(GIANT SPOILER WARNING: This article contains massive SPOILERS for both the Song of Ice and Fire books, and, if they're adapted faithfully in one key sense, a HUGE SPOILER for the Game of Thrones season 5 finale. The exact details are SPOILER-protected below, but caution is advised for anyone proceeding down the page who doesn't want to know what may (or may not) happen this coming Sunday)
So, Game of Thrones.
From a series that somehow managed to prove more faithful to its original source material - especially in terms of its spot-on casting - than almost any other we've yet seen, the show has now managed to evolve into a strikingly different variation on the original novels. From giant zombie battle sequences, to entirely new plotlines for major characters, the show has substantially diverged from its source material - and, in a shocking twist, is actually all the better for it.
Even that willingness to change major elements of the novels' story - to the extent of killing off several characters who're still alive and kicking in the books - has a limit, though, and there are a number of key moments we can very realistically expect to see soon.
Which is great, and all, except for one vitally important thing:
That Means a Fan-Favorite Character is About to Die
Yup, that's right: if the path the novels have previously plowed is set to be followed - and several signs this season have suggested that it will - we're about to see a major member of the Game of Thrones cast, and one of the most popular ones at that, meet their on-screen maker.
What's more, it's not even likely to be in a noble, Westeros-saving fashion - but instead in just about the worst way that they, in particular, could imagine.
Or, in other words:
This is Where the SPOILERS Come in
And, as a result, the following several paragraphs will be very much SPOILER-protected - so proceed with whatever level of caution your natural SPOILER-aversion suggests is prudent...
We're about to see Jon Snow die - at the hands of the Night's Watch...
Despite that being EXACTLY THE SORT OF THING THAT'S NOT EVER SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN. After all, we've already gone through way, way too much trauma this season. How are we supposed to deal with that as well?
I mean, if it's anything like the books, in which it goes more-or-less-exactly like this...
"“For the Watch.” Wick slashed at him again. This time Jon caught his wrist and bent his arm back until he dropped the dagger. The gangling steward backed away, his hands upraised as if to say, Not me, it was not me. Men were screaming. Jon reached for Longclaw, but his fingers had grown stiff and clumsy. Somehow he could not seem to get the sword free of its scabbard."
"Then Bowen Marsh stood there before him, tears running down his cheeks. “For the Watch.” He punched Jon in the belly. When he pulled his hand away, the dagger stayed where he had buried it."
"Jon fell to his knees. He found the dagger’s hilt and wrenched it free. In the cold night air the wound was smoking. “Ghost,” he whispered. Pain washed over him. Stick them with the pointy end."
"When the third dagger took him between the shoulder blades, he gave a grunt and fell face-first into the snow. He never felt the fourth knife. Only the cold …"
...then it's not only going to be absolutely horrifying, but a massive surprise for non-book-reading viewers, too.
Well, perhaps - but as it turns out:
It's Been Pretty Well Sign-Posted
Now, full disclosure - I've read the books, including A Dance With Dragons, in which the death we're discussing originally took place. Even so, though, there's enough subtle prompting going on to make what looks set to eventually happen make a whole lot of sense in context.
There's been good reason to suspect that the Night's Watch - dissatisfied almost to a man with Jon Snow's dealings with the Wildlings - are considering some sort of mutiny. In particular, Jon Snow's personal steward, Olly, has a very personal grievance with Jon's decision to help the Wildlings, to the point where we've now seen him angrily staring at Jon about seventeen-thousand times.
Which, in turn, very much suggests that:
Despite not actually appearing in the books, Olly is almost certainly going to be one of the men - or even the one - that ultimately stabs Jon Snow to death.
Because...loyalty isn't really a thing in Westeros, evidently.
There Is, However, a Ray of Hope
Or, rather, two:
The extract from A Dance With Dragons that you can read up above is actually all we currently know about what happens to Jon Snow - meaning that there's actually every possibility that he's still alive. Theories abound as to how that could happen - but the most popular suggests that Melisandre could have a hand in bringing him back to life, now unburdened by his Night's Watch vows, and free to go and get some Stark-style revenge.
Which, in fairness, may just be wishful thinking on all of our parts.
The show may also completely defy our expectations - and leave Jon Snow very much alive. All it would take for a head-exploding finale for both book readers and the straight-up-TV-fans is to see Jon Snow betrayed by his Night's Watch brothers...but not be killed.
But, once again - that may just be hope, springing eternal.
As Samwell Tarly himself said, not too long ago:
"I've been worrying about Jon for years. He always comes back..."
Here's hoping, then...
In the meantime, though, it'd be awesome if everyone could (somehow) keep the comments below as SPOILER-free as possible. That being said, fair warning for anyone heading down there not wanting to know who this whole article has been about - there's every chance that there will, in fact, be SPOILERS below.