After Game of Thrones turned the phrase “hold the door” into one of the saddest scenes in television history, show creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss revealed that it was the second of three huge surprises George R.R. Martin had shared with them before they were meant to appear in his last two novels in the A Song of Ice and Fire series. The first was Stannis burning Shireen, and the third would come at “the very end” of the show.
So what was that last one? And what does that mean for the end of Martin’s novels? These big moments from Game of Thrones’ final season are the best candidates for Martin’s final big twist, arranged from least shocking to most.
Bran Becomes King
The Three-Eyed Raven being chosen as ruler of the Six Kingdoms was definitely unexpected, but it wasn’t, as Benioff and Weiss called them, a “holy ****” moment like the other two surprises. There were logical reasons for a recovering Realm to turn to Ned Stark’s son (even if the show itself didn’t do a good job making that argument), and the books will likely be able to make an even better case for him.
Bran might ultimately sit on the Iron Throne (if it still exists, another potential Martin surprise) in the novels, but if this is the third so-called huge surprise, it will be a huge letdown.
The Night King Loses Quickly and/or Arya Kills Him
We weren’t surprised by the fact that the White Walkers were defeated, but we were surprised by how they were defeated. The army of the dead managed to break through the Wall, but then didn’t even make it past Winterfell; right as all hope looked lost for the living, Arya stabbed the Night King in the stomach with a Valyrian steel dagger. It was so stunning that it was anticlimactic, which is not what anyone would expect from the novels.
While Arya killing the Night King made sense, the show didn’t even address the Prince That Was Promised prophecy, let alone use the moment as a play against our expectations. The revelation of the Prince, or the fact the prophecy was wrong, will almost certainly be a big part of the White Walkers’ ending in Martin’s books. While we won’t be shocked if Arya kills the Night King in the books as well, we will be if it happens so quickly and his demise falls so flat.
Jon Kills Daenerys
Forgetting for a second why he did it, Jon killing Daenerys was a pretty big twist for the overall story. The two were always presented as the main characters of the show and its greatest heroes. Then they fell in love. Having Jon kill her at the end, for whatever reason, feels like a classic Martin-esque upending of traditional fantasy tropes. It’s possible Jon will kill Daenerys in the books for a different reason. This could either make it more or less shocking, but it would be a pretty incredible development either way.
Daenerys Destroys King’s Landing
After years spent watching Daenerys protect the innocent and swear she was nothing like her father the Mad King, it was shocking to see her burn down King’s Landing and murder thousands of people in the process. Of all of the final season’s biggest moments, this was the one that most fits the “holy ****” reaction Benioff and Weiss spoke of in regard to Martin revealing his secret twists. It will make for an incredible ending to the novels (though we won’t be surprised if Jon kills her afterward), where a great hero lets us down and destroys the greatest city in the world rather than claim it as her own.
If Daenerys Targaryen does burn down King’s Landing in A Song of Ice and Fire, it’s going to be a huge surprise, even if we are going to see it coming.