Valar Morghulis indeed. With only three more episodes to go in this, the fourth season of Game of Thrones, there is much speculation about where, exactly, the endgame will take us prior to the nine and a half month hiatus (I wonder how many babies will be born early next April?). Using the books as a guide, there are some speculations that can be made, some more likely than others. Remember, Benioff and Weiss have consistently shown a willingness to depart from the source material, while remaining in general true to the main themes and overarching story. In the following article, I’ll be taking a look at each of the main factions, and basing my speculations on my knowledge of Martin’s books. If you do not want to know anything about possible future developments, and/or you are waiting to read the books, do not click through to the main body of the article: Here there be spoilers! And to be clear – one of the things I reveal below is the outcome of Tyrion’s Trial by Combat coming up in the next episode of Game of Thrones; if you want this to be a surprise, DO NOT CLICK THROUGH!
<<Spoiler Warning: The following article discusses at length events from the third, fourth, and fifth books of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, in service of speculation on what we might see in the final three episodes of Season 4 of A Game of Thrones. Click through only if you want to read extensive spoilers!>>
For the sake of this article, I’m going to assume that you have a knowledge of the current state of affairs in our favorite fictional fantasy world. I’ll begin by talking about general events by House, and then sum up my thoughts at the bottom. There will be more than a few surprises for those of you that haven’t yet read the books, so once again I’m letting you know: don’t read any further if you wish to avoid spoiling the Season 4 climax.
So, without further ado, I’ll address each major House alphabetically, beginning with House Arryn. This season has seen some major changes to the order of things, so in addition to the eight Great Houses, I will be looking at two more: House Baelish and House Bolton.
With the death of Lady Lysa, it remains to be determined who will be the real power behind Lord Robin’s throne. Rest assured that, despite the tribunal Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish will have to face, he will have things well in hand. Unless we see a major departure from the books, it is likely that he will be named Lord Protector of the Vale, acting as guardian for Lord Robin. Robin will likely react curiously to the combination of the death of his mother, and the slap he took from Sansa in the last episode. Look for him to seek solace in her as a sort of surrogate for Lysa.
Littlefinger, the lone living member of his House, is, through being named as the Lord of Harrenhal combined with the fall of House Tully (Catelyn Stark’s birth house), also the Lord Paramount of the Trident. Combining his virtual control of the Vale, he actually controls the entire central section of Westeros, making him potentially the most powerful Lord on the continent. However, much of his power is in name only at this point, with the Riverlands still largely in turmoil and beset by bandits. It is possible that, once he consolidates his power in the Vale, he will turn his attention westward – but that won’t be happening this season.
Stannis is the lone living representative of House Baratheon (if you ignore the fact that King Tommen and Princess Myrcella still bear the name). We last left him and Ser Davos as they successfully talked the Iron Bank of Braavos into making a loan to their cause. (Well, technically, it was Ser Davos that did the talking-into – Stannis almost lost any chance of a loan due to his less than charming personality.) Combine that with Melisandre’s comments to the Lady Selyse about moving soon, and we’re likely going to see Stannis take his forces away from Dragonstone before the season is out. Where will he take them? To the only place that he can go and gain glory, giving his claim to the throne some real clout without having to face an organized Great House opponent: the Wall. Remember, Maester Aemon send out a murder of crows some time ago, telling all the Great Houses and the Iron Throne about the crisis at the Wall? Well, Stannis and Melisandre see this as his best bet to show that he is the only claimant who really cares about the future of Westeros above and beyond his own interests. Plus, they both hope to be able to control the forces protecting the Wall from the wildlings. Her comments regarding the need to take Shireen north worry me – does she intend to use Shireen’s royal blood for more of her ceremonies? I don’t think Stannis would be willing to go that far – and Ser Davos certainly wouldn’t, even if his King does.
Roose Bolton is back in the north, but it is his bastard son that is still doing much of the dirty work for him. In order to ensure his control of the North, Roose needs Moat Cailin, a castle strategically placed on the narrowing separating the North from the remainder of Westeros, called the Neck. It is being held by Ironborn, so Ramsay intends to use Reek to get it for his father. Reek, under the guise of his old persona, Theon Greyjoy, will fool the Ironborn into letting down their guard just long enough for Ramsay and the Bolton men to take the castle. This should ensure that he is legitimized and named heir by his father, thus changing from Ramsay Snow to Ramsay Bolton. However, with Stannis moving north, and his old loyalties to House Stark (remember, it was Eddard’s letter to him revealing Joffrey’s provenance that started Stannis’s claim to the Iron Throne), how long will he stand for the Boltons’ deceptions? And how much credence will he give them as the Stewards of the North, a title given them by the Lannisters?
Theon is a broken thing, given up for dead by his own sister Yara, and all but forgotten by his father, Baelon. House Greyjoy will lose the last vestige of its hold on the north when they lose Moat Cailin, but they won’t lose their desire for power and independence from the mainland. Watch for them to start a new, more ambitious gambit with the forces remaining to them – this might not, however, come about until next season, so I won’t reveal what that gambit is.
