Warning: Spoilers from the first five seasons of Game of Thrones to follow.
By and large, Game of Thrones finales have served as epilogues to the drama of the previous nine hours of the season, in particular whatever shocking or earth-shattering events took place in the penultimate episode.
After the death of a major character or an enormous battle at one of the show’s signature locations, a bit of a cool-down is required—both to deal with the aftermath of what’s just transpired, and to wrap up other storylines neglected while Stannis Baratheon was laying siege to King’s Landing or Ned Stark was losing his head. As a result, while necessary, season finales have not traditionally been the strongest episodes on the show’s record.
That tradition changed last year, thanks to Stannis’ defeat of Mance Rayder beyond the Wall, the epic confrontation between Brienne and The Hound and, of course, the triumphant vengeance Tyrion visited upon his father. It would not be at all unreasonable to expect similar fireworks in Sunday’s finale.
This season’s penultimate episode, “The Dance of Dragons,” was, by most measures, the most underwhelming second-to-last hour in the show’s history. Yes, Shireen was burned alive in a gut-wrenching scene and yes, Daenerys finally rode a dragon, but neither event provided the shock value of the Red Wedding or the grand scale of The Battle of Castle Black.
Though the episode was far from a failure, showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss are undoubtedly aware that fans are eager for a watercooler moment in “Mother’s Mercy.” With so much left unresolved from the first nine episodes of the season, here’s a spoiler-free preview of what might go down on Sunday:
- If there is a God (or The Seven or the Old Gods or the Lord of Light or the Many-Faced God), Sansa Stark will take that corkscrew and jam it so far into Ramsay’s face that it comes out the back of his head.
- Ideally, she could then use it on Littlefinger, but he’s gone nearly five seasons without so much as a scratch—though it seems unlikely that Sansa will be the one to give him his first.
- Speaking of Littlefinger, we’ve not seen him since “The Gift,” so it’s possible he stuck around King’s Landing but equally likely that he’s made his way North (possibly with knights from the Vale in tow) just in time for the finale.
- Speaking of King’s Landing, there are lots of questions still to be sorted out in the capital. What sort of trial is in store for Cersei, Margaery and Loras? Will Tommen ever come out of his room? Will we ever get to see what sort of monster Qyburn has under that sheet? These questions may or may not prove to be interconnected somehow. Olenna Tyrell will probably say something very clever.
- Stannis sacrificed his daughter so he could lay siege to Winterfell, so this should be an excellent test of whether Melisandre really is as powerful as she claims to be.
- The downside, if Stannis does make it to Winterfell: Brienne will be there waiting for him, and she’s got quite the score to settle. Also, Brienne has spent most of the season waiting around to make a move for Sansa—odds are Benioff and Weiss won’t want her waiting round into Season 6.
- Semi-related: How worried should Stannis’s wife be that she’s the only family member he hasn’t killed yet?
- Jon Snow made it back to Castle Black with the Wildlings but the other members of the Night’s Watch do not seem particularly thrilled about it. We’ve already seen one Lord Commander succumb to mutiny; let’s hope that Jon isn’t next.
- At some point, Arya may need to choose between continuing her Faceless Men training and achieving her vengeance against Meryn Trant. Unless Jaqen H’ghar decides to be a super-swell guy and let her kill two birds with one stone (or Needle).
- Will more things happen in Dorne? Who cares!
- Dany flew away from danger on Drogon’s back in the final seconds of last week’s episode. Will the compatriots she left behind to die decide to murder her for this betrayal? Not a chance, but that would be a fun twist.
- Long-shot prediction: The entire episode is a 60-minute reaction shot of it finally dawning upon Varys that Tyrion is no longer in that Volantis brothel. You’re finally free, sweet prince.
“Mother’s Mercy” airs Sunday night at 9 p.m. E.T. on HBO.