Spoiler alert: If you're not completely caught up with all 49 episodes of "Game of Thrones," the below post is going to totally ruin it for you.
Now that "Game of Thrones" has veered from the books, it's open season on predicting how Sunday's Season 5 finale could deal out death, defeat and dragon rides to its myriad characters. I've done some informal polling of the Westeros-obsessed and compiled the following wish list for twists and developments we'd most like to see before we're sent off to pass the time with new over another long summer and autumn before both the real and fictional winters finally arrive.
I've divided the wish list up into "white hat" and black hat" desires to represent the story developments that come from our altruistic instincts to see good triumph over evil in the case of the former, and the more sadistic, schadenfreude-derived, realpolitik or just generally dark impulses that seem to driveand frankly, make the show so damn addictive.
First, let's start with the traditional, happy Hollywood ending-style developments we most want to see on Sunday.
Cersei's come-uppance: Queen Mother Cersei Lannister is one of the show's signature beautiful baddies (Melisandre is certainly nipping at her heels for the title), but after the loss of her son Joffrey last season, her fortunes have only continued to turn for the worse. Last we saw her she was still full of bluster and threats even as she begins to shrivel in a dungeon cell. Yet her punishment doesn't yet seem to fit her crimes. A satisfying season finale would stay true to the books and show us a broken and whimpering Cersei -- perhaps naked and with a shaved head, just for extra humiliation and to drive home the metaphorical stripping away of her power -- confessing her sins to the High Sparrow. (Looks like this will actually be a big part of Sunday's finale, based on the above new promotional image from HBO.)
Another for Arya's list: Of all the characters in Westeros bent on revenge, on the show), it only seems right that she find a way to rub the guy out in the finale, even if it puts her future chance at facelessness in jeopardy.may be the one you least want to mess with. Now that she's on a quest to get all "faceless" and she's just become privy to the pedophiliac tendencies of Ser Meryn Trant (who also makes her "kill list" in both the books and
Direwolves and dragons gone wild: The ninth episode ended with the khaleesi, Daenerys Targaryen, escaping a coup attempt via dragonback. I think it's safe to say most Dany fans would be happy to watch a full hour of dragonsport -- the dragon queen burning all the slave owners of Westeros to a crisp, commanding the devotion of the Dothraki with a single fly-by, riding double with Tyrion... I could go on. As for the lands on the other side of the Narrow Sea -- I say summon all theto rid the land of the rubbish characters by cover of darkness.
Tarth raider to the rescue: The show came under criticism for the disturbing way Ramsay Bolton consummated his marriage to Sansa Stark. What better way to re-balance the scales of justice than for Brienne of Tarth to finally liberate Sansa and perhaps dispatch the grotesque ruler in the process (something even theis in favor of)? But why stop there? Ideally, through some accident of Westerosi magic, she would end up transported to our universe in the present day where, given her record of devoted service, she'd have as good a shot at winning the next US presidential election as .
Stannis gets killed twice: File this under "not going to happen" for many reasons, not the least of which is that we've just been introduced to the black depths that are the truly dark souls of some of these characters, BUT... wouldn't it be nice to see a psychotic and delusional Stannis take an army over the wall to be decimated by the White Walkers? This offers the nice bonus possibility that he could re-emerge later as a member of the undead, giving us an opportunity to see him killed a second time.
While the above would be nice to see, the "Game of Thrones" show runners clearly don't value social justice for the denizens of that universe as much as most of us do in the real world. In fact, it's tragic injustices like the execution of Ned Stark, the "Red Wedding" or last week's sacrifice of Shireen Baratheon that generate the most buzz for the show. While you may not like to admit it, the show taps into a macabre fascination that keeps us all tuning in to see just how far the writers will push the envelope.
Now that the show is going further away from the books, its creators seem willing to not only cross the line but to occasionally pole-vault over it. Here are a few more "creative" ways the writers might horrify us enough to keep us talking about the show over the summer and into 2016.
Tyrion Lannister goes to the dark side: Killing off the verbose imp would be a heartbreaker, but seeing the constantly conflicted underdog turn truly nasty in the same vein as his sister or even his late nephew Joffrey would be an even more crushing blow to the soul of a "GoT" fan. I could see him becoming the conniving hand to the khaleesi who orchestrates assassinations and other covert dirty deeds that are becoming increasingly necessary for Dany to retain power. Perhaps this leads to an ultimate betrayal of the khaleesi herself and we wind up with an army of the Unsullied making the journey over the Narrow Sea to make a play for the Iron Throne, led by a newly sober but power-corrupted Tyrion. That would be one heck of a twist.
Dragons gone wild (naughty edition): So at least one of the dragons is flying free and two more are likely still chained up in a dungeon somewhere, probably getting pretty angry. Up until now, they've just barely been under control, and have been one of the show's most volatile elements. As such, they have the potential to really upend the Dragon Queen's status as one of the characters still worth cheering for without hesitation. Just one loose dragon incinerating a few small villages or a major character, perhaps even the khaleesi herself, would keep us all talking through the long, hot summer.
Jon Snow dies for nothing: Because he's one of the few remaining true heroes in Westeros in the traditional sense, I'm always on the lookout for the supposed Stark bastard to meet an untimely end. But what would really hurt more would be him dying for no good reason. Say, after defeating the White Walkers, he simply trips and falls off the top of the Wall... or chokes on a small chicken bone at the ensuing celebration. What could be more cruel than to strip a deserving hero of a dignified death?
Things get worse for Sansa Stark: I'm not really sure how, and trying to think up a way just makes my stomach hurt, but the odds seem good that it could happen on Sunday. Yikes. Why do we watch this show again?
How would you wrap up this latest, harrowing season? Is it time for Arya to go berserk? Or would you rather go off to your beach vacation contemplating the inevitable rise of the Red Witch? Let us know in the comments, but definitely make sure no ravens have installed spyware on your system first.