Seven questions we want answered in tonight's Game of Thrones finale
It's judgement night on Game of Thrones as one of the bloodiest, quickest seasons in the show's history
We've already had our fill of controversy this year and it seems unimaginable that the finale could conjure a scene as horrifying as Shireen's death pyre or Sansa's gruesome assault at the hands the Seven Kingdoms' sociopath-in-chief Ramsay Bolton.
Still, GoT creators DB Weiss and David Benioff would appear to relish a challenge and it isn't beyond the bounds that viewers' jaws will be sent clacking earthwards once more during tonight's sign-off episode (airing in 'real' time on Sky Atlantic at 2am).
It feels safe to predict at least one major character will be dispatched to an early grave – and that several more will stagger away battered and broken. With the countdown underway here, then, are seven questions we want answered.
1. Has Stannis Blown It?
With his army snowbound and starving, Stannis felt he had no option but sacrifice daughter Shireen to the Lord of Light. But will divine aid be enough to ensure victory over the Boltons, smugly bunkered down in Winterfell? And even if the head of House Baratheon carries the day, can a man prepared to burn his own flesh and blood expect to command widespread loyalty? In winning this battle, has Stannis lost the war?
2. Is Jon Snow About To be Knifed in the Back?
The Night's Watch are not happy about Jon Snow's alliance with the Wildlings. In particular, Snow's steward Olly has a beef against the Free Folk, a consequence of seeing his family slaughtered by forces under the command of Tormund Giantsbane. Having somehow escaped the Night's King and his zombie army, might Snow come to a sticky end closer to home? If it seems preposterous that GoT would dispatch the nearest thing in Westeros to an actual hero, consider that in the books Snow's fate is currently very much up in the air.
3. What's Going On In The House Of Black and White?
Nine episodes in and we're still collectively stumped as to the long-term purpose of Arya's studies under the Faceless Men. Is she to become a shape-shifting killer? A member of a Borg-esque assimilated collective? Or will she renounce her training and take revenge on degenerate Kingsguard captain Meryn Trant, a red-letter entry on her 'kill list'? At the conclusion of a season in which it felt the Stark princess was largely reduced to shaving fingernails from corpses, answers would be appreciated.
4. How Gory a Death Will Ramsay Snow Suffer?
Okay, we're going out on a limb and predicting Sansa's tormentor is en route to a sticky demise. Whether that is at the hands of Stannis's men or a suddenly vengeful Reek/Theon is difficult to ascertain (our gold pieces are on the latter). Either way, expect his death to be stretched out for maximum satisfaction (Sansa's – and maybe ours' too).
5. Is Brienne Ever Going To Leave that Attic Outside Winterfell?
Since episode three, the Lady of Tarth has been holed up in a cottage within sight of Sansa's family home / hellish prison. She's waiting for a distress beacon that has never come. Surely GoT has not sent her all the way North just to have her hang about in a tumbledown guest house?
6. What's With Dorne?
With the season almost over, we're still no wiser as to why Jaime had to travel to Dorne – though it had the useful side-effect of removing him from King's Landing shortly before Cersei was thrown in jail. Was the Kingslayer truly shuffled off to the southern kingdom merely to smooth the storyline in the capital? How underwhelming it would be if this turned out to be the case.
7. Where is Daenerys Going With Her Dragon?
It was up, up and away last week as Daenerys reconciled with Drogon just in time to escape a mass Sons of the Harpy ambush. But where are Dragon and Rider bound? And what about Tyrion, Ser Jorah and Daario – still in the fighting pit and surrounded by blood-thirsty insurgents? We need answers – and so do they.