George R.R. Martin admits that he missed a promised December 31st deadline for the publication of his book, The Winds of Winter, which means that what we see when season six of HBO’s Game of Thrones premieres in April will be in advance of anything we later see in print.
I’m not as bummed about this development as some fans might be. In fact, I knew the moment that Martin agreed to develop other projects for HBO beyond GOT that he’d have too much on his plate to finish in a timely fashion. He is by no means the first author to miss a deadline. I’ve also believed for quite a while now that the series and the books would very likely have two different endings. How different those endings will be is something I cannot even guess.
In any case, the cable show has now filmed episodes which largely cover terra incognita. No one outside the large circle of actors or the production crew knows what’s coming next. Those in the southern kingdoms who have long jockeyed for power have been neutered for the moment, and only those in the north are truly aware of what a threat the White Walkers are. Queen Danerys and her dragons would give the realms of men a fighting chance for survival, but only if she can get into a position to use them. No one else has a force strong enough to oppose them, even if the danger they represent is finally understood.
The X-factor in all this, for me, is Brandon Stark, the crippled young son of Lord Eddard Stark, who seems to be, as part of his story arc, developing the power to manipulate the natural world. Will he use that power to shape the outcome of struggles we have yet to see? Or will he make the decision Treebeard does not make in The Lord of the Rings, and stay neutral in the conflict? (Recall that Treebeard says at one point, “I am not altogether on anybody’s side because nobody is altogether on my side.”)
Given Martin’s very early decision to create as dark, as bleak, as hopeless a fantasy world as Westeros represents, it would not surprise me to see a denouement in which men and women unite in a last-ditch but ultimately futile battle against the White Walkers, leaving only that army of dead spirits to traverse the barren landscape in the winter that every one of us has always known was coming.