Note: Spoilers ahead about the first four seasons of “Game of Thrones”
The question was a simple one, posed from author George R.R. Martin to the two men hoping to adapt his series of fantasy novels, “A Song of Ice and Fire,” into a television show.
“Who is Jon Snow’s mother?” Martin asked David Benioff and D.B. Weiss.
Their answer – to this day only the three know what was said – made Martin smile.
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And the rest is history. “Game of Thrones,” which premiered in April 2011, has become the most-watched show in HBO history and the most-pirated show ever.
The rub, however, is that of Martin’s seven novels, only five have been published. The sixth, “The Winds of Winter,” is presumed to be released this year, but no one knows for sure. The final book, “A Dream of Spring,” is a few years off at the least.
So the show, despite its popularity and the fervor for new episodes, is running out of source material. And that could be a problem, especially headed into Sunday’s fifth-season premiere.
Benioff and Weiss adapted the first three seasons from the first three novels – “A Game of Thrones,” “A Clash of Kings” and the first half of “A Storm of Swords.”
Last season finished “Swords” and began to incorporate parts of the fourth book, “A Feast for Crows” and the fifth book, “A Dance With Dragons,” with a high level of success because Martin wrote the two books focused on two different sets of characters with no crossover.
So what’s left, essentially, is the last half of “Crows” and “Dragons” to fit into the fifth season, we think, and the show’s two creators saying they would ideally like for the show to run seven seasons.
Understanding that most of us know what happens in the novels – which has been proven isn’t necessarily what happens in the show – here are a few theories about what the future may hold for “Game” characters:
Jon Snow (Kit Harington)
When we last saw him: The oldest living child of Lord Ned Stark – Arya, Sansa, Bran and Rickon are still all breathing – finished off last season by successfully leading a defense of the wall against the Wildling armies and watched his love, Ygritte, die in battle … right before she was set to kill him.
The future?: With Stannis Baratheon’s army now firmly entrenched in the north, expect Jon to play a big part in the upcoming war against the zombie-like Wight Walkers, the Roose Bolton-led Lannister armies and whatever nasty business Baratheon’s Red Witch is cooking up. And don’t expect the answer on who his mom is anytime soon, although it seems pretty obvious at this point.
Arya Stark (Maisie Williams)
When we last saw her: She managed to ditch the Hound and Brienne as they beat each other senseless in the season finale, then hopped a ship with VIP passage to Braavos, thanks to her connection with the Faceless Men.
The future?: Arya went to a pretty dark place last season – she killed a lot of people while rolling with the Hound – and it seems like she’s going to continue down that road.
Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner)
When we last saw her: Once Littlefinger got Sansa away from all that nasty business at King’s Landing, she started to blossom in some pretty weird ways. Mainly, she’s stopped being so naive and started to play the game a lot better, as we saw in the inquiry after Littlefinger pushed his wife to her death in front of Sansa. She covered for him magnificently when his head was on the chopping block.
The future?: These two together could be trouble for everybody else. Look at how easily they took over the Vale, and last season’s big (underrated) reveal was that Littlefinger orchestrated the inciting incident for the entire series in the death of Jon Arryn, who was the King Robert Baratheon’s top adviser. That led to the Baratheons and Lannister making a trip to Winterfell ... which led Ned Stark to King’s Landing ... which led to him getting his head chopped off.
Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead-Wright)
When we last saw him: Bran’s long, strange trip to the tree that he’d dreamed of for so long – the home of the Three-Eyed Crow – ended with some mind-bending stuff. It looks like Bran, crippled in the first episode by Jamie Lannister, will now come under the tutelage of Ol’ Three Eyes in order to tap into his supernatural gifts. And what was that thing he said about flying?
The future?: Bran has the least amount of story left when it comes to the books – it’s a widely-spread rumor that he won’t even be in the fifth season, and Hempstead-Wright isn’t listed among the main cast on any of the season’s promotional material.
Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage)
When we last saw him: Dinklage is perhaps the best actor in television right now (sorry, Jon Hamm), and has been the show’s lynchpin for the first four seasons. He was at his best last year after going on trial for the murder of his nephew, King Joffrey, for which he was about to be falsely convicted before he chose trial by combat and gifted viewers with one of the more gruesome death scenes in television history.
Thanks to a little help from his big brother, Jamie, on the eve of his execution, Tyrion managed to escape King’s Landing ... but not before he found his ex-girlfriend, Shae, in his dad’s bed, killed her, then pumped a few bolt-action arrows into his dad, Tywin, for good measure.
The future?: Saved by spymaster Varys, we last saw Tyrion sailing away on a ship, hidden in a wooden crate, and he’s been the most prominent of the main characters in season five trailers.
Jamie Lannister and Cersei Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Lena Headey)
When we last saw them: Jamie thought he did Tyrion a favor by boosting him out of the King’s Landing lockup on the eve of his execution. Cersei thought she was going to finally get her wish and see Tyrion executed, even though she knew he didn’t kill Joffrey.
The future?: The incestuous twins are going to be waking up to a whole different world when the fifth season starts, with Cersei surely bent on revenge and Jamie, as always, surely doing her dirty work.
Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke)
When we last saw her: The Mother of Dragons/Khaleesi had her work cut out for her trying to run the city of Mereen last season and ultimately had to lock up two of her three dragons because they were causing too much chaos for her politically.
The future?: The big question for Daenerys, who Martin has said many times is the central character in the books: When will she make her move on the Iron Throne? She seems powerful enough to do it right now, but has stated she wants the lands — and people — that have come under her rule to be stable before she makes the ultimate power play.