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5 Minor 'what-might've-been' moments from Game of Thrones that you've probably forgotten all about



It’s late November, which means I’ve now started my annual ritual of re-watching Game of Thrones. Since the massacre that was the season six finale (death by fire is certainly not the purest death, Melisandre), rumors of what is to come in season seven have spread across the internet like (sorry, I couldn’t resist) wildfire. Will Jon and Danny team up? Will the Wall come crashing down? Where the f**k is Gendry? However, going back through those early episodes, I’ve found myself wondering more and more, ‘what if?’

‘What-ifs’ and ‘What-might’ve-beens’ are crucial to any successful TV series, film or book. Consider the Titanic, or Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. Every time I watch either film, I nearly convince myself that the horrific events due to take place will not come to pass, even though I know for a fact that thousands died in the icy waters of the Atlantic and that Anakan Skywalker will indeed become Darth Vader, after lobbing off Samuel L. Jackson’s hand. But the films make me question that knowledge, doubt it even. Game of Thrones is similarly littered with such moments: if only Ned Stark had seized power when Renly Baratheon advised him too, if only King Robert hadn’t missed his lunge against the boar (in all fairness, Robert Baratheon’s infamous love of whores and wine meant that he was probably long overdue a heart attack), if only Rob Stark had kept his vow and married the Frey girl.

These are major moments that everyone can point to. However, Game of Thrones is also strewn with lesser-known events, which have had major repercussions for our best-loved characters. Below is a list of five somewhat minor moments that, in all the excitement over the upcoming season, you’ve probably forgotten all about. Minor though they may be, the consequences of these events have been huge.

#1 : Catelyn Stark’s Broken Vow (S3, E2: ‘Dark Wings, Dark Words’) 

Upon hearing the news of Bran and Rickon’s disappearance, after the Iron Islanders who occupied Winterfell supposedly put the castle to the torch and its inhabitants to the sword, Catelyn makes a prayer wheel, in the hope that it will keep Bran and Rickon safe. Lady Talisa, Rob Stark’s ill-fated wife, offers to help; an offer Cat rejects. Catelyn then tells Talisa of another time she made such a wheel. She reveals to Talisa that when Ned brought Jon back with him, after ‘Robert’s Rebellion’, she wished the baby boy dead. Cat recalls how she repeatedly prayed to the Gods, begging them to kill the infant. A few months after Ned’s return, Jon suddenly came down with the pox. Catelyn tells Talisa that she realisedJon’s illness was her doing. In a moment of remorse, Cat then prayed to all of the seven Gods to spare the boy, promising that if he survived she would be a true mother to him and convince Ned to legitimise him and name him Stark. Jon survived, yet Cat failed to keep her vow. If she would’ve, then perhaps Jon (Stark) would not have joined the Night’s Watch. He would not have infiltrated ManceRayder’s Wildling Army. He would not have warned the Night’s Watch of the impending attack. The Wildling’s would have taken Castle Black and invaded Westeros from the North, leaving no one left to defend against the White Walkers who would’ve undoutedly followed them.

#2 : Edmure Tully’s search for Glory (S3, E3: ‘Walk of Punishment)

After Rob Stark’s grandfather and Catelyn Stark’s father, Lord Hoster Tully dies, Rob, Cat, and all of the Northern host (aside from Roose Bolton and his force) head to Riverrun for the funeral. During a counsel of war meeting, Rob confronts his uncle Edmure (Cat’s brother) over his decision to attack the Lannister forces in the Battle of Stone Mill. His decision to engage the Lannister army and push them out of the Riverlands gave TywinLannister the chance to retreat back to King’s Landing and save the city from StannisBaratheon. It also enabled SerGregorClegane (The Mountain) the opportunity to slip from the Northern army’s ever tightening noose. If Edmure Tully had obeyed Rob’s orders then The Mountain would have been captured and killed. He would not have fought Oberyn Martell in TyrianLannister’s trail by combat. More so, however, King’s Landing would have likely fallen to StannisBaratheon, as TywinLannister’s forces could not have broken through the Northern lines. Edmure’s search for glory is one of the main reasons why Rob Stark ultimately lost the war.

