My 25 favorite moments from Game of Thrones

*SPOILERS BEWARE*

I have made no secret that Game of Thrones is my all-time favorite tv show. I loved every second of the final season -despite a few flaws that could have been fixed by adding an episode or two-. I have plenty of ideas and theories about its finale. And plenty of opinions about its narrative influence. But while I put all of that in order inside my head, right now I want to talk about my favorite moments of the show. I was planning a Top Ten list, but as my wife -another big fan of the show- pointed out, ten is a limited number. So I will just list the moments as they come to mind, finishing with Number 1. This is a personal list, so it might not fit with yours (my wife and I disagree with some of them). And I’m talking about my favorite ones, not necessarily the most shocking, or story changing ones. And in a series as long as kick ass as this one, this list probably will be missing several. But hey, no list is perfect.

25. The Library. If you are a bookworm, like me, the sight of the Citadel’s library is a nerdgasm. And the gyroscope.

24.  The Loot Train Assault. The sheer scope of the scene, the destruction, the cinematograpgy. All to show us what a terryfing force has Dany at her command. And we finally see the Dothraki in full action.

23. Now we know what Pod did. Don’t say anything, just listen.

22. Bronn saves Jaime.

Let’s face it, Bronn is an asshole. A backstabbing asshole at that. One that finally got what he wanted even if he didn’t deserve it. But from time to time, he showed that he was actually a loyal friend, no money involved.

21. Dany to the rescue. The sacrifice that came from this scene was high, but you can’t deny that this scenen should be the prime example of what ‘Big Damn Heroes’ moment is. Also you can see exactly the moment Jon fell for her.

20. Arya vs. Termiwaif. This scene could give any of Jason Bourne’s sequences a run for its money. This is when Arya decides that enough is enough. It’s frenetic, messy and all what a good chase should be.

19. Clegane Bowl. The fight in the making since the first episode, beautifully framed against Drogon/Dany’s path of destruction. It shows the realm culmination of those that embark in a vengeance quest: mutually assured destruction. Farewell Sandor, you were a hero.

18. Arya: Iron Chef edition. Vengeance is a dish served cold. Or in this case, a pastry made of your enemy’s children. This signaled the ascendancy of the Starks to right the wrongs the rest of the realm committed against them. And Arya finally avenges her mother, brother, sister in law and unborn nephew.

17. Tywin doesn’t shit gold. My only complain, if any, of this scene, is that is not longer. Charles Dance and Peter Dinklage sharing scenes was always a delight. But this parting shot not only changed Westeros irremediably, but it was also a true duel between thespians.

16. Tywin sends to sleep the king without supper. Tywing was an awful father and an even worse human being. But you can’t deny that it takes a special kind of man to send a psychopathic child king to bed without supper and not only live to tell the tale, but continue scheming as if nothing had happened while dismantling his family with well-placed put-downs. If you need something to establish who Tywin is, this scene is a good option.

15. Jaime knights Brienne. If you didn’t cry with this scene, there is something wrong with you. It’s the culmination and just reward for the only character that truly embodies the ideals of chivalry. If someone deserves to be the first female Ser of Westeros is Brienne. She is basically Galahad.

14. The whole Castle Black fight. This scene gives a run for its money to the one-shot scene of the first ‘Avengers’. And the one that established Jon as a bona-fine one man army.

13. Jon stupidily charges into Battle. Yes, Jon is pretty stupid at times. But no one can deny that a) you would do the same stupid thing if your family had been in Rickon’s position and b) it is an awesome sight to behold. This man earned his bannermen’s loyalty by being ballsy.

12. Sansa feeds Ramsay to the hounds. I’m glad it was Sansa the one that did the deed. This was a declaration from her that she was done being the ‘little bird’ and is now the ‘Red Wolf’, and future Queen. And the North was better for that.

11. Arya executes Littlefinger. After subjecting the realm and the Starks to his chaotic designs and power plays, Baelish finally finds a rival he can’t beat through trickery or sweet words: the combined smarts, clairvoyance and cold blood of the Stark’s siblings.

