We’re in uncharted territory on Game of Thrones. There are no books to work from — even George R.R. Martin might be surprised with what’s happening on the HBO series — and things could get confusing. To help you out, after every new episode, our Thrones experts will answer your six most pressing questions.
1. Valar Morghulis! Was that a new record for the most people killed during a Game of Thrones season finale?
Josh: The highest Game of Thrones body count is typically one week before the season finale, in episode nine. That’s when the Battle of the Blackwater was fought, and the Red Wedding coated Walder Frey’s hall with Stark blood, and the Wildlings fought the Night’s Watch, and Drogon set fire to the Sons of the Harpy in Daznak’s Pit, and, well, you remember what happened last week. This was no typical season, though, and “The Winds of Winter” was no typical finale. I can’t find a definitive guide with the corpse count for every episode, but this one claims the biggest finale death toll came last season, when Stannis Baratheon, Meryn Trant, and Myrcella Baratheon, among four other “major” characters, were murdered, including Jon Snow (yeah, about that…).
“Winds” put that number to shame.
Margaery, Loras, and Mace Tyrell were blown up, as were the High Sparrow and Lancel and Kevan Lannister; Grand Maester Pycelle was stabbed by “little birds”; King Tommen Baratheon committed suicide; and Walder Frey ate his sons, Goofus and Doofus, then had his throat cut by Arya. That’s a whole lot of grisly murder, even for Game of Thrones. Which one was your favorite!?
Ryan: Tommen jumping to his death was definitely the most powerful. For all the wuss moves he pulled over the past season, I still can’t help but feel for the kid as he carefully took off his crown and then fell from a window, Bran-style, without hesitation. It’s as if he wanted to avoid any further havoc being wrought on account of his poor leadership, and plunging to his death seemed like the completely obvious solution. It’s probably also the only move he made as king that was actually his own. He went from being a pawn of Tywin to Cersei to the High Sparrow, never truly in power and never being able to make anything happen. You could see how helpless he felt over the course of the season, and it was only in death that he finally got to make his own choice rather than being controlled by others.
2. It’s finally been confirmed that Rhaegar + Lyanna = Jon Snow, but what the heck did Lyanna whisper to Ned that we didn’t hear?
Ryan: The secret of Jon Snow’s parentage has finally been confirmed. Book readers have suspected that he was not the bastard son of Ned Stark, but rather the child of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen for a long time. The whole Tower of Joy thing has been getting hyped for half a season. Yet now that they finally confirmed it, why am I feeling so underwhelmed?
Let’s face it: Lyanna Stark wasn’t even the coolest Lyanna in this episode. That honor goes to Lyanna Mormont, who set things up for Jon Snow to become KING-O-DA-NORF. That was the true magic moment for show watchers, and I bet most of them have no idea who Rhaegar even is, or the significance of the Tower of Joy (basically, it means Jon’s now in the running for the Iron Throne, if he wants to be — here’s a helpful explainer). The only thing the episode clearly explained is that Jon Snow is Lyanna’s son.
As far as what she whispered to Ned, I bet it was her explaining that the baby was Rhaegar’s son. Why did they make it inaudible? Because Rhaegar has gotten half a dozen mentions in the show so far. Adding his name would just confuse non-book readers when the desired effect of the scene was to blow people’s minds when it was revealed that Jon wasn’t Ned’s bastard. But of course, many of us have suspected that for over 15 years.
Josh: Yes, the whole R + L = J thing is important — like you said, it means Jon’s half-Stark, half-Targaryen, which could make things a little awkward when another Targaryen arrives in Westeros. (Will they fight? Will they f*ck? Will they do both? It’s hard to tell with this show sometimes.) But Game of Thrones making the theory official felt like David Benioff and D. B. Weiss throwing hungry book readers a bone. It’s been a rough season for people who used to lord knowing about the Red and Purple Weddings before they happened over their friends. Jon Snow’s lineage was basically all they had left, but now it’s gone; it’s everyone’s theory now. And it’s time to move on.