It's Hard Out There For a Stark

“But what of the children?” It’s not really a question we’re given the luxury of asking on Game of Thrones, especially with the Season 4 finale approaching; everyone is up for grabs there, and by “up for grabs,” I of course mean, available to be brutally murdered: heroes, anti-heroes, peasants, princes, men, women, and certainly children. Hell, Joffrey had a whole heap of them taken out in one foul swoop in the Season 2 premiere, simply because they had the misfortune of being fathered by Robert Baratheon and his wiley sex drive. It’s particularly disconcerting that Sunday’s episode is titled “The Children,” not only because it could point to just about any one of the 15 storylines GoT has to finish in the finale, but because it immediately brings to mind the only mostly-good characters we have left on the show: those precocious Northerners, the Stark kids.

Could a title so vague as “The Children” indicate that everything is about to go the “of the Corn” variety; does it mean that minor detail from Dany’s storyline, or that other minor detail from the Wall, or probably just the pesky grown up Lannister siblings screwing around in King’s Landing; or could it maybe, just maybe, mean a little extra focus on the Stark kids (excluding Jon because he is, uh, a straight-up man at this point, not to mention a Snow) in preparation for the long hiatus before Season 5? Let’s look to the books to remind ourselves what Arya and the gang still have left to get up to before we officially dive into the timeline of madness that is Book 4 and 5.

Spoilers ahead from George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire book series. But be honest: if you don't want spoilers, what are you even doing here?

Bran, Hodor, and The Reeds

As far as A Storm of Swords, upon which Season 4 is mostly based, Bran’s story has already hit all the major marks: meet Sam and Gilly, make it north of the wall, spot Jon Snow, help Jon Snow, reluctantly leave Jon Snow behind none the wiser — and a lot of that happened in Season 3. It seems that because Bran’s story is a touch more confusing than many of the rest, it’s been sped along to keep people interested. The preview shows him still in search of the three-eyed crow and perhaps finding him, as he appears to already be having visions of the Winterfell heart tree as he does in the fifth book, A Dance with Dragons. The fourth season is likely to end Bran’s story with the question of what those visions will bring for him, Hodor and the Reeds in Season 5.

The Emancipation of Sansa

There’s not much of Sansa in this week’s episode trailer or synopsis, and with the huge transformation she made in Episode 8 out of the way, it’s possible we won’t see her again until Season 5. But with Arya just outside the gates of the Eyrie, the showrunners would have to be crazy to deny us just a glimpse of the two Stark girls in the same scene, perhaps barely missing each other. Not to mention, Brienne and Pod are fresh on Sansa's trail, by way of Arya, by way of Hot Pie.

Arya & Brienne?

Speaking of Brienne and Arya, fans with access to a “slow” button and a little extra free time, may have noticed that the Hound appears to be preparing to fight someone wearing suspiciously Brienne-like armor in the finale’s preview.

Whichever way the fight goes, we all know the Hound is already mortally wounded, meaning Arya will be left laughing alone much sooner than she might have intended. Even if Brienne is victorious in the duel, it’s hard to imagine Arya joining up with the League of Fan Favorite Characters after they’ve just stolen her Hound kill. With all this talk of mercy kills all season, it’s more than likely that Arya will still be given the choice to leave the Hound for dead, boarding a ship to Braavos with her special coin, a two-word understanding of Valyrian, and a slip of paper that reads, “Jaquen H’ghar.”

Bonus Stark: Rickon

Rickon is, by all estimations, wandering around in the woods with Osha, never to be seen again.

Images: HBO (3)