10.  Jon beats the crap out of Ramsay. There is not much to say to this, except that it was cathartic. If any, Ramsay got off lightly. It released all the anger the Starks had bottled up after being mistreated and betrayal, in the strong fist of Jon Snow.

9. Dany’s final speech. Say what you want about the ultimate twist. But you can’t deny that from the moment she walked in -with Drogon’s wings at her back- to the moment she started to give his spine chilling speech in TWO different languages. Tyrion is often considered the best talker of the show. But I say that Dany is way better. She could command an army to the gates of Hell and make them win just by the strength of her oratory skills. If she was destined to be the final villain, she made a fine damn good villain.

8. Tyrion plays the Game. Tyrion has always been one of the cleverest men on the room -when he is not blinded by love- and proving that he is an apt player at the Game, right after arriving at King’s Landing, by tricking the Small Council is proof of that.

7. Tyrion calls out King’s Landing’s nobility bullshit. The trial was a sham, we all know. And to this day I don’t know who overplayed their hand, with calling Shae for testimony and pushing Tyrion to the edge, Tywin or Cersei. But Tyrion’s reply was cathartic and a proper exposition of why those nobles and courtiers sucked. How many of us wouldn’t wish to be able to tell off a lot of people?

6. Dracarys. This is the moment when Dany went, in the eyes of the audience and the whole Essos, from naive girl to astute conqueror, proving that if you want things done thoroughly, ask a woman to do it. It was also foreshadowing of what would come before, but at the time, as Tyrion recently put, felt good and we cheered on it because the victims were despicable people.

5. Cersei blows the Sept of Baelor. The whole sequence is a thing of beauty, narratively and cinematographically speaking. the score, as usual, sells it.  It’s visceral, well-planned revenge. The scene that put Cersei on the map as a big villain. But more important, like the one you should not trifle with if you don’t have a well-trained dragon on your side.

4. Jon kills a White Walker. My favorite fight of all the show. Jon proves that the seemingly unbeatable foe is actually beatable. The sheer rawness of the fight, the sound edit to put you in the shoes of a concussed Jon and the surprise of the clash makes it for me. It actually inspired a fight I wrote.

3. Jon is named ‘King in the North’. After so much struggle, the Starks are back at home (at least Jon & Sansa) and the North feel finally avenged and reunited. Won’t last, but seeing a bastard being raised as a king on his merits -even if Sansa actually did part of the job- while juxtaposing his true heritage is what fantasy is made of.

2. Arya kills the Night King. Unexpected twist aside, this scene had me the whole time standing, tense, almost bitting my nails. The build-up, accompanied by the score makes you stop breathing and the conclusion allows you to breathe again in relief. This scene not only injected me with adrenaline, but it also showed us that saving the world is a team effort.

 1. The final montage. This has always been a Stark show (pun intended), the rest were just there for the ride in a way. This is my favorite scene as it resonates on a personal level(I have an essay waiting to explain why). The score is beautiful and we say goodbye to the three Starks that changed the realm, hopefully for good. Jon in the True North with people that love him for who he is, Sansa leading an independent North,  and Arya exploring unknown seas. But while for us the story is finished, for them life continues and we can only speculate what will come next for them. My personal theory? Jon will become the new King-Beyond-the-Wall, establish an alliance with Winterfell (duh!) and live his days in search of  “some small measure of peace, that we all seek, and few of us ever find,” as narrated by Simon Graham in the Last Samurai.

Special mention: this scene, when Dany goes from hero to villain. You might not like how it happened, but you can’t deny Emilia Clarke’s powerful acting in these seconds. Without uttering a single word, just by facial expression in a scene without no one to react with and probably all CGI. Emilia says everything we need to know. The dragon has been awakened in full. And is a terrible sight to behold, especially from below. Emilia deserves an Emmy just for that.

So this is my list, but tell me, which ones are yours? Leave them in the comments.

The problem with prophecies

Disclaimer: This blog post has spoilers from recent episodes of Game of Thrones. Read under your own peril.

