or if it turned out to be something trivial.

      As for the third twist, I think it could have something to do with the NK. His origin, his purpose.. something along those lines. It’s one of the big mysteries of the story heading into season 8, so it really needs to be paid off in some way.

        Quote  Reply

    49. talvikorppi,

      well I was simply responding to the article suggestion that Arya would kill Mel. I strongly doubt that Arya is going to suddenly turn away now from the path she chose which was to join and serve her family. She is no longer doing revenge killings.

      If you so hate Arya serving by being executioner, you must have hated Littlefinger’s end. Sansa passed the sentence but did not swing any sword. She did, however look Littlefinger in the eye a s she passed the sentence, which was the actual message of Ned’s lesson.

      Now there are certain circumstances also where, just like Sansa, Jon may not be ABLE to do ot himself. One reason of course might be that if he even thought of doing it, Mel would see it coming as she did before. But Arya can get close in ways Jon can’t, using faces. That may make it possible for her to avoid being seem in the flames.

        Quote  Reply

    50. I think Mel will die as a self sacrifice for some “greater good” and Varys will die for choosing sides between Jon and Dany.

      The crazy thing to me is the amount of story to tell in just 6 episodes. I just keep wondering what or whose stories or archs will come to a conclusion and what will be left out there. Who will just be background and who will have a pay off. You have: Great War, Cercei war, character reunions, Jon’s identity reveal, Dany’s reaction to Jon’s identity reveal, Theon/Yara, NK motives, who/what is Bran.
      You also have characters like Mel and Varys and Jamie and Brianne and Sam and Gilly and Arya and Sansa…
      6 episodes and many people we have been watching for years. Some will have a role, some will be just there. Tall task. No way to pay it all off and show adequate conclusions to all.

      Still think Emilia’s interview reveal that Dany “does some crazy stuff” is referring to Jon’s identity reveal and her negative response to his better claim to the throne (even though he doesn’t want it). I am theorizing that Jon uses Dany to beat NK, Dany uses Jon to beat Cercei and then she goes Mad Queen and turns on Jon causing sides to be taken. Probably how Varys ends up burning.

      Or Women and Eunichs and Theon all win proving it isn’t “all Cocks in the end”

        Quote  Reply

    51. awol,

      “Hate” is such a strong word, and I never used it. I said Arya serving as Jon’s executioner would be bad and sad for them both. Jon forgetting/disregarding Ned’s lesson and Arya becoming the equivalent of Ilyn Payne.

      LF’s execution was a bit irregular but I think it was done that way to show the Stark siblings working together while their king (Jon) was away. TBH, the whole S7 Winterfell storyline was a bit of a mess.

      One reason of course might be that if he even thought of doing it, Mel would see it coming as she did before. But Arya can get close in ways Jon can’t, using faces. That may make it possible for her to avoid being seem in the flames.

      I can see the reasoning behind this arguement, BUT book!Mel at least sees threats to her person first and foremost, so I see no reason why she shouldn’t see it even if it comes from a face-changing demi-FM. It’s not like she knows who the threats are, just that they are threats. Arya face-changing won’t change that.

      Also, would Jon want to execute Mel if she comes back from Volantis with some help in the real war?

        Quote  Reply

    52. talvikorppi,

      If Dany starts to go down the blood magic path, which I suspect she will as it has been strongly hinted at throughout the series, then yes, Jon will want to rid Dany of Rhllorist influence.

      Regarding Arya and Jon, again, Ned’s lesson was in actualy fact about being aware of what it means to take a life and looking the person in the eye when you do it. That is by far the most important aspect of the lesson. Swinging the sword tends to be seen as the actual objective of the tradition but it was not.

      In the case of Littlefinger, the essence of the message remained learned by both Sansa and Arya. Not every ruler is capable of swinging the sword, so basically the tradition is ablist and sexist, and must change in a context of non-sword wielding or otherwise incapacitated rulers. This may well be the case for Jon is all I am saying: he may not be ABLE to do it, but justice and law will require it be done.

        Quote  Reply

    53. awol: Not every ruler is capable of swinging the sword, so basically the tradition is ablist and sexist, and must change in a context of non-sword wielding or otherwise incapacitated rulers.

