This article contains spoilers for Game of Thrones.
George R.R. Martin warned us that we would see characters still alive in his books die in the show, as we’ve already seen with Mance Rayder and Ser Barristan Selmy earlier in the season. Shireen Baratheon’s sacrifice in the episode “The Dance of Dragons” disturbed fans. Some might’ve seen that as another drastic TV change, at least until Game of Thrones’s “Inside the Episode” segment made its way online.
While discussing the choice to kill Shireen, showrunner David Benioff (who wrote “The Dance of Dragons” along with Dan Weiss) revealed that the idea to kill Shireen wasn’t one of their making, but rather it was Martin who told them to do it. Benioff explains around the 1:34 mark.
“When George first told us about this, it was one of those moments where I remember looking at Dan and was just, it’s so, so horrible and so good in the story sense because it all comes together. From the beginning, the very first time we saw Stannis and Melisandre they were sacrificing people, they were burning people alive on the beaches of Dragonstone. And it’s really all come to this. There’s been so much talk about king’s blood and the power of king’s blood, and it all leads ultimately, fatally, to Shireen’s sacrifice.”
Benioff and Weiss told fans back in March that the show would eventually spoil the books, but mostly through redirecting characters before getting them to the same destination as in the books. Book fans understand Jon Snow’s visit to “Hardhome” as visual setup for the TV series, and Tyrion Lannister meeting Daenerys Targaryen as prep work for him to take over the advisory role Barristan plays in the books. Those are made-for-TV plot points that don’t necessarily intersect with the book narrative. Some book fans, however, take Benioff’s comments as confirmation that Shireen will be sacrificed to the Lord of Light in The Winds of Winter—a direct spoiler for the books.
How it plays out is another question entirely. One theory is that Melisandre will do it behind Stannis’s back. Elio Garcia, who runs the ASOIAF and Game of Thrones fansite Westeros.org, spoke with io9 Tuesday and predicted “the events of The Winds of Winter shall likely leave Stannis feeling as if there now is truly no option left, and a sacrifice of royal blood must be made.”
But some who prefer to find out what happens in A Song of Ice and Fire from Martin and not the show aren’t very happy.
Among them is Linda Antonsson, who runs Westeros.org with Garcia, her partner. They’ve been fans of the series since 1997 and have a close relationship with Martin, having fact checked some of his writing and co-authored The World of Ice and Fire, a companion encyclopedia for the series. She’s upset with Benioff’s remarks revealing a plot point that she believes will occur in The Winds of Winter, albeit one she believed would eventually happen. It suggests that Stannis will survive the Battle of Winterfell and that he will burn his daughter.
Well, that's it. No, not the episode as such, though I have a lot to say about that too. But now Dumb & Dumber has done it for sure.— Linda (@hippoiathanatoi) June 8, 2015
Outright saying that knew from GRRM that Stannis would sacrifice Shireen is incredibly rude to GRRM and the book readers.— Linda (@hippoiathanatoi) June 8, 2015
So, for some (like us), it was an unnecessary confirmation. For many others, it was an enormous spoiler with huge implications.— Linda (@hippoiathanatoi) June 8, 2015
The worst part is that I can only think of one good reason to say it (beyond just plain stupidity of a higher degree): covering their asses.— Linda (@hippoiathanatoi) June 8, 2015
I imagine they knew there'd be outrage, so they probably wanted to "blame" GRRM. Alternatively, they are as stupid as I have suspected.— Linda (@hippoiathanatoi) June 8, 2015
There aren't enough misfortunes I could wish on them for doing this and they deserve all the hatred they will get. I am utterly disgusted.— Linda (@hippoiathanatoi) June 8, 2015
After she and Garcia have done their best to not publish leaked material from the show (and after showrunners praised book readers for not spoiling big plot points such as Ned Stark’s death and the Red Wedding), she feels it’s an act of betrayal for the showrunners to then go and spoil something as big as Shireen’s death in official promotional material.
One reason that I am so furious about this betrayal from D&D is that we have made every effort on https://t.co/LZXMx9OfIb…— Linda (@hippoiathanatoi) June 8, 2015
…to respect HBO's wishes about not posting leaks from sets, leaked episodes, etc, regardless of our views about the show.— Linda (@hippoiathanatoi) June 8, 2015
But apparently they couldn't care less about not throwing in totally unnecessary spoilers in their promotional material around the episode.— Linda (@hippoiathanatoi) June 8, 2015
Antonsson’s Twitter rant vented some frustration (something other book fans might’ve felt), but her comments left some fans worrying they could incite a spoiler war.
Since D&D care nothing about spoiling book readers, I feel like having a massive campaign to spoil the big one in ep 10. #GameofThrones— Linda (@hippoiathanatoi) June 8, 2015
In response to that tweet, some fans accused Antonsson of spoiling show fans to try to get back at Benioff and Weiss. They also called her unprofessional and suggested her rage was jealousy that Martin told the showrunners some stuff from the books and not Antonsson and Garcia. Along with fighting back at critics on Twitter, she clarified that she wasn’t actually going to release spoilers.
I admit to a great deal of amusement over how "I feel like" has turned into "I will". Of course, the reactions make "I will" more tempting.— Linda (@hippoiathanatoi) June 8, 2015
Lets try this again. I said "I feel like", not "I will", regarding the whole spoiling ep 10 for show watchers.— Linda (@hippoiathanatoi) June 8, 2015
D&D betrayed book readers that they previously praised for now spoiling for show watchers, hence my feelings. Clear enough?— Linda (@hippoiathanatoi) June 8, 2015
Also, to anyone saying we're just mad because D&D were told and not us? Nice try. We never have, never will discuss future plots with GRRM.— Linda (@hippoiathanatoi) June 8, 2015
We have never wanted to find out ahead of reading the books. But that is apparently a strange concept to some delusional folks.— Linda (@hippoiathanatoi) June 8, 2015
Whether Shireen’s fate in Game of Thrones is actually a spoiler likely won’t be revealed until The Winds of Winter is released.
H/T ONTD | Illustration by Max Fleishman