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Prophecies. A staple in fantasy and at times, science fiction (and science fantasy as a result). The guideline through which many stories live and die in the head of the audience. If the prophecy somehow is not fulfilled directly or through a twist -more on that later-, the audience tends to complain about how it was a cop-out, a plot hole or a mistake. As if the prophecy and the myth from where it is derived is a promise about how the story should develop, like a recipe. Perhaps is due to the tendency that humans have to create patterns and follow them to the letter, out of a sense of familiarity and comfort. Maybe because of personal headcanons make you, the audience to consider that a story should develop in a certain way to fit your interpretation of a prophecy. But prophecies are meant to be vague because they are trying to predict events in the future that are unfolding based on several decisions

I have to say, I’m not a fan of the whole prophecy thing, not a least as a guideline of how a story should develop. I don’t mind a prophecy here and there. I do mind the way it is used to railroad a story. In my humble opinion if you as writer follow to a T a prophecy you created for your story, then something went wrong. Same if as reader you expect a prophecy to work as stated and get angry when it doesn’t. Even in the real world, prophecies are unreliable and subject to interpretation. I mean, if prophecies were that literal, we would be using Nostradamus writings as an almanac, easily expecting what was going to happen and taking one of three options:

-You sit down and let thing happens without doing nothing, taking away your agency (which in storytelling makes for a really boring character and in real life veers in nihilism).

-You try to avert what’s gonna happen, thus changing the future and invalidating the prophecy (Vision of Escaflowne revolves around this, how Fate is actually a probability zone created by free will and changed by our decisions rather than a fixed outcome, which is what the villain wants to do, force the world into his fixed outcome).

-You fulfill said prophecy by setting in motion the causes and effects that will result in it (self-fulfilling prophecies, which sound to me a lot like determinism).

So the reason I’m not a big fan of prophecies as road map’ that populate fantasy is that I’m a firm believer of free will. As a relative once told me, during a philosophical/esoteric talk, you might have a destiny, as you have during a trip, but how you reach it, if at all, is entirely your choice. Prophecies are nice touches that lend depth and worldbuilding to a story, but using them as the blueprint for your story, negates character development and force you to end the narrative in a certain way that might not be entirely organic.

I will put it this way: my personal pet peeve with the last book of Harry Potter (disclaimer: my wife is a huge fan of the series, she actually cried when we visited the Wizarding World in Orlando) is that the ending and the whole quest felt so forced because Rowling had to follow this prophecy:

‘The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches … born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies… and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not… and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives … the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies…’
-Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

To me, the plot collapsed under its own weight due to the adherence to the prophecy. Yes, Neville could have fulfilled it. But by half of the saga, it was clear that he was a red herring. The story fell into a pattern and the resolution felt contrived to me (you, of course, are free to disagree). The story was kinda predictable after a certain point. Harry had to die for Voldy to be gone. The challenge there was to see how the author would pull it off -killing the MC or finding a way to keep him alive-. I have been guilty of this on my stories, so I admit this post is also a learning experience for me.

Now, you can tell me that in fiction, prophecies have been not always followed to the letter, playing with the expectations of the reader. The earliest example I can think of is Lord of the Rings, in specific the death of the Witch King of Angmar:

Éowyn: Be gone, foul dwimmerlaik, lord of carrion! Leave the dead in peace!
Nazgûl: Come not between the Nazgul and his prey! Or he will not slay thee in thy turn. He will bear thee away to the houses of lamentation, beyond all darkness, where thy flesh shall be devoured, and thy shriveled mind be left naked to the Lidless Eye.
Éowyn: Do what you will, but I will hinder it, if I may.
Nazgûl: Hinder me? Thou fool. No living man may hinder me!
Éowyn: But no living man am I! You look upon a woman. Éowyn I am, Eomund’s daughter. You stand between me and my lord and kin. Be gone, if you be not deathless! For living or dark undead, I will smite you, if you touch him.
-The Return of the King, Lord of the Rings

In this example, Eowyn -with a certain degree of help from Merry- kills an unkillable enemy by taking the prophecy to the letter “No living man can hinder me” and being literal with its interpretation. A woman did the deed. Helped by a hobbit. I wonder if an orc, dwarf or elf or an undead being could have done it too. In this case, the prophecy by Glorfindel was followed to the letter, but by sticking to it, presented the way it was going to be fulfilled: anyone besides a living man could have done it if we play a rules lawyer.

