Writing about Game of Thrones frequently, I get a lot of people asking me if I think that the ending of the show will mirror the ending of George RR Martin’s as-of-yet unpublished/unwritten books. The answer, in short, is yes and no, at least according to what limited information Martin himself is doling out on the subject.
This is a question frequently asked of Martin, and now even more so as we are in the final eight days of the series. And fundamentally it seems that yes, Martin has indeed shared at least large portions of his ending with showrunners so they can execute his vision of the conclusion of the series if they so choose. Here’s what he said in a recent interview with Rolling Stone when asked if he would be “surprised” by the ending:
“Well, to a degree. I mean, I think … the major points of the ending will be things that I told them, you know, five or six years ago,” Martin said. “But there may also be changes, and there’ll be a lot added.”
So Martin has indeed given them the broad strokes of the ending. What does that include? It depends what you consider major, but I would consider things like who ends up on the Iron Throne, who dies and and at whose hand, or big revelations like Jon’s true parentage, which has clearly been set up in the books for quite some time.
And yet as I watch the show, I constantly find myself wondering what was a “Martin moment” and what was an HBO showrunner moment, something that they didn’t get from Martin’s source material and just made up on their own. To me, certain things feel like Martin’s hand, others don’t (spoilers follow). Cersei blowing up the Sept? Feels like a Martin moment. Arya and Sansa tricking and killing Littlefinger with an elaborate ruse? Does not feel like a Martin moment.
But past that, when Martin talks about changes and a lot being added, there are also so, so many things to consider given the content of Martin’s books, and if anything, it feels like a lot has been subtracted from a possible ending. Just off the top of my head, potentially major differences include:
- Lady Stoneheart, resurrected Catelyn Stark, as a wildcard in coming conflicts.
- Littlefinger never giving Sansa over to be married to Ramsey Bolton.
- The existence of Aegon Targaryen, the son of Rhaegar and Elia Martell who was supposed to be killed by the Mountain, but was saved and now has a claim to the throne.
- All the Starks being able to warg to some degree.
- Robb Stark’s wife is not killed and may have a secret Stark heir somewhere.
- Ser Barristan Selmy is alive and one of the best weapons Dany has.
- The character of the Night King does not actually exist in the books at all.
Any one of these has the power to dramatically reshape the ending, but even if the show has changed all of these things, it’s possible the end result is going to be at least somewhat the same is Martin has told them the “major points” of the ending ahead of time. Obviously the showrunners would much rather execute Martin’s vision of the ending of Game of Thrones rather than writing something out of thin air. And yet so much has changed already, it’s nearly impossible for these endings to end up being identical. Martin calls this the “butterfly effect” of the show, where minor changes years earlier, a death here, a missing character there, add up to enormous ramifications in the future.
The problem is that no one really has any idea when Martin’s ending will get here. Winds of Winter, the sixth book, has been supposed to arrive for years now, but Martin is taking the better part of a decade, the entire duration of the show, to release it. And that’s to say nothing of the seventh and supposedly final book, A Dream of Spring, a book that many fans are worried Martin may never release, given both his age (70), and how long he takes to write these things.
So we don’t know if the show’s ending will be exactly like the book’s ending, but we do know that at least Martin has shared his ending with the showrunners, meaning it’s not being entirely invented by the HBO crew. As for comparing the two? Maybe in 10, 15 years, we’ll be able to see how the books stack up to the show. Maybe.
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