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[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the books on which Game of Thrones is based.]
Brienne of Tarth has a saying: “Words are wind.” It’s a mantra that acts like armor, shielding her from the insults and derisions she’s suffered throughout her life — but it could turn out that five choice words are just as sharp as Valyrian steel.
Four of those words are “Top of the Lake,” the Sundance TV detective series starring Mad Men veteran Elisabeth Moss and created by Jane Campion and Gerard Lee. The show’s second season takes place four years after the first and sees Det. Robin Griffin (Moss) travel from New Zealand to Australia, with a new face along for the ride: Gwendoline Christie, who has played Brienne on Game of Thrones since 2012.
While it’s certainly exciting news for both Top of the Lake and Christie fans, is the Game of Thrones star’s casting a grim sign of things to come for the HBO fantasy series? Not necessarily, at least not on its own — but it’s an unsettling prospect when paired with certain events from A Song of Ice and Fire, the book series on which Thrones is based.
In A Feast for Crows, the fourth novel in George R.R. Martin’s saga, Brienne becomes a point-of-view character, and readers are invited to see the world of Westeros through her eyes. Throughout the book, she searches the realm for any signs of Sansa and Arya Stark, hoping to find and rescue them as one final show of loyalty for their late mother, Catelyn — even though readers know both Stark daughters are far away from Brienne’s reach.
Still, Brienne’s quest is an eventful one (though some readers would disagree), yielding what just might be a chance encounter with a still-alive Sandor Clegane, rumored to return to Thrones in season six. But the biggest moment comes at the end of Feast, after Brienne’s captured by the Brotherhood Without Banners, Beric Dondarrion’s group of warriors dedicated to defending the common folk from the war raging throughout Westeros. Except when Brienne meets them, Beric is gone; in his place is Lady Stoneheart, a zombified version of Catelyn, resurrected at the expense of the magic coursing through Dondarrion’s blood.
It’s not a pleasant reunion between the two women: Stoneheart exists solely for vengeance against the Freys and Lannisters for the events of the Red Wedding, with few other traces of the Catelyn of old. When she learns about Brienne’s personal connection to Jaime Lannister, Stoneheart offers Brienne a choice: sword, or noose — meaning she can find Jaime and bring him to Stoneheart for justice, or she can hang and die now as a traitor.
Loyal to a fault, Brienne chooses the latter, hanged alongside her fellow companions, including Podrick Payne. As she dangles from the rope, Brienne observes the Podrick’s choking panic as the noose begins to take his life, resulting in the final sentence of the chapter: “She screamed a word.”
That word — the fifth word, for those keeping track — is thought by many readers to be “sword,” based on what comes next. Brienne’s next and currently last appearance in Martin’s books comes during a Jaime chapter in A Dance With Dragons, as she tracks him down and asks for his assistance in saving Sansa Stark from The Hound. But readers know fully well that Sansa is far away from Brienne, indicating that she’s lying to the Kingslayer, and luring him into Stoneheart’s death trap.
What comes next for Brienne? It’s impossible to say until The Winds of Winter, Martin’s sixth and as-yet unpublished book in the series, arrives. Indeed, it’s difficult to see all these scenarios playing out on HBO’s Game of Thrones, too, as Lady Stoneheart has yet to arrive on the series; at this late stage, many believe she won’t appear at all. But it is believed that Brienne’s story will follow her Feast arc in certain ways, at least as far as the chance encounter with Sandor Clegane goes.
Could the show’s version of Brienne walk into a Stoneheart trap, if not with Catelyn, then perhaps one of her relatives — like Brynden “The Blackfish” Tully? And if she lures Jaime into the web, could it result in her demise? The possibility is at least on the table, and Christie’s new role on a new show (not to mention her return trip to Star Wars coming soon) should up the stakes.
Time will tell if Game of Thrones will choose noose or sword for Brienne when the show returns on April 24. Until then, keep up with all the Game of Thrones coverage at THR.com/GameOfThrones.
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