      I get what you’re saying, but disagree with it, respectfully. It was Ned’s personal preference that the person who passes the sentence should carry it out. It’s not like it’s the law of the land or something that everyone else has to follow. Besides, there are plenty of women and handicap people that can swing swords with the best of them.

      I think it should be fairly obvious that other rulers are not required to follow Ned’s preference if they are not physically able to do so. The spirit of Ned’s quote is to keep one’s self in check, in the sense that one would be less likely to abuse one’s position of power if the person who commands the death sentence is also the one who must carry it out. It’s a great recommendation, but not a requirement.

        Quote  Reply

    54. awol,

      I see that we’re in broad agreement, quibble about smaller stuff.

      Like I said above, I love your idea about Dany being tempted to again dabble in blood magic to “reclaim” or “ressurect” Viserion. I can see Jon being uneasy and sceptical about it, but also conflicted as a Rholler ressurectee himself. He can’t deny “Rholler power” because he’s apparently living proof of it.

      As to Arya as an executioner… It’s not about ableist, sexist or any other 21st century sensibilities. Ned despised executioners, would he be happy about his nephew using his daughter as a headsman? Think not.

      Ned may be dead but he was set up as a moral compass in the books and show. (Though his high honour is shown to be tragically somewhat faulty by GRRM.)

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    55. Mr Derp:

      .. .The spirit of Ned’s quote is to keep one’s self in check, in the sense that one would be less likely to abuse one’s position of power if the person who commands the death sentence is also the one who must carry it out. It’s a great recommendation, but not a requirement.

      Thank you, Mr Derp, for putting my thoughts into words better than I am able.

      Didn’t Ned say something like a lord/king using a proxy = headsman soon forgets the meaning of death and the value of life. It becomes an abstraction.

      Would Ned want his children/nephew forget this lesson? Think not.

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    56. Mr Derp:
      Besides, there are plenty of women and handicap people that can swing swords with the best of them.

      Cleanly cutting off a person’s head at a stroke (the humane form of execution) requires considerable upper-body strength. Historically, quite a few men failed at it (one of the “mercies” that Henry VIII showed Anne Boleyn was bringing in a skilled French swordsman who’d be a safe bet to decapitate her with one blow, since executioners were notorious at the time for taking multiple swings) and as we saw in the show Theon (and in the books, Robb) made a hash of it. Arya didn’t even attempt it when she killed Littlefinger, she slit his throat and let him suffer a slow, lingering demise.

      It is a sexist and ableist notion, if taken literally, because Westerosi society doesn’t train women to wield swords, even if they did have the physical strength for it like Brienne. And for many people with disabilities it wouldn’t be possible; Bran, for instance, would find it quite difficult.

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    57. Sean C.,

      The whole Westerosi society is obviously sexist, that’s as obvious as it gets and there shouldn’t be any need to dispute that or assume it’s being disputed in a general sense by me. I was specifically referring to the notion that Ned’s recommendation that the one who passes the sentence should swing the sword is supposedly sexist. It could be seen that way, sure, but that’s not what the intent is. It’s to keep the ruler in check. That’s it. Obviously a woman would not be put into that position based on how patriarchal Westerosi society is.

      Did the executioner from France do a better job simply because he was stronger? I doubt it. If that’s all that was needed then it wouldn’t be difficult at all to find a good executioner. You would simply hire the strongest person in town to do the deed.
      It most likely came from a combination of technique and strength, which I fully believe a woman is capable of, not that a woman would need to show that she can cut a head off on one try to prove that she can be a good leader.

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    58. Theons Richard:
      …Jon uses Dany to beat NK, Dany uses Jon to beat Cercei and then she goes Mad Queen and turns on Jon causing sides to be taken.

      Haha, yeah. Something like that, though I’m not sure Dany will go full Aerys. But the seeds are there for our potential Dawn War heroes still squabbling. Maybe they’ll only stop after being wightified and losing any free will.

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    59. Great article, Morgoth! A few comments/ predictions:

      I definitely feel that Dany will burn Varys. It did kind of feel too obvious, like it was shoved in our faces, but I think it’ll happen. Also, in the books it could have some connection to King’s blood, since it is also subtly foreshadowed that he is a Blackfyre Targ. Not that this would be the reason Dany would burn him, but still, it could have some sort of this underlying consequence of King’s blood.