We will see the outcome of Tyrion’s Trial by Combat in the next episode, and the result may come as a surprise. Both combatants will fight well, but Clegane will be the victor – although he will die as well from his wounds. Tyrion is thus found guilty, and will be placed in a cell awaiting his execution. However, he still has friends – Jaime and Varys will release him, and Jaime will make a confession that turns Tyrion on him, thus leaving each other with bad blood between them. Tyrion will go to his father’s chambers, and what he finds there will so enrage him that he ends up killing his own father, and fleeing the Red Keep. The death of Tywin will have a huge impact both within and without King’s Landing. Most importantly, Cersei will see her power begin to seriously erode without her father present as Hand, and Jaime unwilling to support her increasingly paranoid and self-serving choices.
Prince Oberyn’s death will have wide repercussions, especially among his eight bastard daughters, the Sand Snakes. We’ll hear about them before we see them, but expect them to make an appearance early next season. We won’t likely see much else out of House Martell this season – Dorne is simply too far away.
Everyone’s favorite put-upon House has far more surviving members than their enemies realize. In fact, the only dead Starks are Eddard and Robb. What’s that? I’m forgetting Lady Catelyn? Prepare yourself for the big reveal at the end of Season 4: the introduction of Lady Stoneheart. The magic of resurrection has already been revealed, back when Arya, Gendry, and Pot Pie met up with Lord Beric Dondarrion, Thoros of Myr, and their Brotherhood Without Banners. Beric had, in fact, died several times, once in their presence, and each time Thoros, using the power of the same god Melisandre worships (R’hllor, the God of Light), somehow brings him back – never whole, never unmarked, but alive. The Brotherhood finds Catelyn’s body after the Red Wedding, and Thoros refuses to bring her back – but Beric gives her his own gift of life, and Lady Stoneheart is born. Her appearance will likely be held back to the final episode of the season, and it will be in a meeting with Brienne and Pod, if Benioff and Weiss decide to follow Martin’s books on this point.
Arya’s situation will grow interesting, as the Hound’s refusal to allow her to cauterize the bite on his neck will lead to it growing infected, and eventually knocking him off his feet. She will strike out on her own for a bit, but her training is far from over. Look for her to seek out Jaqen’s trainers in order to perfect her own ability to finish off all the enemies on her list.
Bran in the North will continue on his vision quest, seeking out the three-eyed raven with Jojen and Meera’s help. He won’t find what he’s seeking before this season is out. Rickon remains Osha’s ward, and shouldn’t be a factor in the last three episodes.
Daenerys has sent her new paramour Daario and his Second Sons to retake Yunkai, with the caveat that should any Wise Masters there choose to support Dany and free their slaves permanently, they will be allowed to live (thanks to Ser Jorah’s intervention). Yunkai should be taken, but Dany’s problems are far from over. The last time we saw her largest dragon, Drogon, he was busy frying an entire herd of sheep to a crisp – look for his burgeoning hunger to cause her even more trouble, as he develops a taste for two-legged game. In addition, she’s going to find herself stalled, sitting in Slaver’s Bay trying to run the affairs of all of her conquests, with not enough men both to hold what she has gained, and to move west to try for the Iron Throne. The season will end with Dany’s strategic situation not much changed at all.
House Tully is, for all intents and purposes, defunct. Lysa is dead, Catelyn is naught but a vengeful shell of herself, Edmure (the current Lord of House Tully) is a hostage at the Twins following the Red Wedding; in fact, the only viable Tully is the Blackfish, Brynden Tully, Edmure’s uncle. He had gone outside to relieve himself prior to the massacre, and he may yet be a factor – I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes an appearance before the end of the season.
Margaery and her grandmother have already made their grand move for this season. Expect to see Margaery continuing to make eyes at the young Tommen, but not much else in the last three episodes.
In a nutshell: Season 4 will end with Stannis moving north to the Wall, arriving approximately at the same time as Mance Rayder’s army, causing a massive shift in everyone’s attention away from King’s Landing. The Lannisters will receive a massive blow, possibly mortal, in the loss of their leader, Tywin, at the hands of their smartest member, Tyrion. Tyrion will thereafter flee, taking on new challenges as a wanted fugitive. Cersei will pay a high price for her father’s death, although much of the fallout won’t happen until Season 5. The big reveal at the end of the season will likely be the return of Lady Catelyn, coming back as the resurrected Lady Stoneheart. The Freys and Boltons had best be quaking in their boots.
The current season is taken primarily from the second half of the third book in A Song of Ice and Fire (the book series carries a different name than the television series), A Storm of Swords (hence the beautiful imagery of the swords falling away from the raven in the above poster), along with a few concurrent story lines taken from Books Four and Five, A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons respectively. Due to this amalgamation of sources, combined with Benioff and Weiss’s increasingly common departures from the details, both small and large, of the books, means that all of these prognostications are more or less best guesses at what we’ll see in the next three weeks. The bigger picture will continue to develop apace, and on those points I’m quite certain where we’re heading; the smaller details are more likely to be a little different from what any of us expect, which I wouldn’t have any other way – this series continues to find ways to surprise, and to keep us coming back week after week.