Now, here is one of the most controversial prophecies in fandom, one that’s still debated how it should have been interpreted, regardless to the fact that the original creator already said which interpretation was the right one. I present you with the Chosen One from Star Wars:

“You refer to the prophecy of the one who will bring balance to the Force. You believe it’s this…boy?”
―Mace Windu, to Qui-Gon Jinn about Anakin Skywalker

“If the prophecy is true, your apprentice is the only one who can bring the Force back into balance.”
―Mace Windu, to Obi-Wan Kenobi

“You were the Chosen One! It was said that you would destroy the Sith, not join them! Bring balance to the Force, not leave it in darkness!”
―Obi-Wan Kenobi, to Anakin Skywalker

How do you interpret ‘balance’? According to Lucas, balance meant to destroy the Sith for their use of the Dark Side was breaking the said balance. Then he introduced the Mortis family and well… things changed. The balance was meant to be achieved by destroying both Jedi and Sith? Or as the NT is kinda trying to imply in The Last Jedi, balance is accepting both the good and the bad of the Force as it is a reflection of the universe, life & death, good and evil? It kinda still fits with Lucas original version of balance because the Sith wanted to control those aspects and by doing it, corrupting the Force and breaking the balance of the natural order.

But I often wonder what would have happened if Lucas had eschewed the whole Chosen One thing and just stick to making Anakin a really powerful Force user that went bad like many talented people do in real life? Maybe we wouldn’t have to hear about ‘midichlorians’. The thing is Lucas kinda tied his hands by introducing the Chosen One thing and then tried to retrofit it with the previous lore established in the OT. I know, his biggest inspiration was the ‘Journey of the Hero’. But that is just a  way to tell a story, not the only blueprint for it.

This takes me to the issue at hand, which is where this post gets spoilery: Game of Thrones. In particular, S8 Ep 3 ‘The Battle of Winterfell’ where everyone, including Kit Harington, were expecting a  fateful duel between Jon and the Night King. A duel that never happened. Jon got stuck with an undead dragon, Dany was surrounded by wights and defended only by Ser Jorah and in a very interesting twist, Arya stabbed the mortal enemy of mankind and saved the day, enraging a lot of people that think that it invalidates the books and the prophecies about Azor Ahai, The Prince that was Promised, and so on.

But here is the thing, Martin has made a point of leaving said legends and prophecies open to interpretation. He describes himself as a ‘gardener’, which means he has a basic outline of how the story will go but is leaving himself room to create the story. And to do that, the legends and prophecies in the books -and by extention, the show- had to be kept vague.

So let’s examine this:

Complaint one: Jon/Dany was meant to be AA, TPtwP, etc. and the one that delivered the final blow to the NK. I admit I was of this mindset at first, until my wife told me, with reason, that no prophecy actually works literally in the real world. And GoT/ASOIAF is meant to be a fantasy story with a certain degree on real-world logic on it.

So the prophecy used  for the show, as expressed in the book says:

“There will come a day after a long summer when the stars bleed and the cold breath of darkness falls heavy on the world. In this dread hour a warrior shall draw from the fire a burning sword. And that sword shall be Lightbringer, the Red Sword of Heroes, and he who clasps it shall be Azor Ahai come again, and the darkness shall flee before him.” 

A Clash of Kings, Chapter 10, Davos I.

If you notice, it never says that AA will kill the darkness, just that it will dispell it. I contend, and this is a personal interpretation, that Lightbringer is not meant to be a sword, but a coalition of people willing to stop the darkness. The first Lightbringer was the Night’s Watch:

I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the fire that burns against the cold, the light that brings the dawn, the horn that wakes the sleepers, the shield that guards the realms of men.