      On the King’s blood-thought-train, I never really considered this before, but it has been a huge part of our story so far. What would give more power than the rightful heir to the Throne, the one with the true King’s blood, sacrificing himself to the flames? Not that I want this to happen, it would completely depress me, but it is something to chew on. Jon sacrificing himself to the fire to somehow defeat the Night King? I’d be sad, but it could happen.

      Lastly, I do believe Davos will execute Mel. It just seems like a good bit of vengeance, which our story has been giving us in tenfold over the past two seasons. And I’d really like to see it, to be honest. After Mel helps the story move forward, of course, by most likely outing Varys’ plan to betray Dany, that she’s seen in her flames.

      Actual last bit… I also think that the voice Varys heard in the flames as a boy was probably his own, maybe a last confession of sorts before he dies. I previously thought it would be his screams as he’s burning, but Kinvara did say that the voice said something. The easy option would be that the voice was R’holler, but I think they’ll throw a twist at us and have it be Varys’ voice the whole time.

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    60. Sean C.,

      Mr Derp,

      My point earlier, responding to another poster, was not about the practicalities of beheading or executing someone. In-story we’ve been shown Ned do it cleanly, Robb and Theon both botching it… Wow, it’s almost like we readers/watchers are asked to think about the death penalty in and of itself, only then how it’s executed.

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    61. Jaehaerys:

      … Lastly, I do believe Davos will execute Mel.It just seems like a good bit of vengeance, which our story has been giving us in tenfold over the past two seasons.

      Que? Has the show been giving tenfold “vengeance” the past few years? Would it be a good thing?

      Is our dear Onion Knight, one of the most level-headed and decent people, suddenly to be full on “vengeance”? Think not.

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    62. talvikorppi: In-story we’ve been shown Ned do it cleanly, Robb and Theon both botching it…

      I don’t recall Robb botching it.? He took Karstark’s head in one swoop.
      At any rate, I think it would be even tougher to do when using a longsword instead of a massive greatsword…

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    63. Jaehaerys,

      Jon sacrificing himself to the fire to somehow defeat the Night King?

      But didn’t he already sacrify himself to fire in shape of Dany?
      In my eyes he did *sorry*

      Jaehaerys,

      Actual last bit… I also think that the voice Varys heard in the flames as a boy was probably his own, maybe a last confession of sorts before he dies. I previously thought it would be his screams as he’s burning, but Kinvara did say that the voice said something. The easy option would be that the voice was R’holler, but I think they’ll throw a twist at us and have it be Varys’ voice the whole time.

      Great idea! And Varys doesn’t recognize until he’s burning… uuuuuuh!

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    64. talvikorppi,

      We have definitely had lots of vengeance the past two seasons, i.e. most of Arya’s list, Sansa killing Ramsay, Cersei killing Ellaria, etc.

      Didn’t say it was necessarily a good thing, just that the show has given us a lot of it recently, compared to the earlier seasons where actions sort of went unpunished in a lot of scenarios.

      And I’m not saying it’s a good thing for Davos either. Not like he’s a full-on vengeance fanatic like Arya *was* at one point; just that, personally, thinking on the events and all of the emotional scenes he had with Shireen… I would personally like him to have this one kill. Just my opinion, of course. Everyone gets emotional and makes rash decisions at some point, no matter how level-headed they are.

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    65. Clob,

      He didn’t botch it in the show, but I’m pretty sure he botched it in the books, if I remember correctly. And I think that is what they are referring to.

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    66. I wonder if the 3rd twist isn’t going to have to do with magic itself. Like if Jon kills the NK that somehow he is also killing all of the magic in the world. NK dying kills the dragons, etc. “only death pays for life”

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    67. cos alpha,

      I’m sorry, I don’t understand the first bit about sacrificing himself to fire in shape of Dany. Like… sacrificed himself when he was murdered at the Wall, or sacrificed himself by going North to capture a wight?

