The first two seasons of Game of Thrones were pretty straightforward: one season, one book. But season three covered a big chunk of George R.R. Martin's third book, leaving some for season four. What's left of A Storm of Swords for the show to cover? And how much of books four and five could we see next year?
To find out, we spent some time revisiting our copies of A Storm of Swords, plus the next two books, A Feast For Crows and A Dance With Dragons. We also consulted two great experts on the A Song of Ice and Fire series: Elio Garcia, webmaster of Westeros.org, and Adam Whitehead with The Wertzone. As you probably know, A Feast for Crows and A Dance With Dragons take place simultaneously for the most part, and they also ramp up the complexity of Martin's saga with tons of new characters. So adapting them is going to be a fascinating process to watch.
And Whitehead, for one, thinks it'll be important for the show to get into some of Crows and Dragons in season four, especially if the creators really want the entire show to last just seven or eight seasons. They may need a season and a half each to tackle Martin's last two books, so it makes sense to do the bulk of Crows and Dragons in season five. Garcia seems to believe that the rest of Storm of Swords can occupy almost all of the next season, however.
Already, some events are moving pretty quickly — the storyline of Davos Seaworth convincing King Stannis to go to the Wall could have been strung out over several episodes, instead of crammed into the finale, for example.
Warning: Just a reminder that there are major spoilers below for anyone who hasn't read the books. Seriously, if you haven't read the books yet, don't bother reading any further.
1) Joffrey's wedding
This leads to Joffrey getting poisoned and Tyrion being falsely accused of murdering the King. This in turn leads to Tyrion's trial by combat, and Tyrion escaping and killing his father Tywin. Which might be something that'll happen at the climax of the season.
"They'd be absolutely insane not to" feature these events heavily in season four, says Garcia.
The big question is, how fast will these events happen? Whitehead notes that George R.R. Martin is writing episode two of the new season, rather than a late-season episode as usual. So Whitehead wouldn't be surprised if the Purple Wedding happens as soon as episode two or three of the season. That could put the trial by combat around episode five, with Tyrion escaping from his cell a couple episodes later. Of course, producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss may see Tyrion killing his father as "prime end-of-season material" — which it totally is — but Whitehead thinks it would be a mistake to wait that long and "lose time they may be desperately searching for in later seasons."
2) Catelyn's body being rescued from the Red Fork and returned to (sort of) life.
This mostly happens off-screen in the books, until Catelyn turns up as Lady Stoneheart and we learn that the Brotherhood Without Banners have resurrected her. But this show has a track record of showing things on screen that the books left alone (like Theon's transformation.)
But Garcia says Michelle Fairley has a recurring role on Suits, and she may just want to sit out season four. At the very least, we might not see her again until towards the end of the season.
3) Arya abandons Sandor Clegane and finds men willing to take her to Braavos.
Whitehead was actually half expecting the Hound to be critically injured in the season finale, perhaps as a result of his battle with the Freys. As for Arya going to Braavos, Garcia says many people believe we won't see this happen at all. Instead, "she'll run into Jaqen in Westeros and basically become his padawan learner. This cuts the need of a new exotic foreign location, and they could have her interacting with familiar characters who don't know she's Arya."
4) Jaime has a rift with Cersei and sends Brienne to find the missing Arya and Sansa.
We've already seen the seeds of this being planted.
5) Sansa Stark goes to live at the Eyrie, and Littlefinger kills his new wife Lysa.
Poor Sansa Stark — another horrible situation. She flees King's Landing after Joffrey's death, and winds up pretending to be Littlefinger's bastard daughter. Garcia says the show might wait until season five to show us Lysa's death, but it'll probably happen at the end of season four.
6) The Wildling Army attacks, Stannis saves the day, Jon becomes Lord Commander.
This is another thing that Whitehead sees the show probably saving for a big end-of-season blow-out — although, as with Tyrion killing Tywin and fleeing, he thinks there's a strong argument to be made for doing this stuff sooner, to make room for more of books six and seven later on. Plus Stannis is already heading for the Wall, and it seems weird for him to spend a whole season getting there.
7) Daenerys learns about Jorah's past treachery, and conquers Meereen, resolving to stay there and rule.
The problem with this, Garcia points out, is that there may be no way for Daenerys to learn that Jorah was spying for Varys back in season one. But there will definitely be some sort of rift between Daenerys and Jorah, and
8) The death of Balon Greyjoy
As with Theon's transformation, the show may find a way to dramatize the death of his father Balon to some greater extent.
9) Bran travels North and meets Coldhands, the mysterious mystic.
This has already been set up, and he's already gone past the Wall.
1) Yara Greyjoy will have to have something to do next year.
The show made such a big deal out of showing her setting off to rescue Theon, there has to be some payoff. In the books, she takes place in a Kingsmoot after Balon dies, and tries to replace her father.
But since she's already traveling around Westeros, she probably won't be there when Balon dies — and she won't be there for the Kingsmoot, either, says Whitehead. Garcia thinks there may not be a Kingsmoot at all, and Yara may only have one uncle on the television show instead of the three she has in the books.
Whitehead's prediction? Yara will be traveling to rescue Theon, and she'll run into Stannis' fleet on his way North to the Wall. That way, she still ends up being captured by Stannis, like in the books — just a little sooner.
2) Theon/Reek goes back to Winterfell.
We've already seen Theon become Reek, so we'll need to see some forward motion on his storyline next year. Garcia "can't imagine" what they'll do with his character, but one option is to have him return to Winterfell a bit earlier than he does in the books. The risk is that Theon's storyline will get too far ahead of the others, and then get stuck in a rut waiting for everyone else to catch up, says Whitehead.
