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On June 12, 2011, at around 10 p.m. on the East Coast, a deafening gasp of shock and awe nearly broke the sound barrier. It was the noise that occurred when almost 3 million viewers watched Lord Eddard Stark (Sean Bean) lose his head, decapitated with his own sword, Ice.
The phenomenon repeated itself almost two full years later as Game of Thrones fans helplessly witnessed the brutal television massacre infamously known as the Red Wedding. It’s an unparalleled act of horror, one that caused readers to throw their copies of A Storm of Swords across the room as soon as they reached the scene, and led to several viewers of the HBO adaptation similarly chucking their remote controls at the wall.
The endings of “Baelor” and “The Rains of Castamere” are the two most recognizable episode-closing twists of the series, but while they’re in a class of their own, they’re surrounded by countless other examples. Some endings cause fans to root uproariously (see Joffrey’s death in “The Lion and the Rose”), while others are dizzying in their size and scale (see the White Walker ambush in “Hardhome“), and many more still are in line with the deaths of Ned, Robb and Catelyn Stark — such as the demise of Jon Snow (Kit Harington) in the season five finale.
When season six concludes its first episode, “The Red Woman,” at around 10 p.m. on Sunday, April 24, new emotions and exclamations will fill the air. What words will fans be shouting at their television screens? What will be the temperature at the water cooler on Monday morning?
The Hollywood Reporter caught up with the cast at the world premiere of season six and asked the stars of the fantasy series how viewers will respond to the end of the hour:
Liam Cunningham (Davos Seaworth): “You’re joking. You’re joking!”
DeObia Oparei (Areo Hotah): “Oh my god!”
Joseph Naufahu (Khal Moro): “Damn! Oh damn!”
Kristian Nairn (Hodor): “Hodor!”
Michael McElhatton (Roose Bolton): “I can’t believe they …”
And that’s where McElhatton’s quote must end, for the rest of his sentence includes spoilers; it will be revealed in its entirety after the premiere.
The morning after the episode screened, THR sat down with other stars from Thrones, including John Bradley (Samwell Tarly), Hannah Murray (Gilly) and Kristofer Hivju (Tormund Giantsbane). The trio was in awe of the actual reaction to the crowd’s viewing of the episode, with Hivju remembering uproarious applause and Murray reflecting on the “huge surges of emotion” from the audience.
“Everything’s heightened,” Bradley said.
For her part, Arya Stark actress Maisie Williams expects that many viewers will walk away from the season six premiere scratching their heads: “I think people are going to be confused. Super confused. I know I was when I read it! All I kept thinking was, ‘Wow. That’s incredible.’ “
But Isaac Hempstead Wright has another prediction entirely. As much as people will react to the premiere’s conclusion, the erstwhile Bran Stark believes it’s only the tip of the iceberg.
“Brace yourself for more,” he said with a big smile. “There are things happening this season that are going to be remembered as the biggest events that ever happened on Game of Thrones. We look back and we think about the Red Wedding, Hardhome…imagine rolling all of that into one ball. That’s some of what you can expect for season six. It’s just one [scream] after another. It’s crazy. It’s so good.”
Vague enough? The full details will be revealed when Game of Thrones returns on April 24. Stay locked into THR here for all our coverage of the show.
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