      And I really like the idea of the voice being his own. But I feel like he might know (maybe he didn’t when he was a boy, but now that he has fully matured and his voice has leveled out, maybe he has realized it) and that is why he is so disturbed by the memory. He doesn’t know the context of what he said, and probably doesn’t even know that it’ll be what he says before he dies, but it was just a bad omen that he has had to live with. If that makes any sense.

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    68. cos alpha,

      It’s gotta be Brans voice in the flames. He’s the only one we know of who can project his consciousness and communicate with the past, and recall that in ADWD, Mel sees Bran looking back at her when she seeks out Rh’llor in the flames.

        Quote  Reply

    69. Enharmony1625,

      I agree fully with your thoughts on the third twist. We haven’t learned enough about the White Walkers, and while I do think there will be more twists to come in the next books (and especially in the spin-off series, if it gets picked up), I believe the third twist will be about the White Walkers. My best guess is the reasons why they are coming, and possibly why they were dormant for so long. Just stuff that has to do with our current story.

      With regards to the spin-off, I think the twists there will have to do with the stories from the East, and the legend of Azor Ahai that came from the East. Hopefully some Bloodstone Emperor stuff. Maybe some multiple Long Night stuff. Maybe some Nissa Nissa was actually a Child of the Forest stuff. Just general twists that wouldn’t matter for this story.

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    70. Jaehaerys:
      Clob,

      He didn’t botch it in the show, but I’m pretty sure he botched it in the books, if I remember correctly.And I think that is what they are referring to.

      I was thinking maybe the books were being referred. It’s been so long since I’ve read the first few books that I can’t remember if he did.

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    71. Clob,

      Aah, me confusing book/show. In the books, Robb took several hacks to behead Lord Rickard Karstark = clear parallel to Theon hacking the head off Farlen (Ser Rodrick Cassel in the show).

      The show made Robb better and more “sainted” Ned-like for obvious cable/subscription TV show reasons. The change, I think, has not affected the overall GoT endgame story.

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    72. Theons Richard:
      I wonder if the 3rd twist isn’t going to have to do with magic itself.Like if Jon kills the NK that somehow he is also killing all of the magic in the world.NK dying kills the dragons, etc.“only death pays for life”

      I think very much along these lines. I haven’t figured out any details but the end game must surely be end of magic and a dawn for enlightened, rational human thought.

      Not that it’d be easy, most likely difficult and apt to go tragically wrong. Which gives an opening for people wanting to scapegoat the “others”. We see an example of this at the Wall, when many are unhappy at Jon’s decision to let the “Wildlings” through the Wall to defend the realms of men (= the real purpose of the Night’s Watch).

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    73. Jaehaerys:
      cos alpha,

      I’m sorry, I don’t understand the first bit about sacrificing himself to fire in shape of Dany.Like… sacrificed himself when he was murdered at the Wall, or sacrificed himself by going North to capture a wight?

      Although it was foreseeable, that Jon eventually would make a touch-down in fire-Danys burning bed, I wasn’t happy with that. After his resurrection he was straight (though not consistently wise) in his intentions and actions to save mankind from wightiness. A big part of that was to unify the North, and this happend under his leadership as KitN, but he gambled it by bending his knee and living this expected lovestory. And he knew it. And he knew, that it can’t lead to a happy ending.
      I thought about the possibility, that he perhaps wasn’t really in love with Dany, but sacrificed himself that way, to reasure her as ally, because every ally is needed and she would be an ally with strong power.

      I’m sorry, it’s not easy for me, to write in English, because I’m no native speaker – I hope, You understand, what I mean!

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    74. cos alpha,

      Oh I know cos, I assumed there was a language-barrier problem going on, so that’s why I asked! 🙂 But I think I understand now.

      You meant sacrificed as in bedding Dany. Maybe sacrificing his title as King in the North? Either way, I think he got with Dany because he does truly love her, but even beyond that, I think he did it because he is drawn to her in an other-worldly, non-explainable way that happens when two people are meant to be together. Not that this happens in real life, though it may, but Jon and Dany’s stories seemed to always be leading to one another, as if it was destiny and they couldn’t have helped that if they tried. It was inevitable. A force driving them together to defeat the darkness.

