In 1996, writer George R.R. Martin brought out the first book in a projected series in medieval fantasy: “A Game of Thrones,” part of “A Song of Ice and Fire.” It and the books that came after found a strong following, which gained greater momentum when HBO adapted the books as “Game of Thrones,” with the first season being aired in 2011. There has been seven seasons of that show since, compared to only five books by Martin with two yet to be published. Followers of the TV version will not have to wait long for the end, with the final season airing this Sunday.
While fans of the original books continue to wonder how the dynastic crisis and impending icy apocalypse will play out in “The Winds of Winter” and “A Dream of Spring,” certain plot elements from these still-unpublished volumes have been provided by George R.R. Martin to “Game of Thrones” show-runners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff. These will come to light in the eighth and concluding season of the show, which will comprise only six episodes but will each run over an hour. The season premiere this April 14, “Winterfell,” confirms this by lasting 68 minutes total.
Variety notes such a running time is vital to quickly establish the current situation of the characters so close to impending doom. The ice-man White Walkers and their army of undead wights have breached the Wall and are marching upon Westeros. In the North, the absent King Jon Snow (Kit Harington) has returned to Winterfell castle with good and bad news. He has brought reinforcements for his people in the form of Queen Daenerys’ (Emilia Clarke) army and dragons, but has given up his kingship and taken her as lover.
Of course there would be trouble. Some of the Northern houses that acclaimed Jon as King in seasons past are disillusioned with his capitulation. Jon’s own surviving relatives in Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Arya (Maisie) Stark do not necessarily trust the Targaryen Queen. What is worse, Jon’s friend Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) is upset at him allying with the executioner of his father and brother, despite their former abuse towards him. Sam has complicated things by blurting out Jon’s true parentage as a true son of Daenerys’ late brother Prince Rhaegar and Lyanna Stark rather than the bastard of his “father” Eddard Stark; thus a nephew to his “girlfriend” and more worthy heir to the Iron Throne than she is.
Elsewhere, the situation is just as grim. Queen Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) cares nothing for the White Walker invasion, confident that she can withstand them with her new ally the monstrous Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbæk), who is also her new paramour. Thus she has no need for her now-“imperfect” brother Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), plotting to murder him and her other brother Tyrion (Peter Dinklage). Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) kept his promise to rescue his sister Yara (Gemma Whelan) from Euron’s captivity, only to return to Winterfell when he was done.
And finally, the survivors from the collapse of the Wall discover a chilling message from the leader of the White Walkers, the Night King, for all of the living in the world. Winter has come.
The battle lines are being drawn. Alliances are being finalized with the choice of standing together or coming apart. Secrets are revealed at last as the paths of either ruling Westeros until the end or possibly dying to avert that end come close to fulfillment. The rest of the final season of “Game of Thrones” will air Sundays this April and May, only on HBO.
Image courtesy of CBS News