Almost six years into its storied run (climbing in the ratings every year and winning a record-breaking 12 Emmys for Season 5 alone) have Game Of Thrones fans come to expect too much from television's most popular fantasy series? There's certainly an argument to be made for that assertion — and Jaime Lannister himself is making it. In an interview with TVLine, actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau playfully said Game Of Thrones Season 6 will include a big "payoff"… but, what could that payoff be?
"It’s funny," Coster-Waldau said. "I think a lot of things happen in every episode. But, I mean, I get it. People are spoiled — in a good way! — and you expect some crazy stuff." I mean, he's not wrong. As a diehard GoT fan myself, even, I have to admit he sort of has a point. Showrunners David Benioff & D.B. Weiss have lobbed so many jaw-dropping moments our way that, when an episode ends without one, it can feel jarring. Episodes that cap things off with a climactic event, either good (Dany burning down the patriarchy) or bad ("Hold the door!") still tend to break the Internet — but if an hour dares goes by without a single major death or game-changing twist, it can often feel like something's missing.
But Coster-Waldau also recommended patience, saying that by now fans should "know that there’s a reason why" not every episode can be dialed up to 11. "You can’t hit the maximum volume each episode. Then you get numb to it. It has to build up. You have to tell a story, lay the seeds." And the seeds that Season 6 has planted are about to bear some explosive fruit, apparently: "Then hopefully — and I believe — the payoff is so much better and so much greater, instead of just getting everything at once."
Viewers will start getting that "payoff" in this Sunday's penultimate episode, "Battle Of The Bastards," which will finally pit the resurrected Jon Snow against the sadistic Ramsay Bolton in an episode that Coster-Waldau claimed is "the biggest they’ve made, in terms of scale." While each season's ninth episode is usually a brutal affair for the audience, killing off beloved characters like Ned, Robb, Catelyn, and Shireen, there's hope that this year will be different. Surely Jon Snow will emerge victorious — which means that Ramsay will finally meet his maker, right?
But if this week's battle does have a good outcome, then I think it's safe to assume that the payoff in the Game Of Thrones Season 6 finale will be of the tragic variety. (Surely they won't give us happy endings twice in a row.) With the theories that Cersei is about to circumvent her trial by literally burning down King's Landing with wildfire, could the season be about to end with the show's highest body count yet?
Season 6 has been an unusually optimistic year for GoT, featuring Stark family reunions, women coming into positions of power, and the returns of a few beloved characters. What if all of that optimism was just setting us up for the most depressing finale in GoT history? Perhaps the seeds of tragedy have been subtly planted all year long, and we just haven't noticed because we've been too distracted by Jon and Sansa hugging and Dany giving rousing speeches from the back of a dragon and Jaime and Brienne reuniting.
With the show possibly ending soon, there's no question that the payoff in the Season 6 finale will be big in order to start setting the show up for its endgame. The only question is how big — and who will pay the ultimate price?
Images: Helen Sloan/HBO; Giphy (2)