So in a way, Jon & Dany did fulfill that part of the prophecy, because the set things in motion, gathered people willing to fight the darkness and did everything possible to allow for Arya to deliver the decisive blow. Heck, without Jon in the North as a king, Arya would have probably gone south to kill Cersei. The Battle of Winterfell is showing us a new Lightbringer: the coalition of the living created by Jon & Dany. The description of this bit from The World of Ice & Fire, about the Long Night mentions:

How long the darkness endured no man can say, but all agree it was only when a great warrior – known variously as Hyrkoon the Hero, Azor Ahai, Yin Tar, Neferion, and Eldric Shadowchaser – arose to give courage to the race of men and lead the virtuous into battle with his blazing sword Lightbringer that the darkness was put to rout, and light and love returned once more to the world.

The World of Ice & Fire, The Bones and Beyond.

It doesn’t mention the woman with a monkey’s tail that’s referred in another part of the text*, but that’s another point. Most people would assume that is a single warrior with different names. But what if is, in reality, a coalition of heroes from different parts of the world save it and with the pass of time, their figures got mixed into a single being. I mean, that’s the basis of the Faith of the Seven in a way.

Complaint two: by killing the NK so early, the show was left without a bigger villain and is back to petty squabbles for a throne. Well, the thing is, that it is actually consistent with the source material. The story of Westeros didn’t stop with the end of first Long Night nor will ‘stop’ with the end of the second one (a very short one actually). And here is why:

When the daughter of the Opal Emperor ascended to power as the Amethyst Empress, her envious brother cast her down and proclaimed himself the Bloodstone Emperor and began a reign of terror and slavery, in which he practiced dark arts and necromancy, took a tiger-woman for his bride, feasted on human flesh and cast down the gods of Yi Ti to worship a black stone fallen from the sky. This Blood Betrayal, as it is known in the annals of the Further East, ushered in the Long Night, with the Maiden-Made-of-Light turning her back on the world, while the Lion of Night came forth to punish the wickedness of man. The darkness ended when a great warrior rose to lead the virtuous into battle with the sword Lightbringer in his hand. Light was restored, but the Great Empire was not reborn for the restored world was a broken place where every tribe of men went its own way, fearful of all the others, and war, lust, and murder had endured.

The World of Ice & Fire, Yi Ti.

G.R.R. Martin story has always been about humans being their own worst enemy (like in real life). An often overlooked part of the Azor Ahai/PtwP myth/prophecy says (and this is the part everyone is ignoring) that after the Long Night ended, the land was left in a state of constant war and chaos. So yes, a magical monster was killed, but the very real monster that hides inside every person is still there. Which if you think, fits with what the show is doing.

I know it’s kinda iffy to bring book canon to the show canon when in the show they had barely discussed the prophecy beyond that Azor Ahai will save the realm (it doesn’t really specify from whom, darkness can take many forms: ice zombies, mad queens…). But the theme seems to be consistent in both forms. The show might have taken liberties, but the theme remains: humanity is it’s own worst enemy. Jon still has time to become Azor Ahai, but it won’t be in the epic fantasy way we expect. It will be in one more set to a more ‘realistic’ world, or as realistic as a world with dragons and ice zombies can be. And he can become that (or Dany will, the coin is still in the air) because the evil hasn’t gone away, it is still there. And unlike with the White Walkers, this evil doesn’t go away immediately when you stab the leader. It never truly goes away. Darkness is always inside us. And every epic battle, real and in fiction, has consequences.

Or to put it this way: after WWII ended and the bigger evil was defeated, we were still left with a very dangerous monster (Stalin), a Cold War and the realm in disarray, with the threat of nuclear war looming over our heads. And it hasn’t really gone away. History is nothing but a long succession of smaller histories all linked together. In fantasy, we are preconditioned to stop reading after the hero takes down the bad guy, but we rarely stop to consider the aftermath. I mean, I have always wondered what happened to the orcs in LOTR after the fall of the Sauron. were they massacred? Or Were they free to create their own culture and perhaps someday become somewhat of a nation?