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    75. Sean C.,

      “Arya didn’t even attempt it when she killed Littlefinger, she slit his throat and let him suffer a slow, lingering demise.”
      ___________
      Now hold on. She cleanly bisected LF’s carotid artery, shutting off blood flow to his brain, and he was dead within seconds. She did not “let him suffer a slow, lingering demise”, although he definitely deserved it. For all the death and misery he caused, Arya should’ve gone Full MFT on LF. Starting with the eyeball gouging.

      He got off too easy.

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    76. I think the puzzle will what role does Essos still play in the end game?
      A lot of players in Westeros have their roots in Essos.
      One faction in Essos seems to have a heavy stake in what happens in Westeros.
      We got very little evidence from season 7 as to how this plays out.

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    77. Boojam,

      I’ve been thinking about that too. Is Essos even going to be affected by the long night?

      Right now, I think the only purpose Essos has is to keep enough distance between Daario and the action so hopefully we will never have to see him ever again 🙂

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    78. Mr Derp,

      Did the executioner from France do a better job simply because he was stronger? I doubt it. If that’s all that was needed then it wouldn’t be difficult at all to find a good executioner. You would simply hire the strongest person in town to do the deed.

      No – the strongest person is not nec the best by a long shot. The French executioner was known for his skill with the sword, his ability to make it clean and quick. There are probably not many men with those kinds of skills and for Henry, it was the last merciful thing he can do for Anne aside from pardoning her (what he did and how he used her is a whole nother hundred books and movies….) 🙂 Anyway According to author and historian Dr. Eric Ives,

      the swordsman was very skilled.her beheading by a first-class executioner — “an expert in the use of the heavy continental executioner’s sword which could cut the head off a prisoner who was kneeling upright, in place of the clumsier English axe needing the prisoner’s chin on the block

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    79. ash,

      A thread derailment to the intracacies of decapitations! We’ll return to ASNAWP soon enough….

      While we’re on the subject, let’s give it up for Lord Commander Jon Snow, for the top beheading on the show. Watching Longclaw separate whimpering Slynt’s head from his torso is #1 on my list.

      Out of curiosity – if anyone knows – why were Thorne, Olly and the two other NW clowns executed by hanging instead of getting their heads chopped off?

      (If only Sandor had been the Lord Commander. That execution scene would’ve been insane.)

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    80. Nice write up:) I disagree on Varys though, at this point there is set-up for him going against Dany and siding with Jon, in doing so I suspect he will meet his end.

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    81. Melisandre is an interesting one for me. She is coming back and I’m fairly certain she will die but we’ve never once seen her in battle, will she suddenly start throwing fireballs with the other servants of Rhallor, I think so, even if it doesn’t really fit the tone or any back story.

      At this point I’d guess she will die in the great war, probably in the North rather than by human hands.

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    82. HelloThere:
      D&D have mentioned that GRRM told them 3 major plot twists:

      1. Burning of Shireen
      2. Origin of Hodor’s Name
      3. Yet to be revealed….

      So far, GOT has strayed away from the many many ASOIAF prophecies.. And yet there are two major ones in the show, neither of which have yet made it into the books.
      1. Melisandre telling Arya we will meet again.
      2. Melisandre telling Varys she has to die in Westeros, just like him.

      Its possible that all this is connected to that big twist (and I don’t believe it is Arya murdering either character).
      I have no idea what it is… but something big is coming IMO.

      I don’t believe it was only three major twists but three they didn’t see coming. By that I mean they know the arcs of all the major characters.

      We also know the final big twist relates to the ending.

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    83. Ten Bears:
      ash,

      Out of curiosity – if anyone knows – why were Thorne, Olly and the two other NW clowns executed by hanging instead of getting their heads chopped off?

      I think they were executed by hanging, because they not only were traitors but also murderers.
      Slynt, as ugly he was, was “only” a mutineer (ok, pre-stage of traitor), going to become a deserter.

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    84. cos alpha: I think they [Thorne and three others] were executed by hanging, because they not only were traitors but also murderers.
      Slynt, as ugly he was, was “only” a mutineer (ok, pre-stage of traitor), going to become a deserter.

      ————-
      “Hanging? All over in an instant. Where’s the punishment in that?”

      – Chief Justice Sandor Clegane (S6e8)

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    85. Ooh, that was a cool article about two of my top favorites!

