It's safe to say that Game Of Thrones headed out into the mysterious Lands Of Always Winter on Sunday night. Both literally and figuratively as seemingly 90% of the entire episode was spent... off book. And perhaps, most intriguing of all, we got a look inside the home of The White Walkers.
I'm not here to recap the episode, Jon Negroni has already done a fabulous job. What I want to talk about is exactly what we saw in the last few minutes of Episode Four: Oathkeeper.
I want to talk about the fact that in a very surprising way, the TV Show might have just spoiled the books.
So here's a SPOILER WARNING... I guess? Right now I'm not even sure who's getting spoiled as this isn't even book stuff we're going into here.
Anyway, you have been warned. White Walkers hate SPOILERS!
Lets recap a tiny bit, just so we're all on the same page. The episode ends with a White Walker carrying the last son of notorious wildling shit-bag Craster through a seemingly endless landscape of ice and snow. Our White Walker then dismounts and carries the freezing infant towards what looks like some kind of sacrificial alter. It then becomes clear that this entire process is being viewed by what appear to be the more regal ruling class of The White Walkers. The most regal and ruling looking of The Walkers approaches and picks up the child. He then places a scaly thumb against the cheek of Craster's offspring and the child's eyes turn White Walker blue.
What I find so exciting about all of this is the fact that NONE of the events described have happened in the books, not one.
What we do know is that The White Walkers (or the winter/wind that brings them) have the ability to reanimate the dead body of almost any previously living creature. But the concept that the White Walkers themselves can be made instead of born has only been alluded to.
Check out what one of Craster's daughter/wives tells Sam in A Storm Of Swords when he initially doesn't want to take Gilly away to someplace safer:
"If you don't take him, they will."
"They?" said Sam, and the raven cocked its black head and echoed, "They. They. They." "The boy's brothers," said the old woman on the left. "Craster's sons. The white cold's rising out there, crow. I can feel it in my bones. These poor old bones don't lie. They'll be here soon, the sons."
It seems that among Craster's daughter/wives there's at least some awareness of the Walker's powers to turn baby boys into walking skeleton monsters, but that's as much as book readers are treated to.
So it's pretty clear that the show is doing one of two things here.
Option one: the show is drawing a line in the sand (or snow) and making a clear statement to everyone watching that the TV show Game Of Thrones is an utterly different beast to the books with its own mythology and end game in mind. Doesn't matter who or what the White Walkers end up being in The Winds Of Winter, THIS is what they are in the show.
Option two: George R. R. Martin, the sneaky murdering bearded genius that he is, has made good on the promise he's always talked about. He's given show-runners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff, rare insight into his plans for the upcoming book and crucially, they've decided to reveal those plans much earlier than in the books.
If option two is correct (and I expect Martin will clarify in the coming days on his awesome blog: notablog) then something remarkable has happened.
Depending on your perspective, Martin, Benioff and Weiss have ushered in a new era of watching the show. For those who haven't read the books, nothing has changed. But for those of us who have, we can now look forward to a new age of meshed chronology contributing to a greater narrative arc. Look at the purple wedding. Martin wrote the episode himself and (impossibly) managed to improve on what happened in the books. Is the White Walkers and the Temple Of Doom scene another example of this? Martin sitting in a writers room with the staff of the show, eagerly relishing the chance to improve on texts he wrote alone in his study almost 10 years ago?
I love the idea that Martin is developing a 'fuller' and more complete version of the show. A directors cut if you will. Who knows? Maybe Martin always intended this scene to play out at the time it did but was unable to show it to us because of him limiting narrative constraint of showing all events through the perspective of a main character. It makes me feel that we're in safer hands than Craster's son was.
Or there's the other perspective. That these events have or will spoil future events that have yet to play out in Martin's eagarly anticipated future novel The Winds Of Winter. The showrunners have selfishly ruined the fun of discovering things as Martin originally intended.
To those who hold this perspective I say this: WE MAY BE WATCHING what Martin originally intended. We just don't know it yet.