Warning: Major plot spoilers ahead.
It's the best show on television. There is no debate about that. From the storyline to the characters to all the fan theories, Game of Thrones has gone where no show has gone before. Yet, as we enter the final episode of the sixth season -- and the final seasons -- the unpredictable twists that shocked fans in the early seasons have been exchanged with right turns that are visible for miles.
I never thought Ned Stark would actually die. I thought he'd be saved Tyrion-esque and pulled from the dungeons of King's Landing, yet there he was with his head on a stick next to George Bush.
When the Rains of Castamere played over the dinner celebrating Robb's Stark's wedding, I stood up yelling because there was no possible way they were actually going to murder the eldest Stark son. I was only to be let down -- with my head hanging in my hands -- as Talisa's torso was turned into something straight from Alien.
But when Jon died in the final episode of last season, I was less shocked and more intrigued. There was no way that he would remain dead. While his death in itself may have been shocking, the aftermath was less "What the fuck are they doing to my homeboys" and more "Oh. Okay. So he's going to be brought back to life and fulfill one prophecy or another." At this point in the show, with so much time committed to all these character's arcs, there was no way such a character could be permanently killed off without debasing everything the show has tried to establish.
When Jon died in the final episode of last season, I was less shocked and more intrigued. There was no way that he would remain dead.
This parallels the events that occurred in last night's episode -- S6S9 -- because even though we felt like we were suffocating with Jon, in the back of our minds we knew there was some sort of "Gandalf in the Twin Towers" like rescue that had to happen. It wouldn't have made any sense otherwise. And in a cynical sort of way, it detracted from the episode because all of the great episodes of the show have had a monumental shock.
When Baelish arrives it was more of a "WELL IT'S ABOUT FUCKING TIME", rather than "WHO THE HELL ARE THESE GUYS?" Emotionally, it's concurrent to watching your baseball team win a game as your closer shuts down the other team instead of hitting a walk-off 400 foot bomb. It's way less fun to see a W on the horizon than it is for it to pop up in the matter of seconds.
After having effed up so much , the showrunners -- or rather, George R. R. Martin -- have found that they now have to be predictable because otherwise there would be no way to complete their narrative goals. George R. R. Martin has always prided himself as throwing the high fantasy stereotypes to the wind but, in the end, there has to be some compromise on this stance if you want to allow the story to achieve great heights.
Sure, you could really throw everything in the toilet and surprise (read: piss off) everyone by just having the White Walkers come in and "win" the game of thrones. It would go somewhere hardly any show has gone before, but what are you leaving the audience with afterwards? Unless you're a stubborn nihilist, most people will look back upon the show with a worst taste in their mouth than Bran after drinking the rabbit's blood Benjen/Coldhands fed him.
There are, however, ways that they can mix in that nostalgic unpredictability, and the show has already made some of these steps. With all the fan theories out there, rather than bending and completing every fan desire, the show can turn smaller characters on different paths.
The days of brutal, savage executions of protagonists should be replaced with the heroic endings certain characters have built up towards and deserve.
Take The Hound, for example. Just when it looked as if we could see Clegane-Bowl in the near distance, they spin him off in another direction and actually kill off the possibility of anything similar happening with the end of the trial by combats. While The Hound and The Franken-Mountain may meet in the future some how, they avoided the predictable and popular thought.
This structure will be crucial as the series heads to what appears to be an all-time ending. For while the shows heel turns are what made it popular and great, its ability fulfill archetypes and conform to certain narrative standards is how the show will finish strong instead of going the way of shows like Dexter. The days of brutal, savage executions of protagonists should be replaced with the heroic endings certain characters have built up towards and deserve. This doesn't mean, however, that it can't place in unexpected twists. We may be able to predict that Cersei will use wildfire soon, but we certainly may not see what could happen if she is stopped. (LOOKING AT YOU JAIME).
Nevertheless, hope as we may that the show will go a certain way, George R. R. Martin always abides by his one rule: He'll kill and do what he wants.
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A version of this post originally appeared on Medium.