Bottom line, prophecies in the real world rarely come to happen as they are intended because the future is always in motion, thousands of small decisions change the outcomes of our day to day interactions. History seems to us, set in stone because we can see the logical chain of causes and effects that made certain events happen the way they did, but truth is that we see it in that way because we are living in the result of those interactions: for us to exist in the way we do, things had to happen in that way. But it doesn’t apply to future events. So I don’t see why prophecies have to be interpreted as the only way events have to unfold in a narrative. For us as writers, is hard to keep vague things because, in the way we are the gods of the worlds we create, we can see how things are gonna end. It is even more difficult if you are a plotter/architect. A pantser/gardener -kinda can allow themselves a certain degree of surprise. But the concept of the ending is usually set in stone, even if the road there is not laid out yet.

The problem with prophecies is that they are a double-edged sword when used in a story. Either you get railroaded by them or you leave them so open to interpretation that the audience will complain. Actually, in both cases, someone is gonna complain. Prophecies shouldn’t be used as the blueprint for your story. Otherwise, it becomes predictable or will contradict other parts of your story. Prophecies should be used as hints, as red herrings, as potential futures. And keeping them vague is really tricky.

Thus, prophecies should be used judiciously. Personally, I prefer the second option, both as audience and as a writer, as it gives more leeway to the imagination and clever twist, to represent the chaotic nature of our world instead of a deterministic one. Because living in a deterministic world must be the most soul-crushing experience ever.

That’s what I liked about what’s going on in Game of Thrones in its final episodes and the source material: the prophecies leave room for interpretation based on the cultural contexts of the characters and the audience. There is a myriad way everything can unfold. I don’t think I’m that good of a writer to pull it off in my stories -hence why I haven’t even attempted to write a prophecy for them- but I certainly can enjoy when others do it. Because it keeps my interest. I love not knowing whats’ gonna happen, to be in the edge of my seat screaming at Jon for not being able to reach the Night King on time and be pleasantly surprised that Arya did. And to me, that helps to make a good story a great one.

*“This legend has spread west from Asshai, and the followers of R’hllor claim that this hero was named Azor Ahai, and prophesy his return. In the Jade Compendium, Colloquo Votar recounts a curious legend from Yi Ti, which states that the sun hid its face from the earth for a lifetime, ashamed at something none could discover, and that disaster was averted only by the deeds of a woman with a monkey’s tail.” George R. R. Martin, Elio Garcia & Linda Antonsson. “The World of Ice & Fire.”

 

The Three Eyes Raven told me…

 

screen shot 2015-12-03 at 6.29.05 pmAs Season 7 of Game of Thrones just wrapped up and we start the watch for the final season that with any luck will be on our screens before some idiot president decides to end the world, I have a few predictions of my own of what will happen in that season and how might the story end. Be aware of some potential spoilers if you are not updated with the season finale episode. I’m focusing on the show, because who knows how (or when) the books will end. However, there are bits from the books that have to be considered for the sole reason that Martin gave Weiss and Benioff the overall plot of the story just in case.

So without further ado, these are my predictions. This is of course just pure speculation. And I’m not meant to cover all the characters, just a few ones that come to my mind with plausible futures.

-Cersei will die. Well yes, that is obvious, but instead of Jaime killing her (Tyrion at this point is beyond caring, he is just trying to keep Dany alive), it will be her baby. She won’t even reach childbirth. She will lose the baby and the blood loss shock of that will finally end her. It fits the ‘valonqar’ prophecy as well as the subversion of expectations that Martin is famous for. Now, will she die before or after the Great War? That’s the question. I suspect it will be after the war, in some sort of coda like in Lord of the Rings (the books) with the Hobbits returning to the Shire and dealing with Saruman.

-Jaime Lannister will survive, but won’t be the heir to Casterly Rock. When all things are settled and done, Jaime will have earned (I hope) his redemption during the Great War. He will become Lord Commander of a reformed Night’s Watch, depending who sits on the Iron Throne (if there is a throne left, that is). He is far too damaged, his crimes too many to go out easy, but his military experience and fighting prowess will be handy to have around. Brienne, if she survives might take his place a Lady Commander of the Kingsguard.

-The Night’s Watch will be reformed into something else. The Wall won’t be repaired, as the magics that brought it into place are long gone. Thus the Night’s Watch will be reformed as a new kind of army ready for any possible supernatural enemy.