#3 : Theon Greyjoy’s capture of Winterfell (S2E5& 6: ‘The Ghost of Harrenhal’ & ‘The Old Gods and The New’) 

Another case of how failing to follow orders can really screw things up. Yes, Theon’s choice to betray the Starks is a major what-might’ve-been moment in the series. Yet, his decision to take Winterfell, rather than obey his father’s orders and raid the fishing villages along the Northern coast, is a somewhat minor part of his betrayal that can sometimes slip passed unnoticed, when his crimes, which include the beheading of Sir Rodrick Cassel and the burning of two innocent farm boys, are considered as a whole. By taking Winterfell, Theon diminished the Starks ability to control The North and gave Roose Bolton the opportunity to claim it for himself. If Theon would have followed his father’s orders, then both Bran and Rickon would’ve remained in Winterfell. With a Stark in Winterfell, any attempt by Roose Bolton to seize The North would’ve ended in failure, as the Northern Lords, sworn to serve House Stark, would have rallied to their cause. Also, Theon would’ve kept his cock, which is a loss I’m sure he mourns deeply.

#4 : Danny’s empathy costs her (S1, E8: ‘The Pointy End’)

To prepare for the invasion of Westeros, KhalDrogo orders his men to raid villages close to VaesDothrak. The men living in these villages are killed and the women are repeatedly raped, before being sold into slavery. As Daenerys enters one of these villages, she witnesses the bloodshed first hand and, appalled, orders the Dothraki to stop the carnage. Danny claims the surviving women as her own, meaning that no Dothraki warrior can now touch them. This move angers Drogo’s men, as one openly challenges him. Drogo easily kills the man, ripping out his Jugular with his bare hands. Yet Drogo is also slightly wounded. Danny asks one of the women she has claimed to see to the Khal’s wound. However, it begins to fester and Danny is forced to sacrifice a life, that of her child, to save KhalDrogo’s. Drogo never fully recovers. Danny’s act of empathy brought about the death of her husband and her son. Yet, without it, she would have never walked into the flames and her dragons would have never been born. Their importance, in terms of the future plot, is something we are yet to truly discover, though I’m certain a few White Walkers are in for a sizzling.

#5 : Gendry is sold by the Brotherhood Without Banners (S3, E6: ‘The Climb’)

Remember Gendry? Rumour has it, we may be seeing him very soon, after three seasons of endless off-screen rowing. Yet, back in season three he was a regular character. Upon escaping form Harrenhal with Arya Stark and Hot Pie, Gendry is captured by the Brother Without Banners. Whilst in their custody, he deicides to join them and become their armourer. Just as Gendry and Arya are saying goodbye to each other ,Melisandre and some of StannisBaratheon’s men arrive at the Brotherhood’s camp. Melisandre is aware that Gendry is the bastard son of Robert Baratheon. She also knows the power of King’s blood. Melisandre pays the Brotherhood two bags of coin for Gendry and he becomes her prisoner. Here’s where this somewhat trivial moment becomes important. Back at Dragonstone, Melisandre uses Gendry’s blood to perform blood magic, as Stannis drops three leaches, all of which have fed on Gendry, into the flames. As he does so, he names three men: The Usurper, Rob Stark, The Usurper, BalonGreyjoy, The Usurper, JoffreyBaratheon. All three are killed, betrayed by either family or those sworn to serve them. Whilst there are plausible explanations for each King’s death, this is hardly a coincidence, considering the significance the TV series places on the power of magic. Therefore, you can say that, if the Brotherhood Without Banners hadn’t have sold Gendry to Melisandre, then perhaps some, if not all of the men Stannis named would still be alive. Heavy!

So there you have it, five somewhat minor moments that turned out to have major repercussions. Game of Thrones is absolutely full of these events, forks in the road where characters inevitably make the wrong decision for themselves and those we as the audience care about, but the right decision in terms of plot. Here’s to season seven! I’m sure there’ll be many more moments to come. As for me, I’m putting a bet on Gendry becoming a major player in the future. The Stormlands are up for grabs now that Stannis is out of the picture. Will he be the one to bring them into the fold? Let’s hope so!

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Founder at Wiki of Thrones and a full-time Game of Thrones fan who does other work when he has finished reading and writing about Game of Thrones and also dreams about playing a role in the show.