      I have no doubt that, unfortunately, they’re both doomed in the final season. *I* will most definitely mourn you if it happens, dear Spider! ;-; And cry. Poor guy. Seems as if Tyrion is his only real friend.

      I’ve been hoping and expecting to learn what the voice in the flames spoke. It could be R’hllor, or another Bran situation, or Varys’ own voice…very interesting. I don’t want the show to forget to address it.

      People’s theory of Daenerys or her Red supporters burning him for betrayal isn’t implausible…but I don’t think I’d bet on it. I do think he’ll like Jon as well, but even though he and Tyrion didn’t actually discuss their concern about the Tarly executions with Dany…if she starts getting too close to the edge for any reason, I would anticipate him being honest about it as promised. (Not that I see her going Mad Queen as well, at least not on her own…not unless some kind of force were to take hold of her and cause it.) I just trust the guy, believe he does have ‘the good of the realm’ at heart.

      He’s certainly not a typical hero, but I think he’s full of surprises. I’d LIKE for him to survive to help rebuild a (hopefully) better world, but if Mel & I are right and he bites it, well…I hope it’s something worthy. He’s been a great character. I’d see them both dying as willing sacrifices of some sort–perhaps in some connected way, though I’m not sure what that’d be. It’s true, neither has particular hated enemies (aside from the WWs/AotD, I suppose…and I’m sure Cersei especially would love to kill Varys, but…)

      As to Mel-Mel: It’d be awesome to learn more of her past, especially via flashback.

      Cause of death? I definitely rule out Arya and Davos. Yeah, she’ll see Arya again, but she ain’t even on the list anymore and I’m sure she’s got way bigger, better, more important stuff to do than be revenge-killed by either of those two. Wouldn’t see much point in that. I’m sure she’ll return with an entourage, and I’m sure we’ll finally get to witness the full extent of her power…as well as her making further strides toward redeeming herself. I can really only see her dying in battle…unless the Nissa Nissa idea is true. Which it could be. Wouldn’t take an awkwardly complicated explanation. I still think Jon as AA is a bit too obvious, but we shall see. I even chatted with a reader who proposed her for the princess–having long felt the compulsion to find and assist him/her, probably assuming it would be a man, never considering herself. He then suggested the possibility of the NK transforming her into an ice priestess and trying to force her to fight for him against her will…which was pure speculation, but the first bit was laid out quite well & I was intrigued.

      Also agree 100000% that Littlefinger got off easy when that slimeball deserved to really suffer. As I imagine he would’ve had they not been in front of all those lords.

      And then re: Carice: Yeah, if this show has led me to “stanning” anybody, it’s her. I’ve watched as much of her other work as I can, being American…and holy R’hllor, I don’t believe I’ve ever been so emotionally impacted by an actor. New fave, absolutely. Wish I could see the rest of her Dutch films. (I also love her adorableness irl, beautiful singing voice, etc.) The most similar part she previously played to Melisandre was in the movie Black Death (also with Sean Bean, and featuring how I imagine she might’ve looked as Cersei.)

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    86. cos alpha: I think they were executed by hanging, because they not only were traitors but also murderers.
      Slynt, as ugly he was, was “only” a mutineer (ok, pre-stage of traitor), going to become a deserter.

      I think that the answer to this lies in our own history (after all this is an adaptation of our own medieval period) All nobles were given what was described as a noble death by beheading, it was quick and there was little chance for him/her to disgrace themselves by dancing on the end of a rope. I have never seen a person hung myself, but I have read many accounts from the middle ages, the idea of snapping a persons neck with a 10 ft fall is only a recent innovation. In medieval times it was a lot less complicated and a person was hoisted up rather than dropped. That difference meant that a person dangled for, in some cases up to 5 and even 10 minutes before they finally drew their last breath, and in that time their head would turn purple. It is described as one of the worst ways to die, and of course that is where the adage ‘dance at the end of a rope’ came from, because the person being executed was still alive for quite some time. I wouldn’t say that, is quick or painless. And of course the nobles would choose beheading over that every day of the week, It was very important to the nobles to die bravely, and it is difficult to appear to be dying bravely when you are dancing at the end of a rope. If you remember, Slynt had just recently been raised to noble status.

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