Readers of the Game Of Thrones books have long lorded it over those who just watch the show.
That’s partly just because they’re snobs, but also because they’ve often already known what was going to happen next on the show. But not any more.
Indeed, now that the show has caught up with the books, the upcoming season will be completely unknown territory for both readers and viewers (and the many who enjoy both).
So, as a tribute to the show which took spoiler alerts to a new level (Entertainment Weekly even went as far as to draft a set of guidelines for spoiler etiquette), let’s revisit some of the show’s most shocking moments.
Last warning – there really are LOTS of spoilers in this feature. So once you click on the links below, there’s no turning back.
Eddard Stark’s death
Poor Ned Stark only wanted to find out the truth behind his friend Jon Arryn’s death. With only Arryn’s last words – “The seed is strong” – to guide him, he followed a trail of breadcrumbs to Queen Cersei herself. In a rash move, he then declared that Cersei’s son, Joffrey Baratheon, was the offspring of the queen and her brother, and therefore an illegitimate heir. Which, let’s face it, was never going to end well.
To make matters worse, Joffrey had already been crowned King – meaning that silly old Ned had now committed treason. Banishment to The Wall was expected – even Cersei favoured that option – but being of unsound mind and entirely uncaring about what anyone else thinks, Joffrey instead ordered his immediate execution.
Book readers saw it coming a mile off, but watchers of the show were new to this strange and terrible world. It would be the first of many traumas.
Renly, we hardly knew ye.
After Renly Baratheon refused to bow to his brother Stannis, he believed he had nothing to worry about – after all, he was sitting pretty on more more men and more money than Stannis. It was only a matter of time before he marched on King’s Landing and claimed the Iron Throne as its rightful heir.
But things didn’t work out quite that simply.
For starters, Stannis had the Red Priestess Melisandre, a disciple of the Lord of Light, on his side. Melisandre believed that Stannis was the chosen one and she would therefore stop at nothing to get him what he wants.
So – and this is where it all gets a bit silly – in exchange for some of Stannis’s life essence, Melisandre summoned a shadow; a demonic being that radiates darkness, and which can pass through walls and turn invisible. Obviously.
Stannis could have sent it to get him a pint of milk and some crisps, but he instead ordered it to murder his own brother. Tsk, always taking the easy way out, Stannis.
The Red Wedding
The whole of Season 3 was just a series of unfortunate events, really, starting with Jaime losing his hand and culminating in the infamous Red Wedding.
Jaime losing his hand was a bit of a shock for viewers, but he didn’t die. The Red Wedding, on the other hand, was so shocking it could probably have powered all of Australia for nine years.
What made it so shocking was the speed of the betrayal. Viewers – and the Starks – believed that no harm would come to the wedding party while they were guests of Walder Frey. But once the doors of the banquet hall were closed and the Rains of Castamere began to play, it was out with the canapés and Best Man speeches and in with the slicing and the stabbing and the gouging and the cutting and the hair pulling and the hacking off of limbs.
Still, it could have been worse – we once went to a wedding where the groom wore a white suit. Now that’s shocking.
Oberyn Martell’s death
Oberyn’s death was famously teased over Instagram by Lena Headey, who plays Cersei Lannister. But Headey’s photo of herself putting her fingers into co-star Pedro Pascal’s eyes, which comes from a shoot for Hunger Magazine, didn’t really give anything away unless you’d already seen the episode in question – which means it was totally not a spoiler.
In the episode, titled The Mountain And The Viper, Oberyn snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in his trial by combat with The Mountain, and, yes, ended up getting his eyes gouged out. Oberyn’s grisly death meant that Tyrion would be found guilty of the death of King Joffrey and sentenced to death himself, this setting in motion another one of those lovely cascade events of which George R R Martin is so fond and which will ultimately lead to Tyrion being crowned king of all Westeros himself sometime in Season 18, we imagine.
Jon Snow’s death
This is the biggie. The biggie that even the book readers weren’t prepared for – because it’s not entirely clear in them that he is absolutely, definitely dead.
Anyway, back to the TV version. Even after surviving the massacre at Hardhome, Jon Snow’s hardest battle was to be fought at Castle Black. As Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, his job was to keep the Wildlings on the other side of the Wall. So when he decided to let them through, plenty of his men were a tad unhappy about it.
Sure, it was the right thing to do. But Jon didn’t do a great job of explaining it. I mean, where was his PowerPoint presentation, complete with graphs showing population predictions for the next 10 years versus deaths at the hands of the White Walkers. Nowhere. And that’s why he deserved to die.
Still, maybe he’s not dead at all and will return in Season Six reincarnated as a dragon. Now that would be shocking.