-The wildlings won’t be seen as enemies anymore. There won’t be many survivors either. Tormund, if he survives may be their new leader.

-Neither Jon nor Dany will sit on the Iron Throne. That one of them is on borrowed time (as much as I hate that), is almost certain, maybe both. None of the legends of the Long Night mention what happened to the heroes that stopped it afterward. The end will be bittersweet but if Dany’s vision and the House of the Undying are true, there will be someone ruling Westeros after the Great War and settling the disputes with Cersei. My guess is if someone becomes ruler of the Seven Kingdoms, will be Jon and Dany’s child. Hence the title of the story ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’.

-There won’t be an Iron Throne anymore. Not as we know it. The wheel will be broken and maybe a new government system (a parliamentary monarchy is my best guess) will be put in place. Thus the Great Houses will disappear as we knew them and instead become figureheads, at least in the South. Odds are that the North will be separated into its own semi-independent region along the Wildlings or dispensed as ‘A Stark must always be in Winterfell’. People like Gendry will become leaders in their respective regions to work as representatives of the smallfolk, as Dany wished.

-Tyrion will become the Prime Minister and regent of said child and will help to carry further into the future the legacy of both Dany & Jon. He might or might not remarry Sansa, given how the North ends after the War. Sansa will become one of the new leaders of Westeros, along with Ser Davos.

-And in that regard, neither King’s Landing nor the actual Iron Throne will exist anymore. I think Cersei might go Mad Queen on us and set everything to blow the place when she sees the army of the Living coming back home.

-Both surviving dragons will fly towards the sunset and disappear to never be seen again (there is a precedent of this in the books, with the Cannibal and Sheepstealer).

-The same will happen with Arya, who I suspect will become some sort of folk hero, maybe alongside the Hound (in a homage to Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser by Fritz Leiber), traveling along Westeros.

-Bran will be Bran the Builder, due time warging shenanigans. Time is circular and things repeat over and over. I doubt the battle against the Walkers will be completely done so something might return in future centuries. In any case, he is far too detached from humanity to remain at Winterfell. He either goes back in time or back to Beyond the Wall.

So these are my conjectures. Do you have one? Share it below in the comments. If I have more of my own I will edit the post.

The blood of the wolves. Some musings on Game of Thrones.

Warning: Possible spoilers from last Sunday's episode. If you are not up to date then don't read this.

I know many people are excited about the last minutes of 'Spoils of War', finally witnessing the full power of a gamebreaker weapon as a dragon against a medieval army. And for all intents is cool. But for me, there was a second scene that made the episode:

 

Not only it was well choreographed, it showed two of the best fighters of Westeros merely sparring. But more than that it was Arya's face full of unbridled joy that made the scene for me. It goes back to the first season and her training at hands of Syrio Forel. For all the awful things the Starks kids have gone through, it was nice to see one smiling for a change -Jon rarely smiles, Sansa has learned not to, Bran is dead and the Three Eyed Raven (3ER) has taken his place- and I think it is fitting that Arya, the wild child of the bunch is the one doing it.

But the other reason this scene struck me as important is one tiny detail. It's not the fact that Arya can go toe to toe with Brienne and basically play with her. It is how she acquired such ability and what that does means for the Stark family.

My theory is that at the end of the day, the only great house -in which form, it remains to be seen- that will remain standing is the only house that long ago forsook any mundane power. House Stark, with their grim house words, was never about getting more powerful for the sake of power, unlike the Lannisters or even the Targaryen. The Stark aimed to obtain power but of a different nature. They wanted magical power because they are at the end of the day the first and last line of defense against the supernatural in Westeros. The Game is just a side activity to cover their tracks.

Previously I have shared my musings online about Game of Thrones in Altered Instinct's blog. Back then it was about the source of power in the greater story. Back then I pondered that for different reasons, the common trait of several key players on the story rested deep in their blood. It conflagrated nicely with the medieval idea that royal houses and more important royal blood had divine powers, an idea better reflected by the imagery used in legends such as the Fisher King and even the Holy Grail and JesusChrist'sfamily. And then I read this essay at Tower of the Hand, written by Steven Attewell that tangentially mentioned the fact that for the great houses of Westeros, the Stark had the strongest link to the magic of the world.