One option Whitehead suggests: Ramsay has already said he wants to hunt the surviving Stark boys. Ramsay and his new sidekick could go on a hunt for Bran and/or Rickon, before being forced to return to meet up with Ramsay's father, as seen in Dance With Dragons.
3) Brienne's quest for Arya and Sansa
How long can Brienne hang around King's Landing before Jaime sends her off on a new quest? Actually, she might spend most of the season there, predicts Garcia, setting off quite late.
Here's one way it could play out, according to Whitehead:
In Episode 1 Ser Loras confronts Brienne [about the death of Renly] and has her arrested. Then in Episode 2 or 3 they have their talk and Brienne convinces Loras of the truth. This in turn could help motivate/catalyse Loras into joining the Kingsguard, preventing his wedding to Cersei. Brienne is then sent on her mission around the mid-season mark, perhaps teaming up with Pod (clearly all this 'Boogie Nights Pod' stuff is establishing him so the casual viewer knows who the heck he is when he teams up with Brienne). They could then do her whole Feast for Crows storyline in five episodes at the end of season four.
Also, if we don't actually see Catelyn being resurrected, then the first time we meet her as Lady Stoneheart could be at the end of the season, when she meets Brienne, and promptly hangs her. Says Whitehead, "this may be more impactful: we see Cat's alive (hooray!) and the first thing she does is hang Brienne (wait, what?)."
4) The Blackfish under siege at Riverrun
Remember Catelyn's uncle, Brynden the Blackfish? He escaped from the Red Wedding, and there was a lot of discussion of this fact in the season finale. So will he reappear in season four? Garcia thinks we may just hear about him next year — but Whitehead feels Clive Russell is too good an actor to have vanish for an entire season.
The show may launch the "siege of Riverrun" story a bit early, says Whitehead. Or there are a couple of other options: the Blackfish could turn up in Brienne's storyline, or in Arya and the Hound's, since he's in close proximity to both of them. Having him go on the run, get besieged, escape, and go on the run a second time may wind up being redundant, Whitehead adds.
5) Tyrion goes to Pentos
This really comes down to the question of how long Tyrion will be stuck in a cell. Assuming Joffrey dies pretty early next year, he could be out of his cell by episode seven or eight. But Garcia expects Tyrion killing Tywin to be in episode nine, or even ten, given that it's such a huge turning point. We might see the beginning of Tyrion's journey, however.
Could we at least see Tyrion going to Pentos and meeting Illyrio Mopaitis, then getting talked into helping Daenerys? The Tyrion/Illyrio meeting could be good material for the final episode of the season, says Whitehead. We might even see Tyrion meeting Young Griff and figuring out who he really is — but that might be too much, too soon.
6) Arya's adventures in Braavos
See above — there's some debate over whether we'll go to Braavos at all. And Garcia believes we won't even see Arya abandon the Hound until towards the end of the season. In the meantime, we might see more of the chaos in the realm through Arya's eyes.
Whitehead, meanwhile, thinks Arya and the Hound is a great pitch for a spin-off show, but not enough to sustain a whole season. The main thing she needs to do is get her sword, Needle, back. Whitehead could see her abandoning the Hound as soon as halfway through the season.
7) Some of the Dornish events, leading to Quentyn going to seek Daenerys as well.
This is less likely. We'll definitely meet the Red Viper, Oberyn Martell, but he's probably the main Dornish character that we'll meet in season four. Whitehead says some people have wondered if Arianne Martell could arrive in King's Landing along with Oberyn, thus streamlining that storyline considerably — but there's no sign that she's been cast.
8) Cersei becomes Queen Regent
This one depends on how soon Tywin dies. If he dies in episode nine, for example, we could see the beginnings of the story in which Cersei attempts to rule, with disastrous consequences. Garcia, of course, believes Tywin's death will be kept until the very end of the season, to maximize our precious Charles Dance screen time.
9) Daenerys becomes ruler of Meereen
The main problem here is that Daenerys taking over Meereen, the next slaver city, is awfully similar to what just happened in Yunkai. Is the show really going to give us the exact same scenario a second time? One possibility is that this time, there could be a huge field battle, which incidentally leads to Jorah's treachery being revealed somehow, says Whitehead. Another option: she could take over Meereen by halfway through the season, thus giving us five episodes of her serving as ruler.
But Garcia predicts we'll probably only see "a little" of Daenerys' Dance With Dragons storyline in season four, at most.
10) Bran finds the three-eyed crow
Bran traveling a short distance and meeting Coldhands may not be enough for him to do in season four, notes Whitehead — but of course, his storyline in season three pretty much saw him traveling a short distance and meeting Jojen and Meera. It's possible he'll actually find the Three-Eyed Crow from his dreams. Also, if he starts "tree-warging," the makeup involved could help to hide the fact that actor Isaac Hempstead Wright is aging quickly, or provide a magical explanation for it. (Thus avoiding a "WAAAALT Mark Two" situation, says Whitehead.)
And as a bonus, we were also wondering:
Assuming the climax of the fourth season has to do with the battle at the Wall and the death of Tywin, as Garcia believes, how does season five end? There's no single event in A Feast For Crows or A Dance With Dragons that packs as big a punch as Ned Stark's death, the Battle of the Blackwater or the Red Wedding.
But George R.R. Martin has said that the sixth book, The Winds of Winter, begins with two big battles that were held over from the end of Dance With Dragons: the battle between Stannis and Ramsay Snow, and the civil war in Meereen.
So could season five end with one of these two huge events from the start of Winds of Winter?
Garcia says that they could be split between seasons five and six. He predicts that one of these two huge battles will be the ending of season five, while the other will be held over until season six. (Similar to the way episode four of this season, "And Now His Watch is Ended," contained some pretty huge events.)