This Sunday, Game of Thrones will say farewell after another acclaimed 10-episode run that proved both too short and an improvement on the season before; we'll then wait nine long months for its return to HBO, and readers of the books will spend the whole time dropping obnoxious hints and raising their eyebrows and nodding every time you suggest some theory you have about the show's future. Here's the preview of episode 10, "The Children," and the characters to look out for:
David Sims: So it's fair to say the least interesting storyline of the season has been Bran's, yes? They spiced things up a little bit with that skirmish at Craster's Keep, but largely it's been a whole lot of walking north towards some vague promise of a vision tree. How much should we blame Jojen for this? He's not the most dynamic character, even though he's well-played by lovely old Thomas Brodie-Sangster. The Reeds have a fascinating backstory in the books--the swamp people live in a castle called Greywater Watch that moves, and Jojen's father is the only living man who knows exactly what happened when Ned found his sister's deathbed during the rebellion many years ago. But in the show, Jojen is just a crappy Yoda, teaching Bran how to use his powers but mostly telling him to be careful and promising they'll get to the good stuff soon. WHEN ARE THEY GONNA GET TO THE FIREWORKS FACTORY!?
Joe Reid: You're definitely in the majority on this one, and I'm probably a sucker, but I'm really intrigued by Jojen. I know it's falling for the oldest trick in the book to be fascinated by the I Know Way More Than I'm Letting On character, but if you're gonna pull out a Simpsons reference then so can I: Jojen is that tiny yakuza in the suit who's not doing anything yet, but once he does, you know it's gonna be good. Also, I'm a Bran apologist. But yes, let's please get to the point of all this godswood business (that's the tree right?), and get on with the business of teasing Stark-children reunions that WILL NEVER BE.
DS: Best approach to Stark children reunions: NEVER think they're gonna happen. Then you won't be disappointed. The show has teased these things and pulled the rug out at the last minute enough times for me to give up on that. But I agree that the Jojen/Bran storyline is mysterious enough to still have potential--and hopefully the finale will give us enough forward momentum to not groan when we get back to it next year. Everyone else beyond the wall is trying to get AWAY from the distant lands of always winter, where the White Walkers come from. Bran and company are trying to move TOWARDS it. And that way lies answers!
JR: If the Farrelly Brothers ever made a standalone movie of A Song of Ice and Fire, they'd call it "There's Something About Cersei." She's wicked, awful, cruel, manipulative, and ultimately loyal to no one beyond her children. And yet I remain fascinated by her, and even those times when I don't want her to win (like her current yen for seeing her brother executed for regicide), I can't help but be sympathetic to her in some small part. It's not easy trying to grab for power as a woman in Westeros. So not to set myself up for humiliation here and assume that anyone on this show is safe, but I would be VERY surprised to see Tyrion actually executed in this season finale. So Cersei's about to be upended. The question is how. I have a feeling dear ol' dad might find a strategic need for his son's continued drawing of breath, screwing over his daughter (again) in the process. Also when's that wedding to Ser Loras? Kiiiinda looking forward to that bachelor party.
DS: That wedding keeps being postponed, doesn't it? I suppose the need to get Tommen wed to Margaery kept the lesser nuptials on hold. Cersei's biggest problem, I feel, is the problem of all Lannister children: she gets no respect from dad. If Tyrion has Tywin's cleverness, and Jaime has his boldness, Cersei has his ruthlessness, but she's not the master tactician he is, and he recognizes that. All she wants at this point is his approval and to rule alongside him, and her pathological hatred of Tyrion (who Tywin appointed Hand in season 2 to keep her in check) is very much part of that. Like you say, it's tough to imagine that Tyrion will just get his head chopped off, especially considering they already pulled that trick on this show. So how will Cersei stay afloat when her gender basically dooms her to another unhappy marriage?
DS: So, last week the big epic fight at the Wall led to a bunch of people getting killed but no real change. Castle Black is undermanned, there's a hundred thousand Wildlings at the gates. The biggest shift is that Jon is basically in charge now. He's going beyond the Wall to treat with Mance Rayder, and maybe kill him, and we actually believe that he's given up hope because Ygritte is dead. But I think everyone is expecting some hero business from Jon right now, both on and off-screen. The biggest problem with last week is that it didn't give Jon enough of that material. Him whacking a hammer into the Thenn's head was the closest he came.
JR: I really wish we'd seen more of Mance Rayder this season. I don't know if he was a bigger presence in the books, and I don't really care; I just think if you're building up a whole season to this particular summit, maybe show the guy once? It feels like the show is resting a lot on the audience's ability to remember Ciaran Hinds in the role. Beyond that, I'm happy to see Jon take action, but these fools' errands always frustrate me a bit as a viewer. He's walking into certain doom (even if he does kill Mance, he'll never make it out alive), so the only way he's going to survive is by some miraculous intervention (the White Walkers? Giving the wildlings and the Knight's Watch a common enemy?), which kind of makes the actual summit feel a bit less important.
DS: The casting decision for Mance was interesting. In the books, he's a much slighter man who plays music and is renowned for sneaking around. I guess they thought Ciaran Hinds was imposing enough to make sense as a King Beyond the Wall, but like you said, they never used him enough to really have it make a difference.
JR: Varys is the best. I just wanted to get that out there. Throughout the series, Varys and Littlefinger have been set up as counterparts. Sometimes allied (as on the council in King's Landing), sometimes opposed, always spinning their various webs. We've seen quite a bit of Littlefinger's plans unfolding this season, but aside from a strategic bit of testimony in Tyrion's trial, we kind of don't know what Varys is up to. Does having Tommen on the throne effect his plans? Is he able to manipulate Tywin even a little bit? Who are his chess pieces and where does he want to move them?
DS: Agreed. Varys is the best. And like you said, he represents something of a counterweight to Littlefinger, though both move in similar un-lordly circles. While Littlefinger is trying to get real power, lands, a castle and titles, Varys is happy to remain in the background pulling strings. And while Littlefinger professed to him that he likes to sow chaos, because that's how he gets ahead, Varys has long said he serves the realm itself, when no one else will, suggesting that he has very long-term goals for the future of King's Landing. Since Littlefinger was behind Joffrey's death, one does indeed have to wonder who Varys wants on the throne, and whether Tommen is a subject that even interests him. Never forget: we saw him meeting with Illyrio Mopatis, way back in season one, and they discussed Daenerys' union with Drogo. He later mentioned the dragon queen to Tyrion, but is he still interested in getting her into the west?