We know the Starks not only are descended of the First Men but somehow have Children of the Forest's blood running through their veins. It is what gives them their warg abilities, as seen with Bran. Their founder, Bran the Builder created the Wall and Storm's End, both structures enhanced with magical properties to deflect supernatural enemies. He also started the construction of Winterfell.

The interesting thing that the aforementioned essay brings forth is that the Stark continued adding magic to their bloodline. For starters, they reined on the Bolton's, their direct northern rivals that the canon books suggest were something akin to necromancers or used blood magic, hence the flayed people decorating their gardens. Odds are that some Bolton blood got into the Stark one at one point.

Then, during the Targaryen rule, they had a royal dragon rider staying there for a few days and it has been rumored that the crypts of Winterfell guard a few dragon eggs. Considering that Winterfell was built to have warm waters from a thermal underground source running inside the walls to keep a comfortable temperature during winter, it becomes out of the sudden a nice place to keep dragon eggs, just in case of an emergency.

This leads me to the following. While Bran -sorry, the 3ER- signals the return of the wargs abilities long dormant on the Stark bloodline, Arya and Jon represents the most recent acquisitions of magic powers.

In the case of Arya -and here I will deal now with mostly the show as you know the status of the books- the power of the Faceless Men is hers. Yes, her training might have been truncated, but I doubt that the Faceless Men would let her go so easily. There must be something else afoot. As Melissandre once told her, she has a destiny of many closed eyes in front of her. And she has put those powers to great use for her family, avenging her mother, brother and unborn niece/nephew. The ability to shape-change into another person -an ability I might add that was rumored the Bolton had as well at some point in the past- is the main power here. The mechanism of how that works haven't been explained, but certainly, needs a degree of magic in the blood to make it work. Her combat style as while has some preternatural movements, reactions faster than any seasoned fighter.

As for Jon, well by now we are sure who his parents are and he has Targaryen blood, which makes him a potential dragon rider. But I think it goes beyond that. For starters, I'm getting to the point where I doubt that Lyanna's father and elder brother weren't aware of Rhaegar's plans. I'm starting to think that they knew they were in love and Rhaegar wanted her as a wife. I think as well they knew of the prophecy of the 'Prince that was Promised' as it fits with the Imaginarium of the Northern myths and traditions. That the Mad King killed them and Robert started a rebellion was result of unforeseen actions (I blame the 3ER) and unexpected events. At the end of the day, what better weapon to fight the ancestral enemy of the Starks than a dragon? Jon was the first true attempt to bring the dragon blood into the Stark bloodline. If you add the fact that Jon has now tasted the power of R'hollr and has returned from the dead (another parallel to Christian motifs), we can see that Jon's blood has more power than he even knows. It's no wonder the Night King has targeted him as his main rival.

My nascent theory is that when all is done and the 'wheel is broken' leaving Westeros in a new shape, and providing people survive the Second Long Night, House Stark will remain standing, maybe in a different shape, as custodians of the underworld. The dragon might need three heads, but you know what else had three heads in mythology? Cerberus, the guardian dog of the Underworld. That, I believe, is the true endgame for House Stark. Because the world of Game of Thrones has two other continents full of eldritch abominations -the eastern shores of Essos, Sothoros- and the Iron Men pray to what basically sounds as Cthulhu. There are plenty of things that need to be beaten by the Wolves.

I dunno, at the end of the day these may just be random ramblings written while I should be working. But makes me wonder if that is the intention Martin had at the start or was something that developed organically. What is truth is that as for now, House Stark, the perennial underdogs of the story has now three powerhouses in term of superhuman power. And in a world where a dragon is such a game breaking weapon, the ability to warg into animals -including flocks of ravens and maybe a dragon-, shape-change into other people, moving as a ninja and have ice and fire in your blood plus coming back from death, all concentrated with three siblings make for a very interesting perspective of what might happen. If not, it would make good material for a story.