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It’s common knowledge amongst fans of Game of Thrones that episode nine is something to simultaneously dread and marvel at. Dread, because you just know that something awful is going to happen and marvel at because you can’t help but think they actually did that!
Before season four starts on April 6th (and a day after in the UK) I thought it would be a good idea to look at what has come before, and ponder what will come next.
Season One – ‘Baelor’
During the first season of Game of Thrones, I hadn’t read the books and so Ned’s decapitation came as a huge surprise to me. I literally had to pick my jaw up from the floor. But I have spoken with friends who had read the books prior to the first season and every single one I spoke to said that they thought Benioff and Weiss would change the show drastically from the books because, and I quote, “there’s just no way that they would kill off Sean Bean.”
Sean Bean, of course, is infamous for dying in EVERY SINGLE ROLE he has ever had but still, some people thought he would survive Joffrey’s sword. After all, securing Bean in a new cable TV show was a massive coup for HBO and executing him just nine episodes into the shows run was a massive risk to undertake. But praise must go to Benioff and Weiss for staying true to their source material.
Ned’s beheading was dreadful to watch. I thought there would be a last minute reprise, that Joffrey would actually do the right thing and let Ned take the black. But the great sword swung and Arya watched her father loose his head. That was the most painful part of the episode – the look upon Arya’s face. Ned’s death had massive repercussions for the remainder of the series and they are still felt today. His death also impacted season three’s dreaded nine.
Season Two – ‘Blackwater’
By this point in the shows run I had begun to read the books and, like my friends before me, I doubted the Battle of Blackwater would occur onscreen. There was simply no way Game of Thrones’ budget would allow the show runners to recreate such an iconic battle in the books to a high standard to please both book and show fans.
How wrong I was.
‘Blackwater’ is one of the best single hours of television I have ever seen. The production values were huge and in a show that jumps from story to story about 15 million times an episode it was a pleasant surprise to have all of the action dedicated to a handful of characters in one setting. The incredibly overused Tyrion was on top form and Lena Headey was simply sublime in her role of the drunken, petrified Cersei, not least when she was preparing to poison her own son to save him from Stannis’ clutches.
There wasn’t a particular shocking moment in the episode like in Baelor – the whole episode itself was shocking! I have no idea how the shows creators managed to produce a realistic and believable battle of that scale on a television show but that they did. The wildfire scene in a particular standout for me as the television glowed a fiery green.
Season Three – ‘The Rains of Castamere’
The Red Wedding is infamous. Whether you had read the books or not, everyone had heard of the Red Wedding and dreaded what it meant. Like the Battle of Blackwater this was something that everyone believed the show would not be able to recreate so faithfully.
The Red Wedding depicted in the show is everything and more from the books. I knew it was coming and I dreaded it. Robb was one of my favourite characters and Catelyn, a character that I never really liked prior to season/book three, had grown on me massively and her death also affected me. Robb was slain with arrow upon arrow to the chest, his wife (whom nobody particularly cared for as she was so different to her book counterpart) had her pregnant stomach hacked to pieces, and Catelyn’s throat was sliced open. The Red Wedding certainly lived up to its name.
Michelle Fairley was incredible in the final moments of the episode and you could tell the pain etched upon her face was real. Her performance shows just how astounding the cast of Game of Thrones really are. It’s rare that a TV show will take a massive risk in killing off three central characters in such a short space of time, but ‘The Rains of Castamere’ showed us not to underestimate Benioff and Weiss – they know what they’re doing.
Minor spoilers to follow – YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
Season Four –
So what will happen in season four’s dreaded ninth episode? I’ll try to keep the details as vague as possible so as to not spoil anyone drastically.
The episode titles are yet to be revealed so it’s anyone’s guess really. Owing to how far we came in season three, I think the Purple Wedding will happen halfway through – episode 4 or 5 maybe. Perhaps Lady Stoneheart will make her startling first appearance? But surely that would be more impactful to occur at the end of the following episode. What about another bloody battle? The battle between the Nights Watch and the Wildlings occurs mostly off-page in the books so could we see it portrayed in its full bloody glory on screen? Is it really that shocking to dedicate the entirely of the dreaded nine to? I have a feeling the dreaded nine will be dedicated to both the Wildling and Nights Watch battle and the events that befall ‘Alayne Stone’’s aunt.
I guess time will tell, but when you play the game of thrones you win or you die. Expect death. Lots and lots of death.