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Controversy flares over the potential ‘Winds of Winter’ spoiler on ‘Game of Thrones’

Did the 'Game of Thrones' showrunners confirm a book spoiler?


Michelle Jaworski

Internet Culture

Posted on Jun 9, 2015   Updated on May 28, 2021, 3:22 pm CDT

This article contains spoilers for Game of Thrones.

The latest Game of Thrones episode sent ripples through the fandom as the show’s latest death could be a spoiler The Winds of Winter.

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, 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 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.

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.

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. 

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.

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

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*First Published: Jun 9, 2015, 6:42 pm CDT